10 Rules for Tai Chi

Tai Chi Man 2In Yang tai chi we have several old writings called the Classics.  The Classics are compiled writings of famous tai chi practitioners.  Included among the classics is a treatise by Yang Cheng-Fu, grandson of the founder of Yang tai chi
chuan.  It’s called Ten Important Points for Tai Chi Chuan.

These ten points describe how the tai chi form should be practiced.  They are among the most important guidelines to
correct tai chi form practice.  Without them your art is not real tai chi.

1)  Uplift energy to the top with empty feeling

Raise your head naturally,  without making your neck and body stiff.  When your head is carried erect and relaxed, your spirit (shen), intentions (yi), and internal energy (chi) are directed through your eyes.

2)  Hold the chest in and arch the back

Relax your chest muscles, allowing your breathing level to drop closer to your lower abdomen.  This gives you more relaxed, natural lung capacity.  When you relax your chest muscles, you naturally round your back slightly, helping keep your upper and lower back straight.

3)  Relax waist and loosen crotch between two legs

Relax the waist, giving yourself more flexibility in this region.  Loosen the crotch area by opening the hips. Waist and hip action directs the power produced in the legs.

4)  Distinguish between empty and full

If the body’s center of gravity, which carries most of the body’s weight, rests over the right leg, that leg is full.  Since the left leg has less weight and no center of gravity over it, it is empty.  In tai chi chuan the center of gravity should be in a straight line over the supporting leg.  It is spread evenly between both legs, you are double weighted, which is incorrect.  The double-weighted person is easily pulled off balance and can’t move quickly and easily in any direction.

5)  Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows

Relax your shoulders.  Your elbows should point down.  If the shoulders are tense or the elbows sticks out, your breathing and chi levels rise, making your breathing shallow and entire body tense.  Also, if your shoulders and elbows are raised, your body will be stiff, making it easy to be pulled or pushed off balance.

6)  Use intention, not strength

Use your mind (yi) to accomplish your action, not tense brute force.  This keeps your body relaxed and supple, yielding and redirecting rather than exerting force against force.

7)  Top and bottom follow each other

The root of your movements start with the foot position. Energy or power is then produced by the legs.  The waist and hips direct the power, which is released through the arms and hands.  Each part of this sequence must be connected and done in the correct order.

8)  Internal and external are in mutual harmony

Internal energy (chi) and external power (muscle strength)  are both necessary.  However, you should not have an excess of one over the other.  Both should balance each other.

9)  Connect together without breaking

Each movement in the form should be a continuous expression of the tempo and speed from the previous movement.  Even though the body momentarily stops between posture to change to a new posture, your intention continuous unbroken.  There should be no hard, fast movements followed by soft, slow actions or vice versa.

10) Attain motion in silence

Although you are moving, your mind should be calm and quiet.  This allows you to breathe easily, think clearly, and move with agility.

These are Yang Cheng-Fu’s ten principles of correct tai chi practice.  No matter which form you use, if you follow these principles you will benefit  from the health advantage tai chi has to offer.