Wu Tai Chi 108 Slow Form

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Increasing Your Balance

by Stephen Procter


To increase your balance and ability to sink there are a couple of exercises you can do. First it is important to understand for ourselves just what our balance feels like, to do this stand with your feet parallel, shoulder width apart. Place all your attention mentally at the base of your left foot and shift your weight into the left leg slightly bending at the knee. Think deep down into the ground and each time you breathe out picture exhaling through the base of the foot, this can have the feeling of putting roots down into the ground, like a tree.

Once your get this feeling, place your eyes looking at 45 degrees in front of you and raise your right knee off the ground, the front half of your leg dangling down. Keep concentrating deep down below your balancing leg and fully extend your right leg in front of you. Hold it for as long as you are comfortable then bend your leg back and lower your leg to the ground again, do this a few times, not rushing it and try to feel and come to understand your own balance.

Now take this into your tai chi practice, every time you shift weight think deep down through the balancing leg into the ground, breathing out strong roots.

Using Breathing

Breath in to your dan tien, this is the place where your energy is stored, it is three finger widths just below the belly button, breathe out through your hands and feet, always keeping your connection deep into the ground.

Keep your centre of balance low to the ground, do not bob your body up and down when shifting between legs, each step should have the same depth of balance as if you were going to stand on one leg. Make sure you do not neglect the yin postures and rush through to the yang; all postures that have yin movement, contraction, should have the same balance as yang postures, those that expand. Breathing in sink everything down to the ground, in the yin posture, breathing out breathe into the ground and out through your hands, giving the feeling of an expanding bubble during a yang posture. Expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction, the flow of yin and yang, sending deep roots into the ground like a strong tree, always connected.


Posture 14. Crossing Hands


14. Crossing Hands - turn to right. Right hand in front

After pushing pull down with straight arms to waist height to end Tiger Springs to Mountain, palms are now flat; weight is in the front left leg. Now we turn to the right, do this by turning on the heel of your empty right leg, shifting your weight on it to face your right hand side. As you shift onto your right leg turn on your left heal so that your feet are now parallel. While doing this keep your arms at waist height and rotate your palms so that they are facing the front, as in the picture to the left. Your weight should be fully in your front leg at this stage.
Next step up so that your feet are parallel, side by side. Your hands come up through the centre to cross in front of you. The base of the left little finger sits in the dent below the base of the right thumb forming an X, elbows are low.


Posture 15 & 16. Diagonal Brush Knee x 2


15 & 16. Diagonal Brush Knee x 2 - left, turn 180 degrees, then right

From the Crossing Hands posture the hands change with the right hand moving high and left hand low, ready for the Brush Knee posture. This is the same as the four brush knees you did earlier in the form except that it is now done along a diagonal line. Look at the diagram,

these arrows represent the eight direction in which your tai chi form will travel, left, right, forward, back, left diagonal corner forward, right diagonal corner forward, left diagonal corner back, right diagonal corner back. Up until this posture the form has been travelling along a straight line first to the right and then to the left, in the crossing hands posture you turned to the front and stepped up. Now we have the first three postures that travel along a diagonal line as in the diagram. Notice that these postures are the same as you did earlier - Brush Knee, Grasping Birds Tail & Single Whip -

it is just the angle that is different, the only new section besides the angle is the transition between the first and second brush knee which I will cover here.
The main technique to master here is the feet, you are learning to turn 180 degrees, to fit into tai chi principals this needs to be done by a series of weight shifts, this may seem difficult at first but it will naturally become your way of moving. Start in the first diagonal brush knee position, weight is in your front left leg. Shift your weight back into your right leg, as you do so turn on your left heel so that your toes are facing the next diagonal line in a clockwise direction. Shift your weight into your left leg and then step another 90 degrees in a clockwise direction, allowing for the width of your shoulders as you turn, making sure you adjust your left foot so that your feet are once again parallel.


Tai Chi Detailed Explanation Lesson 6

Crossing hands, diagonal brush knee and single whip


Posture 17. Grasping Birds Tail


17. Grasping Birds Tail - Diagonal

As you sink your weight back into your left leg from Hands Play Guitar, your fingers on your left hand are touching your right wrist. Left palm then turns to face down, right palm turns to face upwards. Now turn your waist to the face the left diagonal, at 45 degrees, and shift your weight forward to the left, weight now transfers into the front right leg.
Turn your waist in a circle towards the right, this will automatically make your hands and arms follow the circle. When you have reached the right diagonal, facing 45 degrees to the right side you then sink your weight back into the left leg.

Pay attention to how you do not have to move your arms, by controlling your movement with your waist your arms will in turn move. Study this aspect; it will point you towards deeper understanding within your tai chi practice. Movement of the arms is often an illusion in tai chi, instead it follows the understanding that "When one part moves, all parts come into play" as spoken about in the tai chi classics.


Posture 18. Diagonal Single Whip


185 & 16. Diagonal Single Whip - left hand, foot towards left side

After pressing to the right corner shift your weight fully into your right leg, making sure you are balanced and your weight is 'sunk' down. The foot on your right leg should now be parallel, toes facing the front and heal facing back as in the drawing. The palm that pressed towards the corner now makes a hook with all fingers touching. You do this by bending your right wrist and bringing all fingers and the thumb together to make a downward facing point. Your elbow should also be slightly bent and not fully straightened, always pay attention to this, never lock your elbow as it removes mobility and blocks the flow of the Qi. The left fingers should at this time be touching the wrist of your hooked right hand also with elbow slightly bent.

Now move your left foot half the length of your right foot towards the back and step to the left with your left leg, as in the above right hand picture, to a distance of just over shoulder width apart and shift your weight across evenly. Your right foot should be parallel and your left foot will be facing at 45 degrees as in the drawing. Moving your foot back half a foot length first will ensure that when you step to the side your right foot will be more forward then your left. Now turn your waist so it slightly faces the left, this with the feet make the left diagonal the front in this stance.

Do not stand in an even posture facing the front, this is incorrect and comes from a misunderstanding in the functioning of single whip, you can see this in the drawing to the left. Once you have shifted the weight across relax and sink your weight evenly before starting the next posture to allow the Qi to sink down.


Video of complete movements for this lesson

Crossing hands, diagonal brush knee and single whip, fist under elbow

Continue next lesson - Lesson 7

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This article was written by Stephen Procter, instructor from Tai Chi Health for Life, Australian College of Tai Chi & Qi Gong and Meditation Instructor from Meditation in the Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you