Walking Like a Cat

The Tai Chi Classics are a collection of writings about the philosophy and practice of Tai Chi that provide a rich source of information for students of Tai Chi. In the The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan - The Literary Tradition; Annotated Edition, the text is poetic and rich with ideas, allusions, and metaphors. This means that even simple, short statements can have a deep meaning for readers. One such statement, from the Classic “Exposition of Insights into the Practice of the Thirteen Postures” by Wu Yuxian, is simply this:

Walk like a cat.

The immediate connection to Tai Chi is described by Barbara Davis in her translation of the Classics (The Taijiquan Classics - An Annotated Translation): “Cats and other animals will test a surface with a paw before committing their weight, in order to make sure the surface is firm enough to hold them.” This is how we step in Tai Chi. Whether moving forward, backward, or to the side, all the weight stays in the current leg where we remain relaxed, upright, and balanced while we step. The foot touches with no weight, ready to change or be withdrawn if needed, and only then do we begin to transition weight into it.

In addition, a cat shifts its weight into a leg smoothly, with maximal relaxation throughout, aligning with gravity and allowing their weight to drop through the leg into the ground with only essential effort, as described in Shifting the Weight.

This is how we move the body, like a cat taking a step.

† If you have questions about Chinese terms used, you may find About Chinese Terms helpful.

This is part of Thoughts on Tai Chi, a collection of writings exploring various aspects of Tai Chi. If you know someone who would enjoy reading it, please forward it to them.

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