16 Points of Tai Chi
1. Head Hold the head up by use of the mind and not by force. It is helpful to imagine the head suspended from above by a thread. Eventually this will become natural. This has three main effects :
(i) In conjunction with the plumb erect lower vertebrae, the spirit of vitality is allowed to rise to the top of the head, when it is actively concentrated. This lightens and activates the body so that it can follow the commands of the mind more easily.
(ii) The chin is now slightly ticked inwards using only intent, not the muscles of the neck. This aligns the first and second cervical vertebrae with the crown point and allows for the proper transfer of energy to flow and follow the energy force vector.
(iii) Reduces the possibility of injury to the neck due to the whiplash effect brought about by some techniques applied against one, and by some accidents.
2. Mouth The mouth is firmly closed; teeth slightly touching. The feeling is "a little open, a little bit closed". The tongue touches the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth. This facilitates the production of the correct amount of saliva, which should be swallowed, and completes the circuit of chi between the front and back channels.
3. Breath Breathe normally and softly through the nose
4. Shoulders Relax the shoulders downwards so that :
(i) Abdominal and not thoracic breathing can predominate. If the shoulders go up the chi will rise from the abdomen to the chest since it cannot sink. This means your center will float and your balance is compromised in defense and attack.
(ii) Your energy can be released naturally and correctly. Shoulder joints, elbow joints and wrist joints are places where energy can stagnate, so they must be relaxed if energy is to pass freely through them.
5. Elbows Keep your elbows lower than the wrists so that :
(i) The chi can sink. If they are raised then the shoulders are raised and not relaxed with the effects mentioned in 4 above
(ii) You do not expose your center
This lowering comes from the mind - the physical striving for correct form does not work. Thus bend your elbow but feel as if you want to straighten them. This bending activates your whole body and stores up energy for use.
6. Chest Relax the chest inwards so that it becomes slightly and naturally hollow. This allows abdominal breathing, which happens when the diaphragm is contracted and sunk downwards and the thorax is elongated so that the lungs are filled with air. Holding golden apple in the armpits (space the size of small apples or tennis balls) facilitates this relaxation throughout the posture of Tai Chi. The same feeling is achieved by bowing of the arms in seated meditation.
Just as the chest is loosened so is every joint which is thus allowed to maintain a slight curve. This allows the chi to sink and a root to develop, with a resultant increase in tensile strength and eventually developed intrinsic energy. Thus the energy is stored up in the joints as you might draw a bow. Releasing this energy is just a matter of letting go of the arrow by using the mind.
Relaxation is assisted by a straight but not stiff posture working from a good root and perfect central equilibrium.
7. Shoulders Round the shoulders naturally. This is also done from the mind, without force and follows from relaxing the chest inwards. Thus the curve between neck and thoraxes lessened and that curve between lumbar and coccyx is also lessened. Thus the head, spine, coccyx are aligned assisting in the circulation of energy, the rise of the spirit of vitality and maintaining the most important posture in Tai Chi, central equilibrium.
8. Buttocks Care must be taken so that the buttocks are not protruded or contracted, but held naturally so that the coccyx is in alignment with the rest of the spine. Relax the sacrum and allow it to sink down and forward. Imagine there is a weight hanging by a cord from your coccyx.
9. Waist The waist must be relaxed if it is to direct movement. It is necessary to have a root in the foot so that one can pass the energy up the legs and into the fingers by means of the waist. A loose waist links upper and lower body naturally so they move in co-ordination. This co-ordination is vital if one is to use the body as one unit, relying on internal energy rather than external muscular force to execute the commands of the mind.
10. Legs The knees are pushed out and sideways whether going forwards or backwards so that they do not go past the toes, whether advancing (attacking) or retreating (yielding). This means that the whole sole of each foot is on the ground except when stepping, spinning or kicking. This means the space between the legs is rounded out. The insides of the thighs are naturally stretched in balance. This makes for a better central equilibrium and a better understanding of full and empty (each of which contains the other). This means you can move the body at will and since central equilibrium is secure all eight sides are impregnable with no projection outwards or inwards. Alignment of the hip, knee and ankle must be maintained at all times.
11. Weight The weight is always carried mainly on one leg. Thus the weight is never shared equally by both legs. This makes for economy of movement since one can immediately move the body without prior movement and can also prevent the trapping of one's center by another's energy.
12. The 10 Co-ordinates
(ii) The neck must co-ordinate with the waist
(iii) The shoulders must co-ordinate with the inside of the thigh, where it joins the body
(iv) The elbows must co-ordinate with the knees
(v) The shin of one leg must co-ordinate with the shin of the other leg
(vi) The toes of one foot must co-ordinate with the toes of the other foot
(vii) The spirit must co-ordinate with the mind
(viii) The mind must co-ordinate with the energy (chi)
(ix) The energy must co-ordinate with the strength
(x0 The inner aspects (spirit, energy) must co-ordinate with the outer aspect (the external form)
13. Breath Breathe into the tan-tien. Allow this to happen naturally by letting the breath sink, and not by using force. The mind will come to rest naturally in the tan-tien and the breathing will regulate itself naturally. The flesh and muscles of the body can be imagined as a coat hung from a perpendicularly hung coat hanger (the skeleton) with a stream of breath being inhaled and exhaled down and up the center. The lungs do their work of expansion and contraction naturally, no force or tension from the mind being used.
14. Tension Unwanted tension in any part of the body or mind, stems from the body. This is released by watching it with the mind in an open and unforced way. If one has faith and perseveres the tension will go naturally of its own accord
15. Practice with a quiet mind and a calm spirit. Thus while you practice tai chi like a long river moving or a beautiful girl dancing, inside you are dynamic, ready to release an active and nimble when required.
16. Mind (Intent) Use the mind rather than force. When you use the mind, the force will naturally follow it. Use of force alone will make your movements too slow.
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