The importance of Tai Chi’s emptiness and fullness or soilds foot stepping, and openness and closure, are equally crucial. Regarding the whole body, there is emptiness and fullness. When the left side is full, the right side is empty, and vice versa. This means that if the left half of the body is full, the right half is empty, and if the right half is full, the left half is empty. Additionally, the body can be divided into upper and lower halves, with the waist as the boundary. When the upper body is full, the lower body is empty, and when the upper body is empty, the lower body is full.
These combinations create a complex interplay of emptiness and fullness throughout the body, forming what is known as “full within emptiness” and “emptiness within fullness,” as well as “full within full” and “emptiness within emptiness.” Each part of the body also has its own emptiness and fullness, making it even more intricate and challenging to grasp. Furthermore, both the overall body’s emptiness and fullness and the emptiness and fullness of individual parts are not fixed; they change with movements and actions.
Initially, beginners may find it difficult to comprehend emptiness and fullness in Tai Chi. As one becomes more familiar with the postures and movements, attention can gradually shift towards the transformations of emptiness and fullness in the hands, body, and footwork. Starting with significant distinctions between emptiness and fullness, the movements will become more refined with practice, eventually achieving subtle variations of emptiness and fullness. At this stage, the actions become extremely flexible, and the coordination of body movements, steps, and hand techniques should align with each other, not only in appearance but also in the corresponding internal states of emptiness and fullness.
The interplay of emptiness and fullness should also be coordinated between hands and feet. When stepping, the hands follow the feet, except when one foot is in an independent posture (e.g., if the left foot is firmly planted, the left hand is also solid). In other cases, when the upper hand is empty, the lower foot is full, and vice versa. As for the correspondence of internal and external emptiness and fullness, it is related to breathing and opening and closing. Generally, breathing opens and becomes full when exhaling and closes and becomes empty when inhaling. This alignment with the breath becomes natural after prolonged and diligent practice of Tai Chi postures and movements.
In Tai Chi, sinking the energy (“qi”) to the dantian (lower abdomen) lowers the center of gravity and stabilizes the body. Standing in an upright position maintains the center of gravity’s balance without leaning or tilting. However, Tai Chi is not a static posture but a dynamic sequence of movements. Therefore, emptiness and fullness must be used to balance the center of gravity during movement. As the legs support the body’s weight, the transformation of emptiness and fullness in footwork plays a significant role in maintaining balance. While fixed postures are relatively stable, the challenge arises during the transition of movements and changes in directions and angles. It requires coordination in all directions to maintain balance, as a previously stable center of gravity may become unstable. Therefore, the use of emptiness and fullness is essential for stabilizing the center of gravity during movements.
In Tai Chi movements, the body resembles a scale, with the tailbone acting as the pointer on the scale. The aim is to keep the balance at the center. The arms and legs are like the two pans of the scale, and their emptiness and fullness serve as the weights for weighing. Regardless of the body’s state, the sum of emptiness and fullness in the right hand and right foot and the left hand and left foot must always equal one hundred to maintain balance. When facing an opponent, one hand sticks to them, sensing their emptiness and fullness, and adapts accordingly—fullness follows emptiness, and emptiness follows fullness. The other hand and feet adjust emptiness and fullness to seek overall balance and a stable center of gravity, placing one in an unbeatable position. Tai Chi Master Chen Xin mentioned that hand techniques are like weighing instruments used to measure weight. In Tai Chi, the mind possesses an intrinsic weighing instrument that assesses the opponent’s advances, retreats, speed, and slowness. This intangible weighing instrument facilitates the transformation of emptiness and fullness, achieving balance by making appropriate adjustments with both hands.
Regarding footwork, stepping should follow the body’s changes. This means that footwork’s emptiness and fullness must correspond to the body’s movements, tightening the connections between the front, back, left, and right forces to stabilize the body’s center of gravity during motion. To achieve flexible transformations of footwork’s emptiness and fullness, it relies on changes in the waist and hips. By gently shifting the waist and groin, the movements of the limbs can be swiftly coordinated, attaining balance even at various angles.
In summary, Tai Chi’s concepts of emptiness and fullness, and openness and closure, are essential principles that govern the art’s movements and balance. These concepts involve intricate interplays of different parts of the body, requiring practitioners to cultivate sensitivity, awareness, and adaptability in their practice. As one progresses in Tai Chi, they can develop a harmonious coordination of movements, footwork, and hand techniques, achieving the state of “emptiness within fullness” and “fullness within emptiness” in their practice.