How to Develop a Body Method in Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua

In martial arts, a body method (also known as "body mechanics" or "body structure") refers to the way a practitioner uses their body efficiently and effectively to generate power, maintain balance, and execute techniques. It is a fundamental aspect of martial arts training and involves understanding how different parts of the body work together to produce force, maintain stability, and move fluidly.

Body methods can vary significantly between different martial arts styles and systems. You can even go to different teachers in Taiji and some will have a strong body method and others won't even mention it. The ones who don't mention it usually have weak gongfu. The more a teacher promotes health and "moving" meditation, the lower the quality of their body method, in my humble opinion.

In all sports that require your body to produce force and power, there are specific ways of moving the body most efficiently, although there are a lot of different personal styles of doing that. Look at different baseball players, for example, and few of them will hold a bat or swing or throw exactly the same way. The same is true in martial arts, especially Chinese gongfu. Each person in Taiji, for example, puts his own stylistic flair on his art. But the body method relies on specific principles.

A good body method generally focuses on principles such as:

  1. Alignment: Proper body alignment helps to maintain structural integrity, which allows the practitioner to generate force efficiently and transfer it through their body.

  2. Posture: Maintaining a proper posture is important for balance and stability. It also helps to facilitate proper breathing and reduce the risk of injury. Structure is 

  3. Center of gravity: Understanding the center of gravity and learning to control it enables martial artists to maintain balance, shift weight effectively, and generate power in their movements.

  4. Relaxation: Learning to relax the muscles when not in use helps to conserve energy, increase speed, and improve overall fluidity.

  5. Breath control: Proper breathing techniques can enhance endurance, maintain focus, and contribute to the generation of power in techniques.

  6. Rooting: The ability to maintain a strong connection to the ground, which allows martial artists to maintain balance and generate power effectively.

  7. Coordination: Developing the ability to synchronize the movements of various body parts to produce smooth, efficient, and powerful techniques.

  8. Leverage: Applying the principles of leverage to manipulate an opponent's balance, force, or momentum.

Each martial art may have its unique emphasis on specific body methods or principles, but the overall goal is to develop a strong foundation, structure and method of moving that enables a practitioner to execute techniques with efficiency, power, and control. 

I start new website members in our Internal Strength section. In my nearly 50 years of martial arts practice, I think there are six important body mechanics that you need to know to develop quality Taijiquan, Xingyiquan or Bagua Zhang. In yesterday's live Taiji classes on Zoom, we took apart two silk-reeling exercises and I explained how each of the six body mechanics work in that movement.

Those six body mechanics are:

1. Establishing and maintaining the ground path.

2. Establishing and maintaining peng jin. The ground path and peng jin are always present.

3. Rotating the Dan T'ien.

4. Opening and closing the kua.

5. Silk-Reeling movement.

6. Whole-body movement.

When you can practice a movement in form or a fighting application and be able to explain how the six body mechanics are working within that movement or application, you have the foundation for excellent internal gongfu. There is more that you will need to develop your body method, but this is the foundation.

My goal in teaching is to save my students (website members) time in learning the concepts that took me decades to learn. It is very difficult to find teachers who know these skills or teachers who will teach them. It shouldn't be that difficult. My goal is to see that it isn't that difficult. But knowing the foundation and embedding it into every movement is a long-term endeavor. It is challenging and it takes many years of practice, thought and study. After all these years, I'm still working on it.

--by Ken Gullette


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