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Many people think that peng is the most important concern in taijiquan. This is incorrect. Central equilibrium comes first.
It is the last of the 13 postures, but also the lynchpin of the entire art.
Without central equilibrium nothing else will work. That is how relevant it is.
One aspect of central equilibrium is the notion of stability. Stabilising the centre does not involve any form of tension. It is about awareness, rather than doing.
By allowing the skeleton to work naturally and being conscious of the body in motion; a student can develop their sense of 'centre'.
The training with begins with basic qigong exercises and develops into more complex form movements.
Keen ability with centre allows the student to manipulate other people's centre without sacrificing their own.
Centre of balance
By maintaining stability during taijiquan practice, you learn not to lean. An upright, stable body works constructively with gravity rather than slumping.
Central equilibrium feels as if somebody has their hands on your pelvis as you move, supporting the body. You can begin to move from the centre in the knowledge that your body is balanced.
Suspended from above
The torso rotates around the vertical axis - like a tree trunk - as the body connects from the crown down to the feet.
Your body will feel light and comfortable, agile and mobile - as if 'suspended from above' - when this connection is established.
When you are suspended from above, like a puppet, the torso, spine, joints and legs are all free to move. You can spontaneously move in any direction you choose. There is no holding or fixity.
Losing the natural curvature
Instead of relaxing the lower back and allowing the pelvis to remain neutral, many people shorten the lower back. The spine loses its natural curvature and becomes weaker; more vulnerable to injury.
They are typically unaware of this habit because it is 'familiar' and seems 'normal' to them.
Releasing the lower back is easy. However, you need to monitor it repeatedly throughout the day until it becomes an established habit.
Bending at the hips is incorrect long-term (too exaggerated) but necessary for some years. It trains the body to hinge at the hip rather than slouch, stoop or lock the legs.
Without an ingrained ability to bend at the the hip, the student cannot use the hip kwa nor explore 5 bows and ultimately jing.
In terms of horizontal movement, leave the hips alone. Think of movement originating from the back, not the front.
The sacroiliac enables the spine to stay erect without unduly involving the hip joint or unbalancing the knees.
Stances must be kept natural and comfortable. Any exertion will serve to destabilise the entire frame. The feet should be far enough apart to ensure balance, mobility and stability.
Marriage of heaven and earth
The 'marriage of heaven and earth' is the balance between upper and lower body. Below the hips, the body needs to be internally sunk and stable - without becoming unduly heavy.
Above the hips, the body must be light and loose. The stability of the 'physical centre' represents the middle ground.
With the support of a dynamic, balanced lower body, the upper body can relax fully.
This enables the internal practitioner to move the spine, waist and torso without encountering any instability that would weaken usage.
The upper body draws its power from the ground.
If the centre is firm (not tense), the legs can sink just enough to establish a dynamic relationship with the ground.
The compressed muscles store power by allowing gravity to draw the weight of the body down.
It is important not to slump, otherwise the leg muscles pass the point of optimal use and rely upon the knees instead.
Deep stances are favoured by some styles of taijiquan, but Sifu Waller's approach remains quite high.
The highest level of taijiquan practice
is high stance and small circle. In high stance and small circle you can
conserve your energy to a maximum level. This is very crucial in battle.
Endurance has always been the crucial key to survival in a long battle.
Moreover, due to high stance and smaller shape you can reach to the
deepest relaxed stage, the mind is highly concentrated, and the sensitivity
and alertness can be extremely sharp.
Feeling the stability
If you experience difficultly feeling the stability of the centre, try 'constructive rest'. It will assist you considerably. The entire body must begin to align itself appropriately with gravity; it must root.
'Rooting' means that your feet feel as if they are growing out of the ground. By internally relaxing you allow the body to sink. If pushed, you seem firm yet pliable and not resistant.
This is a passive skill and requires allowing rather than doing. Your feet do not want to feel collapsed or heavy; they must be agile, nimble and responsive.
With a deep root, your body feels incredibly stable. It is very difficult to fall over, be pushed or pulled off-balance. Your body still yields but the centre feels dense and settled.
One of the major errors with central equilibrium occurs when the student tenses up their torso and seeks to become immovable. They are simply bracing/anticipating.
This mistake is a serious one because at that stage you are no longer yielding and no longer doing taijiquan. The idea of an immovable centre is more suited to xingyiquan than taijiquan.
created 1 July 1998
Last updated 07 January 2020