Ground Path: A Tai Chi Tool For An Iron Body

Where other types of martial arts focus on building up strength so as to deliver as much force as possible, Tai Chi students learn to deliver as much force with as little effort as possible. Where other arts develop artists with huge muscles, Tai Chi artists can do a lot of damage, even if they are physically very small. This is why Tai Chi is an excellent self-defense art for the elderly whose bodies are not going to be able to handle the rigorous training other arts might require.

However, Tai Chi is not to be underestimated. It can teach practitioners how to harness tremendous force and to withstand devastating blows through an ability called Internal Iron Body. Iron Body enables practitioners to take heavy blows from opponents and dissipate the energy from those blows or, with enough skill, to take the energy of a blow and send it back into the body of an attacker possibly breaking the wrist or elbow or dislocating the shoulder. – Hide quoted text –

Ground Path is one important skill that enables artists to practice Iron Body. Ground Path is a kind of energy pathwork. Like other kinds of pathwork in Tai Chi, it enables practitioners to route energy or force through the body. This particular skill is the first type of pathwork students encounter simply because it is the easiest type of pathwork to learn. This is because when energy is being sent downward, gravity is on the side of the student.

At first, Ground Path relies heavily on proper skeletal structure. When the body is aligned correctly, it is easier to send force down into the ground. Skill can be developed by having a student stand with proper alignment while having someone else press the student from various angles and positions. Each time, the student should be able to send the force into the ground. Furthermore, if the person pressing suddenly lets go, the student should not move. If the force is quickly removed and the student sways in the direction he or she was being pressed, it means the force was being resisted through pressing into it rather than sending the force into the ground.

To learn Ground Path, it can help to visualize the energy or force going into the ground. However, it can be tempting for students to rely solely on visualization without paying attention to what is really going on with their bodies. In order to learn the skill well, students should work on actually feeling the energy going down into the ground. To some extent, it can also be practiced with a wall. However, a wall will not suddenly release the pressure on you, so be careful that you are not learning into the wall when you practice.

Over time, a deep level of ability with Ground Path can be developed. At first it can require a lot of assistance from someone else, but further along, a person can practice more and more by themselves. As students develop their ability, it is possible to rely less on skeletal structure and to begin to relax more and more while still properly directing energy. It can also be developed so that it happens more and more quickly and with less and less physical effort. Ground Path can also help with learning to achieve Sung, a state where the body is relaxed but not collapsed.

Although at first, Ground Path can seem very challenging, it is achievable by average people and it is a building block toward breathtaking skill.