Zhong Ding: A Fundamental Part of Tai Chi Practice

I recently saw a post on linkedin.com by Violet Li who writes about tai chi subjects at examiner.com. She often refers to Chen family masters but this time she interviewed a Wu Style practitioner and presents useful information about the lineageĀ  of Wu Jianquan (ChienĀ  Chuan) which is the Wu style I have studied. Good information, but although she titles the article “Zhong Ding at Every Second,” it only begins to touch on the subject of zhong ding.

Zhong ding translates as central equilibrium. It is a key concept of tai chi and internal martial arts that I believe you rarely hear about. If you want to learn tai chi, you should know about zhong ding. It’s just about the first thing I teach beginning tai chi learners. I particularly like introducing the concept of zhong ding into practice for the goal of improving posture and stability, but also to apply movement with more powerful results. I emphasize health and well being, but martial application is well-within that range for me.

Increasingly, scientific researchers report that tai chi and qigong help reduce symptoms of many common ailments. In one National Institutes of Health-funded report, researchers found that more patients spent money on treating lower back pain than some 14 other conditions examined in the study. I began doing tai chi 16 years ago due to back and neck injuries. Even though research reports often say that studies so far have been small and inconclusive, my case surely is conclusive. I’ll do tai chi and qigong as long as I can move.

Another study in Australia reports that tai chi is good for improving posture and alignment. It states that, “Practicing Tai Chi may therefore reduce the practitioner’s back pain through application.” This speaks directly to the concept of zhong ding in tai chi practice.

Zhong ding work, or “gong,” (along with its complement, “dantian” work) is necessary to truly understand and enhance your practice of tai chi and qigong. Whether you practice for martial arts or longevity exercises, both are essential to make practice most effective. I suppose I could talk about it, explain it, define it and try to make sense of it in a post, but it is always better to just do it and learn through doing.

Zhong ding is especially important for me as a method to emphasize the internal focus of martial arts more than actual fighting technique. I employ zhong ding, as well as dantian, to evolve greater ability and clarity in my practice. Both have application in everyday life itself. The ability to move itself is magical and how we move has potential to change us. Many people are suffering needlessly, in my view, when all they have to do is learn to move differently, with intention and clarity.

Writer and Editor, Paul Tim Richard, MA, writes about Chinese internal martial arts and produces instructional videos of master practitioners. He also studies and teaches fundamental principles of taijiquan and qigong at Durango Tai Chi Instruction.