Using good posture within your style

Tim's Discussion Board: Ba Gua Zhang : Using good posture within your style
   By pet sichel on Monday, January 28, 2008 - 10:16 am: Edit Post

Hi, I have been reading your views on correct neutral posture of the spine, and they make total sense to me, and i wonder why I didnt question them before. Now my question is, if the internal style your learning, encourages hip tuck, callasped chest etc, is it ok to ignore this advice and use a neutral spine instead, and carry on learning the style as they teach? Will it effect the application of the style, as things may be done because a certain posture is used?
The reason I ask, is it feels like "I know better" than the creator of the style, who would of studied for his whole life, and I am a novice, if that makes sense.
Any feedback welcome.

   By Tim on Monday, January 28, 2008 - 02:03 pm: Edit Post

Hi Pet,

I have a couple of observations. First off, I would not practice anything I had researched, tested and proven to myself by trail and error to be incorrect, no matter who tried to convince me an unnatural method is better.

You can easily test the strength of alignment, there is no need to take anyone's instruction, including my own, on faith. Once you have proven to yourself what is natural and correct, there should be no reason to doubt yourself, unless someone else can physically prove their way is better.

You only know what your teacher tells you about the specifics of alignment in your style, not what the founder actually did. The founder of your style created his art just like all founders of styles; he practiced many things and then put together a system based on his best experience. Why can't you do the same with your own body in regards to postural alignment?

   By pet on Monday, January 28, 2008 - 04:54 pm: Edit Post

Thankyou for reply. How did hip tuck etc come about?
In regards to testing structure, I have proven to myself hip tuck is not neccessary, and layed that to rest. But with regards to shoulder alignment for say bridging strength do you have any advice? especially for the scapular placement, as I am finding I am stronger with my shoulders forward/scapula forwards (though not collaspsing chest), maybe because I am used to this position and need to train neutral/natural shoulder position more? And another question if I may, what do you think of callaspsing the chest to extend reach, protect the heart etc, as this is what proponents say. My opinion would be that it impedes natural movement, and that should come first before reach is concerned, would like to hear your views. many thanks

   By Dave C. on Monday, January 28, 2008 - 08:25 pm: Edit Post

I'd be interested to hear how you came to the idea that hip tuck isn't necessary.

I ask that because I thought it was unnecessary as well, but later found that it helped my zhuan quan in xingyi immensely. You don't hold the tuck constantly, but use the tuck to power the zhuan quan and then let it go.

As for the chest, if you don't sink it, then you can't fajing with it. You should be able to open and close most of your body parts. If not, your power will suffer.

In general, I think the problem is that people are taught to hold these postural requirements constantly and that's just wrong. We shouldn't go around with our tails tucked between our legs and our chests always rounded. You open and close these body parts as the move requires them to generate power. At least that's the conclusion I've come to.

   By pet on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 04:32 am: Edit Post

dave c hi, re-reading my post I should of been clearer, I am asking these questions on fixed posture in regards to standing postures and walking the circle and should they be maintained?

As yes hip tuck is used to store/release certain types of power. If I get specific and talk about walking the cirle, should a neutral spine be used throughout or the conventional round back, hip tuck position held?

I think my important question is what spinal alignment is best to ground an imcoming force ie, from infront, or trying to over power an opponent in a arm bridging exercise and ground his force? As this posture would need to be maintained in the cirle walk perhaps, even if un natural?

   By Tim on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 02:19 pm: Edit Post

I tried every method my various teachers presented, but more importantly, I watched what the best of them actually did under pressure. I also watched how the best athletes in other disclplines moved, and how they generated force. I subsequently experimented with the use of different alignments against force, and while generating force, first in passive tests and later in full sparring and competition. I respected everyone's opinion, but it's not my nature to take anything on faith.

I also spent a great amount of time reading what teachers of various systems of physical culture and sports science have to say on the matter of body use.

And also of great help, I made note of how small children hold themselves and move about.

My overall conclusion is you cannot do better than using your body as it was naturally designed, and it is rather presumptuous of people to think they can "improve" on countless millennium of evolution by forcing or holding their bodies in unnatural positions.

Although correct intent is a constant, the body should be free to move (that is why anyone that says you should "always" hold a certain position is always wrong). You can't roll forward without rounding your back, you can't back arch to the ground without arching your back for example.

As far as sinking your chest, you will lose stability and power in direct proportion to the degree you let your chest collapse.

   By pet on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 04:24 pm: Edit Post

thankyou for your response. Comfirming what I wanted to hear/thought. Do you have any dvd's or books specifically on internal arts to buy or in the pipeline?

   By Jake Burroughs on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 05:10 pm: Edit Post

Anything by Tim is worth the price times two. Do not concern yourself with the "internal vs. external" BS debate. His book on throwing is one of the best ever written IMO.

