Skip to main content
The River Steps Featured Image

The River Steps

Emblem for the Earth Method of Internal Martial Art Practice

How to Perform the Posture

The River Steps (a.k.a. Ladder Stepping) provides a method to study the transition of your weight between the insubstantial and substantial legs.

Stand in Wuji Posture. Keep your arms at your sides and bend the knees slightly. Maintain this height throughout the exercise.

The River Steps preparation posture.

Kick your left leg forward and land it on its heel. Unlike the diagonal stepping pattern used in Five Phases Stepping, step forward on a line parallel to the right foot.

Left foot Forward in River Steps.

Lower the toes of your foot as you let your weight fall onto it. As your weight falls onto the foot, your upper body leans forward slightly, keeping a straight line from the top of your head to the tailbone. The right knee extends straight as the left knee bends and receives the weight of the body. Keep the right heel on the floor.

Weight on left foot.

When your weight is on the left foot, lift the heel of the right foot off the floor by bending the knee of the right leg. Then extend the right foot forward and place the heel on the floor.

Releasing the right leg.
Putting the right foot forward.

Now, begin putting the weight down onto the right leg as the right knee bends and the left knee extends. Pay attention to both the yin to yang (substantial to insubstantial) and yang to yin (insubstantial to substantial) changes. Repeat this stepping pattern forward a number of paces before reversing and performing the River Steps backwards.

Weight on right leg.

To go backwards, (let’s say you have stopped with the right leg forward) move the weight backward onto the left leg by bending the knee of the left leg and lifting the toe of the right foot. The right leg will straighten naturally as you do this.

Exchanging weight to the back leg for River Steps.

Lift the right heel off the ground and slide the foot back to land on its toe. Be sure that the foot moves parallel to the left foot. Gradually lower the heel of the right foot as you put your weight back onto the right leg. The right knee will bend, and the left knee will straighten. Continue backwards the same number of steps you went forward.

You should extend the steps far enough that you feel a bit of stretch between your legs but do not overextend and become unbalanced.

Remember to time the steps with your breathing. Inhale as you extend and exhale as you contract.

Leave a Reply

More from the Earth Component

The Bridge Featured Image


The Bridge is from a classic pose in Yoga. As you perform the Bridge Posture, pay attention to the connection of the body from the wrist to the ankles. The Bridge both opens the chest and stretches the hamstrings.
Diagram of the Human Body for prop

Standing Meditation

While standing in Wuji Posture, your mind will probably fit the formless chaos definition of wuji; racing from thought to thought, but your body will be still; standing upright without moving. You want to stand until your mind is aware of your body, and clear from other thoughts.
The Bellows featured image.

The Bellows

Breathing in is Yin, breathing out is Yang. When performing the martial forms, we associate breathing in with defensive movements, while we associate breathing out with offensive movements. In The Bellows, we coordinate breathing with movement while exercising the spine, shoulders, and hips.