The Kicks

The Kicks

Postby tai1chi » Tue Apr 03, 2001 2:33 pm

Hi Audi,

you wrote:

"As for the kicks, if all T'ai Chi movement is supposed to be guided by the waist, what does the waist do to generate the power of the kicks? As I perform the heel kicks, I do not alter the orientation of my torso and hips. I even wonder whether the straightening of the standing leg is supposed to contribute to the power of the kicks."

IMHO, the waist absolutely generates the power for kicks in tjq. Maybe you or another Chinese speaker might want to define what is meant by "waist," though. Imv, it is slightly larger than the beltline we associate it with. The power for any kick comes from a movement of the waist forward, backward, or a rotation left or right, or a combination/alternation of all. (Up and down will count, too, in some styles). Anyway, imho, the simplest way to look at kicks is to think of them simply as exaggerated steps. Kicking is just like walking. Analogically, whatever you use to "step" when you are doing the form is precisely the same that you will use to "kick."

My two cents.
Steve James

BTW, Audi, imo, you insight is impressive.
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Postby NickC » Tue Apr 03, 2001 6:35 pm

Steve,

Are you so sure? I think it depends on the kick. I think that in the normal front kick (for want of a better description) the waist does less in terms of being a point of focus. With my limited understanding it would appear that with the supporting leg straight the emphasis is in not exagerating any waist movement. It must instead ensure that the whole body moves as a stable, supported, integrated whole - you're on one leg after all. Although you simply bring the leg up, a soft contact should bring with it the entire weight of the body. Therefore no joints should twist much, should all be very subtle (apart from the hip joint of course, though as I'm learning this discussion board actually looks for what you mean and 'arse covering' is less necessary then on other boards where they are just waiting to rip you to shreds). It's more like 'inch power'.
Then you can project and use intention as well - very potent.
However in other kicks like right at the end of the form, the dynamic is very different. You can't butt the opponent as you are pulling him across you as you kick the opposite way - much more waist work. More coiling, winding and unwinding. And it's so difficult to perform with a straight supporting leg, that I'm sure you shouldn't be trying to to the same extent. That last kick is more whipping. Less butting.

NickC.
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Postby tai1chi » Wed Apr 04, 2001 1:01 am

HI NickC,

"Are you so sure? I think it depends on the kick. I think that in the normal front kick (for want of a better description) the waist does less in terms of being a point of focus."

Well, I guess I have to say that I'm absolutely sure --and just risk it. Remember that I am just advocating the classical dicta in that, if the waist is not used, then the movement is, by definition, localized muscular movement. Really, I think the question is "how is the waist used" in the front kick. IMHO, the best example is the one I gave about walking. If the waist doesn't move, then it's quite difficult. Of course, if we define the waist as limited to at or above the beltline, then it's possible to keep the beltbuckle facing directly forward. I tend to include the "kwa" and the tops of the thighs as comprising the "waist." I'll be more controversial, perhaps, by suggesting that all movements are the product of a "whiplike" action that is controlled by the waist --as you choose to define it. One description I've heard likened it to the way an octopus moves its tentacles. I guess if you think of using the front kick from a stationary positions, as in the form, the problem is amplified. These are all my opinions, but maybe it would be clearer if you tried to do the form quickly. When done that way, it is easier to see that the kick (can be) an extension of the spin that precedes it. This "energy", imho, is controlled by the waist. Though, I know that most people "spin," "stop," then "kick." Personally, I see it all as one "movement."

Just my opinion, as always, follow your teacher's advice.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Apr 04, 2001 5:49 am

Hi Guys,

Just something for you to try.

Do a kick and feel where the rest of the energy is going. What do I mean by "the rest" of the energy? Remember the physical law "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?"

OK?

Now do the kick over, and channel 'the rest' straight into the ground. Do it again and channel the rest into the opposite hand. And again, channel into the the hand and the ground.

Do it again - ground, hand, hand and ground, but this time pay attention to your waist.

Feel free to play with this channeling 'the rest' in whatever direction you choose.

David
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Postby NickC » Wed Apr 04, 2001 11:50 am

James,

Yes - though a bit more, tried things fast and slow. Agree with you now.

David,

Tried your exercise, much prefer equal opposite reaction going into the ground.

