'Stop being a square !'...Who me? Yes it is easy to slip into square habits.
You have no doubt been told on numerous occasions that one major principle of the Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan is circular movements. This exhibits on many levels, most of which are clearly apparent.
Why is this principle so important? It harks back to Yang Cheng Fu’s second point from his 10 essential points for Tai Chi Chuan ...“Lower the Chest, Raise the Back”
This essential point is often ignored and so the clavicle remains engaged (White Crane Spreads its Wings) or is misunderstood and the student stoops with unnaturally rounded shoulders and a compressed chest.
The best way to approach this point is to practice holding the ball in front of the chest. In Tai Chi Chuan, the clavicle must be disengaged and the scapula must be engaged. This ensures the correct function of the thymus gland. It also correctly positions the sternum within the rib cage. This correct posturing also allows energy to flow unimpeded through several meridian channels, aiding well-being.
Sometimes you find it difficult to establish the correct upper body posture. Look towards your groin area and check that your sacrum has articulated from the hip bones enough for the coccyx to sit correctly.
Check that your weight is evenly distributed on both legs and that your thighs are holding the weight of the upper body. The groin area (the sacrum, groin, hip joints and flexors – known collectively as ‘the kua’), should sink. Once the lower body is seated properly then holding the ball correctly feels natural.
Study the two diagrams below:
You can see in the first diagram a continuum from the arm through the shoulder and continuing through the scapula. Note also that the chest is naturally sunk. Energy flows up to the T2/C7 point and is then transmitted through the scapula to the arms.
The second diagram shows a ‘squaring off’. The sternum is no longer engaged. The force that is generated in your form cannot exit through the arms. The sternum and the rib cage are protruding outwards. Energy will be blocked and the form becomes hollow.
A classic move where this issue is likely to present itself is “Cloud Hands”. Practise this movement outside of your regular lessons to ensure that you do not 'square off', but remain connected. Use the lower body and the hip.
Wally Wilkinson – Senior Instructor Brighton
(Pictures from: 'The Inner Structure of Tai Chi – Mastering the Classic Forms of Tai Chi Chi Kung' by Mantak Chia and Juan Li.)