Single weightedness?

Postby Wushuer » Wed Feb 05, 2003 10:57 pm

Ah, thank you. I was really wondering what that meant. I had NO idea.
Tai1chi is a fine name. Nothing wrong with that. I was asking about FWIW.
My YFWS name came about from sheer hit and miss trying when I registered. I like it and was really very surprised when it came back as available.
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Postby Audi » Tue Mar 04, 2003 5:37 am

Hi Wushuer:

In an earlier post, you mentioned some difficulty in “understanding how to move gracefully, like a cat, with 30% of [your] weight on [your] ‘negative’ leg.” I have thought about this and think I may have a different approach to answering your question that might make things clearer.

First, I think that when you speak of “moving gracefully like a cat,” you are talking about stepping. However, as I understand the Solid-Empty Stance, one does not use it to prepare to step, but rather to issue energy in a particular situation. In other words, the difference between a Bow Stance and the Solid-Empty Stance has nothing to do with one's desire to free up the "empty" leg for a step or a kick. Not all Yang Stylists have this view, but I believe it is true of what the Yangs teach. If what I am saying surprises you or is not clear, please let me know.

It sounds as if you prize the ability to step at any moment and so cannot understand why “traditional Yang Style” would ever want to keep weight in both legs. What I can say to this is that Yang Style seems to encourage a distinction between stepping and striking. The back fist in Turn the Body and Chop with Fist is the only “stepping strike” I recall from the bare-hand form. Even here, I think the strike may be coordinated with some weight being shifted to the right foot.

Let me digress and provide some background. Early in my study of Taijiquan, one of my teachers contrasted the method of Taiji stepping with regular walking. Regular walking was described as a controlled “fall,” whereas Taiji stepping was described as involving steps that have complete control.

By calling normal walking a controlled fall, I am not criticising it as an inappropriate form of movement. In fact, it involves a very economical use of caloric energy. However, I do not think conservation of caloric energy has a very high priority in traditional Taijiquan and is a much more narrow concept than wu2 wei2 (Non-action or no action outside the Dao).

It seems to me that the stepping used in the traditional Yang Style bare-hand form involves a mix of movement and stopping. One steps without any use of momentum at all, which is very unlike normal stepping.

Stepping in this way is actually somewhat stranger than might first appear, because it involves a discontinuous movement of the center. The center moves across the floor only when both feet are rooted, but not when one foot is in the air. Because of this, one actually “stops” and “starts” continuously throughout the form. This is normally not very apparent, because the arms and hands are continuously in motion and because waist rotation can mask the fact that the center is no longer moving laterally across the floor. If, however, you watch a video that is on fast-forward or re-wind, the discontinuity is very apparent.

I think that the issue of nimbleness actually applies only to the “stopping” phase and not to the “movement” phase of stepping. As I understand the traditional Yang Style theory, one tries to step only when a leg is completely unweighted and completely empty. This means that one must shift the weight completely off the stepping leg, stop the movement of the body’s center, and not shift any weight back to the stepping leg until the leg contacts the floor again and begins to root. If one is not stepping and the center is moving laterally across the floor along with a weight shift, none of this applies.

As I understand your previous posts, you were taught to “do things” while rooting only through one leg. I think that Yang Style does indeed require stepping while rooting only through one leg; however, I do not think Yang Style requires this when not stepping. In fact, I think that traditional Yang Style views having two legs rooted on the ground as inherently more stable and as a preferable platform for most techniques. Strikes are usually issued by moving the center laterally and while both feet are rooted.

When both feet are rooted, it is also very easy to separate them into full and empty. The energy is therefore very nimble in this sense. When only one foot is rooted, it is very difficult to separate the legs into full and empty, even though it is easy to move the other foot.

Recently, I was thinking about this when I was shoveling three feet of snow out of my driveway. I had to throw the snow quite high and far to avoid the piles on each side. As I was trying to avoid a middle-aged heart attack or a wrenched back, I noticed that tossing the snow was very easy to do with both feet planted and with good waist movement, but quite difficult to do on only one leg.

Although I could begin or end a shovel toss on only one leg, this was quite unnecessary to the effectiveness of the shovel motion and made little difference in the power I could generate. In fact, the clumsiest option was to begin and end a toss on one leg. To generate good power, all I had to do was to change the “polarity” in my legs so that full and empty switched. The more completely I could do this and the more abruptly I could separate full from empty, the more power I could generate. The amount of weight I actually shifted from one leg to the other was almost irrelevant.

I have noticed a similar effect on the New York subway. The most comfortable and natural way to stand or shift something heavy while standing on a moving subway car is when both feet are on the floor. On one leg, it is very difficult to separate full from empty and compensate for the jerking motion of the car.

One thing that I should add is that although one does the bare-hand form in this way, my understanding is that one alters the stepping method in the faster forms and begins to step with momentum. One trades off a little bit of “nimbleness” and "stability" for some increased speed and increased extension. Although this entails less “nimble” movement, one still tries to carry the feeling from the bare-hand form in one’s head, so that one never steps with the same feeling as when one walks or runs. One keeps the feeling of being able to stop on a dime that one cultivates in the bare-hand form.

