Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip #413
The Harmonies
Tai Chi Chuan is such a marvelous practice. The more I study and learn, the more interesting it becomes, and the more I want to practice. A great cycle!
The Six Harmonies is a simple and instructive way to look at some of the proper use principles of Tai Chi. The Harmonies are: foot and hand; knee and elbow; hip and shoulder. The Harmonies talk about how and when to use the particular tools of the Tai Chi practitioner. Let’s look and see if we can gain a deeper understanding of this topic.
Martial arts space is divided into three ranges: short or close, middle, and long or far. The Tai Chi practitioner must learn when and how to use the proper tool for the job. The leg is the longest limb of the body. At the end of the leg is the foot. It makes sense that kicks are used for offense or defense at the farthest range. The next longest limb is the arm. The hand is at the end of the arm. Punches and slaps are also used for long range. So for offense or defense at long range we have the first set of Harmonies – the feet and hands.
The knee and elbow are in the middle of arm and leg. These are the next set of Harmonies and are used for the middle distance. Finally we have the hip and shoulder, which connect the limb to the torso, and this set of Harmonies is used for close encounter.
All of this may seem very elementary, yet most Tai Chi practitioners tend to use the wrong tool for the job. Many people have no idea that the shoulder and hip are very powerful tools for the martial artist. They push with their hands when right next to their opponent. They kick when close. They lean when using shoulder, which indicates they are too far away. That is not to say one couldn’t use hands and feet in this way, yet it is not the optimum. One could break a board with a hammer, yet a saw is a better tool for that.
When facing off with the partner, the Harmonies determines how the feet are placed in relation to the other person. For long range, the toes of both players are about on the same line. For mid range, the knees end up on the same line, and for close range, the offensive player steps into the center of the other’s stance.
The movement, Stork Spreads Its Wings, clearly illustrates the use of the Harmonies. My opponent is at a distance when she attacks with a strike, so I outreach with my hands to neutralize her. I then step in close since she is open and can attack me with her other hand, so I use shoulder to attack her. Finally, as she is moving away from the shoulder attack, I have more distance and attack with the elbow or forearm. I have used all the distance ranges and all my tools correctly.
Tai Chi is designed to energize the entire body, so pay attention to the Harmonies and enjoy the feeling of greater awareness.