Yesterday afternoon, when I was jogging on the Ma On Shan mountain, I passed an old local man who was walking backwards at moderate speed. I stopped running and watched him. Looking at me and smiling, he kept on walking backwards till he vanished from my sight behind a curve. Puzzled, I stood on the mountain, trying to find a meaning to what I had just witnessed. Finding none, I paused my music and ran after the man. “Excuse me”, I cried after him. He waited, still smiling at me, as if he had already known that I would run after him. His oval glasses that seemed to be too small for his head, and his brown jumper that covered most of his upper thighs made him look pitiful and even older than he probably was, but something about him was calming and re-assuring. “Do you speak English?” I asked, panting. “Of course”, he answered with a voice so quiet I barely heard him. “Okay, great.” I paused, not sure how to formulate my question. Eventually I decided to go with it as bluntly as possible: “Excuse me, Sir, but why are you walking backwards?” The man looked up to the sky, still smiling continuously. As I secretly turned on my recording app, he told me the following:
“Walking backwards does many things to you. You use very different muscles for it than you use for walking straight forwards. You have to train those usually forgotten muscles, too. Walking backwards, you use much more energy than with a normal walk. If you get tired from walking forwards for 30 minutes, you will be tired from walking backwards already after 10 minutes. According to a saying, walking backwards for 100 steps is equal to walking forwards for 1000 steps. This is very old Chinese wisdom. On another point, walking backwards is generally good for your balance and mind. It also increases your eye sight, makes you more aware of details in your environment. I have the feeling that I see more things when walking backwards, than when walking forwards. I feel relieved after this. I find inner peace. That’s why I walk backwards. Did that answer your question?” It did. I thanked the man and returned to where I had come from. When the old man was out of sight, I stopped and turned around. Till I got to the bottom of the mountain, I walked backwards. Step after step, carefully placing my feet on the path. The old man was right. It was a completely different experience from walking forwards.