We all know that no matter what Style. Of taijiquan that you practice they all incorporate the heel to toe stepping action to make sure that the individual can distribute their body weight onto the stepping foot for good balance in the performance of their taijiquan form or qigong practice. I’ve have noticed with my own students that they fully concentrate on placing the heel onto the floor first, then lower the toes secondly so that the sole of the foot is gently being pressed into the ground as their body weight begins to sink downwards into the foot and then into the ground to develop their “rooting energy” (Gen Jin). But when it comes to lifting the back foot to take another step forwards, many simply lift the whole of the foot off the floor quickly, rather than gently lifting the heel firstly and then gradually lifting the ball of the foot and then toes in a rolling action from heel to toe as the body weight and centre of gravity is being lifted of the foot.
Basically to many individuals concentrate on the heel to toe stepping action of the foot being placed onto the floor and not the heel to toe action off the foot being lifted of the floor. Obviously to lift any foot off the floor the individual has to make sure that their body weight is being fully placed onto the none moving leg as this leg becomes substantial or full (Shi) and the moving leg becomes insubstantial and empty of body weight (Xu). It is the transference of the body weight being shifted from one leg to another that either presses the heel onto the floor or the lifting of the body weight that lifts the heel off the floor, but it should be performed slowly, smoothly and evenly with no jerking or fast clumsy actions.
Once the heel of the front foot as been placed onto the floor, it is the sinking of the hip joint (Kua Jie) towards the knee joint (Xi Jie) and the sinking of the knee joint into the ankle and foot that lowers the toes and ball of foot onto the ground. This gradual sinking of the body weight through the legs major joints gives the individual a feeling of the body weight moving in a “Rolling” action (Gun Fa) across the whole sole of the foot as the heel is placed onto the floor and then the toes. Whereas when the individual begins to lift up their back foot, it begins with the body weight being slowly shifted onto the front leg that allows the heel to be lifted off the floor, which in-turn pushes the ankle joint (Huai Jie) towards the knee joint which in-turn lifts the hip joint allowing then for the whole of the foot and toes to be lifted off the ground ready to take the next step forwards.
The practice of taijiquan involves the sensation of rising (Sheng) and falling (Lou) actions of the whole body, this rising and falling action must also be performed by the stepping actions of the legs and feet.