One of the distinguishing features for which Baguazhang is noted is its footwork. In fact, to many it may be the distinguishing feature. So since the Toronto students like to think of themselves as distinguished :-), we focused on the all important Rolling Step.
This is a subtle walking technique that has many functions for martial applications as well as health development. For self-defense it is part of the ability to move the momentum of the body smoothly and with control of the body mass. This is really important because losing control of one’s mass is the primary component of a loss of balance. Maintaining balance and control is key to being able to deal with incoming forces, whether they are grabs, punches, kicks, pushes, or pulls. Ensuring that the platforms which support the body, namely the feet, can roll and create that smooth continuous motion is key to that control.
For health, the Rolling Step activates a mechanism for efficient movement of blood up the legs and contributes to the overall aerobic effect created by walking in the “Crouching Tiger”. This is a position of sinking into the legs while rolling the feet underneath the body. The muscles contract and release continuously, strengthening legs with the effect of feeling a very stable base. It really has to be felt to be understood. In addition, the Rolling Step can be used for Qigong practice by changing the mental focus and imagery. A versatile practice indeed!
So we walked and rolled in the special Jiulong circle walking practice. We walked slowly and deliberately, feeling the roll of the foot from the heel to the toe. There is something oddly hypnotic about doing this. The mind becomes quiet, the body relaxes. Yet the feeling of being strong and coordinated grows with each trip around the circle. Practicing slowly with focus is the way to build these effects. If one allows it, a feeling of traveling to a distant land can be created. The body moves while sinking…..relaxing…..strengthening…..gliding……rollin’, rollin’, rollin’.