Correct walking

Tim's Discussion Board: Tai Ji Quan : Correct walking
   By Mirek Cerny (Unregistered Guest) on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 10:35 am: Edit Post

I read Mr.Cartmells book Effortless combat throws, and the chapter on correct movement made me wonder:
What is the correct way to move (walk) in martial arts? Is it to allow gravity to compress us onto our front leg, using the resulting rebound to push the body forward? Or is it by pushing from the back leg? The article seem to be advocating the former. Can you please explain, thanks.

   By Meynard on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 02:32 pm: Edit Post

Feet always pull. Walking is a controlled fall. You put your foot down and you pull yourself forward.

   By Mirek Cerny (Unregistered Guest) on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 03:00 pm: Edit Post

Well that's how I do it; but the reason why I am asking is that I was told by a Taiji practitioner that "the basic rule for walking forward in MA is that you don't loosen up the front knee and fall foward, but instead you always push from the back leg." Was he wrong?

   By Meynard on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 03:20 pm: Edit Post

Yes he is wrong.

   By Mirek Cerny (Unregistered Guest) on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 03:47 pm: Edit Post

Thank you. Anyone else care to comment/confirm?

   By Bruce Leroy on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 07:30 pm: Edit Post

Just walk, damn! How old are you? I'm assuming you're at least over 18. If you haven't figured out how to walk you have a bigger problem.

   By The Iron Bastard on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 10:12 pm: Edit Post

Yes, I would like to comment. Both the Taiji practitioner and Meynard are right. Your Taiji friend is level one, Meynard's is level two.

Level one is falling from a fixed back foot position. You can do is with your torso striaght, this is down, or you can lean from your hips, this is down and forward. All of what I've discribed can be called one step one, front foot doing the stepping. You will find, after a little practice, this stepping pattern has limited possibilities. It is not wrong just limited. And yes you will be pushing with the back leg.

What Meynard discribed above is two step two. Front leg moves forward a little push from the back. Now back leg moves forward a little pull from the front. Many practitioners, of this step, develope it to such a high degree it feels as if your pulling from the front leg all the time and call it sliding step. But is not sliding. This requires some physical proof: take a chair push it across a smooth floor and keep up with it using two step two. You will find hesitation or flat out stopping on your part, while the chair maintains it's inertia.

So level two has limited possibilities, not as limited as level one. Both are not wrong each has its certain limitations.

What is level three? This is not one of my typical obstacle courses.

   By Craig on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 11:05 pm: Edit Post

The way I was taught to step in Baguazhang is that, the knee relaxes and the pull of gravity causes the body to move in a forward direction, which causes the body to move onto the front leg and then continues, as the front leg becomes the back leg.


Is the method you discribed similar to this, but with a pause in between each step?


   By Craig on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 11:12 pm: Edit Post

I forgot to mention in my post above that as the body is caused to move forward by gravity, the back leg is being brought forward by the pull of the body.


   By Craig on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 11:50 pm: Edit Post

Again, forgot to add that the extention of the front leg causes a gravitational pull on the body and back leg, in regards to baguazhang.


   By Mirek Cerny (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, June 04, 2004 - 06:09 am: Edit Post

Iron Bastard: I don't quite get what you're saying; your "level one" seem to mix these two principles, ie pushing from back leg and falling forward. I thought these are mutually exclusive, you either push with your back leg, or just let the gravity do the job and pull you forward.

Craig: Yes, this is the method I was taught. Stepping in this way is almost effortless, as gravity and elastic forces of your body do most of the job. But according to the 'basic rule' above this method would be wrong.

   By Bruce Leroy on Friday, June 04, 2004 - 11:53 am: Edit Post

WTF?? Level 3??? Are you serious...

I get it, level 3 is like walking with a stick up your ass! Good one IronBastard.

that some people come up with...

   By William C. (Unregistered Guest) on Friday, June 04, 2004 - 08:58 pm: Edit Post

Well we all know Leroy is another little boy!

   By FYI (Unregistered Guest) on Saturday, June 05, 2004 - 09:45 am: Edit Post

Taiji Maoxing (Cat Walking) Step by Mei Yingsheng and Ted W. Knecht

The Mao Xing Step, also known as the Cat Walking step, is a very important component of Tai Ji Quan. At present, most Tai Ji stylists are unaware of its practice. This is due to unknown reasons for the disciples of the Late Yang Cheng Fu incorporated this walking step to the traditional Yang long form. This article has been translated from a thesis written by Dr. Mei Ying Sheng to explain the importance of the Mao Xing Step. Dr. Mei is a Doctor of Western and Traditional Chinese medicine and is a a disciple of Grandmaster Fu Zhong Wen of Shang Hai, China.