   By Dave C. on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 08:19 pm: Edit Post

If you're talking about standing and circle walking, I would tuck the pelvis just a bit only if you naturally stick it out a bit. Have someone look at it for you to see.

As for opening the chest (I don't like the "collapsing" terminology, it's wrong), etc. again it depends on the technique you're using at the time. Echoing what Tim said, if the technique requires it, then you want your body to be in a position to do it. But there are only a few shenfa requirements that I try to hold all the time.

   By Mark Hatfield on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 10:28 pm: Edit Post

Pet. Agree the pelvis thing is great as a part of power generation but I don't know about otherwise. When I was doing many hours of standing practice my body 'found' its' natural position with the pelvic tuck. I did note what if keeping the tuck when doing a linear form of the single palm change I seemed to be more stable, but that may have been simply because I was in a slightly lower position. I have not found the same while circle walking but have not experimented much with it.

   By pet on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 12:28 pm: Edit Post

This is something I notice, when testing if "hip tuck" or relaxing the lower back is better for stability/rooting than neutral spine, people tend to sink down when doing this, which of course lowers your center of mass and will make you more stable. Then they rise up when testing neutral spine, of course raising your center of mass again and dismiss neutral spine for hip tuck, my views anyway.

Another question, when walking the circle or doing standing postures, do you extend the shoulders forwards (while keeping spine neutral!), as my teacher emphasizes this to increase the stretch/torque of body and reach into the circle, or again would a neutral shoulder position be best(this means my shoulder blades protrude slightly out of my back)?

   By Steve Wang on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 12:59 pm: Edit Post

Not everybody's posture is the same when it comes to the natural position of the tailbone.

If you observe different people, you'd notice that some of them already have a rather straight tailbone (flat butt), while others may have "perky butts" that stick out.

For me, since my behind tend to stick out a bit, tucking in the tailbone has improved my speed and power significantly.

When I first started training Bagua/Xinyi, I suffered from knee pain quite often. The pain went away after I learned how to tuck in the tailbone and relax the pelvis, which allow the weight to sink to the bottom of the feet rather than on the knees.

As my posture improves, now I don't even think about tucking. My body automatically gets into the right position whenever I practice or spar.

   By Bob #2 on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 07:38 pm: Edit Post

I too have observed how toddlers move about while I hold them.
I've noted that there are no butt-tuckers and chest-slumpers under the age of 5. However they can be very sqirmy and if they do the totally limp they seem to triple their weight.


   By Mark Hatfield on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 08:49 pm: Edit Post

There's always the question if some of these things are really of value, or how much, or if some were just ancient bullshitery, or if they worked well for only some people.

There was once a fellow in the FBI, 'Jelly' Brice. His incredible skill with a handgun led one person to surrender simply when he learned that Brice had been assigned to bring him in. However, later attempts to teach Brices method of drawing and shooting did not work well. When carefully studied, Brices method was found to be 'unergonomic' in modern terms, had unnecessary movements, and was rather 'bass akwards'. It was actually a rather goofy method. But Brice could do it with amazing speed, it worked for him.

I wonder about such things with older IMA training methods. While there is the risk of possibly ignoring some older good training ideas, conversely, just because a (or many) old masters did something a certain way doesn't prove it to be a good way of doing it. It could have been inefficient and akward, but perhaps sometimes they made it work only because they had practiced it for years.

   By Tim on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 09:38 pm: Edit Post

Good point Mark,

People should also realize that once something is codified, it often becomes dogma, no matter how much the original message is distorted or misinterpreted, or changed by the less talented, or those with their own agenda.

Bob #2

Good observation. Maybe the masters of the esoteric Internal styles should start a pre-school to teach toddlers to tuck their tails and collapse their chests, so they can begin improving upon their natural postures as early as possible.

(I read once that Jelly Brice was so fast on the draw that "if you blinked, you'd die in the dark.")

   By Craig on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 01:21 am: Edit Post

Imagine if some nut-job actually tried to get there young children to distort their natural posture and make them tuck the tail and sink the chest, thinking it was good for them - it's kind of disturbing to think about, and would that count as a form of child abuse? Kind of like ancient Chinese foot binding?

I use to tuck the tail bone and sink the chest during training thinking it was the way to good IMA, only to find that it lead to nothing I wanted. A while back I adjusted my posture (not easy after years of ingraining the sinking chest and tailbone tucking) back to a more natural posture through all my training methods, and not only does my body feel a ton better, but my MA has improved.

I understand the feeling of the method hurting at first and then after a while it doesn't, kind of like your body getting use to a bad habit and thinking it's normal or over coming it. A lot of smokers feel the same way too!

