An Article By Christopher Pei


The Three Rings


After we have learned the ten essences and understand its concepts, then we study how Tai Chi uses the body structure to produce a stronger frame. 

At the end of a posture, we can adjust the body to find the correct feeling. To find the feeling, adjust the body until you feel the structure is strong enough to encounter your opponent's energy. By without using muscle power, or you can just transmit your opponent's energy through your body into the ground. 

In the study of Tai Chi, creating this new body structure energy is the easy part. The difficulties are in trying to maintain the structure energy during the transition from one posture to the next, or from one technique to the next.

That is also one of the reasons why we practice Tai Chi slowly. It is to feel the transition and maintain the energy. Meditation is a side product, not the main reason for moving slowly. Tai Chi was created as a fighting discipline, a martial art.

When you apply the Ten Essences into your tai chi practice, you will notice the first five essences are the physical requirements. The last five essences are more abstract. These requirements happen in exact sequence. If the first five essences are executed it correctly, then the sixth essence exists. If the sixth essence exists, then the seventh essence happens automatically, and the eighth essence can be achieved, and so on until the tenth essence.

Today, we are going to focus on coordinating the upper and lower body - the sixth essence

In studying the body, we can generally divide it into three layers of defense, or three rings of energies. Let's look at our body from the top down, that is looking from the head down to the feet.

We understand that when we rotate our body, a new energy is created. This new energy needs to be guided through the body and released. A lot of body muscles, movements and directions are necessary to coordination, to transmit this new energy out of our body. 

Whenever the waist is turned, the shoulders will also turn to the same direction. The waist and shoulders are the inner most layers, the inner ring. From the waist down the leg, the knee is the next joint. From the shoulders out along your arm, your elbow is the next joint. The knees and elbows are your middle ring. Finally, moving out from your knees and elbows, your hands and feet are your outer ring.

If you drop a pebble into a calm lake surface, at the point where you drop the pebble, a very small ripple starts to form. You will see the small ripple start to expand its size in all directions and gradually become bigger. As the first ripple expands into a larger size, a second ripple will begin to form and so on onto the third ripple…the first ripple will gradually diminish and so will the other ripples. The lake will return to its calmness.

Our body energy's expansion is somewhat like the ripples in the lake. It starts from the center and expands outward. The body rotation produced the energy, but it must go through our body, one joint or a section of the body at a time, until it reaches our extremities, then to the point of final exhaustion. 

The beginners in Tai Chi are more likely to recognize the hands or arm movements first. It is the body that move first. Energies are created from the inside and expended it outward. Dynamite explodes from the inside out. 

If we use the move of "Brush past the knee and push". We can understand more about this three rings principle. In Tai Chi, the body always moves first. 

The waist rotation controls the shoulders motions. The body rotation will also change your weight in your legs. As your weight changes from the back leg into the front leg, you will feel the back knee extending forward and your front knee sinking downward. 

As your arm passes the knee, you should feel the front elbow pulling backward and your back elbow extending forward. The principle of drawing the bow to shoot an arrow (see Ward Off Energy). 

Finally, the feeling of the knee's energy will go down into the two feet at the same time your elbow's energy will go into your hands. The feeling that you can not extend or expand any more either in your feet and hand, should be completed at the same time. If this occurs, then your energy is expanding equally in all directions. Your upper and lower body are coordinated correctly. 

Practice this feeling of three rings with every move until you feel comfortable then I will discuss the feeling of sinking with you. 

Confucius said: "To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right." This is also the principle of The Three Rings. Applied into our daily life, you will feel the difference in how people responded to you. 

Practicing harder is not a guarantee to understand Tai Chi. Understand the ten essences is practicing smart. Without understanding the force of words (the ten essences), it is impossible to learn more.