Ten Internal principles of Tai-Chi
Once you have mastered the correct posture, you can start to concentrate on some of other internal aspects of Tai chi.
1. Circular and Spiraling Movement
All Tai chi movements are circular and spiraling. Turning the waist from side to side generates centripetal and centrifugal forces which flow through the body causing the wrists and hands to spiral inwards (Yin) and outwards (Yang).
The spiraling, twisting movements of the torso, and the subtle rotations of the joints make the whole body flow like a great river, and the energy spirals up and down around the arms, legs and torso. Even the punches have a slight corkscrew action.
Practiced slowly, the movements are like a whirlpool; practiced fast, they are like a whirlwind. When you execute a series of Fa jing explosive movements, you become a cyclone of spiraling power: calm in the center, but outwardly manifesting an unstoppable force.
2. Slowness and Smoothness
Beginners practice Tai chi slowly continuous, smooth, slow, flowing movement encourages chi to flow in a very healing way. To develop the flow, go through the tai chi from once, a second time at half the speed, then third time, at half that speed. Eventually you will be moving so slowly with so much energy, that it will feel like walking, on the moon.
Yang Lu Chan’s old yang style of Tai chi has Fa Jing explosive movements evenly interspersed between slow movements. This is a good way of maintaining balance in the body, slow movements are Yin and Fa Jing movements are Yang. You move at a continuous smooth, slow, flowing rate, perform a sudden explosive Fa Jing, then move slowly and smoothly again.
By practicing slowly, you enter into a meditative state, and the conscious programming of the subconscious with the Tai chi moves and their self defense applications is made easier. You also develop the ability to perform the moves without muscle tension, so that later you can perform them as a Fa Jing effectively. If you try to Fa Jing without being relaxed, you can tear muscles.
3. Relaxation and Sinking (Sung)
Sung means letting go of unnecessary tension in your body and mind, relaxing and sinking into the Tai chi posture. If you let go of physical tension, it is easier to let go of mental tension. When the body is sung the mind can be sung, and vice versa.
When sung, your body becomes more supple, elastic and resilient and there is more chi (energy) and Jing (internal power). In sung you are at ease and alert, calm and focused. Sung means to move without feeling the movements.
To achieve sung, first let go of all tension in the shoulders, so they can sink down and slightly forward, then let go of the tensed, high-hold chest, and allow it to relax and sink down- then you can let go of your clenched jaw and even smile, next allow your tensed, held in belly to relax and expand so the Tai chi can gather there. It is possible to move without tension, tension restricts the flow of blood and chi and make movements slow and clumsy. Though the muscles are relaxed, all tendons in the body are slightly flexed.
Some people think a soldier has good posture. Shoulders back chest out and belly in. Sung is the opposite; shoulders forward, chest in and belly out.
All Tai chi is done with mental intention, not muscle tension, even at the point of impact there is no muscular tension. When sung, your center of gravity is lower, so that physically and mentally you are more stable and balanced.
Rooting comes from the lower half of the body and its contact with the ground. Once this power base has been developed, the internal force generated can be transferred to the upper body.
To develop rooting, physically sink your body weight, and imagine that it is mainly in your lower belly and legs, not in your chest and head.
Grip the ground with your feet claws, while pushing the legs against the ground and each other. As you shift your body weight from leg to leg one expand and the other compresses. Like springs, each leg stores and releases its coiled energy.
Don’t let the body rise up as you shift from leg to leg, because the internal power generated will be dissipated. Pushing from the legs turn the hips, waist and belly from side to side.
So rooting is a combination of several things .firstly sinking the body weight into the lower body, legs and feet by physically sinking and being sung, secondly, clawing the ground with the feet, thirdly, pushing the leg against the ground; and fourthly, pushing the legs against each other like springs strong and releasing their power.
5. Centrifugal waist power
The rooting power from the earth and the legs is controlled by the waist and belly, which turn the torso from side to side.
This rotation transfer the internal force from the lower to the upper body. Because of the weight and the bulk of the waist and belly, the movement generates a great deal of centrifugal and centripetal force. Used correctly tremendous power can be generated in a very small space. With Fa Jing, the vigorous turn and recoil of the waist sends the hands flying out and back with explosive force.
Here is a Tai chi warm up technique that demonstrates this principle. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knee slightly bent. Your spine straight and vertical, Keep your feet stuck to the floor and turn your waist to the right and left.
