Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • February 2012
Written by  Andrew Mertens

The 5th Tai Chi principle: The beautiful lady’s hand

This month I will be finishing a series of articles explaining the five principles of Tai Chi. These principles can be thought of as a way of living and can be applied to anything we do in life.

1. Relax: I am constantly asking myself if I could relax more. If I am driving my van, cutting vegetables, washing the dishes, playing music, mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway, I find I can always relax a little more each time I ask that question.

2. Body upright: If you were to have an alarm sound every 40 minutes and freeze in whatever position you find yourself, you may find yourself leaning. I catch myself leaning all of the time, and when I do, I relax and float my head upward.

3. Separate yin and yang: We can see this principle playing everywhere. Whether it is the back and forth of a sporting event, the change of being asleep to awake, the change of the day to night, the days to weeks, the weeks to months, the storm to calm, we see these opposing forces playing out in everything in the universe. If we can find a way to see the interplay between yin and yang and flow with them, we can do amazing things effortlessly. If we move against that flow, we find even normal everyday things are a struggle, and stress will grow like weeds.

4. Mind in the Dan Tien: Most people’s minds are all over the place. Again, if there were an alarm sounding every 40 minutes and I were to record where my mind was at that moment, the entries would be all over the place. I may be in my hometown of Jefferson or in my college dorm or performing with my first band. I may be running a song or a movie. I may be thinking of that person that I miss or love or hate. I may be wondering how I feel about someone or some place or some thing. This principle asks that we put our minds in our belly three fingers below the naval. The mind keeps company with the chi (energy) in the Dan Tien. So when I catch my mind somewhere else, I just call it back to my belly and relax.

This brings us to the last principle: The beautiful lady’s hand. The best way I can describe this is blowing air into a rubber glove — the full glove has no breaks or bends. On the surface this seems like the easiest thing to do, but I find that this is the thing I correct most in my classes. The wrist is straight as is the joint of the first, second and third knuckles. We sometimes call it knife hands or five swords, each finger being straight as a sword. The difficult thing is to do this relaxed with no tension in the hand. I have found that as I learn to relax my hand in this position, my hand can teach my forearm to relax, which teaches my elbow to relax. The elbow teaches the muscles around the humorous to relax and they can teach the shoulder to relax.

For me this has been so profound. The initial reason why I began studying Tai Chi was to heal the numbness that I had in my left hand. I am a professional bassist who plays several hours every day; without Tai Chi this would have ended in 2001. So how does this principle relate to everyday life? I have found that I was holding things to tightly: the steering wheel, the knife, the golf club, the lawnmower, the bass and the guitar. Whatever energy I put into holding those things so tightly comes back to me when I relax. I can use it for the activity rather than the object. All of these principles together are a path to wisdom, knowledge of yourself and how you use your energy.

I remember my teacher saying that Tai Chi will make everything in your life better. The great grandmaster Cheng Man Cheng said, “Correct your (Tai Chi) forms and your forms will correct you.”

This is the last article in this series of six. If you would like copies of all of the articles please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will send you the entire set.

Andrew Mertens is the director of the Oshkosh Tai Chi Center and a certified Quantum Energetics practitioner. Mertens holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Lawrence University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the New Physiology Institute. He is also a professional bassist and founding member of The Jazz Orgy. For questions about Tai Chi, e-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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