Getting Connected

Wu Xing— Five Elements, Five Planets, Five Phases

One of the first techniques to learn in tai chi practice is to “get connected.” Initially, getting connected is manifested by coordinating breath and body; then with continued practice, synchronizing mind, energy, and body in harmonious motion. Then even further, linking intent with feeling, and ultimately, the result of graceful and powerful movement.

There is hardly any reason to go forward in your lessons without a proficiency in getting connected. Fortunately, tai chi is comprised of levels of activity that you can focus on to get connected. The moves themselves for one. I like single basics because you can learn one simple move at a time. It’s easier to remember. We are accustomed to that memory method.

Getting connected and maintaining connectivity results from understanding a few things. For one, we tend to not engage many parts of the body when moving, just those necessary to meet our needs. In tai chi, we have to learn to move everything if anything at all moves. This is an early statement from classic taijiquan literature. It’s like a child learning to walk. We’re trying something that we’ve never done before, or as adults, forgotten how.

Access faculties that have been
out of use and now are out of order.

The task is to focus on letting go where we’re tight. When the body lets go of its tension, it’s like suddenly waking from sleeping when you didn’t know you were asleep before.

Also, tighten up where we’re too loose and disconnected. Some beginners like the image of moving like a string of pearls. The string connects the bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons (the pearls) in one continuous structure that moves in unison, or at least one moves the next and that moves the next and so on until the whole body is in unified motion.

I like to imagine it more abstractly in terms of the five elements ( wood feeds fire, fire feeds earth, earth feeds metal, metal feeds water, water feeds tree.