Tai Chi And The Five Integrities
by Kenneth van Sickle
The body uses several energies, pneumatic (breath), hydraulic (circulatory), mechanical (muscle & bone), and electromagnetic (nervous system).
Tai Chi, uses these energies in dynamic and subtle ways..
Tai Chi is energy management. Energy needs a channel, if the channel is blocked, the energy will not flow.
The beginning Tai Chi student runs into tensions that stop energy flow, the master watches them do the form and notices these tensions, points them out to the student and suggests ways to slowly get rid of them.
The first priority of the form is to relax, to get rid of tension.
First the gross energy blocks are handled , shoulder tension blocks energy to the arms, hip tension blocks energy to the knee, knee tension to the feet, stomach tension shallows the breath, these and other energy blocks short circuit the system, like an electrical short, or a kink in a hose.
Once a block goes away the energy flows through until it hits the nest one to be worked on.
When all blocks are gone the energy (“Chi” in Chinese) flow freely through the body and then can be managed to produce extra normal energy, to heal or to use as self-defense.
As the student progresses in the form, many things are being addressed simultaneously, alignment, centering, rooting, sensitivity,internal massage and martial awareness all come after the relaxation process has started, they are dependent on relaxation.
The body is gradually ease, pushed by the consideration and will of the student, to align, to find it’s natural position again, to become a functional piece of architecture.
If, for example, the ankle is pronated (caved in toward the other foot) the knee and the hop will also be out of line. This might all manifest as lower back trouble. When the ankle is corrected the whole system will realign and that back trouble will be relieved. The Tai Chi form allows for this kind of healing.
The constant repetition of the form achieves many things. It gets the motor running. The form must be done twice daily, this is the “sine quo non” of Tai Chi. The motor must be kept running once it has started. It is like a generator, once it stops it takes a while for it to start again.
This generator develops “intrinsic energy”. This is a combination of energies and its generation must not be interrupted just as we must keep breathing.
Internal exercise systems keep gaining energy, and can be continued into advanced age. Tai Chi and Yoga masters do not necessarily live longer than other people, but they are almost always fit and vital up until their last hours.
Tai Chi forms have a very precise choreography. The Yang form as taught by Cheng M’an-Ching, has 36 postures. Each follows in the same order every time the form is done, one move flows into the next at the same speed, without interruption.
The form can be done slowly 7-10 minutes. Many do their daily routines at this speed, or very slowly, 20-60 minutes, for advanced energizing or to heal the body.
Each Tai Chi posture has multiple purposes. One move might be for aligning the ankle (ones own); avoiding a kick (someone else’s); and massaging the spleen. Most moves have more than one martial application.
All the moves are always concerned with centering, alignment and balance.