Relearn How To Move

Julian of YMAA New Zealand recently visited the Center for two and a half weeks. Congratulations to him on earning his 3rd stripe in Shaolin and 4th stripe in Taijiquan!


Many guests express their appreciation to be able to train here in this environment with Dr. Yang and the senior students. We were just as, if not more grateful to have Julian here as a training partner and guest lecturer. A physiotherapist at The Body Workshop, Julian graciously gave us 8 hours of lectures plus individual consultations on how to properly move our bodies and recover from injuries. That’s not including random questions we bombarded him with throughout the days. To say that we learned a lot is a massive understatement.


Sometimes due to injuries or the stress of highly repetitive and intensive training, our body starts to adopt faulty ways of moving to get by. This may cause misalignment and in some of our posture and movements. I’ve been training and moving a certain way for many years now, but a lot of it, including the basics, is incorrect due to misalignment. I need to make a lot of changes in order to move more efficiently and effectively and to prevent injuries. Julian noted that some of my movements weren’t as fluid as they should be. For instance, for “Three Rings Around the Moon” in Gong Li Quan, I was using too much muscle power rather than driving the power from my feet-legs-hips. I’m also very aware that sometimes my power comes out in a wiggly line rather than a straight one. Julian’s lessons will not only help me move correctly, but also spot potential problems in other students when I teach.

Here is my long list of issues and homework. If you think you have similar issues, please consult a professional first so they can assess your problems and give you the proper advice.


Double Doorway Stretch


  • Both humerus heads sit to far forward in the shoulder socket. HW#1: Adjust my Forward and Backward Flying White Crane pattern so that I don’t lead with my shoulders. Think about leading the motion and power from the bottom of the arms rather than the top. HW#2: Adjust my push ups and panther hops to make sure my chest doesn’t collapse. Don’t push it when fatigued or I’ll reinforce bad structure.
  • My left scapula sticks out a little at the bottom due to tight pectoral minor muscles. HW#1: When relaxed (not in motion), think about pulling the left shoulder slightly back. HW#2: Stretch my pec minors using the double doorway stretch.

Lower Back

  • Arches into too much extension and even more so when I do the spine wave. HW: As the spine wave starts, tuck pelvis in more and reduce the arching (over extension).


  • Not flexible enough. Causes over-arched lower back and more strain on the knees. HW: Julian gave me drills to move my hips more and my knees less.
  • I have what the guys dubbed as a “butch walk.” I don’t move my shoulders or hips very much so I resemble a macho guy when I walk. I don’t mind, but it relates to my hip inflexibility so I want to correct it. HW: Try the “model walk” and move hips more. As I take a step, think about bringing the side of the hip that’s slightly behind, towards the opposite knee in front. Be less “butch” and more “gangster” and relax the shoulders.
TCEC scj

Hip, knee, & toe misalignment Credit: Kevin Ho for Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine


  • Left knee previously had a torn ACL and damaged medial meniscus. HW: Be conscious about aligning knees with 2nd toe and distributing weight more evenly on my feet instead of to one side. Sometimes just thinking about it helps.


  • Ankles have always been tight due to old injuries. This affects my knee and hip movements. HW: Move with proper alignment to help reduce stress on the muscles, ligaments and tendons.
  • Left ankle injury causes me to put more strain on the arch so much that it’s slightly collapsed. HW: Tape ankle with leuko tape to help lift the arch. Two days on and two days off (to let the skin breathe) for a few weeks. Think about putting more weight on my big toe but lift the arch at the same time.


  • Squats: It was difficult to get in a full squat because of my inflexible ankles so I collapsed my knees inward and this was very bad. I was also bending my knees before my hips. Now I have to learn to lead with the hips like I’m sitting in a chair, turn the knees out as I squat, and lead with the hips by bringing them to the center as I stand up.
  • Si Liu Bu to Deng Shan Bu: I have to align the knee with the 2nd toe in all the stances. When shifting from Si Liu Bu to Deng Shan Bu, I need to turn my hips more and use my knees less. Shifting between these two stances is one of the most important foundations in everything we do so it feels like I’m starting over in some ways.
  • In Ma Bu and also when shifting from Si Liu Bu to Deng Shan Bu, put my hands on my knees to prevent them from moving and work on moving my hips and lower back. This will help increase flexibility.
  • Watch someone with a similar body type who knows how to use their body correctly.

On the one hand, doing these motions with the adjustments feel uncomfortable and difficult for the time being. My muscles, ligaments, and tendons are being stretched in new ways and I need a lot more flexibility. It feels like I’m learning how to move again so I’m struggling with stances, which means I’m struggling with everything I do. When I’m on break over the summer, I hope train the new correct movements into habits.

On the other hand, I can feel my muscles moving more efficiently, my knees aren’t popping during squats, and I feel like I have the potential to generate more power through the legs and spine.

Julian – I can’t thank you enough for all the help.

3 thoughts on “Relearn How To Move

  1. You know what I find strange? That every correction you listed involves ‘increasing flexibility’. None entails strengthening something.

    I’d think that some of the problems you listed (knees trailing inward when squatting, scapula winging out, ‘butch walk’) are caused by general weakness of the ‘back muscles’ – especially gluteus medius and interscapular muscles.If that is the case, stretching would not help here.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. Your today’s blog is very helpful to try to help some doubts or problems some of us have.
    Knees position in Tai Chi is very important, a lot of places say to take care of them but really almost none says how to do it.
    For back aches I “use” Ba Duan Jin.
    About shoulder/scapula I have a similar problem in my right one and my physiotherapist told me to strech it also using the door frame.
    Thanks for your comments and helps

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