A Zhan Zhuang foot alignment maxim says, "the feet should be parallel". However, feet that appear to be parallel may not truly be parallel due to a difference in underlying muscle flaccidity or tension. Getting the feet aligned properly is the first step in aligning the rest of the structure.
At Wujifa class a few weeks ago, I had a question about my stance and as often happens while demonstrating my stance, several other problem areas I had not noticed were pointed out and corrected. In this class, special attention was given to my right foot.
On my left foot, my weight was dropping straight down through the center of the ankle and the underlying muscles created a straight, horizontally aligned foot. However, in my right foot, I was falling off the ankle toward the center line and the underlying muscles created an outward horizontal curve to the foot. Despite the heel to toe lines being parallel, the directional "energy" of the feet was not parallel.
Following this observation, my school brothers worked on aligning my right foot including inserting a wine cork sized object under the arch. My weight then sunk more cleanly down through my right ankle and the underlying muscles created a straighter, horizontally aligned right foot. The feet were now more truly parallel than before.
And how did this change feel through the rest of my structure? Although I can sense that something changed, I still don't have the words to describe qualitatively how the change feels. Did I feel more or less grounded? More or less connected? More or less relaxed and balanced? What exactly? I'm still grappling with connecting static word meanings to continuously changing kinesthetic feelings.
In addition to posting my experience with foot alignment, I also wanted to show visually how foot alignment affects overall body alignment. Lacking a home-made video, I searched the internet for information about Zhan Zhuang foot alignment but in vain. The best I could find was orthotics infomercials. (Note: I am neither endorsing nor not endorsing this product.)
Notice that the heel to toe line does not change with changes in ankle movement. (The presentation ends and the Orthaheel ad begins at time 3:04)
This video shows how ankle movement affects musculature in the hip. (The Orthaheel ad begins at time 1:11)
A different perspective of foot and knee alignment from the angle we typically see in our Wujifa classwork, that is, looking at the feet and knees front-on.
While the orthotics infomercials talk about relieving pain, from a zhan zhuang alignment perspective we would consider how proper foot alignment can contribute to a relaxed and balanced structure.
After my class experience and after viewing these videos, I now have a better understanding of what to look for and what makes good zhan zhuang foot alignment and I hope you do too.