Saturday, August 11, 2012

It is impossible to "turn" the hips

A letter from a "Wu Style practitioner":

"I have two of Master Hwa's DVDs and I find his concepts fascinating. I am a practitioner of Wu Style TCC (disciple of the Wu Family). However, we have been taught that all of the movements are generated by the "hips" first, not the "waist". I still do not understand why Master Hwa thinks that the hips should remain less mobile than the waist. The hips are the fulcrum of the body and connect the upper with the lower."

I have never understood how people can say things like "all of the movements are generated by the hips first, not the waist", "turn your hips", "push him harder so that he can turn his hips", etc.  I heard those refrains for years in studying large frame Wu Style and years before I started Classical (Wu Style) Tai Chi. The hips are a large and complex joint of the body and like any joint are necessary for movement.  They are necessary for movement but not sufficient in and of themselves to power or “generate” movement however.  In other words they do not move in and of themselves but move as a result  of action  initiated by other parts of the body.  Stating that they are "the fulcrum of the body and connect the upper with the lower" still is not a sufficient explanation of what powers or “generates” their movement.  A crowbar is a lever that can be used by itself or with  a fulcrum that is properly positioned but without a source of power “generation” it is just a metal bar and the fulcrum sits unused.

 Another thing I do not understand is how people are so blase' to  the idea that  "turn your hip" violates the Classical  rule "hand follows the foot, elbow follows the knee" and how this is perpetuated through generations.  The worst picture is turning the hip with the back foot stationary and pointing 90 degrees.  This  drags the practitioners energy backward. One only has to look at a golfer's stance where the legs stand at right angles to the direction of the golf stroke.  Tiger Woods perhaps is a sad example, didn't he most recently have knee surgery?  Look at his much admired stance, didn't the damage come at the knees?  There is tremendous torque and twist at a golfer's knees as in Tai Chi when the rules are broken. 

This classical  rule about "hand follows the foot..." is obvious in the Tai Chi form but since lots of practitioners give the form such short shrift perhaps this rule does not occur to them when they do applications or free style fighting.  I would also surmise they do not care that they cannot incorporate internal discipline into their fighting either, much less their form. On the other hand, perhaps they simply do not know or never took the time to learn the rule.  When is this rule applied? It is to be applied when the act of turning the hip would violate the rule pure and simple will create a "torque" or "powerful twist" in the knees and ankles.  One can see a grimly humorous aspect to this, where the opponent simply waits for you  to injure yourself, what work do they have to do at that point?  See how health and martial should correlate here?  There is much more power when the rule is followed however.  Also, we can just turn at the waist without turning the hip. I fail to see where there is more power from turning the hip with feet in a static position.  I fail to see how this will not eventually end up hurting the practitioner, even though they crow, " I got him down to the floor", your knees and ankles will pay the price.

The generation of movement for our hips comes either from our legs or from our waist and not from the hips themselves.  The generation of hip movement from the waist also comes with its own set of problems as does the movement of the hips from the legs.   See the attached video for examples of what happens when practitioners turn the waist and the hips at the same time.  In large frame Tai Chi the movement of the legs to turn the hip is called "folding the hip or kua".  A leg pushing the body either forward or backward makes one hip rotate into itself and the other rotate out of itself...hence the inguinal "fold' so coveted by large frame practitioners. As far as "Power" is concerned, one will reduce or drain off power when turning the "hip first" (which as we said is really an oxymoron and impossible because it does not generate its own movement).  

Keep the hip still , turn the waist and then try another experiment where you turn the hip "first" (impossible but you can turn the waist to turn the hip) and you can readily see the difference in the "generation" of power.  What exactly is the mechanism that is used to move in and of itself when one is urged to  "turn your hip"?  There is no such self perpetuating mechanism in the hips wherein one can "generate movement". Your hips "permit", "allow", "tolerate", "provide for" movement, but they do not "generate" movement.  

In Large frame it is true the hips can be rotated forcefully once the legs push the body and they reach the apex of a weight shift. As we have stated previously, however it is also true that power is drained off once the rotation is completed. Classical (wu style) Tai chi uses a compact frame which does this by pulling. In contrast to pushing, all pulling moves are internal and stay energized.  Energy is not lost but constantly recirculated and not dependent on legs for power. In talking about "fulcrums" it is of prime importance as to how one locates or places a working fulcrum. As you can see in the video the turning of hips lowers the yin/yang junction (fulcrum) to area of knees.  One can readily see several practitioners of what I call "external" style Tai Chi, turning their bodies at the hips, lowering the junction to the area of the knees in the mistaken impression that "generating movement by the hips first and not the waist" can be used to "turn the body".

My teacher Stephen Hwa said this about the "fulcrum" (yin-yang junction): "The most important instruction on Internal Discipline passed down from Wu Chien Chuan to my teacher Young Wabu is that":  "Every movement in Tai Chi Form has to have two complementary parts of the body, a moving part (called Yang) and a stationary part (called Yin).  When the yin-yang junction is located in the torso of the body, it is an internal move.  When it is outside the torso, it is an external move".

I include Youtube links to  2 videos below that were excerpted from a  seminar at Rochester World Tai Chi Day.  In the videos, Master Hwa explains it all by demonstrating and then teaching a group of students.  He uses what is called a "Turning" move with internal discipline to demonstrate.

What is a Yin-Yang Junction?

How to find Yin-Yang Junction, how to do turning, what is internal energy?

The video emphasizes the danger of not following the "rule" and "turning the hips".  One can see several practitioners who could really hurt themselves eventually.  Certainly when one is young, you can bounce back from this but as one gets older the danger of incorrect practice only intensifies. Normally, one would expect that it would only be people not trained in Classical Tai Chi who would turn at the hip and carry the torso with it, while the legs have a twisting motion.  However, he recognizes several people who participated in a last years seminar in which he demonstrated this very thing. In fact, I was filming the seminar and I recognized them as well.  In one case, the practitioner is turning his hips so much the legs are not only twisting...they are dancing, with the feet moving all over the floor.  You can see this almost immediately and it is so very obvious.