Walking & ‘Open/Close’.
If you picture your body as a mobile vertical line, what allows you to be mobile is your ability to split that line at the base – in other words, you have legs.
You can move a leg forwards or backwards thereby temporarily fraying the vertical line from the pelvis downwards.
If you stay as a vertical line you are static, and if you stay as a frayed line you are static; your ability for movement is caused by your alternating the two options.
There aren’t any other possibilities apart from hopping up and down on the spot.
So when mobile, you constantly change between a closed and an open position – as you push off one leg, leaving it behind, you advance with the other leg, before again bringing the legs back together prior to repeating the whole event.
Of course, it doesn’t feel that way; we don’t really notice when the legs come back together again. It feels as though our legs are constantly split in the process of walking, perhaps because the weight is only on one foot as the advancing rear leg moves forwards with the intention of taking a further step.
The process is therefore a constant expansion away from the vertical axis, and contraction towards the vertical axis, which is the basis of both tai chi and qigong.
The arms when walking & ‘Open/Close’.
The arms do the same thing; they swing forwards and backwards as you walk. Usually this is unconscious although it obviously doesn’t have to be. They expand away from the vertical line before coming back to it only to move again in the opposite direction.
Opposite shoulder turns to opposite hip (‘Open/Close’).
If you step forward with your left foot, as you put your weight on to it (prior to stepping through with the other foot), your centre-line (sternum to navel) will turn towards that left foot
• 1) because you are pushing off the rear right foot, which therefore turns your hip to the left,
• 2) because the turn to the left stabilises the vertical line over the weighted foot, and
• 3) because the right leg which (hopefully) is attached to the right hip, which is turning, will be brought forwards for the next step.
As a result of the turn of the body to the left, the waist will also turn with shoulders naturally following, the arms therefore following the shoulders.
In other words, the arms do exactly the same as the legs (but in opposition). Both the arms and legs return equally to the vertical axis before starting again with the opposite limb.
Experiencing the body turn.
To feel this movement of arms and body clearly, you only need to put on a heavy rucksack and walk. The rucksack accentuates the body movement, and you will feel it swinging from side to side with the turn of the body; the body turn towards the advancing leg therefore becomes very obvious. It’s this twisting of the body inwards as the pressure moves on to the advancing foot that is the body seeking the vertical line.
Compared to …
As a further walking experiment, try walking without turning the hips or shoulders at all. All the movement is then coming from the legs; you can walk quite fast, but not as fast as when using the body correctly – mainly because your steps become much shorter. When you start to watch people walking, you can see that a lot of people move that way, particularly those with no flexibility in the waist.
How does this relate to tai chi and qigong?
There’s a reluctance to move the body when people do tai chi and qigong. All that arm and leg movement looks as though the limb movements are the main point. In reality, in tai chi and qigong, all movement is governed by the way that you use your torso; the arms move because the torso moves, your balance is maintained because you use the torso … it’s all there in the everyday action of walking.
James Drewe teaches Taijiquan and qigong in both London and in Kent. Details of weekly classes can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Taijiquan one Saturday a month.
Phone: 07836-710281 or 020-8883 3308