shoes - Redwoodtwig

Brandon Smith (Redwoodtwig)

Possibly the earliest Wu style Taijiquan video with Chu Minyi, disciple of Wu Jianquan, recorded in 1937 in Shanghai. The video shows the Wu style set, tuishou and even Chu's 'modern and scientific' approach including his 'stick' and 'ball' system. A piece of history

What is the correct clothing to wear when doing a Tai Chi form?  

Whatever you are wearing when you need to be in Tai Chi Dao.  

If you need to use Tai Chi Chuan  skills, you will need those skills to work with whatever you might be wearing when you have to fight.  So you need to practice Tai Chi Dao in the clothes  you normally wear, particularly the shoes. 

Shoes that alter your body's balance with built up heels will interfere with mastering the natural balance of your body.  Thus Tai Chi forms are normally taught and performed with flat soled shoes.  However, if Tai Chi Dao is among your life goals, you need to be able to apply it any time of day, any place, wearing whatever you have on.

If you are in the military, for example, you most likely wear some kind of boot most of the time; or perhaps a dress shoe.  As it happened, for the first few years of learning Tai Chi Chuan, my daily early morning practice was done in military dress shoes in the woods behind the building where I worked. 

shoes and boots

People often ask what the best shoes are for doing Tai Chi.  My normal response is a shoe with a flat bottom, no built up heel.  This encourages the body to find the natural balance points when moving from one leg to the other.

These are the shoes I've worn during Tai Chi Dao practice sessions the past few years.

For learning and the best training experiences later on, the pair of Chinese peasant shoes on the right work the best. The cloth soles can be very slippery on freshly waxed wood floors though. They do not work well outside except in very dry conditions.

The next pair from the right are "water shoes" and they work very well also and last a little bit longer than the cloth soled ones. However, despite how well they give underfoot, they are not as comfortable as the cloth ones.

The brown pair in the middle are walking shoes with almost no heel and are very comfortable and give a good feel for the ground underneath, almost as much as the cloth or "water shoes." However, on a gravel or other rough surface, they are better. They are excellent on rugs and grass.

The tennis shoes alter the balance a bit due to the taller heel, but they are much better than the walking shoes on gravel and similar rough surfaces. Tennis shoes work very poorly on rugs, however.

The work boots alter the balance quite a bit, but when laced up tight the balance is not that hard to maintain. Tai Chi stepping in boots is the same as in the other kinds of footwear, but take more work to do smoothly.

I've used snow boots a few times. This pair does not fit very well and stepping is very awkward. Nonetheless, with carefully thought out movement, they almost work ok. Not at all my preference. Does make an interesting pattern in the snow.

What are you favorite shoes for doing Tai Chi in?  Leave a comment below.