I received a question on my notion of the torso method in regards to being able to move the waist independently from the hips and that the shoulder moves as a result of moving the dantien. I just wanted to post my response to the question to try and get some feedback or thoughts on the topic from other taiji readers:
I have also been told that all movement should originate from the dantien, however I sometimes question that point. If we consider the dantien to be the point roughly 3 finger widths below our belly button, to me that’s roughly the point between the waist and hips (depending on how you define those 2 points of the body).
What does moving the dantien mean? In a metaphysical sense, it can be an imaginary rotation of a sphere within that area, and by imaginary, I mean with the intention of the mind (aka yi). If that is the case, then it’s not really the dantien that is causing the movement, but the mind causing the movement that initiates in the dantien.. anyhoo.. this is beside the point.
I believe that any imaginary or intention of movement manifests itself physically somehow and after my own inspection and practice, I believe this to originate in the movement of the hips. I personally do not subscribe to the idea of the waist moving independently from the hips for the following reason. If the shoulders move and not the hips, this can cause the alignment between the shoulder and hip to be disjoint. While this may not seem like much, if pressure is applied to the hand or body, *it is* much harder to redirect that energy to the rear leg if the shoulders and hips aren’t aligned.
Try getting in a standard bowstance and turn your shoulders in such a way that they are not aligned with the hips. Imagine an incoming force directed at you or imagine yourself striking with a taiji posture. I would then guess that this incoming force penetrates the “weak point” of a triangle base, the triangle base is the shape formed by your 2 feet and your torso. In most martial arts, the goal it to attack someone at this weak point to make them lose balance. I feel it is much easier to redirect an incoming force, either to the body or through the acting hand, if the shoulders and hips are aligned.
In yang, I’ve been taught that the hips are square only if the yang hand is opposite of the leading leg, ie. brush knee twist step. In this posture, the right hand is forward and so is the left leg, so the hips are squared forward. This way, any force the right hand meets or is given can be redirected to the right rear leg without too much trouble.
But what if the yang hand is the same as the leading leg? I’ve been taught the hips ARE NOT squared and the shoulder are aligned with the hips to allow for the transfer of energy/force. Example, consider the single whip in which the yang hand is the left hand and the leading leg is the left leg. This type of alignment allows for the easy transfer of energy imposed on the left hand/arm to the right rear leg. I believe a common mistake is to do the single whip with square forward hips, mostly found in the wushu-taiji variants. Consider this postural alignment and the analogy of triangle above.
[edit 05/19/06: I have reconsidered the stance above a bit and think perhaps it’s better to think in terms of kua instead of hips.]