When practicing tai chi footwork, regardless of style or lineage, there is a specific rule we must adhere to. Each time weight is shifted from one leg to the other, we must understand that there is a potential step, knee attack, a variety of kicks, sweeps, leg hooking, trapping, or blocking … etc.
What is most important to know is how to shift the weight. Without shifting the weight properly, we will not have the opportunity to execute any of the above mentioned techniques.
We always strive to maintain relaxation, balance, and rooting. When shifting the body weight from one leg to the other, we accomplish this by sinking first on the weighted leg, and then transferring to the other leg in a downward arc. This is in opposition to pushing off of the ground with one foot, as this would cause an upward arc, and demonstrate resistance to the natural downward flow of gravity.
This one detail is the difference between moving by relaxing and moving by tensing. It must be practiced always, and will eventually become a very natural way to move.
Taking a step is based on this same principle. We should not focus on the actual step, but rather on sinking completely on the supporting side, and silk reeling.
This rule by the way, also has two other major benefits:
These things are difficult to express in words and really need to be studied during practice to be understood. Practice a lot of repetition and slowly you will develop skill in your footwork!