Single weightedness?

Postby Michael » Wed Jun 04, 2003 6:07 pm


I don't have much time so I will just make a brief comment at this time.

I have Miss Wangs tapes also. I will give them a look when I get the chance. When you see the toe rise after Lift Hands going into White Crane you will notice that the the hands are could be considered doing a "roll back" to the left and downwards (doesn't have to be in that direction) the toe rise is trapping the foot of the opponent. The same option exists in Repulse Monkeys, depending on how it is used.

The others---just off the top of my head---are merely weight shifts. "Telegraphing" isn't a factor here as it is part of the entire movement or action. Like I said I'll look at the tapes. I think that the only times there is the "large" toe rise are the ones I already mentioned---Oh yeah, I think there is one after Fist under Elbow---going into Repule Monkey. If you can name any others It will help me with the time going over the tapes.

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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Jun 04, 2003 10:23 pm

Greetings Wushuer,

When you say “100/0”, are you just using these percentages as a shorthand convention, or do you literally mean 100/0? I don’t want to appear to be taking anyone to task for something that may only amount to a language convention or convenience, and you have made it clear in several posts that you are conveying ideas that have been passed to you by your teachers. Traditionally, Chinese speakers tend to be more comfortable with ambiguity than Westerners, and—for very reasonable reasons—often embrace it. So when we find taiji masters talking about “all” of the weight sitting over one foot, I think we are officially in the realm of what is called in Chinese, “chabuduo” (‘pretty near,’ or ‘lacking by not much’).

I will have to state again that as long as any part of the “empty” foot in any given stance is in contact with the ground, it would be inaccurate to characterize that stance as “100/0”. The only instances when weight distribution in the legs is 100% / 0% is when one foot is completely off the ground, without the slightest contact with the ground surface. Those cases where only the heel of the foot, or the toe, or the entire sole of the “empty” foot is in contact with the ground—however light that contact may be—cannot be characterized as 100% / 0% weight distribution. In all of the above cases, both legs are weight bearing, and both play a role in supporting the body in upright equilibrium. I’m not stating this on the basis of any style difference, but as a fact of physics.

If it appears that I’m splitting hairs, I would suggest that perhaps this hairsplitting has precisely to do with what “distinguishing empty and full” actually means, rather than what you term “completely weight separated.” I have thought long and hard about this, and have attempted to get my thinking to accord with what actually happens in my practice. I’m not a physicist, nor am I trained in biomechanics, so I may not be qualified to express my thoughts scientifically on the matter, but my experience tells me that in any given stance in taijiquan, the *instant* that the “empty” foot no longer has contact with the ground, the muscle forces in the limbs and torso are immediately affected, and the state of equilibrium of the entire body has changed from what it was in the instant before the foot left the ground. The change is not imperceptible, and it is not negligible; it is a change that can be distinguished (a change in muscle loading profile). Isn’t that in part what “distinguishing empty and full” has to do with?

What are your thoughts?

Take care,
Louis Swaim
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Jun 04, 2003 11:10 pm

Hi Wusherer,

First off I want to say that I haven't gotten the idea that you have been disparaging anyone.

Second, I wish to back Louis up on the subject of the 100/0 weight split. I thought that I was employing this in 'White Crane' for example, when I had just the left toes on the ground. With the aid of a scale and a book the same height as the scale I determined that I was placing as much as 10% of my weight on the "empty" foot.


David J
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Postby Audi » Thu Jun 05, 2003 4:03 am

Hi all:

Pardon me for the following long and rambling post, but the numerous comments I would like to respond to have been rich, copious, and involved. Also, such is my nature.

Louis, thanks for the information about “not leaning or inclining.” I have always wondered how this phrase could be consistent with the leaning that most of the traditional families teach in various parts of their systems. Your interpretation also seems more plausible to me than the physical one.

Thanks also for your words about your subway experience. I think we see eye to eye on this. Let me make one clarification, however. From your post, I think you understood my perfectly, but in the context of this thread, I feel compelled to add a clarification for others who might be bringing different assumptions to bear. I want to make clear that I was not talking about hopping back and forth between the legs, but rather about distinguishing how they calibrate their reaction to the jerks of the subway car.

Hopping from leg to leg is, of course, simply too slow a technique to be of use on a subway car. Also, one cannot count on a regular alternation of leftward jerks with rightward jerks. If one gets stuck on the left leg, two leftward jerks in a row would leave one in trouble, since one does not have a second left leg to resort to. There would be no way to distinguish full and empty, unless perhaps, one had a hand on a pole, and then could continue the game between the left foot and the gripping hand, distinguishing full and empty between them.

I also was not clear in expressing why I felt the subway “dance” I described was what was being trained in the traditional Yang Style form. Basically, I see a single step in the Yang Form as the prolonged equivalent of a single jerk of the subway car, or alternatively, as containing any number of potential jerks. All points along the step are potentially equal in character and contain the potential for instantly switching full and empty. The feeling in the legs I think one should have during a Yang Style step is the same I think one should have in the subway car.