Thank you both.
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Postby Audi » Sun Apr 08, 2001 6:35 pm

Hi Steve, Nick, and David,

Thanks for your responses. With so many kicks in the form, I still find it somewhat surprising that more emphasis is not put on teaching the energy dynamics.

First, let me clarify that I am not a Chinese speaker. My knowledge of Chinese comes from an odd perspective. I am a language nut and devour dictionaries and grammars in several languages, without attaining any real level of mastery in most of them. I know a great deal about many of the trees in the Chinese language forest (basic grammar, many character derivations, some dialect topology, historical development, etc.), but am still fundamentally a "city dweller" who cannot always tell a pine tree from an oak tree.

As for the term "waist" (or "yao") itself, it is a common word, rather than something technical, at least outside the T'ai Chi sphere. Think of a psychologist using the term "mind" simultaneously in its everyday meaning and in quite evolved senses.

From my dictionary grazing, I think the term "yao" has a natural connotation of "pivot" or "narrowest part" that is absent in the English translation, as well as in most European languages I am familiar with. Think perhaps of a wasp's waist, rather than an elephant's.

From the Association newsletter and other sources, I think T'ai Chi use of the term "waist" refers to the soft tissues around the lumbar spine and explicitly does not include the kua, "hips," or upper spine. If, for example, someone were to hold both your shoulders and hips firmly in place, I believe you could still twist your waist a very slight amount.

Another example would be to sit on a swiveling chair, lift your feet off the ground, leave your elbows on the arm rests, do not move your thighs at all, and then use your waist to make your "belt buckle" face a diagonal. Your upper spine and shoulders will, of course, follow the movement, but they will have little control over the facing of your belt buckle.

As for the kicks, I find David's advice to channel the "rest" of the energy into the ground very helpful, as usual. Unfortunately, though I do not find this helpful in resolving what to do with the waist, if anything.

Steve, you mentioned treating kicks like exaggerated steps. To me, this works if vertical bending movement of the waist counts as waist movement and if one does not pause with the leg cocked. This is indeed how I have seen kicks performed on the very few occasions I have seen them performed by people whose form is similar to the Yang's. Unfortunately, the Yangs seem to have no problem pausing after straightening their standing leg in a way that would seem to dissipate any energy gained by whipping the pelvis and the kicking leg under, forward, and up into position. Do you all see this differently?

I think what I have been striving for is what Nick describes, with perhaps a slight twist of the waist. For instance, in a right heel kick, I stand straight on my left leg and cock my right leg without bringing up any energy from the ground yet (I am not advocating, simply trying to ape my teachers). I then stretch my right leg forward with a slight counterclockwise twist of my waist as I extend my kicking leg to the maximum, open my right kua further, and feel for my connection to the ground through my standing leg.

By the way, Nick, although I agree with you about the increased stability of bending the standing leg in the Lotus Kick at the end of the form, bending the leg does reduce the power for me, since it obscures my feel for the ground.

Since my hamstring flexibility is severely challenged and I have difficulty with being really sung in the kicking position, I cannot really decide whether all of this has much power, at least in relation to a Karate kick. In any case, the precise use of the all important waist is what has been puzzling me.

Many styles seem to use the springing action of the standing leg as an important component of the kick. Do you all feel this? Do I have it wrong that this is not the essence of the way the Yangs perform the straight kicks?

Best regards,
Audi
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Apr 09, 2001 6:35 pm

Hi Audi,

you wrote:

"From the Association newsletter and other sources, I think T'ai Chi use of the term "waist" refers to the soft tissues around the lumbar spine and explicitly does not include the kua, "hips," or upper spine."

Neither am I a speaker of Chinese, but I've heard that "waist" is usually translated as "yao", but the Chinese idea of "yao" is not exactly the same as the Western idea of "waist." Then, of course, there's the "kua" or hip/upper-outside of thigh and "dang" or crotch. Taken together, they can represent the center of the body. Imho, it's possible to stand without moving thse elements, but it's very difficult to move without using them. OK, arm movements are possible, but I'm still convinced about leg movement --let alone body movement. Imho.

You also wrote:

"Steve, you mentioned treating kicks like exaggerated steps."

Yes, I used the "walking" analogy. You're absolutely right: I don't think of "waist" movement as simply rotation on an axis while standing still. The waist can move in time and space without rotating. As other posters have written, it can bend, tilt, open, close, and all while in rotation, btw, and all while being carried by the legs. As I said before, I feel it is the [command]center of all movement/s. I'm just explaining my reasoning, btw, not arguing against any other position.

