One of the things that I find painful to observe when I go to the gym is watching people do squats. It’s a basic movement that gets butchered since our sedentary lifestyles have made us forget how to move from the hips. Instead, what happens when people squat is mostly poorly coordinated movements starting from the knees. Rather than try to explain this in text, I find that Kelly Starrett’s video post about squatting is easier to visualize:
So, what does this have to do with I-Liq Chuan and projecting force? Well, joint sequencing in a squat movement has direct carryover to projecting force. One thing I often notice with people first learning absorb-project is that the hip-knee coordination is off. The knees drift forward first, followed by the hips drifting forward, and ultimately resulting in a forward lean with the weight on the toes. Starting the movement from the knees moves the knee into a suboptimal angle for bearing force, which in turn puts unnecessary shear stress on the knee and shifts most of the movement load to the quadriceps. There is also a tendency to lose suction on the kua when initiating from the knees. This manifests as the front of the body opening up and the mingmen closing; consequently, the shoulders move backwards as the body is moving forward, which is an inefficient movement pattern for projecting force forward. Projecting by initiating with forward knee movement results in movement that is off-balance, not harmonized, skewed towards a yang-only energy, and stresses the knees more than necessary.
On the other hand, if we stick to I-Liq Chuan principles and project and expand from the mingmen to initiate the movement, we get joint sequencing more like a proper squat. The mingmen and hips move back first, which keeps the knee in a better position. The aligned knee position allows axial force transfer through the joint, which minimize shear stress. With the force moving more through the center of the knee joint instead of shearing out, the quads don’t have to work so hard counteracting knee flexion (bending) and can thus be more relaxed. Moving from the hips first also distributes force to the strong posterior chain muscles (i.e. hamstrings and glutes) in addition to engaging the quads, so we get harmonization of the yin and yang muscles.