The Mao Xing Step should be one of the most basic components incorporated into one's Tai Ji practice. The method of practice is as follows:

Begin in a left front bow stance with the upper body erect. Place the hands on the waist, and visualize a bowl of water on the top of one's head to aid in proper alignment of the Bai Hui acupoint located on top of the head and the Hui Yin point between the anus and the reproduction organ. This imaginary straight line should remain straight during the entire stepping process. The hips should be relaxed and rounded. The left front leg holds 70 percent of one's body weight while the right back leg holds the remaining 30 percent (Photograph 1).

The waist sinks downward and rotates to the left. The left hip sinks inward and slightly turns outward. The toes of the left foot rise up and turn out 45 degrees still maintaining 70 percent of the weight on the leg; afterwhich, the toes lower to the ground. The force (Jin) is spiraled into the ground. After stabilizing the left leg and one's center, the right leg relaxes as the hips are used to raise the heel of the right foot (Photograph 2).

The toes of the right foot naturally hang down approximately two millimeters above the ground as it slowly moves to the front (Photograph 3).

The right foot passes approximately five millimeters away from the inside of the left foot (Photograph 4).

The joint of the right hip is used to carry the right knee and toes, in a relaxed manner, to the front (Photograph 5).

Still maintaining one's weight on the left leg bring the right leg to full extention as the toes rise upward. The heel then lightly touches the ground (Photograph 6).

The toes of the right foot slowly lower to the ground as the knee of the left leg straightens thereby exerting a forward force. The lower half of the right leg is vertical to the ground to form a right front bow stance (Photograph 7).

   By john Shane Crilly (Unregistered Guest) on Wednesday, August 04, 2004 - 07:03 pm: Edit Post

One of the big differences that separate the different styles of taiji is the stepping method. Some chen styles use a special sliding step where you brush the side of your foot diagonally outwards and the sun style (which was originally named Open Close Active Step taiji) fosters a kind of a push/pull opening and closing movement. You raised an interesting question that deserves further study because taiji places way too little emphasis on walking when compared to Yi quan or baquazhang. Any kind of practice of walking would improve most practitioners taiji

   By Xiao Hu on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 02:35 pm: Edit Post

My Teacher places much emphasis on walking, which I agree is a very good idea. I have spent many long hours walking back and forth. The style we use is the sort of 'sliding' step you mention, or maoxing 'cat walking'.
We focus on keeping our posture correct as we walk around.
Pay much attention to weight transfer from each leg, keeping the balance of Yin and Yang so you do not become unstable.
Guide your Qi from one leg to the other with your 'intention' to attain the Yin and Yang balance needed for walking (much like Cloud Hands weight tranfer, or a 'push pull')
The diagonal stepping, which is also slightly curved has great applications for stepping into an opponents center.
The way one walks is so important, it decides how rooted you will be, how balanced your form with be. Perhaps some teachers are really not putting enough empasis on this. I hope the art of walking is not lost in the flow of time.

   By Bruce Leroy on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 03:02 pm: Edit Post

"I hope the art of walking is not lost in the flow of time."

It will be a great loss indeed. If we don't practice walking nature will de-evolve us into stumpy torsos. For the sake of future generations...keep walking.

   By Mont F. Cessna Jr. on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 06:35 pm: Edit Post

Hmm...Walking, stepping, ect.

These may be useful to develop body awareness and to develop certain muscles and the ability to "feel the ground" and root better but when your duking it out in a fight, remember, no one ever walks during a fight. You will have to apply these principles to rapid, explosive footwork to hit and to avoid getting hit. You can't think about the correct "method" to step when fighting, you have to know it inside and out.

Even I, a non-internal practioner (I can hear you chi-huggers snicker) :-) practice basic stepping with these same principles you are arguing about. The body weight shift, the balance, the kinisthenic awareness (also developed by jumping rope, the boxer's and wrestler's version of Taiji walking) are all important qualities to develop but I think its useless to practice this for hours a day. How much good does it do a fighter to run for hours a day? To jump rope for hours a day? To lift weights for hours a day? These are all exercises that are supposed to add to the practioners ability to perform their techniques, not a technique in themselves.

It would be funny to see a tai chi chuan fighter start doing walking exercise stuff during a fight and getting his ass kicked. I would pay good money to see that live. That and seeing 3 shaolin monks thrown in a pit with mike tyson. (Though the monks could probably take him now)

   By Kenneth Sohl on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:30 pm: Edit Post

I bet they could take Oscar De la Hoya, though.

   By Mont F. Cessna Jr. on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 09:18 am: Edit Post

3 monks vs. Oscar De La Hoya? They could most certainly take him. He doesn't have nearly the size and weight advantage that Tyson does.

   By Michael Andre Babin on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:28 am: Edit Post

How do their ears taste? There are rumours that Tyson doesn't like Chinese food...

   By Xiao Hu on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:31 pm: Edit Post

The next Tyson fight will be pretty exciting, (if it lasts longer than the last one) Maybe he'll go for the nose of that British boxer.. what's his name.. William something. I don't keep up on the boxing world.
As for walking, I suppose I take it more seriously than most.