"To me, this works if vertical bending movement of the waist counts as waist movement and if one does not pause with the leg cocked. This is indeed how I have seen kicks performed on the very few occasions I have seen them performed by people whose form is similar to the Yang's. Unfortunately, the Yangs seem to have no problem pausing after straightening their standing leg in a way that would seem to dissipate any energy gained by whipping the pelvis and the kicking leg under, forward, and up into position. Do you all see this differently?"

Well, I was also taught to pause, but we're talking about doing the form and there may be a difference. I was also taught, at first, to put my foot down at the end of the spin, sometimes with the explicit instruction to "balance yourself." Later, I was told not to put the foot down. Then, of course, the form was done faster, or the movement was isolated and done quickly. For me, it became more apparent why the foot was used more when the form was done more slowly. Maybe the same is true for "cocking the leg." Besides, "even if the movement is disconnected, the intention connects it."

YOu wrote:

"Since my hamstring flexibility is severely challenged and I have difficulty with being really sung in the kicking position, I cannot really decide whether all of this has much power, at least in relation to a Karate kick."

I odn't know how others feel about this, but I've never ime met someone who is a really good "kicker" who hasn't done them each (but at least one) literally thousands of times --and thousands of these against bags or opponents. That's another reason why I use the "walking" analogy. When your kicks become just "leg movements" --maybe better, "body movements"-- then, it's not likely you'll be able to kick effectively. There's no secret to a Karateka's or a TKD's kicking ability. OTOH, learning how to kick effectively is not necessarily the objective of all practitioners. And, of course, for those over 25, it's better to start slow. BTW, I've seen people stand up somewhat to do Sweep Lotus, but I think I agree with Nick that the supporting leg should remain bent.

"Many styles seem to use the springing action of the standing leg as an important component of the kick."

Well, true, in this case, if you straighten the supporting leg, you will lose some of its "spring" energy. Anyway, all this is just my .02.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby DavidJ » Mon Apr 09, 2001 8:47 pm

Hi Audi, Steve, Nick,

I have a general rule about kicks: if you're kicking, say, above the knee, raise the knee above the hip before accelerating the foot. This protects the knee.

I was taught to pull my hip back when I shift my weight back. If the left foot is forward, the left hip pulls back as the left leg pushes away from you, pushing you back.

The hip and leg move together dynamically.
Consider the movement from 'Brush Knee' to 'Needle to Sea Bottom,' before the left heel is lifted off the ground the left foot is pushing the body back, and in setting up for 'Needle' I move shoulders right/hips left.

To a certain degree I see kicks as stepping backwards. Let me explain, if I can.

In 'Separation of the Right Foot,' I stand shoulders left/hips right. As the right hip moves right, the left shoulder moves left; as the right knee rises and moves to the right, the left elbow moves left; as the right foot kicks, the left hand moves left. The foot pushes away as the hip is drawn back. The hip movement is small, but the pressure is there and it is part of connecting the right foot and the left hand.

Audi, you wrote, "For instance, in a right heel kick, I stand straight on my left leg and cock my right leg without bringing up any energy from the ground yet (I am not advocating, simply trying to ape my teachers). I then stretch my right leg forward with a slight counterclockwise twist of my waist as I extend my kicking leg to the maximum, open my right kua further, and feel for my connection to the ground through my standing leg."
I go the other way.

In a right heel kick I twist the waist clockwise (as seen from above.)Again, it is a small movement.

Audi, you wrote, "To me, this works if vertical bending movement of the waist counts as waist movement and if one does not pause with the leg cocked. This is indeed how I have seen kicks performed on the very few occasions I have seen them performed by people whose form is similar to the Yang's. Unfortunately, the Yangs seem to have no problem pausing after straightening their standing leg in a way that would seem to dissipate any energy gained by whipping the pelvis and the kicking leg under, forward, and up into position. Do you all see this differently?"

Approaching 'Right Heel Kick' from 'Parry and Punch,' I'm already shoulders left/hips right, and the position of the hips once I am on my left foot allows me to kick immediately, or pause, with no problem. I was taught to pause at first, but taught later that the pause isn't necessary.

This is much more easily shown than simply described. I hope that this isn't too radical a departure from what the Yangs do.

David

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 04-10-2001).]
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