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Tai Chi

The basic principles of practicing Tai Chi Chuan’s upper, middle, and lower body coordination. – Hong Jun Sheng

Upper Body

         From the top of the head to the neck area, the upper body includes the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, tongue, teeth, and facial region. The upper body serves as the guiding mechanism for the overall body movement, as explained below:


           The Baihui acupoint at the center of the head’s top is the center of “ding jin” (upward force). It should be slightly raised, as if suspended. Properly managing “ding jin” results in a light and agile body, embodying the concept of “full body lightness.”


          The eyes convey thoughts, direct actions, and observe surroundings. Focus should be on the hypothetical direction of the opponent, corresponding to the direction of stepping.

           Eyes should have forward and outward movements; therefore, the back-stepping movements, such as the turning back of the arm, will have eyes that remain fixed. In this case, external softness and internal firmness are maintained. The coordination of eyes, steps, and body rotation, as well as their relationship with hardness, softness, withdrawal, and projecting, is a discovery based on practice and requires further study.


       Ears assist in sensing areas not visible to the eyes. It’s essential to pay continuous attention to sounds around and behind the body. During practice, a focused and quiet mind naturally heightens the sense of hearing, making even slight sounds from behind easily detectable.


     The nose is responsible for breathing. Breathing should be fine, even, deep, and prolonged, known as “tiao xi mian” (regulated breathing).


    The lips should be naturally closed, not open. When issuing force, exhaling through the mouth or making sounds can enhance the force, but inhaling through the mouth should be avoided. Inhaling cold air can cause coughing.


   The teeth should be naturally closed, not clenched.


         The tongue should rest lightly on the upper palate. Some advocate touching the tip of the tongue to the palate to produce saliva, which can be swallowed when needed. However, this might affect the flow of qi during movement. It’s better not to use the “touching” method but the “lightly resting” method.


           The jaw should be slightly pulled inward to maintain the vertical alignment of the neck and the proper alignment of “ding jin.” Otherwise, tilting the head backward may occur.


          The neck should be upright, but not tense, to maintain flexibility.

Facial Region

             The facial expression should be serious yet lively. Some advise maintaining a cold smile or an angry expression during practice to demonstrate power, but it’s recommended to avoid this approach.

Middle Body

            The middle body includes the spine, chest, waist, and abdominal region. The power in the middle body mainly comes from the waist, which should be relaxed but not loose. The waist acts as the axis, guided by “ding jin” and eye movements, rotating left and right to facilitate hand and foot movements. The movement belongs to the body’s technique, focusing on balance. The shoulders, arms, and hands are related to the middle body but will be discussed separately due to various techniques.


         The spine should lift upward along with the “ding jin” and upright neck, maintaining a natural yet aligned bone structure.


      The chest should be in the shape of the character “含” (han), resembling an ancient suspended bell—round on the outside and hollow in the middle. This allows the lungs to breathe deeply and strengthens lung capacity.


             The waist serves as the pivot for the upper and lower body. It should rotate according to the situation to adapt to changes in direction, aligning with the principle of gaining the advantage. Therefore, the waist must not be tilted and should rotate left and right. The concept of “隐现” (hidden and visible) refers to the phenomenon of waist rotation, indicating that the waist moves when the body moves. In stillness, maintaining balance is crucial, especially when shifting direction. A spiral movement can be used to shift forward, backward, left, and right, maintaining balance by focusing force inwards. When turning, “ding jin” should be strengthened by maintaining an upright neck, and the crotch should be relaxed and sinking. The knees should lift and drop in coordination with the upper body to comply with the principles of normal, diagonal, and slant movements. The waist’s rotation angle should be based on the legs, aligned with the chest and eyes.

Abdominal Region

            From the chest to the navel is the abdominal region. It should naturally be relaxed and quiet, consistent with the principle of “腹内松净气腾然” (the abdomen is relaxed and the qi is uplifted).

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