Posts Tagged ‘yang style’


How to Learn and Teach Tai-chi DVD

1. “The feet are the gateway to consciousness”. When you walk in a natural area, the feet conform to the shape of the ground, which is formed by the geology, botany and weather of the area. As your feet conform to the ground, each joint of the body adjusts to keep you aligned and in motion, thereby also participating in the natural history of that area. Our flat floors deaden the feet and also the whole body and cut us off from participating in nature. So when you step, allow each joint and muscle of the foot to individually settle onto the floor, to help enliven the foot.

2. When you breathe out and the upper body settles downward, its weight sinks through the hip area and into the feet and “root”. When you breathe in and expand upward, that expansion has to pass through the hip area. If the hips are rigid, these transfers of energy cannot take place. Keep the hip level open, like an open pipe, so that momentum can flow through it.

3. The head is part of the body. We do not consider it to be the “seat of consciousness”. The whole body is the seat of consciousness. There is a tendency to keep the head and neck rigid, as if it were a stone throne that the king sits in, ordering the body around and judging the results. “Think” with the feelings of the whole body and allow the momentum, created by your form or chi-gung, to flow through the neck and head. While the head does not flop around, it moves in circles about an inch in diameter. If the head is rigid, the body will be rigid.

4. Release energy at the beginning and end of each breath. If you are not yet familiar with the experience of “chi”, think of energy as momentum. At the end of the in-breath, when the momentum flows up and out, let that momentum go, never to return. Then allow the body to begin sinking back down, drawing into it “new” energy until the end of the out-breath as you sink into your root. At that point, allow the chi (or momentum) to be released into the ground, never to return. When you begin to breathe in again, expanding upward, allow new energy to fill the body from the bottom. If you hold energy within the body, you will not get the health benefits of Tai-chi.

5. At the end of each in-breath, expand the palms and feet. Allow them to relax as soon as you begin to breathe out.

6. Once you are comfortable with the sequence of movements, don’t think of the movement before or the next movement. Allow the form to unfold, as the mainspring of old watches, unwind during the day to move all the little gears of the watch, allowing “time” to unfold. If you have been trained how each part of the body participates in each part of the form, your form will have been imbedded into each part of the body, like a mainspring ready to unfold.

7. Practice one thing at a time. Your teacher may have presented you with a hundred principles and you can’t keep them all in your mind at the same time. Practice just one or two for a while and then switch to another one or two principles. Trust that such practice will add up; that the body will store skill you have gained in each practice session.

8. Don’t “hold yourself together”. Most of us start all bound up, tied up in knots, as if we would fall apart if we relaxed. For each posture, notice which muscles are “holding” more than they have to. Can you allow that muscle to use less tension? Even less? Use the minimum tension possible just before the arm or the whole body starts falling down.

9. There is an intelligence within your body that is greater than your thinking mind. Yield to it. It may be hard to notice at first. The forceful, thinking mind is like the sun, overpowering all the stars in the sky. Yet those stars are still there, even during the day. The “Body-mind” is always there but requires inner quiet to be noticed.

10. Don’t forcefully try to quiet the thinking mind. That is only the thinking mind trying to quiet itself. It is just a trick. Rather, pay attention to the flow of momentum and allow your attention to ride the flow of momentum like a surfer rides a wave. Yield to the momentum. Yield to the breath that helps to create the momentum. Yield to the relaxation that helps to create the momentum. Yielding to life quiets the thinking mind and strengthens the Body-mind.

These principles are described more fully in the dvd series “How to Learn and Teach Tai-chi” by Bob Klein available at:


The feet are considered to be the “gateway to consciousness”. The condition of your feet as it steps, affects the response of the rest of the body to that step. If you do not have awareness in your feet, and you fall into your step, the rest of the body will be jarred.
During most of the evolution of our species, the ground we walked on was uneven and unsure. The next piece of ground could be soft. If you stepped onto it with full weight your leg would fall right through. Each step had to be made carefully and the pelvic area had to adjust to the alterations in elevation of the ground. This led to a great deal of flexibility in each joint of the body to let the entire body adjust to the irregularities of the ground.
Those irregularities were formed by the geology of the area as well as by the trees and other vegetation. Their root systems create a lot of the structure of the earth. When you walk on such uneven ground, you are participating in the evolution of that area. You are becoming part of the biology and ecology of the area.
Every joint and muscle tunes into how you walk, how the structure of the earth is connected to the geology and biology of the area. When we walk on flat surfaces, we become disconnected from nature and our bodies become less responsive.
The key is the feet. If you step with no awareness you will remain deadened. Step as if you are stepping on living earth. Step as if your feet were petting a cat. Allow each muscle in the foot to settle onto the ground. Allow each joint of the body to adjust to how the foot settles.  Step with no weight and then gradually shift weight into that leg.
This is the proper stepping for the Tai-chi forms.  Find any joint in the body which does not participate in the shifting and sinking of weight or to the springing up of the forward leg to take the next step. Each joint should be springy and should be affected by the activity of the body. Even though a Tai-chi form may be in slow motion, this springiness should be apparent.
Allow the back to participate intricately in the springiness. The back is not made out of a solid piece of wood, though to watch some people, it seems that way. Each joint of the backbone and the ribs must participate in the movements. 
Yet, during all this, the top of the head is lifted and this allows proper alignment rather than slumping. The hip area in most people, is rigid and does not allow for the momentum of the body to pass from the legs into the upper body and vice versa. So each step jars the internal organs. By loosening up the pelvic area and becoming aware of how momentum passes through it. the entire body will become connected to the feet. Thus the condition of the feet, including awareness, relaxation and intricacy of movement will affect the condition of the rest of the body.