Beneath the grasp of Thetis

I met Kong Cheng again yesterday at Zhongshan Park; it was cold again, but at least there wasn’t any wind. (Also: hooray for thermal underwear!).

Basically, I spent most of two hours still working on tang ni bu. I confirmed that there is a significant difference in stepping techniques between Sun Zhijun’s style (which is what I’ve practiced before) and Liu Jing Ru’s style. The former allows the heel of the rear foot to rise while stepping forward; the latter does not – the foot must be kept parallel to the ground, with the heel flat.

I asked a friend of mine, who’s a student of Sun Zhijun about this afterwards; they said that the heel-raise is part of the bagua qigong. Apparently, allowing the heel to rise stimulates the Bubbling Well Point, generating yin energy, and stimulating the kidney meridian.

However, Liu Jing Ru’s style, which I’m now learning, doesn’t do this; since Kong Cheng is a TCM doctor, I’ll have to ask him about this next time we meet. The fact remains, though, that I find it very difficult! Kong Cheng was kicking at my heel whenever it rose, trying to make the foot slip or twist, and I suppose from that I can see a combat application (though that’s just a guess). I have to say that it got very annoying – though the annoyance was with myself for not getting it right, not with Kong Cheng for kicking!

(I also have a feeling that there’s a difference in the way the two styles approach kou bu and bai bu, but I’ll leave that question for another time).

I found that I had to focus on two points. First, the Achilles tendon, allowing it to relax and lengthen; secondly, the muscles at the front of the ankle, using them to keep the foot raised. Essentially, that means that I was trying to keep my mind intent on a ring around the ankle. I’m still not sure that I’ve got this right. Well, since I can’t do it consistently, I obviously haven’t, but Kong Cheng does say that I’m improving. I’m going to make sure I can do it properly before I move on to any forms. Once that happens, though, I think I should progress fairly rapidly, since those are the forms I studied with Sun Ru Xian Lao Shi when I first came to Beijing.

I find that I have to concentrate on my feet so much that I’m not able to focus much on the rest of the body. Even so, I could feel that my posture is improving as I walk, and I was able to relax back, shoulders and tailbone more than in the previous lesson. Plus, my ankles are much more stable, and don’t wobble so much – this is definitely a result of the last year’s zhan zhuang, since before I started yiquan my ankles were very tense and rigid, which meant that they didn’t like carrying any kind of load. That, in turn, I think made my knees bear my weight, which wasn’t good.

We finished up with some more bagua tui shou, which is where I finally felt able to apply some of the insights from yiquan, specifically with regard to generating strength from the core back muscles, rather than the arms or shoulders. My right wrist hurt a lot during this, so Kong Cheng used some tui na massage on it, which helped.

By the end of the class, my thighs and hams really felt that they’d had a solid workout, and were tingling a lot!

I popped over to Wangfujing to do various tasks, and then headed back to Xinjiekou for the afternoon’s yiquan lesson. That went well, mostly practicing postures that I’ve done before but do need to work on much more. I was the only foreigner there, which hasn’t happened for a while. This class also finisihed up with tui shou, for about half an hour. This is the first time that I’ve done any serious yiquan tui shou since my accident, and I was comprehensively demolished by my partner – I couldn’t read his movements at all, or escape from any of the traps he applied to my arms. Ho hum, back to the beginning (again!).

In the evening S. and I went to the cinema at Oriental Plaza and caught the 3D version of Avatar. The 3D affect is brilliant, and the computer-generated world is stunning. The storyline is a bit hackneyed, and I’m too much of a cynic to enjoy the ‘happy’ ending, since you just know that the ‘Sky People’ will return in greater force, but hey, it’s a nice movie to watch with someone whose company you enjoy 🙂

5 Comments

  1. I generally use heal to toe (lion step) or toe first for stepping so I’m not an expert. According to the Bagua Journal – mud stepping is designed to strengthen the psoas muscle’s. Training in mud stepping is probably to aid general foot work speed, accuraccy, balance and awareness – train big and fight small.

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  2. Emlyn,

    Check your e-mail in a couple of days for some information on a baguazhang stepping method that sounds quite similar to what K is asking you to do. It may have some suggestions that will be helpful; they were for me.

    Tom

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  3. Not to start a flame war or anything, but Sun explained it to me this way:
    Walking can be done at three levels, high, medium and low. The difference between medium and low walking is that with medium walking your rear heel stays down. With lower walking, Once the lower leg is relaxed enough you can start taking longer steps, then from a full extension of the calf muscles your heel will start to lift. At this point your back knee should be inches from the ground, but do not push through the toes by shortening the calf muscles–just relax, melt. For this to work the front leg has to be empty so that the quads don’t grab. I like to think of the front leg like a vacuum cleaner sucking up as it cleans the ground. This is how you create natural relaxed power.
    Qi flowing in and out of the foot will cause the bubbling well to expand and contract, or rather…to bubble. For this to happen the legs must be deeply relaxed.
    “To be preserved whole, bend. Upright then twisted, to be full hollow out! What is worn-out will be repaired.” (Laozi)

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    1. Thanks, Scott! That’s really, really useful. You’ve confirmed the train of thought that had started in yesterday’s class – I’d realized that the only way this works is if the leg is relaxed (which is not easy for me, and a big part of why I’m struggling so much at the moment).

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