Thoughts on spirals in the legs

by Clinton Jurke on 2007/02/26

In a recent class, I was fortunate to get some lower-body corrections from my peers and Shifu on the circles. These corrections and instruction have made a huge difference in kua movement and solidifying connection from toe to finger. Would like to share these learnings for discussion.

Start with a positive circle (or negative – doesn’t matter) where the hand moves inward relative to the torso. As the hand moves in this is the intent in the right leg:

  1. right foot spirals inwards (towards the centre line)
  2. right thigh spirals outward (away from centre line) and
  3. right hip (illium) spirals inwards towards centre line.

These spirals do many things to the lower body namely:

  • force the kua to open – painfully but gratifying
  • stop the knee from moving or collapsing horizontally (and preventing knee injury)
  • ensure a solid connection from the ground to the hips

These spirals are along the surface of the skin, like electricity moving along a wire.  In the second part of the circle where the hand moves away from the torso, this same spiral focus moves to the rear (left) leg. The result of this focus has made the structure much more stable and the kua opening more quickly than ever previously. But it has also made the movement more stiff since the mobility of the kua now really determines the size of the movement. Anyone else have a similar experience?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

wujimon February 26, 2007 at 2:01 pm

Hey Clint.

You bring up an interesting thought about stopping the knees from moving/collapsing horizontally, thereby reducing knee injury. This is something I am exploring in my own training and have noted knee pains due to horizontal shifting motions.

I also like how you outlined the alternating spirals from the feet to thigh to hips. Unfortunately, in my own training, not much has really been emphasized in the lower body. Most of the instruction I’ve received has been focused on the top portion (dantien and up) in terms of spiraling and intention. Great points and definitely thoughts to consider!


chenzhonghua February 26, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Good to see that now you are seeing these things. Remember when you started, you had doubt about things that I suggested and you believed you simply could not do. These ideas you presented here show that you are physically at a level to start manifesting these complex coordinations. Congratulations.


Gene March 12, 2007 at 9:06 am

Hi Clint,

Thanks a lot for sharing these instructions. They are very clearly decribed and helpful. I am using these ideas in my Circle practice.

It seems like for the spirals (along the surface of the skin) to happen, there should not be too much muscle tension in the front leg’s system during the first half of the circle. Is this your experience?

Also, yes, this focus does make the movement feel much more stiff, and I have also noticed something in conjunction with that. I remember Master Chen saying, during our January trip, that the front leg should have some of the muscles tightened during the second half of the circle. Doing this (front leg muscle tightening) while the spiral focus of the rear (left) leg powers the movement, feels like it makes the power in the right hand ‘push out’ at a 45 degree angle, (as opposed to it pushing out more toward (or past) the right knee, when the front leg muscles are much looser ). I’m guessing that by ‘posting’ the front leg solidly, it forces the back leg’s spiral energy out of the kua in a more refined and controlled direction. Any thoughts on the way I am conceptualizing these body mechanics would be appreciated.




KT April 23, 2011 at 12:11 am

Hi Clint,

Excellent post. The observation on the thigh spirals outward in the first half circle is particularly helpful to me. I would like to offer another observation from my understanding. In the first half inward circle, the anchor is on the left Kua, so that the right Kua may open. Head, left Kua and the two knees/feet form 3 triangles that will lead the power from the opponent from the right passes the central line to the ground. In the outward half circle, the anchor shifts to the right Kua in order to let the left Kua to open, so that the power generated from the left foot can be connected to the right hand/touching point with the opponent.



Kelvin Ho April 23, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Recently, I had thoughts about the spiral diagrams around the legs that Master Chen often drew. This post described the leg spirals well. I had one question regarding the spirals on the arm. Think of the 2nd half of the positive circle on the right arm. I know I need to maintain the tip of the elbow to point to the ground. I can see the spiral from the elbow to the hand. How should the spiral look like between the should and the elbow? Should the shoulder rotate from top to bottom on the front or on the back as we execute the hand out?


KT April 24, 2011 at 7:27 am

In doing the second half of the positive circle, the shoulder tends to come up protruding out of the line of the power transmission. I think we should intentionally drop/draw the shoulder towards the Kua and open it as much as possible. I feel the rotation of the upper arm, if any, is in the same direction of the forearm.

Master Chen, please correct me if I am wrong.


Chen Zhonghua April 25, 2011 at 5:52 am

KT, right on. The shoulder actually turns towards to torso while the hand away from the torso.


mpekor April 2, 2012 at 8:52 am

Thank you all for this thread (discussion). What I am feeling right away from working on this is “no leaks”. In other words, I am feeling that when I press the heel into the ground, it pushes the force back up into the tandien, and by keeping the tailbone tucked and aligned, the power is contained and force can be pushed out of the opposite heel. If I am careless, the tailbone may be out of place, so the tandien is not aligned, and power is leaked out. That’s how I’m feeling it anyway :-))). I am so grateful for these videos :-)))


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