5.a.xii.-beyond-song-kua-using-the-hips Section

Beyond Song Kua -  using the hips

 by Nick Gudge - Oct 2009

When there is this minimum of leg strength conditioned into the body while stationary and in motion, then someone may be capable of considering what can be achieved when the hips are relaxed. Before this is achieved, considering the hip rotation as a method of power transmission and generation is a waste of time.

There are (at least) six elements that inform this training. I have detailed their description and training elsewhere. They are specifically listed below as a reminder. If you do not understand them and cannot do them at least partially then reading on will be less productive. They are:-

1.  Song Kua – Loosening the hips. Do not let them rise as the hips move.

2.  Dang Jin – The dang must be correctly formed with peng to both knees continuously.

     a.  As the weight moves onto a leg the knee opens,

     b. The hips open and the knees close helping drive from the ground (see 6 below)

     c.  Also the hips close and the knees open (see also 5 below)

3.  Open / Extend the hips as if the femur/thigh bone is been extended down and out of the hip socket

4.  Ta Yao – the lower back in slightly (maintaining the natural curve of the spine)

5.  Fan Tun – the buttocks loosened and spread open to the outside (left and right) of the body – this relates to 2c and 3 above.

6.  A continuous push along the legs. It is like a spiral thrust down the leg but neither the knees nor the hips move out of alignment. Similar to how rotation moves through a CV joint in a car.

(The net result of these actions is a considerable additional strengthening of the thighs. When he first corrected me and I understood and could replicate his correction with some accuracy, after some four years of training and considerable strengthening of my legs, I could only manage three repetitions without having to shake out my legs. Wang Hai Jun’s comment was “this part of my leg had not been strengthened yet.”)

When the hips relax then the rotation of waist can be transmitted to the legs and the coiling of the legs transmitted to the torso. Transmission is not linear. I used to think of it as an anatomical version of a car CV joint. However I now think that the transmission is always three dimensional. What this means is complicated and I do not yet see any value to be derived from detailing its implications at this point.

Wang Hai Jun taught me that there are two ways for the hips to move, horizontally (Dang Zou Hou Hu) and vertically (Dang Zhou Xia Hu). Initially the first mode of motion is described in his training. Initially all the postures are worked using this principle. I only became aware of the second after several years of training. This may have been a combination of not paying sufficient attention and not understanding sufficiently moving horizontally. Once the legs are strengthened so that they can support the body’s weight, particularly as the hips are loosened, then he led me to an understanding of this second way of moving. I do not recall him using words but rather a movement of his hands on my hips, making my hips move in a certain way that they had not utilised previously.

I think this is what Chen Xiao Wang is referring to when he says ‘first movement principle’ and ‘second movement principle’. 

Dang Zou Hou Hu can be translated as the crotch (dang – literally a bridge to the ground made by the two legs and crotch) moves (zou) in a backwards (hou) arc (hu). When moving the perineum in a figure of eight (shift weight right while turning left and shifting weight left while turning right,) the hips work to move the jin in a backwards direction, commonly used in shoulder with the back (kao.) This type of movement is taught by WHJ during his initial training in reeling silks and when learning the choreography of the laojia yilu.

Dang Zou Xa Hu can be translated as the crotch (dang) moves (zou) in a downwards (xa) arc (hu). It is difficult to grasp because the motion of the driving hip is similar to that of a rotating wheel in that it is important that the wheel stay down. In this case it is important that the hip stays down even as it rotates vertically. The transmission of this information was solely hands on. As my right hip rotates forward, my left hip must rotate back to balance the rotation torque. The teaching of this to me by Wang Hai Jun was more circumspect, probably because I was slow to understand the first part. To do this effectively considerable leg strength is needed. Sufficient body understand or body mechanics (shen fa) must have been acquired or the subsequent distortions of the body will significantly or totally reduce any addition jin gained.

Wang Hai Jun taught me the backward movement of the hips (Dang Zou Hou Hu) primarily through front circle reeling silk, Single whip (Dan Bian), Lazily Tying Coat (Lan Zha Yie), Single Whip (Dan Bian) and Moving Diagonally (Xie Xing.) He taught me the downward movement of the hips (Dang Zhou Xa Hu) in Temple Guard Pounds Mortar (Jing Dang Dao Dui,) in Evade to the Rear (Shan Tong Bei) and in the transition from Cover Hand Punch (Yang Shou Gong Quan) into Six Sealing, Four Closings (Lui Feng Si Bei.) There were several layers of information transmission / understanding. One led to another. Loosening the hips and strengthening the legs over several iterations. Once they were loose then applying the principles of how to rotate the hips. Getting each rotation to push directly down the leg to the ground. The consequential feeling is that the legs spiral.

Personally it took repeated efforts over more than four years on Wang Hai Jun’s part to get me to understand this. After the initial understanding of these two rotations is understood the next step is to grasp that they happen simultaneously but to different degrees in different directions of motion. Almost never is it purely one or the other. My understanding of these two motions is still incomplete. Hardly surprisingly I still have to master doing these simultaneously with any degree of success.

I suspect that the implications for power transmission are enormous. The more complete this transmission, the more power there is available. I speculate that poor transmission provides maybe ten to thirty percent of available power in a very limited number of directions. Good transmission might increase this to in excess of seventy percent in any direction desired.

Hip Rotation Practice

Body Requirements:

1.  Leg strength

2.  Control of the Hip Joint horizontally and vertically

3.  Restraining the rising movement of the hip joint while pushing from the ground.

The first exercise Wang Hai Jun showed (although I did not understand it at the time) was a subtle variation in right hand front circle reeling silk.

At the start of each cycle:

1. The body turns slightly further to the right on the right leg, the weight still on the right leg. The waist does most of the turning to the right. The hips turn horizontally to the right a little (a few degrees.) Feel like the left foot is pushing the left hip to the right front corner. The left hip is stretched more open as this happens as happens. The left hip also feel like it rotates forward vertically. (initially the hip can rise so the feeling of vertical rotation is clear, but after a short while strive to keep the hip from rising. It should not rise)  Simultaneously the feeling in the right hip is that it rotates backwards as the left rotates forwards and that it is moving to the left as the left hip moves to the right. The right knee should stay with the right foot and not twist out. To this it may help to feel like it is coiling inward even as the right hip relaxes backward. The feeling is that as the hips rotate horizontally the front of the rear hip wants to push forwards and upwards but do not let this happen. As the hips rotate “vertically” the rear (left) hip has a similar tendency to push upwards/rise but do not let this happen either. The right fingers, stretched from the back, are driven down and in (closing) by this movement.

2. This motion is continued which causes the weight to be pushed onto the left leg still as the body finishes its turn right and cycles into a left turn to face forward.

3. The same occurs on the left leg as the right hand starts to rise.

4. This motion is continued which causes the weight to be pushed back to the right leg as the body finishes its turn left and cycles into a right turn to face forward.

Six Elements of Practice that can be used to improve skill are those indicated above, i.e. Song Kua, Dang Jin, Open / Extend the hips, Ta Yao, Fan Tun and a continuous push along the appropriate leg.


Nick Gudge is a student of Wang Hai Jun and teaches Chen style taijiquan (tai chi) classes in Limerick.