Working the Dang

After last nights zhan zhuang session, I went through the foundational exercises of the Chen Practical Method (CPM) as taught by Chen Zhonghua. The exercises included:

  • Positive Circle
  • Negative Circle
  • Twisting the Towel
  • Fetching Water with Pail
  • Double Positive Circle (aka Cloud Hands)
  • Double Negative Circle (aka Fist Drape over Body)

Upon completion of the exercises, I noticed a soreness of the inner thigh muscles. In the Chen Practical Method, there is no weight shifting, therefore motion is generated by the up/down movements of the kua.  However, initially, the practitioner can simulate this by over exaggerating the up/down motions of the knee.

One thing I realized right away when trying to do the “one kua up, the other kua down” motion is how tight my kuas are. I thought I had pretty loose kuas as I can easily “fold” into the kua during a horizontal weight shift. However, in the CPM, there is no folding of the kua, both kuas are to remain active. 

How does a kua remain active? In my newbie opinion and exposure, both kuas must hold a bit of tension. I know, I know, it’s blasphemy to say the word “tension” in the context of taiji, but truly, it’s the only way I have been able to define it.  For example, when the right kua goes up and the left kua goes down, my right kua often folded, thereby releasing the tension of this musculature.  In a push hands scenario, my opponent could use this folding to take advantage of me and direct his energy into my folded kua, causing me to lose balance.  Try the same exercise again but this time keep a bit of tension in the right kua and do not let it fold completely. Feel the difference? I do.

Externally, folding the kua that goes up and keeping a bit of tension in it may look the same, but internally there is a very different feeling. First off, with a folded kua, I felt my structure to be a bit weak in such a way that a push to the folded kua would not be able to redirect the energy into the foot. With the same kua active using a little bit of tension, I can now feel the imaginary line from hand to foot.  In this way, an incoming energy could be easily redirected through the active kua and down into the foot.

Okay, enough of this kua talk, what does this have to do with the Dang? One of the requirement of Chen taijiquan is to keep a rounded Dang. The Dang is defined as the inner region of the thighs or keeping a rounded crotch. Get into a horse stance, draw a line from right inner foot to crotch to left inner foot. This is the Dang.

The body mechanic requirements of the Chen Practical Method, in my opinion, truly facilitates the notion of keeping a rounded Dang. By keeping both kuas active and only utilizing an up/down motion of the kuas, I felt what it means keep a rounded Dang. I felt a soreness within the inner musculature of my thighs and kua.  I would liken this sensation to riding a horse but at the same time, keeping one’s thighs tight around the horse, no matter the movement.  

Ask yourself, do you keep a rounded Dang during practice and if so, how do you train/maintain this requirement? In my opinion, a rounding of the Dang naturally occurs by following the biomechanical rules of the Chen Practical Method.

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About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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9 Responses to Working the Dang

  1. Vale Taiji says:

    Thanks for the post. It’s interesting to see the difference between CPL and the CXW-lineage Taiji that I study.

    I agree with you about ‘tension.’ My teacher tells me that Song is an absence of _unnecessary_ tension. I guess there are definitely situations that warrant ‘just the right’ amount of tension.

    As far as the Dang goes, I find that the weight shifting and turning (e.g. during Reeling Silk) tends/wants to make my Dang collapse unless I really pay a lot of attention to the process. The Kua of the unweighted leg wants to close a little when the torso turns away from it, and my leg naturally follows, the knee turns in and the Dang is no longer round (danged!). I think I might have to work on some adductor flexibility.

  2. Vale Taiji says:

    Couple of corrections to my comment (sorry it’s been a long day):

    1. I meant ‘CPM’ (not CPL)

    2. I forgot to add re: Dang & weight shifting – it’d be interesting to try the CPM non-weight-shifting approach to feel the differences in the movements and uses of the Kua, Dang and thighs in general.

  3. Jordan_Keats says:

    Wujimon,
    Great post, it is so interesting to hear other people’s experience going through Taiji growing pains. I practice CSPM, and know the tightness you write about. Throughout my practice this tightness or stretch has moved from the outside of my thigh to the inside, and from the inside of my arms to the outside. The tension goes through phases, for a while it was in my thighs and then moved between my shoulder blades. I asked Master Chen Zhonghua about this pain and he said that if I straightened my neck during practice this pain would disappear through the top of my head. Sure enough, it has.
    Back to what you were saying about stiffness in the thigh/groin (kua) muscles, what I found was that if I was not focused on the rule, “the knees and elbows do not retreat/follow” there would be tightness, but as I practiced with this rule in mind, just like the retreat in my neck causing the pain between my shoulder blades, the pain will go away.
    As the old Kung-fu saying goes, “You must go through the flame” if you want to learn. Best Wishes.

  4. Rick Matz says:

    Thank heavens! I thought you were writing about something else.

  5. wujimon says:

    @ValeTaiji: One thing I am realizing as I delve deeper into this world of Chen Practical Method is to toss out what I thought I knew about taiji. Truly having an empty cup is much different than saying I have an empty cup! Also, I agree about training flexibility, I *thought* I was flexible…

    @Jordan: You are right in that this is a growing pain and something we all will face at one point in time on our journey. The experience will most likely be different for each person depending upon their body type and background, but one thing is for sure. That is, taiji changes our body. I’ll keep in mind to not retreat the knee 😉

    @Rick: I don’t even want to know what you had in mind 😉

  6. Pingback: Top 5 Wujimon Posts of 2009 | wujimon taiji blog

  7. Voncile says:

    Ce se intampla daca folosesti DKI in Title si keyword-ul cautat de user este mai lung de 25 caractere? Am citit pe un blog ca a trimis cineva un mesaj celor de la google inrb-taduei de ce unele ad-uri au mai mult de 25 caractere, raspunsul a fost ca folosesc DKI, dar spuneau ceva de genul: daca este prea lung keyword-ul, afiseaza text-ul default al ad-ului. Despre ce text default este vb? Si ce inseamna prea lung? 26 sau 35 sunt ambele prea lungi comparativ cu 25.

  8. JC digital 02/01/2009 ResponderGostei da idéia, deveria continuar isso, visto que já tem mais de 1 ano esse post e ainda não vi essa realidade se prolongar.

  9. rubenmoon Why would I work really hard at making my page the way I want it to look when other people will only physically see way not the same way? The sequence is all different with an added post that I don’t see from my computer. That’s so weird, to design something for people not to see it the way you designed it or sequenced it?????

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