The hinges of the body turn out to be supremely important in taiji. Wrists, fingers, elbows, shoulders, neck, hips, knees, ankles, toes. And of course, Spine. In the course of today’s working, I noticed these hinges quite a lot. If the hips aren’t opened wide enough, the foot lands too close to the center line, and the posture called ward-off-left winds up unbalanced. Do not flex the food during the windmill kick, and it lands improperly, with the toes scunched up. That makes the body unbalanced on landing, and not ready to project force into the next set of motions. Each failure to work each hinge, and be in the right place, leaves the next action just a little off.
At the same time, taiji is dynamic. It’s not a rote set of movements, and it’s not going to be the same every time. During the close-to-the-ground sweep called snake-creeps-down, I don’t always achieve the same depth of knee bend. Some days are easier than others. Some days are slower than others, and it’s a better work out. Some days the knees just don’t bend as well as I’d like.
But it used to be that my joints creaked. I’d hear them. They’d pop and gurgle and crack, like a bowl of rice crispies. Increasingly, though, my hinges move fluidly, with no alarming sounds emanating from them. Exercise is like oil on the hinges — the body swings without squeaking.