The footwork of Yang style Taijiquan is based on the expansion and contraction of “five steps”. “Five steps” comprises positions called “left”, “right”, gu (rear left), pan (rear right) and ding (stationery point). This stationery point is found in the middle which is also the centre of a human body. Every cycle of expansion and contraction begins and ends in this centre point. When mapped against a compass used in the West, left is north west to the centre, right being north east, gu south west, and pan south east. These five points are arranged like the five dots on the face of a dice. 如人以弓步站立，左前腳便在左位、脊椎在中、右後腳在盼位。如要移前，右腳先要隨縮小移近中心，再由中心隨放大移到右位。所走的路線是太極圖中的S線。太極拳按太極道理而創，全部動作均走弧線，手腳均要遵從此規則，走S線是破開太極圖的動法。
When one is in a bow stance, the left front foot is on the “left” position, the back spine is deemed the middle spot while the right foot in the back on pan (rear right). When advancing, the right foot will firstly contract somewhat closely towards the centre, and expansion begins from that point to have the right foot re-positioned in the “right” spot. Such a movement route mirrors the “S” line of the Taiji diagram. Taijiquan originated from the Taiji theory. All moves are done in curved lines, including those by the four limbs. Moving in an “S” line is a move that effectively cuts the Taiji diagram into halves.
When the change in stance is completed, the left foot, now in the back, should be pointing 45 degrees towards north west, the toes of the right front foot should be bent slightly inwards to form a T-step. A T-step will lead to a rounded crotch thereby supporting the body weight evenly on all fronts and allowing a person to stay in an optimum state of balance. When the crotch is rounded properly, the centre points of the kneecaps should point at the small toes so that it is possible for the whole body weight to sink to the soles of the feet without impediment.
The classics said, “Walking like a cat” and “As if treading on thin ice”. All these sayings illustrate that when making a body move, one must firstly stay steady in the body centre. The body can only be moved after the moving foot has found its proper foothold. The footstep must be light; the body trunk moves as a whole. and no breaking gap should come into existence during the advancing and retreating.
Since Yang Style Taiji originated from Chen style, the footwork for the latter is more or less the same as the former. The footwork for Wu Style is called the chuan-character (shaped like the Roman character III) is consistent with the common pursuit of a round crotch. The step calls for more inward bending of the front foot to ensure the crotch is round.
By Patrick SW CHAN
Translated by Vicky Wong