   By Graham Barlow on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 07:40 am: Edit Post

Hi Tim,

I've been watching this tuck/don't tuck debate roll on for years now and have come up with what I thnk is going on - it would be great to hear what you think about it:

I think a lot of this confussion/debate about tucking hips comes because nobody is really talking about the same thing. Let me explain -

In most of the pictures of you on this site or in books in a pre-throw position you are standing upright normally - i.e. your knees are not that bent - this seems to be your default 'natural' on guard stance, or your natural fighting stance.

In this sort of 'natural' position it makes no sense whatsoever to tuck your butt, because there's literally nowhere for it to 'go' - hence people who stand upright normally, then tuck their butt end up with a distorted posture.

However... and this is the big difference - if you bend your knees more so that you are lower - just a couple of inches - not a lot - (like a lot of IMA teacher encourage) you open up a space for your butt to 'go' when you tuck it. It results in a very 'solid' structure.

This can be experimented with in Zhan Zhuang - stand in the 'holding the tree' posture normally, try and 'tuck' your butt slightly - yuk. Bend your knees a little while trying to remain upright at the same time (no leaning) and then try and tuck your butt a little - suddenly there's somewhere for it to go and it makes sense.

What do you think?


A picture of you and teacher Lou - to me this looks like you standing higher in your 'on guard' stance *without* a tucked butt, and him sitting lower, *with* a tucked butt.

I'm not saying either is better (although at a push I'd venture that higher is better for throwing, and lower is better for striking - and of course you can swap between the two at a moments notice, so a person can use either where appropriate).


   By Dave C. on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 09:00 am: Edit Post

"...just because a (or many) old masters did something a certain way doesn't prove it to be a good way of doing it."

Frankly if that doesn't prove it, or at least point you in the right direction, then I don't know what will.

   By dirty rat on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 01:28 pm: Edit Post

Tucking in the tailbone should be done with the relaxation principle in mind. One should not force the posture. In later rounds, some boxers are fatigued and their body & weight naturally settle into their feet, and without being aware of it the transfering of force from their feet to their fist becomes more effiecient.

   By Jake Burroughs on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 01:41 pm: Edit Post

I think Tim makes a very profound statement when he speaks about observing children's postures. Ask a kid if they tuck their tailbone, and see what their response is.

   By dirty rat on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 03:14 pm: Edit Post

Tucking the Tailbone is a trick/riddle of sorts to get the student to do the right thing. Tucking in the tailbone, the ralaxation principle and children's postures are really part of the same principle that IMA tries to teach.

   By pet on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 04:28 pm: Edit Post

good discussion. To my mind letting the hip tuck happen with relaxation,ie, not forcing or forcing, is still loosing your natural curves of your spine. After all if you relax totally you will end up in a heap on the floor. So...letting hip tuck happen through relaxation, is it not just loosing good posture?

   By Dave C. on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 07:10 pm: Edit Post

"Ask a kid if they tuck their tailbone, and see what their response is. "

I think I'd rather ask people that have mastered the art I'm after. Maybe just me...

   By dirty rat on Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 07:38 pm: Edit Post

"After all if you relax totally you will end up in a heap on the floor"

That doesn't sound relax. Sounds "dead", to me. Any good teacher will encourage the student to learn to think for himself. Figure it out.

Although I will say that the best taiji master I ran into didn't have good posture. His shoulders seem a bit khyphotic to me; one of his shoulders is higher than the other; and his back didn't look all that straight when he performed his taiji set. And yet, I seen him tossed people around like a child, take blows to the abdomen in a relax comfortably manner, absorb the pushes of much bigger men.

However, I have doubts to his fighting ability. He may train to be good at tuishou/roushou, but he doesn't train to fight & push hands isn't fighting. Once I tried to hit him. I pulled my jab but felt like I could've landed it if I decided not to be so nice.

I didn't see him do anything that couldn't be explained by physics. A lot of people are looking for that mysterious power that we read in stories concerning ima masters. But the stories may just be stories.

   By robert on Friday, February 01, 2008 - 04:28 pm: Edit Post

as long as you dont stick your butt out too far and keep your balls in, you will be alright.

imo, alot of people dont know where their hips are when they fight.

hula hula.

   By Tim on Monday, February 04, 2008 - 02:17 pm: Edit Post


You make some sound points, and accurate observations.

There is room for the hips to move according to the needs of the task at hand, and individuals of different body types, heights etc. will need to adjust according to their builds.

Although I teach what I've discovered works best for me, and what I believe makes the best use of my inherent strengths, I'd encourage individuals to test their alignment theories under pressure, and discover for themselves their own best body use.

I'd only caution, once again, against locking oneself into the "you must always..." trap.

   By Graham Barlow on Wednesday, February 06, 2008 - 03:07 am: Edit Post

Thanks Tim, I really like and respect your 'try it for yourself' approach. It's much better than just taking somebody's word for it.


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