Correct alignment in Single whip Henry S Dean and Clara.
I am somewhat surprised by the amount of correspondence I receive from people who are questioning how the spine should be aligned in Tai Chi Chuan. Often this questioning seems to arise as a result of information provided by people involved in the fields of medicine, or increasingly those who have undertaken training in personal fitness, and perhaps most pervasively the internet with its plethora of lifestyle and how to blurb.
The matter is perhaps not helped by many early attempts to translate the traditional guidance on posture given in the Tai Chi Classic’s. Therein you may find many wondrous descriptions of ‘Straightening the spine’ and it’s many benefits.
There are two problems with these forms of advice.
1 The spine needs to be allowed to maintain its natural structure in order to perform its many and varied tasks. It needs to change alignment according to the position and activity of the body, but should never be un-natural.
2 Most people who begin Tai Chi training are not aware of what their spine is doing, have little control over it, and almost certainly do not use it correctly in their daily life activities let alone Tai Chi.
Different styles use different postures, so alignment changes.
Therefore in Tai Chi Chuan practice we have the following tasks to achieve
Building awareness of the alignment, movement, and control of the whole body, including the spine.
Achieving a level of strength, flexibility and fitness which allows the body to maintain correct alignment
Educating the body to move through the various postures with correct alignment, and adjust it according to the movement/posture.
Natural alignment of the spine that facilitates the posture/movement is a key concept. If you understand it you can understand why the different styles of Tai Chi Chuan use the body differently, yet correctly.
Keith and Gloria demonstrate correct posture at different heights.
Furthermore, if you take on board the scale of the problem of correct use, against the issues of unfit or inappropriately conditioned practitioners with underdeveloped awareness, you will see why much of the practice is slow.
This is what you should remember and teach
In the Golden Rooster School, Tai Chi Chuan practice involves the correct alignment of the spine to facilitate the optimum bio- mechanical use of the body commensurate with the movement or action undertaken.
Therefore in Single Whip we move the hips to a mid position to lengthen the lower spine, facilitate opening the hips, and align the spine to support the rotation of the waist and issue and consequent absorption of forces through the use of Fa Jin.
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.