Tai Chi Chuan (Glasgow)

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Co-ordinated Movement by Ian Cameron

Co-ordinated Movement by Ian Cameron

Tai Chi is, if nothing else, coordinated movement. Coordination on a physical level to a high degree. The importance of the constant refining of coordination should not be underestimated. The Tai Chi Classics constantly allude to this aspect. The hand form is the start of developing coordinated movement. Being slow in its execution gives time to observe and feel how we move, highlighting each step as it unfolds to us, we become acutely aware of the coordination needed to perform even the simplest of movements. There is greater efficiency and economy of movement when properly coordinated. This gives the appearance of simplicity, which it isn't, but it is the application of movement at its most efficient.

Every part of the body should move with every other part, nothing is moving on its own. The waist is like a large cog that turns all the small cogs at the same time. If one part of the machine is not working properly, then this affects the efficiency of the whole of the machine. The waist is a not flat circle but is an internal sphere. When energy comes from the ground, it is transmitted through the waist in the direction required. No matter how strong a person is, if this coordination is missing, then whatever is done will always be lacking.

There is the cross coordination of the body. The left shoulder coordinates with the right hip, the left elbow with the right knee, the left wrist with the right ankle and the left palm with the sole of the right foot. The same coordination applies right to left. This coordination unites the body as opposed to thinking left and right only.

Building upon the foundation of a well practiced hand form, each of the subsequent aspects of Tai Chi will be that much stronger. "No deficiencies no protrusions" not only on a physical level, but can also mean that the whole of Tai Chi, no matter which aspect, should be practiced to the point where each aspect is given the same value. To take this a little further. It is far better to learn something thoroughly, then move on to the next step, rather than say, learning a weapon form before knowing the hand form. There will almost certainly be weakness and deficiency if done in this way. Each aspect of Tai Chi forms a coordinated whole. There is a thread that runs through each aspect that binds them together.

There are further coordinations in Tai Chi. There is the physical and mental focus, where both mind and body focus in one direction (One pointedness). We have the coordination between the Internal (breath) and external (movement). This aspect should be a natural development, where through practice, the two come together as one. Then there is the coordination of outer softness and inner firmness, outer movement and inner stillness. All leading to a complete coordination of the body and mind.

The physical and mental focus is simply"paying attention" to what you are doing. Going through the form and not paying attention to how you move; Am I moving in a coordinated way? Is everything starting and stopping together? etc. This lack of attention is obvious when seen. I think of these moments where the attention is less than it should be, as gaps. Gaps that leave you, for that moment, vulnerable. From an internal point of view "No deficiencies ( keep your concentration) and no protrusions (don't think ahead)" guard against this.

Tai Chi in application is "whiplike". The point where the tang of the whip strikes, is the accumulation of force through coordinated movement. It is only "hard" at the very point of the strike, and is immediately soft again. Also, good coordination allows for rapid change when needed. Being double weighted is loss of coordinated movement as well as being caught in an unfavourable position. One leads into the other. If a step or stance is too long, and you have to drag a foot to go into the next movement, then this too is double weighted and the movement loses fluidity.

Tai Chi is based upon natural movement, so there should be no over extension or "reaching" in any of the postures. There should be no struggle to get out of any of the postures, even the most extreme ones, in the Tai Chi forms. Along with coordination, comes timing, and with coordination comes the feeling of "the right time". Again, it is the hand form that teaches timing and coordination. Through the study of the hand form, we can feel deeply, this sense of coordination and timing and further realise the importance of a strong foundation.

When we move on to the weapon forms, our foundation should already be established. We then have to consider coordinating with either a sabre, sword or spear. Each has its own expression and quite different technique and characteristics. Like the hand form (or any aspect of Tai Chi) only with the correct coordination will the weapon be used to its maximum effect. The power or energy used in the weapons comes again; "From the feet up the legs, directed by the waist, up the back, over the shoulders, and is expressed in the hands". (In this case a weapon.)

With the sword and sabre forms one hand is generally empty while the other is wielding the weapon. The empty hand must mirror the weapon hand and become a functioning part of the form. Sounds obvious, but if this does not happen, the the coordinated movement that I am talking about will be lost. Consequently, there will be something missing from the forms; proper alignment, balance, focus etc. Each weapon is an extension of ourselves, and we are the only ones that can make them come alive. Each weapon has its own expression and we must allow this to come through.We must keep the hands "soft" so that the energy is transmitted through the hands into the weapon. What is expressed in the weapon has to happen in the body first. Allowing the weapon to go where it needs, is to use our body/mind as a vehicle for that to take place. In one sense, the weapon leads the way, but it is our coordination that drives the whole movement.

There is no end to the practice/study of Tai Chi Chuan, and when we do look closely and take nothing for granted, the rewards of the practice are not necessarily anything other than the sheer joy of the practice itself.

Ian Cameron
8th Feb 2011

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