Grounding (making a firm connection between the body and the ground) is not a purely theoretical keyword from esoteric circles. It is a truly achievable and experienceable state in which the correct posture of the body and the use of the center of gravity can create an ideal stability and a sense of secure connection with the ground, which is also often compared to the deep rooting of a tree. It may seem like a contradiction but a firm connection of the body with the ground is the requirement that makes it possible to move really free and effective. Then the movements performed are supported by the power of the earth. We can use this principle from Tai Chi to our advantage to achieve the perfect balance while skating.
The advantages of grounding for skating:
- Optimal balance and a secure stand when pushing, pumping and dancing.
- Better control of the board while skating.
- Relief of knees and prevention of knee injuries caused by overuse resulting from incorrect posture.
- More ease pushing with smooth and flowing movements resulting from an improved flow of the body's energy, the chi.
During my ChiPushing sessions at the recent Christmas holidays I paid special attention to the Tan Tien (Dan Tien), the center for collecting the Chi located in the center of the body, and on the use of the gravity of the body. The positive impact that originated from the interaction of body and board during pushing were the reason for me to submit a detailed explanation of this topic.
The midsection of the body and the center of gravity are an important part of good grounding. However, the basic requirement for grounding is the mastery of correct posture. In Tai Chi there is an exercise in the form of a standing meditation. With this exercise one learns to take a firm stand and to connect with the ground; to ground oneself. This corresponds to the standing posture, which I have already described as the basis and starting point for ChiPushing. Those who are serious in learning Tai Chi and want to master this art, have to perfectly master this posture first and a good teacher will instruct his pupil to hold this standing meditation for a very long time before he will be allowed to learn the movements.
So if we want to achieve a good grounding when pushing, it is also recommended to take this posture first - at least for a short while. To do so we stand with our feet shoulder-width apart. The toes are pointing straight forward. We straighten our spine and bend the knees. The knees stay loose and relaxed. They should not be bent out over the toes. The center of gravity should be distributed to the middle of the feet`s soles. This means, the ball of the foot in the front and the heels in the back are evenly loaded. For this exercise the schools of Tai Chi know different arm positions. However, for our purpose it is sufficient to let the arms hang loosely at our sides. For a complete guide to the posture I refer to the explanation on ChiPushing. It is also possible to practice the body posture while standing on the board. Provided, however, that the board can not roll away.
We are now trying to calm down and relax our body for a minute while breathing calmly into the stomach. Then we start to focus on the Tan Tien in our midsection of the body. This energy center, where the chi gathers, is located about two finger widths below the belly button and in the middle of the body. While we focus our attention on this area, perceive it and feel into it, we let our center of gravity mentally wander from the Tan Tien in the midsection down to the feet. We consciously feel the ground or the board under our feet and how the center of gravity is directed downwards through the soles of our feet on the board and is passed directly into the ground. To support this we can also grab towards the ground with the big toes. The aim of the exercise is to find a solid connection to ground via a mental line from the Tan Tien to the feet (and the board).
If we perform this exercise every time before we go for a ride with the board we will over time get better in perceiving our bodies and we will feel the connection of the body with the ground stronger and faster. Finally, it will even be possible to perceive the existence of Chi as a subtle inner strength. Then we will understand how this energy can help us with pushing, so that while moving forward we are no longer dependent upon our muscle strength alone. In addition this process of grounding allows us to connect mind and body to the board and to harmonize all three, so that the board no longer represents only an object that we have to push to move forward, but a kind of extension of our feet that helps us to glide forward while effortlessly pushing.
In order to implement this grounding condition when pushing it is now necessary to transmit the basic posture practiced before to the movement and to feel and keep the connection during the movement, too. This means to focus the attention to the Tan Tien in the lower abdomen during each stage of the movement and to be always conscious of the position of the center of gravity while moving the legs. This starts with the introduction to pushing by letting the body fall forward, in which the body is drawn to the front with the shift of the center of gravity in the Tan Tien and by the effect of the earth`s gravity. The use of body weight when pushing has already been explained in detail here.
For a good grounding while pushing, the center of gravity should be kept as low as possible. We achieve this by lowering the hips and bending our knees. To relieve the knees and to avoid knee injuries it should be ensured that the knees are not bend to the point where they would extend beyond the toes. In addition, the kneecaps should always be aligned straight forward in the direction of the toes and should not be turned inward or outward. This helps to guide the gravity down to the feet unhindered without burdening your knees from harmful distortions. Only after one has gained more experience in ChiPushing and the body has had time to adjust itself to the correct posture of the knees, thereby strengthening the corresponding muscle areas, you can also try to bend your knees deeper to accelerate the grounding. By doing this the knees will naturally bend out over the tiptoes. In this case the center of gravity should be worn to a larger extent on the heels in order to transfer the gravity of the body down on the backside of the knees which will lower the burden on the front area of the knees and the shin. The above rules apply both to the standing leg on the board as well as the pushing leg.
If the body posture and the process of grounding have been internalized, you will be rewarded with a feeling of maximum body control and balance while pushing at any speed and injury of legs and ankles will be a thing of the past.
Then it will be possible to transfer the same principles intuitively to pumping and the steps of longboard-dancing as well.
To all who want to try this out I wish a lot of success in applying these instructions.