Monday, April 25, 2011

Secrets of Tai Chi Circles Revealed

Most Tai Chi forms are a combination of different circular movements. Improving your Tai Chi circles is the key to a successful Tai Chi form.

Without a basic understanding of circles and how they are used in Tai Chi forms, it’s not possible to do Tai Chi well. Here, I’ll explain both basic and expanded circle forms.

Basic Circle Forms:

Circle Forms: In Tai Chi, a circle can take the form of a full circle, a half circle, or a partial circle such as an arc or a bow.*
Circle Size: In Tai Chi we talk about circles expanding or shrinking; circles can be large, medium, and small.
Circle Orientation: Circles can be vertical, horizontal, and diagonal.
Circle Position: Circles can be inside or outside of a sphere.
Circle Direction: In Tai Chi, circular movements can rotate from top to bottom, from bottom to top, from left to right, or from right to left.
Direction of Motion: Motion can be clockwise or counter clockwise.

Expanded Circle Forms:

Circles with Multiple Motions: A common advanced form is a circle with five motions, starting with a circle with the body centered, then adding advance movements, and retreating steps (moving left or right).
Circles with Mixed Directions: Both hands can circle in the same or in different directions.
Linked Circles:
The “S-line”** is an example of a linked circle. It is a link of two arcs, a medium arc followed by a small one.
Twisted Circles:
Silk reeling circles” are a great example of twisted circles.

After you read about all the forms of circle, you can now apply them into your practice. There is always ying and yang (empty and solid) in your circle, which means peng (ward off) and lu (roll-in) are involved. One of my favorite Chinese Tai Chi poems does a great job of discussing the opening and closing of our circles and the changes of ying and yang. I’m translating the poem for you here:

Once opening and once closing,

Once stabilized and once changed,

Solid and Empty mix into position,

Suddenly present, then suddenly disappear.
In the first line, the poem discusses the circle expanding and shrinking.
The second line explains the regular form and changes of the circles.
The final two lines mention ying and yang and mixed directions.

When every step involves circular movement, your Tai Chi will become less stiff and more rounded. Once you are familiar with all the basic circle forms in your daily Tai Chi practice and can link them together in transitions, your form will be more smooth and relaxed. When your yi (concentration) can control all these circular movements, you will surely bring your Tai Chi to another level.

* "Zhang Lu Ping on Five Bows of Tai Chi" in Tai Chi Magazine, by Peter Capell, June, 1992.

** "How Lu Ping Zhang Uses The Powerful 'S Principle' (the Deadly Art of 'S')" by Peter Capell, Tai Chi Magazine, October, 1992.

Copyrights Huan's Tai Chi 2011

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