Single weightedness?

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Mar 27, 2003 6:09 am

Hi David,

Re: What is the analogy of pedaling a bicycle, relating to double weightedness?

Well, there’s a whole section of text about the physics involved in pedaling a bicycle, and about how one foot lifts while the other pushes down. Then it says “If both feet step with effort at the same time, then the bicycle will stop going forward. This is because of the problem of double weighting.” (Yang Jwingming, trans., Tai Chi Secrets of the Wu Style, pp. 47-48) The fact that this section does not appear in the Gold Book version (a 1980 repub of Wu Gongzao’s 1935 book, Taijiquan Jiangyi), makes me wonder if the bicycle analogy is a later master’s commentary on an earlier text, and perhaps YJM took it as part of the original.

Interestingly, Ma Yueliang makes the same bicycle analogy in his _Wu Style Taichichuan Push-Hands_ book, in a section explaining double weighting, and makes the same remark about the bike’s not going forward if both feet tread at the same time. But Ma makes no mention of double weighting having anything to do with weight being exclusively over one foot or the other in taiji. He writes:

“The learner is said to commit double-weighting if there is no distinction between solid and void in the movements. Even with a single hand, there is also solidness in a void hand and void in a solid hand. If it is not so you are committing double-weighting in a single hand and the disadvantage of the malpractice is the same with the double-weighting of both hands.” (Zee Wen, trans., 1990) The concept of “empty within full, full within empty” is a traditional taiji concept, and is one of advanced understanding.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Mar 27, 2003 4:11 pm

I have again forwarded this to a Wu family disciple, they do not check their e-mail as regularly as some people, so it may be a while before I receive any kind of reply.
I have heard this bike theory, I vaguely recall it as one of the things used to describe leg usage when I was a beginner.
But that was a LONG time ago.
I'll let you know when I hear from them.
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Thu Mar 27, 2003 6:15 pm

I would recommend again, starting with what Gu Liuxin has offered as an introductory definition of ‘empty’ vs. ‘solid’ which in turn defines ‘double weighting’. To reiterate, he said that it is determined by the muscles in the back close to the spine alternately contracting and elongating.

The bicycle pedalling analogy is useful. I would like to add a twist to this the analogy by thinking of pedalling with toe clips. With toe clips it is easier to apply constant, unbroken pressure without having to stand up and lose the other pedal. Tension is constant, but the direction is always changing. One can pedal this way without lifting oneself off of the seat. As one pedals in this way notice that the back muscles can alternate in unison with the leg movements. The lifting of the leg when the top of the foot pulls up on the toe clip and the corresponding connection with the waist is the type of pulling up posture that is needed in Taiji. As the knees pull up find the corresponding reaction in the back muscles. Leaning over the handlebars stretches your back and makes it easier to find this connection. One can also simply lean forward over a desk and pick up one’s knees, alternating left and right. (leaning helps find this) Do it until you find how your back muscles move, then stand up and do the same thing, left and right. You can do this knee-lift cum back-stretch by leaning in to someone as they push against you. The leaning helps you bend at the hip and stretch those back muscles. This is your “waist” in Taijiquan.

Jeff
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Mar 27, 2003 8:36 pm

Hi,

wow, been away for a while and am surprised to see an analogy from cycling in tcc. Fwiw, I also think the pedalling analogy to be applicable to at least one aspect of the concept of "double-weighting." I've just the read the last few posts, but it is clearly true that with all the weight on one pedal, the bicycle won't move. I think this is also clearly true of walking. And since, in tcc, the tendency is to move "one foot, then the other", it also seems clear that standing on one leg is not the same as "single weighting". I.e., one has to move; and at some point, either one foot, the other, or both may be on the ground --and one can be double-weighted under any of those circumstances.

Oh well, I'm sure that was unclear. Anyway, again fwiw, Ma Yueliang rode his bicycle to his practice session every day, and Wen Zee would accompany him. I tend to think that the bicycle analogy is relatively modern. I really don't know how long the bicycle has been used in China. But, its invention surely precedes much of tcc written theory: i.e., pre 1915-1940.

