Double-Weightedness

Double-Weightedness

Postby Audi » Mon Feb 05, 2001 2:53 am

I would appreciate hearing views about what the concept of Double-Weightedness means, why it is described as a defect in T'ai Chi, and how this knowledge should affect one’s practice. A lot is written in the T'ai Chi literature about this, but I have found much of what is written confusing, contradictory, or too vague to be a reliable guide to practice.

I have wondered whether it might be better to ignore all this theoretical stuff and concentrate on reproducing my instructors’ postures; however, I find this difficult without understanding some of the why of things. Also, if T’ai Chi is about using one’s mind or spirit to move the energy and the body, how can the mind and spirit be trained beyond an elementary level without some understanding of what one is training?

By the way, in questioning below some of what I have read or heard, my intent is not to disparage any of the views described and still less anyone expressing those views. What people hear is often not what people say, and still less often what people mean. We all tend to speak in shorthand to ease the burden of communicating thoughts not easily reduced to a few words. Unfortunately, understanding suffers if all concerned do not share the same assumptions or experiences.

My first confusion with double-weightedness is the term itself. Although it is usually discussed in terms of the amount of weight carried on each foot, I have read some authors who say that the character translated as "weightedness" or "weight" has a secondary meaning of “repeat” that is really the correct meaning in this context. My Modern Chinese dictionaries show this meaning in association with the pronunciation "chong," but do not give examples that would seem to fit this context. The implication of this different interpretation appears to be that the phrase "double-weightedness" should instead be translated something like "doubling up" or “double repeating” with the meaning that one should avoid trying to make both sides of the body yang or both sides yin. Any thoughts about this from either the practical or the grammatical standpoint?

Another confusion on which I would appreciate comment is whether avoiding "Double-Weightedness" is distinct from the principle of "Distinguishing Full and Empty." On Yang Zhen Duo's videotape, Distinguishing Full and Empty seems to be discussed only as an injunction to faithfully focus on correct weight shifts. Within a standard form routine, this is very clear, but how is one to generalize and understand what makes a particular weight shift correct? Is there more in Yang Zhen Duo’s writings or what he has transmitted to his students?

In preparing this post, I reviewed Wang Zong Yue's Taijiquan Treatise as translated by Louis Swaim, as well as Mr. Swaim’s excellent commentaries. What I understand from the discussion of "double-weightedness" is two things: (1) it leads to stagnation of power (jin) and (2) to avoid it one needs to understand how yin and yang “mutually cooperate.” This is fairly clear from a theoretical viewpoint, but not so clear from a practical standpoint. Also, there seems to be no discussion of weight at all beyond the term itself. If nothing else, this lends credence to the alternate translation I mention above and implies that understanding the relationship between yin and yang is not a matter of weight distribution.

Is avoiding double-weightedness a doctrine unique to T'ai Chi? Unique to internal martial arts? Is there some related principle from Confucian or Taoist literature that might provide insight?

One of the commonest practical statements of what avoiding double-weightedness means seems to be that you should spend the minimum amount of time with 50%/50% weight distribution in the legs. If this is correct and all that can be said, why is 50/50 distribution acceptable in the Opening Posture (Qi Shi) and in Crossing Hands (Shi Zi Shou)? Some say that the concept of double-weightedness only applies to movement, so perhaps it is acceptable in these postures because the applications do not seem to involve moving one's center in any of the eight directions. Any thoughts?

Another hesitation I have about the simple 50/50 explanation is that I believe in Wu Jian-Quan Style, Single Whips are performed with 50/50 weight distribution with the justification that energy needs to be sent in two opposing directions and that Double Weightedness is somehow avoided "internally." As I understand it, Yang Zhen Duo uses the same justification for the lack of any lean in this posture, but does not alter the weight distribution of the Bow Stance. How could such major differences have developed in two such closely related styles without some fuller explanation being possible?

In addition to avoiding 50%/50% weight distribution, some people add avoiding 100/0 and 0/100 weight distribution as another aspect of the defect of double-weightedness. I can see how habitual weight distribution at such extremes might violate the principle of keeping some yang in the yin leg and some yin in the yang leg, but am not sure what this means in practice. I was originally taught that simply touching the ground was enough to put some yang in an "empty" foot. Others on the previous discussion board, myself included, have discussed “yang” aspects even of legs that are in midair. On a practical level, it seems to me that 0/100 and 100/0 distributions are very weak focus points during push hands and that a 30%/70% back-weighted bow stance and a 70%/30% front-weighted bow stance frame the maximum extremes of easy power absorption and issuance. Any opinions on this?

