The common error that robs your power and steals your health

Ben Sterling (Internal Combat Arts Newsletter) <Ben@ClearSilat.com>

We see this error over and over. It robs your power and destroys your health. Even experienced Tai Chi folks do it.

This error is the low back alignment (usually combined with too much tension.)

Most folks walk around with a hollow, a small concave curve, in their lower back.

The problem is that this focuses all the weight of the upper body on that small area. Because this is structurally unsound we start habitually holding tension there as well.

Over time this causes all kinds of back problems and makes the lower back much more susceptible to injury.

For martial artists this error is even worse.

Everytime we try to get power from our legs it puts even more stress on the lower back and doesn’t get expressed in our strikes and throws the way we want.

The fix is to simply take that curve out.

Ideally the back should look straight with a slight outward curve from the top of your head to the tip of your tailbone.

This way any stress on the back is spread throughout it’s entire length instead of being focused in one spot.

You’ll find when you do this correctly your legs get sore and tired because they’re now supporting the weight that was on your lower back. This is OK. Your legs are designed to support your weight and they will get stronger.

You’ll also find that your movements become a lot more powerful without any extra effort.

There is one catch though.

If you use tension to get this alignment correct you won’t get any of the benefits. Because the tension will also focus stress on the area where you are holding it and cut off your ability to transmit power through that area.

There are a few ways to get this alignment right.

Chen style Tai Chi tends to like using low postures that will bring the lower body into alignment with the upper.

Wu style Tai Chi likes to lean the upper body forward to bring it into alignment with the lower.

Yang style uses a suspension and ‘letting go’ to bring the upper and lower body into alignment.

No matter how you go about it, this alignment is vital.

For beginners, who need to undo years of tension and poor posture, I recommend laying flat on your back and placing your feet up on a chair so that your hips and knees are at 90 degree angles.

This will roll your hips forward and bring your lower back onto alignment. Doing it this way will let your lower back open and stretch and allow you to get a feel for correct alignment without any stress or tension.

You know this is correct when there is no space between your lower back and the floor.

More experienced tai chi folks often have an idea for the right shape but don’t take it far enough or refine it enough to get the benefits.

For that I recommend our Internal Push Hands method.

This training method gives you immediate feedback on the structural errors and tensions in your body and forces you to fix them right away.

…and the more you play the better you get and the more you refine those alignments.

At the same time you are learning to feel, target and attack those errors in your training partner.