Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 260
Driving the Car
We were in the park on a beautiful Friday morning. Our usual routine is warm ups, arm swinging, Tai Chi walking, then 34, 54, and 108 followed by some weapons forms. Takes about one and a half to two hours to complete. A good work-out, and uplifting to be playing with, but not too close, to like minded people. Snow capped mountains, ships carrying cargo to Seattle, eagles checking us out, people walking dogs, and themselves, all add to the uplifting mood.
As we started our form practice, I noticed some of the foot work needed attention. It is my experience that the proper foot work is the most important aspect of the physical side of Tai Chi Chuan. After my explanation and some practice of the image that might help overcome the problem, everyone, including myself, was much more in the “groove”. Images really help focus the mind.
When stepping, there is a real tendency to touch the stepping heel, and then immediately put the whole foot down and then shift the weight. Madame Gao Fu was the first person who showed me a different way which I immediately adopted and have used ever since. The image that follows is mine, the technique is hers.
You are driving a car. You are sitting in the drivers seat with your foot resting on the gas pedal, but no pressure yet. You are at a stop light. As the light changes you gently and gradually press the pedal down, mostly using the ball and toes of the foot. The car will gradually move forward, steadily and smoothly increasing speed. This is the proper way to keep yourself and your car safe.
If this is your first car and you are a young kid, like I once was, as soon as the light changes, you stomp on the gas petal, the car surges forward laying rubber behind the rear tires, and you act like a big shot. A good way to hurt the car, some pedestrian, or yourself. Here is a good exercise, using the “press the gas petal down”, to train the proper sequence of weight shift and stepping. If you can have someone read these aloud while you go through them, it will be easiest. You also might print them up to have handy while going through them. You want to do this in sequence. Take your time.
1. Stand with your heels together and the toes turned out about a 45 degree angle. 2. Sink the weight into your normal squatting level. 3. Shift the weight to the right leg and sit on your imaginary stool. 4. Roll up the left foot until just touching the toes. 5. Slowly, lift up the left foot, stepping ahead as far as you can without taking any weight off the stool, touching the heel. 6. Slowly press the “gas pedal” down as you shift the body to the forward foot. The right (now rear) leg ends up fairly straight. You are now in “left foot bow stance”. 7. Shift the weight, slow and steady, back to the right leg. You are now in “right foot sit stance”. 8. Raise the left toes until just the heel is touching. Sit on your stool. 9. Lift the left foot and place it down back in its original position, touching the heel first. Press the left foot gas pedal down slowly as you shift back to center. 10. Repeat as many times as you like, slowly, with full awareness of pressing the gas – as you move, not before.
I hope this helps you to step with control and purpose. Contact me with any questions or comments. Good luck.