Rotating the Hips
by Stephen Procter
So you have joined a tai chi class and during the beginning posture the teacher mentioned rotating your hips, you watch and they seem to be pushing their hips forward, but what does this mean? Does it have anything to do with the whole of your tai chi form or is it an exercise you do at the beginning? Rotating the hips is one of the most misunderstood aspects of tai chi posture, often students think that they just need to do it during the preparation posture and release it while doing the rest of the form.
Unfortunately I see this one aspect too often being left uncorrected even in many long term practitioners, causing misalignment and imbalance of body movements and postures, the risk of injury and improper flow of chi within. This one small aspect affects many areas in our forms and it is important to understand its application and function to get the most benefit out of our tai chi practice. Rotating our hips affects our posture, balance, body mechanics and also the way the energy flows, there is not one aspect of our forms that do not use it as a foundation.
What Muscles to Use
From my own experience of teaching it can often be a sensitive subject to explain, depending on the class group composition I can find myself skimming around the subject, this is because the muscles used in rotating the hips, dare I say it, are the same ones used during sexual reproduction. There I got that one out of the way, it’s the same ones used to thrust the pelvis forward and up, the only difference is that during our tai chi practice, once the rotation has been engaged, it is held pushed forward and not released throughout the whole of your tai chi practice, regardless of what you are training.
You do this by turning your tail bone under at the same time as you squeeze your lower pelvic floor muscles, you will then feel the rotation happening plus other body mechanic changes. Make sure you are not holding tension in your buttocks or that your buttock cheeks are not squeezed tightly together, this is wrong and will effect your movement, balance and energy flow.
Also make sure you do not have the feeling of lowering your buttocks and sitting down, this is also a wrong mechanic, and instead you should have a feeling of pushing forward and up, lifting your weight, giving you a feeling of being lighter and of the whole body combining as one.
This then has the effect of turning the tail bone, at the base of our spine, under between our legs and pushing it forward, this then stretches the base of our spine, straightening it and releasing the nerves, stimulating energy and allowing the chi to flow. Tucking our chin under as part of our posture also has a relationship with turning the tail bone under, when we tuck under of our chin it has the same effect on the upper spine as rotating the hips does to the lower spine. Article Continued Next Lesson
To transition into Fist Under Elbow posture requires balance, you need to be able to step around while balancing on one leg, here are a few tips to help train this. From Diagonal Single Whip shift your weight into your right leg, next turn on your left heal so that your toes are facing towards the left, this is the direction you will be facing. Shift your weight into your left leg and sink it down as if your are about to stand on one leg. Step around with your right leg to face the left side using your waist to turn the facing of your body ending up in a forward stance with the legs similar to Brush Knee.
As you step around the left arm stays in the open position as in Single Whip, the right hook closes into a fist and swings around under the left elbow. As it does sink back into your right leg and lay a closed left fist flat across the right arm, one arm on top of the other. Then shift forward opening your left palm, arm parts to be level with the left shoulder.
Repulse Monkey teaches the skill of walking backwards in a balanced way, it also deals with how to handle strong incoming external force without losing contact with the opponent. When stepping backwards, our normal instinct is to shift the weight into the rear leg leaving the front leg forward without weight in it. If we do this our balance tends to be backwards and we do not have a strong position if the force continues to come in. Also it creates a gap between our point of contact with the opponent allowing them space to move and react.
The way to counter this is to shift your weight into the rear leg and then step back with the front leg creating a backwards brace. The rear leg then becomes a front post, driven deeply into the ground, the front leg becomes the rear brace, supporting it. This is the same method used for making strong gate posts in a farm fence.
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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