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.