Within most styles of taijiquan like the Yang, Chen, Wu, Hao & Sun styles the turning of the waist is an important attribute that every student of taijiquan must learn to acquire, as the taiji classics mention that the waist (Yao) guides and leads the energy (Qi) to be released out through the extremities. Sadly this emphasis of turning the waist to lead and guide the Qi is not evident in many practitioners of the Li/Lee style taijiquan to many seem to simply keep their torso very square on and rigid and there does not same to be any pliability or suppleness within the waist and lower back area, which means that not only will they lack the cohesion of the whole body’s movements they will also lack the internal strength and power in their actions, plus the obvious benefits of turning the waist to gently stretch the back muscles, spinal column and also work the core muscles of the abdomen will not be greatly received by each individual.
In the Li/Lee Style Taijiquan posture of “White Crane Exercises Its Wings” (Bai He Kai Chi) which is attached to this blog you can see the action of turning the waist (Zhuan Yao) is greatly emphasised in its actions by Laoshi Keith Ewers. The taiji classics also say that to turn to the left, one must turn to the right first using the principle of Yin & Yang opposites to balance the whole body’s movements,. Whereas, many individuals of the Li/Lee Style taijiquan simply raise their arms without the action of turning the waist, which greatly simplifies the action making it easier to learn, but without much depth and benefits towards developing health and high level skill to mobilise the Qi throughout the whole body. Again more individuals are more concerned about teaching and learning a much easier watered down version of the Li/Lee style taijiquan, rather than developing a quality based practice that offers greater benefits towards practicing taijiquan as a health, meditative and self defence system.
As all styles of taijiquan emphasis circular actions be they small or big they should not just be performed by the arms alone. The whole body should be using circular movements and this includes the torso and legs, these circles will then link together to form spirals with one circle transforming into another circle as seen in the “White Crane Exercise Its Wings” Posture the turning of the waist allows the shoulders to rotate and circle the whole arm in a Spiralling action stretching the tendons, muscles and opening the joints to allow for greater range of mobility and blood and Qi circulation throughout the entire body. Another Taiji classic that I personally mention to my students of the Li/Lee style taijiquan is “That if one part of the body moves, everything moves. If one part of the body stops moving, everything stops moving”. You cannot have the arms moving without the waist turning, you cannot step first without the waist guiding & leading the foot and bodyweight. To perform any style of taijiquan without the turning of the waist to guide and lead the energy throughout the entire body lacks a very important attribute that can make your taijiquan disconnected and weak.