Today, finally, my feet felt wrong. I mean, every other part of me has felt wrong during tai chi at some point, but not my feet. The place where the rubber meets the road, as it were, is the place that just usually feels ok. Not great, but ok. And today, they felt completely wrong.
I should clarify that. Clearly, I don’t mean, “they’re ugly” — although I had my big toenails removed as a teenager, because they were growing at odd angles, and doing damage, so maybe they are ugly — or that they’re engaged in bank robbing or other nefarious activities. I just mean, they felt this morning like they weren’t making proper contact with the floor, or touching the ground, or had weight fully pressing down through them into the ground.
So today’s tai chi practice was about remedying that. In each movement, the feet are supposed to be in specific places relative to the body and to each other. I concentrated on helping my body achieve those proper placements. I failed, but the important thing is to try to get the placements right. The other part of the footwork in tai chi is that the position of the feet is not as important as the shifting of weight from one foot to another. It’s easy to rush this, I’ve found — a given foot is supposed to carry90% of the weight in one posture, but then as the next posture begins, it’s carrying 10% of the weight, or even 0%. That’s what actuates its motion to the next posture, in fact — the reality that it’s not carrying any weight.
But I rush this all the time. I move my foot when it’s still carrying 20% of the weight. Accordingly, today I tried pretty hard to drop the weight onto the leg that is supposed to bear it, and shift the weight completely off the non-load-bearing leg before moving it. THEN, I started working on shifting the weight into the new load-bearing leg, so that the work slowed down.
And aha! Without paying particular attention to breath or body movements, other than which foot the weight was supposed to be in, my tai chi routine took about 27 minutes, all by itself. This is probably an important key to tai chi work, and it appears I was right in noticing that my feet never felt wrong — because I wasn’t really ready to hear their lesson until today.