How To Root In Tai

Beginning with the Root

The first essential Chi-kung skill to be developed is that of the energy root. There are several things that effect the quality or depth of the root: The stance or posture, the level of relaxation in the body and mind, and the practitioners ability to intend his energy down into the earth. The energy root is basically an energy version of a tree's root structure. You develop it through learning to sink your energy into the earth much the same way as a tree sinks its roots into the earth. When done well the practitioner will seem very solid and heavy to any that are trying to move him.

This skill can be tested through some simple exercises that determine "root depth" in a novice student. The deeper the Chi-kung skills of a student the deeper he will be able to sink his energy root. One of the first tests that can be used to check and practice this rooting skill is to have the student kneel on the ground. Then standing in front of him the teacher would place his hands on the student's shoulders. The student then places the palms of his hands softly under the teacher's elbows. In this position the student must relax and root into the ground. Then the teacher attempts to push the student over backwards. If he is rooting correctly the teacher should not be able to push him over.

1) Si-Fu Baker kneeling

2) He is pushed by 2 large men.
3) By using root depth he redirects the push which lifts the first man up.
4) The first man is thrown to the side

On one occasion I was asked to demonstrate this skill by a friend of mine at a small outdoor party. He challenged a large line backer for the University of Utah to push me over while I kneeled down in front of him. Naturally he accepted. Being a line backer he pushed people over professionally, and usually the people he pushed over were a whole lot bigger than I was. This guy was at least twice my weight! He began to push, and push, and push. He tried so hard he dug a ditch with his shoes in the grass! He tried 3 or 4 separate times, each time he was more determined than the last. Finally he gave up in despair when after pushing for several minutes I stood up and threw him away. Naturally he was embarrassed! He asked how I was able to do that? I could tell he was looking at me trying to determine where someone my size could have gotten so much strength. I tried to explain to him that it wasn't physical but internal strength. Finally my friend told him I practice kung fu, and that seemed to satisfy him.

If the person kneeling does not know how to root and present that root against the push properly he will usually try to fight the push by leaning in and in doing so will often injure his back. When one gets competent at this test he can have three or more people line up behind the first pusher all pushing on each other's backs, and still they should not be able to move his root. One test for root depth that Master Tam use to use in grading his students is the leg-pull test in the character-two-adduction stance. The idea is to hold the pull force for up to a minute. When four men are pulling earnestly on your legs this is very difficult.

Rooting Stance Qigong

Si-Fu Baker performing the leg pulling root test. Copyright © Scott Baker 2000

Other tests of the energy root can be shown from the front stance or the forward leaning stance out of the pole form. From the stance the student puts his arms forward and braces them. The pusher places his hands on the wrists of the student's arms and tries to push him backwards.

Si-Fu Baker in the root test of the immovable stance

If he has a good energy root and is able to presence that root through his body he will feel as solid as a tree. The arms will often move if the pusher's force has inconsistent direction, but the stance will not move. A third and more difficult test of rooting skills is the un-liftable stance. The skilled practitioner stands in a wide horse stance with his arms hanging wide to his sides. Two people position themselves, one at each side and place their hands under the practitioner's arms. Then they attempt to lift him together. As they try to lift the practitioner can sink his root deeper, if he is skillful he will cause the two lifters to loose their strength and force them to either disengage or collapse as he sinks.

Energy Gates Qigong Images

Sifu Jeffcoat showing the un-liftable stance

Si-Fu Baker performing the leg pulling root test. Copyright © Scott Baker 2000

Sifu Jeffcoat showing the un-liftable stance

Four Standing Exercise

The static standing posture of the Sil Num Tao form is one of the primary exercises used to enhance the endurance and strength of a student's legs and begin the development of the energy root. Students may begin this exercise by standing for only 10 minutes at first then slowly building up the time to an hour over the course of about six months. The purpose of this standing posture is to build considerable endurance and strength in the leg muscles, and work the chi energy into the legs as the student learns to relax into the position of the Yee Chi Kim Yeung Ma (character-two-adduction stance), sinking his chi through his legs and into the ground. This stance further teaches the student good posture, body alignment and deepens the stance root, as it continues to be practiced it will also strengthen and tone important muscle groups. Together these qualities offer a solid base from which the techniques of Wing Chun can be unleashed with great power.

Sifu Scott Baker Kneeling Posture

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