𝟱 𝗧𝗶𝗽𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗕𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗧𝗮𝗶 𝗖𝗵𝗶 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝘁𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸
𝟭 – 𝗗𝗼𝗻’𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝗹𝗸 𝗼𝗻 𝗮 “𝘁𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁-𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲”
Whether you are stepping forwards or backwards, you should ensure that you maintain the same distance laterally as if you are standing in the beginning posture with your feet below your hips. If you allow your feet to proceed directly in front of each other, you will be easily unbalanced. This is particularly common when you are stepping backwards, so you might try thinking of each step as a step to the side as you step backwards. If you are practising on a tiled or wooden floor, you can use the floor patterns as a guide to help you avoid this mistake, e.g. by keeping your feet one board’s width apart. Just glance down to check yourself from time to time… don’t stare at your feet!
𝟮 – 𝗡𝗼 𝗕𝗼𝗯𝗯𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗨𝗽 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗗𝗼𝘄𝗻
When you are walking in Tai Chi, imagine you are in a room with a very low ceiling (like Gandalf in Bilbo Baggins’ home). You should sink your weight and keep your knees slightly bent, and resist any urges to stand up or lock the knees out during your practice. In this way you will strengthen your legs and core muscles in a safe, natural and impact free way, buttressing the lower back and your knee joints with powerful supporting muscle fibres.
𝟯 – 𝗡𝗼 𝗥𝗼𝗰𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗕𝗮𝗰𝗸𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗙𝗼𝗿𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘀
In Tai Chi we want to move smoothly from posture to posture, with a focused and graceful intent as we advance or retreat. Don’t allow your body to get into a habit of rocking backwards and forwards as it will interrupt your flow and introduce the poor martial body mechanics of a gap. Gaps mean a break in pressure… meaning your opponent can escape or counter you by giving them physical room and time to deal with your technique. Your whole body needs to move and flow as one unit with no breaks.
𝟰 – 𝗣𝗶𝘃𝗼𝘁 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗪𝗲𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝗲𝗱 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝘁
Once you have stepped through into GongBu (bow stance), about 70% of your weight should be in the front foot. Keeping that same proportion of weight distribution, lightly raise the ball of your foot and pivot your entire body outwards around the heel of that foot, taking care to ensure your knees do not twist and the femur remains aligned with your toes. You can then fill the remainder of your weight into that foot and step through with no danger to the knee joint, and eliminate rocking or bobbing.
𝟱 – 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗻 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗞𝘂𝗮
The Kua are the hip joints, that is the ball and socket joints at the top of each femur where they insert into the pelvis. Keeping an open Kua means holding your legs open, rather than allowing them to collapse inwards. Once you have pivoted your foot outwards and stepped forwards with the other leg, keep your rear leg open and don’t allow the knee to creep in. The reasons for this are to protect your knee joint by keeping alignment between the bones supporting it and the femur. This creates an optimal structure to support incoming force (including the weight of your own body), and also a strong platform to drive forwards from.
𝟯 𝗧𝗶𝗽𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗧𝗮𝗶 𝗖𝗵𝗶 𝗕𝗲𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗻𝗲𝗿𝘀
When you first start Tai Chi it can seem quite a daunting prospect. Whether you are learning a long form or short form, there is so much to take on board, there are so many working parts to master. These are some pointers we share with our students when they start out.
𝗥𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘅 & 𝗕𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲
If you can, try to start by relaxing your mind and body. You will find the experience a lot more enjoyable if you do this, and this will help get you in the right frame of mind and develop the right physiological habits from the beginning. I know this is easier said than done when you are trying to remember a sequence, and not fall over while doing a stick man/woman impression of the person in front of you. But the sooner you can relax into the movements the better. Probably our best tool to help us calm our minds and bodies is our breathing. It is difficult to relax while holding your breath, so remember to breathe. Breathe naturally.
The 𝘛𝘢𝘪𝘫𝘪𝘲𝘶𝘢𝘯 𝘑𝘪𝘯𝘨 states,“𝘐𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘣𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘦𝘨𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘢𝘪𝘴𝘵.”
The traditional jibengong, or foundational work in Yang style Tai Chi includes walking drills, and these are probably the most important thing to get right as a beginner. Once you have got the hang of the walking drills, that way of stepping and rotating and placing your feet so that you are stable and able to balance while moving backwards and forwards, will give you a great foundation in the art. It is much easier to integrate your upper body movement onto the lower foundation, than to attempt it the other way around (which nearly always ends up being disconnected). Get your footwork right first, I promise you won’t regret it.
Moreover the walking drills also contain elements of the art which probably supply the most immediate health benefits; as you build up your leg muscle tone you support those joints, gain strength, endurance, balance and by extension our brain health (studies have shown that our brains are hard-wired to prioritise anything that challenges our balance).
𝗢𝗻𝗲 𝗦𝘁𝗲𝗽 𝗔𝘁 𝗔 𝗧𝗶𝗺𝗲
As the saying goes… Rome was not built in a day. Take your time, be resolved that this journey is going to be a long-term investment in your mind and body and that you are going to enjoy every step. Get the big brush movements down first before trifling over details and gradually commit them to your memory, step by step. Remember you are not in a hurry, this is for your own benefit and not a race, so go at your own pace. It is better to get to know the form slowly and thoroughly, so that you can remember the sequence, than to rush through to the end of the form without really having learned it at all. Ask questions, make sure you get the shape of the movement right before you move on, and don’t be frightened to ask more questions about stuff you have already learned, to consolidate your progress.
Words are a means to communicate to ourselves and others. Definitions and conceptions are a source of our misunderstanding. Discussion, an exchange of ideas, leads to greater clarity.
Although change may be a constant, stillness and motion are still two side of the same coin. They are not opposite but interconnected and interdependent states. Not fixed postures.
In Taiji walking, we are certainly moving, but the upper body’s stability, upon an ever changing support below, is constantly maintained. Stability is “Stillness in Motion”.
There are three possibilities. All support on the left leg, All support on the right leg, Any percentage between the two legs. Where is the interruption and inconsistency occurring?
This sets the study and practice parameters of Tai Chi Walking. There is much to explore and discover. It is not merely a conceptional idea, but an actualized expression of the body following the mind’s clear intent (Yi). Yi is personal wisdom gained from our knowledge and experiences being fused together through many experiences during the years. A teacher can teach it, but only a student chooses to learn it.
This practice is known as the Backward Step. Most of us can walk, but it has lost or never found it’s true potential. We go back to what we can do and learn to do it better. Practice is maintaining what we have and attempting to restore what we lost. This then advances into athletics, where we pit ourselves against others Skills and train to best them. There is only a small window where we can be at the top of our game.
I teach via Zoom. I offer short and long term courses. Message me for details. In my opinion, everyone should study and implement, the five bows and nine gates to unify their Jing, Qi, Shen. We need to understand methodology (the alchemy of change).