As I was watching the recent Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight between BJ Penn and Diego Sanchez for the lightweight title, I noticed something very interesting. As the fighters were moving about the ring, BJ Penn engages in what Master Chen Zhonghua refers to as “duck walking”:
Duck walk: Split step from rear leg, use the rear leg to drive the body forward. When pulling rear foot up, flex the inner thighs and pull up. [source: Chen Zhonghua Workshop Notes Unfiltered Part 3]
Below is a brief description of how to “duck walk”:
- Stand with left leg forward, and the left foot pointed directly in front of you
- Turn body sideways so that left shoulder is forward and right shoulder is back
- The right foot is about shoulder width apart from the front left foot
- The heels of the feet are directly under the armpits
- The right foot points to the right, forming a 90 degree angle
- The 2 feet form the shape of an “L”
In order to move forward, use the rear leg to drive the body forward. The front left foot barely lifts off the ground as it slides forward. The front leg is then used to “pull” the rear foot forward by flexing the front inner thigh. Master Chen noted that stepping in the manner will make it difficult for your opponent to uproot you as you step. In addition, it allows you to close the gap on your opponent without losing ground.
How could “normal” stepping allow one to be uprooted? In normal taiji stepping, the front foot will lift up off the ground in an arching motion. If an opponent can get “under” you during this lift, the opponent can easily uproot you or push you backwards. In the duck walk step, there is no upward movement or energy rising. There is only a force going directly forward and a force going down. This motion also makes it easier to get under an opponent should he try to step forward or move backwards, assuming he doesn’t use the duck walk motion 😉
Furthermore, Master Chen has noted that all movement in the form should engage in this type of stepping. Watch the video below to see if you can identify the duck walk method of stepping (hint: note the direction of the feet when stepping is engaged).
Also, check out the video below that shows Master Chen using the “duck walk” to close the gap with an opponent and how it can be used to issue.
Next time you do push hands with a partner, try this kind of stepping and see if it makes any difference. I can assure you that it will 😉