By having the slight “stopping” feeling while moving, one cultivates a dynamic Taiji polarity between the two. Ones is neither committed to movement or to stillness, but can flow freely between the two.

I think another place where this method is sometimes apparent is in moving-step push hands. If you look at some masters, they appear to move their feet with a very springy, but discontinuous step. I believe this results from the desire to minimize the time when a stepping leg is in the air and maximize the time when both feet are on the ground. If one does not do this and tries to move the feet in a normal walking rhythm, it is very easy to have the feet clunk back onto the ground or to have the center move without stable support from the legs.

This is all I have time for tonight. I hope this is accurate and helps somewhat.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Mar 04, 2003 10:59 pm

Audi,
Very good observations. Especially as what I've been doing for the last couple of months has been to knuckle down completely on YCF style footwork and concentrate on trying to learn it well enough to be effective.
I must admit, many of your observations have occured to me in the course of my research. Especially with regard to the two footed stability issue.
Your use of the word 'momentum' is especially significant to me. It goes a long, long way to describing the theory of "lean" that goes hand in hand with NAWS movement. That "lean" I carry on about appears to me to be the product of using momentum to drive you instead of the hard force in your legs.
I learned to move using natural energy, "leaning" into postures to allow gravity to move me, then using the momentum of gravity to compel me and make my motions. This is how I was taught to "step", strike, everything. Using the power of gravity in the guise of "leaning" to get from one place to the next, very much like your "controlled fall" theory of walking.
My biggest problem with YCF style has been having to use "force" or muscle power from my legs, to begin and maintain movement AND to power strikes and kicks and steps, all of it.
You see, to me it is very weird to use "force", main muscle force to move aruond or power my strikes. I was allways told this is "wrong" and undesirable. That to use "force" to begin movement was as bad as meeting force with force.
Does that make sense? I'm probably babbling a lot here, but I can't think of any other way to say it.
The way I learned to move was to "lean" and let gravity take over, then follow that move with "intent" only in my arms, legs, dantien, all of my body. No "force" was ever used to either begin a move or drive a strike.
So for me to use my own muscle power to drive a step or to make a strike, that just feels very wrong to me.
I am getting the hang of it, I think. I have started to understand the stability that can be generated by keeping double weighted in a 70/30 split while I do something like Brush Knee, what I don't understand is the why of it, I guess as I was never un-stable doing it the other way.
I was taught NEVER to use my own muscle force, not to use brute strength at any time for any reason. It seems to me in YCF style that is what you are doing ALL the time, at least with your feet.
Yes, it can be a more stable platform, I am recognizing that. Yes, the power generated does seem formidable, but only in a straight forward, almost hard style kind of application. I feel very hard style as I do this, very much like I'm using my own energy to combat, instead of using natural energy or, even better, my opponents energy against him.
I am starting to recognize the difference between "stepping" and "striking", as you say and that while "striking" a more stable platform seems to be formed by double weighting. However I come back to my argument, still valid from what I can see, that I am not able at that time to move lightly or agiley. I still feel awkward, double weighted and generally un-ready for combat.
I'm working on it. Your insights are greatfully accepted and I did want to mention how I found them to parrellel my own over the last couple of months of extensive work on my footwork and dantien application.
One thing I have done, I have cut my practice of NAWS forms down to only once a week. One night a week I blow the dust off of my Wu forms and run through them. That leaves me seven days and six nights to study the movements of YCF style TCC. I am doing my best to let go of what I used to do and embrace what I'm doing now.
I know that there is much I don't understand and I'm working diligently to try to "get it".
I am obviously just stuck in the mindset of a different style and I admit that the problem is mostly in my head. However, there does seem to be a break from the classics in the footwork as practiced in YCF style. Everything I've studied tells me that using hard force is bad, in any part of the body.
So my question is this:
How can I reconcile using hard force with my legs to "drive" my upper body movement when "striking", when every text I've ever studied on TCC theory and principal speaks quite loudly against using hard force in any context?

Still loving the learning, still wondering about this profound break from what I've previously been taught.
I can, now, make most of the steps and perform most of the postures with a minimal of wobble and much less feeling of "wrongness" while I'm doing them. So I'm working on it, slowly.
Any help anyone can give me on the idea of using "hard force" to drive my legs during TCC would be greatly appreciated.
I MUST be getting the whole idea wrong. I know I'm missing something here.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 03-04-2003).]
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Postby Audi » Sat Mar 08, 2003 6:29 am

Hi Wushuer:

I think I am beginning to understand where your puzzlement with Yang Style may be coming from. You make some perceptive observations that took me several years to begin considering. If you find what you are being taught surprising, you should be comforted by the fact that what you describe as your original understanding of Taijiquan is actually quite common among many Yang Stylists I have known.

Whether or not the original approach you describe is good Taijiquan or good technique for martial arts, I think it is ultimately at variance with what the Yangs teach. Others may well see this differently. Below, I will try not to mince words in the interests of clarity, rather than to be combative.

Rather than directly commenting on your post, let me first paint a more general picture to clarify where I perceive the theory of the Yangs to lie. Your post raises a bunch of issues that can generate discussion along a number of paths. In particular, I would like to address differing views of muscle exertion, momentum, and leaning, but probably will not have time to do so all at one time. By saying that I think something is or is not a particular way, I do not necessarily mean that I think you disagree or that NAWS does things differently. It is simply easier to try to state a coherent position from my viewpoint without having to account for other ones.

First, I think that the distinctions that some people make between good force and bad force and between soft and hard do not match up very well with the presumed Chinese terms that underlie these words. By this, I do not mean that Chinese is better than English or even more descriptive of Taijiquan, but rather that the English translations can mislead about the distinctions being made in Chinese. Here are some examples:

Both “Li” (“raw strength”) and “Jin” (“refined or integrated strength”) can be translated as “force.” Emphasizing “Li” is universally viewed as bad Taijiquan; however, I have never heard or read anywhere that use of “Jin” is bad. Because of this, it is hard to draw any useful distinctions by talking only about “force” in English. Some “force” is good Taijiquan. Some “force” is bad Taijiquan. I have added the phrases in parentheses above not because these are really accurate translations of the Chinese terms, but as mere tags that hint at the distinctions.

To remedy the linguistic problem of talking only about “force,” people resort to other phrases, such as “hard force,” to try to make the distinction between what is good and what is bad. I think this phrase and similar phrases (like “brute force”) are intended to match up with the Chinese phrase “zhuo li” (“clumsy or awkward force”), which may be used more often even than “Li” itself. Although such devices are unavoidable, we may merely run up against other linguistic problems.

Talking about “hard force” as a bad thing implies that “soft force” is good. However, my understanding is that the Yangs do not oppose these terms in quite this way. They talk about having softness on the outside and hardness on the inside. Getting rid of hardness altogether is not the goal of their Taijiquan and would not conform to the philosophical principle of Taiji, which implies a desirably and dynamic interplay of opposites such as hard and soft.

The Yangs also distinguish two different types of “soft.” They describe their Taijiquan as “Rou,” but not as “Ruan.” These two words are close in meaning and can both be translated as “soft” in certain contexts. They are nonetheless distinct. If you are making your Taijiquan “Ruan,” you will not be conforming to one of the Yangs’ essential requirements. If you are not making your Taijiquan “Rou,” you will again not be doing their style of Taijiquan. Because of the ambiguity in the English term, I am hesitant to rely on the “softness” of someone’s technique or form as the sole indication of its correctness from the Yang Style perspective.

If one is approaching the Yangs’ Taijiquan from a theoretical framework, it is very important to understand the difference between “Li” and “Jin” and between “Rou” and “Ruan.” These words have been discussed before on this board, but I would be happy to provide more linguistic information about any of them if you can’t find the previous discussion. (By the way, you could probably search on “rou” or “ruan” and turn up the threads.) I tend to go further on linguistic matters than some might like and have less knowledge than other contributors on this board. As a result, I will not go further into these words now unless you or someone else thinks it might be helpful.

Another problem with talking about “Li” and “Jin” is that some people talk as if “Li” is simply bad and “Jin” is simply good. This is not what I understand the Yangs’ position to be. What I have read and heard of their views can be summarized as follows. All “Jin” has some “Li” in it. If there is no “Li,” there is no “Jin.” The object of Taijiquan is not to eliminate “Li,” but to refine it into “Jin” through correct practice.

In one of the essays accessible from the homepage on this board (under Tai Chi Info/Essays/Fang Song), Yang Zhenduo analogizes the difference between “Li” and “Jin” to the distinction between iron and steel. One does not get steel by eliminating the iron in it. On the other hand, adding more iron to the steel is also not terribly useful by itself.

Also, the Yangs really do not seem so much concerned with “maximizing” the amount of “Jin” as with using the correct mind intent (“Yi”) to allow whatever “Jin” there is to flow. Once one can learn to allow the “Jin” to flow correctly, the “amount” of “Jin” really takes care of itself in people of average health and fitness. One should not really make the pursuit of “Jin” the center of one’s practice.

I can make an analogy to swimming, since most of the attributes that apply to traditional Yang Style apply to swimming, in my opinion. One does not improve one’s swimming merely by using fewer muscles or by reducing the level of one’s energy output. Once one learns how to use the muscles in an integrated way, the amount of energy output that will be generated depends on how fast and how far one wants to swim. Merely floating uses no muscles at all, but is not the ideal of swimming form. The trick is to learn how to use one’s muscles. What one learns is not so much a fixed set of unvarying movements, but a feel for movement that is more than a memorized sequence of movements.

Some people talk about “efficiency” to capture this idea, but I think that this can obscure the fact that “efficiency” is a meaningless concept without defining what the goal of the “efficient” activity is. Sleeping is more efficient than walking if one’s goal is to use the minimum number of calories. It is not, however, very efficient at getting one anywhere outside of dreamland.

By the way, I make an absolute distinction between the way arts like Karate or even Aikido organize the use of the muscles and tendons in the body and the way the Yangs do. I would describe Aikido as “soft,” but not in the way Yang Style Taijiquan is soft. At least for me, a Karate punch and a Taiji punch do not use the joints in the same way, even when the level of physical exertion is the same. It is not so much a matter of skill level or even a matter of “coordination” or the “outward” shape of the movements, but how the joint movements are “mediated” with respect to each other and integrated into the overall body movement. It is also not a matter of manipulating Qi in any purposeful way or of using some sort of mind power that is independent of body movement.

Another very problematic word, both in English and in Chinese, is “relax” (“Fangsong”) and how it is used. Many people believe that to “fangsong” can only mean to “ease up on the use of the muscles.” Although this is one of several possible translations of this word, the Yangs, in my opinion, have little direct concern for this meaning of the word in their training method. When Yang Zhenduo demonstrates how to “fangsong,” he shows more muscular activity, in my opinion, rather than less. At least for me, Karate relaxation or even Yoga relaxation are not at all the same as the Taiji relaxation used in traditional Yang Style. Some masters talk about a state that is “Song” (“relaxed?”), but not “Song,” that I believe reflects this same reality and this same view. What one does on a couch or in a Jacuzzi has nothing to do with this feeling. This is also one reason why the Yangs stress that the relaxation must be conscious. Being unfocused or even sleepy makes their type of “relaxation” impossible.

In my opinion, the Yangs’ method of “Fangsong” concerns a feeling one develops in the tendons (and in the mind). This feeling is ultimately independent of the amount of muscle exertion involved. If one does one’s Taijiquan correctly, one will indeed not expend a great deal of one’s own energy; however, in my opinion, the fact that one is or is not greatly exerting a particular muscle is an extremely unreliable gauge of the correctness of a posture. For example, if one reads about the palm methods translated elsewhere on this board (under Tai Chi Info/Essays/Palm Methods), one will find Yang Zhenduo actually counseling against insufficiently doing things, rather than against overdoing them.

In the Yangs’ training method, other principles seem to address the appropriate level of muscle exertion for particular activities. In other words, if one does other things correctly, the result will be that one does not rely on raw muscle; however, directly avoiding the use of muscle is not a good focus by itself. I am unaware of any passages or quotes from the classics that express a different view. If you or anyone else has one to propose, I would be happy to address it.

There are passages where Yang Chengfu counsels against the use of “strong force.” In my opinion, rather than addressing form and one’s own posture, Yang Chengfu is addressing how one relates to the opponent. I believe he is counseling against the attitude prevalent in hard styles that seeks to overwhelm an opponent by exhibiting great speed and/or power. Instead of doing this, I think Yang Style aims at manipulating the energy in the opponent first, before focusing on one’s own energy. Put more simply, I think that one does not try to minimize the “Jin” generated in the solo form, but does try to minimize the amount of one’s own “Jin” that is used in Push Hands as we “forget ourselves and follow the opponent.”

Although many view the essence of Taijiquan form as something like the development of “effortless power,” I do not think this is correct of what the Yangs teach. I think the main purpose of their form is to develop a conscious, yet innate understanding of how the body moves and its potential. Trying directly to minimize muscle use goes directly against this objective, since it is only by using the muscles that we learn of their potential. Doing “effortless” form does not necessarily mean training for effortless Push Hands or effortless sparring.

I also believe that the form is concerned with exploring relative values, not absolute ones. We learn how to relate one muscle to another. In Push Hands, we learn to relate ourselves to our opponent. In neither case are we aiming for any absolute states or for a feeling that we have used the absolute minimum or maximum of force. We are not drilling anything absolute into our muscle memories, but trying to learn about the use of our muscles and tendons.

If one looks specifically at stepping and the interval between first contact with the floor and flattening the foot, I think one can make several observations. The technique that causes the least demand on the muscles is simply to allow gravity, momentum, the weight of the body, and the relaxation of the ankle to push the foot down. In my opinion, this type of movement has several problems from the point of view of traditional Yang Style.

First, the speed of gravity is usually too slow for combat purposes. When I used to wrestle in high school, it was very apparent to me that mediocre wrestlers had difficulty realizing that the speed with which they could sprawl to the ground was much slower than the speed with which they could move in other directions. As a result, they were always vulnerable to leg tackles. If one trains to use gravity as the primary engine of movement, one is training to arbitrarily limit one’s speed.

Second, the speed (or rate of acceleration) of gravity is fixed. An essential characteristic of traditional Yang Style movement is smooth flexibility and adjustability. Everything about it is elastic. Linking one’s movement to a fixed variable like the speed of gravity is at variance with such flexibility/elasticity and does not allow for the dynamic interplay required by the Taiji principle.

Third, trying deliberately not to use certain muscles is by definition not integrated movement and does not qualify as “Jin” under the traditional Yang Style definition. It is local movement and thus purely undesirable “Li,” no matter how slight the level of muscle exertion. When Yang Chengfu talks about not using the slightest amount of “clumsy or crude force,” I do not believe he is talking about not using the slightest amount of exertion, but rather about not using the slightest amount of a particular type of force, i.e., local movement. In traditional Yang Style, I think one is supposed to use more muscles in order ultimately to use less muscle overall, even for slight amounts of movement.

Fourth, relying on gravity means relying on a force that is relatively weak. In allowing gravity to flatten the foot, one trains to let a certain set of muscles collapse rather than to let another set of muscles to push or extend. The rate at which any muscle collapses or disengages is fixed and not under conscious control, unlike the rate at which a muscle engages, which is subject to conscious control. (Biologically and neurologically, the body has no real relaxation mechanism. The speed of muscle contraction can be varied, but a muscle relaxes simply by ceasing to contract. This is why stretching exercises can be important to maintain mobility.) Muscle engagement can thus participate in a Taiji relationship that muscle disengagement cannot. If one interprets “fangsong/relax” as a feeling of being collapsed or disengaged, I again think one is talking about a feeling that does not have the dynamic principle of Taiji in it.

Fifth, since gravity and momentum cannot be smoothly varied, relying on them to calibrate movement violates the principle of continuity. The principle of continuity is not that movement is constant (i.e., this principle does not describe momentum), but rather that the application of “Jin” is constant. Yang Chengfu contrasts Taijiquan’s continuous power with the “cut off” energy of hard styles rather than with stillness. The same “Jin” one uses to flatten the foot, is the same “Jin” one would use to do “Kao” (“Shoulder Stroke”).

Imagine that you are stepping and beginning to flatten the foot and that an opponent has snuck by your defenses, tied up your arms, and managed to place his or her hand on your chest to begin a push. At this point, your only defense may be “Kao.” To return the opponent’s energy back along its path and strike with one’s body through the opponent’s arm requires the expenditure of a fair amount of “Jin.” A “soft” Aikido technique cannot do this, since Aikido is not built around the principle of Taiji, but along other principles. The amount of “Jin” needed to perform this strike will exceed the amount of power that gravity can deliver by itself. Proof of this is the fact that such a “gravity-based” Kao cannot be performed in slow motion. Even leaning will have little effect on the amount of power generated in slow motion. Such a “Kao” would be calibrated by the speed of gravity, rather than by the speed of the opponent’s “Jin.”

A "Kao" based on the integrated use of all the muscles (i.e., on "Jin") can be performed with full power over the space of 30 seconds or within 1/2 a second with no change in the type of energy used. The speed can even be varied in mid-Kao. What determines the useful speed of this type of Kao is the nature of the energy manifested by the opponent. Although momentum and gravity can be accounted for, there is no time when Jin is not being applied and thus the opponent will not be able to lead the energy away easily.

I have composed this post over several days and have reached the limit of what I can do for the moment. At some later date, I want to comment on what you have described as “double weighting.” I am now more certain than ever that “double weighting” in traditional Yang Style is independent of the percentage of weight in the legs. If you look at anything other than 100/0 weight distributions as “double weighting,” I think you are using this term differently than in traditional Yang Style. Double weighting in traditional Yang Style concerns the movement of energy and the intent, not the effect of gravity on dead weight.

Hopefully, what I have posted above will begin to clarify why I have posted the things I have in the past. Let me know if it makes any sense.

Take care,
Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 03-08-2003).]
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Postby Michael » Mon Mar 10, 2003 2:39 am

Audi,

Nice. I have a few additions that I have to think about for a bit. I like your description of "double weighting". Your words are much better than my "If you can't respond your'e double weighted". Same thing ,very nice, thank you.
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Mar 11, 2003 12:05 am

Hi Wusher,

There's a drill I give my students that may help.

Walk up stairs in such a way that your dantien moves in a straight line, instead of the sawtooth pattern of the stairs. Walk down the stairs that way. try to walk on the level that way. Try to do the form that way, and then watch a cat stalk.

I hope this works for you.

Regards,

David J
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Mar 11, 2003 12:06 am

Hi Michael,

I really like, "If you can't respond your'e double weighted."

Kind of reminds me of the way some people dance!

Regards,

David J
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Mar 11, 2003 2:35 pm

Audi,
I would really like to thank you for taking the time to respond to my cry for help in such an intricate and informative way.
Most of what you say makes sense to me, though a lot of it flies in the face of what I have been taught previously. I have some problems with some of the opposing theory, but as I haven't had any coffee yet this morning I have not the wit about me to respond properly.
I will read, re-read and re-read your post after I do some warm ups, do a form (as far as I have gone, up to the first series of kicks, which I am NOT getting yet, though I do love the turn after the second kick into the third, I can do that one, but not the kicks themselves. Is that weird?) drink some coffee and then see if my brain will wrap around these new concepts.
It does help to know that the form of Wu style I have learned is not the only style that uses this "leaning momentum" to generate movement. It may help you to understand this a bit better to know that this is not the way you combat, it is the way you generate momentum to drive your movement outside of combat and during combat when not in actual contact with your opponent. Once in contact with an opponent you use HIS energy to drive your movements, moving only as quickly and using only as much energy as your opponent uses against you, though you can amplify this energy if required. By using momentum to generate movement you are practicing using outside energy to drive your motions rather than your own "force" and learning how to increase that energy using circular internal power (silk reeling) to increase this energy (though you're not really increasing it, just turning it around the fulcrums inside yourself and then releasing it in one focused direction), so that while in combat the tiniest amount of energy applied against you will generate an unbelievable amount of energy to use.
"Use the force of four ounces to move a thousand pounds".
Let me wake up a bit and I'll blather on further about it.
Great post, with much for me, and hopefully many others, to consider.
I have long since figured out I need to become more accepting. I am working dilligently to open my mind to these new concepts. I am truly enjoying expanding my horizons in this way.
More a bit later.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 03-11-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Mar 11, 2003 3:17 pm

Michael,
Please add! I like very much to read as many viewpoints on this subject as I can.
The more you know, the more you know that you don't know.
Especially on the subject of "double weighting", I am having a very difficult time reconciling this in my mind. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Mar 11, 2003 6:52 pm

DavidJ,
As I mentioned earlier, though maybe on a different thread, stair walking is a doctor ordered necissity for me, I do it every day.
I have gone through great pains to use stair walking as a tool for my TCC training.
I do my best to walk with my dantien level at all times, whether stair walking or not.
I have been doing my best to incorporate the YCF style stepping into this, and it took me a while to figure out how to not "sawtooth", as you put it, using this method, actually I'm not sure I'm not.
I step up, heel first, put my toe down and grip the tread, then push forward and up (have to in order to keep my dantien as level as possible) push forward with my rear leg, transferring my wieght onto the front leg, make sure I'm centered and stable on that leg, then step again repeating all the above.
I also incorporate a slight side to side motion using my dantien, not my hips. I do this to help emulate the movements I have seen cats use when climbing stairs. I use my arms like a cats front paws, opposite of my legs, and do my best to "step like a cat", without my arms actually making contact of course. I keep my hips and knees pointed fully forward, while my dantien makes a slight side to side sway (navel in line with nose), to facilitate my arm movements. I keep a connection between my hands though my back, shoulders down, arms loose but with spirit, palms moving as if I were actually making contact with the stairs.
How do you do this? What would you change in what I describe here?
Further, I sometimes do what I call "form stair walking". I have found that the Wu form I have learned has a few single forms that work very well on stairs. One is "Brush Knee and Push", except for the height of the step this movement is perfect for going up stairs while allowing my dantien to move in a full range of motion from side to side. For coming down I prefer "Play Guitar", as the slight forward bow allows your forward leg to drop down to the next stair tread almost flawlessly. There are others, but these two are my favorites.
Please explain more fully what you consider to be "sawtooth" motion and how I would correct this if I am doing it in my walk as I have described.
As you can see, this is one drill I can sink my teeth into!
I'm hoping your explanation will help me reconcile any "sawtooth" motion with how I understand YCF style stepping.
Fascinating stuff.


[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 03-11-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Mar 11, 2003 10:55 pm

Audi,
I have no basis for arguing against your writings on Yang style theories. So other than to say I am trying them and seem able to perform them, not up to any kind of tournament level I'm sure but I can do it, I will bow to your wisdom and keep on dilligently applying myself to learning them until I make them my own.
It will take me quite some time, I'm sure, to get re-used to using my own muscles to generate movement. Then it will take me quite a while longer to internalize these movements, as what I'm doing very likely is hard stylish right now, as I had some training along those lines a LONG, long time ago and those movements are what keep coming back to me and will until I can get the proper motions down into my bones.
The only thing I can say is that I am probably just as amazed at some of the things you seem to believe about "leaning" as you guys are by my not getting YCF style theory.
I won't try to go point for point, as that would not further our discussion. I will simply try to dispel the idea that one trains to move only with the speed of gravity, or that gravity in some way is the only force used in NAWS "leaning" as I understand it.
Of course you use your own muscles to move, how could you not? One does not train to only allow gravity to move you with no muscle use of your own, as that would simply result in your lying on the ground as a loose mass of muscle and bone, doing nothing, lucky if you can still use your own abdominal muscles to breath. One uses gravity to BEGIN to move, so that you are not using your own muscles to start the movement, but are rather yeilding to gravity as one would to an incoming blow from an opponent and then using that force, combined with body mechanics (silk reeling, really but we can go into that in more detail if anyone wants to) to move into a desirable position for defense. That's all, nothing more, nothing less. It's the first tool I learned to use to "yeild to conquer". By yeilding to force, no matter what direction it comes from, one can conqure that force and since gravity is free, cheap and available to everyone in abundance it is used as a good tool to begin training in that theory of movement.
Using "lean" to generate movement is not about going all soft and mushy inside and out, it is about learning to yeild to force in a controlled manner, then redirect it with a minimum of your own strength. Simply that, nothing more or less.
Now, relaxing the muscles is a really great way to elongate them, to soften them so that they stretch further and allow a wider range of motion. Hard muscle, such as a body builder or steel worker (I was both when I started taking Wu style) develops, makes muscles shorter, harder, much less flexible and easier to damage. So the idea of "relaxing" your muscles is a genuine way to keep your body from becoming bound up and hard, so you're much less likely to rely on that "hard, brute, clumsy" force and more likely to use your opponents strength against him.
The speed required in combat is gained from your opponents application of force, not yours. You don't need to worry about speed, you opponent will supply you with all you can stand. You don't act, you react. If your ankle muscles are loose, relaxed, not stiff and clumsy, you will flow with your opponent rather than try to meet his force with force. If he moves fast, you will move fast as the elasticity of your muscles will allow you to follow his movement exactly, rather than trying to lead by an exertion of your own. You use your looseness to follow, accept and redirect rather than to lead.

