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Home>>The Hand-shape, Eye-focus, Body-movement, Application method, and Footwork of Yang Chengfu's Taijiquan

V. Footwork  

Yang zhenji

The footwork is the root of the martial art. There are 7 types of footing in Yang style Taijiquan.
1). Open-standing footing: Both feet stand parallel with the tip of the feet pointing forward. No difference of being empty or solid in the stance. It is the footwork in "Commencing Form" "Closing Form"

2). Bow-like footing: This is the basic footwork and the mostly used one in Yang style Taijiquan. The tip of the front foot points forward and the tip of rear foot forms a 45o angle with the tip of the front foot. The straight distance between the two is the range of the natural crotch of the practitioner. The front leg is bent and the back one is stretching. The bending is limited that the front knee can not move forward over the tip of the front foot. The front lower leg is formed vertical with the ground.

3). The front-empty and rear-solid footing: There is difference of the left and the right empty footing in this type of footwork. The left one is made as the right foot is solidly stepped on the ground while the left foot is lifted and placed a half step forward to the left with the planter slightly touching the ground, such as in the form of "White Crane Spreads Its Wings"; or with the heel slightly touching the ground as in the form of "Fist under Elbow". If the body weight is shifted from the right leg to the left, it is the right empty footing. In Yang style Taijiquan, this type of footwork, no matter the left or the right one, the front leg is not totally empty in the practice, i.e. it bears a certain portion of body weight. The solid leg bears more weight while the empty leg bears much less, but the portion is not really fixed as that of 30% for the empty leg and 70% for the solid. Rather, it all depends on the height of the stance and whether the free end of the sacrum is kept straight and the body movement is natural and proper. There is another type of footwork being front-empty and rear-solid, of which the rear foot is solid on the ground and the front foot is weightless but the planter is also fully on the ground, e.g. the one in the form of "Sep Back and Repulse the Monkey".

4). Transverse moving footwork: Both feet are parallel to each other, then the left one steps to the left transversely. The right one is solid and the left is empty, but the tips of both feet are forward, as the one in the form of "Wave Hands like Clouds".

5). Single-foot standing footing: With one leg standing, the other leg is lifted up to the extent that the knee is at the same level with the hip. The foot is drawn a little inward and the tip drops down naturally, as the one in the form of "Golden Rooster Stands on One leg".

6). Squatting-down footing: Following the "bow-like footing", the rear foot turns outward and the body weight is shifted on the rear leg and the hip squats down. The front foot points forward. The body is slightly prone to one side.

7). Horse-riding footing: Both legs stand astride as riding a horse. This is the footing in transmitting the movements. One leg should be solid and the other empty, as the one in the form of "Wave Hands like Clouds".

Mr. Yang Chengfu said in his book "Talk on Practicing Taijiquan": "The legs should be different, one is solid and the other empty. When to move up or move down, it seems like the walk of a cat. When the body weight is shifted to the left, the left leg becomes solid so the right leg is empty, vice versa. The so-called emptiness doesn't mean there is nothing, but means that one movement is continuous, there could be a space for the changes of advancing or retreating. The so-called solidness imply indeed the meaning of being solid, but it doesn't mean an extraordinarily-waged force, neither a fierce force." He also said in his book "Ten Key Points of Taijiquan": "It is the primary importance of Taijiquan to differentiate the emptiness from the solidness. If the differentiation could be well mastered, all the movements could be done nimbly and deftly, without much strain and effort; if it fails to master this kind of differentiation, the movement will be heavy and sluggish, and even worse the stance is unstable, so the opponent would easily take the advantage to launch an attack."

In Yang style Taijiquan, it is required to differentiate the emptiness from the solidness in the footwork and the root in the lower part of the body. So the changes between the solidness and the emptiness are clear and there is no lightness. There are two ways of the footwork in Yang style Taijiquan, advancing and retreating. To advance, it has to shift the body weight to the rear leg so as to enable the front foot to become empty. The motion of the waist would sway the planter to the optimal position and the rear foot shifts the body weight to the front foot, which then bears all of the body weight. The rear foot being empty is lifted and moved to the intended position but not close to the front foot. Mr. Zheng Manqing, the author of "The Complete Book of Practice and Application of Taijiquan" wrote a poem concerning the footwork and the advancing method, saying: "To tell a word of awareness, to those who can understand me. The bottom of the foot becomes rootless so the waist fails to dominate the body movements, coming to the end is the force, nothing could help but useless… To shift the weight to the rear before moving the foot forward." This reflects the brilliant experience of the author handed down from Mr. Yang Chengfu when the author used to learn Taijiquan from the master and assisted him to write books. When the foot is rooted, the footwork would be firm, so there is a basis for the waist to sway. When the foot moves forward, the body weight has to be shifted to the rear foot. This is the advancing method handed down from the Yang's family.

To retreat, the front foot is lifted and moved to the rear of the body in a T-shaped footwork. It should be directly placed on the intended position, but never close to the rear foot.

If the requirements on the hand-shape, eye-focus, body-movement, application methods, and footwork in Yang style Taijiquan are grasped, it comes to a basic understanding of Yang style Taijiquan, it is greatly beneficial to the learning of the set forms and push-hand methods. There are also the requirements on the other parts of the body, e.g. head, shoulder, elbow, hip, crotch, knees, and etc. Usually they are taught when learning every movement.(END)

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