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New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2017 10:52 am
by Debsu2
Hello All, :D

I am fairly new to tai chi, having done it for just over a month now. I was wondering what is best footwear to wear for tai chi.
On my first week I turned up in flat outdoor shoes but had to take them off due to wooden floor. I tried to do it in my socks but was told I would slip on the floor so was told to do it in my bare feet
Since then I bought tai chi shoes on Amazon but they also slide on the floor so the teacher said just to go in my bare feet from now on as I mange very well.
I cannot wear normal training shoes as I get blisters. I am not too keen on going in bare feet all the time so was wondering if anybody had any ideas as to what is best to wear without sliding or is going barefoot okay in the long run. My teacher says my balance and movement are better in bare feet so I am not sure what is best.

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:20 am
by fchai
Greeting Debsu2,

Quite simply, just wear flat-soled shoes that you are comfortable in. If trainers are a problem, have you considered sandals? These are those such as sold by Teva, Merrell, etc. I am not a fan of so-called Taiji shoes. Socks are definitely a problem on slippery wooden floors. I am also not a fan of regular training in bare feet, as it is not normal footwear for me. Also, doing spins and leaps in bare feet could become an issue.

Take care,

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:26 am
by ChiDragon
Hi, Debsu2

What kind of sole of the Tai Chi shoe did you buy? Rubber or cotton sole? I wear the shoes with rubber sole all the time. It works fine for me on the wooden floors. However, it's not a good idea to practice Tai Chi bare footed. Sometimes, there is a move requires a pivot point using the the ball of the foot to make an 360 degree turn maneuver. It might be very difficult to do with a bare foot.

Happy practice!

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:57 pm
by Debsu2
Thanks for replying. It was the cotton soled Tai Chi shoes I bought but they just slide on the floor. Since then I did order rubber soled ones, but was sent the wrong size, and now my size apparently not in stock so have gave up ordering, so it is still barefeet for me :(
I have now done around 6 or 7 tai chi classes now, all in my barefeet and the instructor said that as my balance is so good and there is no problem turning to carry on this way.
Would non slip socks be okay as I am the only barefoot one in the class and not that barefoot happy, and the floor is getting cold now that it is winter.

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:58 pm
by ChiDragon
Barefeet in not ideal for Taiji practice. However, cold feet will cause you to lose your concentration and poor blood circulation. Perhaps you would like to find an old fashion flat sole tennis shoes. It should be flat is because your weight is centered on the heel. If the sole is slant, your body tend to lean forward and throw you off balance.

If you have to wear socks, then you have to curl the sole of the foot with your toes to prevent sliding. It seems to be a nuisance and cause you to hesitate from one move to the next!

This is only my personal experience and would like to share with everyone. Peace!

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 2:37 pm
by DPasek
Opinions on footwear come up from time to time, but to me the more important issue is “rooting”.

We want to develop a root that is more vertically oriented (down into the earth) rather than horizontal (friction with the floor). If vertically rooted, then slippery socks or shoes (e.g. cotton soles) shouldn’t matter much; they can actually aid training since they will indicate when you are relying on friction rather than on vertical rooting.

There are several ways to practice vertical rooting that I am aware of (others may have additional ideas). One is through standing posture training (zhan zhuang 站樁 standing like a post), although this is dealing with the vertical force of gravity and will need to be integrated with forces coming from other directions during interactions with opponents/partners.

Another is integrating a downward (pulling down) force in the body so that one maintains both up (resisting gravity) and down (pulling into the earth). In the legs, this downward quality can be practiced by feeling like you are lowering yourself down into a chair, even though you are standing up. In the torso this up/down is related to the “lift the back” and the “sink the qi to the dantien” instructions.

One can also practice push-hands in wuji, or horse stance, or while standing on ice. These eliminate the ability to brace backwards into the rear leg that can become a factor when using the bow stance. One can also practice sometimes emphasizing rooting into the front leg when in a bow stance, rather than into the rear leg.

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:37 pm
by Debsu2
Thanks. I have tried the tai chi footwear but they slipped terribly so was told by instructor to go barefooted for safety, I do not get cold feet and can also turn better in bare feet as well, and my balance is good too, but I just dislike being barefoot I suppose. :?

Ordinary training shoes give me blisters so that's out, and also been told that the non slip socks are not good for a class either.
I am going to try flat loafers as a last resort as I really enjoy the classes and we have some tai chi events coming up where people can watch or join in so fingers crossed. :)

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 7:35 am
by maria.j
To be honest I dislike those so called Tai Chi shoes you can buy on Amazon etc as I found them very cheap and my feet slide out of them as they were fairly wide.

I started doing Tai Chi in bare feet from my first class and after trying the Tai Chi shoes and trainers I much prefer going barefoot as I feel I am connected to the floor a lot more and can turn just as well as if in training shoes.
I have been doing class like this for over a year now.

As you say you have better balance and don't feel the cold in bare feet so why not continue ? I understand some halls and floors can be cold or dirty, but if you have a nice clean floor then it helps.
Thankfully we have heating on most of the time in winter so I never feel too cold. We did have a fire alarm go off one night, and I ended having to rush outside barefoot for about 15 minutes lol, but that is about the worse thing that may happen.

The loafer shoes may work, but it depends on how strict the venue you use are. (We are not allowed any form of outdoor shoes where we go as they can mark the floor). Anyway good lucthe main thing is to enjoy the classes :D

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 10:21 pm
by ChiDragon
Yes. " but I just dislike being barefoot" There is really too much friction between the foot and the floor. It cause too much hesitation from move to move. Almost each move will be ended up in a bo stand(弓步, kong bu). Sometimes, it requires self correction for the back leg by sliding the sole of the shoes. Without the shoes, then the foot had to be lifted up for the correction. It would very difficult for the rear leg to be lifted as opposed to sliding the sole of the rear foot.

BTW Turning the heel of the foot is ok when barefooted. However, if one turns with the sole touching the wooden floor is difficult due to the friction. Especially when one handles a weapon like a sword or saber.

It's seems like the shoe had shown is not completely flat. It has many small circles at the bottom. I had never wore this kind of shoes to form an opinion.

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:40 pm
by maria.j
Not sure if those shoes will work due to the sole. I have always done Tai Chi barefoot and have had no problems with turning or movement. If as you say your balance is better this way then why not carry on going barefoot for the class.
You say you dislike going barefoot, is there a reason or do you get cold feet on the floor or is floor not good.

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:59 pm
by Debsu2
Yes you are right, I tried the flat loafers yesterday for the open day class, but was told by the people who run the hall that they are classed as outside footwear which is not allowed on the wooden floor, I also had non slip socks, but socks of any kind are also not allowed. I feel this is very unfair as the shoes were clean and I cannot see a problem wearing non slip socks.
Because of this I spent the whole of the open day barefooted with the new members asking me why I had no footwear.
I find the people who run the hall very picky and hardline as surely non slip socks are better than going in barefeet.

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:36 am
by global village idiot
Merrell's makes a "barefoot" shoe that is minimalist in structure yet apparently fits like a normal shoe:

If you like tai chi as much as you appear to, it might be worth investing in a pair of these or something similar to them.

I agree with those who say that too much grip on the floor is not ideal - not bad, mind you, but just not ideal for learning. What I would add is that once you have the entire form down and are comfortable with it, the classroom shouldn't be the only place you're practicing it.

You're still likely learning the positions in the form, so what I'm about to say should probably be filed away for later reference; and in fact, if you forgot what I'm about to say entirely, it would do no harm either.

Depending on what you're working to achieve with tai chi, your choice of footwear may not be quite so important. I have a classmate who steadfastly insists on doing his work barefoot. He spent the vast majority of his martial arts training time learning Japanese arts, and appears to be of the opinion that the way the Japanese go about it is the way all martial arts ought to be done. He calls the instructor "Sensei" rather than "Sifu" or "Mr. Pavletic." It's hard to articulate, but when he does tai chi, it has the appearance as if he's somehow figured out how to translate the form into Japanese!

Then you have me, and I train in shoes. I use the cheap "kung fu" shoes with the rubber sole in class - I stumbled upon the right sock combination to make them fit well for me. But when I'm not in class, I practice the form in whatever shoe or boot I happen to be wearing. I do this because my focus is martial arts; and if I need to use tai chi as a martial art, I should be able to do it in whatever footwear I have on at the time, and in whatever environment I find myself.

Some are better than others; for example, low oxfords, "kung fu" shoes and sneakers like Chuck Taylors do better than combat boots, for obvious reasons. Likewise, some environments are easier to do the forms in than others - a gym, a studio or a covered public pavilion, for example, is easier than a gravel parking lot, the incline of a hill, stairs, or a sheet of ice on the pavement. The challenges present in the latter types of surfaces is a reason to seek them out, rather than avoid them - after you're comfortable with the form on an ideal surface, of course. It's also been my experience (though that of others may differ) that the differences in environment and surface are greater than any difference in shoe.

Anyway, the shoes above seem to recommend themselves. Maybe something similar would work for you.


Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:31 am
by Debsu2
Thank You for posting this recommendation. I am in the UK so not too sure if I can get them over here.
My main issue is that I purchased non slip socks to do tai chi in but was told that this was unsafe so had to go back to working out in my barefeet. I feel that this is very unfair and cannot understand how they can be classed as unsafe if they have a grip on the bottom of them.
I do get blisters with ordinary trainers so socks is the best thing for me and I have also paid out for tai chi shoes in the past but they were slippery on the wooden floor and I was told to go barefooted. I have also tried flat loafers but they are classed as an outside shoe and not allowed either.
I suppose I am at the stage where I do not want to go to any more expense.
We had an open day last week where we taught some newcomers and I was the only one in barefeet because of this silly ruling, and even the other members cannot understand why non slip socks are not allowed.
I am going to ask the committee members why this ruling should stand ? My friend says I am getting stubborn in my old age which makes me laugh as I am one the youngest in the class but can anyone else understand this ruling?

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:47 am
by maria.j
I could understand if it was normal socks, but the non slip kind should be fine. The people who run the hall or the group do sound a bit stuffy, although I suppose they may want to cover themselves if someone did have on the wrong footwear and got injured.

It may be worth showing them the socks to let them see the safety grips on the soles. I always do classes barefoot myself, but I agree that you should have the choice whether to go barefoot or not.

Re: New to Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:47 am
by fchai
I suppose that it is up to the instructor to designate what constitutes appropriate footwear. In my case, the only stipulation is "No heels!". The reason being that having higher heels results in bad posture and will be detrimental to your form, and your postural alignment. Of course in some halls there are also stipulations to protect the floors. Otherewise, I reckon you should practice in whatever footwear that you are comfortable in, and appropriate to the terrain and environment. I have practised on a yawing ship, on uneven ground when on a hiking trail, on beaches, etc. Mostly I have worn my runners, but I have also practised in my Scarpa hiking boots when in the great outdoors and in bare feet on golden sandy beaches. Lol.
I concur with gvi that Taiji is a martial art and I doubt that an opponent would be so considerate as to permit one to change into appropriate footwear before launching an attack! Lol.
So, in my humble opinion, wear footwear that does not affect the form and prevents you achieving the 10 essential principles.
Take care.