Photo: master Zhang Yu, a lineage holder of grandmaster Wu Huichuan, one of the top students of master Yang Chengfu who was one of the Heng-Ha generals of the Yang family and one of five tigers general of the Yang family.
Article: Huang Renliang, a student of Master Zhang Yu.
Most boxing (Taijiquan) practitioners believe that Gong Bu (Bow stance) uses the back leg to push (Deng) forward; the front leg bends and becomes Gong Bu, known as “Push the back leg and bend the front leg.” When I first started learning Taijiquan, I learned the simplified version of Taijiquan and the 88 movements form. All Gong Bu uses the back leg to push forward and bend the front leg. So, usually, even when we finish the Gong Bu, the rear leg is still pushed backward, especially when trained on a slippery floor.
After I started studying with master Zhang Yu (a lineage holder of GM Wu Huichuan, a top student of Yang Chengfu, and one of the Heng-Ha Generals of the Yang family), my boxing frame was corrected, I realized that Gong Bu is not using force pushing forward. It uses Yao-Kua turning and Song Chen to the front leg. Also, the back leg is not using force at all. My master said, “under the feet has to be stable, so it has a root.”, the root is created down to the ground, not by a horizontal force pushing upward.
In training boxing, one must use Yao lead feet, not using feet to push Yao. So, every time doing Gong Bu, one must keep in mind that Yao is the commander, and whatever the full or empty legs, they must be stable. To train for stability under the feet, I used to practice the form on a slippy floor and even with straw and sand on the floor, to make it even more slippy under my feet.
The principle of “using Yi, not force” in Taijiquan is applied to the whole body, including lifting, sinking, shifting the weight forward, and sitting backward. So, those “pushing the back leg to bend the front leg.” sure are using force with intent. The vital principle of “Using Yi to lead the waist, using the waist to lead the feet” has been abandoned.
The movements in Taijiquan have Yao as the commander; all outward movements depend entirely on the waist. It is using Yao to lead feet, not using feet to push (Deng) the Yao. Using feet to push the Yao, one must be heavy: using Yao leads feet, one must be light and agile.
Some boxing friends used to train those incorrect methods, influenced by the practice of “push hand legs, bent front legs” is quite deep. Even after switching to the Yang Family’s Taijiquan training, under their feet still exert too much force. There is a saying that “stepping like a walking cat” means a cat walking is light. If you apply pressure on your feet, how can you be light?