The root of rootlessness, the form of formlessness, is indeed the best realm of Tai Chi!

No matter the style of boxing, how can one practice without a root? Indeed, Tai Chi is no exception, but how can there be a transition from having a root to being rootless?

Master Huang Shan often talks about the rootlessness of Tai Chi, which is the highest realm pursued in Tai Chi!

The “Classic of Boxing” states, “Its root is in the feet, issued through the legs, directed by the waist, and expressed in the fingers.” This indicates that the root is in the feet, with the axis in the waist. The waist being the axis shows that Tai Chi is a circular movement, and it’s a three-dimensional spherical movement. The rolling of a sphere, where every contact point on the sphere can neutralize the opponent’s force, leading the opponent into emptiness, and can strike the opponent, making it impossible for them to defend.

Those who practice Tai Chi have this experience, such as when lifting the cat step or splitting the leg, the contact point on the solid foot transitions from the little toe to the big toe, then to the inner side of the heel, and finally, when it lands on the outer side, the center of gravity is the most stable, and lifting the empty foot is the lightest. If the toes grip the ground fixedly without change, it will inevitably become rigid and lose balance. This is true for lifting the foot as well as for issuing force, practicing boxing, playing hands, and pushing hands techniques, all requiring the yin and yang movement of the soles of the feet. When the body is in motion, how can the center of gravity on the soles of the feet remain unchanged? Relaxed, resilient, with the skill of using minimal force to move a great weight, all require taking advantage of opportunities and situations, being agile and circular, to truly understand energy.

“The Explanation of the Thirteen Postures” says, “When one part moves, every part moves; when one part is still, every part is still.” Of course, when the body moves, the soles of the feet, being part of the body, must also move. “When moving, the whole body must be light and connected.” This way, the whole force is maintained, “in movement, separate yin and yang.” By operating yin and yang under the feet, the root of the feet becomes alive.

Therefore, in the practice of Tai Chi boxing, pushing hands, and striking techniques, the feet should also be understood as a contact point with the ground, not as a whole sole. Only point-to-point contact is the most energy-efficient, most agile, and most penetrating. The smaller the contact point, the better, down to the tip of a needle against wheat awn, as if it’s barely there, thus the penetrating force is strongest. The stronger the penetrating force, the deeper the root, and the essence of pushing hands is the competition of roots. Whoever has the deepest and most agile root has the advantage, uprooting and displacing the opponent.

To have an agile contact point, the soles of the feet must operate yin and yang, not just grip the ground with the toes and root immovably. Rooting immovably will give the opponent an opportunity to find the fulcrum, being in a passive position to be hit. This is the meaning and difference in skill from having a root to being rootless.

Rootlessness refers to a living root, the smallest contact point of a living root, guided by qi and consciousness. Qi and consciousness are extensions of the limbs, penetrating through the ground; the deeper they penetrate, the deeper the rooting, the deeper the skill.

Not only must it be deep, but it must also be lively. Being alive allows for adaptability and victory. A living root reaches a point of almost touching and separating from the ground as desired, elusive to the opponent, and this is the realm of rootlessness.

The high-level root is not the tangible heel but the intangible root of qi and intention. Only the root of qi and intention is the deepest and most alive root. Therefore, the true root of Tai Chi is the formless root of unity with the cosmos. A living root overcomes a “dead” root, rootlessness overcomes having a root, and the practice of Tai Chi also involves the process and levels of transitioning from having a root to being rootless.

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