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 lineage  of Wu Jianquan (Chien  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.

 

Research and tai chi benefits

CHIThe benefits of tai chi are numerous and have been known for a very long time, but Americans are really only recently learning about them. It takes time to find out about things even in these times of rapid-fire media. It takes time to to take hold and I’m finding out that people begin to notice more of what I’ve known for almost two decades when articles about research start showing up in media where people get their information.

I’ve found many interesting sources of articles about tai chi on http://news.google.com, the Google news section of Google+. For example, this one on tai chi and other modalities helping to relieve suffering form fibromyalgia: http://www.youthhealthmag.com/articles/3126/20141125/fibromyalgia-and-complementary-health-approaches.htm.

I know about the abilities of tai chi to heal after practicing it for 16 years. I’ve seen it change me and my health and my approach to health. I tell people all the time about what they could learn from doing tai chi, but it is difficult for them to believe and to change their routines in order to spend the time it takes to experience the benefits. I hope more people discover the potential and possibilities from tai chi and qigong, as well as other complementary and alternative approaches to preventative healthcare. If people don’t believe me, maybe they’ll believe references to research that seem to influence our belief systems so much.

Developing a complementary art to taijiquan

Tai chi masters, old and young, traditionally have had practices other than martial arts. They often apply their skills to other forms of art. Calligraphy is one, of course. It is very common for a tai chi practitioner to express his qi through writing the characters. There are others too: musicianship, painting, tea mixing, dance, and so on. Susan Matthews, my friend and teacher, practices ballroom dancing. George Xu practices calligraphy and antique collecting.

As taiji is practiced more by more people across the world are developing their other art. One difference is that new artforms are evolving in response to our changing times and the demands of living in the current era. The trend of less common and emerging arts complemented by tai chi reflects what I see as the rediscovery or rebirth of a modern taiji.

In my case, I have played my guitar with a taiji mind. And more recently, I have been studying nutrition in my search to find the best foods to put in my body. This is an emerging application of taiji knowledge, one that brings these two complementary practices into play with each other. I talk about how this focus came to be on my website. I even have begun a business to help others with nutrition and overall health. I call it A Well Balanced Dream.

On and on it goes. I always tell people that tai chi is a complementary exercise that will enhance whatever you already do. You might swim, run, bike, hike, garden, rock climb, ski, golf, or play competitive sports, such as tennis, baseball, football, and basketball. Tai chi can enhance all of these and more. What is your art?

Tai chi and Arthritis

They say that age-related conditions such as arthritis have genetic origins. This is only partly true. How you use your body throughout your life is just as, or more, important. Genetics matter less when the body is damaged by improper use. Most people drive their bodies too hard (like an animal of burden), wearing themselves down. As we age and injuries add up, we end up with chronic pain. So many of us waste away into decrepitude because we are at a loss of what to do. Eventually, I believe, we literally die from fatigue, fighting against ourselves.

Often, if we are more observant with our bodies, we will move the body in different ways in order to alleviate the pain. Tai chi is an excellent practice to learn to help alleviate, manage, even keep away pain by learning to move in new ways. Actually, they are not as new as they are forgotten, because as infants we all moved naturally, which is what tai chi offers us…natural movement that produces less stress to the body.

For a taiji practitioner adjusting the body to alleviate and even eradicate some arthritic pain is a matter of alignment. The Chinese taiji masters use the term “zhong ding” to refer to the concept of alignment. More than mechanical or biomechanical, alignment can also be related to qi or intrinsic energy. It is “equilibrium,” which is more three-dimensional rather than linear in concept. It is active movement that is effortless. As my teacher Master George Xu says, you aim for maximum movement with minimum effort in your tai chi practice.

Energy flows and motion occurs where the attention is placed as we observe the results of motion through our bodies and beyond in evermore new ways and places and configurations.

What is you goal for exercise? I reach for the benefits of longevity and quality of life. We experience the world with the body. Out senses are conduits of the experience.

Take a tai chi class and ask the instructor about “Zhong Ding” or central equilibrium. Listen to the answer and how you can incorporate it in your practice.

Tai Chi and Arthritis: A few thoughts that may help

They say that age-related conditions such as arthritis have genetic origins. This is only partly true. How you use your body throughout your life is just as or more important. Genetics matter less when the body is damaged by improper use. Most people drive their bodies too hard (like an animal of burden), wearing themselves down. As we age and injuries add up, we end up with chronic pain. So many of us waste away into decrepitude simply because we are at a loss of what to do.

Often, if we are more observant with our bodies, we will move the body in different ways in order to alleviate the pain. Tai chi is an excellent practice to learn to help alleviate the pain by learning to move in new and more beneficial ways. Actually, these ways are not as new as they are forgotten, because as infants we all moved naturally, which is what tai chi offers us…natural movement.

For a taiji practitioner adjusting the body to alleviate and even eradicate some arthritic pain is partly a matter of alignment. The Chinese taiji masters use the term “zhong ding” to refer to the concept of alignment. More than mechanical or biomechanical, alignment can also be related to qi, or intrinsic energy. It is “equilibrium,” more three-dimensional rather than linear in concept. It is active movement that is effortless. As my teacher Master George Xu says, you aim for maximum movement with minimum effort in your tai chi practice.

Energy flows and motion occurs where the attention is placed as we observe the results of motion through our bodies and beyond in ever-more new ways and places and configurations.

We experience the world with the body. Our senses are conduits of our experience. What is you goal for exercise? After spending years in my youth beating my body up, I am now reaching for the benefits of longevity and quality of life as I age.

Arthritis is not the only ailment that tai chi can help manage. It may help with Parkinson’s Disease, stroke, injuries. My teacher and fellow practitioner, Susan A. Matthews, offers seminars that have helped many see the way through chronic pain. Take a tai chi class and ask the instructor about “Zhong Ding” or central equilibrium. Listen to the answer and how you can incorporate it in your practice.