Understanding How to Use Your Foot in Tai Chi
This seems like a silly thing to post about! How to use your foot in Tai Chi? Just stand on it! Don’t fall down, and you are all good! So easy.
Actually, there are a few tricks about using your feet in Tai Chi. Understanding them will help you improve your balance, strengthen your feet, and stimulate your Qi and build your energy.
Most people rarely pay attention to their feet. So long as we can walk from one place to another without falling and our feet don’t hurt, why would we? Now, some women who wear sandals, or some types of heels are going to spend a bit of time on their toe nails, and decorate them a bit. But, I don’t know any guys that do, and in reality most women don’t even bother with pedicures and toenail polish.
However, in Tai Chi our feet are really important. They might even be more important than your hands. Why?
Tai Chi movements start in your Feet
In Tai Chi all of our movements, every single one is considered to start in our feet and then develop through the thighs, waist, spine and then finally reach the hands.
To have your balance be firm and stable press your feet firmly on the ground. This means your foot should be flat. That sounds obvious. But I guarantee you if you check many peoples feet during their Tai Chi practice you see their feet are not flat. They will have their feet rolling from side to side, or they will be lifting their toes or heels as they progress through the various movements of their form. If your foot is not flat, your balance is going to be faulty and precarious. You certainly won’t be rooted. Briefly, rooting is learning how to use your legs and body to become really stuck to the ground and immovable. I will discuss rooting in more detail in another post.
Four Possible Errors
There are four ways your foot will not be flat on the ground. First and most common is the rolls to the inside. This is called pronating. Pronating combines the ankle, knee and hip collapsing inward to cause the foot to roll towards the inside causing. This in turn causes the outer edge of the foot to lift up. The solution is to open your thigh close to the hip and gently rotate it to the outside. this outer rotation of the upper thigh will line up your ankle, knee, and ankle. This will help you get your foot flat.
The second, most common error with the foot is lifting the heel. This usually occurs because people take a stance that is too long for their level of flexibility and then they pull their heel up. The solution is simple. Don’t take such a long step and gradually allow your hips to stretch out. The other reason people lift their heel is because they shift their weight to far forward. You will know you have shifted your weight too far forward when the front knee passes over the toes of the front foot. This could also cause you to lift your heel. Third reason is simply not being aware of the heel rising. The solution is simple start noticing your foot and press it flat.
The last two ways people don’t keep their feet are less common. Sometimes people fail to keep their foot flat by rolling their foot to the outside. This occurs when people drive their knee to the outside of the foot, rolling their foot to the outside this way causes the inside of the foot to lift up and the outside receives more pressure. Sometimes this happens because peoples shoes are worn.
The last way people error with their feet is to lift the toes. This is usually done for toe reasons, not paying attention and practicing in the wrong types of shoes. Which shoes you wear can make it easier or harder to practice Tai Chi and many times people wear running shoes or walking shoes with wear the front of the shoe lifts up. These shoes should be avoided for Tai Chi. I will discuss shoes separately but for now just get flat shoes.
Grip the Ground to Get your Balance
In Tai Chi what you want it to gently grip the ground with your whole foot. You’ll do this by gently pressing down with your toes. this should feel like you increase the pressure with the pads of your toes. You should not press hard or curl your toes a lot. Just press gently. Pressing your toes down will help you to maintain your balance and prevent falling backward. After pressing your toes down, you will want to shift your weight back slightly to also press down your heel. If you do this correctly the center of your foot will also lift off the ground increasing the arch of your foot slightly.
Stimulate the Qi of Your Kidneys
Lifting the arch of your foot stimulates the source point of the Kidney meridian known as the Bubbling Well. By stimulating this point you will help to recharge the Original or Yuan Chi of the body that is stored in the kidneys. Since the kidneys are a vital organ and central as one of the five Yin organs of the body with the lungs, heart, spleen and liver stimulating and strengthening the kidneys is highly desirable.