Postby DavidJ » Tue Feb 27, 2001 6:30 pm

To Audi, Gene, and others who are interested,

First off, I should tell you that what I'm presenting here is my own; it was not learned from any master, nor from any of the writings of masters. Although I can easily assume that most masters know this, I don't know for sure whether or not they do. If Jerry, Horacio, or Louis, or any other person in a position to do so, would consult the masters (or the literature) about this and get back to me I would appreciate it.

Be forwarned, I've tried to be brief, but...

I call my solution to 'double-weightedness' the 'opposite shoulder principle,' and I feel that it is central to balance in the human body. For what it's worth, I think that it should be one of the very first things taught.

The opposite shoulder principle: When all or a majority of the weight is on one foot, the focus of balance in the upper torso is in the opposite shoulder.
If you stand on your right foot, the main point you are holding up in your upper torso is in the left shoulder; if you stand on your left foot, the main point you are holding up in your upper torso is in the right shoulder.
(Note: It is important to understand that by 'holding up' that shoulder I do not mean that the shoulder is raised. Our bodies are put together in such a way that our shoulders hang; let them.)

I'll try to make this clear through some examples, but chances are that I do some variations from what you do, so I hope these examples make sense.

The simplest thing is to stand on one foot and have someone push down on the opposite shoulder.

Perhaps the move that can best show what I mean is from 'Play the Harp' to 'White Crane Fans It's Wings.'
You are standing with the majority of your weight on your left foot.
Have a partner press straight down on your right shoulder. Support the weight.
Continue the move towards 'White Crane'.
After you step out, as you slowly shift your weight to your right foot, your partner slowly switches from pressing down on your right shoulder to pressing down on your left shoulder.
Fully support this weight while completing the move.
You should feel the 'opposite shoulder' relationship down into your root.

Throughout Tai Chi when you shift your weight from the one foot to the other, you shift the focal point of support/balance from the other shoulder to the one.

There's an important point here that Audi and Gene brought up in similar ways.
Audi wrote, "...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."
Gene noted a " 'double-weighting,' where the arm and leg on one side of the body are load-bearing at the same time."

In these instances, what's yang in the foot is something different from what's yang in the same hand. It's apples and oranges: Yin and yang weight support, as opposed to yin and yang application of strength. Even though muscles are involved in both, holding up weight and applying strength (or issuing energy) are two different things. They are related, and they complement one another, but differentiating between them is important.

The opposite shoulder principle is the solution to the 'double-weighting,' where the arm and leg on one side of the body are load-bearing at the same time: simply don't load the same shoulder (and arm). This 'double-weighting' is not caused by the 70/30 weight distribution split, but by having the upper body focus wrong, so don't reject the 70/30 weight distribution split on such a basis.

If you think in terms of the coordination that exists across the body: the left hip coordinating with the right shoulder, the left knee coordinating with the right elbow, the left foot coordinating with the right hand, and vice-versa, then perhaps you can picture the yang energy in the 'same' hand and opposite foot coordinating through the opposite shoulder.

Some of how I picture this:

'Separation of the Right Foot,' where all of the weight is on the left foot. There is a line that moves from the left foot through the left knee, and the left hip, to the lower dan tien, up the spine, then through the middle dan tien to the right shoulder (and on to the right elbow to the right hand). This acts as a stable platform and supplies leverage for the movements of the right leg, its knee and foot, and the left arm, its elbow and hand.

What can follow the application of this principle is the clear differentiation and application of the dynamics.

Application of the 'opposite shoulder principle' frees the opposite shoulder first, then the other joints are freed up, one by one. If you practice this can happen quickly. The 'same' shoulder soon frees up, then the 'opposite' hip. When this happens the imbalances and the unneccessary leanings that sometimes plague people can disappear.

There are particular places in the long form where some of the different dynamics related to the 'opposite shoulder priciple' can be felt clearly. In the second section, moving from 'Punch to Knee' to 'Fan through the Back,' pull your right shoulder away from your left foot, like drawing a bow. (Note: I do this as a weighted pivot: while the weight remains on the left foot, the shoulder is drawn away and the whole body, including the left foot, is turned to the right.)

In 'Needle to Sea Bottom', as you stand up, draw your right shoulder away from your left foot.

In 'Fist under Elbow,' the right foot connection to the left shoulder acts like a pole anchored to the ground; the coordination of the right fist and left foot can move around this stability. The weight support is vertical (because the pull of gravity is vertical), the application of strength, the 'energy transfer,' is lateral. A friend of mine characterises this as "acting like the eye of a hurricane." (master to student, ala "Kung Fu" the series: "Be like a hole in the clouds, my son.")

Take 'Flying Diagonal.' The right foot connects to the left shoulder, bearing the weight; the left foot connects to the right hand, forming a bow, which balances across the left shoulder. The active, weight-bearing part of your body can thus be differentiated from the active, energy-delivering part of your body. Here the weight support is vertical, the strength application is diagonal.