On another front, I wanted to respond to some of the ideas that Ron raised. I think that one of the frustrations of studying Taijiquan is that many of the principles do not seem to be stated simply and plainly. There seems to be a great reliance on metaphor. People seem to interpret the metaphors in contradictory ways.

I believe that some of the time, the reason for seeming conflicts is that practitioners have only a partial or faulty understanding of underlying principles. However, I think that another frequent source of seeming conflict is that simple concepts cannot always be stated simply or concisely. In such situations, it is easier to use partially incorrect statements to hint at the principle or underlying truth. One tries to use such statements to help the listener find a bridge to the truth. If the listener does not understand this and takes such statements too literally, he or she can end up pursuing false paths.

Let me make analogy with mapping. The concept of “east” is a fairly simple one that I believe any reader of this forum understands quite well. Nevertheless, I defy anyone to quickly rattle off an accurate definition of “east” that would be less than a paragraph long at the bare minimum.

“East” is not a direction someone can point to. (E.g., someone in New York pointing at someone in the “Far East” must point at the floor, and not “eastward.”). “East” is not at right angles to north. (This procedure only works at the equator, unless perhaps if one is talking in terms of angular degrees.) “East” is not half way between north and south. (E.g., at the North Pole, every direction is south, and no direction leads “eastward.”) The sun does not rise in the east, except for on two days in the year (varying according to place) and only within the tropics. (I think I have this right, but no guarantees.) Yet, someone talking about “east” in normal life is deservedly unconcerned with these discrepancies.

In our daily life, we operate according to the collective myth that the earth is flat. We also assume that exact placement of “east” is unnecessary for any normal purpose and are more concerned with process than absolute truth. Even in navigation, an “eastward compass heading” turns out to be more a shorthand reference to a process than a permanent vector in three-dimensional space.

I think that the most useful attitude to the “metaphors” and statements of principle used in Taijiquan is the same as what our attitude is toward the concept of “east.” I do not believe that recasting principles or metaphors exclusively in terms of pure physics or anatomy ends up being as useful or simple as one might suppose, any more than precisely defining east is useful for figuring out how to go east on Rt. 66. This is probably one reason why no authorities endorse learning Taijiquan from a book. The words on the page will almost certainly be deficient, and practice and a suitable teacher are necessary to figure out how to go beyond what the printed words seem to say.

I remain puzzled at how Yang Chengfu’s statement about full and empty can be used as support for exclusively using single weighted stances to distinguish full and empty. Why would he show such little regard for this “number 1” principle in refining his form, which is full of partially weighted pivots and ending postures with weight in both legs?

I accept the imagery of the balance scale, but agree more with Polaris’ apparent view of this, which is that the circle analogy applies to every part of the body, not just to the entire body as a whole. My understanding is that when one is double weighted in the legs, one is double weighted in every part of the body. I understand the power of using a metaphor that conjures up a wheel turning through 360 degrees and more, but I do not think that maximizing the body’s degree of rotation is the only way this metaphor can be applied.

In Yang Chengfu’s discussion of “Distinguishing Full and Empty,” it seems to me that he was assigning values to the polarity expressed by full and empty, rather than giving descriptions of them. In explaining the values he assigned, he naturally used the extreme cases of having all the weight over a leg and having no weight.

At the same time, I see Yang Chengfu as basically addressing the importance of not ceding control to momentum, rather than as advocating “hopping” from one leg to the other as quickly as possible. For instance, I think that “qian1 dong4” does not mean so much that an opponent can “control you” when you are double weighted, but rather that he or she can “lead your movement” when you are double weighted. Is this an incorrect interpretation of the Chinese? The way I understand it is that, if you do not have control of how Jin is flowing through your body, your opponent can seize control of this flow by default, to your detriment. Without control, you cannot respond. Your Jin is stagnant and cannot serve your desires.

The key issue seems to be the nature and quality of one’s movement, not the nature and quality of one’s stances. My understanding is that the Chinese words to describe “stances” (at least in Taijiquan) have more of a connotation of “footwork” (e.g., bu4 fa3) than of “fixed positions to stand in.”

I also do not see “full” and “empty” merely as opposite categories or binary alternatives, but rather as opposite “directions” on a single scale. I have difficulty understanding how “full” and “empty” could only be defined as fixed points at the extreme ends of the scale.

Suppose you held a scale model of the moon in your hand and asked how to distinguish where north and south were. Someone could say that if you had such and such crater on top, the highest point on the model would represent north and the bottom would represent south. This would not mean that north and south existed only at those two points on the sphere and that north and south were indistinct everywhere else on the sphere. In fact, the only point where the distinction between north and south loses usefulness is precisely at the south and north poles. At the north pole, every direction is south; and at the south pole, every direction is north.

One of the images cited in the context of discussing “nimble” movement is the type of movement used by a cat. My concept of this cat image is that it refers to the peculiar manner in which a cat stalks. The bulk of its body is kept absolutely level, while, in contrast, its limbs motor along with almost machinelike precision. When the cat wants to be still, it appears to pause, paw in mid air, with total control over its momentum. It can freeze at any point within its stride with equal facility, and the entire motion has a smooth, scalable quality. This type of movement is only possible if one does not yield control of the body’s mass to momentum.

All martial arts I am aware of “empty” a leg in order to do a basic step. If Yang Chengfu is referring merely to this, I frankly do not understand why Taijiquan should be special. To me, what is different about Yang Style Taijiquan is that the form is very careful to train “catlike” movements, where one emphasizes continuous control over the body’s mass. Discontinuous, point-like movements are not trained until one begins to study the more advanced weapons forms (where extra-long strides and leaps occur) and where one can use continuity of the mind intent to cover for the occasional discontinuity in the use of Jin.

If “nimbleness” can only mean shifting all the weight off of a leg, why would Yang Chengfu gratuitously violate this principle in the very first pivot in the form, in the transition into Ward Off Left? The form contains far more pivots with some weight in the foot than pivots with little or no weight. If complete separation of the weight between the legs were such a prerequisite, it would seem that this would be a very minor change that could have been made.

I also do not understand references to physically separating Yin and Yang. I thought the whole point of “Taiji” theory (I am referring to the philosophical principle, not to the art of Taijiquan) is that Yin and Yang cannot be “separated.” How can one physically separate “north” from “south”? Where on a globe are these terms most useful? Certainly not at the north or south poles.

Let me be clear that I am not quibbling with the choice of the word “separate” in translation, but rather with one interpretation that can flow from this word choice. As I understand it, the Taiji Diagram was not conceived of as a circle split into a light and a dark half, but rather as a swirling disk or sphere where light and dark interact in endless variety. I understand the core meaning of “Fen” (as in “Fen xu shi” (“Distinguish full and empty”)) to be “to divide,” which does not stress any concept of “distance” between the parts or of inherent proportions.

I understand the issue to be as follows: mentally distinguishing the Yin and Yang aspects of the parts of the body from moment to moment and using both appropriately. This is in opposition to paying attention only to one aspect or the other or failing to realize that both aspects are present at all times. Said differently, I understand that the goal is not to avoid painting in “gray,” but rather to recognize that the secret of painting in gray is to look to the portions of black and white and to harmonize them appropriately for the effect one intends. If one refuses to mix black and white, one does not have much flexibility in painting.

David, I think your statements about a balance of resistance sound like absolute heresy to many, but are absolutely correct for Yang Chengfu’s form, at least at the physical level. Without relative resistance, there is no control whatsoever.

I think that some of the seeming conflict comes from whether we are talking at the level of the mind intent or at the level of the body. I think that Taijiquan does not make use of an intent to oppose muscle groups and stiffen parts of the body. One never focuses on making anything rigid. On the other hand, I think the proper mind intent to extend the limbs will automatically introduce some firmness in the limbs that is required. This firmness comes from the unconscious use of opposing muscle groups and relative resistance. This is an indirect method, not a direct one. I think this is one of the reasons why many of the authorities talk about the required state as being having the body “‘song,’ but not ‘song.’”

If one is talking about the conscious focus of the mind, I think it is improper to attempt to make a limb either tense, limp, or at any set stage in between. The more one makes such an attempt the more one subtracts “naturalness” from the form and reduces the scope for letting the power regulate itself in an integrated way. If you do not fully observe this goal of “naturalness” and “doing without doing” (“wuwei”), you constantly face the question of trying to determine how much is enough and how much is too much. Does it make sense to analyze how much strength is necessary to avoid falling over in the moving subway car during each jerk and bump?

The only way to maintain constant speed in the form is to use relative resistance, or rather to make use of countervailing forces pursuant to Newton’s laws of motion. Gravity can provide a measure of countervailing force, but only in a single direction and only at a constant rate. My belief is that the forces our opponents and we generate are generally more significant than gravity in determining how we must move. Friction also is not really a factor for our joints and cannot provide the necessary countervailing force.

If we allow our opponent to supply the necessary countervailing force, we cede control over our movement and can easily be “led” into a disadvantageous position. To maintain our arm shapes while pressing against the opponent, we must use some of our own opposing muscle groups to retain control, but focusing on this calibration with the conscious mind is not correct. “Forget oneself and follow the opponent.”

Michael, thanks for your comment about leaning in bow stances. I have to say, however, that my experience happens to be exactly the opposite of yours. At one time, I also suffered from lumbar pain, which was unconnected with Taijiquan. Unlike your apparent experience, I find that keeping my spine erect and my back leg straight tends to pull the top of my pelvis forward, closing my Ming Men (“Life Door”) and giving me a sway back that locks everything up. To prevent this, I have to use a relatively large amount of force and put a lot of deliberate tension in my hip (psoas?) muscles to hold my pelvis in place and to keep my tailbone tucked under.

