The Legs

The hips are crucial to supporting the work of the spine and waist, not to mention the weight of the body. They must be relaxed and balanced. Despite not having a very large degree of motion, they act as the leaders of the waist in many ways, and must open and close in the same way that the shoulders must open and close in a co-ordinated manner. Sometimes merely shifting the hips in a rocking manner will provide the modicum of weight movement necessary to power a posture when there is not enough room to move the feet.

A useful concept is to maintain the feeling of the torso lifting gently off the buttocks and staying centred over them. This applies even when you lean forwards and backwards, as you sometimes do in bagua, so it is a tricky concept to get. Do not let the buttocks protrude, but at the same time don't obsess about tucking them in. Doing so is liable to cause tension and tends to cause the tailbone to tip forward, off-center from the natural vertical plane of the spine. Many people are built so that it looks as if their bum is sticking out when it is not really affecting their postural integrity.

In Chinese martial arts, the term ming-dang means to close the inner groin and buttocks area. Dang refers to the entire perineal area, and lifting this area is often misconstrued as meaning that you must squeeze or forcibly lift the sphincter muscles. This is not a healthy exercise if done to excess and will only improve sexual function in certain cases that relate to weak muscles in that area. It is better not to pay any special attention to the rectum or area of the huiyin, and instead try to remain relaxed so that the ligaments, muscles and tendons can be fully relaxed. The eventual aim is to have a gentle lifting feeling in the area that could be compared to wearing invisible underwear that is snug, not binding.

During training, the crucial joints of the legs are worked very hard in that they are always bent more than in normal daily activities (sometimes very bent, depending on the style that you follow). In addition, the arms can rest at times, but your legs must always work while you are on your feet. Relaxation and sound posture (the knee and toes in vertical alignment) help the knees transmit the weight of the body from the hips to the ankles. It bears repeat ing that your knees are not designed to be weight-bearing, but are meant to transmit your weight efficiently to your ankles and feet.

As to "weighting," there are two major schools of thought. The more common version is that the weight is momentarily more or less completely on one leg while the other foot is repositioned, and then the weight is immediately shifted to the new leg. The other opinion suggests that eventually being "single weighted" is meaningless in that the practitioner is completely balanced, stable and mobile—whether he or she seems to be double-weighted, perched on one foot, or standing on the head!

In essence, the latter expert (and they are very rare indeed) is moving internally all the time, even though he may seem still on the outside—like a gyroscope in its ability to right itself, or the way in which a cat can adjust itself while falling to land on its feet. This kind of footwork and movement didn't make sense to me from a logical perspective until I started doing it martially.

To my mind, this implies many years of experience. What I call "small step, big step" has become so automatic and subtle that it seems almost magical to those who can not do it. I would suspect that every internal expert who deserves that label moves in that way, whether doing Chen Style, Yang Style, bagua, hsing-i, liu he ba fa, or whatever. Of course, I could be wrong____Ask my wife, apparently it happens frequently.

The ankles must be straight and relaxed to properly lead the feet. Practitioners are instructed to keep the foot flat as in the Slip Step, or to arch the sole in a natural manner—not overly flexed or artificially flattened when doing the Natural/Tiger Step. When moving, as opposed to standing qigong, it is also important to not clench the toes when trying to obey the teacher's instruction to grip the floor or earth with your toes. This is as much a mental activity as a physical one.

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Martial Arts An Introduction

Martial Arts An Introduction

Anytime an individual decides to learn how to protect themselves, learn self defense, or become a better person, one thing comes to mind - Martial Arts. Martial Arts are now being practiced all over the world.

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