太极拳 Workshop Musings

General notes from class:

  • The kind of Tai Chi we learnt from Jaleen was 郑子太极拳, a simplified version of 杨氏太极拳
  • Important terms:
    • 扎根 – rooting
    • 马步,弓步
    • 松胯
    • 四正法
      • 掤 (peng2)、履 (lv2)、挤 (ji3)、按 (an4)
      • ward, roll off, squeeze, press
    • 上虚下实
    • 沉肩坠肘
    • 用胯(转胯)移重心,不要用膝盖
    • 涌泉穴:扎根的时候,把重量传到涌泉穴
    • 劳宫穴


  • The more experience she has with Tai Chi, the more she realises how different Chinese dance and Tai Chi is
  • Tai Chi focuses more on the breath than the shape (more ‘natural’ than Chinese classical dance: e.g. in Tai Chi, when you lift your hand, your elbow stays dropped, but in dance, your elbow usually lifts to create a bigger shape)
  • More derived from fighting, so not so much emphasis on ‘aesthetically-pleasing shapes’
    • more functional than aesthetic
    • Chinese classical dance movements are more elongated, focuses more on lines and is aestheticised in a specific way
  • In Tai Chi, when they say “气通到手指”, its really just the 气, but in dance it is both 气 and muscles (i.e. it has to be super visible)
    • Chinese classical dance uses the breath to complement the projection beyond the kinesphere
  • 松胯to turn: in Tai Chi the focus in on the motion of the hip joint when turning to the side, but in Chinese classical dance we use the idea of twisting to initiate the movement
    • so when standing in parallel, shoulders-width apart, and twisting to the right, the left knee does not have much weight on it and thus will not get injured (which was what the Tai Chi teacher said that it might do)
  • The whole body is engaged in every movement (i.e. the body moves as a whole) but more restrictions for Tai Chi
    • dance seeks to exaggerate, so projection is usually bigger
    • in dance, the ways of using the breath are more layered, in that the way of complementing the movements with the breath is different
  • Personally, she does not like the way they 蹲 in Tai Chi, because it makes her feel disconnected to the floor, because her stabilising muscles (e.g. glutes) are not engaged
  • The idea of 松弛 in dance and Tai Chi are different
    • both believe in the notion of 气是通的 but the resulting shapes and dynamics are different



  • This was the only class in the ELEMENT project that was one hour long, so at first I was a bit worried that we would not have enough time, but Jaleen was meticulous in her teaching and in the end we understood a lot more even if we did not learn many ‘movements’
  • I found it hard to use my ‘natural’ breath in Tai Chi
    • in different movement styles there are different kinds of ‘correct breathing’ and then there is the ‘natural’ way that one breathes in daily life
    • by telling us to use our ‘自然呼吸’ immediately makes me think of not exaggerating my breath (i.e. breathing without having to ‘show people you are breathing’)
      • then I realise that certain dynamics do affect the breath, and with the kind of dynamic that Tai Chi uses, the breath is bound to be slower, which also means that it is deeper
      • Jaleen told us to let our 气 originate from our 丹田, which I did physically, by sucking in my abdominal muscles when I breathed out, and extending the belly when I breathed in
      • I was trying to feel some warmth in my abs and the flow of energy from my core to my extremities but to be honest I couldn’t really feel that
  • I felt that the extra attention on the relaxing of the hip joint during the transitions from one movement to another was very helpful
    • it made me feel more rooted to the ground and the movement took less muscular effort
  • I could not keep my knees over my toes in certain positions and when that happened, Jaleen told me to open up my hips more instead of moving my knee, which I found useful but couldn’t really do because my hips are quite tight
  • Some of the principles (e.g. 上虚下实,沉肩坠肘 etc.) are similar to some of the Chinese classical dance principles, and I think its helpful if dancers kept in mind some of these principles as well


一、虚领顶劲 顶劲者,头容正直,神贯于顶也。不可用力,用力则项强,气血不能通流,须有虚灵自然之意。非有虚灵顶劲,则精神不能提起也。

二、含胸拔背 含胸者,胸略内涵,使气沈于丹田也。胸忌挺出,挺出则气拥胸际,上重下轻,脚跟易于浮起。拔背者,气贴于背也,能含胸则自能拔背,能拔背则能力由脊发,所向无敌也。

三、松腰 腰为一身之主宰,能松腰然后两足有力,下盘稳固。虚实变化皆由腰转动,故曰:“命意源头在腰际”,有不得力,必于腰腿求之也。

四、分虚实 太极拳术以分虚实为第一义,如全身皆坐在右腿,则右腿为实,左腿为虚,全身皆坐在左腿,则左腿为实,右腿为虚。虚实能分,而后转动轻灵,毫不费力,如不能分,则迈步重滞,自立不稳,而易为人所牵动。

五、沈肩坠肘 沈肩者,肩松开下垂也,若不能松垂,两肩端起,则气亦随之而上,全身皆不得力矣。坠肘者,肘往下松坠之意,肘若悬起,则肩不能沈,放人不远,近于外家之断劲矣。

六、用意不用力 太极论云:“此全是用意不用力”,练太极拳全身松开,不使有分毫之拙劲,以留滞于筋骨血脉之间,以自缚束,然后能轻灵变化,圆转自如。或疑不用力,何以能长力,盖人身之有经络,如地之有沟洫,沟洫不塞而水行,经络不闭而气通。如浑身僵劲,充满经络,气血停滞,转动不灵,牵一发而全身动矣。若不用力而用意,意之所至,气即至焉,如是气血流注,日日贯输,周流全身,无时停滞,久久练习,则得真正内劲,即太极论中所云:“极柔软,然后能极坚刚”也。太极功夫纯熟之人,臂膊如绵裹铁,分量极沈,练外家拳者,用力则显有力,不用力时,则甚轻浮,可见其力乃外劲浮面之劲也,外家之力,最易引动,不足尚也。

七、上下相随 上下相随者,即太极论中所云:“其根在脚,发于腿,主宰于腰,形于手指,由脚而腿而腰,总须完整一气也”。手动腰动足动,眼神亦随之动,如是方可谓之上下相随,有一不动,即散乱也。

八、内外相合 太极拳所练在神,故云:“神为主帅,身为驱使”,精神能提得起,自然举动轻灵。架子不外虚实开合,所谓开者,不但手足开,心意亦与之俱开,所谓合者,不但手足合,心意亦与之俱合,能内外合为一气,则浑然无间矣。

九、相连不断 外家拳术,其劲乃后天之拙劲,故有起有止,有续有断,旧力巳尽,新力未生,此时最易为人所乘。太极用意不用力,自始至终,绵绵不断,周而复始,循环无穷,原论所谓:“如长江大河,滔滔不绝”,又曰:“运劲如抽丝”,皆言其贯串一气也。

十、动中求静 外家拳术,以跳踯为能,用尽气力,故练习之后,无不喘气者。太极以静御动,虽动犹静,故练架子愈慢愈好,慢则呼吸深长,气沈丹田,自无血脉偾张之弊。学者细心体会,庶可得其意焉。



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