TCMA: The Yin and Yang of Movement and Martial Arts


Learning traditional Chinese martial arts is a kind of dichotomy.

When playing the forms, one is taught to keep a straight spine - akin to sitting in a horse saddle or standing in the stirrups in posting trot. The head is lifted so the chin lightly tucks and is supported on top of the shoulders. The shoulder blades are pulled back and down, and the elbows remain at the sides of the body. This ensures the practitioner will use their latissimus dorsi muscles as the primary movers. It also develops an elbow-to hip connection. The lower back is neutral and the buttock is tight, taking pressure off the lower back. It is important to be balanced - somewhere between a butt-wink and a tailbone tuck. The knees are soft.

This postural alignment is practiced not only in the forms but also during partner drills and sticking hands. It is emphasized in all movements, but a traditional martial artist finds it is not practical in the real world of pressure testing.

Taoist alchemy ensures flexibility of the spine. In fact, in Qigong and Tai Chi exercises there are movements that mimic a dragon or snake, perhaps simply called a spine wave. When sparring or fighting occurs a straight spine with the chin up is disadvantageous. It is better to have the chin down, the spine hunched and the ability for quick footwork maneuvers.

This is present in all things - the Yin-Yang of movement. Good posture in daily life and while drilling, and broken posture in application. Dividing up 13 Cun to find acupoint Spleen 6 in college and for examinations, while accurately finding the depression above the medial malleolus in personal practice. Wrote memorization and seriousness in learning, and playfulness and exploration in action.

There must be a balance between the two, for all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. However, all play and no work means Jack doesn’t bring home jack-squat for his family to eat. Both, together. The interplay of Yin AND Yang.

Kenton Sefcik