Best,
Steve James

With toe clips it is easier to apply constant, unbroken pressure without having to stand up and lose the other pedal. Tension is constant, but the direction is always changing. One can pedal this way without lifting oneself off of the seat. As one pedals in this way notice that the back muscles can alternate in unison with the leg movements. The lifting of the leg when the top of the foot pulls up on the toe clip and the corresponding connection with the waist is the type of pulling up posture that is needed in Taiji. As the knees pull up find the corresponding reaction in the back muscles. Leaning over the handlebars stretches your back and makes it easier to find this connection.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Mar 27, 2003 9:04 pm

I have absolutely no idea who wrote this, but it seems, I said seems, to make sense. I went to google and typed in "double weighted" and then parsed through a few hundred returns of mathematical websites and accounting websites and college course websites, past a pretty interesting thread on the tai chi message board that almost mirrored the one we have here, but with no new insights that I could find, until I finally found a web site that appears to be under cunstruction still, but has some content.
Here's the link, in case anyone's interested:
http://www.geocities.com/mafuyee/index.html

Here's what they had to say:
Distinguish between full and empty
This is probably the most important point in t’ai chi. Many people only think of full and empty in terms of weight i.e. the leg that has the weight placed upon it is the Yang leg and the weight-less leg is Yin. But Yin and Yang only exist in a state of change. If one leg has all the weight placed upon it and the other is weightless, they are in a state of no-change.

However, if we think of Yang as being when we use power to push from one leg to the other, then this is true Yang. If we think of Yin as when we use one leg to receive that power, then this is true Yin. When our legs are just holding us up, they are doing their job and are neither Yin or Yang, but when one leg issues power and the other receives it, then this is the true meaning of distinguishing between substantial and insubstantial.

We must know exactly which part of our body is issuing power and which part is receiving it. There are times when the waist is in a changing state of Yin and the legs are Yang, and there are times when the waist is Yang and the legs are Yin. In other words, the waist is sometimes directing and issuing power, and it is important to know when this is happening. If the body is unbalanced then always look for the fault in the waist and legs.


So..........
One for the YCF team! Seems to contradict entirely the way I understood this to be. Again, I have absolutely no clue who wrote or translated this. No assigments are made as to origin of this quote that I could find.

This website has all kinds of neat stuff like this, I've only had a few moments to look it over and I was geared towards the "double weighted" link that I was following. I will go over the whole site when I have leisure to do so.
Don't know how "valid" this is, but the site is definitely geared toward Yang style, though it frequently mentions "original" Yang style.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Mar 27, 2003 9:27 pm

HEY! I'm impressed. My Wu family disciple got back to me in less than a day.
Really, I sent to two disciples, both family members of mine, and I have only heard back from one of them. But they teach at the same school and have the same Sifu and Siku, so the answers are bound to be similar. If I hear back from the other one soon (rare, I think they check their e-mail once every couple of weeks) then I will let you know.
She says that BOTH these ideas are correct, in their own way. Both views, and several others, are completely valid when it comes to "double weighted" as she understands it.
"Single weighted" is a term used by the Wu family, at least when they speak english, to specifically target the legs, which they feel should be 100/0, so they use this term to signify that attribute. She says that the term applied this way may be only used in WTTCA, and even then it may only be used in the north american schools.
The e-mail was hugely long and I am still at work, so I can't go over it in too much detail. Wish they'd have gotten back to me sooner, when I was on lunch and surfing for "double weigthed" on google, but that's life.
I'll go through what they sent me, which is a VERY long excerpt they must have typed/copied for me by hand entitled "Outline of T'ai Chi Ch'uan". They did not give me the name of who wrote it, though there is something here near the top that says:
"The original T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classic states: "In the writings of the Founder Chang Sanfeng of Wutang Mountain it is recorded "Let the honourable ones under Heaven extend their years and attain longevity, not merely making the skills an end in themselves".

