This is an interceptive action, with the weight of the posture coming onto the front foot. The hands, either singly or one giving balance behind the other, rise in a powerful circle before the body’s centre of gravity. The energy in this yang posture is expansive, buoyant and throwing.
Tips: Be careful not to overreach, and keep your body low. There is great resource in the legs, but you must know where your balance is.
This is a restraining action, with the weight coming back to the rear foot and down. Both hands draw on the opponent – one pulling in, the other guiding with pressure. The energy in this yin posture is unexpected, unrelenting, finally locking an opponent down.
Tips: There is great skill in this posture that can be hard to master. Remember to keep yourself upright, from centre to crown of head as you turn, and keep your seat underneath you. To give a millimetre is to 'lose'.
This is an action of close contact, with your weight coming forward or to either side. The forearm is used from the elbow to wrist, backed-up by the palm as a brace. The energy of this yin into yang posture is of a kinetic, jolting shunt – very effective in a mêlée or crowded space.
Tips: As before, keep your weight moving but balanced. This is a short move but should feel fluid.
This is an action of driving away, with the weight coming to the forward foot. Both hands and arms are used, extending to make firm contact. The entire body must come fully behind the action. The energy of this yang posture is of propelling: an arc of power leaps through the body from feet to hands, to literally knock an opponent over.
Tips: Use the push at the angle that you need it, which may be down and into the ground. The arms should not extend to a point of rigidity but maintain a slight bend that allows the chi to be expressed – this is called fa-jing.
Sit back to ride the tiger
This is an action of withdrawing and weight must be on the rear foot only. Arms extend to either side. Balance is paired with agility. The energy of this yang into yin posture is of keeping a direct threat, which may be all around, at bay.
Tips: Single-weighted stances are inherently difficult until enough natural strength has been gained. But the focus you can achieve through their practice is palpable; stillness in the martial arts should not be underestimated.
Wave hands at the clouds
This is an action of lateral turning, with weight moving between feet. Both arms flow, spiralling through each other cutting and digging into an opponent.
Tips: The name of this posture is a misnomer. The body, arms and hands appear to have a soft, cloud-like quality, but in application they are full of force.
Tim began his study of t’ai chi in the early 1980s and has been teaching in the UK since 1994. He is a highly experienced practitioner running group classes and private training throughout the year. For more information, visit www.taichifinder.co.uk/local/user/tim-spratt.html
This feature was first printed in the February/March 2011 issue of Fitpro Network magazine.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.