Good transmission of power is dependent on good alignment and precise movement of the joints. This is a fundamental idea for Taijiquan (Tai Chi) students to grasp. Grandmaster Chen Xiaowang loves to use car analogies. He would say: if the gears and shafts are misaligned, only a fraction of the engine power will be delivered at the weels. Increasing engine power will help, but the gears will also suffer more wear. It is also neccessary to care for the gears and shaft alignment.
In western culture, we apply this idea to the human body to a limited extent only. It’s commonly said, for example, that the hips shouldn’t be tilted forward (anteriorly) or backwards (posteriorly) – they should be in a neutral position. But exactly where is neutral? We don’t have a system that describes the ideal alignments of the joints with enough precison. Also, we don’t have a system that describes the alignment of the whole body at the same time, and how one joint influences others. How does the positioning of the hips influence shoulders, elbows and hands?
Moreover, we don’t have a movement system designed to teach the body how to move while keeping all the alignments. Once you get the body in an ideal posture, how do you keep it while moving? Taijiquan (Tai Chi) has an answer.
Enter Taijiquan (Tai Chi) and Acupuncture Channels
Acupuncture sees the body as an integrated whole. Its theories state that the body is inextricably connected at all times, by means of an energy channel network that permeates all tissues (how this network was discovered is a very interesting subject).
Taijiquan (Tai Chi) was created taking this into consideration. It is possible to align the body very precisely, by means of optimizing the natural connections that already exist in your body. The energy channel network used by Acupuncture is a representation of how your body is naturally built, so the connections still exist during movement. By following the body’s natural blueprint, we can keep the alignments during movement.
It must be emphasized that by “alignments”, what is meant in Taijiquan (Tai Chi) is not one single position, or simplistic geometric rules. “Aligning the body” means positioning it so that the optimum transmission of axial power, and the optimum, most balanced distribution of effort around all joints, are achieved. “Connections” does not refer to anatomic structure linkage (like tendon to bone), but to the ability of transmiting spiral movement and power all over the structure.
So, you will hear in a Taijiquan (Tai Chi) class, “keep this posture throughout the Form”. This means that you should try to move the body according to the principles, all the while trying to keep the alignment exemplified by the static posture you were holding when the teacher correted you. Ultimately, the correct body posture, coupled with relaxation, will create the resilient internal body structure we call Pengjin.