The Internal Power Training Blog

Check out the latest info and research from Coach Chris' explorations in the Subject of Internal Power.

Rounding the back Bookmark

In general, to allow correct use of the shoulder and maintain 6 direction stability in Internal Training, we aim for the shoulders to be sat naturally at the sides with the scapular sunk in and down towards the spine as discussed in the previous post.


However some systems have a specialization that trains a totally different mechanic in the back. This is the idea of the ‘turtle back’ or the rounded back where the shoulders are slung slightly forward, the scapula remain flat to the back but pull away from the spine with the thoracic region is slightly curved.

This posture actually creates an ‘arch’ between the hands which a very powerful and strong upper body structure in the forward direction. We see the prevalence of this posture in some of the Crane Martial Arts where upper body connection is of primary importance. Just like the arch of a bridge, the rounding of the back creates an inherently strong structure.

But there are also some problems and pitfalls with this posture if it is performed incorrectly.

Firstly, When rounding the back be careful of collapsing the chest constricting the heart and lungs. This is actually often seen in some Tai Chi systems where the phrase, ‘hollow the chest’ has been misinterpreted by some teachers as ‘collapse the chest’. The chest should be hollow like a Barrel rather than sunk inwards like a dish.


But more over the setting of the spine in this position causes a couple of issues over time when mobility is not maintained. Firstly older practitioners start to exhibit a Kyphotic spine, with the upper back humping out and a kink appearing at the juncture with the cervical spine. This is sometimes called the disease of Tai Chi as so many older practitioners seem to exhibit it in some styles.


Secondly. the practitioner’s stability is focused in the forward direction and any external pressures from the sides or back can cause the structure to fail. This is actually something Ba Gua takes advantage of by attacking the side and back gates of the opponent, hence all the stepping and turning in the style.


Rounding the back is a trade off of attributes; it is extremely strong in the forward direction, but lacks the all round stability of the flattened scapular and centred shoulder.

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