In school we learned that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but this is not the case with the energy that we work with in Taiji practice. If we move in straight lines or sharp angles in Taiji, our movements will be jerky. Energy never moves in a straight line. It always moves in a curved line.
Moving with Taiji energy is more like aiming a satellite. Its path can only be calculated in a curved line. In Yang-style Taiji, we do this in our footwork. In order to move forward, we first have to sit back. In Chen-style this also exists. If we want to move left, we first move right. Both of these use curving, spiral energy.
If we want to step out in either Yang or Chen-style forms, we have to spiral down on the supporting leg. If we don’t spiral, we can’t step out very far. So we first spiral down on our supporting leg and that will compress the energy and then extend our moving leg out like a slingshot. Using the curved energy allows us to step out further with longer steps and less strain on our knees.
With spiral energy, the center core energy moves and gradually reaches all the way out to the hands and feet. Create the spiral, compress and release. The energy moves like a wave.