My difficulty disappears if I do one of three things: bend my back knee, lean forward, or face the trunk of my body (judging by one’s navel) to the side. I find that the first solution runs counter to how I train to be “song” within the Yangs system. Thankfully, I find that the Yangs’ form uses the other two solutions in perfect symmetry, and thus my back has no problem with the form. I even appreciate the soft massaging action I receive by gently flexing the lower part of my spine with respect to gravity. I quail, however, when I contemplate the amount of hip flexibility I would need to do a style with lower stances than Yang Style and with a perpetually erect spine.

Michael, you also mentioned an interesting variation of Push in Kuang Ping Style, describing how the hands are held more closely together and the reasons for this. My understanding of the logic of the Yangs’ form is that whenever power is extended forward by the palm or fist, the palm or fist is supposed to be in line with the elbow, shoulder, hip, and leg. I think that this is to train a feel for these relationships rather than to practice particular “applications” per se. I think this is one of the reasons why some believe that the Yangs form is less martially oriented than other forms.

One new principle I learned at the seminar was that moving your hand across the midline of the body could change an elbow from useful to vulnerable and that the forearm and palm had to be rotated in order to avoid leaving oneself open to a Rollback attack. I had not realized the amount of precision that was associated with the type of rotation this principle requires.

Wushuer and Psalchemist, my idea of “intent” in the relatively empty foot may be completely off-base, but I think I have a different approach than what you both hint at. Rather than thinking only of where the foot should be placed, how much weight should be on it, or what it could potentially do, make sure that the foot is actively doing something at all times that integrates with the overall movement of the body.

In the sequence that Michael describes after Lifting Hands, make sure that you do not merely rock the weight off of the right foot, but that you actively push the weight from the right foot to the left. Think of the weight shift as being accomplished by all the muscles in both legs (or, better yet, all the muscles in the body), rather than merely by tilting the torso and allowing momentum to carry the day.

Similarly, as you transition from Brush Left Knee into Play the Pipa/Guitar, make sure that you are actively pushing off the ball of the left foot. Some people lift the left foot too early. Some people lift it at the right time, but really do not do anything with it. If you do this movement “correctly,” the time that the empty foot is merely “perched” and inactive is reduced almost to an instant in time during most of the postures. This procedure also tends to help determine how high you lift the toes or the heel. Since you are actively pushing or bracing with the foot, the toe or heel will naturally rise and fall according to the angle of the forces you are generating.

As you shift weight into the foot, I believe the toe will fall (or the heel will rise). This is quite noticeable in Lifting Hands, Play the Pipa/Guitar, Fist Under Elbow, etc., or even the beginning (in the right foot) and end (in the left foot) of White Crane Spreads Wings.

As you push weight away from the foot or “pull” the trunk of the body away from the foot, I believe the toe will naturally rise (or the heel will lower down slightly). This is noticeable in the transitions into Needle at Sea Bottom and Step Back to Ride the Tiger.

I think that the combination of these two principles also helps explain why one switches from heel to toe or from toe to heel at various points in the form. (E.g., Needle at Sea Bottom and Step Back to Ride the Tiger) The switch is “forced” by the effect of the body’s movement on the relevant ankle. In Needle at Sea Bottom and Step Back to Ride the Tiger, the energy in the left ankle seems to circle backward in a downward arc (down-back-up, like the letter “u”) and circulate back forward in an upward arc (up-forward-down, like the letter “n”). In Play the Pipa, the energy seems to do the opposite, i.e., circle backward in an upward arc and circulate back forward in downward arc to complete the circle of energy. I hope this makes some sense.

Take care all,
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Jun 05, 2003 4:58 pm

Like what I've read so far. Makes sense. But I'm not done yet and don't have much time right now.
I'll read your whole post later and respond.

David J,
Thank you. I'm glad I didn't sound that way. I read back a ways and didn't think I had been casting aspersions, but what I feel about what I write may not be what someone else gets out of it.

I got very curious about this exact same question just this past weekend. I really did mean to get on here and post my results, but then I got busy and honestly forgot about it!
I went ahead the other day and gave the scale test a try for 100/0 weight distribution, and others but time only permits me to post for that weight distribution.
Just to clarify my method, I measured the height off the floor of my bathroom scale (4") and then I cut a block of wood four inches tall and seven squared so I could use that for my "weighted" foot. I stood on the both of them in what I call a 100/0 forward leaning posture (I did a Wu style brush knee and push to get there).
When I was fully forward on the leg not on the scale (happened to be my left leg, right leg on the scale) I had my son read the weight registered there for me.
I got three pounds.
I did this test six times, three on each leg. My readings were three pounds, four pound then three again on my right leg. Three pound, four pounds then four pounds again for my left.
Since on my bathroom scale I weigh exactly 168 lbs., this is actually 2 percent of my bodies weight (going for the happy medium of 3.5 pounds).
To be technically accurate for this description of weight distribution, I would have to use 98/2.
That's a tad bit closer to 100/0 than 70/30.
I did a test for what I've been using for that weight distribution as well.
I actually get closer to 80/20, but that's probably because I don't do the 70/30 well and it varied quite a bit while my attempts to get 100/0 had very little variance in weight.
I have much more practice at 98/2 weight splits.
Now, I CAN get 100/0. I can get there every time, if I so desire but this is not very stable. The 2 percent seems to be as you describe, the "weight" needed to firm up the posture and keep my foot in contact with the floor.
I think that those who can't get into this weight distribution are not "tucking" in their pelvis properly.
My son, who has quite a bit of Wu experience himself, gets the same percentage of body weight when he does the 100/0 split. Of course, he learned to "tuck" in his pelvis from Wu Tai Sin...
He knows how.

