Foundation Exercise #1
Rotate Arms Upright
Lift the forearms to vertical and move the elbows away from the torso. The elbows are relatively stable in one position.
The palms should be opened by separating the thumb and the index finger. There is a slight curve in the palm. The axis is through the middle finger in forearm to the elbow, turn the palms until they face forward then the other way so they face in. Turn again forward and then back, again and again. Nice and loose. No force.
Turning of forearms is done throughout the tai chi set. All arm movements are done with the forearms turning all the time. They rotate constantly either inwards or outwards.
Foundation Exercise #2
Rotate Arms Sideways
Lift the elbows forward and position the forearms sideways, one on top of the other. The palms are at the center in front of the body. The axis is again from the middle finger through the forearm to the elbow. Turn the top palm out while the lower palm turns in. Describe a circular motion with arms orbiting around each other. Top one pushes out while the bottom one scoops in.
The bottom arm turns in towards the torso leading with the little finger. Scooping up and dropping the elbow will bring the arm up. Then turn the palm and forearm outwards and bringing to top position extend the arm with the thumb leading. Let the shoulder and elbow loosen slowly, so the palm can go forward and straighten the arm with the thumb always leading the way. When the arm is straight, turn the forearm the other way while slowly relaxing the shoulder and let the elbow drop. As the palm turns towards the torso it becomes the lower of the two arms and begins to scoop inwards.
Foundation Exercise #3
Donyu – stretch or elongate the lower part of the spine. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Toes pointing straight forward and squared.
Prepare for lowering the torso;
Arms are straight out forward parallel to each other (at shoulder height). Turn the palms downward and relax arms.
Lowering the torso:
Let the whole body lower straight down with palms pressing down. Lead with the tailbone or the bum. Feel your weight fall in the centre of the feet. The knees stay lined up with the toes, but they do not go more forward than or pass the toes. Going down in the Donyu, go only as far as the balance is secured. When that point is reached, prepare to go up. Turn the forearms so the palms face up. Raise your head by tucking the chin slightly in and start to rise up. Lead with the head, the hips rise forward, the knees go back and the hands slowly reach forward.
When your legs are straight and the arms are extended forward, as in the beginning, turn the palm downwards and repeat the process.
The aim is to relax and fold all the lower joints equally so a vertical straight line is maintained from the head to centre of feet.
Foundation Exercise #4
Toryu Left - stretch or elongate the upper part of spine
The left foot straight forward in front and the right foot at a 45 degree angle in the back. With arms extended forward and weight in the front foot, start to rise up to the top of the head by straightening the front leg. At the same time with the elbows relaxed, wrists start to come together with the left on top of the right.
At this point both legs are straight and your weight is even on both feet. The torso is centred between 45 degrees and straight forward. The arms are crossed at heart level. Sink down into the back foot by slowly relaxing all the joints of the back leg. Wrists are crossed (centred and at heart level) and as you sink down into the back leg, allow the palms to press down slightly. Arms are still rounded. Torso is now facing the front-right corner.
From this back position, open the left side from the right as you rise up to the centre. You are opening the left side of the body, which separates the arms while the elbows drop and the hands are at heart level. Start to rise up to the top of the head by straightening the back leg. When both legs are straight, your weight is even on both feet. The torso is centred between 45 degrees and straight forward. Arms are parallel to each other at heart level pushing out. As you sink down into the front foot, extend the arms forward. Hips and shoulders are now squared to the front foot.