Tai Chi Questions & Answers

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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,
Stephen Procter

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How Deep a Stance?

QUESTION from Dan: Regarding there being a point too far with the squatting, what do you make of Chen style tai chi and other martial arts that use a lot of lower stances? I used to go as low as I could physically go, but now I tend to aim for Bruce Frantzis's "70% exertion" unless I'm specifically after a leg workout or need to burn off anxiety. But how can it be harmful when lots of other styles (ninjutsu, Chen, shotokan, other kung fu) use lower stances?

ANSWER: Hi Dan, Thankyou for your feedback, The height of the stance being referred to in the video is based on the body mechanics found in Wu style tai chi. The stance width is shoulder width apart side to side and front to back. This stance consists of the slanting of the back, turning in of elbows, rotation of the hips plus smaller stance which is pulled together through the combining of the whole body. If any part of this posture is not in alignment such as straightening the back, bringing the elbows too close to the body, not rotating the hips or extending the knees over the toes then the mechanics of combining will be broken and the postures will have weakness in regards to the transference of energy.
No one body mechanic is correct and different styles and traditions have many variances of these such as wider stances, double weighting on legs and very deep postures. Each one of these have been developed with a set of alignments that give the posture strength and integrity that allow them be performed in various ways. There are set rules in regards to how the mechanics of each one functions, if the rules are not followed then the integrity of the mechanics is weakened. In the same way in the video I am discussing the postures in regards to the body mechanics found within Wu style tai chi which is a small framed form, and pointing out some of the boundaries that if crossed will effect the mechanics of those postures.
Other styles use different mechanics and body alignments so the information contained in here may not be 100% applicable to them. What I suggest to my students and also do in my own study is to not only practice the postures correctly but also incorrectly in both the traditional forms and pushing hands. Do this with self awareness and come to know the 'feeling' of what works and what doesn't work, what is correct posture and what isn't. In this way you train yourself to 'feel' when your posture is combined and when it is not. This is the only way to transfer what is thought about into what is known,

take care
Stephen Procter

Got Sore Kneck

QUESTION from Hive: I may have used too much force to tuck my chin and now the back of my neck hurts, pretty sure it'll go away but now I know to only get a really light stretch


ANSWER: Hi Hive, Be gentle with everything you do in tai chi, nothing should be forced or use any strength. Only slightly turn your chin under so that you head is not leaning back and is evenly balanced, there should be no force or strain when doing this. Part of tai chi is learning to be aware of our own bodies balance and limitations, this allows us to feel what is correct and avoid injury.
The general rule is that if the movement doesn't feel relaxed and fully balanced then it probably is incorrect, done correctly there is never any strain on any part of our body.

For now rest, take care,
Stephen Procter

Who Was Your Teacher?

QUESTION from Poke: this is a very nice vide on on Wu Shi 108 form. I learned it when I was in college >40 years ago. Simple and clear movement and steps. an excellent teaching video I fully agree. Your graceful movement is clearly visible. Can you tell me who was your teacher? You have my respect for a wonderful performance.Bravo!!!

ANSWER: Hi Poke, thankyou for your kind words. I am a disciple of Sam Li (Shen-Guang Li) in Australia who is the son and disciple of Li Li-Qun (passed away). Li Li-Qun was a disciple of Ma Yeuh-Liang. My teacher is 5th generation Wu, he and his father have made great efforts to keep the Wu forms pure and pass down the complete system. For this I am very fortunate and grateful,

take care,
Stephen Procter

I Fatigue Quickly

QUESTION from Patricia: Thank you for this excellent video, which will also work for people who are deaf. (Seated Tai chi Exercise video with subtitles
I have fatigue of undetermined origin, possibly poor sleep architecture or fibromyalgia. I had to rest 4 times during this, even though I do work out at Silver Sneakers (I am a 62yo female)and can walk 5 miles at times. How can this be explained? I want to use Tai Chi and Qui Gong to improve my energy and stamina. Using my arms really makes me tired, but using my legs doesn't. Any suggestions? Also, sitting up straight automatically fills my lungs so I can't take in more air and have to focus on exhaling. This seems and feels wrong to me. Any thoughts?

ANSWER: Hi Patricia
thankyou for your kind words.
There is no need to introduce deep breathing in the beginning of practice, I would suggest that you just practice the physical movements at first and be aware of the feeling of your body as you do it. I am not a medical practitioner so cannot advise you on any health issues but as a tai chi instructor I can suggest ways to get the most benefits out of the exercise. From what you have said above it sounds to me as if you hold a lot of tension in your upper body, this will cause your muscles and breathing to fatigue quickly. Keep exercising using your arms but do so while being aware of any tension and strain. Tai Chi movements should be done in a relaxed manner, your task should be to relax your muscles as you do the exercise, mentally release any tension, you can use your out breath to do this.
Each time you do these exercises focus on relaxing until you find that your arms will float up by themselves, please be patient with this, force and effort are opposite to tai chi thinking, the movements should head in the direction of slow and effortless, whispy like a cloud. Instead of trying to complete the whole video why not set small goals for yourself, regular daily exercise rather then short bursts of long periods then fatigue is more beneficial. Set yourself a daily goal, do one of the exercises every day for a week, on the start of the second week add another movement if you feel up to it and so on, this way you will slowly increase your stamina.
Once you find that your upper body is feeling relaxed you can then introduce breathing, do not force the breath, it should also be gentle, think of breathing using your stomach (diaphram) rather then your chest. Never force your breath, this will fatigue you, forcing will cause tension and stress, keep it slow, gentle and deep not trying to fill your lungs with air. Effort is the opposite to tai chi and opposite to any natural way of moving.
If you legs are strong then why not try the video Relax - Tai Chi Deep Breathing Technique for Health on this website, it is the same movements but standing up so you will exercise your legs while you are doing the movements

take care,
Stephen Procter

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