I have noticed this thing for a while now. For some reasons students who have learned Tai Chi elsewhere will have this unnatural elbow habit.
Why would this be so? I can only speculate that this is due to :-
i) Misunderstanding of the Tai Chi Classics principles requirement for the elbow
ii) Lack of understanding of how an optimal body kinetic chain should be formulated
iii) Not able to differentiate between macro versus micro power
Our elbows have a natural way of positioning when we do not use excessive muscular strength. You can see this in young children. However, when we grow older and we start to use more muscular strength and our strength usage base migrates to our upper body we start to position our elbows unnaturally. Take a look at the photos comparison below and you will see what I mean :-
This habit when it intrudes into our practice and usage of Tai Chi will lead us to apply excessive strength and resist even when it is strategically not smart to do so. So when I get someone with this unnatural elbow habit to get into Peng posture and apply some pressure on the arm I can feel the urge to resist without thinking whether this is the appropriate response. In this manner, none of the other forces can be used easily because the posture has caused other responses to be obstructed.
In this position a careful scrutiny will show though the arm strength seems to be strong, however, it is really localized arm strength rather than integrated strength flowing from the ground. If the pressure on the arm were to be increased you would notice that the arm will starts to tremble as the muscles start to buckle and the balance begins to be affected. In this manner it is not only the elbow principle that is violated but a few other principles as well.
This is why you cannot ignore the Tai Chi Classics if you want to Master Tai Chi Today in an optimal manner. If you cannot get a teacher to correct your elbow position then you can try doing it yourself by first studying books on anatomy and biomechanics before venturing to do a trial and error study of the elbow position. You might not get it right away but if you persist in investigating this topic you will understand more and more over time. I don’t ask students to take what I say on faith. I ask them to feel and try it out. Then based on the feedback I would know if they got it or need to continue studying and refining it until they can finally use it.
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