Single weightedness?

Single weightedness?

Postby Wushuer » Fri Nov 15, 2002 9:28 pm

I would like to ask the more experienced Yang Chen-fu members here about single weightedness as applied in Yang Cheng-fu style. I am a mere beginner at Yang Cheng-fu style, and am curious about the apparent differences in application theory to what I learned previously.
In other styles I have had the priviledge to study there was a much great emphasis on being and staying single weighted. There were only three very specific postures in the long forms I have learned where it was ever considered proper to be anything less than single weighted and in all three postures weight was evenly distributed just for a moment in the flow of the form.
In Yang Cheng-fu style, this does not seem to hold true. I understand that there is a division of weight into a 90%/10% split between substantial and insubstantial in Yang Cheng-fu style.
In other styles, there was only ever "intent" in the insubstantial until the weight actually was begun to be transfered and then the transfer was one hundred percent.
Anyone care to take a shot at enlightening me on the Yang Cheng-fu weight distribution?
The fault could easily be mine. Am I simply misunderstanding the concept of single weightedness in this form style?
I have pestered my teacher about it and certainly see some benefits to it from his explanations. I also see some disadvantages.

Simply curious as to the difference in theories and how they are applied and, in case you haven't allready tripped across my long winded posts elsewhere on this board, ever curious about any kind of discussion into Taijiquan theory.
Thank you.
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Nov 15, 2002 9:52 pm

Wushuer, in the upper right hand of the main bulletin board page there is a drop-down box which probably has 'last 20 days' or something in it. Bring that down and select 'all topics'. You'll find some stuff on double-weighting. We also had a big set-to back there which you can find with the search function...
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Nov 15, 2002 9:54 pm

Sorry, I guess my post above applies once you get into a section, like barehand, or principles etc.
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Postby Michael » Sat Nov 16, 2002 8:17 am

Wushuer,

You will find that old thread on "double weighting" interesting....and maybe somewhat confusing. There are many directions to approach it from...as many it seems, as there are people.

Simply, the YCF weighting is generally 70/30...75/25?.... I have also studied another line within the Yang family where the weighting is approx 50/50 and 100/0. I won't go into "why" this is not double weighting as it doesn't apply to the YCF style we are discussing. This weighting made very good sense to me within THAT system---especially with my hard style background.

It look me a couple of years to really understand the 70/30 "stances" in what in my other style was an "empty stance" (100/0). I had to overcome a lot of previous training. One can deliver quite a bit of power while shifting a little weight into that front foot, usually the heel (lift hands, play the "pipa"). Somewhat like the "1 inch punch".

As you point out, it is always in transition or "flow". I think of the 70/30 "stance" more as the "conclusion" of the action, NOT a point from which the action is initiated. BUT it is that also---but that discussion is not useful here. As I am sure you know, a "stance" in many of the "harder" arts often tend to be the platform from which action IS initiated.

I am not sure what you mean by transferring 100% into the foot? Do you mean into 50/50? or something else? I might be misuderstanding your words---it is late and I am tired. If one were to transfer 100% into that front foot in any of the actions or techniques in this style you would one have lost your root and could not deliver any power of consequence and two, severely reduced your options in direction of movement, and lastly, left yourself extremely vulnerable to a pull for instance---among many other kinds of "mischief".

I hope I haven't added to any confusion.



[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 11-16-2002).]
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Nov 18, 2002 1:29 pm