Gotta fly for now. I've allready typed too long!
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Jun 05, 2003 5:48 pm

OK. That was a washout. Ran like a nut, got nowhere. Ah, well. At least I have a tad more time to pop on here.
I seemed to recall that someone asked me a question earlier, I went back and skimmed some postings (as I hate to feel anyone is being ignored) and found that Psalchemist had indeed asked me a question I had not responded to.

I apologize for forgetting to answer your earlier question regarding "swoopy".
I doubt you'd find that exact word in a dictionary, though you will find the definition for the word "swoop", the first of which is: "to descend quickly and suddenly with a sweeping movement, usually from the air".
"Swoopy" being a vernacular way to describe something that is similar to a "swoop", but not exactly.
In this case it really was another "in house" way that students at the Wu's T'ai Chi Ch'uan Academy I attended used to describe Yang style TCC movements. We all watched quite a few demonstrations of Yang style students at different events and one of our disciples described the Yang style forms as looking "swoopy", because of the large movements and much more graceful looking forms (I know very few students of Wu style who didn't think Yang style LOOKED much more graceful than Wu style, Wu style being a square form looks more martial, at least to those I knew) as well as the way Yang style goes way down low in low forms (not much of that in Wu style) it sometimes gives the appearance of a bird in flight in places.
Hence, "swoopy" to describe the way we perceived Yang forms.
This was NOT intended to be a disparagment of Yang style! I was there when she said it and it was most definitely a compliment that was meant to convey the idea of a bird in flight swooping down on it's prey, then coming back up. I believe it was "Needles at Sea Bottom" that brought on the comparison.
After that, whenever we had to make larger, more graceful looking movements, similar to what we observed in Yang style TCC, we called the movements "swoopy".
There you have it.
When Wu Tai Sin was teaching his new, Larger Circle saber form to his students at the Academy, the students called the form "swoopy".

Now I can go back and read all of Audi's post with a clear conscience.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Jun 05, 2003 7:41 pm

Wish I had more of an intelligent response, but I have heard so many arguments for and against that all I can say is:
I dunno.
I do know that I don't know it all. I know enough of one style to be proficient at its in and outs and am familiar with its fighting techniques enough to know that, right now, if I were to get into some type of altercation I would certainly go Wu style for it. I'm not familiar enough with YCF style to be able to say that about it, so clearly am not familiar enough with it to try to guess it's founders intent.
I, personally, me, have a problem catching on to some of the ideas as expressed to me with YCF style for things like weight distributions, movement theory, certainly applications, but I'm in no way trying to suggest that there is an inherent problem with them in general or that they are "wrong" in any way shape or form.
Not at all.
I feel that YCF was one of the paramount TCC masters of all time and so he simply had to have known what he was talking about.
Nothing else makes sense.
So just becaue I don't know enough of his theory or applications to use them, yet, I certainly wouldn't go so far as to say any of it was wrong or he created it incorrectly or was wrong with his interpretations of "principals".
Because that man made a name for himself in this art that will surely last a lot longer than mine, I would never presume to impugne his knowledge or his honor.
There isn't a world wide recognised style of TCC called Wushuer Style TCC!
That said, I have to agree with you. None of this is wrong. None of it. What I learned from Sifu Eddie, his family, his disciples and my fellow students is emminently correct, whenever I practice Wu style I practice it to the standards expected of me in that style by the people who know it and teach it every day.
I strive to do the same for YCF style.
Grand Master Yang Zhen Duo would no more steer his students down a wrong path than would Sifa Wu Tai Sin. What he, his family, his disciples and my fellow students are taught in his tradition is different, confusing to me, but also every bit as correct.
I ask questions in an attempt to understand what it is I'm hearing in this style that I don't understand or feel conflicts with what I learned before. My only hope of understanding is to correlate this new knowledge back to what I allready know and trying to see how it relates.
As both are correct in thier own genre, then this should not create any problems. They will be different, but neither will be "wrong".
I'm certainly not trying to get a useless argument going here. I'm striving for understanding in the only way I know how.

