Engaging the Hindquarters

This excellent training step
Is practiced
In many schools
And is the foundation step
In most ba gua zhang styles,
Including Cheng style.
Step forward with the lead foot,
Touching the ball of the foot
To the ground first
And sliding
(extending)
The foot slightly forward
Like you’re walking on thin ice.
The foot is never lifted very high from the ground
Hence its name-
Mud Tread Step-
It’s like walking through mud.
Each step should slide forward
As for as you can comfortably cover
While still being able to move quickly;
This is different from taking
A series of small steps
Which simply resembles running fast.
The Mud Tread Step
Trains balance and stability
while in motion
and increases the energy flow
from the bottom of the foot
up through the entire body.

When first loaded with the weight of a rider, most young horses begin to rush about, leaning forward and taking short fast steps. This is not surprising as if you look around most barns you will see most people are leaning forward and rushing about with short fast steps. Learn to engage and balance your own body if you want your horse to be calm, balanced, and stable under saddle. There is a lot of walking involved in horse keeping, so now is always a good time to practice:

  1. Take the Horse Stance.
  2. Shift all of your weight onto one foot
  3. Slide the weightless foot forward
  4. Keeping your feet parallel
  5. Touch the ball of your foot to the ground
  6. Slide your foot forward until the entire sole is touching the ground
  7. Shift all of your weight onto that foot
  8. And repeat
  9. Keep Breathing-
  10. in when the lead foot comes up
  11. and out as it goes down is helpful guide

Watch out for:

• Landing heel first
• Letting your toes point out
• Letting your toes point in
• Leaning forward
• Hunching over
• Taking uneven steps
• Holding your breath

If you are leading your horse to your schooling area:

• FOCUS on where you are going
• make sure the lead rope is slack,
• speak to the horse before you start moving

Getting inside means a whole bunch of little steps as you and the horse must:

• stop
• open the gate
• enter
• stop
• turn around
• and close the gate

That process will be more or less sloppy depending on how attentive you are. It will improve as your learn to circle and change directions mindfully. Once you are in and the gate is closed, turn the horse loose and practice walking by yourself. It might take a bit for the horse to get used to the idea of you walking purposefully. They may stand and stare, or skip about, or follow you around out of sheer curiosity. Let the horse offer you their responses but concentrate on your own work for now, as you still have to learn how to change directions and circle.

Let the horse offer you their responses but concentrate on your own work for now, as:

If your steps are not
Well rooted
You will not be able to hold
Simple postures
Long enough and
strong enough
for them to be of
any real benefit…

Developing your ability to maintain your balance and hold your ground long before you ever mount up is paramount in working with horses. The most drastic injuries occur when people lose their balance and fall off their horse (click here), but the most numerous injuries and accidents occur when horses are being caught, led around, and handled. Almost without exception, these accidents and injuries on the ground, from getting your foot stepped on to being knocked aside to the horse jerking loose and taking off, stem from the horse recognizing and responding to the person’s lack of balance and attention.

‘Rooting
Also requires
Proper alignment
That harmonizes
The shoulders and hips,
Elbows and knees,
Hands and feet.
These six harmonies
Compose a functional position
That helps the body
Remain centered.

If you wish to gain your horse’s confidence, if you would become someone the horse turns towards for support in negotiating the world instead of someone to escape in times of trouble, you must develop a habitually alert, responsive, balanced, AND grounded way of movement.

The rooting of ba gau circle walking
Draws energy up
the rear weighted leg
across the hips
and down the light forward leg.
As your weight shifts forward
This energy travels
Back underground
Up your rear leg
To complete a circle.

When the rear foot rises
from the ground
and begins to step forward
this energy
then begins to shoot up the other leg-
which has just become the rear weighted leg-
and the process starts all over again.
Walking very slowly and
Focusing on feeling the energy
In your legs
Helps develop
This rooting process.

Once you have experienced a few smooth alert steps, you can begin to develop attentive balanced changes of directions and circles. Head on over to that next step now or go back to the beginning.

all quotes are from

The Whirling Circles of Ba Gua Zhang

by Frank Allen and Tina Chunna Zhang

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