Yang Tai Chi: the Dan Tien, the Bubbling Well, and the Perineal Pump.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 09:58AM
Bob Boyd

Most Yang tai chi practitioners are familiar with the concepts of the Dan Tien, the Bubbling Well, and the Perineal Pump.

I was certainly aware of these “chi” pumps and taught my students of their importance. I also believed that I was stimulating these important body pumps whenever I practiced my tai chi form. Truthfully, as in so many circumstances during my 17-year tiger style practice, I did not have any significant feeling in any of these parts of my body. But I faithfully believed that these pumps were activated through the natural magic of tai chi movement.

I did practice a meditation where I sat on a chair or bench with my private parts hanging over the edge and squeezed the kegel muscles in my perineum to pump energy from my dan tien up through my spine and down the front of my body in what was called the “microcosmic orbit.” I actually found a tangible feeling of energy movement from this exercise, but it was never duplicated while performing tai chi.

When I became Master Ip's Disciple, he never spoke of energy pumps. He focused solely on teaching me the Snake Style of the Yang family. A most important part of his teaching was the emphasis on “hollowing the chest and raising the back.” Although I had read about this Yang principle from the beginning of my tai chi training, watching Master Ip raise his back was undeniable proof that I had no understanding of this profound Yang family principle.

Like many other tiger style practitioners, I always thought that “hollowing the chest” meant collapsing my chest and drooping my shoulders; believing that this made energy sink to my dan tien. How absurd! Anyone can collapse their chest, but flexing the thoracic spine (raising the back) requires proper instruction and determination on the part of the student to develop this powerful internal action through dedicated practice.

Now, more than a dozen years later, I understand the importance of this “Holy Grail” of Yang family principles. By “raising my back,” I activate my bubbling well, dan tien, and perineal pump simultaneously.

The snake style revealed to me that energy pumps are activated bio-mechanically, and “raising the back” creates a strong suction at the bottom of the foot, a strong pulling up of the perineum, and a strong pulling in of the dan tien. By moving correctly in the snake style, these pumps are stimulated each time a new posture is created.

The combination of correct bio-mechanical and energetic pumping creates a very powerful core body strength that unifies the upper and lower parts of the body into a rooted, flexible and powerful posture. This is the key to health and longevity, and is also the key to the “real” power of tai chi as a martial art.


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