There is no dantien…

… unless we build it.

Great video post from Nabil Rene whose work in Chen style Tai Chi I’ve been following for a while now. Take a look:

For clarity, his assertion is that the “dantien” is something that doesn’t exist by default, the way, say, your shoulder exists, but that it is formed by the simultaneous actions of other parts of the body. In this case, the hips, back, spine, breathing and more.

I’ve written here before that this is somewhat similar to the idea of the lap in English. The lap is formed by taking a seated position, and when you stand up it disappears.

So, when you form Tai Chi postures, you are also forming a dantien. Or at least you should be.

You can think of this as being an incredibly complicated prospect, but I don’t think you need to. There is also an implied simplicity to the idea. The problem is that when you start out the feeling of ‘strength’ in that area of the body is inherently weak, but correct practice of Tai Chi should be the training you require to start to build that dantien so that it’s a much stronger feeling.

Correct practice on a daily basis is what you need.

Of course, if you talk to Chinese medical practitioners, to them the dantien is as real as any other part of the Chinese medical system, and doesn’t require ‘work’ to exist. But I think that when talking about Tai Chi things, it’s safer to assume that this is not the dantien being talked about.

2 thoughts on “There is no dantien…

  1. A dantien was once described to me as an energy nexus, “a connection or series of connections linking two or more things.” As a nexus, I think of it more like centers of mass, everyone has many, but you may not be aware of them. I think that the dantien concept can be used in many correct ways. For example, the dantien below the navel is a great focal point for diaphragmatic and reverse breathing.

    And, in Chen taijiquan, once again, we use the dantien to control and regulate rotation throughout the body. Unlike simple rotation around a longitudinal axis like the limbs and trunk, the rotation of the dantien includes the trunk’s Vertical axis and the Frontal and Sagittal axes. These may used individually or in combination with each other for rotation in virtually any direction.

    The added degrees of freedom of rotation allow taijiquan practitioners to do some really interesting and often unexpected actions. Rather than trying to visualize each axis of rotation in turn, most of us are familiar with how a ball rotates. This is more like rotating a round a single point rather than changing axes, so it is easier to manage. As we rotate and make changes in our rotation, we can feel or visualize that ball rotating within the bowl of our pelvis. Like other rotations, these rotations follow rules, like the center not moving.

    Use like this can be seen in the video you posted. I don’t have timestamps. During the first push, he rotates the dantien downward and the inside of the arm upward creating a lock catching the partner’s arm.

    After the translation, he downwardly over-rotates the dantien letting the center of rotation move and tries to just lift the arm also without rotation demonstrating failure.

    During the correction, he rotates the dantien downward the correct amount and matches that with the rotation of the arm.

    This also introduces other rules like rotating the ‘correct amount’, and using the rotation of the dantien to create all of the rotations in the body.

    Agreeing with Dennis’ comment, we often talk about “the dantien”, but there are many. In most Chinese systems, these tend to be used in groups of three, representing Heaven (yang), Man (qi), and Earth (yin). These can be located in a number of places depending on what you are trying to do.

    Despite my long comment, I have found ignoring the dantien rather than focusing on trying to figure out how to rotate it to be more effective learning strategy for me. My awareness of what the dantein is doing often comes after I have done it, and reflect back. And yet, focusing on keeping that center point of rotation dead still is often essential.


  2. There is no dantien unless we build it? Yes and no. As you state — in TCM the dantien (or dantiens) — is part of the system, whether it is felt or not. Tai chi can promote sensitivity to dantiens — yes — but to say there is none is the kind of instruction that may keep you dependent on a particular teacher for an extended period of time — and paying his/her fees.


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