Boxing with the legs

I was talking with a practitioner of a so-called ‘external’ style of martial arts today and he said:

“The kwa is very important. Opening and closing the kwa builds energy in all the stances… A weak kwa leads to weak footwork, which leads to a lack of jin in hand techniques.”

Sounds like an ‘internal’ martial art, doesn’t it? I’ve been thinking about what this quote means to Tai Chi. People can mean all sorts of things like the hip or pelvis by “kwa”, but the kwa in this context is referring to the inner thigh (before you Chinese language geeks leap on this, I clarified that this was the area he meant later in the conversation). Obviously as you move through Tai Chi postures the kwa opens and closes. It does this by itself if you let it, you simply need to be aware of it.

After playing around with the form and having this quote in mind I was reminded of something my Tai Chi teacher once said to me. It sounds like a quote from the Tai Chi Classics, but isn’t (I’ve looked for it) – so it must just have been something his teacher said to him once.

“Tai Chi is often called ‘boxing with the legs'”.

At the time it washed over me, but now I think I understand.

You can think of it as being a more pithy and concise version of the earlier quote. What powers the punch in Tai Chi? It’s the legs. How do the legs do it? Through correct posture – the kwa rounded and firm, upper body relaxed and able to channel the power of the ground up through the legs and into the hand. Every time you punch feel that it’s the legs doing the ‘punching’, not the hand or arm – that’s where the source of the power comes from. Put your mind in your feet, not in your head. Do this practice sincerely and you slowly start to feel how the whole body is involved in everything you do – it’s your whole stance and posture that moves into the technique, not segmented bits flailing in an uncoordinated manner. It’s truly a wonderful, wholesome feeling of unity in your self.

Work at it, get it right and you can start to feel how your Tai Chi can become “boxing with the legs”.


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