I have actually studied two other styles of Taiji, and in both the emphasis was on a one hundred percent weight distribution between substantial and insubstantial, this was explained to me as "single weighting".
It means that in your yin leg you have only "intent" for weight and movement, the same as in your arms when doing the form, mind intent only.
Your yang leg is holding one hundred percent of your bodies weight at all times, except during preperatory position, return to mountain, and the posture single whip.
When first learning this method it does, indeed, seem very susceptible to being pushed or pulled off balance. However, once you learn to distribute your weight in this fashion properly, along with your body mechanics in alignment, you will find it becomes a peerless stance, and you will be very centered and balanced.
One of the exercises I trained in for a long, long time was to do everything on one leg, at all times, without fail. The goal being to reach a point where everything you do, you do just as well on one leg as on two.
I learned to do all my forms this way, I learned to push hands this way. I learned weapons this way.
I can only assure, at the level I attained you were NOT succeptible to being either pushed or pulled off balance.
It has as much to do with your body mechanics through the form as your weight distibution.
Further, once you learn this, I have found it to be extremely difficult to forget or "unlearn".
I, too, am trying to overcome a lot of my former training to get used to YCF styles, what to me anyway seems to be "double weightedness" in the forms.
It is extremely difficult to overcome my tendency to be 100/0 weighted.
I don't believe I used the word "foot" anywhere in my post?..
No I didn't. I just read it.
To clarify, you do have points in the forms I learned where you are less than one hundred percent on your yang foot, it is during the transitional phase, as you slowly and evenly transfer your weight between yin and yang.
I have not gotten as far as this in the YCF form yet, only done a thirteen posture and section 1 course so far, but I believe there is a "left golden cock stands on one leg" and it's corresponding "right ..." form. If these are even slightly correlary to the "golden cock" forms I learned, you actually lift one leg off the floor. During these moves you would have to be 100/0 weight distributed. Any time you take a step, you are 100/0 weight distributed, are you not? Are you unbalanced at these times in YCF forms? If you are stepping into "left brush knee" are you unbalanced and easily pushed or pulled around during that step in YCF style? Is the assumption then that, while you are taking steps, you are unrooted and easily defeated?
I hope not.
In the styles I have previously studied, this weight distribution was constant.
In fact, the ultimate test of this was for your teacher, during the form at any point, to approach you when you were unaware and simply kick your insubstantial leg out from under you or push against you at any point of your body or even strike you.
If you fall down, or even stumble, you are not doing it right. If you accept and redirect the incoming force without losing your focus, you have passed.
Trust me, after you hit the floor a few times, you learn to do it right!
Maybe that gives you a better idea of what I am trying to say?
It may be a case of "overkill" on the part of my former teachers, but it seems if you can be rooted while on one leg, while stepping or at any other time, without any stumbling or falling or break in your form (within reason, you DO have to accept and redirect the force, so you will not continue a "perfect" form, rather I mean that you should do this without a break in your body mechanics) despite an unexpected push, pull, kick or sweep to any point of your body, then you will most certainly be rooted and balanced with both feet on the ground.
As I said, I see a lot of advantages to a 70/30, 90/10 distribution. I also see a lot of disadvantages.
One being, I don't feel as "light" or as agile. I don't seem to have the ability to move to any direction to accept and redirect incoming force.
If my insubstantial leg is still "rooted" with even 10% of my body weight, how can I allow it to freely adjust to any new angle to accept and redirect my opponents force? As it is partially "rooted" to the floor with some of my wieght, it is not free to move to any point I may need it for taking a step.
When single weighted, I can move my yin leg to any point required, with no notice or even conscious thought, to accept and redirect incoming force.
How do I do this when I am allready commited to that leg? It is not "free" to move, it is engaged.
I do see how this can be helpful when actually engaged, IF I were to know the direction of that engagement beforehand.
Again, I do not have enough experience to know how this works. I am hoping someone can explain it to me.
I am reading the other section of double weightedness. Hopefully I will see something there to help me understand this difference.
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Postby Michael » Mon Nov 18, 2002 11:03 pm

Wushuer,

It was late and I did read your post not quite correctly. I agree with some of your points. My "other Yang style" taught the same things you mention and they are useful. However the basic mechanical/functional theory and resulting techniques are a little different....so it can "seem" that they are opposed. But it really is not the case.

Regardless of "style", when stepping or on one leg you are the most vulnerable. If my timing is good, any technique the opponent tries to use on me from one leg will result with him on the floor or.... If I intercept a kick, or better yet, before it gets off the ground, the opponent can easily be toppled by helping it along in his desired direction. I "lift" him up if raising the knee (his energy) sooner than intended, breaking his root. The old--- let him move first but you get there first. This is a little different than when being "tested".

