In the Hand Form, Body Shape is closely linked to Footwork. The different stances have corresponding body shapes. Please note that no matter what footwork is used, the body shape must follow the Principles directing us to maintain the proper alignment resulting in smooth, easy movement and natural breathing.With three exceptions, when performing movements using the Bow Stance, the upper body inclines slightly forward, lining up the back with the angle of the back leg. Additionally, the upper body will either face forward or open to the side, depending on the requirements of the particular movement. For example, in Push, the upper body inclines in the forward direction and also faces the forward direction. In Bend Bow Shoot Tiger the upper body inclines in the forward direction and is open toward the left.The three exceptions mentioned above are Left Ward Off, Single Whip and Fan Through the Back. In these three movements the upper body does not incline in the forward direction but remains upright, straight up and down.
When performing an Empty Stance, the body should lean slightly forward so that the Kua of the weighted leg is nearly over the Yong Chuan, Bubbling Well. Be sure to line up the back knee with the back toe direction, keeping the tail bone centered. With Empty Stances using the ball touch, the body faces forward. White Crane Spread It’s Wings and High Pat on Horse are examples. With Empty Stances using the heel touch, the body opens toward the side. Raise Hands and Step Forward and Fist Under the Elbow are examples.
It is very clearly stated in the Ten Essentials of Tai Chi Chuan：should lift the head, sink the chest and pull up the back, sink the shoulders and drop the elbows, drop the hip and relax the waist. Meanwhile, center the tailbone.
• In order to lift the head, slightly tuck in your chin while pushing up from the inside.
• To sink the chest and pull up the back, think of slightly absorbing the chest inward which expands the back, making it slightly rounded.
• To sink the shoulders and drop the elbows, simply relax the shoulders down and droop the elbows.
• To relax the waist and open the kua, tuck in the tail bone slightly.
To center the tailbone is often explained as keeping the tail bone in line with a straight line between the Baihui and Huiyin. Actually, you should find the center from your footwork. When using footwork in which the toes of both feet are pointed straight forward, Preparation or Cross Hands are examples, the tail bone is in the center between the two feet. Or, when the feet point to different directions, Bow Stance or Empty Stance are examples, think that the front foot is standing on a line pointing in the forward direction and the back foot is on a parallel line with the toes turned 45 degrees from that forward direction. Find the midpoint between the two parallel lines.
After you have met all of these requirements you will feel four directions pulling your back: up, down, left and right. Use the relaxation method and the correct body shape described above to unify the whole body and keep the Qi sinking down, the breath calm. The upper body will then be light, the middle body flexible and the lower body sinking down and heavy.
Included in the Footwork is another stance called One Leg Standing Stance or Du Li. The requirements of this stance are: Stand on one leg with the standing leg’s knee slightly bent so as not to lock the joint. The standing leg is turned out 45 degrees. The raised leg lifts up with the knee bent. The knee points in the forward direction and the toes are pointed downward. The knee is lifted until the thigh is at least parallel to the ground, slightly higher is better. The lower leg and foot curve slightly inward forming a ward off shape. See Figure 1.
Another stance is the Down Stance or Pu Bu. The knee of the bent back leg must stay in alignment with the back toe direction. The front leg keeps naturally straight with the toes aligned with the forward direction. Be sure to follow the principles when lowering into this stance so that the Qi can sink down. The transition to the next movement can only be accomplished when the correct alignment is maintained. See Figures 2 and 3.
Included in Footwork is another stance called the Empty Stance, or Empty-Full Stance. The requirements for the Empty Stance are: The front foot points to the forward direction and the back foot points 45 degrees from the forward direction. This is a narrower stance than the Bow Stance with the feet on either side of the centerline. The centerline runs between the two heels following the forward direction of the front foot. Do not cross the heels. See Figures 1 and 2. The weight is 30% on the front foot and 70% on the back foot. The kua needs to be rounded by keeping the knees open in the directions of the feet, 45% apart, and the hip dropping down by relaxing the waist. Do not allow the back knee to roll in. Weight should be centered over the Bubbling Well.
There are two kinds of Empty Stances. One touches the ground with the whole heel and the other touches with the ball of the foot.
