There have been a number of times over the last few years when I’ve thought to myself “How dumb can you be? How can you have reached the age you’ve got to without having learned to walk properly?”. I’ve actually been even embarrassed to mention it here! These moments came, of course, after yiquan training sessions, when I’d had some insight during the zhan zhuang, or the stepping exercises, and then I’ve spotted a specific postural problem that, when thought about, I’ve realized has been leading to me walking incorrectly for goodness know how long. I found it hard to believe that other people besides me also didn’t know how to walk properly…
I was rather glad, then, when I cam across this passage in Constantin Stanislavski’s Building a Character:
As I was walking home today I daresay the passersby in the street took me for a drunken or abnormal person.
I was learning how to walk.
But it was very difficult.
The instant when my weight was shifted from one leg to the other seemed especially complicated.
By the time I neared the end of my walk it seemed me that I had succeeded in getting rid of the jolt when I shifted my body from one foot to the other – let us say from the toes of my right foot to the heel of the left, and then (after the shifting movement had run along the whole plant of my left foot) from the toes of my left to the heel of my right foot. Besides, I came to realize from my own experience that smoothness and an unbroken line of forward motion depend on the correlated action of all the springs of the legs, from the harmonious co-operation of hips, knees, ankles, heels and toes.
I was in the habit of making a stop when I reached the Gogol Monument. As I sat there on a bench I observed the passers-by and their way of walking. And what did I discover? Not one of them took a full step right to the end of his toes nor remained poised even for the fraction of a second on the tip of the last one. It was only in one little girl that I saw a floating gait and not the creeping type of all the others.
Tortsov is indeed right, people do not know how to make use of the marvelous apparatus which is their legs.
So we have to learn. We have to begin from the beginning and learn – to walk, to speak, to see, to act.
I’m going to have a bit more to say about Stanislavski, his techniques, and his students….