One of the first things I learned in Tai Chi was that parts of the body never really moved the way you were used to thinking of moving them. Let me illustrate.
Your teacher tells you to raise your hand so you think ok, no problem, I'll just raise my hand. Ding, Ding, Ding....my alarm bells just went off. Not really.....If you only do that you're just waving your hand and why would that be of any use, either for martial or health benefits? So how actually do you raise your hand?
Well, let's get really simple and add complexity as we go. You remember that song Dry Bones? Here's just one verse but I highly recommend you check out all the others.
"With the finger bone connected
to the hand bone,
and the hand bone connected
to the arm bone,
and the arm bone connected
to the shoulder bone,
Oh mercy how they scare! " and so on.... What's important is to keep in mind all those connections.
Ok, let's get back to raising the hand. Hold your arm out in front of you at shoulder height with your hand nice and relaxed, same for the shoulder. Now, just raise your hand. You can do that by flexing your wrist and tightening the wrist muscles. But notice that it doesn't get your hand very much higher and now your wrist is all tensed up. Not an ideal situation.
Extend your arm and hand again and this time, drop and close your elbow joint. Hey, look at that, your hand just got raised up and now, it's still nice and relaxed and ready for action. This works even if you're sitting down. That's because the hand bone's connected to the arm bone, the arm bone connected to the elbow bone, the elbow bone connected to the.....you get the idea :)
Now, let's take it a step further. I assume you're standing. If not, stand up and extend your hand and arm. This time, drop and close your elbow joint but do that by using Dan Tien chi energy. If it's your right hand we're raising, visualize sinking Dan Tien chi into and through your lower back and down into the right heel as you sit down and open into your lower back. If done properly, the sinking of the chi into the heel will automatically lower and close the elbow while raising the hand. Practice connecting these pieces and your on your way to beginning to understand how use your whole body to move a single part.
As you deepen this awareness, because that's what your really doing, you will begin to feel it in your muscles, your tendons, your ligaments and your bones. And that's what the song's really about, isn't it? All those connected bones.
Keeping it all connected until next time,