My 60 movements are derived from Professor Cheng Man-Ching’s 37 postures. I am using the term movements, which I feel is more descriptive than postures. I modified Prof. Cheng’s short form because during my first decade teaching I was often asked by my students about the “missing parts” of the Yang-style long form. It was not until I had taught for 20 years that I felt confident enough to make a change by adding various parts and removing some repetitions.
The 60 movements I have now adapted remain the same in basic idea and principle. The length remains unchanged, and I count each individual posture and each repetition as a movement. All movements are as slow, soft, and gentle in a continuous flow as Prof. Cheng’s original short form.
However, compared to versions generally taught, my 60 movements are slightly higher in stance and smaller in step. This difference is intentional. In the slow motion of Tai Chi Chuan, body weight is mostly on one leg. If the student is relaxed, as he/she should be, their weight tends to sink down. As a result, it may cause fatigue and exhaustion in the legs, which leads to an unconscious upper body tension. Ultimately this might affect the smooth inner qi energy flow and body coordination.
My higher stances and smaller steps are designed to keep the body more relaxed. It makes it easier to release the crotch鬆胯, bend the knees and slide the tailbone backward while keeping the triceps floating in the air. This releases the tension in the ribcage. The hip-joints creasing and body sinking stabilizes balance and allows the mind to be focused. This contributes to the full commitment of the awareness brain to direct the movement of qi氣.
Qi is an action energy that is directed by the awareness in the brain. Fingers and toes are the remote objectives of the brain. The awareness rises, the toes crunch against the floor and the fingers spiral outward. The Chinese acupuncture diagram refers to the big toe and the thumb as part of the brain. I call the top of head “brain No. 1,” the big toe “brain No. 2,” and the thumb “brain No. 3.” These three brains are the dynamic source of human action.
Without these dynamic sources, we were not able to build our modern civilization. To integrate these three brains in Tai Chi practice is the basic goal of the martial artist. When the brain is informed by a target, the toes step in and the fingers deliver the knuckles for a punch without any delay.
In the slow motion of Tai Chi Chuan, when the awareness brain is rising, the qi inflates and fingers move as the toes crunch. That is the central point of my 60 movements. The toes crunch, arms float, fingers move and body follows, it appears as if the fingers are dancing. Therefore, I have referred to these movements as “Finger Dancing” for the past 40 plus years.
I emphasize crunching and scooping toes into the ground in my Tai Chi classes. This helps to empower the flow of qi. The deeper the crunch into ground the more qi energy rises into the fingers. That enhances the martial artist’s strength in his/her action.
Crunching the toes builds up the toes’ strength which help us to walk, run and jump. It is very helpful to seniors for maintaining or regaining their walking ability, stabilizing their balance and reducing the fear of falling. Strong toes make the legs strong, which enables an 84-year-old like me to teach all my classes. When I teach for 5 or 6 hours in my annual domestic and oversea workshops I never feel the need to sit. Also, I am very happy that I still able to walk up the 10 floors in my building every day without depending on the elevator. Life is never happier than when one can live independently without depending on help from others.
In addition, the toes crunching against the ground boosts oxygen-enriched blood (氣血) and qi energy, which then penetrates to the toes. This may be considered as a treatment or prevention of diabetic disease. When those who practice for general health and concentrate on energizing their toes through this crunching action, they boost their qi energy streams throughout all meridians, which results in good health and longevity.