One doesn't step unless you "feel" where the opponents energy is going and it can be taken advantage of. I don't step because I want to. A good practioner can remove most of his own vulnerability just by following the opponent and his desires. That is what it is all about. But As I am sure you know, if you try and "force" things, do a little too much, your response is inappropriate, you are vulnerable--and good root or not (one or two legs), you lose.

So it is not the "style" and it's mechanics, or outside visual shape, but rather the theory that makes TTC successful. One leg, two legs, 50/50, 100/0, 90/10, 70/30, doesn't matter. Weighting depends on the circumstances. One of the keys of movement is yin within yang, yang within yin, otherwise there is stagnancy. To me, that is what double weighting is all about.

Much of the Not feeling "light or agile" comes from previous methods. It is different, I understand. Remember that the key is that these "stances" and weightings are transitional--they are not a fixed point in time. Misunderstanding may come from when is and what is a "posture"? Not knowing what other styles you are coming from so it is hard to comment on specifics.

Put away your fears about accepting and redirecting any incoming force from a "70/30", it works really well. And most often if one needs to move to accomplish that (defensively speaking), one probably is "late" already. If I am in a "forward" stance---bow stance, the "energy" from each leg is opposing the other, so to move I simply empty one or the other and adjust. If for example in Rollback when I am "helping" the opponent to my left---as I shift my weight into my back leg it is a simple thing to step around behind him with my front leg as I turn and direct him around and into the ground. His energy is no longer a threat so my movement could be termed "appropriate"...if necessary. The same holds true concerning movement within any "posture", forward or rearward, offensively or defensively.

And lastly, in any real situation our movements will rarely mirror the gross shapes found in the set. The shapes are taught to learn principles. I doubt that I would ever find myself in an extended Bow stance, more likely it will be from something more upright and shallow. The weighting may still hold true however and it will be quicker and smaller.

I expect that everything I may have said you already know, forgive me for that, but don't worry about any built in vulnerabilties in this style. Give it time.

In all my ramblings, I hope I touched on a few of your concerns.



[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 11-18-2002).]
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Nov 19, 2002 11:21 pm

Thank you Michael, what you say does make sense.
I was reading a different thread on this website and have seen much the same things expressed in different ways.
For clarity of our discussion I guess it can't hurt to admit I studied primarily Wu style. I took instruction directly from the Wu family and thier disciples and I guess it went to my head or something. I seem to have fallen into the trap of being "closed minded" to something new because of my arrogance after having achieved some "success" in that other school.
Previous to that I took Yang style for a couple of years, a "different" Yang style. The lineage of what I learned there, to say the least, is questionable. It did seem to have all the basics, but I don't know if the school had any kind of familial affiliation or was just a guy who learned it somewhere and was teaching. I have since found that his form was very authentic, so he wasn't a total hack, but that's all I do know for sure.
That school closed and I found a newly opened Wu's Tai Chi Chuan Academy in my town. I went and that's where I found out that there were Taiji "families" and that not all Taiji is the same.
The emphasis, though, in both places was on the 100/0 weight seperation and I got my brain wrapped around that and haven't seemed to be able to let it go.
However, what everyone is saying makes SO much sense I can't believe I didn't see it before.
These 70/30, 90/10, 100/0 discussions....
They are not valid.
I see that now, like someone hit me upside the head with a large hammer and said "Look, you moron!"
These are "static" poses that you have the weight seperaton in, not the "form".
From that I guess the only question is, at what point in the transfer of weight do you "stop" and check to see where you are?
If you are going to stop and check your weight distribution, do you do it at 100/0, 90/10, 70/30, 60/40, 50/50?
These are all valid points in the form of any style. Every one of these degrees of seperation happens no matter what "style" you practice. In the Wu form, there are 70/30 seperations, it's just that you don't stop there to check them. You wait until you are fully 100/0, then you stop and look at yourself and do an evaluation to be sure where you are is correct.
The "point" of the 70/30 seperation is there, it happens, it's just not where you stop to check your form IN THAT STYLE.
I guess it's just a matter of "point of view". Each family or style having their way of teaching and their own theories as to what is the "best" way to go.
So I guess I got my answer! I KNEW it, somewhere in the back of my head, I just didn't follow it out to the logical conclusion until prompted by intelligent posters on this web site!
Thank you people for getting my head out of my arse and helping me see the light!
As I said, my previous instructors would push or kick or hit me at different times, they did not wait until I was 100/0, they just picked a point in my form and applied force. It was up to me to accept that force and re-direct it, no matter WHAT my weight distribution was at that moment.
I even reached the point of instructing beginners myself and STILL didn't catch on.
I can see that now, but had been so focused on a clear 100/0 distribution, that I hadn't considered that's "ideal" for Wu style training, not a "real world" way to apply it.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the dogma, we lose sight of what's important.
Hey, it took me six years of doing NO training before I got my head out of my rear end enough to admit that any traditional style of Taiji training was better than none and got out and found my current teacher.
This guy is STILL putting up with my stupidity and hard headedness after a year. If THAT doesn't tell me what a great instructor he is, I can't think of what would.
I've said it before, I am now doubly blessed. I have found TWO different, totally legitmate Taijiquan schools that are willing to train me.
I'm glad I also found a very patient and understanding teacher to help me through my own stupidity.
So a word to him:
THANKS BILL!
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Postby Michael » Wed Nov 20, 2002 4:21 pm

