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Four Fundamental Qualities of Tai Chi Movement

by Sifu David Goldstein

Part 4

The Quality of Huo

Huo means “agility”. You have been concentrating on your stances being stable, strong, and rooted, sinking your Chi with Chen while remaining loose and open with Song. Now is the time to think about Huo.

Before moving from once stance to another, take a moment to feel that your stance is light and energized. Feel like your entire body can move easily at any moment in any direction. Feel that in an instance you can lift off to another stance effortlessly. Then, begin the movement as if you were a cat.

Make you movements as quiet as possible. If you are practicing on gravel, make your steps barely audible. If you are practicing on delicate grass, don't cause any damage to the ground or blades of grass. 

In the TV series Kung Fu, David Carradine's character, Kwai Chang Caine, walks across rice paper for his final test at the Shao Lin Temple. To pass the test he must not tear the delicate paper. This may be fiction, but the idea is very practical. If we are moving with Huo, like a cat sneaking up on its prey, we would not make a sound, break a blade of grass, or tear the rice paper. Listen closely to your stepping, don't grind your feet into the ground on turns. Pay attention to slow, purposeful weight transfer.

It is essential to mentally focus on your body posture, and to control your weight shifting in all your movements. At first, cat-like agility and lightness will conflict with the seeming heaviness of Chen. So forget about sinking for awhile and work on Huo; the readiness and ability to move effortlessly in any direction. Pay attention on how Huo can increase the flow of Chi.

After you are comfortable with Huo, check that you are still strong with your Jing and Song. Finally, bring back your focus to Chen without sacrificing the Huo you have gained.

You will find that you can actually simultaneously be in the states of Jing, Song, Chen and Huo with each one complimenting and strengthening the next. Once you can do that, you will have a completely different level of performance in your Tai Chi.

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