Then it starts out: Principals

What follows is a very long treatise on some of the finer points of TCC.
I will have to parse through it and see what is pertinent.
I should have time tommorow, I have class tonight.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Mar 27, 2003 11:07 pm

Found this web page when surfing google for "single weighted".
It is titled:
A STUDY OF TAIJI PUSH-HANDS
By
Xiang Kairen

Here's the link, if anyone cares to follow it, there is a good amount of info here as well:
http://www.nardis.com/~twchan/ph.html

Here's a cut from that page:

Chen Xin, a writer from Chen Village (Henan Province, Wenxian County), has an excellent way of speaking about push-hands in his Taijiquan treatises: "My spirit allows me to know what is coming. My wisdom allows me to hide the attack." "Spirit" simply means using the nerves of the hands to feel the posture that the opponent is about to manifest. Then, according to my own wise strategy, I conceal an attack. In this way we arrive at the realm of "People do not know me. I alone know others." There is another saying, "If you are single weighted, then you can be responsive. If you are double weighted, then you are stagnant." In the practice of push-hands, it is most important to pay attention to these two sentences. You must at all times, in every moment, use your practical experience to really understand this. If you don't know this theory, then you cannot say that you know Taijiquan; you have only had a superficial impression. And if you don't spend several years in diligent practice of push-hands, you cannot speak of "applying technique according to circumstance". The interpretation of these two sentences is actually just common-sense and very easy to comprehend. Above, we have said, "The body is like a wheel. The waist is like the axle." Consider a wheel resting on the ground. Where can there be two heavy places? If there are two, then it cannot move, Therefore the Taijiquan Treatise says, "Do not allow any breaks or deficiencies; do not allow hollows or projections." The reason is that if there are breaks or deficiencies, hollows or projections, then you cannot be circular. And if you are not circular, then you will be double weighted.
Some people explain double weighted as both feet touching the ground at the same time or both hands striking at the same time. Thus, one hand and one foot means single weighted. This explanation is the worst kind of misunderstanding. We should understand that single weighted or double-weighted is not a matter of outer appearance but of the inside. Taijiquan is only the exercise of a central pivot. When you have found where this pivot is located, then your feeling will become spherical and every place will be single weighted, If you do not find the center of gravity, then your feeling will become stagnant and every place will be double-weighted. And it is not only the feet and hands--even one finger will be double weighted.

So....
There is a desirable condition out there known as "single weighted", though apparently it has different meanings to different styles and even can mean many different things in any one style.
It's too bad there's no way to write a definitive "Tai Chi Chuan Dictionary" that everyone would use. Unfortunately people would never agree on definitions.
So.........
Anyway, I had a few minutes and decided to do a google search on the flip side of this coin to see where I got. This was the first page I found that was TCC related, there may be others, I'll keep looking.




[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 03-27-2003).]
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Postby tai1chi » Fri Mar 28, 2003 3:26 am

Hi Wushuer,

fwiw, I think your teacher is correct, the term "single-weighted" may only be used by certain members of the NAWTCC community. Chen Xin is a good example of the term being used, but I think it seems clear on what "single-weighted" does not refer to; and that seems to have been the original reason for this discussion:

"Some people explain double weighted as both feet touching the ground at the same time or both hands striking at the same time. Thus, one hand and one foot means single weighted. This explanation is the worst kind of misunderstanding."

So, if there is a desirable condition called "single-weighting", it is intrinsic to all forms of tcc, whether or not they use that exact term. Anyway, the passage goes on to say:

"We should understand that single weighted or double-weighted is not a matter of outer appearance but of the inside."

Thus, YCF-style, even if one said it appeared such and such a way, can not be judged by the outer appearance --at least the tcc principles aspect of it.

