Prompted by chickenrice’s recent comment, I went back to the old version of this blog to refresh my memories of studying CMC-37 taijiquan with Master Rennie Chong in Singapore. I found a post I’d forgotten about:
In There are no secrets, Wolf Lowenthal quotes Cheng Man Ching on loosening the joints of the body, in the context of the concept of sung, or relaxed strength.
I won’t quote the whole thing, but the essence is that the body has nine joints: three in the arm, three in the leg, and three in the back. One begins by loosening the arms; the most difficult joint is the shoulder. Then one loosens the legs; the most difficult joint is the ankle. Then the back is easy to relax. Bruce Frantzis says saomething similar in The Power of Internal Martial Arts; I saw it earlier this evening, but I can’t find the quote now. I wish that book had an index!
Still, my personal experience is following this rule. When I first came to Singapore and started practising taiji regularly, I found that my shoulders were terribly rigid. The near-year I spent at Nam Wah Pai relaxed them enormously. Now, with Master Chong constantly urging me to lower my stance and open up my gua (groin/hip joints), I’m finding that I’m getting a lot of pain in my hips and lower back. It isn’t because these areas are under strain particularly, though – I think it’s because my ankles are stiff and weak, so other muscles are trying to take the strain. I think once my ankles become sung, my hips and back will be able to relax a great deal.
I would agree with that even more these days. What I’m finding is that yiquan’s zhan zhuang exercises are really helping me get this done…