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Tai Chi and Golf Biomechanics
By: Jayne Storey (profile)
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In the first part of this article Jayne explains the 4 Fundamental Actions of Tai Chi - how to apply them for more balance and power at set-up, and how your game can benefit today. Then she discusses why “slow motion” practice was of benefit to golf’s greatest genius, Ben Hogan, and how you can use it to develop a more authentic and consistent swing.

Tai Chi – 4 fundamental actions for better golf

Mickelson, Tiger, Westwood, and Martin Kaymer, perform the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi together with a Tai Chi master during a press event ahead of the 2010 WGC-HSBC Championship in Shanghai. (www.golfdigest.com). 

Tai Chi is becoming an increasingly popular way of helping golfers play their best. The 2010 Annual Review of Golf Coaching – “a peer-reviewed publication (designed) to bridge the gap between scientific and practical knowledge in golf “contains a number of articles in relation to this ancient art and how it serves to improve performance in golf.

Peter Lightbrown, author of “The Fairway Within”, is a British golf coach now living and teaching in Sydney, Australia. He writes about a number of alternative methods used in his approach to golf coaching including Tai Chi, Zen, the Alexander Technique and Yoga. Of Tai Chi he writes:

“Tai Chi is often referred to as a moving meditation and I feel golf can be seen in the same light. A sport with a static ball lends itself to a meditative approach…Tai Chi helped me understand the vital role of the centre of the body and how we can use breathing to help connect us with our centre. I was also influenced by the practise in Tai Chi of learning the sequence of movements first and then performing it without thinking about how. This is very important in a golf swing, because the main problem is over-trying or over-thinking which gets us in a cycle of tension and self-doubt. Learning the movement slowly and then teaching the body to act unselfconsciously provides a great antidote, and this became a crucial part of my approach to teaching the swing”.

The chi-power GOLF method teaches fundamental Tai Chi principles for a more fluid and powerful golf swing - beginning with good posture, balance and relaxation, coupled with an internal focus on deep and rhythmical breathing to reduce anxiety and develop relaxed concentration.

The difference this awareness can create in your golf swing, ball striking and overall satisfaction with your performance around the course is subtle but immensely powerful.

It’s easy to get caught-up in the traditional consensus approach to golf coaching. While Tai Chi may not be the traditional coaching method, it is the original way to develop fluid, powerful motion, enhance the mind~body connection and maintain superior performance under pressure.

Let’s look now at what are called the 4 Fundamental Actions of Tai Chi and how they can improve your balance and power, for a more athletic set-up:

The 4 Fundamental Actions of Tai Chi

  1. Hollow your chest by breathing out and slightly sinking your sternum
  2. Draw in the navel, allowing your tailbone to point downwards and creating a plum-line from the crown of your head, placing the pelvis in a neutral position
  3. Sit down into the tops of your quad muscles, slightly creasing the tops of the legs where they join your torso
  4. Fill up your footprints, by becoming aware of your feet in contact with the ground

The above actions begin in the mind, and then occur sequentially throughout the body, producing a downwards loosening energy that lowers both the centre of gravity and your mental awareness. This creates a more stable platform in the feet, from which you can produce more ground-force energy to power longer drives.

Slow motion practice – the key to understanding your swing

http://www.golfwrx.com

The Tai Chi approach used in chi-power GOLF is echoed in the practise method of Ben Hogan, who famously used a slow motion swing to develop what is arguably the most archetypal swing of them all, one which has been extensively written about and emulated more than any other.

This practice of moving slowly is adopted throughout the East, where even an everyday activity such as walking is slowed right down to become a method of meditation in Buddhist monasteries.

So, how can this approach improve your game and where did Ben Hogan get the idea of moving slowly from?

Hogan practically invented the notion of practice in golf and his level of dedication (which is as legendary as his actual swing) resulted in Tiger Woods saying that Hogan was able to understand his swing probably more than most players will ever understand theirs.

Hogan performed a slow motion practise swing precisely because by slowing down he was able to feel and become aware of what was working and what wasn’t in his swing.

http://www.golfwrx.com

As with most Eastern techniques that were once thought of as a bit left-field, recent research has shown that moving in slow motion can have specific benefits due to its particular effect on the brain and the mind~body connection. For example, specific

neural connections associated with movement can increase, as more detailed and refined information becomes available to the brain to build the movement map.

Your proprioceptive map - the physical areas of your brain responsible for sensing and controlling movement – can also develop stronger neural linkages in response to slow motion activity and the resulting sensory feedback that occurs. Seen in this light, the term ‘grooving’ your swing really should be taken literally. 

Understanding your swing by performing it slowly will help you groove a swing that is as consistent as your own signature. Constant repetition of the 1.8 seconds that make up a typical golf swing offers neither the time nor the space for you to develop the qualities of attention and awareness that are essential to improvement. Slow, gentle movement can make your internal swing map that much clearer.

U.S.-based Ai Miyazato - LPGA Tour and the LPGA of Japan Tour (JLPGA) – used the slow-motion practice swing to become the top-ranked golfer in the Women's World Golf Rankings for three periods of time in 2010.

The Slow Motion Swing Drill

Set-up to the ball and take a few deep breaths into your centre.

Swing as slowly as possible staying relaxed throughout the motion, breathing normally.

Take at least one minute to complete your swing, without resisting the slowness or anticipating the finish.

Time yourself using the stopwatch function on your mobile. A minute is much longer than it seems.

Fully engage with the balance and rhythm of your swing, paying particular attention to your lower-body (feet and legs).

Feel how your upper-body (waist, shoulders and arms) responds to your lower-body when you relax, as opposed to deliberately moving through various swing positions.

When you can comfortably take one minute to perform your swing, try it with your eyes closed! This will really test your 3D proprioception map!

About the author

Jayne Storey’s chi-power GOLF is based on simple, timeless principles from the East, principles which are supported by neuroscience and biomechanics research, and which can help you maximize your playing performance, particularly during pressure situations.

Get a FREE download on Tai Chi principles for golf biomechanics - when you purchase the chi-power GOLF coaching video download “Breathing to Win!” at www.chipowergolf.com

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