Rear Foot – Question

by Gary Readore on 2012/12/15

Master Chen:

I was reading the notes posted by one of the attendees at your Brazil workshop and he made the following notes:

  • If opponent gets your back foot, you have lost.
  • Don’t let the opponent push get to your rear foot, but when you push connect to the rear foot.

A question I have then, are you supposed to keep your rear foot “hidden” from your opponent all the time except when you push them by connecting to the rear foot?  I thought we should be connected to the rear foot all the time.  Or is there a distinction between being connected to the rear foot and yet not having the opponent get to or find that connection?

Also, in a related question, when one is performing the end movement of the positive circle or single whip where the hand goes out, what part is/does the rear foot play in causing the hand to go out?  The reason I ask, is that in a lot of videos it looks like the hand goes out as if it is moved by the hand/arm and appears “disconnected” from the lower part of the body (which would include the rear foot). Also, like the drill where one has one’s back against the wall and the opponent is pushing on their chest, you just use the arm (appearing to be disconnected from the lower body) to push the opponent off/away.


Thank you!


Gary Readore



{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Chen Zhonghua December 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm

This is a very good questions. I will have to answer you later. I am in a workshop in the Vancouver area this weekend. You are asking for the meaning of “connection”. Yes, connected does not mean a connection in the normal sense. It has a special meaning and specific action to it.


Carlos Hanson December 16, 2012 at 2:00 am

I remember Master Chen telling me the same thing about the rear foot. Perhaps he said it to the entire class, but I remember it told to me. My understanding has to do with collapsing versus expanding.

If you push on me, I can align everything a feel like everything goes to my rear foot. I feel supported, but it is like a compressed spring. On the other hand, I can align everything and extend my body into the force in such a way that I feel open with space to move if necessary.

I’m having trouble with an analogy, but perhaps it is the difference between a spring and hydrolics. The spring compresses and loses space, but the hydrolics compress but push back in a way that keeps it open.

Think about pushing a car. You extend your body. Now let someone push on your structure, but let it compress into our rear foot. That is not comfortable. There is an active versus inactive component.

The push, like pushing a car, is active, but you can keep the body active without pushing. If you can have the same feeling without pushing, then you will have my understanding of that teaching.


Wilkin Ng December 16, 2012 at 7:20 am

Rear foot is the end of the line. If the opponent control it, then he has control of your whole body. But with rotation, rear foot can switch to the other foot


bruce.schaub December 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm

One way to approach the question would be to look at the drill you mentioned in the end of your post. The drill is designed to understand separation of Yin and Yang, which requires we understand Movement vs. No Movement. Here’s an example of the drill in a great mini lesson if anyone was wondering which drill was being talked about….

In the case of the drill where the back is against the wall, the back is acting as the rear foot. The back is anchored to the wall and must not move. Because the back doesn’t move, it’s almost as if it is part of the wall (or pillar in the case of the video above). It’s like the person pushing the chest is just pushing directly into the pillar (as long as the back does not move). Once that relationship is established, all the opponents force is absorbed into that No movement. Then the two hands can fight freely and independently, moving any way they want, as long as it doesn’t disrupt the back’s connection to the pillar. So, in this case you could say you are using part of your body to connect your opponent to the pillar, and other parts of your body to fight with him (which Master Chen calls “seperated” or “isolated” action rather than the word “disconnected”.)

So now, imagine you put your rear foot against the pillar rather than your back, all of the same would be true, but you would just have a lot more body parts in between to stabilize to create a “Non Moving” line between the opponents push and the pillar. You would manipulate some of your body parts to create an alignment with enough structural stability to withstand the push, a ” No Movement” line, then the rest of the body parts can be used to do whatever…… now if put your foot on the floor instead of against the pillar….same thing. It’s like being able to produce a stick in your body that runs from the opponents push and the ground. The rear foot is like the stick being stuck in the ground, and if it gets kicked out, the stick is useless. ” The stick is the Kung Fu ” Master Chen told me.

Of course, learning to produce the stick is not easy, and how we do it is relative to the situation, but if we can learn to produce it, we can connect our opponent to the stick, and while he is busy fighting with the stick, we use other body parts to break down his structure, hit him, push him out, etc… As hard as it is to produce a No Moving stick in the body, it’s even harder to move other body parts without effecting it, because virtually every movement we make, we drag other body parts into it, disrupting our “no movement”. Master Chen told us that being able to do this is called “clarity” in Chen Taiji Practical Method. The better we are at producing the No movement, and isolating it from our other actions, Yin and Yang will be very pure….and full of power.


Gary Readore December 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Hi Bruce:

Thanks for the reply and detailed explanation. I watched the mini lesson as well as the push hands video of you and Master Chen and am starting to see how some of this is supposed to work. The wall neutralizes or cancels out the opponents push so now one need only add a small force to move him. We need to replicate this in our body when we have no wall behind us. I like the explanation of creating the line/stick that does not move, it makes sense now. Yes, I see how difficult it is to not drag other parts of the body into an action and keep everything separated. Also, I now see the importance of the head suspended from a string for it helps maintain the line. As Master Chen said in the video, we read about this stuff in the classics but we are not able to comprehend it.

This whole “not moving” thing is key, but seems to be missing in the other taichi that is out there and initially seemed very counter-intuitive to me. For not moving seemed to denote stiffness to me which was opposite of what I was taught before in taichi. But now I see it is how to “not move” that is key and keeps it from being “stiff”. In the other styles of taichi I learned we were always taught to take the force into the rear foot and into the ground and not resist (or push back) and just hold the structure when being pushed, but see we were missing a crucial key component, the part about not moving. The problem arises in what to do to when trying to then move the other person, this is where we were lacking. For “noodling” (ie, moving) was quite common. Also, we were missing the “separated/isolated” part as we were taught whole body movement/connection with everything “together”. Now I see that although there were pieces of the truth I was still far off.



bruce.schaub December 17, 2012 at 8:54 am

Happy if it helped Gary. I can definitely appreciate where your questions come from, and have many of the same types of issues with understanding. I couldn’t agree more with you about the lack of teaching, in the broader taiji community, regarding this fundamental aspect of Taiji, No movement combined with movement. Master Chen’s systematized method of training and testing to develop this principal is highly unique. Like you I’m just beginning to see how things work.


KT December 17, 2012 at 3:18 am

Here are my 2 pennies:

1. When the opponent pushed directly into your rear foot, if you anchored correctly, he has not got your rear it, meaning he has no control over it. His power goes to the ground through you foot.

2. When he tries to get your reat foot by pushing your power line, switch the anchor to the rear Kua and open the front Kua. Now the front foot becomes the rear foot and the opponent will miss the line. He again does not ge your rear foot.

3. When you want to push the opponent, power the pushing hand by connecting it to the reat foot, which usually means pushing down the reat foot, opening the rear Kua, turning the waist, dropping the shoulder, pulling in the elbow and extending the fingers. A connection (direct power line) is established between the rear foot and the pushing hand.

4. There are situations where you use the power line to engage the opponent, and push the opponent with a separated action (an add-on push). In such a case, the add-on push does not need to be powered up by the rear foot.


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