Taiji Day 170: The Ball of the Foot

Today during the form, after Five Gold Coins and Eight Pieces of Silk, I was performing a spin.  Its name is full spin, and it is a 360° turn on the right foot, just after Ride the Tiger, and just before Windmill Kick.  It’s not particularly difficult, but some days I “get it” and some days I don’t. That is, some days I perform the maneuver correctly, and it’s easy to just move on to the next posture or movement; and some days I need to steady myself and re-balance after the spin to get my bearings and do the Windmill Kick, which is itself not particularly easy.

Today I flubbed the spin, and I also flubbed the windmill kick. I realized that it’s because I didn’t do the spin correctly that I didn’t do the kick correctly.  So after the form, I went back, and tested those three moves together a few different ways, and it seems to come down to the ball of the foot.

There’s this concept that I’ve heard that William C. C. Chen teaches in New York, called the three nails.  You have two feet, and each of them are rooted to the ground in three places: the sole of the big toe, the ball of the foot, and the center of the heel.  When I flubbed the spin this morning, which is what led to all of this experimentation, I turned or spun from the little toe.  My little toe hurt after the spin, because that’s not where a spin should be executed from.

So I tried it Chen’s way: First from the heel, then from the toe, then from the ball of the foot. And it’s clear that spins are done on the ball of the foot. When I do a spin from any other part of the foot, either I catch my toenails on the floor (ow!) or I don’t actually do a spin.  But the good spin (which leads to a good windmill kick!) comes from the ball of the foot.

Some days as a practitioner, I get insights like this, and have the ability to explain them clearly; but it also occurs to me that the insight comes after a long period of getting it wrong.  I don’t think I’ve done a Windmill Kick correctly after a bad spin in a hundred seventy days… but it’s taken me a hundred seventy days with a lot of incorrect spins to see the connection between the two.

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