Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Feet Do Your Thing
The Chinese acupressure point, Yongquan, or gushing or bubbling spring, is on the soul of the foot, in the depression found about a third of the way along a line from the second and third toes to the heel. In Qigong, breath forces the Qi from the Baihui (top of the head) down through the Dantian (center of balance) and down the Yang Chaio Mo, or positive leg channel to the Yongquan, filling the body with Qi energy. In the Tai Chi Classic by Chang San-feng (Zhang Sanfeng, Chang Chun Pao, Chang Sam Bong, etc.) he says:
The internal energy, c’hi, roots at the feet, then transfers through the legs and is controlled from the waist, moving eventually through the back to the arms and fingertips. (Waysun Liao translation)
So we can see that the feet are very important in Tai Chi and in Qigong. Some texts talk about flattening the instep to the ground. Others, like William Chen, speak of rooting with the “three nails,” the big toe, ball of the foot and the heel. In rooting, the energy must feel as if it extends deep into the ground, not merely attached to the surface.
Early on in my study of the Tai Chi form I became aware of my instability, especially during movements that involved balancing on one foot or kicking. I blamed this on weak ankles (I never could ice skate well.) So I began a search for the perfect pair of shoes which, I was sure, would propel me toward mastery of the art. It made sense to have a “special” pair reserved only for Tai Chi. At any rate, most of the venues where classes were taught didn’t allow street shoes on their nice polished floors.
I have stubby little high-arched feet and have trouble finding shoes that fit properly. Running shoes are made with arch support and soles designed for high impact. I tried these but the waffle patterned soles were definitely overkill for the “Chinese Dance.” I was looking for lightness and found a pair of wrestling shoes at a discount store. They were light. They fit perfectly. But they had no flat soles and contributed to my instability more than being barefooted would have. So I tried bare foot Tai Chi. Again, no support. I was to find bare footed Tai Chi on SAND had great possibilities at a later time, but on the beach, not in New Mexico among the Choja buds!
My solution for shoes were a succession of skateboarding shoes. These are like what we used to call “deck shoes” but have more support and nice flat soles which wear quickly to a shine and become excellent for turns. They are a little heavier, though. I also experimented with Nike Airs which come in an extra wide size.
The grand ultimate shoe of choice for me now is a pair of Chinese slippers with rubber soles I got from Karate Depot or somewhere on line. They have no arch support but are better than bare feet because of the flat soles. They allow you to feel how your feet are rooting to the ground (and below), which is the real secret of balance, stability and energy transfer in Tai Chi, not good shoes.