But, finally, the passage ends with this interesting nugget:

"Taijiquan is only the exercise of a central pivot. When you have found where this pivot is located, then your feeling will become spherical and every place will be single weighted, If you do not find the center of gravity, then your feeling will become stagnant and every place will be double-weighted. And it is not only the feet and hands--even one finger will be double weighted."

I don't know Louis's position on this, but would like to hear it. This reference to the "central pivot" seems to be the key. Double-weighting, to CX, seems to be the "lack" of this. Not everyone would agree with that view, but might be helpful to consider. Oh well,

Peace,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 28, 2003 7:42 am

Greetings Wushuer and Steve,

First, we have to get straight who is saying what. The Xiang Kairen Push Hands essay is the same one I quoted from earlier in this discussion. He does mention a quote from Chen Xin, but the Chen Xin quote was not about double or single weightedness. The remark introducing those concepts: "If you are single weighted, then you can be responsive. If you are double weighted, then you are stagnant," was just “There is another saying. . . .” So we don’t know who said or wrote this, or if it was an old or contemporary saying, or what. I’ve been searching through the Chen Xin writings I’ve got, and so far haven’t found any reference to single weighting. I’ll keep looking.

As for Xiang Kairen’s take on double weighting, I think he’s right on target.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Mar 28, 2003 2:21 pm

Louis,
I would have to agree, now.
Apparently the term, as I understood it, was an internal term only used in that way by the school I used to attend.
Now that I know that, I can compare apples to apples instead of to oranges.
That makes things a mite easier on me and hopefully everyone else here who has been so solicitously trying to help me understand that what I was referring to was not actually "double weighted" by the standards of YCF style.
I recognize that and would like to thank everyone here for helping me attain some wisdom.
I, too, really liked his analogy, "The body is like a wheel. The waist is like the axle".
This is how I've allways envisioned the entire idea of TCC, only I like to use the "swinging gate" analogy instead.
While both appear to convey a similar message, the swinging gate theory seems, to me, to be a trifle more accurate. Not just because it's the one I'm used to, I've heard both of these before so I'm used to both. The reason I think it's more accurate is because no matter how hard any human tries, he cannot spin like a wheel's axle on his waist. There is a finite limit to how far anyone can "spin" their waist around. You go so far, then you have to stop, you can't spin completely around in circles unless you take your feet with, in which case you may be spinning around a central point but you're still not spinning on your waist like an axle, your stepping.
With the swinging gate analogy, I can envision the end of the swing and the idea that I need to swing that gate back the other way around a central pivot point.
But again, that's splitting hairs.
And again, I have only ever heard the swinging gate analogy at my old school, so there may or may not be any "old masters" out there who have ever used it.
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Mar 28, 2003 2:33 pm

Steven,
The Wu disciple I got in contact with was not my teacher. She was my student and is a relative.
I taught her from the first day she started until the day I had to move away. She kept training at WTTCA and now she has been made a disciple of the fifth generation of the Wu family. She has gone way past me now and I figured she would be a good contact for information out of that school.
I have several former students who have been made disciples of the Wu family since I left, four that I know of for sure and I suspect there have been a couple more but I'm not really sure. I don't ask anymore, because it gets a little depressing to realize that you fell way behind and people you trained in the early basics have gone up to the highest levels before you.
I'm back in the game now and learning more every day.

But, yes, the term was internal to WTCCA and does not apply outside that school in the way I allways thought it did. It is still used at that school, in that way, but not outside that school in that way or with that meaning.
Like I said, now I can compare apples to apples.
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Postby tai1chi » Fri Mar 28, 2003 3:06 pm

Hi Louis, Wushuer,

my apologies for not keeping up with the conversation. Louis, I was just addressing what I thought was the quality of the information, not its attribution. (I read Xiang years ago, and couldn't even attempt Chen Xin.

Wushuer, sorry for mistaking student for teacher. I'll be more careful next time.
Anyway, you wrote:

""The body is like a wheel. The waist is like the axle".
This is how I've allways envisioned the entire idea of TCC, only I like to use the "swinging gate" analogy instead.
[snip]... The reason I think it's more accurate is because no matter how hard any human tries, he cannot spin like a wheel's axle on his waist. There is a finite limit to how far anyone can "spin" their waist around."

