Tag Archives: yang 24 step form

Sinking to Move (2) – Connecting the Upper Body

Sinking to Move (1) was about sinking the qi from the waist downwards. Sinking to Move (2) is about connecting the upper body to the lower body.
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How NOT to sink a weight

If you sink only from the waist downwards, but leave the shoulders and torso tense, this is like throwing a stone into a pond with a balloon attached, and wondering why the stone doesn’t sink.

Two examples from the Yang 24-Step Form of using the limbs to help sinking

1) Play the Lute.  When you move from the 3rd Brush Knee & Twist Step into Play the Lute, the left palm plays an important role in helping the qi to sink in the upper body. When the rear foot (the right foot) is about to come off the floor for the half-step forwards, push the heel of the left palm downwards (the left shoulder also relaxing and dropping).
As the right toes start to lift from the floor, transfer the press in the left hand from the heel of the palm, via the metacarpophalangeal joints (the joints where the palm meets the fingers), to the tips of the fingers… in other words the fingers will end up pointing at the floor.  There is a continuous sensation of pushing downwards, but with increasing softness as the energy reaches the tips of the fingers – as though the energy is dissipating.
This connects the upper body to the lower.

2) Repulse Monkey. At the moment of 172 Taiji Parkreleasing the front foot from the floor (in order to step backwards), feel the elbow of the forward arm (which is rotating downwards) connect (metaphorically) to the opposite knee.  This is a brief connection because, after that, the left elbow works with the left hip.
So, for example, if you start from Play the Lute (Strum the Pippa), you open the arms to the right, and the left elbow will (again, metaphorically) connect to the the right knee as you lift your left foot from the floor in order to step backwards.
If you do this, all of a sudden, your elbow start to work with the hips.

Using the upper body to create free movement
If you are attempting to sink the qi to create ‘free’ movement (i.e. movement that is unrestricted and uncompromised by other parts of the body), the upper body needs to join in with the sinking.
The problems are almost always caused by the shoulders being ‘held up’.  When this happens, the upper limbs can no longer function effectively.  Once the shoulders have stopped ‘holding on,’ the qi is no longer held in the upper body when you need it to sink; the balloon bursts and the stone can drop to the bottom of the pond.
Then the sense of cross-body connection can function (e.g.) from right elbow to left knee, or from right shoulder to left hip, etc.

Yang 24-Step Form: Horizontal & Vertical

‘The word Peng’ (pron. ‘pung’ as in ‘sprung’) is used in a general way to explain the feeling of expansion/protection of the body as though you are inside a large balloon; the front and back, left and right, and top and bottom are all working together equally, so that, for example, if you were to push forwards, you would feel an equal expansion backwards.  The operative word here is feel, because you naturally wouldn’t be able to ‘push’ your back in the same way behind you!

However, the word ‘Peng’ is also used to describe one of the 13 Principles, occurring in every style of tai chi in one way or another.  In the Yang 24-Step form it appears at Forms 7 & 8, following the 4th Repulse Monkey (Step Back and Push); at this stage in the set of movements – assuming you began the form facing 12.00, you are facing 9.00.

In Form 7, the movement consists of the left arm simultaneously sinking (lowering) and drawing in (towards the body), before lifting up the centreline of the body to project forwards again at approximately shoulder height.
Peng directionIf you turn your body to the right during the sinking-and-drawing-in process, the movement that follows, i.e. the lifting of the left arm, changes from Peng to ‘Lie’ (or Lieh, depending upon your preferred method of spelling the word… Pinyin versus Wade-Giles ).
‘Lie’ is a sideways or horizontal movement, and is another of the 13 Principles. You can see this being used in Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane (i.e. Form 2 in the Yang 24-Step), first by the left arm, then by the right, and then by the left again.PTWHM Direction

In the previous form, i.e. Form 6 (Repulse Monkey), each of the 4 backward stepping movements is initiated by turning the body to right or left; so it’s almost automatic for beginners (and sometimes for more advanced practitioners also) to turn the body once again.
However, it shouldn’t turn, or at least it should only be a very small amount.

To stop the urge to turn the body to the right at this point, focus on the role of the right hand. Instead of allowing it to wander aimlessly out in the 1 o’clock direction (assuming you began the Form facing 12 o’clock), give it the intention of reaching towards 9 o’clock as though to grasp your opponent’s clothing, or shoulder, or even the back of his head. The right arm will still lift up into something resembling a ‘hold ball’ shape (although in reality you’ll never arrive at this shape), but the right hand’s intention will stop the body from turning to the right because the hand is leading and is reaching forward.
All of a sudden the body will feel better balanced in this movement, the left and right sides of the body will coordinate better (see the previous blog on ‘balance’), and the right arm will no longer feel so ‘useless’, or functionless.