21ST CENTURY TAI CHI
Ideas to bridge the space between thought and action
Tai Chi Articles from the teapotmonk
Bruce Lee and the Role of the Waist
Back in the 80s I started learning with Sifu Yin Yang Eyebrow and a style that was so flowery that you could have planted it in a window box. I loved its exotic hand and wrist moves that appeared to have been borrowed directly from flamenco dancers. Eventually, I dropped the style, it was poorly taught and I slowly began to realise that the arms appeared unrelated to the moves. They reminded me of a back alley fight from Way of the Dragon and as much as I wanted to imitate Bruce Lee, doing so would not help me understand the role of the waist.
Sifu Yin Yang Eyebrow
So I dropped the classes with SIfu Yin Yang Eyebrow, who had looked great doing his flashy moves, but when I asked "Don't the arms derive their strength from the waist?" he said stop asking stupid questions and to keep practising my Inner-Aardvark breathing..
At home, I looked at the Tai Chi Classics and read that the waist followed the mind, but this didn't help much. It might as well have been written that the waist follows the whim of Neptune's Trident or the breath of Saturn's rings.
In the next class I looked at Sifu Eyebrow and wondered if his waist followed nothing more than his rather dubious dietary habits. He scoffed at the idea (as he did with pies and puddings before each class) and pointed out that his belly was full of Qi. At that point I changed classes..
Exercises to Connect Your Arms to Your waist
Connecting the movements of the limbs to the centre axis of the body makes sense to me. Forget thinking about it, just relax and let your waist express itself through your limbs. If you want to really understand this, try practising with a sword, as - paradoxically - using an object in your Tai Chi really helps you take your mind out of your limbs and back into your centre.
And being centred will help with any mind/body activity - and by that I don't just mean tai chi, yoga or meditation, I mean washing the dishes, walking the dog or overthrowing a corrupt regime.
Obviously, some may point out that the easiest way to connect your arms to your waist is though birth. This is true but If that's out of the question, then surgery might help. Failing that you could try these few simple exercises that will help reconnect your disparate limbs to your body.
Water, Friends and Liking them all.
Then when you are moving as a single unit and ready to take on the world with loose shoulders, a loose tongue and slippery hips, try this yielding exercise below. In these days of social distancing it may prove useful when confronting mask-less crowds in supermarkets, coffee queues, or when storming the Winter palace with your local vanguard friends.
Check out more waist exercises and for more on watery analogies, revolutions and street exercises check out the course that engages with all 3: The Complete Tai Chi Course. or visit the mOnks library for books.