Bow and Arrow
This month I would like to talk about Bow and Arrow practice, one of the basic fundamental forms that you learn when you begin your Taichi studies. As a beginner, this is one form that does not get practiced enough, or in a proper manner. In this article, I will go over basic practice of this form, as well as some more advanced ways to work with it, that will help develop other aspects of your Taichi training.
Start from Preparation Form shifting your weight to the left, stepping out 45° to the right, making sure that you step only as far forward as you can, while still maintaining your balance. Do not fall into the step. Shift your weight to the right foot and step up with the left foot, again making certain to only step as far forward as you can, while still being suspended and balanced. At this point, your right foot should be at a 45° angle and your left foot straight forward. Make sure that you have at least a fist width between your heels if you bring your front heel straight back next to the rear heel. Also make sure that your front to back spacing is comfortable, suspended and balanced. If any of this is off adjust your stance accordingly.
You also want to be sure that your torso is parallel to the wall in front of you. It is a common error to have the torso on the same angle as the rear foot. Be sure to check this and all the other above points as you shift back, turn the left foot on a 45° angle, shift the weight to the left foot and step up with the right to repeat to the other side. Remember to always practice every form on both sides in order to maintain balance in your energy. You can continue changing sides like this or stay on one side, shifting your weight forward and backward several times before switching to the other side to do the same. When shifting forward, do not go too far forward, a good rule of thumb being, when you feel your toes, begin to shift back. The same applies when shifting backward. Shift back until you can feel your heel, then, begin to shift forward.
Throughout all of this, the arms should hang comfortably at the sides. Do not tense up the arms or shoulders as you practice. The tips of the fingers point down to the Earth in a relaxed manner. Your main focus here is the stepping, not the arms. Work on stepping forward as well as backward. Also practice using Change Door so that you can move side to side, as well as forward and backward. This will help to prepare you for Two Person practice and allow you to focus on flowing with your practice partner, without having stepping interrupt your concentration. Practice until you can go forward, backward, and side to side in a smooth manner without any break in your flow.
Once you have these basics, then you can expand your practice by working on opposites in this stance. For instance, as you move forward, instead of thinking forward, imagine that you are pushing off of the wall behind you in order to move forward. Then, as you get all the way forward, imagine that you are pushing off of the wall in front of you in order to move backward. Remember, when you are moving forward, you want to be aware of the back, and when you are moving backward, you want to be aware of the front. This is important practice for developing this kind of awareness. You must be balanced in, and aware of both directions when moving forward and backward. You can not do enough of this kind of practice.
Practice stepping with a partner, trying to step smoothly together forward, backward, left, and right, maintaining your spacing and stance relative to each other. You want to connect so that you flow through the steps together as smoothly as you do on your own. Keep your center-lines aligned as you move through your steps and do not lose your connection, even though there is no physical contact. You want to learn to connect your energies to each other, regardless of whether you have physical contact or not.
Do this practice in a very sincere and dedicated manner, and it will help every other aspect of your practice. Too many beginning students neglect this form and do not do near enough practice with it. If you do, you will reap huge benefits later on as you move into more sophisticated forms, as well as in all aspects of your Two Person practice. This form, along with Beginning Form is fundamental to everything that you do in Taichi, so make sure that you put in a lot of very sincere, focused and dedicated practice on both of these fundamental forms.