Wrist usage in Tai Chi Chuan

Following on from my last post about using the waist, I’ve been thinking about wrist usage in Tai Chi Chuan. According to the Classics, all movements in Tai Chi Chuan are controlled by the waist. “The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable”, wrote Yang Cheng-Fu in number 3 of his 10 Important Points.* However, what about the wrist?

Try as you might I don’t think anybody can direct their wrist and hand movements solely by turning their waist. At least, I can’t. The arm can be directed by the body, sure, but the wrist needs a certain amount of autonomy. The key thing is that the movements of the wrist need to be natural and not over exaggerated.

Moving the wrist in Tai Chi Chuan movements relates directly to the Chan Si Chin, the “Silk Reeling” exercises found in certain style of Tai Chi Chuan. Silk Reeling helps you understand spiral movement, and the way that the wrist moves directs the arm in terms of the physical side of spiral movement.

Having this awareness of ‘autonomous, yet influenced by the body’ wrist movement throughout the form might help you develop your Tai Chi Chuan practice, so give it a try during your next practice session.

* Of course, there’s more to it than this – your mind actually controls what the body does, so the waist may be the commander, but it is itself under the command of the mind. As it says in the Mental Elucidation of the 13 Postures by Wu Yu-hsiang “The Xin (relates to ‘mind and ‘sprit’) is the commander, the chi the flag, and the waist the banner.”

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5 thoughts on “Wrist usage in Tai Chi Chuan

  1. Pingback: Russian Systema and Chinese Internal Martial Arts | alien fiction

  2. Develop some structure in peng, then the arms and wrists can be motivated exclusively by the waist.

    Many folks neglect to develop structure, leaning too soon on the Taiji Classics: particularly on the softness aspect. Firmness, especially in the beginning, is more important.

  3. Ah, cool. I know nothing about those styles. Wish I did, especially about Mantis. I was thinking mainly about Chen style, from limited exposure to it.

    Anyway, looking forward to your next posts. Cheers.

  4. Thanks. I like the analogy, and agree that it can make sense biomechanically, however I think that type of very loose ‘whipping power’ is more at home with other types of Chinese Martial Arts than Tai Chi Chuan. You can see it used in styles like Mantis, Choy Lee Fut and Northern Shaolin. It’s an interesting perspective though, thanks.

  5. > Try as you might I don’t think anybody can direct their wrist and hand movements solely by turning their waist.

    I think I may have heard an analogy to a whip, with an “undulation” starting at the waist and moving all the way out to the wrist. That feels somewhat natural, biomechanically. I think what gives the more natural feeling should be the “energy” propelling the movement, but I have only an inkling of that so far…

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