How to Build Root and Correct Your Form with One Simple Exercise

One skill Tai Chi excels at is the ability to direct force inside the human body.

At an advanced level this allows you to direct the force of a light shove our strike inside someone’s body to rupture an internal organ or take advantage of their tension or structural errors.

Master Yourself before you can Master others.

But before you can learn to direct force inside someone else you must first be able to manipulate force inside your own body.

So here’s a simple exercise to get you started.

Not only will this exercises teach you about directing lines of force through the body it will also build your root and you can use it with any Tai Chi posture to find and correct any structural errors you may have.

We call this exercise “Feeding the Root” and all you do is take any incoming force and direct it downward into the ground. Eventually you want to be able to send it anywhere. Up, Out, Back into an Opponent, etc.

Just remember, when I said simple I did not mean easy.

Feeding the Root (beginners version)

1. Begin by standing in Wu Chi.

2. Have your partner put a hand on your shoulder and slowly press downward.

3. As your partner presses downward, adjust your alignment until you feel the pressure from their push on the bottom of your foot going into the ground. Send the force to one leg or the other, whichever feels most natural.

You may have to play with this a bit at first. Have your partner start with a light amount of force and then slowly increase the pressure as you get your alignment right.

If there is an error in your posture, if you tense up, or if you let your structure collapse you will feel it at that spot or you will get pushed.

If your structure is correct then your partner will be able to push as hard as they can while you stand comfortably relaxed.

Partners who are practicing Tai Chi or have some sensitivity will be able to feel you routing the force down into the ground.

4. Now have your partner let up from the place where they were pressing. They should do this slowly as well. You want the energy of the press to flow down into the ground but not come back up. If your partner lets up slowly, it will allow you to do this.

5. Step 4 completes the exercise for one spot on your body. Repeat steps 1 through 4, but this time in many different places on your body. Work from the head to the feet. Press down into the head, the chest, the hips, the arms, the belly, the back and the legs.

Find the areas your partner struggles with and help them make corrections.

If you are routing the force downward the way you should, you should feel the force of the push on your feet. When you feel this, relax and melt your feet and let the force go down into the ground.

Feeding the Root (Intermediate versions)

Once you’ve gotten the basic exercise down, you will want to increase the level of difficulty.

1. Do the same exercise, only this time, instead of pressing straight down, have your partner press at a downward angle.

2. Have your partner press at a mostly horizontal angle, but still a little bit down.

3. Have your partner press horizontally.

4. Have your partner press at an upward angle. (You still direct the force down into the ground.)

5. Have your partner increase the speed at which they push you. Eventually you can train this against strikes. (Just make sure the person striking is careful to protect their wrists so they don’t hurt themselves.)

6. As your partner presses, every once in awhile, they should try quickly letting up on the push without warning you. When your partner does this, you should not jolt or be thrown off balance. This shows whether you are leaning against your partner or really routing the force into the ground.

7. Now do all this with each form in the set.

8. Now while moving through the form.

9. And of course practice this in push hands while your partner is trying to do the same thing you are.

Comments

  1. Hi,
    Your exercise on building a strong root is very good. However, it’s difficult to practice this without an experienced instructor on hand to guide us!
    Traditionally, all the martial arts especially the internal arts, are taught by a master to a student. It’s very difficult, maybe even impossible to learn these arts through just DVDs alone.
    Learning through feeling is very important. This requires an experienced teacher to personally guide us.

    Mike

    • Working hands on with an experienced instructor is certainly very useful.

      …but we’ve also have many students who are successfully developing skill at home. Simply by learning through the videos and putting in lots of hard work with their training partners.

      The “secret” is that you must have good instruction.

      Good instruction will transcend the format whether it’s live, written, audio or video. (though you do have to understand the medium to some degree.)

      Bad instruction will fail no matter what. whether it’s live, written, audio or video.

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