So far we've gone through 4 out of 8 basics, as well as covering sections 1-3 of the Taiji 13 Form. All forms of exercise have "proper form": when lifting weights you have a controlled set with repetitions; in swimming you control your breathing, strokes and kicking technique; in taiji you balance exercise with meditation through movement, breathing and intent. I want you to benefit as much as you can from taiji, especially for those of you who practice quite often, and to do so requires a mindset to better practice taiji properly.
If you haven't noticed the difference between this type of taiji and other forms of taiji, especially for those from just the kungfu class, I put a lot of emphasis on legwork, breathing and fajing (quick essence) - the act of "whipping" your movements to generate power from the ground up. However, note that these differences aren't limited to just my style of taiji - they're just neglected from other types of taiji classes, whether its because limit of time, lack of knowledge or just negligence.
Please note that these principles are basic principles, are not limited to just 10 and vary from master to master; order isn't of importance. These principles are the building blocks to your taiji practice, and as time goes on I'll continue to discuss the rest of them more in depth:
1. Suspend the head as if held by a thread
Imagine the head suspended from the back of the head; this keeps the head in perfect alignment.
2. Concentrate your line of vision
Move the head and waist in perfect unison as if the eyes were in the waist; combined you torso needs to move in one unit.
3. Sink shoulders, suspend elbows, seat wrists, relax fingers
Let your shoulders drop naturally, don’t allow elbows to collapse into your body, imagine hands and wrists are resting on a pillow to allow perfect alignment, and allow fingers to be slightly bent.
4. Hollow the chest and raise the back
This helps keep the qi to sink into the Dan Tian and prevents shoulder blades from touching; this also requires the shoulders to relax, which is pivotal in practicing taiji - you need to relax.
5. Abide by the lower Dan Tian
This keeps the mind intention of sinking the qi into the Dan Tian and helps focus on waist movement, a supporting principle of concentrating your line of "vision".
6. Draw in the tail bone
This keeps the spine aligned and prevents leaning; no protrusion of the buttocks.
7. Relax the waist and thighs
Keep your hips in perfect alignment with the thighs; relax the coccyx to allow qi flow within the body.
8. Do not let the knees pass over the toes
Calf and shin are perpendicular to the floor; this prevents overextension of the legs and stress to the knees.
9. Round out (open up) the legs and knees
This rids the legs of tension by opening the legs to allow blood and qi to flow into the perineum area.
10. Sink the weight into the middle of the sole of the foot
Allows equal-weight distribution beneath the foot and creates better rooting and stability.