Walking with the Quaterstaff

The following is an exercise for establishing a “Strong Base Centre”. Particularly useful for those who have come into “Tai Chi” without a “Martial Art” background. It is traditionally performed with the staff, it is just as effective with a stick or broom handle.

Hold the staff loosely at chest level. The staff should be horizontal and you should find a “Comfortable Balanced Position”.

For the purpose of this exercise we are going to place the foot down flat – if anything with the ball of the foot first (as opposed to rolling off the heel of the foot). Move the right foot forwards and place down with no weight on it. I.e. the back leg is still supporting the weight. When placing the foot forward try to keep the feet shoulder width apart.

Then slowly shift the weight onto the front foot allowing the back foot to naturally shift out 45 degrees. It is important that this is done through the hips, so as to keep the back straight. Also during the weight shift, breathe out and get a good grounding. Then move the left leg forward and repeat the same walk procedure. Work at a speed you are comfortable with. This is particularly important as you are synchronizing the weight shift with your out breath.

To begin with it is advised to keep the steps small. This is because as the steps are made longer, it is more difficult to place the front foot without dropping the weight on it and without leaning. However, this is not an excuse for letting the feet get less than one shoulder width apart! The steps can be made longer as the “Weight is Lowered” and “Base Centre Strengthened”.

The exercise will be more beneficial the more alert the senses are. It is good practice to work through the following.

Sight – look forward but use your peripheral vision, trying not to focus on any thing in particular.
Sound – be aware of sounds in the room (if in one), outside, near, far and in the body.
Touch – be aware of the hands on the staff, clothes on the body.
Taste – be aware of taste in the mouth Bitter \ Sweet \ Sour.
Smell – be alert to such.

There is a natural progression of further work with the walk once the basic principles above have been absorbed.

by Ian Farrell