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Lower Body Silk Reeling

Tai Chi Lower Body Silk Reeling

In this training tip, we will discuss the importance of tai chi lower body silk reeling, and explain a step by step training method to achieve this very important skill.

Lower Body as Foundation for Movement

In tai chi it is vital to develop proper lower body structural alignment and silk reeling motion.  Without this, the upper body can not relax and we can not cultivate internal skills.  It seems that we focus much more on upper body movement in general, and do no give the lower body equal time.  This results in movements that are not balanced, coordinated, or connected.

By practicing the following step by step training method, one can develop a solid lower body foundation from which to build their tai chi skills, whether in solo form or Push Hands.

Tai Chi Lower Body Silk Reeling Method

Part 1: Preparation

Begin in Horse Stance (feet between 3-4 feet apart, toes turned outward slightly, and bend knees and sit down from the pelvis until the knees have a bend of between 30-45 degrees.

Cross your hands at the Laogong points (basically the center of the palms) and place them on the Qi Hai point (about 2 inches below the navel).  Men place left hand first, women place right hand first.  (This is an energetic connection based on the major hand of man and woman).

Keep your body straight with Bai Hui (point at the very top of the head) lifting up, and Hui Yin (point at the perineum) sinking down, both these points forming a straight line with gravity.

Part 2: Movement

  1. Shift your body to the right 70% to Right Bow and Arrow Stance.  Make sure both feet stay on the ground (do not roll the outer edge of the left foot in). Keep a slight bend at the left knee, do not lock it in full extension).
  2. Shift your body to the left 70% to Left Bow and Arrow Stance.  Again make sure both feet stay on the ground and do not lock the right knee in full extension.
  3. Practice this shifting from side to side until it feels smooth and comfortable.
  4. Next, as you shift to Right Bow and Arrow Stance, rotate your waist to the right.  Make sure your shoulders stay over your hips and your nose stays in line with your navel – there is no spinal rotation in this movement – the entire upper body moves as one piece from the waist.
  5. As you shift to Left Bow and Arrow Stance, rotate your waist to the left.  Maintain the same body alignment as when shifting and turning to the right.
  6. Practice this shifting and turning the waist from side to side until it feels smooth and comfortable.
  7. Next, as you shift and turn to Right Bow and Arrow Stance, add the downward to upward arc component:  during the first half of the shift (i.e. from 70-30 Bow and Arrow Stance to 50-50 Horse Stance in transition), let your body sink in a downward arc.  During the second half of the shift (i.e. from 50-50 Horse Stance to 70-30 Bow and Arrow Stance), let your body raise up in an upward arc.  Apply the same rule when shifting back to Left Bow and Arrow Stance.
  8. Practice this shifting, turning, and downward to upward arc from side to side until it feels smooth and comfortable.
  9. Next, as you shift and turn to Right Bow and Arrow Stance, add the silk reeling component with the legs: on the first half of the movement, both legs spiral outward (outward spiral = sinking);  on the second half of the movement, both legs spiral inward (inward spiral = raising up).
  10. Practice this shifting, turning, downward to upward arc, and spiraling both legs, from side to side until it feels smooth and comfortable.
  11. Next, as you shift and turn, arc down to up, and spiral both legs, add the Open Close component with the legs: on the first half of the movement, both knees expand outward (away from each other), as if stretching a large rubber band that is pulling the knees towards each other; on the second half of the movement, both knees contract towards each other, as if compressing a spring that is pushing the knees away from each other.
  12. Practice this shifting, turning, arcing, spiraling,  and Open and Close from side to side until it feels smooth and comfortable.
  13. Next as you shift and turn, add the final component, which is “grinding” the heels.  On the first half of the movement, the heels are “grinding” inward (imagine the Yong Quan points on the bottom of the feet are the pivot point, and the heels are pushing/rotating (grinding) inward.  On the second half of the movement, the heels are pushing/rotating (grinding) outward.
  14. The heels are not actually grinding, they are pushing inward and outward in coordination with all the other components of this complex exercise…
  15. Practice all of these components at the same time from side to side until they feel smooth and comfortable.

When you can coordinate all of these components together at the same time smoothly and comfortably, you will have a solid foundation for lower body silk reeling.

It is vital to understand that everything described above begins with the Yi, or intention!  You must imagine/visualize this intricate series of motions all coordinated together as one whole.  This requires a lot of practice with full intention!

Once you can do this from Horse Stance as a basic training exercise, then start applying it to other stances and during form and Push Hands.

Here is a check list for all the components necessary for Tai Chi Lower Body Silk Reeling:

  1. Shift side to side
  2. Rotate waist
  3. Downward to upward arc
  4. Spiral legs
  5. Open and Close legs (knees)
  6. “Grinding” heels

 I wish everyone GOOD LUCK with developing this very important tai chi skill: Lower Body Silk Reeling!

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this helpful article! Could you please clarify the difference between “Spiral legs” and
    “Open and Close legs (knees)”. Isn’t it almost the same?

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