STEM of Tai Chi: Physiology

The Tai Chi Yang Short Form 24 Poses. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello


Tai Chi starts with physiology and the body itself. Many times people never stop to consider how the body can be a transmitter of energy. Just as water flows through whatever landscape it encounters, so too does energy. The art of Tai Chi is learning how to allow Energy to flow like water up and through the body. It is also important to know the body’s limits, the importance of stretching, and the art of moving the body through time and space.

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  1. It is important to remember that the body has four quadrants of movement:
    • forward, to the left, to the right, backwards
  2. You must be prepared for this. Sometimes you will have to do things backwards. You MUST know what the steps are so you don’t doubt what you need to do next.
    • My Tai Chi master would make me do 20 pushups if I looked back at him.
    • Use the force, trust your instincts.
    • Study the form!
  3. The body is symmetric. If one side does one thing, the other side must follow, the other side is following along divided by the line of symmetry. That is the nature of the body.
  4. Even though some moves come in uneven numbers, commit to using the entire body to accomplish each move early. I will correct you often, because we live in a world of uneven power. But make no mistake the body transmits power.
  5. We are not used to moving our upper and lower body at the same time – independently. You MUST MASTER this skill as it essential to Tai Chi.
    • Side note: I will not hear you complain about this.
    • The ENTIRE reason I know Tai Chi is that the Cleveland Clinic REQUIRED me to learn it to overcome paralysis.
    • You got this boo. You just lack imagination and training.
  6. It is a requirement in Tai Chi to stretch the body. STRETCH every day.
  7. Tai Chi is focused passion and movement. You are not moving cans from one shelf to another; you MUST activate all your muscle groups from the legs through the flutes and lower pelvis, the powerful abdominals and the back and ribs, the strength of the shoulders, arms and hands, and the neck and head. Rarely do we isolate the body systems in Tai Chi.
  8. The energy of the body is like a lake of water transmitting a wave; Neither the lake nor the body PRODUCES energy, it simply TRANSMITS energy.
  9. The source of energy in Tai Chi is ALWAYS the ground. That energy is transmitted through the body gracefully following the threefold path:
    • bones
    • muscles
    • skin
  10. Think about a power plug and an electrical outlet; The body is electrical in nature. It requires a ground — just like the plug. You will see this eventually…
  11. The ONLY place that transfers and accelerates energy in Tai Chi is the base of the torso/thoracic cavity (AKA the perineum AKA the taint) That is a sacred place (think of all the people that see your perineum. It is a sacred place . That is where all energy transfers in our bodies.
  12. The closer to the ground the perineum the more power you will transmit. Ohm’s Law -This is your intro to STEM…
    • Ohms Law I is the current and it is equivalent to the Voltage (V) divided by the Radius (R) from the source.
    • Jim Bruner | Mezzacello
    • So, the closer your butt is to the ground the smaller the Radius and the lower the Voltage to accomplish your Current. A high ass is a low current, people.
  13. Consider the toes, fingers and chin as sources of water: the water flows gracefully through the body and exits through the toes, fingertips and chin.
    • This will REQUIRE a dancer’s sense of extension.
    • There are no excuses.
  14. Lastly the straight arm or leg is a blunt object; it lacks power. One must be able to DYNAMICALLY redirect power. It is the bones, muscles, and skin that ripple and power through the body.
    • If you are not used to thinking of your body as a machine – get over that.
    • Your legs must bend, your butt should be lowered and your torso ready to jump.
    • Your arms and neck should be ready to extend as the wave of power travels up and through your body.
    • Flowing water can bring life and it can be a Tsunami. That’s where the Physics comes in.

Parental note!

Teach Tai Chi to your kids who are experiencing rapid growth because of puberty or learning a new sport. They will benefit greatly from knowing what their natural balance when running, playing, flirting or just avoiding running into walls because their bodies are changing overnight.

The body MUST be stretched. Muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments need warning they will be used. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello


Now we stretch. It will help if you have experience with yoga, but it will not be necessary. You MUST be aware of three things:

  1. The body is a machine made for motion.
  2. The body will tell you it can’t go on. Push just a tiny bit further.
  3. None of this should feel comfortable at first. It will become easier. It will never become more difficult – just easier.
The body is a machine capable of amazing motion. Photo courtesy Ryan Hurst. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello

Moving the Body

Now we move. It will help if you NOT baby your body but every time you move it, move it a little bit more. You will become aware of four things:

  1. Your body thinks it can only move conventionally. This is a lie.
  2. Your body has limitations that are identified via pain. Take these seriously.
  3. Those dudes that wear the T-Shirts that say that pain is just fear leaving your body are right.
    • They lack empathy, but they are mostly right.
  4. Protect and pay attention to your knees and hips. They are vulnerable at first.
    • If you imagine the energy coming from the ground through your body, it makes sense that the knees and hips are vulnerable.
    • Luckily they are also very responsive to stretching.
    • Stretch your knees and hips.
When you focus the mind and make demands of the body is when you achieve balance. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello

Your body is a machine made for motion

Now we learn what we can and can’t do. There will be compromises. But Tai Chi is only about the mind surrendering — NOT THE BODY.

  1. If it hurts, that’s OK, but it is also a lie. Nothing in Tai Chi will hurt your body.
    • It is just your nerve clusters being activated and your Thalamus is freaking out.
  2. The more you move, the easier it will become. The less you move, the harder it will become. Yin and Yang.
  3. Beneath your skin and over your muscles is a layer of cartilage called the fascia. It is very unique.
    • It is electrically sensitive.
    • It is dynamic and triggers the release of endorphins and hormones.
    • It is important that you understand where and why these exist.

In the diagram below you can see all the muscle groups, the fingers and toes, the pelvic floor, and the base of the thoracic cavity (perineum).

The areas that are white are either fascia or ligaments. Both are electrical in nature and serve to conduct electricity and respond to physical reaction/response cues. The more you activate them, the more benefit you will get from Tai Chi. Pay close attention to the abdominals, the gluteals (the butt), the upper and lower back, right left hips and the ankles. Lots of fascia there. It’s almost as if we evolved to use those areas more…

The human musculo-skeletal system Jim Bruner | Mezzacello

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