Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Importance of Alignment

My investigation of Tai Chi Chuan really took off when I understood the importance of 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, your alignment should be a clear indication of your level of success.

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, which relieves excessive strain from our bodies. From a martial perspective, we learn more about the transfer of energy and the dangers of overcommitment. Artistically, we will find ways to communicate more clearly.

Over the coming weeks we'll look at ways to get a better understanding of alignment and ways to improve it. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. Thanks. As a beginner/intermediate student, I feel more aligned and rooted when I do the form without the arms/hands. I thought it would be the opposite, that the arms/hands would help me feel more aligned and have more stability. Maybe its because I'm so focused on the arms/hands when I do the form with arms/hands that I forget the importance of the feet (heel-toe-knee), knees, and hips. I enjoyed that class where we worked on feeling the connection between the "four corners" of the stepping foot and the floor, before shifting any weight (and the knee) into and over that foot.