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I stumbled across this word in an old Tai Ji Quan text, in the following context:

则无迟重之虞所谓顶头悬也。

I translated the main part of this sentence as "Don't be paralyzed by fear, which is referred to as..."

”顶头悬“ seems to be a metaphor that doesn't have an equivalent in English (although "Deer in the Headlights" might be close). Depending on the read, ”顶头悬“ could translate literally to "Incoming Danger" or "Hanging from the Top". Are either of these translation close to the mark?

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    Just as a matter of interest, how do you actually practice 顶头悬? Well, having practiced it myself, the usual way is to imagine you are a puppet hung and pulled up by a single imaginary string tied to the 百會穴. After some months or years, you discard the string and your posture will be perfect, hopefully. – Wayne Cheah Jun 30 at 7:31
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referring to the wiki 太極十三勢:

則無遲重之虞,所謂頂頭懸也

the verse does not infer any meaning of danger or fear.

the first occurrence of “頂頭懸” is in 十三勢行功歌訣

尾閭中正神貫頂,滿身輕利頂頭懸

the second one is in 十三勢行功心解

精神能提得起,則無遲重之虞,所謂頂頭懸也

all together, you need to know where is 百會穴

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imagine the chi (氣) started from 丹田, going upward, through the 百會穴; become “a line” , still going upward.

to make the path straight, the pelvis (where the 尾閭 is), body, neck & head must be in certain position.

意識上百會穴有一小繩上提,下巴要微內收。脖子要後靠,靠著衣領

reversely, imagine a line connected to 百會穴, (implied from 頂頭 —-> 頭頂) one hold this line and “hang” (懸) the body, get the requirement?

that’s the origin of “頂頭懸”

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  • This clears things up perfectly: thank you very much! – Coleman Gailloreto Jun 30 at 16:43
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There is a detailed explanation of 顶头悬 here

就是要求习拳之人在打拳时,要将头部向上轻轻顶起,以使身姿挺拔,立身中正,意念集中,精神贯注。

it is required that the person practicing Tai Ji should gently lift his head upwards to make the posture straight, stand upright, focus on the mind, and concentrate.

顶头悬 describes "lift one's head" (make one's neck touch his collar, chin slightly pull inward)

  • 顶 = top

  • 头 = head

  • 悬 = hang up / lift

顶头悬 can be called "lift head" or "straighten head ". It is the name of a 姿勢 (posture)

The idea is: when your head is straight, the rest of your body would also be in good form

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  • Now I feel foolish! My Tai Ji Quan instructor told me about this exact principle a few lessons ago! Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, Tang Ho! – Coleman Gailloreto Jun 30 at 16:41

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