Common misconceptions about the Snake Style

There are many misconceptions regarding the snake style that I would like to correct. First, the snake style is not the tiger style done very low. The concept of “snake” refers to the manner in which one moves in tai chi. Movements in the Snake Style originate in the trunk of the body, not in the legs.

Secondly, the snake style is not dangerous to practice. I suffered two major injuries in my body by practicing the tiger style. One was an SI joint injury that came from tucking my tail bone(very bad and incorrect idea). The other was a rotator cuff injury resulting from dropping my shoulders forward in an attempt to (mistakenly) apply “hollowing the chest’. Practicing the Snake Style has been very therapeutic for both injuries and both have greatly improved thanks to practicing Grandmaster Ip’s snake style tai chi.

My years of snake style practice have proven beyond a doubt that the principles written down by the Yang family regarding their tai chi chuan apply only to the snake style. The potential for injury in tai chi comes from trying to apply these principles to the tiger style (developed later by Yang Chen Fu). Rolling the shoulders, rounding the back, bending the knee over the toe, protruding the abdomen and tucking the tailbone can lead to physical problems down the road. Hollowing the chest and raising the back; setting the shoulders and dropping the elbows; and loosening the back waist and legs are principles that apply to the snake style, not the tiger style.

Written by: Master Bob Boyd – Bao Tak Fai Institute

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