Dantian and the Feet-by Joe Eber

by Chen Zhonghua Taiji Academy on 2024/06/28

Master Chen, forgive me for contacting you without you knowing me. I am a student and teacher of a system called Wu Ji Jing Gong Tai Chi which was developed by Master Chen Jisheng, of Tangshan, Hebei Province.

I have watched many of your videos and I think they are excellent. The last one that I watched was called “Dantian” published by Michael Calandra, and as I watched I was not sure that I understood your meaning of how the dantian moves. I think what you are saying is that the dantian does not rotate by itself, but rather it is moved by the action and interaction of the feet, the knees and the kuas. In our system we follow the saying, “movement starts at the feet…..” so all our movements are initiated from the turning of the feet. And, as one foot sinks, the other feels as if it is lifting or pulling something out of the ground. This is how we move the dantian. Unfortunately, I feel we are in the minority as most schools teach moving from the waste or the dantian. I was wondering if my understanding of your teaching is on the right track.

I welcome your response, and again apologize for this unsolicited message.

Joe Eber

About Chen Zhonghua Taiji Academy

Chen Style Taijiquan 19th generation disciple. International Standard Bearer of the Practical Method system of Hong Junsheng. Second generation master of Hunyuan Taiji. Been teaching internationally since 1985. Educated in the West with a Master's Degree in Education. Highly accomplished through the lineage of two great masters. Disciplined, precise and powerful. He teaches a complete system of taiji based on the principle of yin yang separation; indirect power as a core concept; movement and tranquility as the source of action. In both theory and practice, his taijiquan deals with the problems of double-heavy. He is a real treasure of the heritage of taijiquan.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Gerry Gebhart June 28, 2024 at 4:58 pm


I would recommend this video from the first day of the Iowa workshop last year. Master Chen says everything starts here. I feel the explanation is clear and an essential concept that I must train over and over again.
It does start from the dantian, but we must construct the proper structure to make it useful.


Gora Nebulana June 30, 2024 at 12:30 am

Hello my name is Gora Nebulana from Indonesia. Im 49 yo and accepted as Master Chen Zhonghua disciple in 2018. Im a wushu coach, former wushu athlete and have been studying Taiji traditional and modern for 40 years.

Regarding to your question allow me to answer based on my limited expirience, knowledge and understanding. First of all there is many stages of level in learning Taiji. Depends on the training level once seems wrong training can be the right thing in the future, vice viersa. That is why in this stage to have a complete faith for Shifu is very important. In the beginner level the only objective is to opening the joint especially the Kua because it related directly to the Dantien. In this stage everything woble and tossing. Later on try to focus and all the movement come from Kua (everything else cannot move) which become the movement of Dantien rotation.

Next stage which I found very difficult is reverse the source of power to create indirect force which is all power come from the leg while maintaining the Dantian completly not moving. Because Dantien not moving it become the foundation of all power that generated from the legs.

Is there more stages after this? I dont know. Im still learning and always fascinated with what I learn from Shifu Chen Zhonghua, to see and feel the mesmerizing depth of Taiji Quan. One thing I always remember that Shifu told me, never ever skip level (cutting corners).

Thank you for your attention and sorry for my broken English. 🙏


Franklin Chuah June 30, 2024 at 1:53 am

Hi Joe, I’m Franklin from Singapore. I’m 36 years old, and have been practicing the Practical Method system since 2016. As you mentioned, I agree that the dantian does not move or rotate on its own. Similarly for the feet.

Based on my own understanding, the dantian has to be fixed in place before you can execute a move. The feeling I visualise is that both the dantian and feet are fixed on 2 opposite solid walls, and the dantian initiates the force towards the feet into the ground through the kua and knee. The force then bounces back through the feet and upwards to the knee, kua and back to the dantian. This force then keeps bouncing back and forth until one side moves, which to me is usually the dantian, since the feet is on solid ground.

An analogy I could think of is the car jack. You need to position the top of the car jack (dantian) to the bottom of the car’s body, and the base (feet) to a solid ground. Only when the car jack is properly secured on both ends, then you can lift up the car by turning the handle (the initiated force). In this case, the dantian “moved”, but it was the result of the initiated force on both ends and not because of directly moving the dantian or the feet.

All these is based on my current understanding, and I’m still learning more on how to apply it effectively through my body. Hope it makes sense.


