Don’t stick out your bottom!

I had an interesting conversation with a reader recently about Tai Chi and butts, which I thought I’d share as it’s a good topic. A lot of Tai Chi people, me included, tend to stick out their bottom slightly during form and push hands. Maybe more so in push hands… either way, it’s a fault that inhibits relaxation.

Photo by Jamie Haughton on Unsplash

I think in push hands it happens because people try to “brace” against the incoming force to stop themselves being pushed backwards, but by going for a short term solution they are inhibiting their progress in the long term.

Q: Do you have any experience of Chen style TCC? I’ve been to a few lessons. Seems like, in order to soften the kua sufficiently, you need to stick your backside out more than in Yang….?! Having spent a whole lifetime trying not to do this, it feels weird…..!

A: I’ve never really done Chen style, but I’ve looked into their silk reeling exercises quite a bit – just the simple one hand “wave” – I really like that and do it quite often.

I’ve seen some Chen stylists that stick their butt out a lot, but to be fair I’ve also seen a lot of Yang styists do the same. I think as part of an opening and closing movement it’s ok (like in Yoga, for example), but leaving it “stuck out” all the time can’t be right. Tai Chi requires you to move from the waist (or the dantien, if you like) and that encompasses both the front (belly), sides and back of the body around the waist line – the lower back is part of that. If you put your hands on your lower back then stick your butt out you can feel your muscles contract and tighten – having a tight lower back as your default means you can’t effectively “move from the dantien” so everything else you do, no matter how clever or artful looking, has to be wrong because the foundation is wrong.

When doing silk reeling exercises I try to keep my lower back relaxed and “hanging down” – that’s the right feel – so the movement can originate there. The form should be no different. I feel like the people who stick out their butt have simply missed an obvious problem with their Tai Chi.

5 thoughts on “Don’t stick out your bottom!

  1. The pelvis, hence tailbone and butt, is a gateway for controlling incoming and ground reaction forces. It needs to be dynamic, so sometimes it will stick out, but sometimes it will tuck under. That’s all OK.

    The mistake is trying to hold it in one position, That more or less shuts down its ability to respond to forces as needed.

  2. Yes, my son. Still haven’t got him interested in marital arts though. He’d rather play on his computer with his friends 🙂

  3. Having to answer the question about knee alignment sent me on a journey of discovery of the unique physique of the homo erectus 😉 The legs are, interestingly, directly connected to the lower spine [lumbar spine], thus, ‘sticking the butt out”, DEFINITELY and adversely affects the entire “root” and concept of “hanging from a thread”, as it is directly translated into the state of the muscles / skeletal system from the Lumbar spine all the way down to the toes.
    When we “sink” to any level, we should focus on tucking in the coccyx / tail bone, which “levels” out the pelvic girdle [kua] and allows a great deal MORE flexibility and fluidity in movement, AND the lower spine and ALL the connected muscles, of the hip joints can relax and align themselves evenly.
    It can become a very involved description from a purely ‘physical’ aspect as there are so many muscles and tendons involved, but the BEST test is – assume the position, and have a partner ‘nudge’ or apply gentle pressure in any direction. And, as they are ‘pushing’ feel the difference in stability and “centredness” as you stick your butt out, or tuck your butt in and relax the back.
    We are often distracted by the “External” perspective – which is different for every one as the musculo-skeletal systems are similar but NOT the same. What is happening Internally is what matters most.
    Peter Williamson
    Cape Town
    South Africa

  4. Hi, I’m not sure how I landed on your site. I was clicking around some martial arts articles, and somehow got here. But how fortunate. I love your blog — you really offer a ton of content, and I took a quick look at your free course — love the video with the kid — your son?

    Anyway, I’ve been practicing for some years and always looking to go deeper, so thanks for all the inspiration.

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