A discussion on rooting
Four senior practitioners sharing their experiences.
Edited by David Chen. January 2004.

Following is one of the open discussion topics at (Cheng Man-ching style)Tai Chi Chuan Forum hosted by Tom Krapu of http://www.krapu4.com/taichi/index.htm
I have received permissions from the contributors to post their interesting conversations.

(Dorian wrote: )

When doing the form I find that if I put more attention (mind) into the substantial foot so as to improve rooting, I then notice a sense of compression between the flat of the whole of my foot and the floor (no bubbling well yet...) this is quite a disturbing sensation and in order to get "unstuck" I have to send my mind towards the unsubstantial stepping foot in an attempt to make it "lighter" before making my step.

The transition of mind from the full (and quite sticky) foot to the empty stepping one seems to create a small jolt that makes me either wobble or tense up one of the two legs or the waist. The thread seems then broken between the full Yin leg and nearly empty Yang leg.

Dorian Shaw


The feeling of compression and the jolt are positive indications. Relaxation produces sinking and sinking produces rooting. Rooting is the compression or pressure you feel in your foot. It comes from using the mind to guide the energy (gravity) through the body and into the substantial foot.

If we remember the basics - that all movement starts in the feet is magnified in the legs and ripples through to the whole body, and that this applies to both upward and downward movements. So we have the base, mainly through the substantial leg, creating movement in the rest of the body.

So try this:

Keep drawing into the rooted foot, and keep your intent below it, whilst continually releasing and relaxing more and more. As the substantial leg channels more and more of your body weight your insubstantial leg will become more and more `weightless'. There will come a point where it will step on its own. That is the Taoist thing of movement through non-action.

The first thing to look for is the insubstantial leg `curling up' as is becomes weightless. Just like your fingers curl up when you relax your hand.

My initial advice is thus - keep the intent down, keep releasing more and more - starting from the feet and working up. The insubstantial leg can be released more and more as it carries less and less of the weight. Allow the body's movement to be generated by the releasing of the substantial foot.

----Steven Moor


Hi Dorian,

IMHO, the test of rooting is in Push Hands, not in how your foot feels during the Form. There is, of course, transfer of learning back-and-forth between Form and Push Hands. I believe the best place to start is to figure out how stand, immoveable, while someone is pushing against you with a strong steady force. If you cannot do that, then no number of new shoes or changes in how you feel your feet during the Form will amount to much - too much opportunity for self-delusion. I'd suggest more exploration of rooting in PH, rather than Form. FWIW, in Form think "sit" and focus on clean weight separation.

----Lee Scheele


I've been thinking about Dorian's questions for the past week, and I've appreciated the comments that others have made. Thanks to Lee for always ringing the bell loudly!

Sinking is first in the mind, but you have to get the body out of the way, so to speak, and also develop it so it can support itself correctly. So the question is how do you increase the Yi and the Sung quality in the body?

Mister Lo told me to "make one posture your best friend." I've found that admonition to be very valuable.

I agree with Lee that clear separation of weight when stepping is very important for developing the root, and I think it's so important that you have to practice this in a 'correction class' mode. When I work on a single movement, I imagine my teacher's hand on my shoulder this way and it helps to increase awareness of my awkwardness.

I love to work on the opening movement. The steps are small and the body stands tall so you can work on it for an hour or more and still make the walk to your armchair afterward! Be very strict with yourself and it is humbling. I rarely get a "good one."

I use it this way with my serious students. When it is time to move the left foot, I touch the right shoulder very lightly and listen. I challenge them to not let me hear their step. I find that some people are good at picking the foot up, and some are good at moving it to the spot, but only a few can place the foot well. Tai Chi is a tremendous exercise for developing fine muscle control (among other things). These three phases of stepping each provide unique challenges/frustrations.

Holding postures on a daily (or almost daily) basis is one thing that I think is essential to developing sung. I guess I'm stupid because it takes me time to reduce tension. Holding postures provides this time, just as it takes time to get to know someone to become 'best friends'. Be sure to hold a good posture, and do not tolerate any sharp pain!

Quiet the intellect and develop the Yi by feeling the air against your skin everywhere, as you would feel the water if you were immersed in a pool. In the pool I feel the water even between my toes, so of course the air is there too on dry land. (Credit to elder brother Lenzie!)

As the heat builds in the legs, don't let it be strictly localized. Allow the heat to spread throughout the body. Be aware of your blood and the weight of your body. Relax as best you can and don't give up if you don't get something from a single session! You wouldn't give up easily on your best friend would you? No! You keep working on the friendship.

Work hard, Stay soft, Relax!

John Crouse
Chesterfield, Virginia


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