For now, let's just say that I'm beginning to accept that these theories, too, are Tai Chi Chuan, as legitimate as what I've learned before and as legitimate, surely, as quite a few other theories out there that none of us are familiar with.
That said, I'll thank you for a really good insight into the theory of Yang style as represented here on this site and taught by YZD.
I will do my best to keep practicing in this styles theories, and I will keep coming here and yelling for help in understanding these theories until I can get them right.
My hope is that maybe out there somewhere is another person who trained in another style of TCC and is now learning YCF style, who will come here and read this and say, "Wow! I'm not alone. Someone else has been through this and gotten past it. I can too!" Because this stuff is very different from what we would have learned elsewhere and the theory, as well as the practice, takes some getting used to.

I have said it before, I don't know chinese, am constitutionaly incapable of learning it. I have tried to learn a few foreign languages, the only one I achieved any type of success at was French, and that because I dated an extrememly beautiful girl who spoke only French (having just moved to the states) for about a year and I would have jumped through flaming hoops to impress her. I taught her American style English, she taught me Normandy style French.
I have forgotten just about every last bit of it, due to the fact that we went our seperate ways and I've never had any reason to speak French since.
All that being beside the point except to explain that I have never had the motivation of a pretty girl to communicate with to learn any dialect of Chinese.
All that said, I will bow to your wisdom on the translation of Chinese phrases and accept that some of the translations I'm used to will not transfer over to YCF style theory.
If anyone wants to keep up the discussion on "lean" and the application thereof, I will be abundantly happy to do so.
Just let me know.

Really good advice and a really good post, Audi. My thanks for helping me to get one step closer to my goal of getting at least proficient in this style of TCC.
YZD is coming to my town this year for a seminar. If I can scrape up the greenbacks, I'm going. Hopefully he can impart the wisdom I'll need to see how this works.
Right now, I'm just not "getting it", but I am stubborn and will not give up.
Any more advice on this subject, any new ways of looking at this, would be greatly appreciated.
Wushuer
 
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Postby Michael » Thu Mar 13, 2003 4:10 am

Wushuer,

The seminar you are speaking of isn't Michigan in August by any chance is it?

Your explanation of "momentum"/gravity clears things up a bit. I figured that is what you meant. I for one always have had a problem with "leaning"....just like you with some of the Yang theory. I even have had a hard time dealing with the little leaning we do in the YCF form (due to my Kuang Ping training). I have come to terms with it and for the most part understand "WHY", but most importantly WHEN---this having more to do with actual usage NOT form practice. It is the same with your Wu, it is momentum and yielding and.... Personally I find it dangerous at all but the highest levels. You could explain it with words all day long but it wouldn't do me any good. I am basically a "hands on" type, I need to see it, to test it, and feel it, to really understand. There are a lot of things I don't understand, and I love to learn.

The double weighting/single weighting thing for you seems to be like leaning for me. I have heard all kinds of definitions, upper/lower body,opposite limbs, 50/50 stances (bad!),.... The more I think about, it does really have to do with energy and not weight distribution, and I find that actually my "if you can't respond, youre double weighted may be all it is about (glad you like it David). It may be more important to think about "empty" and "full". But just maybe for some of us, it is best to even throw away these concepts at a certain point and learn to understand energy---physically, not mentally. Theory in TCC, though important, can sometimes get in the way. We often tend to think things to death and they become an obstacle in themselves. Now saying this, I know we all learn differently.

In meditation one seeks to "blow away" the layers of "dust", our experience our thinking, our desires, to clear our mirror and arrive at being a "real" person. Actually it is the same in TCC, the "Ten Essentials" if present all the time allow for" mastery". I can't say this from experience, as I am far, far from any type of masterhood in TCC, but I have seen the truth of this in meditation. There are certain concepts/theory we should have an understanding of, but these things also do not lead to mastering TCC. In push hands we learn all these "energies", understanding,....but when we can feel the opponent down to the soles of our feet, we have accomplished something. This has nothing to do with terms such as double weighting, full and empty, etc, etc. It has to do with "letting go". If I were ever to give any advice on understanding Yang taiji, it would be becoming the ten essentials and "letting go".

Now with all that said, I have not given up words and hopefully I can be of some help. But I am usually here looking for it myself. I still have to go over all that was said by you and Audi to have any real comment, so forgive me.

Good Practice!

Michael


[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 03-12-2003).]
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Fri Mar 14, 2003 5:35 pm

Greetings:

In Beijing I know both very accomplished Yang and Wu style practitioners whose internal principles are exactly the same. The way they create and manifest Taiji changes in the body are identical. My experience is that the postures of the Wu practioners often externally convey more clearly what is going on inside than the Yang postures do and thus are very productive at the initial stages. Specifically, the Wu postures are extremely instructive in that they assist the learner in making a clear empty/solid distinction. The Yang practitioners make the exact same distinction internally, but my experience is that in the Yang postures the internal requirements of Taiji are not readily apparent especially for those who are not yet at the stage of ¡®dong3jin4¡¯, or ¡®understanding jin¡¯ and cannot readily manifest rapid changes in empty/solid. The empty/solid distinction as I learned it has been described in numerous articles and in Gu Liuxin and Tang Hao (p.39-40).

