How to vary Ding Shi and Square Form to get what you need to advance in Tai Chi practice.
Gloria Dean, relaxed composure holding a difficult stance.
Thanks to my hardworking colleagues at the TCUGB I have just received the latest magazine, which reminded me that I had perhaps over emphasised one aspect of holding when practicing the square form. In truth the following advice was always intended to be included, but time is a precious thing.
The thing is your goals in practicing the internal arts, or any thing else, need to move as you progress, indeed to enable good progress you need to have set appropriate goals and keep them in mind whilst training, but thats another subject. Assuming you have already acquired a sound knowledge of the Square form, short or long, you can choose whether to focus on improving physical relaxation or being Sung. This is the idea behind my earlier entries on the subject (scroll down the page to find them) or you can practice to increase strength. Both goals are achieved through the same practice but for the latter you persevere with the posture, whilst over riding the bodies attempt to tighten. To encourage relaxation as a beginner however it is counter-productive to attempt to hold for extended periods (e.g. over 5 minutes in any one posture) Instead your focus should be on achieving correct posture with minimal tension, then releasing further without loosing structure, ( for example think of relaxing the belly) when this is achieved in one posture, change to the next and begin again.
In the picture above gloria demonstrates good alignment, with focus, composure, and physical relaxation whilst maintaining extension and height, no mean achievement. Try it yourself without leaning back, without drooping, or letting the foot drop or pull back, and of course... without stiffening. When you can hold like this
for the relatively new being Sung is a prime requirement, for those who can already achieve this then the goal of greater strength and stamina is available for both body and mind
Enjoy your practice.
Keith has studied the Chinese Internal arts for over 40 years. He lives in England and Portugal with artist, designer and writer Gloria Dean and teaches in Portugal and the UK.