Chi-Power Golf Part 14 - Taoist art of I Ch’uan
The Taoist art of I Ch’uan – which literally means ‘mind boxing’ – describes the process of standing still like a post, or stake, which is sunk into the ground. It’s a traditional form of power training used in the martial arts and is an extremely beneficial practice for golfers looking for more structural stability and mental relaxation.
Standing exercises are an excellent way to examine posture, body alignment, relaxation levels, the breathing process and the activity of the mind and how it affects the body. By simply standing still, we are getting rid of any stimuli which can impair our ability to “listen” to our body and examine its state. As a student advances in I Ch’uan, the practice can becomemoremeditative and themindset required for competitive sports (intent) can be trained with increased efficiency. The better we can become at standing still, themore we can maintain a strong structure and yet remain athletically relaxed. A strong structure is one that is able to receive and/or emit force and stillmaintain its shape – exactly what you need at the set-up.
From a health perspective the force we are concerned with is that which is exerted on our body by gravity – i.e. its weight. Most people have difficulty in holding up the weight of their own body without holding tension. And tension – as you know, destroys any hope of making a dynamic golf swing.
Incorrect alignment plays a big part in this, as it creates a situation where extra muscle groups need to be engaged just to fight gravity.
In a golfing scenario, Standing Practise teaches us to use the energy of the ground (including the legs and feet) to generate more power using less effort/ energy in order to strike the ball. It also helps us to maintain lower body stability/ resistance, which in turn enables us to create more torque/coil.
Moreover, as we can learn to let the force of gravity drop through the body into the ground, we can relax the muscles over the top of good skeletal alignment, helping us move more quickly and fluidly, thus developing greater club-head speed.
1. WUJI – the ‘Infinity Posture’
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly out. Unlock your knees and relax your lower back, allowing your tailbone to gently unfurl towards the floor. Relax your chest and start to become aware of your feet in contact with the ground. Relax your shoulders, neck and face and imagine the crown of your head is suspended from above, as if by a thread. Fix your gaze a mile into the distance.
2. HOLDING the BALL
– the ‘Universal Post’ Empty your chest more and allow your knees to bend slightly, so that you sit down into a lower stance. Stay mindful of the above postural points and keep your back straight as per Wuji. Raise your arms slowly until your palms are in line with your shoulders. Hold your arms as if you were hugging a large beach ball – keep your elbows pointing outwards and relax your shoulders.
3. HOLDING the T’AN TIEN
– focus on the navel area Next, return to a more upright posture, as per Wuji, with your knees unlocked but not bent. Slowly lower your arms and place your hands on top of your navel. Your focus should be: – maintaining quiet awareness of your breathing – then slowly empty your chest – dropping your attention to your t’an tien / navel area – filling up your footprints
Duration? I’d recommend that you try to hold each of these posture exercises for at least 3-5 minutes, moving from one to another in the order that I have described (and that you see illustrated in the photos below).
The benefits you will experience will include:
• Deeper breathing
So how can these exercises help you out on the golf course?
There are many benefits these exercises can bring, not least in calming nerves and establishing a mindset that allows you to perform at your best. So, rather than standing around worrying about a particular shot or filling your head with negatives on the 1st tee, why not stand up straight, hold the butt-end of your driver against your navel and concentrate on your breathing pattern? Stand calmly, quietly. Do nothing other than focusing on your breathing into your lower abdomen.
To build ground-force energy, you need to get and stay ‘rooted’ both at address and during your swing. This drill will not only help you achieve this but will also help you to master your body chemistry so that you can retain your swing mechanics any time you’re under pressure during a round. You can clearly see the difference this drill makes by looking at the two images of the set-up. Many golfers set up too quickly and don’t allow themselves time to get balanced and connected to the ground. With these few focuses worked into your pre-shot routine, you will not only achieve better balance but keep your mind and nervous-system free from anxiety.
1. Hollow your chest: in T’ai Chi training there is a saying, “Relax your chest to find your feet”. As you empty or hollow your chest you will release tension fromyour upper body and feel more connected to the ground.
2. Breathe deeply: lowering your centre of awareness, by concentrating your mind at the navel, is a key focus in chipower GOLF training. As you gently focus on your navel, you will find that you start to breathemore deeply and slowly and this in turn helps you combat nervousness or anxiety.
3. Fill up your footprints: Many golfers I work with feel they are set-up to the ball correctly, but a gentle shove in the sternum sees them fall backwards into the driving bay, proving they are neither rooted nor relaxed over the ball! In fact, many golfers setup with their weight mostly on their heels which causes them to instantly lose their equilibrium, so focus on filling up your whole footprint on the ground for increased stability.