Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Art of Standing on One Leg

In recent weeks in my Taiji class, we've been going through the second section of the Slow Form, progressing from 'High Pat on Horse' through to 'Twin Mountain Peaks Smash Ears'. I hadn't really noticed before but this section contains a lot of sub-postures that involve standing on one leg - e.g. 'high pat on horse', 'separate foot' and a variety kicks.

As we went through 'high pat on horse', I found that I was still popping-up as I made the transition into the posture. The transition for this particular posture starts from 'single whip' (with your torso facing the south-west corner) and continues by shifting your weight onto the right leg as you twist to the left so that you square off (with your torso facing west). At that point, your left-leg is unweighted and resting lightly on the floor (or just above it) such that you're able to move it easily. As I was twisting left, I was bending at the waist to the right, essentially using my upper body as a counter-balance to force my left foot to come off the ground - this resulted in my left hip being higher than my right and my balance being off - i.e. 'popping-up'.

To do the transition without popping-up, what you need to do is, as you twist left, not to think about lifting the foot off the ground but rather focus on raising the left thigh as you sinking on top of the right leg. This change in focus helps keep the hips even - as you lift the left thigh, your lower back tucks under and the left foot slowly peels off of the ground from the heel to the toes - and, in the end, you are balanced because you're solidly centered over the right foot.

As we continued on in the sequence of postures, I noticed that this general principle applies to all of the kicks in the sequence. In particular, when you kick, you don't think about picking up the foot but rather letting the lower back tuck-under to raise the thigh, with the effect of the foot slowly coming off the ground from heel to toe.

I have subsequently realized that this same principle not only applies to kicking but also any time you have to pick up one leg in order to move it - e.g. ward left, ward right, brush thigh, circle foot to carry the hammer forward, single whip, and almost everything else. I am now working on recalibrating my balance to incorporate this refinement, which means I'm losing my balance all over the place in the form. Again.

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