Toryu 拖腰 is probably the most important foundation but least understood of Tai Chi. Every move in the Tai Chi set involves a Toryu, so correct understanding and execution of Toryu will ensure you are on the right track for your Tai Chi training.
The first recorded demonstration of Toryu was by Z P Liang, who was a Yiquan master (The Complete Book of Yiquan by C S Tang 2015). Toryu had come out of his Yiquan teaching. Liang was also an expert in Lok Hup Ba Fa and Tai Chi.
Toryu is not about stretching body and limbs forward and backward but as the Chinese name suggests, it’s about turning the waist slowly spiralling up and down to move and circulate the energy emanating from the lower Dantian (navel area). The hands must remain ‘soft’ and the hips must remain relatively still. The seemingly forward and backward body movement is achieved by bending the Kua (hip joint), the knee and the ankle.
Assuming you start on the left foot at the back pointing at 45° to 60° relative to the front foot which is pointing straight ahead. Feet are one and a half steps apart. Hands relaxed on the side of the body. By bending the elbow, bring the hands up to close to the chest and at the same time ‘sink’ the body. Your hips are now facing 45° to 60° left and aligned with your left knee and foot. From this position of ‘sit’ (left Kua and knee bent beyond the toes), slowly rise vertically pushing up from the back foot whilst the palms are softly pushing forward. At the highest point when both legs are standing straight but not locked, you will have achieved a spiral motion ending with the hips now squaring to and facing the front. At the same time bend the right Kua and right knee (front knee bending not beyond the front toes) and ankle and softly flatten the palms. Then rise again pushing up from the right foot, dropping your hands to the hips level, whilst bending the left Kua, left knee and ankle into a ‘sit’ position again. This is Toryu.
The video below will show how this is done. Please note the video only show one side of Toryu movement. The other side (left foot in front) is a mirror image.