Tai Chi Y2D74: sink lower

I’ve been trying to finish the transcription of a poem (the one for Saturn) this morning, so I’m a bit late in writing my thoughts on this morning’s practice.

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But I’ve been having a lot of trouble with the hip twists that occur in the qi gong forms, in the movements called “bend the bow” and “bend the bow to shoot the hawk”.

Both movements involve extending one arm outward to hold and aim the arrow… and twisting the other arm, while the bowstring gets pulled back by the other arm to somewhere in the neighborhood of the ear. “Shooting the hawk” means adding a twist at the waist, which is generated by the muscles of the flanks while the legs and hips remain stable and oriented front.

And the only way to do this is to sink down on the knees and lower one’s center of gravity. The tendency is to twist from the knees or ankles, and that’s wrong. The strength of the movement comes from the twist — but if the lower body isn’t locked, that motion is limited and not as effective.

And the way to generate the real force is to sink down on the feet, lower the center of gravity and bend the knees. The result is that it’s easier to lock the lower body to the ground. And then the upper body twists with much more force and power. It’s pretty useful.

When I started, there’s no way I could sink as low as I can now. It was easy to hold my lower body in place as the upper body swung left to right and back again. But, I’ve gotten much stronger. And I’m now able to twist myself off of balance with this movement alone. Oops.

And the solution, of course, is to rebalance. To sink more weight toward the ground. This requires strengthening the leg muscles and balancing the pelvis front and back (and left and right). In other words, the only way to grow the power of the upper body is to bring it into alignment with the lower body. And if the upper body gets too strong — how nice! — the lower body will fail to hold your balance in place until you fix the relationship between above and below.

In other words, pay attention in practice to the times when you lose your balance. Your body is telling you exactly what to work on, if you want to make progress in the art.

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