Tai Chi is one of the best ways to relax and stay healthy, as it benefits both the body and the mind.
I personally feel stronger both physically and mentally from practicing it over the years.
This ancient Chinese martial art is sometimes referred to as shadowboxing in China and focuses on slow, flowing movements, breathing, and internal concepts traditionally associated with Chinese culture such as Qi, spirituality, and mental control.
Tai Chi is a growing form of exercise worldwide, particularly among older people who find the fairly low impact movements, focus on balance and breathing techniques helpful for their health and longevity.
There are several stances and techniques in Tai Chi, and becoming proficient in them will take a lot of practice and dedication.
Moving between stances effectively can take even longer.
In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the main principles of Tai Chi stances, and some of the best stances to try and learn.
If you’re a total beginner, there are some general principles you should keep in mind.
- The end of one movement is the start of the next
- Movements are graceful and flow into each other
- Movements may seem slow but must be executed with intent. It can help to imagine that you are performing movements underwater.
These simple ideas will help you to get started and begin exploring Tai Chi and its benefits.
There are many Tai Chi Stances and they are often geared towards a particular type of benefit.
Here we will highlight some of the most popular stances and illustrate how to use them.
Horse Stance (Ma Bu)
This stance is often used as a means of transferring between different movements and forms and is very versatile, while also being fairly simple.
To begin this stance, place your feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
Next, bend your knees until your knee joint is roughly positioned at a 90-degree angle.
While in this position maintain an upright torso position that is centered and calm.
Keep your knees facing forward and do not let them turn inward or outward.
Keep both feet flat on the ground.
Ensuring that your knees are in line with your toes will prevent injury and help to promote balance and good posture.
Bow stance, also known as Mountain Climbing Stance (Deng Shan Bu, Gong JianBu)
This is another very important and common stance, that is geared towards offense.
To begin, place one leg forward until the knee and toes are lined up and this leg is taking around 60 percent of your body’s weight.
The toes of your front leg should be pointing roughly 15 degrees to the inside of your stance, a very small but important adjustment.
The rear leg should be grounded and take the rest of the body weight.
This leg may be bent slightly, with the heel of the rear leg as low to the ground as possible, if not flat.
The upper body should remain upright but relaxed and neutral, remaining perpendicular to the ground.
Empty Cat Stance (Xu Bu)
This stance is another offensively focused stance that will allow you to perform a kick to the front.
It is similar in many respects to the Crane stance, however, in the Empty Cat Stance, both feet remain touching the ground.
To enter Empty Stance, place one leg forward, allowing it to only take around 10 percent of your body weight.
Allow your back leg to take the remaining weight, using it to support you and maintain an upright torso.
You may bend your back leg slightly to ensure resistance and agility.
Your front foot can either be positioned to allow your heel or toe to touch the ground, depending on your preference, but only the heel or toe should be down.
Tame the Tiger Stance (Fu Hu Bu)
This stance is a defensively focused position that can be used for low attacks.
It also requires a great deal of focus and precision.
To enter this stance, stand with both feet spread beyond the shoulders and sink down into a squatting position.
As you squat down your weight should be mostly over one leg, which will bend, while you keep your other leg straight.
The leg that is squatting must be bent at a 90-degree angle, with both feet remaining flat on the floor.
To avoid injury always remember to keep your knee in line with your toes.
The resulting position should have you in a fairly deep squat, with your straight leg pushed out to the side and flat, while your squatting remains bent.
Again, maintain a straight posture, keeping your spine upright and head up.
Three Main Principles
The movements and focus on positioning in Tai Chi both develop power and allow you to unleash it in a controlled manner.
Unlike more explosive and intense movements, the deliberate and controlled nature of Tai Chi promotes a highly coordinated and focused use of power that relies primarily on excellent posture.
Good posture is one of the most important aspects of physical health and is also one of the things Tai Chi heavily relies upon.
Keeping the head and spine in alignment and the body’s joints to remain open enable you to build your power and harness it efficiently.
While Tai Chi is often perceived as slow, it promotes excellent agility thanks to the building up of core strength and balance.
While many martial arts rely on jerky movements and erratic positioning of the body, Tai Chi forces practitioners to calculate their movements (see all the 10 form Tai Chi movements) with precision and focus on keeping joints open.
This in turn builds balance, especially as practitioners advantage and begin undertaking more difficult movements and stances.
Above all, Tai Chi promotes health, both physically and mentally.
The stances in this art are designed to always maintain open gates to allow our blood to flow easily.
This means that elbows, knees wrists, and even our shoulders are not permitted to close tighter than 90 degrees, to promote these principles.
The movements are graceful and performed slowly to help massage the internal organs and stretch parts of the body that normal exercise cannot or does not target.
Tai Chi’s focus on mental health is also highly effective and many practitioners find several benefits, including;
- Improved Mood
- Reduced Stress and Anxiety
- Better Sleep
- Improved Confidence
- Improved Concentration
All of these benefits are often accompanied by improved aerobic fitness, improved strength and flexibility as well as better balance.