Avoid Pitfall in “Don’t Move”

by pingwei on 2013/11/01

We all understand the importance of “don’t move” in Practical Method. To achieve “don’t move”, there’s a pitfall need to be aware.

In one of my foundation class, we were doing positive circle. I noticed one student’s upper body was moving when he drew his elbow in. I let him stop and pointed out to him that his upper body should not move when he did the first move of the positive circle “in with the elbow.” I also demonstrated to him and other students. Then I let him try again. He’s more relaxed this time when he drew his elbow in, and his upper body didn’t move. When this happened, I knew he fell into a pitfall. This not only happens to beginner students, also happen to advanced students often.   When we are doing yilu, we often come across certain forms which we know very well but cannot execute correctly. We know one part of body could not move, and we could not help but let the body toss around. Then we would let the body “relax” so we can achieve “no move” of that part of the body. Unfortunately, the “no move” achieved when the body is relaxed is useless.  There’s no relations between the “moving” and “no moving” parts, as if the gears are apart, they cannot work together at all.

In mid of October (2013) Master Chen came to Phoenix for a three day workshop. In his very first morning group class, he was constantly reminding us “don’t move.” In one occasion, when he was explaining how to keep the front “kua” not moving in the second move “rotating” in the positive circle, I paid special attention. Here are his words, “ You have to use all your muscles to ensure this (front kua) doesn’t move.” This is the key. This is the answer.

In other occasion, Master Chen also mentioned that power has to be present all the time when we are doing yilu. So, I have my new training goal in yilu. Identify “no move” part of body in every form, use all the muscles possible to secure that part of the body and make sure it doesn’t move while execute every form through out the entire yilu. It will be difficult, but it will be fun and let me have the opportunity to review yilu in more details.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Dickson November 2, 2013 at 6:56 am

Great explanation of don’t move Ping Wei. Your advice can be applied to the whole yilu….thanks for the post..


Carlos Hanson November 5, 2013 at 7:38 am

This was the problem I had with “too loose”. I was not using enough muscles to keep things in place. By engaging the side and back muscles I feel more connected and understand “don’t move” better.

I have also found that getting you body into the proper stance for circles will put your body in a position where it cannot move. It can only rotate. This is very helpful but difficult to do because our body is so tight. Continued effort opens the kua and lets us move closer to the goal.

I appreciate even more the foundations.


Brennan November 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm

I think this is an excellent point Ping Wei, and I totally agree.

I find that in push hands I often have the opposite problem, and when I try and ‘lock’ I tense all my muscles to try and keep them in position. While sometimes effective, I feel like this also isn’t quite the method we’re looking for. I think there is a certain level of ‘engagement’ where our muscles are active but not flexed that we’re looking for.

Any more guidance on the issue would be appreciated.


pingwei November 8, 2013 at 6:46 am

Different problems occur at different training stages. We need to focus on one problem at one time. When we go over the hump, that’s the sign we improve. That’s also the fun part of the process of Tai Chi learning.


Ymarsakar December 11, 2013 at 8:50 am

Try a wall exercise. Use one or both hands to push in front of you, with the wall close enough your elbows bend. As you push, take the reflected force from the wall and send it to your roots. You will notice that your body will start “bending” as the force seeks the path of least resistance. Your muscles thus must activate to force the power to go in a straight line to your roots without bending your body, such as making your spine bow or your waist crunch in.

Things like your shoulder feeling like it is doing work is the result of a “jam”. Energy is somehow stuck there and you’re fighting it using muscle strength. This should combine several different muscles doing very different things together. If you relax totally, you can’t push yourself backwards. If you relax your hand but not your body, you are a stone statue but you aren’t doing any pushes. The reverse would be pushing yourself backwards.

By pushing the wall either very hard for a short duration or continuously with solid power, and remaining in front of it like a statue, you can learn how different muscle activation signals affect your power flow. This is only one direction and with power only applied from your hands, but it is the same concept with other vectors of force.


ksloke January 10, 2014 at 4:23 pm

This is insightful. Can say what muscles need to be activated to ground the forces?


bruce.schaub November 8, 2013 at 8:07 am

The word ‘relax’ and ‘soft’ are the most common associations with Taiji, but people that use those words, often quickly qualify them and say ” well it’s not REALLY relaxed”. That word has me me astray many times over the years and I understand why Master Chen says no to use it, think it, or make that association with Taiji. Taiji is not about ‘relax’.

Taiji is about “Peng”. GM Hong said taiji could be described as the “Art of Peng”… ex. see Jean-Phillipe Ranger’s article. So what is ” Peng “. Master Chen in the article was careful not to define it too precisely. Peng , I think, takes on new layers of meaning the deeper you go and must be learned step by step. But basically can be described as ‘expansion’.

Brennan brings up a good point, that tensing everything up to create a lock might not be exactly what we are looking for either….. “engagement …. where muscles are active but not tense”. That rings true for me. So how can that be accomplished. If peng is expansion, (and I have also heard Master Chen define peng as ‘tension’) how can we create expansion an tension at the same time. We can look to two other words we hear CZH say the most ‘ open ‘ and ‘ stretch ‘….. ” they are all opening moves “…. ” they are all stretches”…. I think our goal is to learn to stabilize ( create locks ) using opening and stretching, but this requires we open our joints and condition the muscle-tendon to where it is tightly connected enough to transmit force efficiently while maintaining total freedom and mobility inside the joints. ” the so called ‘looseness’ is in the joints ” the joints are tightly connected together with just enough space to move freely in it’s little space, like a well oiled ball bearing inside a steel casing. When you push on the bearing the casing does not move but the ball moves freely within it’s housing. Moving without moving. The many joints are connected to each other by tightly connected ‘cables’ (tendons), that when stretched transmit force from joint to joint. But to create locks we have to get a feeling of what is a lock, and what is ‘dont move’. We shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking we aren’t using muscle to accomplish this either. At first we will need to use more muscle than is ‘ideal’ because we are not connected enough and don’t have the full range of motion ( particularly of the Kua ) to accomplish the job. But as we improve we can use less muscle, and more stretch. A type of integrity accomplished with stretched tension.




Kelvin Ho November 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I have not seen the Chinese word “peng” used in any context outside of taiji. Using another English word for it seems to cover only a partial meaning. Master Chen can show what “peng” is on the touch, and that is what I remember. At the first workshop I had, I remembered he said that “peng” was the end result of our training, but people often liked to ask what it was by definition.


pingwei November 8, 2013 at 9:35 am

Somebody please translate the following QQ discussion between Master Chen and his student:
The key word here is “合”. I cannot find a proper English word for it, neither could describe it properly in English.
潍坊-赵治东 (student): 17:52:53
潍坊-赵治东 (student): 17:54:03
陈中华 (CZH): 17:54:57


Kelvin Ho November 8, 2013 at 10:19 pm

When I first read it in QQ, I was wondering what it meant. If I had to translate it with my current understanding, it would be:
Put all your body power at the spot (in this case an axis), and don’t let the power leak out.


Calvin Chow November 10, 2013 at 10:45 pm



KT November 9, 2013 at 9:20 am

Master Chen usually uses “connect” in English for “合” in Chinese. So here the last sentence could be “All the energy of the body parts should be connected to the middle axis”.

My two cents.


Kelvin Ho November 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm


In this particular Chinese video, Master Chen talked about “合” being like wrapped around with a rope.


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