Monthly Archives: September 2013

Please… Unlock Those Knees!

Not for knees...

Not for knees…

Speaking of knees—which I was in last week’s post—here’s another little experiment you can try in the privacy of your computer room.

Stand up and, without bending forward, place your palms on your back below your waist.

Now, if your knees are locked, let them go. If they’re not locked, lock them. Play with this a little and see what you can feel your back doing.

My taiji teacher Joe Pau regularly lectures us about locking our knees. He has us put our palms on our backs to feel what happens when we lock our knees, which is that we lock our backs, too—the muscles tighten.

What’s more, says Joe, when your knees are locked, you’re vulnerable. Whether you’re being rushed by a too-friendly dog or a taiji assassin, you can’t do anything to save yourself so long as your knees remain locked. Continue reading

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Bad Bending (with pix)

Bad bending: Knees slightly bent but already over toes.

Bad bending: Knees slightly bent but already over toes.

lean forward

Better Bending: Knees bent the same, with less strain.

NOTE: This post replaces one sent two days ago. The words are the same but some low-budget art has been added which hopefully will help make the words more clear.

OK, folks, here’s a little experiment you can try in the privacy of your computer room.

Stand up, then bend your knees—not very much, not more than 10 percent of what you could do if you were going for the ground.

Now look down.

Are your kneecaps at or beyond the tips of your toes? Hmmm…..

And your hips—are they slightly forward of where they were before? In which case, unless you have hunched over, your head is slightly behind where it was before. Which is to say, bending your knees has caused you to lean backwards.

This is not good.

And yet it is what I and lots of other people do in taiji, qigong and other activities in our lives.

My taiji teacher Joe Pau, who comes to my community center from the Taoist Studies Institute in Seattle, lectures every new class on this matter. He asks us to notice how much strain bending our knees this way creates, and he warns of serious consequences, as in: Do you have an orthopedic surgeon yet? Continue reading


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Up or Down?

Here’s a joke—a groaner, actually, especially if you’ve done much taiji and know precisely whereof the joke speaks:

How many taiji players does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: 100. One to change the bulb and the other 99 to say: “That’s not the way we do it at my taiji school.”

Peter Wayne tells this joke in “The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi” by way of explaining that there’s enormous variation within the practice of taiji. Even the simplest movement can be done many different “right” ways.


I was reminded of his joke this week as I re-read his book and a book on qigong in preparation for classes I’m teaching this fall.

Let’s take the movement that opens and closes the Yang 108 form, which I know as “Raise and Lower Arms.” The movement is part of Wayne’s taiji fundamentals program, where it’s called “Raising the Power”; it’s also the first of the 18 movements comprising the Shibashi Taiji Qigong system, which is described in Chris Jarmey’s book, “Taiji Qigong,” where it’s called “Beginning Movement.” Continue reading

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