9 March 2017, 29 May 2019 [Needs a video]
This is a deceptively simple exercise that is very good for balance. It underpins much of Tai Chi. See Pat’s progress and Tai Chi reduces risk of falls .
A very good exercise in general and in particular in preparation for this exercise is to stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart. Rock backwards and forwards feeling your weight transfer from toes to heel and back again. When you have got the feeling, just stand for a moment or two in a central position enjoying the feeling.
- step aside shoulder width
- turn right foot out 30 to 45 degrees
- step forward with left foot, pointing forwards. Keep your weight over the rear foot during the step until you commit to putting your weight mainly on the forward foot. This gives you flexibility of response so that you can easily change your mind if the situation demands. Maintain shoulder-width separation
If your balance is poor take a shorter step.
- transfer weight on to the forward foot, knee above toes . Keep your weight mainly on your rear foot until you are ready to commit as in (3) above – this may seem strange at first
- transfer weight back onto rear foot whilst turning front foot out 30-45 degrees, then transfer weight back onto front foot
- when you feel secure on your front foot, step forward with your rear foot as (3) above. You should be able to stop moving with your now forward foot just touching the ground lightly, or not at all, before you commit to putting weight on it.
- repeat 1 2 3
This is quite different from ‘normal’ walking where you push off with the leading foot, your weight is thrown forwards, and you are committed to landing on the other foot. You should be able to freeze a step part way through. If you watch a piper (bagpipe) doing a processional march you will see that he or she keeps the weight over the rear foot for most of the step, and this is probably the case for all slow processions.
Protect your knee: never let your knee bend further than above your toes, and keep toes and knee in line. You will hear this repeated over and over again in any form of exercise. In Tai Chi you rarely have straight limbs, in tension. For The Walk you should have your legs slightly bent – this is something that will be explored in class by the teacher, it’s not easy to explain here. Later you will learn that arms are not held stiff and straight, but slightly curved and relaxed.
The aim is to keep moving gently, slowly, flowing all the time. Try not to do it jerkily by numbers. But more important than these is to ground your foot before stepping off.
You will probably want to look down at your feet at first, but this is a very bad habit that you should try to eradicate early on. It is not good for your posture. In a martial context you would be watching your opponent.
Think of two parallel lines about a foot apart and keep to those lines.
Transferring weight is fundamental to Tai Chi and most moves do so. Often, if you forget the next move, remembering that you need to transfer your weight will bring it back to you.
Not committing yourself to a move earlier than you need to is also fundamental. You need to be able to change your response depending on what your opponent does.
Usually when starting to learn The Walk the hands are clasped behind the back. Later, the the walk can be backwards and arm movements can be added.