Waist independent of hips?

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.]


About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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12 Responses to Waist independent of hips?

  1. zenmindsword says:

    we don’t move the dantian. instead our mind moves the 3 qi rings and the body will follow. remember the principle of separating “shape” from “intention”?

  2. zenmindsword says:

    Why triangle? Isn’t taiji about circles?

    Why even have a shape? Isn’t the mind shapeless?

    Why redirect? Isn’t it slower? Why not neutralize and issue in the same instance? Isn’t that faster?

    Why direct to force to any part of the body? Didn’t the taiji classics say to let it fall into emptiness?

    Ha, ha, just felt like stirring things up a bit what with the Monday blues on the first day of the week.

  3. zenmindsword says:

    In single whip the hips are never squared. You are right. Our reason is because of the 5 bows………..to expand the 5 bows properly one has to be non-squared.

    If you are doing the normal single whip where the left hand is leading and the palm is facing down, this position is actually called yin hand not yang hand. Thought you should know.

  4. wujimon says:

    Can you expand a bit about the 3 qi rings? I am not familiar with this concept. Perhaps in a blog entry?

  5. wujimon says:

    Didn’t realize the additional comments 🙂 I think the idea of redirecting into emptiness is a bit too philosophical for me at this point. I don’t really understand what that means and most likely means I’m still at the physical level of trying to redirect to the rear leg and ground the force.

    As for the single whip, I din’t realize the palm is actually facing down? From some images of dong family taiji in the single whip posture, the left hand appears to be facing forward:


    The only times I’ve seen the left hand facing down in a single whip is via the Cheng Man Ching/TT Liang line in which the emphasis is on the fair maden’s palm, but this generally has a slight elbow bend so the intention is still going forward.

  6. Eman Rohe says:

    True, I agree with zenmindsword that the best way is to neutralise and not to redirect. Personally, I don’t really understand redirecting forces to the rear leg or to the ground as this to me would be resisting and not yielding. Furthermore, it is also detrimental to the rear leg, what is your rear leg is not strong enough to handle the force and gets injured? From the classics, any attack from the enemy is supposed to fall into emptiness and not to something.

  7. wujimon says:

    Hi Eman.

    It is my understanding that the goal in redirecting is to redirect any incoming force into the ground. The goal is not for the strength of the rear leg, but the alignment and structure of the rear leg. I’ve been taught that if the alignment is correct, not much strength is needed to achieve this. I’ve had a similar concept demonstrated.

    To me, “falling into emptiness” still involves some form of redirection. In my previous examples of the triangle structure, I would translate the idea of falling into emptiness to mean a redirection of the opponenent towards the vertex of the triangle instead of transferring the incoming force to the “rear base” of the triangle. I would consider this type of technique to be similar to those found in aikido.

    In regards to resisting vs yielding, I think further clarification of these terms would probably be required. I believe in structural integrity of a posture and the structural alignment is defined in such a way to redirect incoming force. For example, if someone pushes on your arm in a ward off position, is it considering resisting if you maintin the roundness structure of your arm and try to redirect that energy into the leg? However, I do understand your idea of yielding in that if someone pushes on your arm, then you should yield and follow that push and lead them into emptiness before either letting them fall or bumping them back.

    Again, perhaps this is due to my lack of exposure to the energetic side of the world.

    thanks for the comment.

  8. Eman Rohe says:

    Yeah, I get what you mean , in my style of taiji, my teacher would test the structure of all our postures for strength of structure. For example, he would push against our palms in the an posture of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, and see if our structure holds up or are we using too much muscle power to resist. But the aim of such an exercise is to sort of “resist” his push.
    However, I think the strong sturcture is more important to give a strong attack. But when yielding, it is one must remember that structure should be fluid and dynamic, and not to pit structure against structure, which I sometimes still do…..a downside of the above mentioned exercise.

  9. wujimon says:

    Hi Eman.

    I do agree with your common pitfall for practicing the above mentioned exercise and it’s something that I also fall victim too. Great thoughts!

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