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What is Stillness and Motion in Tai Chi?

I did not understand it from the get-go and only from practising would I get a flicker of an epiphany on what stillness and motion was. Later I would realise that I did not completely understand.

Bu the initial idea is that the mind is still, while the body moves. However, you use stillness to generate motion and motion to generate stillness.

What is stillness and motion in Tai Chi? This principle had me puzzled when I started practicing Tai Chi. These are the types of questions that make internal martial arts esoteric. The classics say, “Stillness in motion, motion in stillness.”


With more practice, it later would appear that stillness and motion are just representations of yin and yang, together making taiji.

As my idea of the concept evolved, stillness being the mind is associated with “sinking” which is letting go of tension to the ground. Or “investing in loss.” Filling up your body with emptiness or no tension. This is constant throughout the body and does not change and thus is still.

The motion comes from the ground and is the reactionary force from the “sinking.” It moves in spirals up “Sinking is spiralling, and spiralling is sinking” as my Shifu would say.

Yi, the mind, or the intent sinks to the ground by connecting to dantien (acupoint below the navel) which then connects with Yongquan (acupoint in the feet). By connecting to Yongquan the whole foot is rooted to the ground, not just the Yongquan point.


Zhan Zhuang practice helps one understand the concept of motion in stillness. As you “sink” and relax the sinews, ligaments, joints, and fascia using the mind the energy or qi can flow with less interruption. The stillness or mind is generating the motion.

And you can then use this principle in the form generating each motion as you release tension down. With the Yang style short form from Cheng Man Ching this is emphasised. The slow pace allows for more lightness and sensitivity. And helps in understanding what stillness in motion.

As you complete the form, you come back to the beginning and can start again, like an endless river.

From a physics point of view.

The mind or intent is like an electromotive force or emf, generating the potential difference which is the motion, the energy, or the qi (pronounced “Chi”).

With more practice, I hope to come to new interpretations, because only through doing does true understanding arise.

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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