YCF created his style to meet the needs he felt were paramount to his students. Wu Chien Chuan did the same.
They, according to everything I've read, seen or heard, did this at about the same time and even helped each other and approved of what the other was doing.
They had the same Masters. They taught together. They sought out each others advice, if the tales be half correct.
So I would surely never have the nerve to call something either one of them did "wrong".
I have begun to see the many, many similarities between them. The differences I try to recognize, then understand why it's different.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jun 05, 2003 7:42 pm

Greetings David and Wushuer,

I’ve heard of similar experiments using floor scales and such. I suppose this would be useful in demonstrating that what may feel like “no weight” may indeed be “some weight.” There are no doubt more scientific ways of measuring muscle load profiles in the limbs and torso, since the measured weight on the “empty” leg would not necessarily be that revealing by itself.

I think what shaped my thinking on this whole issue of “weighting” was practicing standing postures, and really paying attention to what is going on while holding a given posture. One thing that becomes clear if you do any sustained standing practice is that there is really no such thing as standing still. Aside from the obvious fact that one is breathing, the heart is beating, and fluids circulating, there is a great deal of movement involved in maintaining the body in upright equilibrium (movement in stillness?). The movement is extraordinarily minute, but it is movement nonetheless. If the posture you hold is one of the “empty” stances of the form, such as David’s example of White Crane Displays Wings, or Hands Strum Pipa, or the like, it will be clear after a few minutes of practice time that the “empty” foot plays an important role in supporting the posture. If you lift that foot to hover a millimeter over the ground surface, then experiment with slowly alternating this hovering and reestablishing ground contact, it becomes even clearer that a good deal of changes take place in the muscle loadings in the “full” leg, the torso, the “empty” leg, the arms, etc. between these two conditions. The subway surfing that Audi and I described is a sort of “field maneuver” version of this practice, but the quiet standing is the fine tuning version. As Yang Chengfu said of the standing with which one initiates the taijiquan form, “It’s all right there.”

In my opinion, the whole deal about relative percentage of weight is less of an issue than that of having an experiential sense of the functional dynamic of the “empty” leg in these kinds of postures. To my mind, this is just a part of the fine-level awareness involved in “distinguishing empty and full,” and a cut-and-dried interpretation of separating weight in one leg and the other falls short of the goal. Audi’s tour de force explication above of gradient polarity awareness goes right to the heart of it. You’ve got to develop the ability to distinguish empty and full at every gradient on the scale, not just at the polar extremes. Rude characters who attempt to do leg sweeps on you will probably not politely wait until you’ve shifted all of your weight off of the leg they aim to sweep.

By the way, Wushuer, I like “swoopy,” now that you’ve explained it. The line in the Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures about how the form should be like that of a hawk swooping down to catch a rabbit comes to mind. It’s a striking image. I’ve seen footage of an Eagle swooping down over a lake and cleanly snatching a large fish out of the water.

I wouldn’t mind being able to emulate that sort of bird.

Take care,
Louis Swaim
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Postby Polaris » Thu Jun 05, 2003 9:34 pm

Greetings all,

As far as I am willing to get into it, my school is a branch of the Hong Kong headquarters. We visit HK regularly, as well as being lucky enough to host instructors from there. Sifu Wu Kuang-yu is our most frequent guest instructor.


I have to express my appreciation for your description of the actual meaning of the phrase "not to lean." Very good.


When I think of distinguishing full and empty, I always get back to the T'ai Chi symbol. As I said before, having all of your weight on one foot or the other can be indicative of an ability to distinguish full and empty in the T'ai Chi sense, but there are also many many people who do this who cannot distinguish full and empty properly and are therefore double weighted. This reminds me of the "not to lean" debate. The main problem as regards our discussion is that these are all terms of convenience, idiosyncratic from school to school and which seem almost intentionally vague, as Audi points out. The ultimate answer is to find and study from teachers who themselves can fully demonstrate T'ai Chi Ch'uan, and thereby give life to otherwise functionally useless, empty phrases out of old books. Such teachers are vanishingly rare outside of the T'ai Chi families. The farther away we get from the source, the farther we are removed from active supervision by those with more experience than us, and the quicker things will go astray unremedied. This abandonment of the teacher-student relationship, this lack of qualified direction, was typical of the blatant misapprehensions about proper T'ai Chi Ch'uan apparent in some of the recent "flame-war" style postings on this very thread...