Carry on with this maneuver, keeping the upper body relaxed and loose as you turn from side to side, remembering to stay level. The arms are thrown outward by the centrifugal force; their movement contains great power but is totally effortless.
When incorporated into a Tai chi form, centrifugal waist power increases the circulation of the blood and chi to the extremities without straining the heart. The rotating and twisting massages all the internal organs, increasing their chi and essence, and encouraging these to flow through the meridian system like water released from a reservoir flowing down a river.
To develop centrifugal and centripetal waist power, go through the whole form very slowly and move the waist half a second before the rest of the body moves. Once this principle has been grasped, the hands, feet and the waist appear to move at the same time.
The waist turn can also happen without the push from the legs; in fact you can Fa Jing as you fly through the air. At a high level the Fa Jing of the waist move the feet in the same way it moves the hands.
6. Uniting the Lower and Upper Body
A lot of power is generated by moving the lower body (hips, waist and belly) slightly ahead of the upper body (the rib cage). If the movement is disjointed, the torque power from the counter movement is lost, so don’t over emphasize it. Moving the lover body a movement before the upper body massages the thoracic diaphragm and internal organs.
When the lower and upper body is united, there is little or no time delay between the development of internal power in the legs and waist and its release from the hands.
There are three ways to help unification, firstly, position the nose directly above the navel, so that the head moves with the body; secondly, match the movements of the elbows to that the hips, so that if the left hip bone moves forward or backward, the left elbow does too. The same applies to the right side. Thirdly and most importantly, try to keep the hands on your center line – this is an imaginary line running down the front of the torso from the nose to the navel. If the hands ever leave this position, it should return immediately. This is very important for the self defense Tai chi, if your hands remaining on you center line, you can you can deflect opponent’s attack away from your center as you attack on his center.
7. Internal force (Jing)
Jing is type of heavy, loose, relaxed, elastic whole body power which is different from localized stiff muscle power. To best understand Jing, think of the difference between axeman chopping down a tree, and a carpenter hammering in a nail. The axeman uses his whole body in an integrated way, using his waist rotation, leg power and his arms for each stroke, whereas the carpenter uses only his arm each time hi strikes.
Normal physical strength comes from the muscles expanding and contacting. Jing comes from the development of the elasticity and resilience in the tendons (the connective tissue between the muscles and bones) and the sinews, which are the connective tissues between the bones in the joint.
When you practice Tai chi, relax the muscles so that chi can flow unimpeded around the body and nourish the tendons. The flex in the tendons attracts chi; as a result they become elastic and strong. The tendon from a latticework from the tips of the fingers to the tips of the toes and the top of the head, and the whole body becomes a unit of dynamic, elastic power.
Jing gives Tai chi self defense techniques more power. The great force that Tai chi practitioner can deliver in Fa Jing palm strike or punch is because of his internal force, his Jing.
The movements of people who don’t let go of their muscle tension are like dead, brittle branches. These who completely relax both their muscles and tendons move like limp grass that bends in the wind. In Tai chi, you want to be flexible and resilient like young bamboo, so that when the wind blows; you bend, then spring back.
Jing gives you a spring in your step and a variety to your body. As you get older you will stay flexible and active if you develop your Jing.
Being connected means that each part of the body is connected to and moved by a part that has moved just before, so that the rhythm of movement is like a wave through the body, like the flowing connection of a smoke. Each movement begins in the feet (which push against the ground). Rises up through the legs (which push against each other) which then rotate the waist which turns the spine, which turns the rib cage. You then feel the arm connect to the rib cage and be moved. The hands follow last of all. The wave like transference of internal force through the body should be smooth and fluid.
To develop connection, imagine that your whole body is moving through the air as if it were under water. Eventually your movements seem to be effortless. In beginners, the delay as power is transferred through the body is obvious, in advanced practitioners it is not perceptible, and every part appears to move at once.
Avoiding double – weightiness
The Yin-Yang balance in Tai chi should be dynamic. Otherwise the movements become double weighted. This means that the flow is not natural, like water in canal rather than water in a river. In Tai chi, every part of the body is moving. Never over extend or under extend your movements. Rotate and twist in dynamic, balanced way.
It is most important to avoid double - weightiness in the feet and in the hands.
Integration means doing the ten points of correct posture, the ten internal principles and the methods of practice of Tai chi at the same time.
Sijo. Dr. Udayan Acharya &