This section is dedicated to questions on Wu Style Tai Chi from many students all over the world. If you have a question that you would like to ask you can ask it here: Contact Stephen
thankyou and take care,
Tai Chi Power Generation
QUESTION from Dan: Hi mate excellent videos! Can you tell me where the bulk of the power comes from in Tai Chi?
I understand so far, it comes from the drop step ie using gravity to push us forward off the back foot. It comes from the rotation of the hips. Where else is it coming from?
Tai Chi guys are really advanced at generating power but of all the ones ive asked none of them have been generous enough to share how, nor have they been able to explain it in a rational way ie they believe it comes from magic that western science doesn't understand rather than physics muscles and body mechanics.
I hope you are different you seem really clued up in your videos!
ANSWER: Hi Dan this is a big question and I will answer it the best I can.
There is nothing mystical about the power developed in tai chi, but there also are a lot of things that western science does not yet accept or understand. This is because western science authenticates things through the use of measurements, if it can't be measured then it doesn't exist, things such as mind, spirit and qi are an example of this yet they are all experienced in tai chi and meditation.
Initially the power in tai chi comes from proper body alignment, as the understanding of tai chi develops this then changes to also include internal power. In your practice it will progress in the following way:
1. Proper body alignment - proper alignment needs to be such that all incoming energy is channelled down into the ground. To do this we need to soften our upper body and follow proper mechanics becoming strong in our stance. Similar to a tree, the branches move with the wind while the roots are fixed firm in the ground.
2. Combing of body - this means that no part of the body moves separate from the rest, when one part moves everything moves - combined together
3. Relaxing the body - this has two mechanics, a physical one and an energy based one.
Physically: When we fully relax our muscles and no longer use them for strength, our tendons come into play and start to get stretched. As the tendons get stretched they become like elastic bands so when incoming force comes in they stretch and then release the energy back into the opponent. The elasticity of tendons is the same mechanic that was used on bows to shoot arrows. The bow was made with bone on the inside and tendons on the outside, this gives it the ability to return energy. When we offer no resistance in our body and our tendons are flexible, if this is combined with proper body mechanics and alignment, the body returns any incoming force like a bow, into the opponent. This mechanic comes from following and not resisting any force
Energy: When all our muscles and joints are relaxed giving no resistance incoming energy travelling through our body can find no place to land so flows freely through the body. The incoming energy can then either be sunk into the ground to increase balance and dissipate the force or by using circles, the same energy, since there is no resistance, can be circled back into the opponent with the addition of your own energy. In the same way that if a garden hose has a kink in it water cannot flow freely, regardless of how hard you turn the tap on. In the same way any tension in the body slows down the flow of energy and removes the ability to return it to the opponent.
4. Sticking and following - sticking to and following an opponents force allows you to join with it. Once joined, this energy no longer can have an effect on you, two forces moving in the same direction cancel the effect of the force. Once joined with their force you can use a circle to redirect it back into them and then add some of your own force. This means that you use their strength against them and no matter how strong they are you are stronger even if you are physically weaker because you are using their force plus yours joined together.
5. Heightened listening - Through developing a heightened listening skill through the sense of touch you can feel the other persons every move, their point of balance and flow of energy. This allows you to have the optimal timing to follow their flow of energy and use it to take advantage of any weak points that they have exposed.
6. Mind - The next level is to learn to use our mind, this means to develop very heightened awareness of the flow of energy travelling through our body and how to control it, be this our energy or our opponents. Wherever our attention sits energy goes, through using your mind you can direct energy anywhere that you want to. You can sink it into the ground or expand it outwards. In tai chi there is a deep understanding of how to channel and control that energy through the precise placing of attention. This is something that needs to be experienced and is hard to explain.
7. Spirit - Spirit is something that builds through continual tai chi or qi gong practice, it is built through the cultivation and refinement of qi. Spirit adds another dimension to tai chi power and it is experienced as a non physical expanding force that has no range or limit. It is something that cannot be explained but has to be experienced. The closest way it could be explained is as the manifestation of intention behind any action.
A very big question and one that cannot be answered simply because tai chi is the combination of mastery of many things that come together to form one. The only way to truly understand is through deep practice and self study. I hope this was helpful
Rotating the Hips
QUESTION from Elbottoo: How do i "rotate and push forward the pelvis". they tell me to relax my hips. I dont know how I do that. what do they mean by that. I push my buttocks area back and they tell me its wrong. I dont understand how to push the hips forward. is that the same as pushing the "crotch area as forward as I can"? I dont understand how they rotate and change the weight from left to right either. They just move the hips but no the legs etc but i cant seem to do it. i cant control the hip from that angle. only thing i can do from going left to right is move my whole body...
ANSWER: Hi Elbottoo, in answer to your questions:
Rotating the Hips:
Rotating the hips and turning your tail bone under can be best understood like this, stand with one leg in front of the other, make sure that your feet are shoulder width apart measured from front to back and side to side, shift your weight into your front leg. The front leg is bent at the knee and back leg is straight, this stance is called pilar and post, in the same way that a post is braced at a farm gate, your bent leg is the post and diagonal leg the pillar (brace).
While in this stance turn your tail bone under pushing it forward, you do this by tightening your lower pelvic floor muscles (lower abdominal), this makes the inside of your buttocks cheeks rotate in and press forward. Do this without lowering your buttocks as if you are sitting down, instead you will have a pushing forward and up feeling. Keep this as relaxed as possible and don’t over push.
