My investigation of Tai Chi Chuan really took off when I began approaching my practice with alignment in mind. Whether you come to this study for its health benefits, martial properties, or as a form of personal expression, working toward proper alignment on a regular basis will bring great returns with respect to flow, balance and internal strength.
Take the simple analogy of a water hose: if this conduit is left open the water continues to flow along the path; if the hose is bent, however, the output is hindered or completely blocked.
“Well,” you might say, “I’m a wee bit more complex than a tube… how does this apply to me?”
Tai Chi Chuan means “Supreme Ultimate Fist” or “Supreme Ultimate Form.” This is not a declaration of ego (quite the opposite), but rather a reference to the relationship between the Taoist principles of yin and yang. For a moment, think of the joints of your body as gates that allow energy to flow. When these gates are working in unison, energy flows freely in the direction of your intent. However, if a gate is closing (yin) when it should be opening (yang), the flow is compromised. Likewise, if a gate is opening when it should be closing, energy is lost.
As we listen to and work on alignment, our practice can’t help but improve. From a health standpoint, we become more efficient on many levels and relieve excessive body strain. From a martial perspective, we learn more about the transfer of energy and the dangers of over-commitment. Artistically, we will find ways to be more expressive and communicate with more clarity.
Over the coming weeks we’ll look at ways to get a better understanding of alignment and methods to improve it. Stay tuned.