5.a.xxii.ta_yao Section

Ta Yao

Collapsing the Waist

by Nick Gudge - September 2006 (last revised June 2012)

In Taijiquan according to Wang Hai Jun the yao is represents by the area above the pelvis and below the rib cage. Yao is normally translated as “waist”. When pressed for a translation of Ta, Wang Hai Jun said it was like a building or a wall falling down. In English we would call this collapsed. So Ta Yao might be translated as “Collapsed Waist”. The words do not appear to be correct. In English the word collapsed is universally used to indicate a failure of structure' So while this is an accurate translation, it is a poor translation if considered this way. However, if I think of the word ‘collapsed’ the way we think of in astrological terms about a ‘black hole’ being caused by the collapse of star to produce a super dense area, this helps me connect to the feeling in my waist.

Wang Hai Jun’s movement of my body was unequivocal in this matter. The lower back, in the waist area, anatomically the lumbar region must go in and not be flattened or pushed back. In my experience this has several effects:

  1. it brings the buttocks up slightly (see Fan Tun)
  2. it allows the front part of the waist (within which is contained the dan tien) to extend down and forwards. This releases stresses that reduce the mobility of the waist. It allows the waist to move more freely
  3. it causes the area surrounding the dan tien to close (He Fu) horizontally
  4. it causes the dan tien to close (He) vertically with the crotch (dang)
  5. it allows the jin to pass more cleanly down the legs
  6. most importantly it ‘leads’ the qi to fill the dan tien.

It is more strenuous on the legs, requiring greater leg strength. While maintaining Ta Yao the hips must be opened to the sides and the dang correctly formed: the kua must be relaxed and sunk.

My Training Experience

It was difficult for me to find the correct position. It would have been impossible without hands on repeated correction. Wang Hai Jun put me into the correct position at least eight times before I could replicate it partially. The feeling (proprioception) was not easy for me to grasp. The leg strength required is considerable. WHJ suggested 10 –15 laojia yilu per day.

A comment that might help is that when WHJ first taught me Ta Yao, the feeling in my body was that my balance was tipped slightly more forward than I would normally be. The correlation of this with ding jin must be clearly appreciated.

n.b. I would caution the reader that attempting to find ta yao before the hips and waist at sufficiently loosened will inhibit the gaining of gong fu. There is an order that progress is made in and an intellectual understanding should not be considered progress. Be warned!

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