Some authorities imply that avoiding double-weightedness is in effect simply a matter of specialization, using one foot to maximize sinking and rooting, while using the other foot for nimbleness, speed, and neutralizing energy. Particularly, the effect on nimbleness and speed is emphasized. I believe Yang Cheng Fu more or less describes this as the reasoning behind "Distinguishing Solid and Empty." The logic of this would seem to be that one should always unweight a moving foot to give it nimbleness; however, this seems to run counter to the apparent tolerance or perhaps even fondness of some of Yang Cheng Fu’s successors for weighted foot pivots. If memory serves me right, Wu Yu Xiang Style also has many weighted pivots in changing angles in cat stances (xu shi bu). Can anyone reconcile these practices with these statements about nimbleness?

A related viewpoint seems to be that avoiding double-weightedness has to do with maintaining the maximum ability to rotate about one's center. If one has the weight concentrated in one leg, that leg can be used as an axis of rotation, whereas having weight in both legs means that body rotation is restricted. The basic idea seems to be that one cannot simultaneously rotate around two parallel axes. Is this the reason why some followers of Cheng Man-Ch’ing seem to delay waist rotations until the last moment in moves like Ward Off Left, Ward Off Right, and Cloud Hands? This seems like an interesting viewpoint, but what about Yang Stylists who relish weighted pivots? Also, such an elementary posture as Roll Back seems to violate this principal, since I think even Cheng Man-Ch’ing stylists do not delay the waist rotation in this posture. Do I have this wrong?

Within a posture, should one attempt to separate the waist rotations from the weight shifts? This is how I currently perform Press, Apparent Closure (ru feng si bi), the end of Single Whip where the left ward off arm transforms into a striking palm, the end of the Brush Knees, and the Heel Kick after Double Wind/Peaks to the Ears (shuang feng guan er). Specifically in these moves, I have been taught to rotate my waist to face the new direction, perhaps with an accompanying heel pivot, and then shift weight into the strike. Mentally, I view this as a neutralization (hua), followed by control (na) of my opponent when the rotation is complete, and then a weight shift to power a strike (fa jin). What about Roll Back? This should be the quintessential rotating neutralization, yet everyone seems to combine the rotation with the backward weight shift.

In addition to the issue of weight in the legs, some authorities talk about avoiding "double-weightedness" in the arms and hands. Presumably this means that in the Push Posture, for example, one should not push with equal power in both hands or that in Brush Knee and Twist Step, the lower, deflecting hand should be relatively "empty," while all the power is in the upper, striking palm. This sounds like an elegant explanation, but do any mere mortals push with only one hand or pluck ("cai") with an empty hand? Is this what some refer to as “casting and reeling”?

Along with discussions of keeping one limb relatively full and the other relatively empty is the concept of keeping fullness and emptiness the same in the opposite foot and hand. I think that Yang Cheng Fu characterized this as being necessary to avoid weakness in one side of the body. This concept seems to make sense for many postures, but what about Ward Off Left, Ward Off Right, Fist under Elbow, Needle at Sea Bottom, Fan through Back, Cloud Hands, High Pat on Horse (and Go with Palm), Flying Diagonal, and Parting Wild Horse's Mane? To my humble way of thinking, the foot with the majority of the weight and the hand issuing the majority of the power in these postures are on the same side of the body. Can there be so many exceptions to the rule?

Another viewpoint on double-weightedness is that there is really nothing wrong with it per se. It simply represents one point on the T'ai Chi Diagram that should not be emphasized over any other. This viewpoint does not explain why there is a caution against this particular point in the diagram. Perhaps a logical explanation, however, would be that one needs to avoid the habit of solving complex problems by simply splitting the "baby" in half and leaving every posture “balanced,” but stagnant, at 50/50.

In addition to "Double-Weightedness," some authorities talk about "Double Floating," "Double Sinking," and "Double Lightness," sometimes with approval and sometimes with disapproval, according to context. If I recall correctly, double floating is always bad; but double lightness and double sinking are good. I have found such discussions even more confusing, and certainly impractical at my level of knowledge for training purposes.

The most general and, in my opinion, truest sounding statement of what avoiding double-weightedness means is that one should appropriately distinguish what is yin and what is yang in every part of the body. Unfortunately, the authorities do not seem to agree on such a basic element of this view as whether a weighted leg is to be viewed as yin or yang. Also, it is not clear whether yin and yang are supposed to be distinguished by weight, speed, degree of openness, amount of jin, etc. or by all of these simultaneously or alternatively.

