You Can't Diddle the Tao
A Tai Chi blog
A Tai Chi blog
Tai chi stepping is different from every-day-stepping. For most people, every-day-stepping is actually falling. If you watch people walking down the street, as I often do, you will notice that their body’s forward momentum has already committed its centre of mass to the landing foot before it touches the ground. If the swinging leg suddenly fell off, unlikely I know, there is nothing to halt their forward trajectory. Nothing to prevent these people from falling flat on their faces. This very committed way of moving forward assumes that the ground on to which the falling foot is to land will be there to support the body’s weight. I guess in our modern, paved, carpeted, tiled, flat world, this is a reasonable assumption.
In tai chi, however, the golden rule of “single weightedness” does not allow us to assume this. For one thing, in martial arts terms, stepping with the weight already committed gives your opponent a perfect opportunity to foot sweep you. This single piece of knowledge served me very well during my judo career, compensating somewhat for my lack of skill in other areas. I found that the majority of my opponents adopted the traditional defensive posture known as jigotai. Jigotai is a solid, double weighted stance which is very stable… until you want to move that is. To my surprise, even high-grade judoka would make the mistake of double weighted stepping when moving into attack. This, when I was quick enough, gifted me the chance to sweep the moving leg taking the whole body with it, usually for a winning ippon. The flip side of this was that when my opponent tried to sweep my landing leg, they encountered only emptiness. My weight still being firmly balanced over the standing leg. Meeting emptiness where they expected something solid usually threw them off balance. Leaving them vulnerable to an easy counter attack. Coming off the mat, my opponents would often tell me that, I moved strangely, or that I didn’t “feel” right. I always took these comments as a compliment!
Being single weighted doesn’t just mean having your weight mostly on one foot though. It also means adopting a special kind of body awareness which allows you to wide-scan your present moment experience. This unique, single-weighted awareness is a kind of preverbal knowing. An all-encompassing, non-focussed awareness that seems to allow you to monitor multiple aspects of, ‘what is happening now?’ All at once.
Questions such as:
Our present-moment awareness must also acknowledge the space through which we move
What is happening in this space and how do I relate to it?
How does my energy field - or kinesphere if you prefer a more scientific term - harmonise with this space?
Think about making this simple change to how you move. Soon you will notice that no matter where you go, you will always know where you stand.