In Hand Strums the Lute, for example, the heel touches the ground. As seen in Figure 3, after touching with the edge of the left heel the weight has moved forward 30% until the whole heel is rooting on the ground leaving the toes slightly lifted. Do not lock the front knee joint which would make the back of the knee feel tight. Keep the leg extended with springy energy, not stiff energy. Generally, when using the Empty Stance with the heel touching the body is open toward the back leg about 45 degrees.
In White Crane Spreads its Wings, for example, the ball of the foot touches the ground. As seen in Figure 4, after touching with the whole ball of the left foot the weight has moved forward 30% creating more support than touching with the toe only. The left knee is slightly bent, and the heel slightly off of the ground, allowing for the entire ball to touch the ground, not just the toe. Generally, when using the Empty Stance with the ball touching, the body is squared in the forward direction.
Q: Why do I have trouble feeling balanced when I am using an Empty Stance?
A: The reason you do not feel stable is because you put too much weight in the back leg, not allowing the front leg to lend support. Remember to move 30% of your weight forward while not leaning the upper body back.
Q: Why can’t I keep my knee in line with my toe direction?
A: Remember to relax your waist, dropping the tailbone down. This should allow the kua to open with the femur turning out 45 degrees. The knee will then be following the toe direction. If you do not follow this rule, you risk twisting and damaging your knee.
Traditional Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan emphasizes training in five directions: Hand Technique, Gaze, Body Shape, Method, and Footwork. The Footwork is the foundation. The main Footwork includes Bow Stance, Empty Stance, One leg Standing Stance, and Down Stance.
Let’s talk Bow Stance first. The demonstrations in figures are based on the left foot in the front. The left foot points to the forward direction, then right foot points 45 degrees from the forward direction. The feet are shoulder width apart. The weight is 60% on the front leg and 40% on the back leg. The left knee moves forward following the direction of the front toes and does not pass the toes. Weight should be centered over the Bubbling Well and both feet are rooted. Figure 1 and Figure 2. The body shape for movements with Bow Stance Footwork generally require the upper body to incline slightly in the forward direction, so it leans at the same angle as the back leg. There are three exceptions in which the torso is straight up and down when using Bow Stance footwork: Left Ward off, Single Whip, and Fan Through the Back.
Q: What is “shoulder width apart?”
A: The feet are parallel with outside edge of the feet at the same width as outside edge of the shoulders.
Q: How do I know if my footwork is shoulder width apart in a Bow Stance?
A: Use the heel to turn right toes in until the right foot is parallel with the left foot. Move the back foot straightforward until it is opposite the front foot. Check to see if the outside edge of the feet and shoulders are aligned. Figure 3 and Figure 4
Copyright (c) International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association
New schools and instructors for June – August 2015:
Datong, Shanxi, China. Director Li Shengwu
Serge Coux, Paris
Jose Luiz de Castro Junior
Here are some pictures from Grandmaster Yang Zhenduo’s birthday party, August 4, 2015, Taiyuan, Shanxi, China.
Members may now view the latest journal, #36, in the Members-Only Area of our website. The journal is available in PDF and interactive versions, and now in EPUB for tablets.
Dear Association Officers, Directors, Instructors and members,
It is with the warmest wishes that I announce the retirement of Pat Rice from her position as Head of the Judges and Ranking Department effective May 6, 2015. Pat has voluntarily served the Association in this position with distinction and dedication and has been instrumental in the development of the Judges and Ranking program from its earliest stages. She has provided exemplary advice and leadership and we are indebted to her vision and commitment. Pat remains with the Association as an Advisor and will continue to assist in the transition of Department leadership.
Pamela Boyde will succeed Pat as Head of the Judges and Ranking Department. Pam has been working with Pat in preparation of filling this position and will bring her unwavering spirit and energy to this role. She has extensive organizational experience, working with the Special Olympics and many challenging events, most recently as the organizer of the Volunteer Program of the 2014 International Tai Chi Chuan Symposium.
I want to expressly thank Pat for her hard work and look forward to continuing our work in other areas for the Association.
Please join me in thanking Pat for her work and welcome Pam as the Head of the Judges and Ranking Department.
Thank you both for so much.
Head, Division of Education and Training
International Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan Association
Congratulations to the following:
New Certified Instructor
Daniel Shulz (Paris)