   By Jamie on Sunday, June 26, 2005 - 01:31 am: Edit Post

I may be a year late and a post short.
However this stepping method from YANG Family Traditional Yang ChenFu form with is a mystery to most practitioners- and all those derivative forms from Beijing based on the 108 form- really the "TaiJi" walk is rarely taught.
I agree with Mr. FYI and the post of June 5 2004 this description of [Taiji Maoxing (Cat Walking) Step by Mei Yingsheng and Ted W. Knecht] TaiJi Cat Stepping is exactly what I have been cultivating by itself as a drill for endless hours. Also it is the traditional manner of stepping in Yang CheFu's 108 form.
It was described to me as walking as if you were on an unsure frozen lake and slowly wanted to shift the weight forward as if pouring it into the front leg.
I am writing this because the post and article do an outstanding job of delineating the process.
Who ever you may be.

   By Tim Ash on Thursday, October 12, 2006 - 11:15 pm: Edit Post

Thanks for bringing this up. I started with some basic thoughts, but then the topic kept expanding. Hope this is not too much...

The requirements of walking in Tai Chi are based on rooting. Rooting in turn has the following components - covering both static/solo and interactive/oppositional aspects:

- Staying over your base - Center of gravity of the body stays horizonatally within the base defined by the feet. Note: This does not imply that you have to get super low . Although that can help to some degree, it hampers mobility when taken to an extreme.

- Maintaining structural integrity - Basically don't contort yourself in order to avoid an opponent's force or you will not be able to perform the other aspects of rooting below (see tai chi classics for the alignment guidelines)

- Energy storage - Opponent's horizontal kinetic energy is stored through passive springlike vertical compression into the yin foot (This means any opponent's mass that has a velocity and is in contact with your body is rechanneled downward so that the ground is pushing back at them and you are acting as a passive conduit.

- Energy return - The kinetic energy stored as compressed potential energy is released back into the opponent at the most damaging time/position possible.

- Minimal momentum during movement - This includes horizontal and vertical momentum. A skilled opponent can easily push/pull or bounce/lift you if you give them even the slightest momentum to work with. This is especially critical when shifting weight from one foot to another (before you have established your new base and compressed leg). It also implies that you can reverse your footwork at any point (e.g. if you were stepping forward with a foot and encountered increased pressure from the opponent, you should be able to instantly reverse direction and step back - without "putting on the brakes" first or having to follow through on your unguided mommentum.

- Remaining freely balanced & mobile - Rooting can not be at the expense of slow response to changing circumstances, or restricted stepping options. You must still be able to move easily in any direction that you choose and not allow the opponent or your own stance to limit the possibilities available.

Here is how a step would be taken by most "normal" people:

0) Your left leg is forward with most of the bodyweight is on it. Right leg is back.

1) Push off of your right leg by contracting your calf and "launching" your whole body mass upwards at a 45 degree angle.

2) Your center of gravity rises like an unguided projectile and describes an upward arc. Your horizontal (forward velocity) is constant and can not be changed.

3) You step through with your right foot and start compressing into the ground.

4) You tighten your quadraceps to "put on the brakes" and stop your horizontal momentum.

This is how a step through would be taken in Wu Style (the style that I study):

0) Start in an archer stance with your left leg (staked - yin) forward and your right leg back (post- yang). Your body weight is almost completely over your left leg. Your right leg is straight with the foot flat on the ground. Your torso is leaning forward on a continuation of the straight line from your rear leg.

1) Lift your right knee slightly by closing up your hips. This will pull your right leg towards your center of gravity under the left foot. As your right leg gets closer, the top of the body comes back to vertical (counterbalancing the leg movement). The right leg ends up next to the left leg, with the knee slightly raised and the toes hanging down (almost touching the ground).

2) Open up your hips. This expansion will make your pelvis turn slightly clockwise (because the staked left leg will not move). Step put with your right leg (activating it from your core) until the leg is straight and the heel is resting lightly on the ground. Note: your right leg has described an arc during this motion from shoulder-width apart and back, to under you, to shoulder-width apart and forward. The heel is the scout and is testing for the stability of the surface that you landed on. It does not have any significant weight committed to it at this point.

3) Push your right knee forward and keep aiming the force down your lower leg into the heel. Focus on increasing the pressure on the bottom of the foot. Do not push off of the rear foot by contracting your calf or quads (think of this as "front wheel drive" versus "rear wheel drive" in a car. Commit as little of your main body weigh to this movement as possible ("ooze" onto the front leg). As you go more forward your torso maintains the same angle as your rear foot (it starts to tilt forward).

4) When the pressure on your front foot stops increasing you are done. The right foot is now your new stake, and the left leg is now your rear post.

Tim Ash

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