Tai Chi kicks are a great way of testing your balance. Due to the circular nature of Tai Chi technique the sections of the forms where you are kicking often involve turning the body to the left or right while you are standing on one leg. It’s more challenging than a simple one direction kick and is a great training for your balance.
I shot this during this morning’s Tai Chi practice. It’s the kicking section of the short form that we practice in the Yongquan Tai Chi Chuan Association:
You’ll notice that the kicks are done lower than you see in a lot of modern Tai Chi forms. That’s because we’re aiming at the knee. The classical technique for these moves is to block their knee with your foot and pull their arm in the opposite direction to get a takedown. Effectively using the foot as a kind of brace, not really as a kick.
But it’s the training these techniques offer in balance that is their real value I think – a lot of people end up very wobbly on the standing leg when performing these techniques. The key to making it silky smooth is not to think about sinking down into the ground as you raise the leg, but to ‘raise the back’ as you lift the leg. That upward ‘pull’ holds you in place securely so you can deliver a smooth kick.
One thought on “What you can learn from Tai Chi kicks”
Kicking is always an interesting topic. I think the potential of kick training is underutilized in most people’s taijiquan practice. Here’s a perspective of how kicking works for me, not that I really use it to its full potential.
IIRC, there are nine kicking methods explicitly demonstrated in the First form (Chen Taijiquan). None are repeated, and they are all only performed on one side. There may be as many other kicking methods hidden in the form. I’ve practiced many of them, but I’ve never counted.
As Graham says, movements from the form that look like kicks are not always used as kicks. They can be used as something else like a take-down. The opposite can also be true.
Since kicks are only done once on one side. This sounds like an invitation for students to drill these on both sides outside of the form to me. Of course, with repetitions and form adaptations, kicks could be used to drill within the form too. Targets for kicks are typically low, but that does not mean that practice has to be.
I think it is important to remember that taijiquan kicking would only make contact with something solid like an opponent with the parts of the foot you walk on, although shin bones and knees can also be judiciously used.
Here are a few potential benefits of kick training starting with my number one.
Reduces lumbo-pelvic-hip complex tension improving posture and reducing chance of many types of musculo-skeletal injuries and pain.
Improves the mobility of the hips and legs.
Improves overall balance.
High kicking eases and improves low stances and stability.
I use kicking as one way to add variety and challenge to my training. It can be done high or low, fast or slow, meditatively or repetitively, and so on to get a variety of desirable training effects.