Click here: "Hand follows the foot..."
The Youtube Video along with a transcript under the video (the small square icon looks like stacked paper), the photo above, and the following is excerpted from Master Stephen Hwa's comments in a 2011 workshop. The subject had to do with internal discipline but also delves deeply into body structure and the benefits of practicing. You will have to link from here to the Youtube video on the subject and can either follow along with what is written here or from the "Description" at the Youtube video itself.
One of the things that occurred to me as I was editing the video for publication was a new perspective on something I had read in "Uncovering the Treasure". A golden rule that Master Young gave to Master Hwa was that the knee does not extend over the toe. It occurred to me that the knee can (incorrectly and harmfully) extend over the toe in more than just the forward direction, it can extend over from a "torque" that Master Hwa speaks of in the video and here. In other words, it can extend over the side of the toes as well as the front, can it not? All of that resulting from a thoughtless rotational action on what should really be a simple understandable concept for a healthy stable knee joint.
Sifu James Roach
Workshop 2011, Buffalo State College:
"If you stick to this Classical Tai Chi program there will be a big improvement to the back. This is an important component about the back. The back will respond to stretching if you give consistent opportunity to stretch and the lower back will improve. If you tuck your chin in correctly, you will also stretch your cervical spine as well. So the parts of this stretch are equally important. This may very well work to correct cervical spine problems or such things as a “knot” in the back of the neck.
So as relating to body posture, that is one of the central themes. In this regard you will be able to have the energy transfer from the neck down to the heel. The energy can flow this circuit without outflowing to the middle of the body, like the lower spine for example. This will transmit all the force to the ground in one uninterrupted flow, it will not be transmitted to just the lower back where it can cause problems.
The other important body posture is referred to in Tai Chi as “Hand follows the foot, elbow follows the knee and shoulder follows the hip”. In other words we do not turn by only using half of the upper body and neglecting to turn the lower. The turning power has to come from the waist and the entire muscles of the back. There is a vast majority of Tai Chi schools that do not follow this rule.
There is a question which has been raised in the past about this rule. Where do we apply this rule? Because we also have turning moves as well. This is relatively easy to see in the form but when you are doing applications with other people, or as in “free form”, when is the rule applied?
I searched the entire form and found there is consistency and explanation actually. It is easy to explain and there are many different levels of explanation for this: Any movement that you where you are going to cause a torque (a twisting force that tends to cause rotation) (the danger of which comes from “shear force” a stress which is applied parallel or tangential to a face of something as in this case a knee or ankle) in the knee or ankle, then you use the rule. In other words, any time you have the potential for a twisting force that tends to cause rotation, key words twisting force which causes rotation to a knee or ankle.
This is surprisingly such a simple concept but people are not following it. One of the best examples of this I can use is a golf swing. Do you see the torque in my knee and ankle? This why golfers have ankle problems, lots of people have knee problems. I am not a golfer so I cannot say but certainly if you “hand follow…” the foot out you will not have that problem. Whether you can do that as a golfer or not, I do not know. However, if you look at our form and in every case, every instance, it is always following the rule to the letter. Now if you examine the “half body” turning movement, there is no torque down at the knees or ankles. So this type of turn is allowed because you see I do not have to turn my foot with it.
Now this is certainly for health viewpoint. For martial art viewpoint, it is this way and you have much more power. More power than the leg lagging behind, in which you are fighting yourself. The torque force pulls your body backward while you are attempting to turn forward.
On another level, remember at one time we came back to considerable argument regarding “turning at the waist vs. turning at the hip”. People have said that “turning at the hip has more power than turning at the waist”. Well, you see, again that turning at the hip is torqueing your knee and ankle. WELL, YOU MAY SAY YOU ARE GETTING YOUR OPPONENT ON THE GROUND BUT EVENTUALLY YOU WILL HURT YOURSELF, YOU ARE ALREADY HURTING YOURSELF.
After all, when you learn martial arts, the first principle is that you do not want to hurt yourself. Otherwise, your opponent can wait just a few years for the damage to set in (laughter). Somehow not hurting yourself and delivering the power really coincide with each other. If you don’t hurt yourself, you can deliver more power. Now there are people, who argued with someone here in the past, now they are very strict…STUDENTS HAVE GOT TO TURN THEIR HIP.
If you are a young person, you can get away with all kinds of movements for awhile. You see this in golfers when they are young but when they get older they are really hurting themselves. Sooner or later this will take its toll."
Master Stephen Hwa