Having asked these questions, let me describe my attempts to deal with these issues. Basically, I concentrate on feeling three bows in the body (arms, legs, and spine) and trying to feel that one end of each bow is yin and the other is yang, according to the direction in which the energy flows (deng? and cheng?). When I can maintain this visualization, it seems to force me to give due emphasis to Yang Cheng Fu’s Ten Principles, while feeling other contrasts within my body.

Any thoughts, corrections, agreements, or empathy for these ideas or any part? Does anyone share my confusion? I would be particularly interested in why you do what you do or why you advocate a particular view. All my quotes and misquotes above amount to so much wind without sufficient insight to give them meaning, and so please feel free to comment with no more authority than yourself to “back up” what you say.

Audi
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Postby JerryKarin » Mon Feb 05, 2001 3:12 am

Great post Audi. I am going to consider this myself and also see if I can get Yang Jun involved. More later.
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Feb 07, 2001 1:19 am

Audi,
With one exception your questions and ideas dance around the answer. The exception I will deal with in another posting.
I hope that what I express to you here is clear enough for you to understand and use.
I think that you are right in that the comprehension of why something is done in a particular way is important.

There are two aspects to double-weightedness. This posting covers one of them and leads to another posting.

The first aspect of double-weightedness has two parts: the 50/50 weight distribution split and 100/0 weight distribution split (0/100 is included in my 100/0). There are at least 8 places in the long form where one is double-weighted. Think in terms of yin and yang, means and extremes. The 50/50 split is the mean, the middle, you are equally weighted on both feet, the 'double' is horizontal, there is no clear external differentiation of yin and yang, it is all grey. The 100/0 split is the extreme, the edge, you are oppositely weighted on both feet, the 'double' is vertical, there is no mixing of yin and yang, it's all black or all white. Here, the yin and the yang is shown as, respectively, a broken line and an unbroken line.

50/50 weight distribution: the first move, "the Arising" and the last move of each section, "Seal and Close"

- - - - <-------- double yin
___ ___ <--------double yang


100/0 weight distribution: "Golden Cock Stands on One Leg" (Left and Right) and "Separation of the Foot" (Left and Right) - one foot is double yin, the other is double yang.

___ - -
___ - -

^ ^
double yang double yin

Mobility is the key, both here, and in your concern about distinguishing between the 'solid and empty' and the weighted pivots. There are right ways and wrong ways to pivot, whether weighted or not. Generally speaking, if in what you do you have good mobility then you are probably doing it right, and you'll find that you are in harmony with Tai Chi priciples.

Why double-weightedness is described as a defect in Tai Chi is because in both cases, mobility may be hampered. To move immediately, in both cases, one would need to hop. Either hop on one foot or both. It is included in Tai Chi Long form so that one can learn to lessen the defect.

To introduce the second aspect of Double-weightedness I'd like to ask you, Audi, and the others in these discussions, to do the following: on a piece of paper draw the outline of a tee-shirt. Do the moves "Golden Cock Stands on One Leg" (Left and Right) and "Separation of the Foot" (Left and Right), and with each of these four moves mark on the drawing where you focused your balance in your upper torso. By this I mean: which point in your upper torso are you holding up?
I intend to post this other aspect in about 3 weeks, about February 27th. I'm doing it this way to give everyone here a chance to discover on their own something absolutely wonderful.
Thank you for your patience and time.
David Salvia


[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 02-27-2001).]
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Postby Audi » Wed Feb 07, 2001 4:50 am

David,

Thanks for your very intriguing reply. It took a little work to follow your diagrams and figure out your proposed exercise, but I think I understand and already have my answers. I look forward to hearing your explanation of the second aspect of double-weightedness and of the exception.

When you next reply, I would appreciate it if you would further explain what you mean by mobility. I must confess that a 50/50 stance feels perfectly mobile to me and would in fact be my preferred stance from that standpoint. The only thing that feels wrong is that such a stance seems too indecisive and directionless to fit T'ai Chi's reactive tactics. Moving out of 100/0 stances, however, does seem somewhat awkward if they are done with "straight" supporting legs.

I am also curious about which eight postures you would propose as being double weighted. If you are counting all the kicks as double weighted, eight seems too small a number. Also, if a kicking foot is considered "empty"/"insubstantial," why are striking hands considered "solid"/"substantial"?