To check if you have done it correctly try to rotate your lower spine separate from your hips, try this while you are holding this posture and also when you release it. When released the spine and hips can rotate separately, when the posture is engaged the hips and spine can only move as one.
The 2nd check is to let the posture out and notice how you can shift your knee over your front toe, now rotate your tail bone up and under as above and then try to shift your knee over your toe, if done correctly it will be impossible for your knee to overextend. A complete article I wrote on this can be found at
Engaging the Waist:
Your waist is the centre of your balance, movement and perception; it pulls everything together and allows all parts of your body to function as one instead of separately. It is the master of all movement and functions like an axel in a wheel, all parts of your body are powered by and move around it. In new students of tai chi the function of the waist is usually separate if not totally absent, movement instead coming from many areas, generally the legs, shoulders and wrist. This makes it hard to coordinate the movements of the form and relax; since movement is being generated by so many different areas it becomes difficult to move them all as one in a balanced way.
Learning to engage your waist during practice will affect a number of areas within your forms, only when your waist is the centre of creation for all movement can your upper body truly relax, proper waist movement allows the upper body to become soft and pliable because you do not need to use the muscles in your arms and shoulders to generate the energy. This allows the upper body to become fully yin, for the energy to transfer properly and for improved circulation and chi flow.
Engaging your waist also serves as a connection between your hands and feet, all parts of your body move and are controlled by the energy generated by it. This movement is similar to a mathematical compass; one point of the compass presses into one spot of a piece of paper, the end with the pencil then moves around this point drawing a circle. Our limbs are moved in a similar way by our waist movement, because the waist movement is always the centre of the circle, a very small movement of our waist creates a big movement of the arms and legs, similar to the movement of the compass. Learning to move in this way allows us to develop smaller circles within our form which generate large circles in our external movement, creating a spiral within which the energy travels.A complete article I wrote on this can be found at
QUESTION from Elbottoo cont.: hi, thx for your reply.
Very deep stuff, I had to read your post several times to understand what you mean. I tried rotating the hip as you said it. I then tried your two checks but failed them both miserably. The only time both checks worked for me, was when I squeezed my abdominal muscles real hard, pushed the the whole hip area and croth in upward 45% degree angle up and held on to that position. I could feel lots of tension in my upper legs area. I then tried your two checks and rotating left to right the hips moved with me. The forward knee could be bend forward but never to the point where it could go over the toes...but huge tension in upper legs and i had to squeeze the belly muscles/ abdominal muscles and keep them squeezed. Is this normal?
ANSWER: Hi Elbottoo, thankyou for your intelligent questions
We all can only work with what we have, that is always our starting pointing, without viewing you one on one it is very hard to me to make a judgement on what needs adjusting. Your lower pelvic floor muscles and upper thigh muscles may be very tight and also weak so that when you engage them it takes a lot of effort to maintain the stance. I have been training my waist in this way for 20 years so it is hard to remember how it felt when I first started. I do remember though that I used to put too much effort in and that my thighs did need to stretch out so I will give you this advice for training.
Every day I want you to stand in a training stance starting for a period of 10 minutes, then when that is easy 20 then 30 minutes etc, you can even do this while watch the television rather then sitting on a lounge. Start by standing with your feet side by side and sink your weight by bending your legs, keeping your back straight. Turning on your heals point your toes out to 45 degrees so that your feet create a \ / then turn on your toes moving your heals outward making your toes point towards each other and making the / \ shape with your feet. Your feet will now be shoulder width apart and toes facing 45 degrees inward with knees still bent. Your body should be relaxed and resting on this stance.
Now gently rotate your tailbone under and up, like you said earlier, pushing the crotch upward at 45 degrees by squeezing the lower pelvic floor muscles ( the ones used for sex). From reading what you posted I think you are putting too much effort in squeezing your muscles, so once in this stance your training will be to relax, relax, relax. Using your breathing to do this by relaxing into your muscles with every out breath.
My original teacher used to get me to stand for 2 hours at a time and I remember at first my leg muscles used to get sore, now because of the training I can hold it continuously without tiring. I don't want you to do this sort of training but instead be kind to yourself and slowly work up to it, a little at a time. I have softened a lot in the way I approach training these days and understand that too much effort leads in the opposite direction.
Train this for a while and let me know how you progress
QUESTION from Elbottoo cont.: Hi, I will try that. It is very possible my core is weak. I am a product of todays society. I am talking about massive hours behind the computer sitting on a chair :-( And I mean massive, like almost the whole day, every day...
Just one more question. Do you keep your abs squeezed during that whole posture. I mean you can only keep those muscles squeezed for a short amount right. But what I find is, when i start to relax, i find that my body slowly reverts back to normal "horse stance" kinda posture...?
ANSWER: The abdominal muscles should be kept relaxed, the muscles that are engaged are the lower pelvic floor muscles just above the pubic bone. When these get stronger you will also be able to relax them while they are engaged. In the end everything is combined yet relaxed, while you are beginning your training maintaining this posture will be difficult but as your core starts to strengthen it will become your natural way of being. To me it sounds like you are still putting too much effort into turning the tailbone under, the understanding of this is something that will come to you through study of your own posture. Apply the checks I mentioned in the above article and you will have a guide for when you are on the right track