Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | May 12, 2009

The Center Line in Tai Chi

From the crown point of the head, which should be pointed directly at the ceiling if you are tucking your chin properly, just enough, not too much, down the center of your body, and out through the perineum, is the center line of the tai chi body. We strive to be aware of this center throughout the movements, and everything revolves around it. The upper torso should be like a picture frame, the corners of the frame being the shoulders and hips. As the body turns, keep each shoulder aligned with the respective hip, and the picture frame should never twist out of shape from the plane it is in. In other words, if the left shoulder turns backwards, the right shoulder will automatically move forward correspondingly, and the hips move with it. Also, with rare exception, the nose should be aligned with the belly button. As an exercise, I like to take either a staff or a coffee mug with a handle, and move it about the room as if it were doing the forms. That “pole” should stay perpindicular at all times(again with rare exception. Two examples: In Needle at Bottom of the Sea, you often see even masters bend at the waist and reach down to the floor. They are still maintaining the centerline, but are bending at the waist. I prefer to keep the spine upright, sink at the kua, so my hand will only go down as far as my waist. Second, in Snake Creeps Down, you’ll see many practitioners bend over at the waist as they get into the deep stance. I am not saying this is incorrect. I choose to keep the upper torso upright as I go into the stance.  In Brushknee, in the forward stance, you’ll see some keep the torso upright so that the internal centerline is still somewhat perpindicular to the floor. Others will lean , well not lean really, but be more forward so that the centerline is now at an angle, still straight–if you inserted a staff through the crownpoint down the center and out the perineum(ouch) it will still be straight, just at a different angle. There is also a straight line from the heel of the backfoot up to the back of the head in the more forward stance. I prefer to be somewhere in the middle, but always maintain the centerline, even if it’s at an angle and no longer perpindicular to the floor.

Proper posture is the key to success. I was watching a program on TV called sports science where they pitted a regular guy against a professional football player. The pro crouched very low at the line of scrimmage, stayed low, then launched himself off the balls of both feet, but his forearms and shins formed a straight line, and his legs and arms formed right angles to the body. When he put his hands on the other guy’s chest, he was able to loft him high into the air and throw him quite a ways. It looked very tai chi fa jin. Granted, the pro was huge, and the other guy had no technique, but the pro did it properly, aligned, and in posture.

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