Every move in tai chi has a 3-dimensional aspect, although sometimes it’s not obvious.
Wave Hands like Clouds (Cloud Hands) is one of those movements that is easy to perform in a 2-dimensional way; it looks like a sideways movement, and when stepping, that’s exactly what it is, but the body and the arms do something more subtle within the sideways-stepping framework.
The legs: Cloud Hands is performed with bent legs. When you bend your legs, the knees (obviously) move forward. What is less obvious is that your back moves backwards at the same time (if it didn’t, you’d fall forwards). The legs & knees feel as though they are expanding outwards as you do Cloud Hands, but they also feel as though they are supporting something between the knees. It sounds like a contradiction, but when you come to do it, it isn’t. Even when stepping sideways the same idea applies.
The legs also have a feeling of spring or resilience; they support the upward/downward potential of the body.
When you look at it this way, the legs are taking into account the left/right, forward/backward, and upward/downward parameters.
The arms: Your arms in front of you play against your back, but they also have a 3-dimensional interaction of their own taking place.
When the arms move, there comes a point where one hand rises, and simultaneously the other hand lowers. If you do this 2-dimensionally, you would be able to stand very close to a wall with your arms touching the wall, and still be able to do Cloud Hands. But this isn’t what happens with the arms – they don’t stay the same distance from the body.
The rising hand is close to the body when it’s down by the pelvis, but as it rises up the front of the body it gradually moves away from the chest. As it sinks, it therefore moves back towards the body again. Bearing in mind that Cloud Hands involves two hands, this means that one hand will always be moving away from the body, whilst the other is moving towards the body. We therefore have circles that are not only left and right, upwards and downwards, but circles that are forwards and backwards. This latter aspect is often missed out altogether. When the rising hand pushes away from the body, it also plays against the back which expands backwards. At the same time, when the lower hand moves down towards the lower body, the body is drawing away from the lower arm, creating space between body and arm, but the arm itself is not ‘floppy’ – it retains energy.
The hips and upper body: The hips only move sideways, there is no turning of the hips to left or right. It is the turn of the chest, rotating from the waist, that moves the arms to left and right.
This means that the A-frame of the legs remains structurally integrated, but also means that the upper body is playing against the lower body, in that, when you only turn the upper body, if feels as though the lower body is trying to turn the other way. In the photo above (Master Chu King Hung), it will feel to him as though his left shoulder is turning forwards, but the back of his left hip is turning backwards.
James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan on one Saturday a month.
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308