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There are 5 fundamental leg exercises that were taught to me when I started tai chi 7 years ago. Like most things fundamental, most beginners underestimate their importance. With me I was more excited about learning the whole form and when I begin, I would YouTube Cheng Man Ching doing his short form and mimic what I saw. But as I was to come to learn, and I am currently still learning. That Tai Chi Chuan or martial arts forms in general have hidden subtleties that come to light the more you practice.

What are these subtleties?

They are things like relaxing a particular part during a movement, say the elbow to relax the shoulder. The opening and closing aspects. It is things that can be explained but are more efficiently grasped with practice.

What is important though is that what results in learning these hidden aspects is simply applying the principles. We all struggle but with time they start making sense. Like the 10 essences of Yang Cheng Fu. I apply them when doing these five leg exercises. Make sure that the crown of the head (or the acupoint baihui) is suspended from above as if pulled by a string. Straightening slightly and gently the nape as the front of the neck slightly sinks and the centre of the chest or dai zhong acupoint simultaneously sinks as well. Again, at the same time, the upper back is sightly raised. With the other principles simultaneously following suit. These are the subtleties for example I have learned that are not always explained in detail. And they need not always be, it is by getting things wrong that you understand and learn what you need to fix, and this is a result of daily practice.

The above mentioned apply with the first and fifth leg exercise. The first leg exercise for example. Teaches you the dropping of weight into the ground, making one leg have all the weight drop down and have the other leg that is raised empty (“weightless”/with no tension). This allows the learning of empty and full or yin or yang. I in the beginning struggled with balance and with time started to have better balance. To keep your centre is paramount to traditional Chinese martial arts, and an emphasis in Tai Chi Chuan. This where the concept of Zhong Ding comes into play. And from a health aspect, it is this allows one to not be overwhelmed by the pressures of life. One of things that you are challenged with in traditional Chinese Martial arts, is endurance. And this is leg endurance, because when you sink, everything goes below. If you can completely empty yourself or tend to it as closely as possible, then daily pressures will not disturb as much. However, easier said than done!

Below is a YouTube video of the five leg exercises, to give an idea what they are. If you head to our Patreon page, for $3 (USD) you will have exclusive access to in depth videos explaining these fundamental tai chi concepts as well as written material, all for $3,00 (USD).

Written by Narcisse Sadi who is a Tudi (student) of Dr Jeff Lan.  He is a certified 1stDuan Health Qi Gong by the International Health Qigong Federation. And a 1st Duan Yang Style (Cheng Man Ching lineage) Tai Chi Chuan Instructor, certified by Dr Jeff Lan.



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