In 'Parting the Wild Horses Mane' the application of strength is partly diagonal, partly lateral.

Note: none of this precludes adding gravity, or using the leverage gained from interacting with gravity, to increase the force of a push or a strike.

In 'Cloud Hands' the pull of gravity is vertically downward and supporting oneself against gravity is vertically upward. The movements of the hands are in vertical circles; the pulling up and pushing down parts of those circles are coordinated with the pulling up and the pushing down that is related to gravity. For example: after you step to the left, while you shift all your weight to your left foot, you raise your right hand. Raising the hand exerts a downward pressure, through the right arm, on the right shoulder; this contributes to the downward pressure of gravity. Properly supported, this strenghthens the root. Meanwhile, the left hand pushes downward, like pushing a piece of wood down into water, and the right leg is drawn in, each limb acting as a counterwieght for the other.
By the way, Gene, I do the waist turn while shifting my weight from the right foot to the left.

There is an exception here to the application of the 'opposite shoulder principle.' It occurs in the 50/50 weight distribution split. Take the first move, the 'Arising.' Here there is no 'opposite' shoulder, because neither foot has all or a majority of the weight on it. The point of support is in the spine. Even though this is an exception, that doesn't mean that double-weightedness isn't dealt with here. Part of it is being ready to move, to shift the weight to one foot and shift the focus to its opposite shoulder, but the main part is that the dynamics remain even when you are 50/50 and not moving your weight.

What Mike wrote is right on the mark. He wrote, " 'Empty' and 'Full' refer to whether there is No Jin Present or whether there is Jin Present. You can stand with a 50-50 stance, feet parallel at shoulder width. If someone lightly pushes your right shoulder and you 'root' the push then the jin will go down the left leg and it is then 'full' while the right leg is 'empty'... yet you didn't change your 'weight'. Then, if you don't move a hair and your partner walks around and pushes on your left shoulder you can 'root' the push down your right leg... so the right leg is then 'full' and the left leg is 'empty'. If you see what I mean."
To this I would add: as the push increases, you may want to bend the knees more.

Audi, thanks, once again, for a great question. I hope that I have answered it well.

In regard to marking the tee-shirt, I am curious as to who found the principle on their own. Email me if you want.

David Salvia

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 02-27-2001).]
Posts: 349
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am

Postby gene » Tue Feb 27, 2001 10:14 pm

David: This is such an interesting and unique analysis that I would encourage you to convert it into an article and submit it to T'ai Chi magazine. I plan to focus on these concepts over the next couple of weeks when I practice, and I think players from all styles would be very interested in your approach. And thanks for the input on wave hands - I was starting to feel lonely!

Posts: 68
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Holmdel, NJ, USA

Postby Audi » Wed Feb 28, 2001 8:16 am


Thank you for a very, very thought provoking answer. In trying your experiment, I got the center of focus right, but missed the possibilities in the concept. Did you really think all that up on your own?

Despite my love for long, abstact posts, I like real simple concrete principles to work on, and I see real possibitilites in your post after I have read it a few more times. If you would only drop your fondness for weighted pivots, you might even have a new disciple. Image

On a more serious note, where have you learned your weighted pivots? Was this a major teaching of Fu Zhongwen? If so, do you know why they seem to be so rare in other branches of T'ai Chi? Just to be clear, I have posted elsewhere in response to your kind comments that I do not question the validity of the principle. I merely marvel at yet another area where the various T'ai Chi styles have developed such divergent practices.

Posts: 1115
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby DavidJ » Thu Mar 01, 2001 8:37 pm

Hi Audi,

I thought that you'd get the center of focus right.

Yes, I thought all that up on my own.

Though I've seen the short video of Fu Zhongwen, I haven't encountered anyone from his school, and can't really comment on his style.

From the very beginning of my study of Tai Chi I learned the weighted pivots, and this was from students of Kai Ying Tung. I'm not sure why Kai Ying Tung teaches weighted pivots, as opposed to others who have come to the US to teach the Yang style.

I have heard that making Tai Chi available to everybody, rather that a select few, is/was part of the approach of several teachers, like Wen Shan Huang and Marshall Ho'o in the US, and that may well have been part of why unweighted pivots have been taught so much. But I've heard that Kai Ying Tung came to the US to teach teachers, and maybe that's the difference. His style is very economical in motion. I understand that his video is sold out, but you can see his father Hu-Ling Tung on the history tape (from Alex Dong). It is well worth watching. Seeing what his father did implies, for me, that the question of whether to teach weighted pivots or not may not have come up.

Gene, I will consider writing an article about the 'opposite shoulder principle.' Thanks for the sugestion.

Posts: 349
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am


Return to Tai Chi Theory and Principles

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests