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The Hip and its Function

The Human Hip Bones
The Human Hip Bones
In analyzing the principles of Taijiquan movement we can think of the human body as divided into three major sections - the Lower Body, the Trunk of the Body and the Upper Body. Likewise the major sections can be further subdivided into three sections or joints each: Lower, Middle and Upper (or Base, Middle and End). Some subsections can be divided further. In general the more detailed our knowledge of our body mechanics the more exact we can be in our sense of the flow of our motions.

There are two elementary motions in our physical activities. They are: the turning of the body with the waist as an axle, and the shifting of our center of gravity from one leg to another.

Just how do we shift our weight?
How exactly should we "turn" and "shift" in a particular movement?

Since we are in training, we need to be more conscious and precise in such matters than the average person. Learning to coordinate shifts in our center of gravity with the movements of our hips is the "secret" purpose of the famous "figure 8" hip movement referred to in the practice of Chen Style Taijiquan. This is like the basic oft-stated requirement, "As you move, shift your weight (or hip) from one side to another, with the crotch moving on a downward curve: never shift on a straight line." Focused, intent training in Taijiquan is the deliberate pursuit of perfection in movement. Mindless rote practice, for its own sake will not make for perfect movement. Only proper practice, will make for perfect movement - and, in time, effective responses under pressure.

Laying Down Railroad Track
Laying Down Track
Consciously moving one's hips in "figure 8 cycles" with every shift of weight is like laying down railroad track. It's hard work and it takes time and focused attention. Once the track is "in place" (i.e. the movement of the hip has become habitual) it's there, ready for whenever and /or wherever the train comes and goes. Likewise when we focus on other aspects of Taiji movement, we are also laying down "invisible tracks," re-programming ourselves bit by bit as we practice our solo forms and drills. Thus when situations arise where we have to respond to an opponent's movement, we will intuitively react with movements we've practiced so rigorously. Our movements will be on track, the better to force our opponents off track.

Here are a few points we should pay close attention to when we apply a cyclical "figure 8" to our hip movement: Figure 8
Figure 8 Pattern your hips should follow

  • Differentiate between the movement of your hips and the turning of your waist. When moving the hip from side to side or back and forth we must try to minimize the movement of our waist. If your waist moves too much you cannot train the hips properly.
  • This does not mean we should hold our waists unnaturally still either thus adding unnecessary and unwelcome tension to the middle of our bodies and limiting our ability to respond effectively. The waist should be relaxed and responsive, not rigid. Thus it is acceptable for our waist to turn a little as long as the movements (and function) of our hips are not compromised.
  • Exaggerate the movement of your hips while training. Gradually this exaggerated movement will result in the hip joint gaining a great range of motion. This is what is meant by "opening the hip" or "opening the kua" We are giving our hips more room to move.
  • We should be cautious however. We must be careful not to overdo it, keeping our hip movement in check when in actual use so not as to throw too much of our weight to one side of our bodies or another. We should always try to keep our center of gravity over one of the two one-third-points in the distance between our feet in any given stance.
  • To be effective, always remember to have the anterior, or front, of the hip facing the direction we intend to move.

The effects of consciously practicing figure 8 hip movements are cumulative. Correct hip movement supports a strong structure with a flexible base in the hips and coordinating this movement with the movement of one's shoulder joints leads to an intuitive understanding of the correct use of the limbs emerges. The limbs are used for both gathering up and circulating the energy. Advancement to a high level will not be possible unless you internalize an intuitive understanding of the body's structural alignment, and how it relates to the origin of the body's spiraling, twisting, and twining force. High level practice requires this kind of patient and intent focus on the internal dynamics of each and every movement.

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