Some Simple Techniques to Remember and to Respond in Times of Emergencies

One of my Taiji students mentioned to me that several years ago, her mom was crossing the street in Taiwan when a car suddenly appeared behind her honked her horn.  She fell to the ground out of fear and was unable to walk due to the injury to her tailbone when she fell.  Because she also had Osteoporosis and poor kidney function, the doctor did not recommend surgery, and she could only lie in bed for about half a year, before she passed away.  Her mom was 91 at the time of the incident, and she passed away at age 92.

This caused my friend to ask “are there some simple techniques that could have helped an elderly person to respond in an unexpected emergency situation similar to what her mom encountered several years ago.

This led me to write the following article “Some simple techniques to remember and to respond in times of emergencies.”

The most talked about martial arts stance is the “horse stance,” as shown in the first photo below.  However. In terms of stability, that is not necessarily the most important stance, which is the stance as shown in the second picture below (the Chinese characters “Taiji Wild Horse Shakes Its Mane” refers to the name of that stance):

To go from the first photo (the horse stance) to the 2nd photo (wild horse shakes its mane), you make the following shifts:

  1. You shift from looking at the front by looking at your left
  2. You move your left foot over to your left from your right foot by about half-a-shoulder to a whole-shoulder-width
  3. Your left foot from the knee down should be straight
  4. Your right foot should be about one step behind your left foot with your weight evenly distributed between your right foot and your left foot
  5. Your body should be upright mostly over your left foot

Note that with this stance, your body weight is supported by both feet.  With your two feet separated by about a shoulder width, you are able to withstand a minor push to try to get you off balance or cause you to fall.  Furthermore, both of your hands can be used to block or defend yourself, or to use them to grab or hold on something, or even to counter attack if the occasion warrants it.

A similar stance (a mirror image of the second photo above) can also be used by looking to your right, instead of looking at your left.  Then instead of having your left leg vertical from the left knee downward, you have your right leg vertical from your right knee downward.

The above bodily arrangement is typical of Taiji in the sense that you don’t place your two feet along the same straight line, but your two feet are separated by a shoulder width which provides stability from being pushed.  Your bodily weight is firmly supported by your two feet.  Your hands are free to be used to grab hold of something, to defend yourself, or even to counterattack. 

I think with such simple adjustments, an elderly person, as well as anyone else, can be mentally prepared to handle similar unexpected emergency situation.  Of course, the person has to be properly trained so that when such an emergency occurs, the response should be automatic, instead of needing to remember what you might have learned in the past, thus leading to panicking.

Of course, due to her senior age and no previous experience or training, it is possible that such a technique might not have worked for my friend’s mom.  But for someone younger and with training in Taiji, the above technique could have avoided that terrible incident.

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One Response to “Some Simple Techniques to Remember and to Respond in Times of Emergencies”

  1. Don Tow says:

    I received an email from a reader with the question “Where does the name ‘Wild Horse Shakes Its Name’ come from, and how is it related to the movements of the form?”

    This is a very good question. The form “Wild Horse Shakes Its Mane” is Form #2 of the “Yang Style Taiji 24 Form,” whick is the most practiced Taiji form set in the world.

    In doing this form after completing Form 1 “Opening Form,” you move your hands in a holding-ball position, you then move left foot about one shoulder-width to your left stepping down on your left heel, you then follow that with a rotation of the leg and body while stepping down on the toes of your left foot. During this rotation, you turn your head, and during that turn, the hair (or mane) on the back of the horse’s head moves as if the horse is shaking its head, thus giving rise to its name. This little rotation of the body is very important because the rotation adds more power to that movement of the hand (although some teachers may not stress/emphasize this rotation).

    Note that in Form 2, you actually do this movement 3 times: first to the left, then to the right, and third time to the left again. For each of these 3 movements, a rotation of the body is involved. The little rotation of your body is part of the subtlety and partially explains the martial power of Taiji.

    Thank you for your question.

    Don Tow
    [email protected]

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