The Myth of Tucking the Tailbone

By John Bracy

The practice of “tucking the tailbone” is the single most disastrous way to practice martial arts. Although promoted by some teachers of the internal traditions as a way to activate internal energy with the spine, it actually does the opposite.

Tucking the tailbone breaks the natural flow and arch design of the body.  This denatures the body’s flow and breaks power and that all important “energy” we seek on multiple levels.

Condition III:     As explained by Egoscue,

  • Traditionally found mostly in women, but now also in more and more men
  • Grows out of weakness –– body succumbs to pull of gravity

Peter Egoscue, from The Egoscue Method: Healing through Motion

Other therapists are equally critical of this maladaptive pattern.

In Bodymind, Ken Dychtwald discusses this maladaptive pattern:

“When the pelvis is tipped upward (so the liquid would flow from the back of the bowl), causing a flattening of the lower back, there tends to be a lessening of sexual energy and focus.  This pelvis position is usually associated with a holding in of sexual feelings.  It is not uncommon to find that when the pelvis is situated in this position it tends to be rather trim and undeveloped.  People with flat rear end also frequently have legs that are either rigid or undeveloped, displaying a corresponding inability to stay focused or grounded in any emotional activity.

Structurally, I have noticed that when people have their pelvises excessively tipped in this fashion, there tends to be a decrease in the amount of energy that goes into the legs, which have to do with grounding and focus, and the belly, and a corresponding overdevelopment of the chest, which has to do with expressing and controlling, and the head, which is concerned with thinking and rationalizing.  As a result, many of these people are prone to suffer from a variety of corresponding physical problems, including frequent leg injuries, sexual dysfunction, bladder irritability, abdominal tension, hemorrhoids, lower back pain, and tension headaches.[1]

[1] From Bodymind by Ken Dychtwald.  Penguin Putnam Inc.   New York.  1977, 1986.

Do not tuck in the tailbone!

Peter Egoscue, the exercise and rehabilitation therapist teaches people to avoid this habitual posture which he calls “Condition III” and discusses it in the following way:

. . . In Condition III, the hips are tilted under, which tips the top of the pelvis to the rear as though a pair of hands had gripped the hips from behind, pulling back and down and with tremendous force. Imagine the pelvis as a satellite dish with the concave portion pointing straight ahead to a point on the far horizon. The dysfunction is pulling to the sky at an angel. A principle effect of the hip displacement is to flatten out the S-curve of the spine. (last emphasis added)…. …the other characteristics of Condition III are rounded, slumping shoulders and a head that juts forward until it seems like a miracle that the whole body doesn’t topple over. You probably recognize what I am describing. It’s the posture of despair and dejection, depression and defeat. We see it in photographs of prisoners of war, the homeless, drug addicts, and inmates on death row.

Peter Egoscue, from The Egoscue Method: Healing through Motion

Photos 11-4

Three Presentations of the Head Support above the Neck

 Left: A student’s initial default posture. Middle: Working on it. Right: The student’s default posture goal     

From Section xi,  John Bracy, The Search for Mind-Body Energy: Meditation, Medicine & Martial Arts

Photos 11-4 includes three images of a student early in his training. The left shows his “default” orientation at the start, the middle was the student’s new “working” default posture a few weeks later, and the right represents the ideal orientation that he is striving to develop as his default. It is also useful to note that proper vs. less-than-ideal posture presents a strong, often unconscious, judgment-reaction by others.

After taking the photos, I sent a note to the student and asked him to imagine that he was an employer looking to hire a new employee; he was also to pretend that the three photos were of three different people. I instructed him to imagine that he didn’t know the candidates in the photographs, and to choose which one would he thought might be more intelligent. Finally, still viewing himself from the perspective of an employer, he was asked to choose which individual he would be more likely to hire. The author now invites the reader to ponder the same set of questions in relation to Photos 11-4.

Especially prevalent in young people today, largely because of habits acquired from chronic smart phone use, the poor posture shown in Diagram 11-3 and the left of Photos 11-4 is, regrettably, becoming the norm. Unless corrected, an extreme forward collapse angle of the neck impacts optimal reaction time and performance in other areas. The inclined posture habits shown in those two examples is also found in many aspiring MMA competitors, who, without their conscious awareness of why, are unable to gain the success they seek. It is one of the hidden reasons why so many young athletes fail to achieve their potential, an idea that is supported by the comments of one exceptional athlete I worked with: