Finish The Movements, Tai Chi Flow January 1, 1990
So you've finished learning your T'ai chi form and you have been practicing for a couple of years and you think that you 'have it'.
All of the postures are correct and flowing correctly into the next without breaks, you are now able to get down low enough and you feel as if you're centred. Then one day your teacher stops you and tells you that you're doing it all wrong. Why? you ask. 'You haven't finished each posture off'. He/She says.
Now, you know that you have finished each posture so next time you even putt a small stop at the end of each posture and look over at the teacher. 'No, you haven't finished the movement'. So you put an even longer pause in at the end of each posture thinking, 'there, I've finished the movement now'. Then he says, but you're stopping, there is no tai chi flow'.
Ever wondered what those strange little twists and turns are for when you see an experienced T'ai chi master perform the movements?
Little quirks that seem to come right at the end of many of the postures that you just can't seem to get by trying to perform them.
This is what is meant by 'finishing the movement'. You don't actually stop, but rather you have a slight body shake at the end of most of the postures that leads you into the next posture and helps with the tai chi flow.
I was told to perform the postures at realistic speed and then I would find out the meaning of 'finish the movement'. Sure enough when the movement is performed at 'fa-jing' (explosive energy) pace then there must be an energy re-bound at the end of the posture.
This is why we are told to only close the fist upon immediate impact and release it directly after. If we kept the closed fist with slight tension, then the re-bound energy would be swallowed up in that tension as in karate etc. When we loosen the fist directly after impact, then we are able to send the re-bound energy into the next movement. This rebound is used to take us into the next posture and is the starting energy for that particular posture.
When we perform the movements slowly, we must still have that energy re-bound at the end of each posture only now we are able to see the movement happening. All movement, when it stops must have a finishing movement, a release of energy, this is the law of nature. So too is it with our T'ai chi movement. If we just do the movements gracefully and allow each movement to just run into the next, it feels good and may even look great but it not correct.
Even when doing the movements slowly, there must be that final release of energy at the end of the posture and this is what causes the re-bound to enable us to carry on into the next movement without stopping.
However, if we try to do the re-bound, as one of the learned T'ai chi movements then we will only be adding movements to the form.
No, the re-bound must happen as a direct consequence of performing the postures as martial applications and they must just happen naturally. For instance, when we perform the posture, chee, or squeeze, (some people call this press) right at the end of that movement there is a hollowing of the chest, a rounding of the shoulders and a bowing of the backbone. When done in a real way, this happens naturally so that the energy is exploded outward into the object being attacked. The mere name of the posture suggests to us that there is a squeezing of he body upon impact. It is this squeezing which causes the re-bound which takes us into the next movement of sit back ready.
So we have a sort of undulation at the end of each posture brought about by the correct execution of the posture in the martial way.
A ballet dancer is able to pick up the movements of T'ai chi in a very short period of time but they will only be movements and not T'ai chi. T'ai chi is a balance of yin and yang i.e.; a balance of attack and defensive movements all linked together by minute re-bound movements. These re-bound movements only come after many years of practice and application.
Watch the waist of your teacher and you will see that there is a slight movement at the end of each posture which seems to come from the waist. The movement just doesn't stop where it is. For instance after the posture of 'tan-pien' or single whip, the posture does not stop when the left palm strikes, you will notice that there is a slight turning of the waist and a contracting of the back which leads into the next movement of 'lift hands'. It is this slight contracting that gives us the immense power that is generated by this posture but if we just go straight into 'lift hands' after single whip then there is now power being generated. Just at the end of the posture called 'embrace tiger, return to mountain', there is a movement which looks like the practitioner is squeezing his/her whole body up like a tennis ball hitting a wall. This 'spring' is used to generate power for the next movement and so on.
When we are told that the movement must flow into the next, what really happens is that the energy builds up (yang) from start to finish of the posture and it is part of the release (yin) which we use to take us into the next posture. Although the movements do flow into each other, this is not the main flow. It is the flow of energy (Qi) that we are looking to gain by making use of the very laws of nature.