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Re: The Application of 虛(Hollow) and 實(Solid)in Tai Chi

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 4:43 pm
by ChiDragon
There are two conditions that can cause the bow stand to fall into the "double-weight" disease. It is either the distance between the two feet are too narrow or too wide. At these two positions, either leg cannot be lifted up easily which disable the upper body to move freely. In other words, the two feet are solid which interlock the body in one position with the centroid in dead center. The yang-yin concept was violated which is a taboo in Tai Ji Chuan.

Re: The Application of 虛(Hollow) and 實(Solid)in Tai Chi

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:59 am
by Audi
Greetings all,

This discussion seems to have spread over several threads, but I decided to contribute here.

First, I think that “full” and “empty” are quite adequate translations for the equivalent Chinese terms for Tai Chi usage. Although “solid” is a possibility, “hollow” is too specific an English word and suggests too much of a permanent characteristic. “Hollow” is a very strange word to apply to a human foot.

I think the word “sound,” when used as an adjective, captures much of the feel of the Chinese word over much of its range of usage, but “unsound” does not really work as a good Tai Chi opposite. I could imagine shifting weight unto a "sound" foot, but not to an "unsound" foot. Our form requires both such weight shifts at the end of a posture.

I think that Sunzi’s use of “empty” and “full” is an important precedent for Tai Chi, even though his doctrines about their importance are different from what the Tai Chi Classics say.

Louis, I think I recall you saying that “empty” and “full” were terms used in Chinese calligraphy. Do you happen to have any references?

As for the word we often translate as “distinguish” or “separate” (as in “Distinguish full and empty”), I am now working with “divide up” or “apportion” to best explain my understanding. Sometimes this involves physical action, sometimes it simply involves mental discernment.

As for practice, we distinguish more than one type of “empty” and “full” so that “empty” as to weight is not the same as “empty” as to energy. For us, we are taught to pay even more attention to energy than to weight, even though both have their place. With this understanding, it is easier to understand how every point of the body must have its “empty” and “full.”

For us, the term “double weight(ed)” does not mean having equal weight or equal pressure in corresponding parts of the body. We have no requirement to avoid fifty-fifty weighing in the legs or equal pressure in the palms. These conditions occur in multiple places in our form. We also do not give any special focus on left-right differences, as compared with upper-lower or forward-backward distinctions. There are multiple places in our form where the most important “waist” circle is vertical or like a partially vertical figure eight rather than a simple left-right horizontal circle.

You are double weighted at a particular point when you cannot control energy flow or energy disposition at that point and the energy patter is frozen. We know from Sunzi that no energy pattern is inherently good or bad in itself, but rather depends on circumstance. If you are frozen in a pattern, the opponent always has the ability to control you and defeat you from the weakness inherent in that particular pattern. That is why you must be able to distinguish/divide up full and empty at every point.

Imagine water shooting through a hose. By squeezing or bending the hose at any point, you can always control the flow of water at that point, or actually at all points. You can also point the nozzle of the hose to wherever you want. The water you cannot control is the water that has left the nozzle. It is frozen in a pattern. Similarly, if you are always in control of your weight distribution, you are “distinguishing/apportioning full and empty.” But when your stance is too wide, there will be a moment in your steps when your weight shift is frozen in a pattern and you cannot change it. Even though this is fairly straightforward, we manifest this differently in the bare-hand form and weapons practice, because the training goals are slightly different.

In handling energy, you also must be concerned with its flow and the exchange between empty and full. For instance, if you are doing Push and focusing energy in the palms, you do not want to have equal energy flowing to the fingers or elbows. In fact, one of our push hands counters tries to do exactly that as a counter. If someone is trying to push me or strike with an open-hand palm, I may circle the target in a way that will force energy into my opponent’s fingers and prevent him from sending energy as intended. I can also force energy into his elbows for a similar result. Likewise, if someone is trying to shoulder me, I may be able to counter by forcing the energy flow into his or her hand. If the hand is full as to energy, the shoulder cannot be. If your skill is high, you can even counter a strike be forcing your opponent to draw energy to their Dantian when they are trying to transfer energy to their extremities.

In practicing “explosive” fajin, we also respect these principles. For example, in practicing elbow strikes, you do not want equal energy to flow to your hands; or in practicing shoulder strikes, you do now want equal energy to flow to your elbows. Energy should always be flowing or have the potential to flow from one point to the next just as in a whip or in a spring. Any place it does not flow threatens to damn up the entire flow.

