In a prior transmission it was mentioned that maintaining sphericity by expanding the chi energy to the perimeter is a great way to achieve continuity of movement. As an added benefit the elbows and thighs remain open when the body sphere has the proper empty center. Expanding to fill the sphere is static and should be maintained at all times
However even this is not quite enough. To get the full benefit of the movements it is necessary move a little beyond your perimeter. As Master Ni said: “Move three inches beyond your limit.” Note that this extension is dynamic. One only moves through the point, but does not remain there for more than an instant. As this is the source of power as well as internal health Body should be trained to continually extend a little beyond her limits. This is a life long process.
These momentary extensions have to do with elasticity – a necessary component of Tai Chi. Through elasticity everything is in a dynamic state of transition - nothing fixed. This naturally leads to the Tai Chi principle “If one part moves every part moves. If one part is still every part is still.”
Elasticity also establishes the dynamic tension associated with power. The 3 inch extension enables the crack of the whip – fa jing. Elasticity leads to power, as it is similar to drawing a bow. The bow arches back as it is pulled creating potential energy. Upon release the bow springs back – discharging the arrow – accelerating it proportionately to the tension in the bow. If there is no elasticity in the bow there is no power & the arrow falls limply to the ground – going nowhere. [Note: although linked to ward off energy neither body sphericity nor continuous motion generate elasticity or power.]
“Power comes from the back heel,” another statement by Master Ni, has to do with the same principle of elasticity. If the back heel is grounded when moving forward, it sets the spring - stretches the bow - creating the dynamic state inherent to the generation of power – a necessary requirement. This is the potential energy that is created when a spring is compressed. The work done by compression is available for use once the spring is released – the bow discharged – the mousetrap tripped. Without the compression there is no potential energy and no power, except through the exertion of physical force, which is counter to the principles of the soft martial arts - particularly Tai Chi.
Of course it is necessary to balance Fire [power] & Water [fluidity]. Neither is complete without the other, as each is contained in the other. Jerky discontinuous power dissipates energy and fluidity without elasticity is tepid – no integration [#7 in Master Ni’s 12 Stages].
In his September 28, 2002 lecture entitled ‘The Basics of Continuous Motion’ Master Ni provided a method for increasing elasticity and power. His third technique has to do with “saving energy at the transition by taking the waist and hands a little further back in the transition between Roll Back and Press” in the Grasp the Bird’s Tail sequence. Although similar to the 3 inch extension technique, this method is applied when moving backwards and at the transition rather than in the forward motion. This suggestion is also linked with the 2 fundamental principles, Look Right & Look Left.
At the young age of 78 Master Ni talked directly about the importance of elasticity in his lecture on “How to Master the Sword” (October 12, 1992).
He began: “Main principle of sword - Inside and outside should be linked as one.” He then provided 4 internal principles and 4 external principles. #4 in the internal principles: “Maintain or generate Intrinsic Energy through Elasticity - Mental & Physical.”
As well as indicating the crucial linkage of the internal and external these statements also point to the need for mental elasticity in addition to physical in the generation of intrinsic energy. Perhaps this has to do with momentarily pushing beyond intellectual or physical limits. Or maybe it has to do with brief mental extensions into the dangerous or forbidden zones – breaking dogma and mental rigidity.
In the same lecture he stated: “When leaping the heel of foot helps to take off.” & “The energy should go from ‘the back heel to fingertip in one unbroken line’”. This creates the stretch that sets the spring – extending the ligaments and tendons, which is so ‘good for healthy’. While feeling good, it also generates the potential energy, which is necessary for power. Simultaneously it stretches the organs, the internal body, thereby exercising them, leading to health.
Here is one last method for increasing elasticity in the Forms. In Single Whip open the hips and place the foot in the insubstantial stance before moving the arm forward. This again creates the internal tension of a spring. This technique is also employed in Tai Chi Sword for the same reason. Rather than moving sword and foot simultaneously - the foot precedes – imparting a whipping energy to the blade. The Tai Chi Sword manual makes the same suggestion.
In summary, although it takes extra intentionality to extend the limbs and mind beyond their limits the rewards are substantial. Elasticity leads to the generation of intrinsic energy – an essential ingredient in health, vitality & power.
Home Tai Chi Page Tai Chi Excerpts Chinese Alchemy Tao of China