¡°In Taiji the most important thing is ¡®shen1fa3¡¯ (body-method; technical Taiji term for what is described next.), therefore the primary distinction between empty and solid is in the waist and secondarily in the chest. In movements of the waist, the (contraction of muscles to the) left and right of the spine alternate in changing from one side to the other in order to distinguish empty and solid. The waist (muscles on the sides of the spine) are in charge of the legs; when one side of the waist is solid then the leg on that side is solid; when one side of the waist is empty then the leg on that side is empty.¡±


This is directly related to the term ¡°double weighted¡± which the Yang classics describe as: ¡°Being double weighted is incorrect, it is related to being filled up solid.¡± (Taiji Quanpu: Renmin tiyu, p.155)


My experience is that one has to work very hard on controlling the muscles around the spine in the lower back so that they connect with the legs. This requires intense practice in switching from the left to the right. It is easier to find this connection while standing on one leg or in a bow stance with 100% of the weight on one leg. You have to pull down very hard with your back muscles while simultaneously stretching them with the elongation of the spine and positioning of the lower back and hips. Wu style postures seem to be specifically designed to train this. The stretching and strengthening of the back muscles seems to be a never ending process. This is extremely invigorating and does wonders for the kidneys. If you feel the muscles deep inside around your tailbone being stretched then you are getting close. The switching from left to right helps make a upper/lower body connection. Once connected, the left/right empty/solid distinction begins to manifest itself as a total body empty/solid change and then later can be extrapolated to similar changes on any two parts of the body that are in opposition. ¡°Shuang1zhong4¡± ¡®Double-weighted¡¯ has absolutely nothing to do with body weight over one leg or the other; it is the inability to make empty/solid distinctions. You can put 100% of your weight over one leg and make that leg ¡®empty¡¯. The primary distinction is made in the waist (the lower back muscles around the spine which allow for an upper/lower body connection).


Jeff
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Mar 17, 2003 4:10 pm

Jeff,
That makes a bit more sense to me. Thank you. I guess I'm trying to leap over quite a bit of "work" to get to a place I will not find until I invest the time.
I was working under the assumption that YCF style "single weighted" and NAWS "single weighted" were going to be the same in theory as well as in practice.
While in practice they may be the same, the theory, or in this case the wording of the theory, is slightly different.
I have heard Wu masters say the same thing about "single weighted" vs. "double weighted" in that one can be one hundred percent weighted on a leg and that leg still be "empty". I never had one show me how or explain the seeming paradox, but I have been told that.
Maybe they did not want to confuse my poor duh-merican mind with more than it could handle.
However, I have been working on this and am beginning to see some of the benefits of not being totally 100/0 at all times.
It does make it easier for me to "roll back" of all crazy postures. I find that if I keep that bit of "weight" in my front foot as I roll back, I have slightly more control over the procedure. Especially during push hands.
I got my son to push hands with me this weekend, finally. We cleaned out a good sized chunk of our basement/garage (same thing in my house) and that gave us the room and privacy to push hands.
He's still too darned good for his own good at pushing hands. A product of having learned from Siku Wu Ta Sin when he was only five years old and then having several family members who are Wu disciples and a father who was a Wu senior student who never let him forget how to do it.
He just does it, without having to think about it much, where his old man has to practically reteach himself how. I have more knowledge and experience, he has more deep down "in the bone" know how. Like anything else you learn when you are very young and achieve a certain amount of prowess in, he will have this natural ability for life.
The little monster.
So we are actually very well paired for pushing hands. He needs training and practice, but has the agility of youth. I need practice and training, but have the benefit of much more technical know how.
Anyway...
I did find keeping a bit more "weight" on my front "empty" leg while rolling back a big benefit. Likely because I am not as nimble as I once was and keeping that weight on the leg allowed me to bring my dantien more into play with a firmer forward anchor. Less "off balance" to the rear until my legs and waist get some of that "suppleness" back that is missing due to seven years of neglect.
I will continue to work on this as much as I can. I am interested in whether this same thing has been noticed by anyone else?
More as I can. I have been very busy lately.
Thank you for your informative post.
Wushuer
 
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Mar 17, 2003 5:24 pm

Michael,
Nope, not Michigan in August.
Yes, the words are only the precursor to action. Kind of a way to figure out how you're going to move, then giving it a try.
As I mentioned above, I have started back to push hands. I have found that knowing all the theory in the world, (I can do basic, two handed, Chain Step, Nine Palace Step, and Da Lu push hands styles) and knowing all the right words and phrases does you very little good at all when it comes down to actually pushing hands.
After seven years of neglecting push hands due to the lack of a partner (my son is very reluctant to push with the old man, it took a visit by one of those disciples I mentioned above who pushed with us and could not believe how insensitive we've become to push him along to do it) you will find a definite lack of skill when you get started.
The few times I have pushed, I would allways get started, feeling like a complete newbie, get some of my old skill back after a time, then not push again for years.
The skill is still there, it just lacks practice. Like riding a bike, you may never forget how, but if you don't do it for seven years, you lose the "feeling" for it. Regularly riding the bike will bring those skills back, but not all once, not overnight. You must work at it, re-learn to do what you've done in the past.

Anyway...
I'll keep practicing. Hopefully I'll regain some of my old skill, then gain some new ones with a new way of pushing hands still to learn.
I am only able at this time to push Wu style, I don't know how the Yang guys do it, so I can't practice that way.
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