Joe Johnstonís Thoughts on Applying Tai Chi Principles to Daily Life  

I have begun to apply the principles of balance & rooting to daily activities. This little treatise will tell you about it. Iíll show some examples and share some conclusions I have drawn.


Always try to stay balanced on the feet and avoid veering to subtle imbalances when doing things. Use single weighting when turning and reaching to the side.

Do all tasks in small circular motions. This is the essence of Tai Chi.

Keep the lifting and pulling motions close to your body. In the wheelhouse is how Nathan Menaged (a senior student of William C.C. Chen and a masterfully skilled martial artist) describes this idea. Overreaching reduces leverage and creates stress on the body, primarily the back.

Always turn your body from the hips instead of the shoulders. The shoulders may move, too, but are not the point of leverage. 

Remember The Constant Bear warm up exercise. (Everything described below is some aspect of the Bear. That is, relaxed and turning from the waist/hips.)

Examples of Activities

While doing simple activities such as brushing your teeth, shaving or even taking a shower, stand evenly on the three nails. Knees are slightly flexed and hips indented/folded as in the beginning of the Form's movement. This sounds easy but we are in the habit of slouching on one leg or the other and not staying centered. If you turn and reach, use single weight, right or left, and turn from the hips.

Notice that our usual habit of reaching and twisting our upper body and lower back causes bodily stress. But in keeping weight over the three nails the stress is reduced. So instead of stretching and balancing on our toe, heel or side of the foot, take small steps and turn from the waist as in Tai Chióstress is removed.

Improve balance by putting on skivvies & socks while standing instead of sitting on the bed. Even, though maybe not able to at first, tying the laces or fastening the straps while continuing to balance on the other leg.  

When opening doors, donít pull from your shoulder. Just flex a knee, root the foot and pull from the floor.

In the kitchen, when lifting and moving pots and pans, use turning motions as in ward off (left or right), rollback and back punch to move things. This will keep you rooted and reduce long reaches which are stressful on your back, knees and shoulders.

These ideas can be applied in all our activities while moving and working around the house and yard. I believe daily activities at home or workplace cause small, subtle injuries to spine and body if weíre not balanced. This accumulates over the years, resulting in bad posture, sore backs, and shoulder, knee and hip damage as we grow older. I have noticed when I am balanced on my feet, my shoulders straighten.

One other benefit is that by taking the weight of the upper body off the lower back, the thighs take the load. The result will be stronger legs, will use more calories and so in subtle ways will help in weight reduction.

When you think about it the body was meant to work this way. The Tai Chi way, when you see it deeply, is actually very natural. 

Many back injuries occur when someone reaches behind or to the side and lifts an object. If we turn from the waist, aligning the spine, these injuries could be avoided.

My Conclusions

Young bodies absorb small injuries without notice. The price is bigger injury and pain as we grow older.

By using these ideas each of us can reduce stress and promote a healthier body. We can move away from injury and pain.

Developing habits such as these is easy and beneficial. Then even simple, common and repetitive tasks become new and very interesting.

Joe speaks from experience of well over 20 years years of Tai Chi with me--Ron.
17 April 2011