Kelvin Ho June 30, 2024 at 7:29 am

Hi Joe,

Dantian is commonly referring to the area near the navel. In the video, it was represented by the big exercise ball. The dantian cannot rotate by itself, something else had to cause it to rotate. Master Chen was using two hands to hold the ball. In order to move the ball, the hands needed to move. However, if the hands were in constant contact with the ball, he would not be able to complete an entire rotation due to the limits of his hands and arms, and the ball would get stuck and could not advance any further at some point or the ball would simply be turning back and forth. To allow the ball to continue the rotation, he would need to make a switch, which was to reset the positions of his hands in this case. He could not just change the hands, or the ball would drop to the floor. He needed something extra to temporarily hold the ball, so he could switch the positions of his hands. Another student therefore came to hold the ball in his demonstration. In the body, the ball represents the dantian, while the hands represents the kuas. We use the kuas to rotate the dantian. The extra thing mentioned before to keep the ball not moving must not be moving itself. In Practical Method, we talk about “Don’t Move” a lot. When one is free standing, the only thing related to our body that is not moving is the ground. Our feet are the only things making contact with the ground, which we use to keep whichever body part we want not moving. The dantian is kept not moving through our body structure making contact with the ground at our feet. Our training also guides us to create a cradle for the dantian to sit in, so that it is independent of the body part that causes the rotation. In Practical Method, there is the main concept of indirect power, even though the kuas are used to move the dantian, eventually we train to hope to achieve to make the movement of the kuas themselves indirect. The movement starts from something solid and not moving, the feet, which are in solid contact with the ground. The dantian is positioned in the middle of the entire body, and it is used to modulate the indirect upper body movement with the active lower body movement. Taiji talks about the circle, which is a loop that has no beginning or end. We start our movement from somewhere, may it be the kua or foot. The key is to start it, once it is started, the opponent should not be able to tell where it comes from. We train to have different options to start and to switch. Once the body is trained to be connected, where it is started does not matter.



John Saw June 30, 2024 at 10:32 am

Hello Joe Eber,

In response to your qusestion to Master Chen regarding dantain n feet, I would like to introduce myself first before I put my comments forward.

My name is John Saw, a disciple of Master Chen since 2017. Before I met Master Chen, I was a Lohan Qigong Master for over 20 years, an internal branch of Choy Lee Fut martial arts system.

About dantain n feet, like you mentioned, different system have different opinion. It’s actually the same once you get to a very high level of practice. As our feet are the first contact with the ground, everything start from there.
As for whether movements start from dantain or feet, it takes years of practice. Once you put enough time into these practice, you start to understand the internal alchemy. As our body is very smart n lazy, can compensate n move anyway we want, which can cause problems later on in life. That’s where understanding of body structure, alignment, fascia, ligaments, tendons n breathing come in. Then you can say one body, one way to move n one way to breathe.
Everything start from inside as your fascia n ligaments move together, also energy channels that connected to the organs and move like a puppet on a string.
Before that, one has to go through the process of learning like beginner, intermediate n advanced level. Only then one can activate n move from any part of the body, be it from dantain or feet.

Please note that these are my own theory n assumption as a qigong n PM Taiji practitioner, and not Master Chen’s view of your question.

Sincere regards,
John Saw #257


Joseph Eber June 30, 2024 at 11:55 am

Rather than answering each post individually, let me respond to all of you.
First, let me say that I am very impressed with all of you for taking the time to provide such deep and thoughtful answers. I think it is a testament to your teacher, whom I respect very much and think that he is one of the few teachers who not only knows, but can explain in detail the internal workings of tai chi. My teacher, Master Ting, Kuo-Piao (William Ting) who passed away last December taught very similarly to Master Chen.
Many of you indicated that the kua is instrumental to the movements of the dantien, and I completely agree. My teacher consistently emphasized the “opening” of the kua. It took me a while to “get it”, and once there, I realized that there is no tai chi without it. Yet, I find that it is very difficult for most people to open their kuas. I’ve even started asking my students to imagine tossing a baby in the air and catching it, because when we catch something important that we do not want to drop, we bend our knees and open our kuas; it is a very natural movement.

I think, that as important as the kua is for stabilizing and turning the dantien. there is more to it. The knees work with the kuas and have to move in very specific ways to help the kuas do what they do. The knees in turn are affected by the feet which many of you mentioned as firmly planted and interact with the unmoving ground. The way we approach it is by internally turning the feet. The feet do not move, but internally they turn. To feel this, turn your hips by turning your feet internally. The turning of the feet creates a movement in the knees that helps to direct the kuas. We say movement starts at the feet, and as some of you indicated, eventually there is no start, just a flow.

BTW, I first became aware of Master Chen from an article that was published in Tai Chi Magazine maybe 25-30 years ago called, “Q & A on how the Kua Function in Taiji’ from an interview with Master Chen. I was so impressed with that article that I copied it and gave it to many of my students to read. The description of how the kua works is probably the best I have ever read.

I look forward to Master Chen’s reply and to hear more from all of you. Thank you again.



Kelvin Ho June 30, 2024 at 1:41 pm

In Practical Method, the principle is separation of yin and yang. Think of it as splitting ourselves into two, which act in opposite ways. In terms of the foot, you may have seen videos that we turn the foot at the ball of the foot. Ultimately, it will not appear to turn because when we split ourselves into two, one of us is trying to turn the foot, the other is trying to stop the foot from turning. The fight generates a force that is orthogonal to those two. We then direct that force through our structure to another body part, e.g. to turn another joint. Each joint works like a gear within a gearbox, the gears are connected by cables, such as tendons.

The Kua Function article was also the first article I read about Master Chen, and it taught me where the kua was and its function.


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