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arrowJoints and structure


This page is designed to assist those who are learning tai chi using the "Easy Tai Chi™" packages, so visit often. However - most of these hints are basic tai chi principles that anyone can use. Enjoy!

1. Foundation - in search of a third leg

Four factors of physics to consider in developing a solid stance. Remember, in the video I discussed the concept of center of gravity - that vital point a couple of inches below your belly button, and a couple of inches in toward the spine

In order to achieve maximum stability in your tai chi:

button your center must rest over the base of support

The most common mistake students make when settling into the balanced stance is to have the heel of the back foot up, as if already getting ready to move (rush?) into the next position. The result is a 'tippy' feeling, as you have prematurely moved off the base created by your feet.

KEY: finish each position, and feel solid on both feet... keep both feet firmly on the ground.

button your center must be as close to the base as possible

In the learning process (as in life), there is a tendency to become 'uptight', being more in the head than in the body. By holding your gut in, you raise your center somewhere into your chest or neck. As a result, you feel a bit like an upside down 'Popeye' punching bag, ready to fall over.

KEY: Relax into the stance. Soften your gut. Sink your weight onto your feet. Feel your pelvis sink just a little closer to the floor.

button your center must be as close to the center of the base as possible

No problem here, if you simply think back to the triangle that I drew in the sand - and keep your body over the middle it. Not too much leaning forward or back, or to either side. Check yourself out in a mirror at home.

Or better yet - find a sandy beach (or playground, or any dirt in the great outdoors) and trace the triangle that you create with your feet and legs. Then simply fit into the center of that triangle.

button And - the wider the base, the greater the support

Still playing in that sand? Perfect. Then note that if you create a small triangle with your feet and legs, you are more unstable. If you take a longer stance, a wider stance - keeping within the parameters of creating a tai chi balanced stance - you have created a wider space. That means greater support. That means not falling over, when you don't want to fall over.

2. Practice

Needless to say - all the potential benefits of tai chi do not come by magic. But it is important to let go of the notion that there has to be a lot of hard work.

The key is to begin with 'baby steps'. Just 4-5 minutes a day. Enjoy your tai chi just a few minutes everyday, for one month, and it becomes habit. After just 30 days - you will WANT to do it daily. After 30 days - you will remember, because tai chi has become an important part of your life.

Make a commitment to yourself - 5 minutes a day for a month - and begin reaping the rewards almost immediately.

3. Expandability - "The Infinite Nine" - designed for your lifestyle

Remember - the series of moves you have learned take only 4 or 5 minutes. But there will be times when your schedule allows for more tai chi. Perhaps on a Sunday morning, or on a beach in Maui while on vacation. How do you make the moves fit your schedule? No problem.

  1. As I described in the video - you can extend a series of moves, by simply repeating them, increasing the feeling of a wave traveling across a large body of water.

    Add 2,4,6 or more of Partition of Wild Horses Mane, and/or Repulse Monkey, and/or Snake Creeps Down, and/or Wave Hands as Clouds.

  2. Or - repeat the "Infinite Nine™" form as often as you want.

Five minutes of quality tai chi becomes 15 minutes, or twenty five. The choice is yours.

4. Joints and structure

Stay soft in your movement. Not without structure, but without undo tension. Feel your shoulders hanging at all times, even when your arms are raised in a position. Keep your joints unlocked at all times throughout the routine.

5. Breathing - not a bad idea...

For years, I was taught (and therefore I taught) that the breathing would just come naturally with the tai chi moves. And for a very few people (not me) - it did happen. But most of us are simply too busy, too stressed, too impatient and totally unable to spend the years necessary to simply 'let it happen'.

So - we must make it happen. Not in years, not in months - but almost immediately. I now firmly believe that we can train ourselves to breath in a natural way, and that - as a result of breathing well in tai chi - we begin to breath more deeply and fully in everyday life.

So - in the "Tai Chi for Busy People™" video, and on the audio - I actually direct the breathing pattern. "Inhale, exhale, deep breath in, let all the air out". Within a short period of time, it becomes much more natural - and you feel benefits faster - and that's what is all about.

I believe now that teaching breathing to the average busy person is vitally important. When you become mindful of breathing in tai chi, that newly acquired awareness moves effortlessly into the rest of your life. The potential benefits are immense!

6. Shoulders

I once had a student who studied with me for a semester, then spent several months at a forestry fire watch tower. As a result of a wet summer, she did her tai chi regularly and often. She returned in the fall, and told me how much she enjoyed her tai chi. Only problem - she developed a severe headache after each session. Ouch.

A quick look revealed that she practiced all the movements intensely. As her concentration increased, her shoulders rose. She had developed an 'Ed Sullivan' style, with her shoulders almost inside her ears! Fact is - most beginning students will raise their shoulders during the learning period - it is an awful habit we acquire at a young age.

Key: Continually remind yourself to let the shoulders hang off your structure. There is never any need to lift them in any move. In "Tai Chi for Busy People", I remind the listener on a regular basis to drop the shoulders.

Key: It is important to note that the shoulders will tend to rise anytime the arms are lifted, particularly in moves like Stork Cools Wings. No matter how high the arms go - the shoulders stay perfectly relaxed. Try it now - slowly lift your arms as high as they will go, without lifting the shoulders at all. Try this several times.

Hint - always keep your shoulders level during the movements. There can be a tendency to rise one side or the other with arm movements.

7. Patience

Any practice of value takes time to learn. Keep at it - slow and steady - and the moves will one day become part of you. You will be able to do them without thought. Too many students fall into self criticism, with the 'little internal voice' telling them how poorly they are doing.

Key: Remind yourself that where ever you are in the process of learning is exactly the right place to be at that time. Congratulate yourself for making the effort, for doing such a wonderful thing for your mind and body. Smile and enjoy the process. Be gentle with yourself.

And remember a martial art saying that Nike made famous -
"Just Do it".

However -
There are two Keys to Success

1. Do not purchase a DVD where the instructor faces the camera. Think about it. If he goes to the left, you must go right. Forward is backward. It can drive you crazy.

2. Do not try to learn too many postures in a class OR by DVD. Most instructors focus on the number of postures, but the essence of tai chi can be found in just ONE. Better to practice a few GREAT postures than many weak ones.

Read this:
How to Choose a Tai Chi DVD


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