Thanks again for some thought provoking ideas.
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Feb 07, 2001 6:15 pm

Audi
To show you what I mean about mobility, you might test how mobile you are in the different weight distributions. Suppose you are in one of the stances, and ten (or more) feet away (in any of the 8 directions) there is an alarm clock. When the clock goes off you get to it as quickly as possible to turn it off. You time how long it takes you to move that ten or more feet from each of, say six stances: 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, 80/20, 90/10, and 100/0. From which weight distribution did you move the quickest; the slowest? Here is where you'll see the difference in mobility. An alarm clock isn't required, just find some means to time your movement. (You might set it up so that you don't know in advance which direction you'll be moving.)

A kicking foot may be considered "empty"/"insubstantial," but is it when it is striking something?

The 8 places in the long form are: 4 for 50/50, 4 for 100/0.
4 for 50/50 are: the first move, "the Arising", and the last move of each of the 3 sections, "Close and Seal" You might call this move "Cross Hands"
4 for 100/0 are "Separation of the Left Foot," "Separation of the Right Foot," "Golden Cock Stands on Left Leg" "Golden Cock Stands on Right Leg"
I said 'at least 8 places' because of the kicks, too, especially the "Lotus Kick".
David
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Postby Steve » Wed Feb 07, 2001 9:32 pm

What about the two "empty steps": Raise Hands or Fist Under Elbow, and White Crane? I was taught to separate yin/yang by putting all of the weight on the supporting leg and leaving the front leg empty.
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Postby Gundam » Thu Feb 08, 2001 12:26 am

Audi wrote:

"I would appreciate hearing views about what the concept of Double-Weightedness means, why it is described as a defect in T'ai Chi, and how this knowledge should affect one’s practice. A lot is written in the T'ai Chi literature about this, but I have found much of what is written confusing, contradictory, or too vague to be a reliable guide to practice. "

I was at a workshop with someone who had learned from Chen Xiao Wang and he said that the idea of double-weighted did not have anything to do with weight but with the jin which comes from the ground to the waist and so on. The idea (according to the notes I took) is that the posture should never allow the jin to be "trapped" where it cannot move. This "trapping" or "stagnating" can come irregardless of whether the weight is 50-50 or is on one leg. A good practitioner should always have a supple abdomen and a way out of all attempts to lock or it is called "double-weighting".

For What it's Worth.

Gunther Andam
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Postby DavidJ » Thu Feb 08, 2001 5:35 pm

Steve,
You asked, 'What about the two "empty steps": Raise Hands or Fist Under Elbow, and White Crane? I was taught to separate yin/yang by putting all of the weight on the supporting leg and leaving the front leg empty.'

I think of those postures as empty steps as well, and I had thought of them as "roughly 100/0" weight distribution, especially since I didn't shift weight to the foot, but I knew that the foot touching the ground had weight.
So I got out a scale, and some books the same height as the scale, and weighed myself in different positions. I found, for example, that my weight distribution for 'White Crane' is 90/10. The 10% foot is still empty and I don't need to shift any weoght to pick it up.
This raises the question, "how much weight can you have on the 'empty' foot before you can no longer pick up the foot without shifting the weight?"
But then again, I think that there is a rootedness on one foot that is important to learn.
On the Dong family history tape you can see Tung Hu Ling doing the long form, and in 'Punch Under Elbow' the left foot doesn't touch the ground at all. (His form is well worth watching)
One of the "3rd rep" articles is about a master who can push hands while on one foot.
All in all, how much leeway is there? Probably enough.
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Postby Gundam » Fri Feb 09, 2001 4:54 pm

Jerry K. wrote:

"I certainly don't have to tell you that anyone can do taiji any way they like. There are no taiji police out there who are going to arrest you if you do it one way or the other. And I have no doubt that some can make 100/0 work for them (ie Zheng Manqing). The point that I have been trying to make is that in Yang style, as taught by Yang Chengfu and his sons, Fu Zhongwen and many of the other disciples, xushibu or 'empty steps' are done 70/30. However, if you wish to believe that is not so, that Yang style has 100/0 in empty steps, you are welcome to that belief; we'll just agree to disagree."

I certainly don't care who does what but I realize that a lot of what is done *must* be wrong, as is the case in so many things. If Zhang Manqing claimed that his style came from Yang Cheng Fu and the Yang family claims their style originated from the Chen style then there must be some correlations in requirements. After all, as was pointed out to me by someone else, "there is only one Tai Chi"... as said by Yang Cheng Fu.

So in terms of weight and moving we cannot have all these disparate approaches if there are some basic requirements for doing pure Tai Chi (I guess i need to start writing "taiji" as a habit). I have heard from several good authorities that there is more of a 70-30 weight distribution in Yang and Chen style, although I have heard that as a training device some variations of both styles will deliberately do 100-0 as often as possible. Is there something written in the Tai Chi Classics about the weight distribution? Does anyone know?

