An anonymous reader asks:
“Professor Cheng did his form with his spine straight, yet when he is shown doing a foothold or rooting technique, sometimes he is tilted forward, why do you think this is?”
I have noted the same thing and I believe I know the reason why. Professor Cheng wanted us to do the form with our back straight, in a vertical position, so that we might benefit from the electromagnetic energy of the heavens and the earth. (See our article on What direction should you face while practicing Tai Chi? for more on this).
When he did push hands, he also was pretty straight, but he pushed very electrically also. People who he pushed can attest to that, myself included. However when he did foothold, or rooting technique, he sometimes did tilt. Let me be very clear about this, he tilted, and did not lean. Leaning would be wrong, a “resting of your meat on someone” to use Professor Cheng’s own words. This he did not do.
You can see an example of this tilt in Robert W. Smith’s book, Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods, hard cover, published by Kodansha Intl. first edition, on page 26. The tilt aligns the spine. through the knee of the rear foot, with the bubbling well spring. It helps you to effortlessly take the force of several people and let it flow through you to the ground.
And so, when you understand, there are benefits to each technique, in its own time for its own purpose.
In Tai Chi,