Month: February 2017

Wuji (Wu Chi) — Always

Wuji (or Wu Chi) is a classical Tai Chi posture known in most styles of Tai Chi Chuan. The literal translation means “nothing, nothingness, or empty” for Wu and “limits, end, extreme boundary” for “chi or ji (the “chi” is the same life force of “chi” but it has a different connotation). The two words used together mean emptiness in any movement, thought or activity; “nothing separates me from my surroundings” as our Sifu told us many times. Some people refer to Wuji as the quiet time before a form starts and after the form ends. It is the ultimate state of relaxation.     Standing in a meditative state of mind with the body properly aligned can help increase chi circulation and open up energy channels. Max Yan and Jude Smallwood say “Taiji comes from Wuji and returns to Wuji and is represented by the center circle within the large circle of the Tai Chi symbol. (see below).

Mark Sabin says “In movement Wuji flows, the unifying essence of Taiji. Throughout the set it continues, enduring and constant as changes course through the body. And in stillness again Wuji remains, the posture that lasts after all intention subsides utterly neutral and utterly present. Despite its seeming simplicity refining Wuji proves to be an evasive and difficult accomplishment.” Practicing Zhan Zhuang (“Standing Like a Tree” or “Standing Post”) incorporates the very essence of Wuji through body-mind connection while standing in a meditative posture.

Wuji Posture: Below is a detailed illustration of the physical aspects of the Tai Chi Wuji posture, coinciding with the classic principles of Tai Chi Chuan.

Head: Hold head erect as if suspended vertically from the baihui point (top of the crown); the neck is relaxed.
Shoulders, elbows and hands: Drop the shoulders and the elbows point downward, hands are relaxed at the sides, slightly engaged with some energy, making sure they aren’t limp; you should feel as if a balloon can be place under your arms without breaking it.
Chest: Open and slightly collapsed.

Knees and hips: Knees are slightly bent and pushed out; hips are relaxed, with the sensation of pushing downward into the floor with no tension; tailbone is tucked in.
Feet: Shoulder width apart.
Back: Spine should be vertical, with little of the “S” curve showing, holding no tension.
Waist: Soft and supple and able to move freely.
Tongue: Slightly touching the soft palate on the roof of your mouth.
Mind: Clear of any extraneous thoughts and staying in the moment, concentrate on sinking the breathing into the Tan Tien; eyes gaze straight ahead, not focusing on anything. Be aware of any tension or discomfort in parts of your body. Acknowledge it and make small adjustments to improve the comfort of the posture.
Breathing: Take long, slow breaths and concentrate on breathing through the Tan Tien in the lower abdomen. Think of the breath as “slow, long, even, narrow, and deep” ; count your breaths to keep your mind focused on your breathing. The deep breathing will aid in relaxation.

The principles of Wuji are applied when practicing Zhan Zhuang, as is shown in the “Hugging the Tree” posture.

The Wuji posture is an important foundation of your Tai Chi practice. Adding standing meditation 10-20 minutes a day will not only enhance your rooting in Tai Chi forms, but also increase chi flow in the body. Contemplating a Wuji posture during your busy life can also help you relax your mind and body.

 

What-Basics Again?

“Groan, not a class on basics again? I want to work on forms!” thought the brown sash student.

This may be a familiar thought to some students in any martial arts class. I am guilty myself – as I went up in rank all I thought  was important was to do our lovely open hand and weapons forms. That is only part of the picture. Working on basics is just as important as working on forms along with two person training like push hands and applications.

Little did I realize at the time that basic postures are the foundation of all Tai Chi forms and they need to be reviewed constantly by an instructor. Basic postures, basic stances, basic movements are like second nature to the advanced student but for a beginner and intermediate student they are still learning. And guess who they watch when they can’t see the teacher? You, the advanced student! That’s why your basics have to be impeccably executed!

In your private practice take inventory of each posture, keeping the Ten Essential Points of Tai Chi in mind:

  • Where are my feet? Is my back heel pushed out in a forward stance?
  • Is my weight distributed correctly?
  • Am I rooted to the ground? Am I “light on top and heavy on the bottom?”
  • Is my head held up high?
  • Are my shoulders relaxed and tailbone tucked in?

These questions and more should be going through your mind as you do Part the Wild Horses Mane, White Crane Spreads Its Wings, Brush Knee and Push, and the list goes on.

So the next time your Sifu starts running through basic postures and forms, embrace the opportunity to not only help yourself but also your classmates improve their forms.

 

Forward Stance

  • Head and torso held high
  • 60/40% distribution with most weight on the front leg
  • Your front knee is bent; you should be able to see your toes
  • Hips are squared forward
  • Shoulders are relaxed, chest is slightly concaved (hollowed)

Tai Chi forward stance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back Stance

  • Head and torso held high
  • 60/40% distribution with most on the back leg
  • Hips are squared forward
  • Shoulders are relaxed, chest is slightly concaved (hollowed)

Tai Chi back stance