Taiji Day 31: find your feet

We walk around all day on our feet, but we tend not to think about them very much. They’re in the wrong place on our bodies: the other end from the brain. But in truth, in martial arts as in life, they’re impossible to do without. As much as we might like to think of ourselves as minds rather than bodies, our feet give us access to local motion. Or, as the old joke would have it, “why do flamingoes stand on one leg in the shallow water?”

Because if they lifted up both legs, they’d fall down.

During this morning’s exercise, I concentrated on putting my feet in the right place. A lot of things flow from that. With the feet properly planted, one focuses on sinking weight into them. In tai chi, one foot is almost always floating – touching the ground but not resting on it. The other is the anchor — where the body conjoins with earth, where persona meets reality. A foot that’s properly anchored has toes spread and arch flattens, because one’s full body weight rests on it. That means, of course, that the punches, blocks, kicks and turns have to be generated by other body parts.

The lesson for kids, though, and for us as teachers, is to build good foundations not just of mind and academic capacity, but also body. They’re going to be using this one body for sixty or seventy years. It’s important that they know how to stand on their own two feet.

I found myself using the muscles along my flanks more. I found myself trusting my weight to my feet more. It’s a silly thing, saying “trust your weight to your feet more” but it’s true. Most people walk as though they don’t really trust their bodies to carry them. What else could possibly be carrying them???

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