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  logo-new-grey  Spring  2020 

Learning in lockdown


I hope that every one who receives this email is well and coping with the lockdown.


Things moved very fast the week it was imposed. On Tuesday I was having lunch in an empty restaurant with a friend in the city when I got a call from the parish council to tell me that the Woollard Centre was being closed. The next day it was announced that all bars and restaurants were to be closed and a week later we were in lockdown.


Since then Jo and I have been putting together a series of 'lockdown lessons' which were emailed to the regular class. We have just got to the end of the first part of the form and all of the eight lessons are available on You Tube. Just go to our website: and click 'The Lockdown Lessons' on the first page.


Although we have concentrated on the first part of the form we have been trying to get into some detail on how the moves should be done. Weight shifting, for example and the importance of stepping correctly. The lessons should help anyone to refine their practice even if you have already completed the form.


We will be carrying on with weekly posts but looking in more detail at some particular sequences, such as cloud hands, and 'four corners' to help you refine those.


Anyone not on the email list can subscribe, just drop me an email and I will put you on the list.


For the present the Woollard Centre remains closed but I hope this will be over soon and we will be able to resume our classes.

Keep safe and well.  Telephone 07967 666 794

It doesn't matter whether your tai chi form went well or badly, the important thing is that you did it.

T. T. Liang said: "If you rely too much on teachers, better to not have a tracher. If you rely too much on books, better to not have books." *

Remember a teacher can only point the way.

(* T'ai Chi Ch'uan for Health and Self Defence
T T Liang, Vintage Books.)



Refining your form

When we made the 'lock-down' lessons, one of our objectives was to go into detail about how to make each of the moves. There a few things that it is important to understand.


One of the first things you come across in tai chi is how to stand and distribute your weight. 70/30 is the usual advice to beginners. That is to say you have 70% of your weight on your 'substantial' leg and 30% on the 'insubstantial'* leg. Herein lies a problem. 70/30 is almost double weighted. It can certainly lead to double weighting. When trying to apply 70/30 it is easy to feel that you have most of your weight on one leg but testing with a partner will often prove you wrong.


I prefer the, perhaps, more extreme 80/20. It means moving your weight more into your substantial leg so taking pressure off of your other leg. The idea is that your '20' weighted leg is not supporting you but is just resting on the ground. I think that the concept is less scary than 100/0, though that is what it amounts to, but 'resting' one leg on the ground takes out a lot of tension.


This is where you need to get another critical factor right. To achieve 80/20 you must get your hips square (OUCH!), lift your head and straighten your back. For the purposes of this I am assuming a front stance but it should work much the same in a back weighted stance.


Now, hips: these can be difficult. The tai chi stance means that one leg is always behind the other at something of an angle. So, naturally your hips are also at an angle. This is particularly problematic if your stance is very upright – something we would call 'crane style'. If you just turn your hips to square them you put tension into your lower back, hence the 'ouch'.


Try this: first of all relax and sink your hips a bit; as you do so, turn from your lower torso, about thigh level and increase the weight in your front leg. If you make this a whole body move, and keep relaxed as you do it, you should find that you square you hips without tension. 'Whole body' means that your shoulders move round in unison. Think of your spine as the fulcrum.


This move will, in effect close your kua which is an energy point at the inguinal joint at the top of your leg. Just make sure that you don't move your knee too far forward, keep it behind the toe.


Practice this and then bring the technique it into your form practice. You will feel the difference. The moves will feel more positive.


The importance of keeping your back upright and you head erect cannot be over emphasised.


Getting tai chi right without someone to try it out with can be difficult. Normally you have your own practice but come to a class to refine it. What we are aiming for is to feel what is going on in your body, inside as well as outside. This is a general aim but is even more important if you are working by yourself. Try doing things wrong, round your back, let your head fall out of alignment, even try a few moves double weighted. Notice how it feels compared to doing the moves correctly.


Don't forget that all of the moves in tai chi involve your whole body. Practise will make you more body aware, not just when you are doing your tai chi practice but all of the time.


*We describe the weighted leg as 'substantial' and the neutral leg as 'insubstantial'. The basic concept seems pretty simple but this is tai chi so, as usual, there is more to it. What really happens is, as you move it is the whole body that becomes substantial or insubstantial. This is what gives tai chi its effortless power.


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The Bonsai Tai Chi Academy
Tai chi chuan at The Woollard Centre, Loughton Way, Buckhurst Hill, Essex IG9 6AD

View Map T: 07967 666794

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