The Ink Blotter Action

by Kelvin Ho on 2022/04/02

The one-way rocking motion of the ink blotter is exactly the way how our front foot grabs the floor after shovelling out, in order to pull the rest of the body forward. The rear foot performs the follow step as the body is pulled forward. The upper body has no movement and is sitting every still on top of the lower body. The overall forward movement looks like a crab walk or someone sitting in a car with the wheels spinning and making contact with the ground driving the car forward. The body of the car sits on a solid platform. Our platform is the dang (two knees and the groin), which structure must remain solid while we move forward. What below the knees are the only things allowed to move. The halfpipe shape of an ink blotter is opposite to how our foot looks, yet when it rolls forward, it represents how our toes press down to the floor to create the initial lever action in the foot to pull the body forward. When someone uses an ink plotter, he/she will likely rock it back and forth. This is not the way our action is like. If we do so, it is equivalent to that we have done nothing. We have to think of the ink blotter as a little boat and how it move across the table. It requires us to first put the rear end of the ink blotter down to touch the table while the front and middle parts are off the table. As we press down on the front end, the bottom of the ink blotter will progressively touch the table, after this pass is complete, the front end will be touching the table, at this time, we need to quickly switch back to have the rear end touching the same spot of the table, and repeat this action. The overall effect is like a little boat riding on a wave being push forward. This is also another example for our worm action.
This action is described in detail by Master Chen Zhonghua in this video:

About Kelvin Ho

Kelvin Ho, Master Chen Zhonghua's 97th disciple, is the instructor for Practical Method Toronto. He has been teaching and promoting the Practical Method system in Toronto, Markham, Richmond Hill, Canada since 2011. He has received numerous medals in various Taiji competitions. He is also a vice-president of MartialArts Association Canada. Like his teacher, he feels an obligation to pass this great art onto others. Contact:

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pawel Mueller April 3, 2022 at 2:34 am

This info is right. BUT it really is something for people who learned the basics. And in this case this would be the correct procedure of shoveling out. Otherwise the instructions given here can be easily misunderstood.
I don’t want to go through the right process here. There are videos about it. Go look at them.
But be aware to get this procedure right first. You might actually harm yourself otherwise trying to implement wha kelvin explains here.
Nothing against Kelvin! This is all correct and ver much worth sharing.

So learn shoveling out first, take some month implementing it into your form, then add this piece of information.

Keep on practicing


John Upshaw April 3, 2022 at 7:28 pm

Both this drill and the shoveling are essential. Pick one to train at a time. I think watching the video first (I participated in the lesson), then reading it made concrete and operationalized…I’m a visual learner and I have often asked Master Chen to “show me”. Reading what I learned from what other’s write or writing it out myself embeds the lesson in my mind…and there is the “need” to physically train the move.


James Tam April 4, 2022 at 3:38 pm

I don’t understand why there is a warning. It would be useful to know which particular part of the description of the ink-blotter action triggered it. [In this discussion, I am not thinking of the follow step description, which is really a separate action. I also understand that it is not about the rocking and really about a pivoting action with the pivot point at the ball of the foot, and that the energy extends from the ankle joint to the toes.]

I consider shoveling out the leg AND landing with the foot as one basic stepping action that one can observe throughout Yilu training (such as when executing the stepping in Buddha Warrior Attendant Pounds Mortar or Single Whip). As John Upshaw pointed out, even if you consider it as two separate actions for single drill purposes, both are still part of the “basics.”

The key for the shoveling is that it is executed using the underside to stretch the Dang as the leg “slides”/grinds outwards with the toes up. And, when the heel is at the end of its reach, the key is to continue the underside stretch by pivoting at the heel with the “ink-blotter” action. Thus, you can view the last part as “adding” that completes the shifting of the weight from an almost 100% one leg stance into the fundamental 50-50 weight distribution stance. That is, “when you finish taking the step, the dantian returns to the center.*” The ball of the pivoting foot should be “Don’t Move” solid while the ankle joint should be set at a right angle during the active ink-blotter action. The importance of the erect ankle is described in an article written by Ping Wei ( ).

*(This stepping is a distinguishing feature of Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method.)
Taking a broader view, “Hong also taught that when he learned from Chen Fake there was no shifting of the center to the right, left, backward or forward. “An axis of a wheel can only rotate, not shift” according to Hong’s writings from his interpretation of the classics. Therefore, the center in a same posture always remains in the center and you can power up with either leg. You only shift the center when taking a step. When you shift the center in that case, you do it without moving the spine side to side, but by just opening and sitting on that kua and the opposite leg will then be light in order to move it. When you finish taking the step, the dantian returns to the center.” Paragraph from


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