But, then later you point out that it is possible if one steps or spins. I wonder why you limit the wheel analogy to postural or stationary positions of the feet? The things that stop the swinging gate are the walls. Unless we are going to delve into the meaning of "gate" to the Chinese authors, the concept of a swinging hinge (one part stays, other part moves) seems consistent in both images --at least from a mechanical point of view. Anyway, fwiw, I don't see a contradiction.

Best,
Steve James

Ps: I guess, if I were to make a point, I'd say that terms should not be mistaken for their underlying concepts or judged because of their origin.
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Postby DavidJ » Fri Mar 28, 2003 7:04 pm

Hi Wushuer, Steve,

Let me apologise in advance for my silliness this morning.

To make things even more confused: combine "The body is like a wheel. The waist is like the axle" with the "swinging gate" and make them into a revolving door!

Likening the stillness in motion to the eye of a hurricane I once joked, "be like a hole in the clouds, my son."

David J
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 28, 2003 7:09 pm

Greetings,

I’ve really enjoyed the discussion, and it’s been a great opportunity to delve into some core subjects. It’s always helpful, in my opinion, to consider the ways different branches of the taijiquan tradition have expressed the principles of the art. I’m fascinated, for example, by the Wu Gongzao materials. While they have a very classical/literary style, a good deal of the content shows a real appreciation (and appropriation) of modern concepts of mechanics. There are many references in Wu’s writings to “center of gravity” (zhongxin), to leverage, etc.

One comment I would make regarding the notion of a “central pivot,” or the “axle” of a wheel, “hinge” of a gate, etc., is that in the taiji context these analogies all refer essentially to the center of gravity. A living human organism has a great advantage over a mechanical device, a wheel, or a hinged gate, in that the center of gravity in a human body is always provisional. It is not a fixed, unvarying point, but its location changes with the shape and disposition of one’s stance, alignment, shoulders, elbows, and limbs. A cognitive scientist named Daniel Dennett has written that the notion of a center of gravity is essentially a convenient fiction, a purely abstract concept. But, he says, a center of gravity “has a spatio-temporal career.” This can be observed in inanimate objects such as chairs, pitchers of water, beanbags, or basketballs. The “spatio-temporal career” of one’s center of gravity becomes even more significant for athletes, bicyclists, acrobats, and martial artists. In fact, I think the taiji idea of “deji deshi” (seize the opportunity and the strategic advantage) has precisely to do with managing this career.

As Jeff points out, the waist, particularly the lumbar spine and lower abdominal region, are crucial to taijiquan movement. One reason for this is that it is the general locus of the body’s functional center of gravity. But this center of gravity can either be optimized by “loosening” (songkai) and “sinking” (chen), or it can be compromised by stiffening of the joints and sinews, causing the functional center of gravity to rise, or “float” (fu) in traditional taiji terms.

So, when Xiang Kairen said that we must know “where this pivot is located,” I don’t think he was talking about an invariable address, or a point on a map, but something that is “suddenly hidden, suddenly revealed.”

Take care,
Louis
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Postby DavidJ » Fri Mar 28, 2003 7:14 pm

Hi Louis,

Thanks for your response. You wrote, > Well, there?s a whole section of text about the physics involved in pedaling a bicycle, and about how one foot lifts while the other pushes down. Then it says ?If both feet step with effort at the same time, then the bicycle will stop going forward. This is because of the problem of double weighting.? (Yang Jwingming, trans., Tai Chi Secrets of the Wu Style, pp. 47-48) <

It strikes me that an very important distinction may be made here. If you are sitting while pedaling you can clearly see that the pressure upon the pedals is *not* weight. Distinguishing weight upon your feet and pressure against the weight is the beginnings of understanding.

Regards,

David J
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