DR. PAUL LAM’S ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES
- Slow = connects mind and body
- Smooth = helps mind to stay calm
- Continuous = Increase chi flow, move continuously like water flowing in a river
- Controlled = displays intention
- Imagine you’re moving through a gentle resistance, like moving in water. Helps to stay calm.
- Imagine the air is dense and you are moving against this. This helps to cultivate inner force, or energy.
BODY STRUCTURE POSTURE AND ALIGNMENT
Upright body posture alignment
- Golden Thread lifts from the crown of your head, chin tucked, knees slightly bent, back and shoulders relaxed.
- Your ears, shoulders, hips and hips should align.
- Be aware, first center yourself, touch down, control your balance, roll foot flat to feel the floor, keep body alignment upright,
- then gradually and consciously shift to transfer your weight.
Song (Loosening / relaxing and open your joints)
- Relax and open your joints, gently stretching them from within.
- Think of internally expanding each joint. It is important to relax while practicing Tai Chi.
Jing (Mental focus, serene and quiet)
- Be present, pay attention to your body and the movements you are making so that your internal and external are well integrated, be aware of your surroundings but focus on what you are doing, be sure to not let your mind wander too much.
- All movement initiates with the breathe
- Breathe is integrated into all movement
YANG CHENG-FU’S “TEN ESSENTIAL POINTS”‘
Yang Cheng-Fu became known as the father of modern tai chi in the 1930’s. He was the grandson of the creator of the Yang style of tai chi, Yang Lu Chan. Yang Cheng-Fu is widely regarded as one of the greatest masters of tai chi and the person most responsible for developing and promoting tai chi around the world. Yang Cheng-Fu’s “Ten Essential Points” are relevant for all styles of tai chi.
- Keep the head upright, as if suspended from above, and keep it straight. (A stiff neck will impede the free flow of qi and the smooth circulation of blood. Try to visualize the qi reaching the top of the head and image your head being suspended from above by a string.)
- Depress the chest and raise the upper back. (This posture will allow the qi to sink into the dan tien. Avoid pushing out your chest for this will cause your body to become top heavy and your balance will be easily upset. To depress the chest means to relax the chest muscles. Raising the upper back means that it should not be hunched over, thus allowing qi to reach the back.)
- Loosen (relax) the waist. (The waist is the key to the whole body. If you can loosen your waist, then your legs will have power and your body will be firm and stable. The change from substantial to insubstantial [full to empty] is controlled by the waist. The source of posture is found in the waist.)
- Distinguish between substantial and insubstantial. (In all of tai chi, the necessity to distinguish between substantial and insubstantial [full and empty] is of primary importance. This allows movements to be light and nimble without the necessity of force. If you cannot distinguish between them, your steps will be sluggish and heavy. And because your stance is not firm, you will easily be thrown off balance.)
- Sink (relax) the shoulders and elbows. (By sinking, relaxing, and/or loosening your shoulders, you allow yur shoulders to droop downwards. If you cannot, your shoulders will be tense. The qi will then move up your shoulders and not sink into the dan tien. And thus, your body will not be able to obtain power and your movements will show a deficiency of inner strength and lock of continuity.)
- Use your will (mind) and not your force. (In practicing, you should totally relax your body and not permit any force to exist in your body and hinder your movement. Your movements can then be light and nimble and you can act exactly as your mind directs. You will find with practice, the use of mind/will rather than force results in the cultivation of inner strength. When you become extremely soft, you become extremely hard and strong.)
- Coordinate the upper and lower body movements. (Movement should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist, and manifested by the hands through the shoulders and arms. The whole body should act as one integrated unit. When your hands move, your waist and feet, as well as the eyes, move accordingly. Whenever there is a lack of coordination, the movement instantly will appear disjointed and will lack strength.)
- Unify / coordinate internal and external movements. (Tai chi trains the spirit of the person. If one can lift the spirit, your movements will become light and nimble. The nature of all movement consists of substantial [hard/solid/full] and insubstantial [soft/empty]; expansion/opening and contraction/closing. This doesn’t only apply to the physical body but also to the mind/will. Only when you can unify the internal and external can your body move as one complete integrated unit without interruption.)
- There must be absolute continuity of movement. (In tai chi, an internal school, will/mind rather than force is used. From beginning to end, movements are continuous and without interruption. Movements are circular and keep resuming. They revolve and have no limits. The circulation of inner strength resembles the unraveling of silk.)
- Seek stillness (serenity) in movement. (Tai chi aims at stillness and serenity in movement. Though active externally, the practitioner is calm internally. In tai chi, the slower the better. Slowness is conducive to deep and long breathing and enables qi to sink to the dan tien. Thus practitioners will have less difficulty from loss of breath or heart or blood circulation problems.)