Dynamic Stability is an essential tool for the serious tai chi student.
“Precession can be demonstrated by placing a spinning gyroscope with its axis horizontal and supported loosely (frictionless toward precession) at one end. Instead of falling, as might be expected, the gyroscope appears to defy gravity by remaining with its axis horizontal, when the other end of the axis is left unsupported and the free end of the axis slowly describes a circle in a horizontal plane, the resulting precession turning. The torque on the gyroscope is supplied by a couple of forces: gravity acting downward on the device’s centre of mass, and an equal force acting upward to support one end of the device. The rotation resulting from this torque is not downward, as might be intuitively expected, causing the device to fall, but perpendicular to both the gravitational torque (horizontal and perpendicular to the axis of rotation) and the axis of rotation (horizontal and outwards from the point of support), i.e., about a vertical axis, causing the device to rotate slowly about the supporting point” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyroscope
And there you have it.
During the Hun Yuan form of Master Ma, in fact during any Form where you are not a billiard cue balancing a bowling ball ( your head) on the top, you are going to be subject to certain forces of nature on the body, especially around the lower back, the upper back and the shoulders. It’s not enough that I see the fascial tectonics leading to the corrugation of the upper back, a mini-cape hooding the neck in almost all my students who stumble in like desperados at the last-chance saloon. Any movement where the body is leaning forward, to the side or backwards is going to generate a massive amount of internal pressure on discs, legs, shoulders and necks. It never fails that when I start to introduce even slight leaning movements, the shoulder blades rise, the neck extends, and the mobile units lose equilibrium and slide off the body like porcelain falling off a cupboard. Therefore, one of the most important lessons students need to hear is about Pitch and Yaw and Roll, and how the body wobbles, rotates around its axis when they move and how they can pin the structures to the centre line if they a) pay attention to the area, b) be able to keep the relevant structure still by applying muscular contraction and c) maintaining this structure during the increasing depth of angles of the pitches, yaws and rolls that typically affect a structure during movement. Complicated? Ya betcha.
But it’s critical to any hope of long-term postural health and when I examine any and all so-called tai chi “masters”, almost always soi-disant, the vast majority are incapable of even noticing this. This is not to deny the absolute fact that when the body is totally relaxed, a master can break structure, and have power. I can demonstrate this myself, but this is not the point. The point is that Beginners do not have the fascial rebound in their tissues to be able to spring back to a position that someone with total muscular relaxation can. They are stuck in a silhouette of habit which crabs their movements and turtles their backs.
If you start being Rattenfänger von Hameln and lead your troupe through the motions without paying attention to their underlying structure, the ideal structure to which you wish them to attain, but instead start spouting off about qi/chi, and being all solemn and “mystical”, you are yourself a mere mountebank peddling a packaged preconception of Pot Noodle paradise. Westerners need tai chi and qi gong badly. It can radically change their lives, but the majority that is being taught is sub-sub standard garbage fed by media memes of tai chi in silk on Californian beaches. This is not entirely the fault of those who teach, as I myself taught questionable stuff for years. But I can see now how we have been sleeping poor on gold pillows.
The gyroscopic idea only applies to the central axis, the appendicular skeleton. The idea is to keep it still while the limbs progressively perform motions of extension, rotation, depression, laterally and medially by pulling gently on the connective tissue which allows them to extend to their maximal range within their ambit of power without overdoing it and pulling the joint out of alignment, or socket, or locking any joint in the process. The level of somatic awareness that requires is considerable. In addition, the hawsers of muscle required to stabilize the neck are significant and require patience and practice.
So you have something like the earth that rotates, spins and also tilts about its axis (known as the obliquity of the ecliptic). Human locomotion is an evolutionary compromise for a biped, but tai chi and qi gong can make all movements attain an acme of ambit, proportioned and perfect for any activity.
I have worked out ways to stabilize the whole structure so that the adept can safely move forwards, backwards, and sideways and even twistways without losing the essential central axis. Later, when the structure has set, internal torque can increase to create whiplash in the arms such that contact with soft tissue can cause tremendous harm.
The old lady’s art can be a centripetal Catherine-wheel of death.