Tai Chi - Class 1
Welcome to Lesson 1- This page contains video of the first part of the form with commentary, and at the bottom of the page, are a collection of updated details and notes.
You can now revisit this page as often as you like. There are additional notes in the FREE lesson which you can access with the password Weighting4U
Clip 1 From the start of the form until Single Whip
Clip 2 Looks in detail at the Opening posture
Clip 3 looks at Roll the Ball, Seven Stars, Ward Off, Pull Down, Press, Roll Back & Sink Down
Clip 4 looks at Single Whip
Tai Chi Form Notes
Remember to keep the feeling of the head top suspended, shoulders relaxed and down. The chest softens and sinks while the back of the neck lengthens and chin drops slightly, jaw relaxed. The tongue lightly touching the palate behind the upper teeth; knees slightly bent, let the pelvis hang so tailbone feels like it is pulling toward the ground and the spine, vertical, is being gently stretched in two directions, earthward and heavenward. Make space in the joints so the skeleton feels ‘lightly strung together’.
Facing North – This doesn’t have to be compass north, but just map out your practice spot, so that it is consistent with the directions used here.
Heels together and toes very slightly outward so the two feet make a narrow V shape [Diag 1].
Feel the single line of gravity through the body and the spine lengthening upward through the back of the neck and sinking through the lumbar spine and pelvis. Relax the arms and let them hang – feel them slowly lengthening away from the shoulders. Simple standing is a time to bring your focus to your body and to allow things to settle, reminding yourself this is time for you.
Transfer your weight into right leg [Diag 2].
Use the falling weight of the hanging arms to stabilize as you sink/sit into the right leg. Separate your feet – The deeper you can sink in your right and release your arms, the easier it is to lift the left leg. The knee of the left leg wants to ‘float’. Peel the left foot from the floor let the muscles and bones relax, take the left foot to shoulder width, on this occasion the relaxed toes meet the floor first – then lay the rest of the foot into the floor, heel last.
The outside edge of the left foot is now facing north, put a little weight into it and ‘correct’ the right foot so its outside edge also faces north before sharing the weight equally in both feet
Remember that this position ‘stance of the child’ is balanced but not ‘fixed’ – the feeling of a boat in harbour rather than a car parked.
We have worked with the image of a sheet on a clothesline – the arms being billowed forward by a breeze coming from behind and combining this with the in breath, before gravity takes the sheet back toward the vertical on the exhalation. Remember that the breath wants to be unforced so if you ever need to take an extra breath just do so.
Opening X 3.
Breathe in as you raise your arms (no higher than shoulders) breathe out as arms descend - collapse arms at elbow allow weight to flow back into the hands. On the in-breath the hands are passive and weighted, and the arms feel as if they are falling away from the body. When they reach shoulder height allow your energy to extend beyond your finger tips as the hands empty and become light.
On the out breath the hands are a little more active – as though holding down a cloud that you then sink or send into the ground below your feet. This is a calming / cleansing action which harmonises breath, body and mind, the aim is to quieten the mind in preparation for the ensuing journey of the form.
Roll the Ball x 3
Top - right hand – palm facing down; as if resting on your heart – as if your heart was just outside of your ribcage. Let gravity take the weight of the arm, descending through the elbow, the palm turns over (to face upward – the thumb rotates outward) as it descends to just below the level of your belt.
Lower palm. Palm facing up; level of the dantien (between belly button and pelvic bone)
This is the slightly ‘operatic / Shakespearian’ gesture that moves forward out from the dantien and curves upward toward the heart to complete the circle.
Try working one hand at a time until the pattern makes sense before combining both hands. Use a natural unforced breath as you play with ‘roll the ball’.
Now we combine the hand movements with weight shifts. The first shift is achieved by pushing away with your right foot, in order to move your weight across into the left leg.
When your weight shift is complete, turn your facing to the NE – This means your waist turns and carries the heart and head with it. A quarter turn with the right leg now completely relaxed – this allows the right foot to roll around the heel and point to NE [Diag 3]
As you do this the right hand is rising (as described above) to heart level.
Now move forward into your right foot, rolling the ball smaller ‘as if into your right hip pocket’. Find your balance in your right leg and collapse the back leg in underneath you before stepping it out leading with the outside edge of the foot placing heel down first. Your feet are now almost in parallel (on the diagonal) as though on a railway track running northeast southwest. SevenStars pushes / clears in a NW direction, with energy being expressed perpendicular to the outside edge of the left foot.
Shift weight from right into left leg, as though you were pushing a heavy object with your left hip. (shifting the wardrobe – the outside of your left forearm is resting against the door panel and your right hand is by the door knob – just beneath your left elbow). Seven Stars with the right hand below the left elbow. Then sinking your weight into front (left) foot pivot on ball of right foot to face east. This rotation of your body carries your hands to the east, pick up your right foot and step down again with your right heel.
Be sure to keep shoulder width space between the feet as you place the heel and ensure that the toes of the right foot face east.
Ward Off (peng) Facing East
As you shift forward, the right hand rises, palm facing the heart while the left hand glides down inside the right wrist, and holds down on the left side to create
Ward Off (also known as Grasp the Birds Tail)
Pull Down (lu) Facing East
(as you begin to shift backwards the left hand rises to join the right) both hands then pull down to the left as you sit into the back (left) leg (keep energy present in the right shoulder)
Press (chi) Facing East
The left hand finds the right wrist, moving the weight forward into the right leg, the left stays behind the right wrist (the right arm is in a position similar to ward off), keep both elbows hanging heavy.
Roll Back Facing East
shifting into the back leg, the hands follow the body back (like un-doing a bow) into roll back, the hands complete their rolling back downward to level of the dantien
Push (ahn) Facing East
Both hands push forward (feel the initial push as ‘down to go up’ and move forward; from left foot, left leg, body, hands) – be careful not to over extend as you shift forward, and remember to keep the back heel pushing away and down until the weight shifts into the front leg
Sink Down in front leg - like planting a tree with both hands, find 'earth'.
Single Whip Facing North
Use your awareness of the right foot (after sink down) to push from as you shift the weight back into the left leg, and then turn toes of the right foot inward (NE) before shifting your weight into the right; knee over, toes, wrist in line with knee. Fingers of right hand come together and touch thumb. Sit into your right leg, step to the side with heel of left foot. The left hand begins beneath the ‘birds beak’ fingers of the right hand, initially the palm facing you, and slowly rotates as it glides in an arc (low winter’s sun) to the left to eventually face away from you. The weight shifts from the right leg to the left. The body opens and expands during the shift, with the weight transfer arriving at 70% left :30% right on completion.