I did some doodling on my iPad to summarize some principles and ideas about Shenfa, or body method. I did it mostly for my own sake, but then I thought, why not share the drawings as well as the notes? I don’t know if you will feel that the drawings will add any value to the notes, but here you have it all anyway…
Before looking more closely on the texts and my crappy drawings, I would just like to add that these notes are concerning how to link different force vectors together and how principles of body movement are used to distinguish force vectors. This is quite advanced theory. As a beginner you should build the basics and practice both form and applications in a very strict manner. But if you have a few years of practice behind you, I am sure that you will find this extremely useful. Regardless of how useful you find it, I hope these notes will become food for thought.
1. Coordinate the spine from the back of the Dan Tian
2. “Raise Back” from the lower spine and “hollow Chest” from the lower ribs.
In Tai Chi, there is a basic principle called “Ba bei – han xiong”, or “Raise back – hollow Chest”. This should be coordinated from the lower back, starting from the “back of the Dan Tian”, and connected with the floating ribs. The whole back should be slightly rounded. In most of all books and watching many vids, you will be told that “han xiong ba bei” is a static posture and mostly a starting posture, but this is far from the truth. This should be more understood as a movement, which brings power to any punch and any push or throw. As a movement, it should not be confused with Bolang jin.
3. Twisting movement/jin
Now, coordinate your movement, as with issuing a fist strike, with a twisting of the body. One side should pull back and forces the other to move forward. Think about the body movement as using a staff that you hold with your two hands. The hand in front, holds and supports the staff. It’s the back hand that does most of the movement while the hand in front is steady. Think of your body the same way. If you strike with your right hand, let the most active part of the body movement come from the left side of the body. Coordinate the twisting movement with the spinal movement above and make sure that you lengthen or compress the muscles from the lower back, the ones over the floating ribs and above.
4. Importance of a clear centerline
Establishing a centerline is very important for all movement in tai chi. For twisting and turning the body, it’s highly essential. The body should work like turning a wheel around. The centerline is the middle, or the hole, of the the wheel. But what is good to know is that you don’t need to establish the centerline of the body’s movement so it matches the true centerline of the physical body. With other words, it doesn’t need to turn over the head. You can turn your movement around your shoulder as well. This is an exceptional knowledge especially for throwing when you often need to establish a lever for a movement outside of the body’s center. For striking, like if you are throwing a right punch, you will find that establishing the centerline of the body’s movement in one of three different areas (middle, or shoulders) will bring quite a different Overall, a very clear centerline will make sure that you have a strong horizontal force vector for issuing good power.
5. Forward momentum
Another force vector can be established using your full forward body movement. The movement should be completely straight, like an arrow shooting into it’s target. Letting the gravity make you “fall” forward is the best. Otherwise, you might tense up some parts of the body.
6. Rising and falling jin
You can also coordinate the horizontal and forward force vectors with a vertical one. You may “rise” or “fall down” with the torso using a movement from the hips together with any kind of appropriate shift of stance. Rising jin is good coordinated with strikes using a kai/”open” quality. Falling jin is good coordinated with strikes using a He/”close” quality. (I will return to Kai/He theory later on)
7. Compact oneness or whip like string coordination
Clearly separate all of the force vectors but coordinate them together in one movement. I prefer to move and connect all at once. Some people string them together one after one. This is not wrong, but might be slower. But more, it won’t make full use of all of the force vectors as power generators. If you coordinate the vectors together at an instant of a second, the different force vectors will support each other. The force issued will be very strong and have a feeling of stability and compactnes. This is what I call a 3-dimensional coordination of alignment and movement. If you have the power from all at once, they all will support each other and stabilize your movement.
Please feel free to comment, criticise or add any knowledge you have about the subject. The comments are open for you to visit.