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Walk like a cat?

Despite Wu's suggestion from The Tai Chi Classics, very few taijiquan people walk like a cat.
Many students treat the art like an external system and rely upon deeply bent knees and wide stances for power.
Their seeming root is accomplished through physicality not intention.
The jing of 'root' is created by not-doing, by allowing - not by squatting.


Cat walk

Deep, solid stances do not emulate a cat's walk.
A cat is a vibrant creature, supple and soft.
Its body is extremely flexible and agile.


Sensitivity

A cat's paw is placed softly and tentatively.
It can withdraw the paw upon placement because the weight has not been transferred immediately.
The paw also opens and closes as the cat steps.


Silence

A cat's step is soundless and gentle - like Kwai Chang Caine walking on rice paper back in the early 1970's.


Walk like a cat.

(Wu Yu-hsiang)

Lumbering?

How do you step?
Sensitively?
Feeling the weight shift within the foot?
Softly?
Carefully?
Or are you a taijiquan rock, planted deep in the ground, self-assured in your immovability?


Denial

Many students refuse to walk like a cat, and deny their own vulnerability.
When they are attacked with the rubber training knife they are slow to move.
Instead of stepping cleanly and naturally, they lumber from fixed stance to fixed stance like a rusted robot.
(They also fail to evade the training knife).


Agile & responsive


Have you ever watched how a cat responds to perceived danger?
The entire body moves as one, drawing away from the threat, coiling and expanding.
This is akin to the amoeba-like movement taijiquan students acquire from reeling silk exercises if they take their training far enough.
The cat evades and counters without hesitation or doubt.
It moves.
 

Watching Sifu Waller perform his bagua was like watching a cat hunting or preparing for a fight. He had a single focus of attention to the exclusion of everything else. And a raw power, just waiting to be unleashed should the need arise. You were in no doubt about the outcome, if you were facing him...

(Andy Urwin)

Spontaneous

A cat can go from complete passivity to combat readiness instantaneously.
It does not tense muscles and prepare.
It just moves.


Dithering

The cat does not psyche itself up, rock, dither or demonstrate any of the characteristics you often see demonstrated by human fighters.
Only a skilled taijiquan person tends to move smoothly and calmly in response to threat.
Most students are jerky and tense.


The appearance of youth

People spend lots of money on beauty produce, therapies, treatment.
They run, they go to the gym, they cycle.
40 year olds undertake military-style 'boot camp' training that was designed for 18 year olds.
Other people dress young, act young and play at being young.
But how healthy are they really?


Youthful movement?

A person may have surgically-altered features that emulate youth, injections to inhibit muscle movements... etc.
Look past this.
Watch them move.
This is the giveaway.
You cannot pass yourself off as young when you move like an elephant.

 

A person who is considered to be fit in the West may be able to do over 100 push-ups, run a marathon, possess a beautiful, muscular physique and yet not be internally healthy. 
He or she may have a bad back, damaged joints, liver problems, unbalanced emotions, an inability to handle stress and sexual weakness or dysfunction.


(Bruce Frantzis)


How does a young person move?

A healthy young person is akin to a cat:

  1. Nimble

  2. Agile

  3. Coordinated 

  4. Graceful

  5. Balanced

  6. Mentally sharp

  7. Aware

  8. Calm

  9. Clear

  10. Fluid

They can squat with ease, get up without groaning, without effort.
They do not have a bad back, stiff shoulders, stiff neck, headaches or bad knees.
Their footfalls are light, they can move freely and spontaneously...


So why are we thinking about cats?

If you read The Tai Chi Classics it speaks of softness and subtlety, quietude, of the weak defeating the strong.
The Wang Treatise teaches sensitivity, adjustment and grace:
A feather cannot be placed, and a fly cannot alight on any part of the body.
The Wu Treatise talks about cats: The form is like that of a falcon about to seize a rabbit, and the shen is like that of a cat about to catch a rat.
The Chang Treatise also emphasises lightness:
In motion the whole body should be light and agile, with all parts of the body linked as if threaded together.
Yang's 10 Essentials: Suspended from above. This will lighten the feet, increase agility and nimbleness, improve balance. Lithe in appearance, but powerful in essence.
These quotes highlight the importance of being lithe, cat-like and nimble.
 

Emulate a cat

A cat possesses the innocuous spontaneity and suppleness we seek with Sifu Waller's approach to taijiquan and baguazhang.
The cat moves easily and comfortably.
It does not adopt extreme stances and finds balance without effort.
It rests when it is tired, finds food when it is hungry.


Re-train

Taijiquan re-trains the body to move naturally and freely.
As a student moves through the syllabus, they are challenged with increasingly sophisticated stepping patterns.
The cat-like grace of taijiquan encourages agile, strong movement, excellent poise, high energy levels and a feeling of vigour.
Learn how to m
ove with the easy, relaxed balance of a dancer or a large cat.

 

If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.

(Mark Twain)

Small and subtle

In the world of tigers and bears, the cat is small fry.
Ordinary.
A cat minds it's own business but will defend itself if required.
It goes where it pleases.


Worth reading

Anti-aging
The authentic self
Longevity
Self-reliance
Youthful


For Kitten
Page created 1 November
2009
Last updated 06 January 2017