My understanding of the issue encompasses the following:
The T'ai Chi symbol shows the two little fish swimming around each other, with dots of the opposite color for eyes. The part of the symbol very often ignored is the line down the middle. Does the line separate or unite them? The line represents the truest distinction between full and empty. Full and empty, long and short, Yang and Yin, up and down, positive and negative are categorizers that the human mind imposes on the phenomenal world, and people bite right into them, confusing them for reality. They are temporary products of our minds, nothing more. The line represents that which is beyond the extremes of dualistic discrimination, the eternal, the changeless - where Yin and Yang are in essence identical. "Yin never leaves Yang, and Yang never leaves Yin." Not to get Heisenbergian on you, but the quickest way to figure this out is to realize that something as simple as our physical positioning will dictate whatever side of something else is Yin or Yang. The terms are arbitrary. If I'm below your arm, the side nearest me is described as Yang, and therefore the top will be Yin relative to my position. If I am above your arm, the opposite is just as true. All the while, your arm has not in reality moved. It hasn't changed, but its description from an outside perspective has. They are therefore temporary descriptions which cannot be relied on for long. To see their true underlying unity is to completely distinguish full and empty. At that point, T'ai Chi trains you to manufacture yourself the tiniest of apparent separations between the two that you have the talent to, and the seemingly effortless leverage it provides will be effective martially on someone who cannot truly distinguish full and empty, or even on someone who can, but not as well as you! We assign Yin or Yang to arbitrary points, and it works, because we understand the consequences of motion and stillness on someone who doesn't understand them. You end up using their own confusion as to the true nature of the physical world to disrupt their structure, to confuse them further!

This ability gives us a third option, so to speak, beyond simple defense or offense. They are no longer separate applications, but two arbitrarily numbered sides of one paradoxically "internally still" motion.


[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 06-05-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Jun 05, 2003 10:20 pm

Yes, that was a compliment. I got back to reading my post before I hit submit, and I realized it looked kind of like an insult. I quickly added the part about the bird swooping down, to show the true intent of the expression and that it was not now nor never meant to be an insult.
I, too, felt it appropriate when I observed the forms. I often feel "swoopy" when doing YCF forms and I find it exhilirating.

Fair enough. I have long hidden my background and where I'm from. It has only been recently that I have been a bit more forthcoming with any info.
As much to protect others who I mention in my posts as myself. I mention Sifu Eddie, because he is well known and travels the world, so nothing is given away.
Great post. To the point and accurate, as usual.
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Postby Michael » Thu Jun 05, 2003 10:50 pm

Audi ++++

Audi, we find the exact opposite thing as far as the pelvis goes. You have to use tension to keep the hips from rolling forward when "plumb"? I find that the relaxed muscles around the hip joints result in the natural "straightness" that we require. Definately no tipping forward or any closing of the ming men.... You might explore if your hip joints are indeed "fully relaxed". My KP teacher never let up on this. Especially important if one is going to accomplish "chin to toe".

As far as push (etc) goes. Yes I feel the YCF set trains internal/external recognition, linkage, and the resulting energy expression. The forms each aproximate martial usage but are training all the other aspects. Much of our martial ability derives directly from this. It is true that some styles train each form in more apparent martial mode. That is why some in those other styles do not see the YCF style as Martial. The training is different, but takes one down the same path.

All the rest I have no argument with. I like your empty full etc. Nice.

I also like Louis' leaning ideas. Though it may "seem" that I am at odds with it. As I have said before, the structure in the KP YAng style is different than from the YCF style. Principles are the same, with a slightly different take on one of them. This leads directly to a certain structural form which results in maybe a slightly different application theory. Different but the same.

On weight distributions.

It should be remmembered that in most cases where we have a small amount of weight in the front foot (empty/solid stances) it is because we are moving energy forward. Forgive me for being so elementary---but this isn't really a very philosophical question. In Lift hands, let's say we are trying to destroy our opponents root by jambing his arm into his shoulder. This is accomplished with that weight shift. And a sweep is not a factor as I already have some control of the opponent. I move only as much weight/energy into that front foot, which allows me to step forward, retreat or change my attack. It can easily be changed to a 100/0 stance in transition. This small weight shift is the basis of Bruce Lee's "one inch punch". And I should say that this concept FAR predated Bruce Lee. I would guess that he got it from taiji.

Again, as far as sweeps go, if I have tried to fulfill the desired two (minimum) or three points of contact with my opponents body---let him try and sweep me! I do not have to move my foot only my waist. And to do that I must have a certain amount of weight in that front foot for it to work.

70/30, 30/70? This is an aproximation only. Distances are a big factor.

When the toe is down, my thinking is that one's energy is going up and/or down. When the heel is down the energy is going out on a more horizontal plane. But they work the same.

Can't help but mention this. Why do we not completly empty the foot in the transition into ward off left? because we are involved in technique. Unless I have weight in that heel I will have nothing with which to "push" and "pull". And Audi, thanks again for the full technique in that transition--I only had part of it. Receive my bow.

Forgive me for getting so basic--stuff that you all know---but this is a very basic question. I love to work my brain over this stuff, but I find it is MOSTLY pretty direct and often very simple. And that we find it in practice. We may not be able to adequately to find words to describe a number of these concepts. Which may be some of the reason that the priciples handed down to us are open to so much debate. It may not just be a translation problem. The "Masters" couldn't be much clearer themselves. The "proof" or "answers" are in the doing. Transferring the physical knowledge into words can be just as hard as going in the other direction.

