You have learned how to root your power in both feet. You now advance to develop the same strength on one leg. This improves your balance and increases your ability to control subtle adjustments in your muscles and tendons. It is the essential foundation for the movements you will learn later in this book.
The preparation for working on one leg is to hold each of the foundation postures with your weight shifted first to one side, then the other. You need to be accomplished in this practice so that you can hold any position with the weight on one side for as long as you normally stand with your weight evenly spread.
To advance to the position shown here, begin in the posture, Holding the Ball (page 13). Shift your weight on to your right foot. Turn your hips and torso slowly to the left diagonal. At the same time, swivel your left foot on the heel to point to the same diagonal. Let your head and eyes turn with your body.
After the swivel, lift your left heel slightly off the ground, as if allowing a little pencil to roll under it. Keep the toes and ball of the foot in contact with the ground.
Lower your right hand until it is level with your navel. Your palm is facing downwards. Turn your left hand so that it extends towards the left diagonal in line with your left toes. This palm also faces downwards.
Relax your neck and your shoulders. Imagine there are balloons supporting you under your armpits and elbows, and a large one on which you rest your bottom.
Train with your body oriented to the right diagonal as well as to the left. As you become familiar with standing in this posture, extend your front foot forwards and sink lower on the back leg to deepen your stance.
This exercise takes its name from the expressive power of the extended thumb and forefinger on each hand. As the thumb and forefinger stretch apart, they create an energy field like the fully opened jaws of a dragon.
First move into the On Guard position (pages 36-37) and hold it for several minutes to stabilize yourself.
Then slowly sink lower on your rear leg. As you sink, raise both your hands in front of you until they are level with your eyes. Both your arms now extend forwards from your shoulders in the same direction as your front foot. Remember to keep the heel of your front foot slightly off the ground.
Spread the thumbs and forefingers of both hands as far apart as possible. Feel the stretch along their entire length, and the curved web of skin between them. Imagine that the central point between the thumb and forefinger on each hand is directed straight ahead. From this central point, the coiled power of the dragon's tongue is preparing to strike.
Open your eyes and stare intently forwards - in the direction of the dragon's energy.
Once you are able to hold this position for several minutes, slide your front foot forwards on the ball as far as you can until you are as low as possible. Keep your arms in position with the drag-on mouth fully open on both hands. Slightly extend your front knee forwards, while sinking a little deeper on your rear leg. You feel the stretch along the tendons of your inner thighs, known in Chinese as the Kwa.
Hold the position for as long as you can, beginning with very short periods and slowly developing your practice.
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