To determine the proper size of the circle for your length of stride, begin by standing in the center of your practice area and taking one "giant step" outward. The length of this step will be the radius of your circle. You should be able to cover the entire circumference of the circle in eight steps.
To prepare for circle walking practice, or beginning the form, stand facing the east in a natural stance with your left shoulder toward the center and your feet straddling the line of the circle. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your arms hanging naturally and the palms facing the legs. The body should be upright, the spine erect, and the eyes gazing at the tip of the nose. (Don't gaze at your nose so hard that you cross your eyes.) Your mind should be empty with no conscious thoughts. This position is called the WuJi(J& Stance. Wu Ji literally means, "without form." Philosophically, it refers to a mind completely devoid of thoughts or desires. Stay in this "stance" a few moments to clear your head and relax.
From the Wu Ji Stance, you move into the Tai Ji (
Stance. This is done by slowly "sitting" in your stance by relaxing and using "waist strength." The knees bend slowly but do not extend beyond the toes. The hips and inner thighs open slightly as if "standing astride" something. The shoulders open, turning the elbows outward. The palms face toward the rear and slightly downward. The hands fill with energy which spreads the fingers slightly. The feeling is as if the arm from the shoulder to the fingers were a slack balloon which is filled with one breath of air. The abdomen is rounded and relaxed. The breath sinks to the dan tian; the weight sinks to the heels.
As you begin to walk the circle, the palms float upward and separate in what is called the "holding the world" posture. From there, you turn the waist toward the center of the circle and drop the arms into the classic Ba Gua Zhang "guard stance." Wang Shu Jin called this posture, "Hands Embracing the Yin Yang Fish; Feet Treading on the Ba Gua Diagram." [see photo in Swimming Body book, page 1, reprinted on the previous page.] Standing in the "guard stance" is a good time to go over the thirteen basic principles of circle walking and postural alignment which Wang wrote about in his, Ba Gua Swimming Body Palms:
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Achieve Health, Wealth And Body Balance Through Yin Yang Mastery. Cut up on the old stone drums of Republic of China, inscribed in books handed down through thousands of years, traced on ancient saucers and on saucers made today, is a sign and a symbol. It is woven into textiles, stitched into embroideries, emblazoned over house gates, wrought into shop emblems, a circle, locked together inside it yang and yin yang, light, yin, dark, each carrying inside itself the essence of the other, each shaped to the other