Forgive the typos and spelling--no time to go over it.

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Postby tai1chi » Fri Jun 06, 2003 3:47 pm

Hi Michael, Louis, David J., and all,

well, fwiw, I think --as has been said-- the 0-100, 80-20, 70-30 distributions are primarily, if not purely, metaphorical approximations. *Maybe* they could be related to the weight placed on either foot while standing, and thereby be measured through the use of scales: i.e., are a product of the actual effect of gravity. But, this point alone seems to bring out that these "weight-distributions" are useful primarily for teaching and training purposes.

*All* the forms of tcc use the process of "shifting the weight" to produce an application. One simply cannot do Brush Knee Twist Step --even the way it appears in the form-- without shifting the weight from one leg to another. In addition, *all* applications imply the presence of another person and, consequently, another set of weights that must be accounted for --if we do any measuring. I.e., we measure the effect of gravity, not the weight of the body/(parts).

I think that here is another case in which the absoluteness of our words are contrary to the concept that is expressed. It would probably be much more accurate to say "emptying and filling" than "empty and full." I also think this applies to human movement in general, not just to tcc. Our apparent stylistic differences are just elaborations of our responses to fundamental requirements. For example, Sun style is considered "active step" tcc, and some might argue that its characteristic stepping --which is *not* like bagua-- is much closer to the idea of using "0-100" than the other major styles, even Wu-Hao.

Anyway, I'm not sure at all how to resolve the issue of translation and interpretation of the classics. I do think that the old masters were working with the same physical universe, and yet developed various methods for dealing with it --using the principles of the art. One interpretation may or may not be exactly what the writer had in mind. If the scholarly Wu brothers interpreted Wong's Treatise and used then wrote texts using metaphors from farming, how do we interpret those metaphors? -as the words of scholars or farmers? Perhaps, the beauty of metaphor is that it can be applied by farmers or scholars. The basic problems with metaphor seems to come when we get bogged down in absolute literalism.

Just a ranting ramble,
Steve James
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Postby Michael » Fri Jun 06, 2003 5:50 pm


I think you hit the nail right on the head on a number of these issues, "Emptying and Filling" especially. All is a process.
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Jun 06, 2003 8:44 pm

It is as you say, "The proof is in the doing".
I have proven Wu style, by doing it correclty to the approval of my Sifu.
What I want to do is learn YCF style, then prove it by doing it correclty.
That's why I keep asking the questions about things I don't understand. Like the weight seperations and the larger frame, and the strung bow theory.
Which, by the way, really helps me a lot with Wu forms. Through their forms I can apply this as I transfer weight, but have to abandon it when I get to the point of totally "emptying" my leg. You lose the "strung bow" feel because you have no energy in that leg, no backwards resistance. But the feel as I transfer the energy is almost the same and it has helped me stablize my lower body for the time leading up to my leg being empty.
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Jun 08, 2003 12:39 am

Has it ever happened to you, that someone says something which triggers a multitude of thoughts and ideas(inspiration?),and before you know it, you are miles away from where you had begun? Well, that is why it took me so long to reply to your 05-27 posting. Before I had realized, I had filled ten pages with rambling, incomprehensible philosophies, which I then had to organize into coherent text. I finally tossed the whole mess in the trash.
I would like to reiterate some of the contents of your posting from last week, to be certain I am "starting off on the right foot"(uh,oh, I seem to have caught the "Sorry that was unintentional,funny though(WU)","Sorry couldn't be helped(LS)" "club" as well), so to speak. So, to paraphrase what you have already stated,TCC is NOT a static art composed of ending postures, but rather one movement leading to the other, one weight-distribution leading to another, a constant shifting between all weight percentages, anywhere from 50-50 to 100-0? I have heard this before, read this before, and re-read this before, however, only now has it truly "sunk-in". Thank-you for patiently repeating to a new student.
I have also heard something about "big tai-chi" and "little tai-chi", meaning yin-yang theory in application to LIFE and TCC,respectively. Apparently TCC and life are based in the same axiom of yin-yang ideology.
If we were to compare the use of 100-0 percentages in TCC (even though it requires a certain degree of 'nimbleness',and creates momentary vulnerability) to life, would you say it is extreme 100-0% behavior which is detrimental to our growth and success, or does the practice of 100-0 wt distributions make us more adaptable.Would the same (extreme) practice in life make us more capable of dealing with lifes ups and downs.(make us more 'nimble'?) I say this because all my life I have heard the term"don't go to extremes", and was ready to accept that idea without (any more) question, until I realized the logic of TCC 100-0 training.
Would you say that it is "double-weighting" which must be avoided in life, or extremes? and if so how would double-weighting apply in life?Any ideas welcome.
You were right about my misunderstanding the term "double-weighting", which also led to the incorrect logic of "single-weighting", sorry.
Thanks for writing, it was a pleasure to read.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 06-09-2003).]
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