Basic Tai Chi Positions For Beginners (Part 2)

In continuation of the discussion on the basic Tai Chi positions for beginners, below are tip numbers 11-28. If you haven’t read the first 10, visit this link.

Tai Chi Positions For Beginners (11 though 28)

11. Movements of Feet—Toes and Heel: Take your basic stance with feet parallel and apart with knees bent. Pivoting on right toes, move right heel to the right. Straighten left knee. Keep right knee bent; try not to show shift of weight. Your torso is turned to west. You are now in a T-Step, with toed-in position. This occurs on either foot. (Figure D)

tai chi positions

Take the Seated Position (as in Tai Chi position Number 7) with feet apart twice the length of your foot and toes out at a slight angle. Turn right toe inward slightly, making right foot parallel to left foot; then move right heel outward, getting into a T-Step or toed-in position. Keep right knee bent with weight on it. Straighten left knee. This occurs on either foot. There are always two movements on one foot, when the foot moves from a seated position. (Figure E1, Figure E2)

tai chi positions

12. The Toe-Heel-Heel Step: This is a combination of the T-Step and your basic stance with feet parallel and apart. Take the Walking Step position with left leg forward, left knee bent, body slanting forward, right leg straight. Turn left toes inward, keep weight on left leg with its bent knee, straighten hips out so that torso is erect. Then move right heel inward and bend right knee; weight is still on the left side. This movement makes the feet parallel. Now move left heel outward keeping weight on left leg with its bent knee; straighten right knee, and now you are in the T-step on the other side.

From this step move into the Empty Step: with weight on left leg with its bent knee, raise right toes and keep right heel lightly on ground; foot is flexed, and knee is straight. Feet are parallel, although right foot is flexed (otherwise right foot would be in toed-in position). You are seated on left with bent knee. (Figure 39)

tai chi positions

tai chi positions
Level of body must be kept even during these changes.

This step is only done from left to right; weight remains on left during movement. Figure F

tai chi positions

13. The Hand position or Palm method (Chang Fa) and the Hand Form: The hands are held loosely, knuckles and joints are not stiffened or tightened. From the position where your arms hang down, with loose elbows, note the hand form. The hands curve in ward slightly, and the palm is curved. (Figure F above)

Hands facing outside or away from body or upward are Yang. (Figure 25 below) Hands facing inward or toward body or downward are Yin. (Left hand, Figure 5 below) When palm faces to right or left of body, with fingers forward or upward, it is called Standing Palm (with an element of Yin). (Right hand, Figure 72)

tai chi positions

tai chi positions

14. The Fist position (Chuan Fa): Close fingers not too tightly. Fold thumb over second and third fingers. Wrist is generally straight with a fisted hand. Elbows are dropped, that is, they point downward in a punch movement. (Figure 30 below)

tai chi positions

15. The Finger position: Fingers are generally held rather close together. In some forms the fingers are spread wide and apart from each other. (Figure71) There is one special position, the Paw (Chua) or Grasping position, where finger tips are close together grasping the thumb. The tip of the thumb touches the fingers at their base. Wrist is bent and the hand knuckles are bent.

In this position, fingers always point to the floor. Finger tips must be directed correctly toward positions (concentration of energy in tips). (Right hand, Figure 13 below)

tai chi positions

16. The Wrist position:

(A) Wrists are straightened so that hand and arms make a straight line. (Figure 36)

tai chi positions
(B) Wrists are bent so that hand can face in many directions, at right angles to arm (Figure 25)

tai chi positions
(C) Wrists bend sideways: stretch arm forward with hand facing inward; move hand so that finger tips point diagonally downward, or diagonally upward; this is bending the wrist sideways. (Figure 28)

 tai chi positions

17. Shoulder and Elbow position: The shoulders must be controlled so that they do not push the movement; all strength comes from spine, not shoulders. Shoulders must be kept in place, not forward or pulled up. The elbows are kept low. When shoulders are loose and low, it is possible to control arm movement. When elbows are pointed outward or raised out of their natural position, then the shoulders are pulled forward out of place. (Figure 7, and Figure 33)

tai chi positions

tai chi positions

18. Waist position: The waist is an important hinge, which must be loose and relaxed, but not slack. You must not press down into it. The torso lifts up from it. It is as “active as a cartwheel.” When the waist can turn, the spine is flexible. The waist and spine control the exact position of the coccyx. If correct, they pull the buttocks in; when stiff, the back goes out “like a mountain peak.” Hips must be kept level. (Figure 34)

tai chi chuan for beginners

19. Eyes: The eyes, unless directed to move with the hands, look diagonally forward (in relation to where the head is) with a quiet, easy, but steady gaze. “The eye is the cottage of the spirit.”

20. Mouth and Tongue position: Mouth must be kept lightly shut. The tip of tongue touches upper palate, behind teeth. The mouth is thus kept moist. “Saliva is sweet dew for cultivating life.”

21. Breathing: Breathe naturally, through the nose. The Forms will make you breathe deeply at certain times. Breathing is always regular in tempo.

22. Body: The body must be held “as steady as a mountain,” and must feel “as light as a bird’s feather.”

23. Stepping position: The steps must be evenly paced and rhythmically exact as is “the walk of a cat.” The toes of the forward foot must be directed exactly toward the angle of the designated design; for example, on stepping in the Walking Step toward the west, the toes of the forward foot must point exactly west.

24. Shifting of Weight: In the process of shifting your weight from one leg to the other, you must move so that the level of the head (torso and hips) remains the same. In changing position from one leg which is bent, to the other leg which is straight, the action is smooth and flowing. This is done by controlling the knee bends.

25. Hand Circling and Wrist Rotation: The circles, or parts of circles, that the hands describe in some of the movements are an extremely important element in the consideration of Tai Chi Chuan as a circular exercise.

(A) Raise right arm forward shoulder high, with loose elbow, and bend wrist, pointing fingers upward with palm facing outward.
(B) Circle hand outward to right; then bend hand downward making palm face inward.
(C) Then circle over to the left and then upward with palm still facing inward, so that fingers point upward.
(D) Turn palm outward, and it is once again in the starting position. Try to keep arm still, while the hand is moving. Do these movements with the left hand. Then circle both hands at the same time. Reverse the circle, making an inward rotation. (Figure H)

tai chi positions

26. Basic Tempo, Variations, and Synchronized Movements: Control of tempo is essential for the proper synchronization of the Forms and patterns. The tempo with which you start the exercise is the basic one, the first movement of Form 1. When there is a variation, it is always slower than the basic tempo.

In many Forms the arms will have to arrive at a given position at the same moment, although one may have to cover a larger space. Example: Raise your left arm forward, shoulder high, and raise your right arm up vertically. Both arms are to arrive at a low position along your side at the same moment. The right arm has farther to go, move it downward in the basic tempo. The left arm has a smaller space to travel, it there fore must move more slowly. This principle always holds: slow up the movement which has less space to traverse and must arrive at a given position, to coincide with a movement which has a greater distance to go.

27. The Essence of the Motion: The quality of the movement must never be strained. It is the control of movement, not the extent to which it can go, that gives both strength and softness at the same time.

28. A Reserve of Energy: The energy used must never be excessive or deficient; the first exhausts and the second delays development. In the process of learning, it is better to underdo than overdo. With properly guided energy you can feel “held together” and light at the same time. In action never strain at the joints. At every moment in the exercise you must have a reserve of energy and of movement which you know can be expanded at any moment.

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