Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 242
Yang’s 10 Essential Points
#3 – Relax the Waist
The Tai Chi Body can be thought of being divided into three sections – the legs, the waist, and the upper body (includes the head). These three can and should function on their own, but for maximum energy manipulation, they need to work together. Let’s look closer.
The legs. I would venture to say the legs are the most important of the three when playing Tai Chi. They hold the rest of the body aloft and connect the body to the earth, the ground. If the legs lack strength, the body will float and a solid release of energy is not possible. It is through the proper use of the legs that we can gather the yin chi for later release, or send the yang chi down to root or empty. Lowering the body until the knees cover the toes, compresses the energy gathered into the legs. It is like putting money in the bank that can be withdrawn later. The legs need to be strong, yet open enough to have room to gather extra energy.
The upper body. This is where the energy usually gets expressed. One of the features that has helped humans climb to the top of life on earth is the use of our arms and hands. The hands can feel a single hair under 12 sheets of paper or lift hundreds of pounds. In Tai Chi we primarily pull, twist, push, or punch using the hands and arms. In order to do all this, we need the energy that has been stored in the legs, to move from the base to the upper body. This is the job of the waist.
The waist. The legs need a firm connection to the earth. The upper body needs flexibility. The waist talks to both. The waist must be free to rotate, mostly on a horizontal plane. The smoother it can move, the more power is transferred from base to top. If the waist is stiff, rotation will be lost and energy will be wasted. Relaxation of this area is vital, unless one wants to move stiffly like a robot. We always start our classes with warm ups, and waist turning is primary. Just let your arms hang down at your sides and start to turn your waist from side to side, at first maintaining a wu chi or shoulder width stance. Don’t let the arms do the swinging. Just let them hang and be moved by the waist. The more vigorous the twisting/turning of the waist, the more the arms will get thrown from side to side. There are plenty of variations on this waist turning. Explore and you will gain relaxation, connectedness, power, stretching of spine and shoulders. Easy and fun to do anywhere.
Parry and Deflect
Last week I asked for help. I wanted to know if anyone out there knew the difference between the terms Perry or Deflect since we use both in connection to punching in the Yang 108 Form. I thank all the people who sent me their thoughts. Some were quite extensive, even from people whose first language isn’t English. As of today, I must admit my answer on a test might warrant a “C” grade. At this stage it is more an intuitive guess than a sure thing. Here is my thought.
Parry and Deflect are terms to describe an action that keeps incoming energy, directed at our body, from hitting its target. The terms are most often used to describe fencing moves, but we use them in Tai Chi with hand, arm, even leg techniques. That we know, but what is the difference?
When the opponent throws a punch, for instance, we don’t want this to land on our body, so we block it. I think “block” is the most general term. Any action that keeps the incoming energy away from its target might be called block. In the hard martial arts, this block is usually delivered at a right angle to the incoming force, in order to knock it out of the way. The arms of the Hard Style martial artist are hardened so this block can actually break bones. This is not the Tai Chi way.
In Tai Chi, our “block” usually consists of the following actions: outreach, join, follow or lead, control and gather, return the energy. This is much more akin to “parry”. With parry as I see it, we join, stick, and follow. We do not change the direction of the opponent’s strike. We mostly get our body out of the way and place our weapon or arm between us and the opponent’s weapon or arm.
Deflect is a block that changes the direction of the force in one of three directions – horizontal, downward, or upward. Using weapons, we use a sharp strike against the opponent’s weapon using the flat of ours. This is mostly called “beat”. Solo handed, we generally join, stick, then move our body into a better position for issuing force by stepping, and, at the same time, we deflect (usually by pressing down with our forearm or hand), followed by our attack.
To summarize: parry usually involves sticking and not changing the direction of the opponent’s attack, while defect involves changing it’s direction.