Internal Arts IA

martial arts , health enrichment, development of consciousness

Reply to Wujimon: Focus for Form Practice, Points 1 & 2

Posted by Editor on September 8, 2006

In response to our latest post on Focus for Form Practice, Wujimon raised some very penetrating questions. This provides us with an opportunity to investigate some details connected with the points, for clarification Wujimon is seeking, and for deeper understanding for all of us. First, let’s review

our three points for focus:

1. Shoulders and hips are always level.
2. Maintain awareness of the spinal axis being the center around which the entire move is rotating, with bahui always pulling spine up, and tailbone always pulling spine down.
3. In all circles, elbow leads in, fingers lead out, with the coiling continuous from start to finish of the move.

Let’s look at Wujimon’s Point 1:

Point 1: do you think this is an issue most commonly encountered with folks from the HJS practical method line? I could see this being an issue in how the movement is achieved by the knees moving up/down and not side to side as most commonly taught in other styles.

Well, I would say the short answer is no, this issue is not only important for practitioners of Hong’s practical method. Stable structure, with alignment of shoulders hips and knees, is essential for good Taiji, regardless of style. Without proper alignment, form suffers, and central equilibrium is difficult to achieve. With an opponent, this weakness is then easily exploited, providing leverage to the opponent, making it easy for them to find your center and uproot you from your unbalanced position. Wujimon’s point about moving side to side would obviously violate that structural principle, and lead to this structural weakness. Therefor Hong’s method allows only rotational movement of the joints in a vertical direction, transferring gravitational force from the ground, through the aligned structure, onto the contact point with the opponent. Optimal stability of structure, and geometric advantage vs. the opponent are always maintained.

What is unique about the Hong form is the emphasis on understanding and functional usage of the knees, hips, kua, and dantian, all working like gears in harmony. Practice of the form, from day one, cultivates ability to gain coordination of these elements, such that the upper body, torso, shoulders and arms learn to maintain a constant frame of reference, for the proper geometry to frame the structure. If the practitioners are mindful of the objective criteria Hong has spelled out, they will learn to clearly recognize how to adjust the postures, to eventually arrive at the skill level which exhibits this “gyroscopic” balancing quality. The form will then display correct structure at all times.

Wujimon’s Point 2:

Is a great point and I think very central to all taijiquan styles. One thing I question is does this mean the spine should always remain perpendicular to the ground creating a right angle? I ask b/c in some other styles (chen/wu) there’s could be a slight lean forward but it’s commonly explained that the spine is still straight in regards to those 2 points.

With Hong’s method, there is no “leaning”. Chen Zhonghua has used the analogy of imaging the torso as being confined within a cylinder, so that rotation of the spine is always maintained within a constant vertical plane.

Now, to be very precise, we have to consider that there is “bowing” of the spine. This bowing will also cause the front shoulder to appear lowered slightly, as the elbow pulling into the torso makes it somewhat “concave”. View the photo below, of Chen Zhonghua, excerpted from Lao Jia Yi Lu. In this example of the positive circle, the elbow is pulling in during Lazy Tying Coat posture. (We can also apply this more precise clarification to point one, in that the shoulders and hips, as they adjust, are not always strictly “level”, but are always in a state of relative balance.) This is also connected with the head pulling up and the tailbone pulling down.

CZH Lazy Coat Pos Circle
In a positive circle movement, as the elbow pulls in, rotating on the vertical axis of the spine, the anatomical requirement is for a slight bowing of the spine inward, as the upper and lower ends of the spine maintain fixity in that vertical “cylinder”. Then as the fingers lead out, there is a slight bowing of the spine outward, as the spine rotates on that axis, again pulled from those two extreme fixed points atop the head and at the base of the spine.

In real world anatomy, the flexible human body will always be rotating the various joints, and parts of the body will be adjusting for the experience of central equilibrium to be maintained. The key point is that these adjustments will be positioning the body as a whole to be centering itself in relation to that central axis. The form will always allow for stable, balanced structure, with proper alignment of head, shoulders, hips and knees.

Wuijmon’s Point 3 probes deeply into more than one issue. So it deserves a full post of its own. Stay tuned for that one to follow soon.

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3 Responses to “Reply to Wujimon: Focus for Form Practice, Points 1 & 2”

  1. wujimon said

    Differences in 6 Sealings 4 Closings

    I’ve spent the last couple training sessions focusing on material from the Hong Jun Sheng Practical Chen Taijiquan Method. First of all, I must admit doing “the circles” is quite an enlightening exercise.
    As a brief comparison, when I…

  2. […] Reply to Wujimon: Focus for Form Practice, Points 1 & 2 […]

  3. Antibush said

    Bush goes ballistic about other countries being evil and dangerous, because they have weapons of mass destruction. But, he insists on building up even a more deadly supply of nuclear arms right here in the US. What do you think? What is he doing to us, and what is he doing to the world?
    What happened to us, people? When did we become such lemmings?
    The more people that the government puts in jails, the safer we are told to think we are. The real terrorists are wherever they are, but they aren’t living in a country with bars on the windows. We are.

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