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Getting to Know Your Kua

Updated: Jul 20, 2023


The working vocabulary of Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi practice includes common TCM terms and topics such as Meridians, Gateways, Dantiens, Wuji and Yi. Perhaps less familiar yet equally important is the concept of Kua (see footnote 1).


The Chinese word Kua is translated into English interchangeably as the pelvis, pelvic region, lower groin area, crotch and hips. Kua refers to the functional space that inhabits the area from the inguinal ligament (also called inguinal crease or groin ligament) through the inside of the pelvis to the round of the hip bones and through the torso to just below the ribs. It encompasses some of the strongest muscles in the human body; those connecting the legs to the spine. Simply put, the Kua helps the upper and lower body work together.


While having an accurate anatomical location is important, understanding its TCM significance is perhaps more relevant in our Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi practice. Here the definition and qualities of the internal energetic space of Kua change as our practice and awareness evolve.


When we are new to TCM and Shibashi practice, studying the Set 1 sequence, we learn to rise and fall with soft knees expanding and contracting with the rhythm of our diaphragmatic breathing. At this early stage, we are learning or re-learning how to work with our breath and familiarising ourselves with Qi flow and energy centres. For many of us, discovering the Lower Dantien is foreign territory and, initially, internalising the rhythmic lifting and sinking of Qi, even with correct posture, can be heavy on the knees. But it is essential that we learn to connect with our Lower Dantiens, to start peeling back the onion layers or flushing the dregs from the tank, as the popular analogies go.


Some students may not have exercised in a while and the mindful movements of Shibashi will slowly build up core and leg strength and improve balance and coordination. I’m sure I’m not the only person who wobbled when I first bounced a ball, but after a few months, I could comfortably sustain the raised heel while completing my breath cycle.


A good example of using the Kua in Set 1 occurs during the weight transference in Dancing with Rainbows. Rather than simply moving weight from one foot to the other, we use our Yi to slowly bring Qi up through the full or weighted Yang leg into the Kua (so we have at 50:50 weight distribution as we briefly flow through centre), and then we transfer or pour the weight into the empty relaxed Yin leg. I often use the analogy of sand or water, imagining the weighted leg is full of substance, and that we draw up the sand or water slowly from the ground, though the foot, lower leg, knee, thigh, hip and into and across the Kua and slowly fill the empty side. Transferring weight via the Kua offers both a liberating and uplifting dimension to the exercise as it reinforces good posture and provides space for greater expression through the Gateways.

As we advance into Set 2 and other forms of Qigong and acquire better understanding and control of our energetic bodies, the lifting and sinking emphasis shifts to movement emanating from the Kua. As vital energy ripples out from the Lower Dantien, so our inhalation lifts the Kua up and out, followed by expansion through the legs, ankles and feet; the Yong Quan sustaining the earth connection and our Bai Hui maintaining our vertical axis and link to the sky. Likewise with the exhalation, we sink the Kua and the Qi as we contract. In Set 2, Kua engagement is particularly evident in Moving the Qi along the Microcosmic Orbit and Yellow Dragon Pushing out with Claws. Try it out next time you practice.


Not only does engaging the Kua facilitate more rewarding and effective practice, but

lifting and sinking from the Kua optimises Qi circulation, reduces stress on the knees and generally facilitates easier flow through other aspects of daily life – try using your Kua before you push open a resistant door or as you get up out of a chair or a bath.

A good number of Qigong exercises focus on Kua opening, strengthening and relaxation. Your Tai Chi for Better Health instructor will be happy to guide you. As with diaphragmatic breathing, over time and with practice, opening the Kua becomes second nature and can quite literally open doors!


1. Not to be confused with the Feng Shui practice of calculating Life Kua and House Kua numbers. https://fengshuinexus.com/feng-shui-rules/feng-shui-life-kua-number-meaning/(accessed 8 January, 2023).


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