Posture Testing

Systematic method of checking and rechecking your structure

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The testing of individual postures within our Tai Chi Chuan forms should always form an integral and regular part of Tai Chi practice. A posture that is correct (or more properly correctly positioned) will always have natural, intrinsic strength and stability. Conversely, a posture that is incorrect will be weak and unstable. This is a fundamental Tai Chi concept.  It is said that correct postures allow energy channels to be unblocked, resulting in natural Chi flow. It is this that gives our postures stability and innate strength. With the aid of partner who can ‘test’ for stability and strength in your postures will mean that you have a direct measure of the correctness of the posture. Postures which are strong and stable to testing should reassure you that the posture is correct. However if after testing, a posture weak and unstable, this should alert you that your posture may be incorrect, and may need attention either by yourself, peers or instructors. By excising postures from the Tai Chi form, and presenting them in this continuing series, it is our hope that they will guide you in being able to use ‘Testing’ as a tool for correct form practice.
 
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Testing takes time, and demands attention to detail. It may only take minor positional errors to create energy blockages and hence cause your posture to collapse under testing as the classic says “ miss an inch miss a mile ”. Something as simple as a raised shoulder or ‘mis-positioned’ stance can greatly hinder postural strength and stability. By ensuring we are methodical and thorough in our approach to positioning postures, lessens the likelihood that we

unconsciously slip into these simple errors, which make our postures weak and unstable. The need for a methodical and thorough approach reflects the style in which these articles are written. Each posture described is divided into two main headings, ‘Posture’ and ‘Testing’, with references made to the relevant diagrams which also provide an important reservoir of information. The ‘posture’ section will show how to position yourselves into the posture before we test. You will find the posture described from the feet upwards. By using the same method when positioning yourself into the posture will mean that you will develop a systematic method of checking and rechecking that all the body components are addressed, minimising the chance of simple unconscious mistakes to creep in! Once you feel happy with your posture move to the ‘testing’ section which will guide you and a partner to ‘test’ the posture. Testing is simple, and literally relies on a partner to push on your posture, so that you can assess your own stability, and structural strength.

Remember that it is important at all costs that you avoid using muscular strength as your partner pushes your structure. Tai Chi Chuan is an internal martial art that is based upon the flow of Chi energy, and the strength of your posture should be derived from this energy, and not tensile muscle strength. As you partner ‘tests’ you, stay calm, and more importantly maintain muscle relaxation, focusing your mind beyond the point of push. Only by doing this will you be able to harvest the posture’s innate hidden strength. Reverting to physical force will mean that you lose this intrinsic strength, and instead will be fighting force with force. 

 

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If your posture is correct and you stay relaxed, Chi energy will flow and you will find your posture’s stabile and solid to testing. It is beyond the scope of these articles to cover all Tai Chi variations of postures, and whilst all Tai Chi forms are not the same, all good Tai Chi postures should be strong to testing. No matter what form of Tai Chi you do, adhering to the Tai Chi principles will ensure that postures are strong and solid, and hence correct! Whilst we only describe one of the diversity of Tai Chi forms, much of what is written will reflect upon many of the Tai Chi principles. Either by following the posture section or by checking the posture section for underlying Tai Chi principles and incorporating them into your own form will help the flow of Chi energy, making your postures strong to testing.

Remember these articles are not a substitute for a good instructor who can refine your movements further, as well as add to other aspects of your Tai Chi practice. These articles are meant as a learning aid as well as a point of discussion for all Tai Chi practitioners. It should also highlight the importance of testing within Tai Chi practice, and enable you to independently (with the aid of a partner) assess the ‘correctness’ of a posture. Lastly it is just as important to enjoy testing. Knowing for sure that a posture is correct through testing first hand, (and not just through your teacher’s instruction) will give you confidence and reassurance to move forward and carry on with your learning.

 

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