Gunther
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Feb 09, 2001 5:28 pm

Gunther, while I have been trying to make the point that in Yang style the 'empty steps' are done with considerable weight on the lighter foot (some would say belaboring the point ad nauseum) I don't want to say that, for example, Yang Zhenduo is right and Zheng Manqing is wrong. I think these represent different systems, both valid, which probably need to be taken in their entirety and not mixed up. Audi said something on the old board which expresses this very neatly:

"I am a firm believer in the ultimate oneness of T'ai Chi and the value of exploring different traditions, but I think much confusion can also be caused by mixing practices that were never meant to be mixed or by isolated inclusion of elements in one's practice that were never meant to be divorced from other practices. "

Unfortunately the classic writings are not all that precise on things like angles and weight percentages. In Yang Chengfu's "A Tal on Practice" he has a sentence relating to this issue which I render as follows:

"What is termed ‘empty’ is not really empty, the position still hasn’t been abandoned, but rather there is the intent of (possible) expanding or shrinking left there. "
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Postby Gundam » Fri Feb 09, 2001 7:07 pm

Jerry wrote:

"Gunther, while I have been trying to make the point that in Yang style the 'empty steps' are done with considerable weight on the lighter foot (some would say belaboring the point ad nauseum) I don't want to say that, for example, Yang Zhenduo is right and Zheng Manqing is wrong."

I don't want to say anyone is wrong, either, but the point I was getting at was two-fold.

1.First off, considering how things work, there must be a right and a wrong way or there wouldn't be so many subtle corrections.

2.Second off, I think that there are people who really know Tai Chi and people who really don't and OF THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY KNOW TAI CHI, there are obviously different but possibly valid takes on how to lead a beginner toward achieving real Tai Chi. Oops, make that Taiji.


"I am a firm believer in the ultimate oneness of T'ai Chi and the value of exploring different traditions, but I think much confusion can also be caused by mixing practices that were never meant to be mixed or by isolated inclusion of elements in one's practice that were never meant to be divorced from other practices. "

I agree with that.


"In Yang Chengfu's "A Tal on Practice" he has a sentence relating to this issue which I render as follows:

"What is termed ‘empty’ is not really empty, the position still hasn’t been abandoned, but rather there is the intent of (possible) expanding or shrinking left there. "

OK, but I read that as not determinate at all about "weight" but more about jing. As I have recently learned, jing and weight are not necessarily the same thing. The question about "weight" is therefore still up in the air, with both sides equally able to claim rectitude. 8>)

Still, many thanks for your kind reply.

Gunther
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Postby Steve » Fri Feb 09, 2001 9:34 pm

For what it's worth, the Wu style makes a complete separation. The empty foot is completely empty, so that in a bow stance (which is actually very different from the Yang stances), you should be able to lift your back leg as easily as you can lift your front leg in the empty steps.

And this is the style descended from Ban Hou.
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Feb 10, 2001 3:29 am

Here is a picture of Yang Chengfu, circa 1915, from a 1925 book by Chen Weiming (heh,heh, if I get this to work right). Interesting, isn't it? Food for thought.

Image
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Feb 10, 2001 5:33 am

I did a little more research on the vocabulary used by Yang Chengfu, Fu Zhongwen and Yang Zhenduo to describe the 'touching' of the front foot in empty stances. They are all pretty consistent in saying dian3 di4 for contact with toe and zhao2 di4 for contact with heel. Dian3 means 'dot', or 'contact with a small point', and zhao2 means 'touch or 'contact'. The problem is in Chinese these do not carry any particular connotation of how hard the touch is. So when Louis and I both translate as 'heel touches..' etc you can't read that to mean 'resting lightly' as the English might seem to imply. Xu1 dian3 'emptily touching' at first sight seems more like 'touching lightly but the problem is that xu1 'empty' is kind of a technical term in Yang style taiji so it's still ambiguous. I follow Yang Zhenduo (and his second brother Yang Zhenji) who makes the 70/30 explicit and Xie Bingcan, longtime student of Fu Zhongwen, who also says put weight there. Maybe we could hear from students of the Yang Shouzhong lineage. What do Zhu Zhenshun (Chu Gin Soon) and his son and students say? Anyone know?


[Note: This message has been edited by JerryKarin]
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Postby DavidJ » Sat Feb 10, 2001 11:26 pm

Jerry,
Is the picture of Yang Chen Fu in 1915 from the form that he taught in public or the form that he taught his 'indoor' students?

David
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