The Light Body in Taiji

by 胡歌 on 2014/11/27

Lecture by Chen Zhonghua
25 November, 2014, DQS

[This was a talk given over dinner here on the mountain. The article is a paraphrase based on my memory. ]

In Taiji there is an idea of a nimble or light body quality. This quality commonly conjures images of clouds and light breezes. When practitioners of Taiji try to emulate or develop this quality, they end up developing a powerless state that engenders their own constant rout, but call it yielding and deflection.

When a baby is born, and through until the time it can walk, it can be observed to continually struggle to move. At first, even lifting its head is an exhausting endeavour. Rolling over will take hours.
However, by the time this baby is walking, its struggle is one of balance, and no longer one of strength. Its movement is now light, rapid and powerful. The infant’s weight, which had caused it so much exhaustion previously, has not decreased or disappeared – it has increased!

Grinding stone / mill wheel

Now consider a large human male. Walking, climbing stairs, running for a cab. All of that person’s weight is being transferred to the ground through their relatively tiny ankles, and yet this complex action is carried out so effortlessly that, when we look at this person,  we never consider their ankles with concern. The ankles seem to work without evident effort or strain. But the weight is unchanged, and the forces are real. There is tremendous strain, and tremendous, competent, effort.

A light body, then, is continuously under competent power, conveying an impression of ease and lightness. Athletes jumping hurdles float. Birds float through the air. A tiger floats as it stalks through tall grass. All are examples of powerful, competent, muscular action creating an impression of ease, even though the full weight of the body is always present, even though additional forces like momentum may be placing additional strain on the body.

The Taiji practitioner training to develop a true light body finally begins to understand that continuous full power, competently transferred through various functions, is the basic requirement. Our full weight must be moved with ease. Paradoxically, then, it becomes obvious that in the process of achieving the quality of lightness of body, one will become very heavy, and must develop the ability to move that heaviness quickly and accurately.

As this training reaches fruition, the test becomes moving lightly against an opponent. Every movement of the light body must carry its own full weight, and the opponent’s weight.

At the final reality check, you will be asked if you can go further and pick your opponent up. Very lightly, of course.

About 胡歌

Practicing Yilu, over and over. Sometimes Erlu.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

pingwei November 27, 2014 at 8:44 am

Thanks, Hugo, for sharing the lecture.


Andre November 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Nice text, thanks Hugo.:)


Wolf November 27, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Grace under pressure. Thanks Hugo. Nice to hear from you.


Rickygene November 27, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Well done Hugo. 🙂


James Tam November 28, 2014 at 7:51 am

Nicely worded recount of Master Chen Zhonghua’s analogy. Thanks for sharing! [Just a thought-moving with ease is key. How do we enable ourselves to move with ease as our bodies change when we become seniors? Is this related to an underlying (and not clearly defined) reason why learning Tai Chi is recommended for seniors?]


Hugo Ramiro December 29, 2014 at 2:48 pm

James, a central component of moving with ease and competent power is the *evenness* of our body (and its power). The quality of “evenness” can be developed by anyone and requires the same methods we are familiar with; opening the joints, stretching, yin yang separation, as examples.
When a body is even, or proportional, it demonstrates a surprising power and nimbleness.
Whatever our age, we look for the parts where we are uneven; the places we are caught. Then we get to work on them with jibengong and yilu.
There are ancillary methods, but they are all very much second to the above.


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