In this tai chi training tip, which is part 1 of a series on how to stand and why, we begin with a most basic rule. I emphasize the importance of this rule after observing many famous tai chi “masters” in the USA and abroad who seem to have never learned this rule, and as a result, are not in line with gravity, and therefore can not relax to cultivate/manifest any other tai chi principles.
Rule 1: When standing, imagine a piece of rice paper or very fine silk under your heels – do not crush it!
This rule is very straightforward and easy to understand, so I do not need to go into any lengthy explanation.
Here is how to test this rule with a partner. One stands in shoulder width parallel stance with arms hanging comfortably at his/her sides. (In Chen taiji form this is Beginning Form – most taiji styles’ forms begin this way). Your partner places both hands at the very uppermost point on the top of your head (Baihui), and exerts a slight, quick downward force (push directly towards the ground in line with gravity). You will do this 2 times: First, with your body weight thrown back on your heels. Second, with the above rule in place (i.e. – rice paper or silk under heels and do not crush it, so weight is slightly shifted forward more to the ball of feet). The heels are still in contact with the ground, just more lightly than on the balls of feet.
Person standing close eyes and feel the difference between first and second push down.
When weight is on heels, this causes a hyperlordosis of the lumbar spine (too much curve in lower back) and a laziness and lackadaisical posture. When the downward push is applied, there is no springiness in knees/legs, and you will feel a pressure/pain in lower back. The force stops in the lower back – very bad for your spine!!!
When weight is as described in Rule 1 above, the knees are springy and absorb the force, lower back is straighter, and no shock or pain in lower back is felt. The force is transmitted directly to the ground.
Please take this rule seriously and try this exercise with a partner. It will be quite evident the difference!
Now, use this rule all the time during and outside of tai chi practice! Forms, Push Hands, every aspect of training.
During your form practice, STOP at any moment, and test to see if you are applying this rule, until you are doing this easily without thought… Your tai chi will change forever when you follow this simple Rule 1!
This will eliminate a huge amount of back pain! Save your back for old age!
Please send me your test results. I want to hear from all of you how this affects your tai chi practice!
And don’t be surprised when your low back pain disappears!
Dr Bob Bacher