Tai Chi Chih Series: Carry the Ball to the Side
CARRY THE BALL TO THE SIDE
This is one of several moves using what is sometimes referred to as the T’ai Chi step. In this step both heels stay in line, and the step is entirely side to side. Because the toes are turned slightly outward, the hips (and thus the t’an t’ien) will automatically orient themselves to the angle of the weight-bearing foot and leg, if allowed to do so. Be sure not to fight this, as it is how our body protects our knees. Only the hips swivel. The eyes stay looking straight ahead, and the shoulders do not turn.
This move is very natural and the form will be familiar to anyone who has played ball sports, so is easier than it sounds.
Body Movement: Starting with the heels together, bend your knees and shift all of your weight onto the right leg, sinking onto it. Reach your left leg to the side (even with the right) as far as it will go without leaning or putting weight onto it, and set the heel down. Relax both legs and start to shift your weight to the left (using your hips) so that your left leg can receive the energy (weight) from the right leg. Move until your body is centered over the left leg and the right leg is straight to your side. *
Hands: Start with your hands together (as though holding a 4” ball) in front of your chest, slightly to the right of your heart. The hand movement is very simple and subtle relative to the body, but is large in terms of air space. Both hands stay in line with the t’an t’ien, moving from the upper (elbow bent) position to the lower (elbows straight) position. Since the t’an t’ien will be moving to the left, turning slightly, then moving to the right and again turning slightly, this will create a large oval shape. The wrists help to soften the shape, but the arms themselves do very little and the shoulders do nothing at all.**
Carry the Ball to the Side: The body slides to the left (hands dropping) and returns (hands rising), slides to the left and returns again (like a warm-up), and then on the third slide, the empty right leg is brought in to meet the left. This entire pattern is generally done three times to the left and then three times to the right. It is the only move that uses a large “footprint”, so before you begin, make sure there is room to take three steps to the left. In dance, this kind of move is called a “locomotion” because you actually end up moving away from the starting place.
* This will feel a lot like sliding from side to side on a slippery bench, or rolling around on a very good roller stool. You can use the leg to pull your body toward it, but do not push with the leg you are movn away from. The entire upper body is just along for the ride. Do this several times back and forth until you feel what it is like to let the weight slide from side to side like a big “Slinky” toy when one side is slightly lowered, then the other.
**This looks a lot like a golf swing.
Carol Selby teaches Tai Chi Chih every Thursday evening at East Wellbeing and Tea from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. Go to our classes page to sign up.