Root: A Secret Of Combat Tai Chi's Internal PowerRoot: A Secret Of Combat Tai Chi's Internal Power

In China, there are three martial arts which together are known as the Nia Jia, the internal arts. These are Bagua, Xing-Yi, and Tai Chi. Whereas other martial arts focus more on things like physical strength or specific techniques for fighting, the internal arts focus on what is happening inside the practitioner.

This internal focus includes elements such as relaxation, breathing, structural connectivity, the flow of energy within the individual, the individual's sensitivity to what is happening inside their own body and their ability to manipulate it. In the external arts, practicing a specific movement is the point. In contrast, in the internal arts only enough movement is used as is necessary to develop internal ability.

As an art, Tai Chi develops serious power in its students. The full name of the art is Tai Chi Chuan which translates as Grand Ultimate Fist. Clearly, to those who named it, Tai Chi seemed like an incredibly powerful fighting system. Yet Tai Chi training takes a different route to power than most other martial arts.

One ability that Tai Chi uses to develop serious power through internal ability is called root. The skill of rooting involves the ability to use mind intent to drop your center of gravity down below the ground.

Some athletes have learned skills which are comparable to what Tai Chi artists do. For example, some boxers have the ability to use body connection where the weight of the whole body goes into a strike. However, most athletes have not developed rooting ability or anything much like it.

Although rooting involves mind intent, it is more than just visualization. If you practice rooting, you will be able to actually feel the weight of your body dropping down below the surface of the ground. When you practice drills with partners they should be able to feel it too. This way, if you use root in a combat situation, an attacker will be able to feel your root as well so that you will feel to them like a concrete slab stuck deep into the ground. In other words, you will be very hard to push over.

When you first learn root, you begin by practicing standing in one place. However, you can learn to keep your root in the ground while you are walking or in a combat situation. It is possible to learn to drop your root deeper and deeper even as you are fighting.

Rooting is also not just about being well anchored to the ground. Root can also help Combat Tai Chi artists to throw more powerful strikes. More advanced Tai Chi involves Jings or expressions of energy. These allow practitioners to direct energy in specific ways. One of these is called Fa Jing which translates as explosive energy. Fa Jing involves the ability to let loose powerful kicks and hand strikes that send energy at an opponent. Rooting is a prerequisite for learning Fa Jing. Furthermore, a deeper and stronger root will allow for even stronger and more powerful energetic expressions.

Over time, you can develop your root so that it is deeper in the ground and contains more and more of your compressed body weight. Some Tai Chi masters can have a root that is 50 feet or more below the ground. To an attacker, being hit by someone with a really deep and strong root can feel like being hit by a 300 pound gorilla.
by Richard Clear
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Sigung Richard Clear has over 30 years of continuous study in Martial Tai Chi and Chi Kung both in the U.S. and China.
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