This entry is a first draft excerpt from the Tai Chi Principles Manual I a currently working on all feedback questions or comments are appreciated Please contact me through my website www.taichiteacher.org or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Principle of Sung
One of the most important principles to the Internal Martial Arts is Sung (pronounced Soong). While no directly corresponding concept exist in the English speaking culture, a working translation would be using “least possible effort” in both the physical and mental efforts. Since Sung is foreign to western culture, and individual schools have different ways of applying this principle, what I will present here is a mixture of this several of these philosophies.
Physical applications of Sung
When we apply Sung to the physical body, we can separate the development into stages the first is the static or still cultivation stage of this principle. Static Sung begins with a simple premise that the body will require no more force than that provided by the natural tension of the soft tissues to hold a static position distributes the weight within the base of support.
To experience this principle, relax you arm entirely and allow a partner to raise it until the hand rest in the plane of the shoulder in front of you without helping them. Once they have positioned your arm, slowly take back control of the weight of the arm until you reach the threshold that the arm will remain raised. Your partner can help you by testing and lowering their hands. The feeling localized in your arm is a beginning body concept of Sung in its static form.
Primarily development of static Sung comes from practicing standing meditation. While Standing Meditation, also known as Post Standing in some styles, has many uses, we will only be looking at how it relates to the Sung principle. When Sung is applied to Standing Meditation, the first step is to align the body. For our example, we will use the Wu Wei position, an anatomically correct weight bearing position.
This position also known as the Natural Stance begins by aligning the feet forward at a natural distance apart. Having the feet a natural distance apart is aligning the outside of the feet to the widest point of the body. Males will usually find their shoulders to be wider than their hips while women normally will want to align their feet to their hips.
Moving up the knees should be slightly bent and rest above and in line with the feet, hips relaxed so that the pelvic rolls under and the lower back may flatten out slightly. The shoulder blades are relaxed so that they fall into a neutral position so that the back and chest can both expand when breathing and the palms resting on the thighs. Finally, the head and neck should extend up with the crown of the head, the point at the back of the skull where the hair meets, raised and the chin tucked slightly so that the eyes are focused on a point directly ahead.
Search for points of tension and attempt to release them. Ideally, the body should reach a state of muscle tension similar to what was present after the earlier arm exercise. Other post standing positions and stances can be used including endpoints from the forms. Once a static concept of Sung is achieved, it is much easier to move into an active version of this principle.
I will discuss the active and mental applications of the Sung principle in future entries to this blog.