The beginning form "chi xi" immediately uses all of the foundational elements of Chen Taiji. As the body sinks the knees fold slightly and are slightly turned in. This forms peng within the legs, creates an arch at the "qua", and an arch over all in the lower body. The hips bow out slightly and release at the buttocks. This bowing out at the hips causes the knees to slightly turn in to create the arch found in peng.
Moving through the form one maintains peng throughout the body. This is seen in the rounded form of arms, shoulders, hips, back, legs, arm to hand. When the peng is not open and relaxed the body can become too tight. When the body is tight one cannot connect, connection is lost. Too loose and there is no power, no energy. Peng is like holding a baby. One cradles a baby gently. Too loose and the baby is dropped. Too tight and the baby is not comfortable and will feel the tension.
As the form is practiced pay attention to the roundness at the joints. In performance of and holding of peng "there are no dead angles". The formation of an angle indicates a loss of peng, particularly at the elbow but also at the wrist or the knee or shoulder also. When the practice of the form includes an angle there is meaning to the angle. For instance when punching forward with the right fist the left elbow quickly moves backward in a strike. AS the student moves from punching down to the ground into the double scissor kick again there is an intentional angle made with the elbow in an elbow strike as the body moves 180 degrees from punching down to the double scissor kick.
Practice generates heat as the chi begins to flow. Therefore it is important to practice more than one form. In the first form the body starts to warm up. In the second form the practitioner can check the body for alignment, for peng, ding, for any stuck spots. In the third form the chi begins to flow once the body is aligned, peng, loose, heavy, relaxed. This is like cooking chicken. The chicken needs time to warm up before it is tender.
Practice is for health, for kung fu and for chi development and movement.
"Peng" produces protection of the self, the body, and supports chi flow. Each arm/hand controls one side of the body. When the arm/hand crosses the mid-line one loses peng, and loses control. The right arm/hand controls the right side of the body. And the left controls the left side of the body. Each hand controls its own side of the body. When the hand crosses the center line peng is lost and when there is no peng there is no protection.
Before one starts to train with taiji one must check the mind. Let the body relax into the ground. Let the mind relax and settle. Standing quietly feet slightly together the mind and the body relax, sink, and become quiet. The body becomes loose. The eyes become still as one gazes ahead looking into the distance. The mind focuses and calms. As the mind becomes calm the focus moves inside of the mind, and inside of the body starts feeling the body's energy.
Peng, roundness, is present in the body. Looseness prevails. Chi can channel through this loose, rounded, relaxed body. One becomes more confident "like a hero". With this feeling the inside health becomes better.
When one is loose one becomes heavy. When a person is tight the person cannot get heavy and sill stay light.
When Chi Xi, the very beginning of the form, is correct the whole form will be completed better.
The balance found in Chi Xi makes one healthy. The mind and the breathing come together in calmness. Throw the stress out. Throw out the busy mind to become empty. Then the mind goes to the inside of the body and knows if the body is connected or not.
As one starts the form from standing the right foot sinks down with gravity into the ground even before the entire body sinks to the ground. There is a feeling of the right leg drilling into the ground. The left leg lifts as that leg is now completely empty. The left leg is brought up as if one were riding a bike.
The spine or tail-bone sinks and does not get stuck which allows the chi to sink down.
The head leads upward from the Bai Hui point that is located at the top of the head in alignment with the ears. When one looks down one looses balance. The body hangs like clothes draped from a hanger. Gently push the head up during the entire form, this will assist in attaining "ding".
Stretching the limbs allows the tendons and ligaments to stretch. This stretching opens the joints. Joints that are open allow chi to flow through more smoothly through the extremities and throughout the entire body. Joints can loosen with stretching and also with twining movements. Loosened joints are more open, there is more space between the joints when they are loose which allows for more smooth movement.
Horizontal breathing causes the chi to stick in the upper part of the body. Horizontal breathing is the shallow breathing that is marked by the in and out movement of the lungs at the upper chest level. Vertical breathing allows the chi to flow to the lower parts of the body. Vertical breathing flows deeply into the abdomen and can be seen with the rising and falling of the diaphragm as well as the movement in and out at the waist level as the air fills the lower part of the torso.
When muscles are held tightly the breath stays up and cannot sink. Softness leads to good circulation and health and to a good connection with the dantian and internal energy.