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Cross Stepping Post: Part Three

Some time ago I started what was intended to be a series of posts on the “Cross Stepping Post”. Part One introduced two of the movements and the intention was to let the reader try these out for a couple of weeks before covering the thing as a whole. Part Two gave some advice on learning part one. As with most of my plans, real life intervened and a year has gone by! Here is part three, the full sequence. (or rather, one side of it!) 
For part three we will only consider the footwork, which is the essence of the thing. There are some hand movements that can be added but it is better to concentrate on your footwork, balance and co-ordination for now.

Begin with your right foot slightly advanced and your left foot angled out. Your spine should be straight, your belly and bum pulled in. Your knees are slightly bent, your shoulders are relaxed and your arms hang down by your sides. Try not to look down at your feet. If you have some familiarity with Tai Chi or other soft or internal martial arts these conditions will be familiar. If you are not familiar with this body condition consult the Tai Chi section of my book or other good works on the subject.
Still with your feet in the starting position it should be possible to lift your right foot from the ground without noticeably shifting your weight. If you are new to this you probably cannot do this. This is one of the objectives you will aim for.
For the second step you raise your right foot and place it behind your left. Your calves should brush or touch. The right foot is raised “flat”, without the heel or toes lifting first. It is placed flat behind the left. This will take practice, so persevere.
For the third stage the left foot is raised and the heel passes down along the inside of the right foot. As the left heel passes the right heel the left foot straightens up. The left foot is brought forwards in a sort of sweeping action and is placed on the ground. The final foot position is a mirror of the start position. You should have maintained your balance throughout this sequence. The chances are you did not, but this will improve with practice.
For the fourth part the left foot is raised and placed down ahead of the right. The lead leg will touch the rear knee. Note that for the previous steps the forward foot has been used. The right/ forward foot is stepped back. The left foot is now the forward foot and is moved in the next two steps.
The next step involves the rear foot, which in this case is the right.

The rear/ right foot makes a semi-circular step forward. Again, lift the entire sole rather than the toes or heel. Place the entire sole down. This move returns you to the start position with your right foot advanced, although you may have changed location slightly.
The next step is the “transition” step. This will take you from a right forward stance to a left forward stance. The action is the same as the fourth step, but in this instance the right foot steps before the left. The rear foot steps forward so that you are back in the starting position, but this time with the left foot forward. You now repeat the sequence on the other side. You left foot steps behind the right. The right then withdraws and advances etc.
Here is the sequence as a single image you can print or load onto your phone.

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Phillosoph

Cross Stepping Post: Part Two

 

It occurs to me this morning that the previous post on “the Post” needs a little more information. Some of you reading that post will not be familiar with Tai chi, Bagua or have read the relevant parts of my book. If you are only familiar with hard, external interpretations of martial arts you may find the seemingly simple movements of the Cross Stepping Post surprisingly difficult.
The essence of the Cross Stepping Post is the cultivation of stability and balance. Your upper body needs to be relaxed and your weight down in your pelvis. Since we are not performing the arm movements at this stage your arms should hang down by your sides, relaxed like hanging vines. If you are used to putting lots of muscular tension into you stances this will probably be one of your first problems in performing the Post.
From Tai Chi we have the advice:
1. Sinking of shoulders and dropping of elbows.
2. Relaxing of chest and rounding of back.
When you attempt the movements of the Post your upper body should be as relaxed as possible, having a slightly hunched shoulders look that comes from a lack of tension.
The other useful thing to remember is that in martial arts movement generally comes from the waist. Don’t attempt those kick-like foot movements just by moving your leg. You will need to rotate your waist/hips to swing them around.
I hope that helps. Persevere and I will post some more information on the exercise soon.
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Phillosoph

Cross Stepping Post: Part One.

Recently I have been looking into a concept that Erle Montaigue called “the Post”. Erle described the Post as being an abstract way to learn very practical things. He as even gone as far as to say that the Post contains two exercises that give every thinkable internal body movement for self-defence without having to think too hard, and are probably one of the most valuable training aids ever. Certainly this apparently simple sequence has much greater depth than is first apparent. I am going to devote a few blogs to this topic and invite the reader to try it with me.
What  Erle calls the Post is actually two sequences, one from Tai Chi and the other from Bagua. The Tai Chi one is called “Stepping over the Gate” and the Bagua “Cross Stepping Post”. Initially I am only going to deal with Cross Stepping Post.
If you dislike long complicated katas, you will be pleased to hear that Cross Stepping Post has only four different steps. These are mirrored on the left and right sides so there are actually eight steps and two linking sets to change sides. Complexity of the arm movements varies. Performing this exercise without the arm movements is very beneficial since it lets you concentrate on your balance and foot movements. You can go through the foot movements anytime that you are standing around, waiting for the bus etc. In his main video on the post (MTG54) Erle demonstrated a very simple set of arm movements. In MTG55 he also details the post and there demonstrated a more varied set of arm movements. On this video Erle points out that what is actually going on internally is actually more important than the actual physical movements. Bear this in mind as you practice.
Both videos are available as downloads or DVDs from http://www.taijiworld.com
I am going to introduce the Cross Stepping Post gradually. For this first blog I am going to suggest learning just two of the steps. They are similar, and once you have some grasp of these you will have learnt half the necessary moves. Just practicing these two steps will also probably reveal to you that your balance and stability is not what they might be.
The first step we will learn is actually the second step in the sequence. I call this the “Forward foot kick” although you must keep in mind that this foot action and the others have many other applications than the one immediately apparent. It is not just a kick!
Your feet are close together and your knees are probably brushing against each other. As the lead foot heel withdraws past the other heel the foot straightens up so the toes point forwards. The foot goes back about a foot length and swings in an arc to the forward position. Heel and toe are placed down at the same time and you should be in balance for the entire movement. Cross Stepping Post actions are performed without obvious shifts in weight such as leaning.
The second move is step four, a “Back foot kick”. Position of the feet is similar but a little more natural in that there is some space between the forward and rear foot. The feet are close enough for the knees to brush. In all these moves the toes always point forward or to the outside. That is, if your right foot is pointing at an angle it is to the right, and to the left for your left foot.
The beginning of this step puts some torsion on your waist and hips. You utilize this by moving the back foot in an arc and placing it down. This is a very similar movement to the forward foot kick but uses the rearward foot and has less initial backward movement.
No arm movements yet. Work on your balance and footwork Experiment with these two movements for a couple of days. See if you can improve your internal balance.