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The more ardently you force the tai chi to work, the slower your progress will be. You must let-go.
People do not like the fact that tai chi does not embrace aggression and force, but this is not just a philosophy. Tao stems from observing nature; seeing the physics of it.


Tai chi is often seen as being a bit 'theatrical'. It lacks the apparent brutality of boxing or karate. The emphasis is upon gentle qualities: softness, yielding, receptivity and openness.
Ask yourself: do these indicate fear? Which characteristics suggest fear: a tense, locked, hunched body or a friendly, relaxed, open one?

A fish should not stray from deep water;
And power should not be displayed.

(Lao Tzu)


If you want power in your tai chi, begin with your lower body. Without a firm foundation, power cannot be expressed through the framework.
Your feet must have three points of contact and the weight balanced equally between front and rear of each foot.
Move up to the pelvis. The pelvis must be stable, with most of the work happening in the hip joint.
Now focus upon the torso. It must be comfortably upright, without strain; lengthening from the hip to the crown.
Without these basic skeletal requirements in place, your structure will crumple if you deliver through it.


Sinking and rooting provide an inherent use of gravity. Dropped shoulders, elbows, sunk hips and relaxed spine, knees and ankles improve root. Without root, you are 'floaty' and weak.
Additionally, you must weight shift with every striking movement except for kicks. If your weight is not behind the movement, where is it?
When shifting weight, the alignment of the pelvis, hips and knees must be considered.


Pay close attention to your framework. The body must be connected together with the optimal angles in order to transmit energy efficiently. Align appropriately behind the line of force.
Ensure that your body is with every strike and helping to fuel it. Vertical alignment is the most important component. Without the post, you are prone to slumping and this will put strain on the body.
Imagine your head being pulled away from the hips. Do not watch your hands.


Groundpath is connection + sinking + intent. When you touch your opponent, they should immediately feel the weight of your groundpath.
It should be a very distinct sense of weight in your hand; a downward pressure that is not the consequence of pushing.
If your opponent were to lean their body into your groundpath, it should penetrate into them and be most uncomfortable.
Pushing peng and posture testing exercises are designed to develop the presence of groundpath. Be very careful to remain passive.


Neigong must exist within your tai chi. No conscious effort is required once the neigong has been incorporated fully. If you need to 'do', the neigong is not yet inherent and needs more time.
The neigong are everything. Without them, you will use the limbs for strength and that is not tai chi.


It is very important to comprehend that you are not striking in the conventional way. Tai chi is not like boxing. You must not 'cock' the shoulder.
The power must come up and out - directed by the waist - inward to your opponents centre.
If groundpath is present, you should be capable of placing your hand on your opponent and delivering though without retracting the hand or cocking the shoulder. 'Moving qigong' will develop this ability.


The less you try, the more will happen. 'Folding' and 'sung' will be introduced in the syllabus. These two qualities are passive; they are allowing rather than doing.
They teach you to 'step out of your own way' and let the tai chi do its work. Do your moves in an almost dreamy manner; drifting rather than forcing.
Pause regularly and allow your weight to settle. Power will grow imperceptibly.

By yielding, overcome.
By bending, remain straight.
By emptying, be filled.
By losing, gain.

(Lao Tzu)

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023