According to Damo Mitchell's Daoist Nei Gong, most people's centre of gravity is the heel, while a four-legged animal's body weight goes through the legs into the front part of the foot only. We "do not want our heels lifted from the floor as this will uproot us but at the same time we do want the majority of our weight to be held over the front of our feet."

Is there a scientific basis for this position? Alternatively, is this position widely accepted in martial arts across the board?

  • 2
    I'm confused by the question. Center of gravity in martial arts is typically understood to mean the torso, thereabouts. And it can shift around. A Taekwondo stylist raises their center of gravity up and then lets it down quite a bit. Japanese karate keeps it stationary. The heels are the point of rooting in neigong, not necessarily the center of gravity. Heels lifting from the floor in neigong means your structure has been compromised (you are not balanced and can be thrown). If you are on your toes, it means you are unable to adapt to an opponent pulling. You will need to step. Oct 24, 2021 at 4:14
  • I see what you mean. I was using the term as used in the book, but having looked up "centre of gravity", it seems instead that this is about distribution of weight across the feet when standing. (My question is primarily about standing posture.)
    – Jenny
    Oct 24, 2021 at 10:20

2 Answers 2


It's common for people to stand with their knees straight, with their center of mass over the heels. When one is in this position, one can be collaquially "caught flat-footed", where one is slow to react because the the first motions required to move are to bend the legs and shift weight either towards the front or the side. In contrast, if one "stays on their toes", reactions are quicker because this preliminary motion is already completed.

This particular advice is in the context of standing qi gong, and not general fighting stances; it is more directly relevant to workers who stand most of the day standing than fighting concerns. If you stand for minutes with your legs straight and your weight over your heels, you will probably find this creates tension in your lower back and begins to cut off circulation to your feet. Moving the center of mass forward to the center of the foot is meant to align your body so that you need less muscular tension to stand. This has the caveat that if you retrain yourself to stand this way, you will probably need some weeks to adjust before you perceive benefits; you are likely in a local minimum and need to work to get to a more global minimum.

If you measure the pressure across your foot, standing with your center of mass over the center of the foot will approximately equalize pressure on the heel and ball of the foot. Standing with your center of mass over the heel increases pressure on the heels and reduces pressure on the ball of the foot.

  • What do you mean by "local minimum" and "global minimum"? Also, what is the difference between "centre of mass", "centre of gravity" and "distribution of weight"? It seems that there are different meanings, based on @Steve Weigand's comments.
    – Jenny
    Oct 26, 2021 at 8:37
  • 1
    Minima: you are trying to minimize a function like altitude. If you stand in a mountain valley, you can be at a point where altitude increases as you walk in any direction in the local vicinity. But if you cross over the mountain, you can get to the ocean, which is at a lower altitude. In this example, the mountain valley is the local minimum, the ocean is the global minimum.
    – mattm
    Oct 26, 2021 at 11:41
  • Center of mass is a property independent of external forces. Center of gravity is measured with respect to a gravitiational force, which varies over location. In any human-scale context on the surface of the Earth, these should be practically the same, but I feel center of mass is both simpler and more precise.
    – mattm
    Oct 26, 2021 at 11:48

Your center of gravity is the balance point in your body. It's the point at which your upper and lower body weight is evenly distributed in half. Typically, this is just below the belly button and half way between the lower back and belly for a person of non-obese weight

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.