I agree with Chen Yanlin's statement, as translated by Brennan: "as a compromise between the two things – the “hips”."
As you know I am a proponent of using the word "hips" to teach the process of transferring the energy created by the "legs" to the "waist" where it can then be controlled, so much so that I read Chen Yanlin's pronouncement on using "hips" as a compromise to explain the process with a great deal of satisfaction.
Using this single word ties together, for me, the idea of using "center driven movement" into one happy, easily teachable bundle.
As you say the waist "controls, leads, dominates, is in charge" of the energies we use for TCC.
I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree.
I am also in full agreement with the statement from the Classics that "energy is rooted in the feet, generated by the legs".
These things are clear and I see no reason to debate them here.
What is not made clear in this translated treatise of energy creation/control, that we all seem to be able to agree is accurate, is what it is exactly that occurs in between these two things, "legs" and "waist".
Let's take a minute to ponder, maybe even muse a little, then perhaps we'll extrapolate just a touch and we'll see where we end up.
Let's look at the passage from the Classics that's causing us all this trouble dispassionately:
"Energy is rooted in the feet, generated by the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed in the fingers."
I like it on the whole.
Perhaps there are more clear translations of this passage out there but this seems to be the currently accepted version so I'm going to stick with it for the purpose of this discussion.
In here we find clear references to certain body parts: Feet, legs, waist, fingers.
That's all we get in this hallowed description of energy creation/control/expression.
Four body parts, and ONLY four, are used here to describe this entire whole body process.
How many "parts" are there in the human body that would be included in this energy path if we listed them all? I'm not asking for a total number of "joints", that would be a bit much to go into here and not particularly germane at this time, so I'm just going to list the body "parts" that would be included in this progression as a layman would say it (that would be me) all the way from the feet to the fingers:
Feet, ankles, shins, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, waist (lumbar region), stomach, chest, shoulders, upper arms, elbows, forearms, wrists, hands, fingers.
Well now, I think I got at least most of them, maybe not in their direct order but I think I'm good.
I'm not listing the neck and head because they're not "parts" in between the creation point and the expression point in this formula so I think we can leave those out of it.
There appears to be a few body parts missing in the energy creation/control/expression model we're using.
Since we're missing a few "parts" in this listing then we might need to start asking a few questions in order to complete our pursuit of enlightenment on this subject. First off I would ask:
What body parts exist in between the "legs' and the "waist" and in between the "waist" and "fingers", in the human body?
What do we call those things again?
Oh. Yeah. I listed them already, no need to do so again.
Just for the sake of keeping this discussion down to something that won't lead to an entire lexicon of debates let's just go with the single question that bears on our current topic and we'll leave the upper body for debate by those who feel a need to do so:
"What body parts exist in between the "legs" and the "waist"?
That answer is: The "hips" and the "pelvis".
Let's now explore these body parts. How can we know what to do with them if we don't know what they do? We can't, so onward.
Let's start with the "pelvis". Other than being the body part made famous by Elvis Presley, what does it do?
Basically the "pelvis" does... nothing.
It's not a moving body part, not really. Not that it can't be moved, it just doesn't do so of its own volition.
This body part can only be moved by using other body parts, by itself it is entirely passive.
What is the most common thing that most TCC teachers tell their students to do with their "pelvis"?
It's fairly common, at least it has been for me, to hear, "level the pelvis". That's about all I've heard anyone say about it.
We do so by tilting the pelvic girdle until it is "level", usually by relaxing the tushy (trying to be polite here) downward.
The mechanism that allows this relaxation method of leveling to occur in the "pelvis" is... wait for it... the "hips".
So here we are. We've arrived at our destination, the "hips".
What do the "hips" do?
Well, I have made a pretty in depth study of the "hips". My time learning TCC began in a hip happy world, which lead me to be one of the "hip centric" crowd that beat the drum and blew the trumpets that the "hips" were the alpha and the omega when it came to movement.
I then segued into a "waist centric" group and that lead to a very confusing decade for me.
So I did some research and experimentation. I laughed, I cried, I learned. It was fun...
In a weird way.
But back to business...
What do the hips do?
Once again we have a nearly passive body part. Not entirely, not like the pelvis. You can move the hips in a limited fashion using the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia around them but mostly they are moved by using the legs to push against the pelvis.
That's the "Readers Digest Condensed" version of that particular bit of movement but it's close enough for our current discussion.
The hips are a "ball and socket" joint, meaning they are circular and therefor can rotate endlessly (Like the Yangtze River, endlessly flowing).
Rather than continue to belabor the issue of how the "hips" are moved I'll just let folks do the research on them for themselves if they're interested. I've covered the basics enough for the purposes of this discussion.
If anyone is even remotely interested I do have a paper I've written on the subject of the "hips" and their usage. This is a link to my website where I've posted the first chapter on my treatise for all and sundry to read if they so desire. The rest of the chapters are complete, or close enough, but I'm only going to hand those out to my students for now: http://everydaytaiji.com/Theory.html
Read at your own risk. I make no claims to being a good author.
So the "hips" and the "pelvis" are mostly passive, meaning that by themselves they can do very little.
Which may have been the reason for leaving them out of the original model from the Classics.
That doesn't mean a lot of things don't happen there, clearly there's something to them.
However, they're not the mechanisms causing their own movement (for the most part) or creating or controlling energy.
Energy is generated by the legs, not the hips or the pelvis.
It is then transferred through the hips and pelvis then controlled by the waist, it's not the hips or the pelvis that does the controlling.
So putting specifics about them into a general model for generating/controlling/expressing energy isn't really necessary.
All that said...
That does not mean that the hips aren't an important part of energy usage, they clearly are.
However the method to transmit the energy through the hips is, by their very nature, passive.
Meaning the best way to do so is to keep the hips relaxed, allow them to rotate through their cycle in their own way and not think about it too much.
Once you've learned the method of hip rotation, then just let it go and let it happen.
So all you need to know about the pelvis and hips can be summed up with these pithy phrases:
With the pelvis you "set it and forget it".
With the hips you "set them free, then let them be".
Feel free to groan now, I always do.
I have no idea where I was going with this, really. I know I'm not going to change anyone's mind on the subject by typing all this out on here.
Mostly I just wanted to clarify in my own head why I like this translation of Chen Yanlin and his "hips" compromise so much.
If anyone else agrees then that is awesome.
If not, that's awesome too.
Everyone has to follow their own path through this art, mine is only going to be good for me.