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'Frame' refers to structure - the placement of your body.
Your frame can be large, medium or small.
The shape of each tai chi movement must be carefully aligned in order to convey the groundpath with ease.
Slight adjustments make a major difference.
Copying the shape of another person does not guarantee that your structure will be strong.
You must find out for yourself.
Everyone's body is different, so you must explore the strengths and weaknesses of your own frame.
Try performing a form movement.
Stop at the end of it and hold.
Ask somebody to push along the line of force: can you maintain the structure with ease?
Are you tensing any muscles?
Sustaining your framework without extraneous effort is essential.
The habit of maintaining a good structure needs to become so natural that you forget it is happening at all.
Keeping all of the cavities open and the body rounded will help to create a strong route for the groundpath.
The springy 'bow tension' will ensure that your body is resilient and ready.
Only you can discover the optimal movement required at each stage of the tai chi.
You must consider the martial application, groundpath, flexibility, openness, neigong, economy and comfort.
In tai chi, large frame is only used by performance artists i.e. 24 step.
Martial artists cannot employ a large frame in combat so it is useless to them.
By the end of the dan grades a student should have some sense of medium frame.
The test is simple: what happens when the arms are pushed?
If the arms are springy and the pusher is repelled... then this is promising.
If the arms crumple or collapse, then the elbows are closed; this is weak.
If the arms are rigid and tense, this is also weak.
Consciously pushing back is also worthless.
The advanced practitioner may have begun to decrease the size of their frame: moving from medium to small frame.
As a student progresses, the mind is employed to a greater degree and the reliance upon a more obvious physical structure diminishes.
With long-term experience, the frame changes.
But this cannot be forced, otherwise connection is lost.
Energy is transferred from the rear
foot to the front foot,
then up the leg and up the spine to the point between the shoulder blades.
From there it emerges from the hand.
18 April 1995
Last updated 15 February 2020