Take care,

Re: The Application of 虛(Hollow) and 實(Solid)in Tai Chi

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:34 am
by ChiDragon

I really did not want to bring this up. However, I have spoken Chinese more than sixty years. I have not found a Chinese-to- English dictionary had translated as full. Neither it was spoken as such in the daily usage.

Re: The Application of 虛(Hollow) and 實(Solid)in Tai Chi

PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 5:44 pm
by ChiDragon
I think that Sunzi’s use of “empty” and “full” is an important precedent for Tai Chi, even though his doctrines about their importance are different from what the Tai Chi Classics say.

This sounds like rather weak for argument sake. I know Sunzi did not speak English at the time. I am pretty sure that he didn't use these two English words. As a matter of fact, he used the two characters of 虛 and 實. In addition, when people have spoken of the Art of War, they often say the phrase: 虛虛實實, 真真假假(illusion and reality, actuality and falsehood).

The idea behind 虛 and 實 was utilized in military strategy is to create an illusion to deceive the enemy from taken an initial attack. For example, here is one of the illusive technique was used by Sunzi to deceive the enemy. Let's say Sunzi only has twenty thousand(20,000) troops; and the enemy has forty thousand(40,000). In order for the enemy to believe that Sunzi has more troops. What Sunzi did was ordered each soldier to light five camp fires, at night, to deceive the enemy that he has 100,000 soldiers which out number them.

Sunzi was always aware of which situation is illusive(虛) or actual(實) to make his final strategic decisions.

In the example, the two characters 虛 and 實 have the contextual interpretation as illusion and actuality. It was not interpreted as solid and hollow. It was definitely does not have any connection with the meanings of "full and empty" to obfuscate the Art of War classic.

Let nature take its course,
Wu Wei

Re: The Application of 虛(Hollow) and 實(Solid)in Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 7:28 pm
by Audi
Greetings ChiDragon,

What I have learned from my teachers is that our Tai chi draws from many sources of Chinese philosophy, but nevertheless is something unique. We draw on Sunzi and the Militarists (兵家), but do not necessarily use everything they talk about.

Sunzi said:

All warfare is based on deception" (兵者,詭道也。).

This is an idea I do not think we use in our Tai Chi.

Sunzi also said:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. (知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼不知己,每戰必殆。).

We definitely use this idea.

We want to "distinguish/divide up full and empty" (分虚实) and thus know our own full and empty and that of our opponent. On the other hand, we do not want our opponent to know our full and empty or be able to distinguish/divide up their full and empty. If you understand Sunzi's idea, it is much easier to understand the Tai Chi idea.

If you understand the Tai Chi idea, it is easier to understand why we place such an emphasis on sticking. Without sticking, it is extremely difficult to get an accurate read on the opponent's status of full and empty. Without sticking, it is impossible to accurately affect the opponent's full and empty.

Sunzi said:

To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken-- this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect.
That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg--this is effected by the science of weak points and strong.
In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.


(Here the translator used “weak (points) and strong” to translate what we have been referring to as “empty” and “full” (虛實). In Sunzi’s context, I think this is defensible.)

In our Tai Chi, we definitely use some of the same concepts of weak (empty) and strong (full), but do not use the ideas of “direct” and “indirect.”

It is also said that if the opponent does not move, you do not move, but if the opponent makes the slightest move, you move first.

Without movement and the separation of Yin and Yang, it is hard to know the opponent’s empty and full. Without knowing the opponent’s empty and full, it is hard to know what to attack and what to defend. If we move independently, we risk revealing our own empty and full and exposing vulnerability.

Sunzi says:
The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few.
For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.
Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us.


If in push hands, you perceive one part of the enemy to be full or strong in energy, then you know what other part is empty or weak in energy. If all parts are full or strong, you know that all parts are empty or weak. This is being double weighted.

Sometimes in our push hands, you may know that one part is full or strong in energy, but you need it to be the opposite. If you are in contact with that part, there are many things you can do directly; however, even if you are not in contact, you can act if you understand the principle of the Taiji. We can make that part empty or weak merely by making another part full or strong. Understanding these relationships is why we say that our Tai Chi is not about who is stronger, but rather about what is strong or full and what is weak or empty.

Take care,

Re: The Application of 虛(Hollow) and 實(Solid)in Tai Chi

PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 8:05 am
by ChiDragon
All warfare is based on deception" (兵者,詭道也。).

I would like to revise it as:
Military warfare is all about the mastery of utilizing the tactic of deception.