Wushuer,

Know when you know something, better yet, know when you don't. I "know" how easy it is to get your brain locked into somethng. Can't get any more "normal" than that---for a human being that is. You are far, far from being a "moron". "My hats off to you"!

"I am still learning." (Ancora Imparo) If I stop, I had better be dead.
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Nov 20, 2002 10:52 pm

I learned a great expression from the Wu schools. I have no idea who to attribute it to originally. It does, however have a very to the point application here:
The more I know, the more I know that I don't know.

I will try to keep that FIRMLY in mind in future.

Michael,
Thank you for your kind words.
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Postby Audi » Sun Dec 01, 2002 3:18 pm

Hi Wushuer and Michael,

Wushuer, first let me say that from what you state and how you state it, I think your experience and abilities clearly surpass mine. As I result, what I am going to try to put forward below could not possibly be “instructions,” but rather simply my take on things. If I could show you face to face what I mean, I think it would take all of five-to-ten minutes. In writing, it takes me a lot longer to do a lot less.

I would also like to say that a lot of my ideas come from things I have read by Zhang Yun, who, if I recall correctly, states that his style of Taijiquan is Northern Wu, coming through Quan Yu. Judging by the pictures in his sword book, his external postures have little in common with what I have been taught; nevertheless, most of the principles he states in that book and those he has described in various articles on line and in Tai Chi Magazine speak very eloquently to me. I feel he could be in my body describing what I feel is important to me about my Yang Style forms.

I can certainly understand how you might have confusion between your Wu Style form and your Yang Style form. In light of my earlier posts, I want to make clear that I am not asserting that such confusion means any necessary conflict between core principles. I, for one, get confused between the Yangs’ 103-posture form and their 49-posture form, but would not, of course, assert any conflict in principles.

Similarly, I know that some Yang Stylists use a rear foot angle of 60 degrees, rather than the 45 degrees taught by Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun. I think that most people would not advocate simultaneously training both ways for any sustained period of time, but would not imagine that choosing one practice or the other, or even mixing the two would represent any significant conflict in Taiji principles.

Gene also briefly mentioned the Wu Ji Jing Gong of William Ting. I agree with him that the form of that style has a very different look from Yang Style. Even so, my little exposure to that style has illuminated my Yang Style practice, and I find very little different about the internal principles I can discern, except for an emphasis on Silk Reeling. I certainly have felt much more kinship with their theories than I have with the Taijiquan practiced by some others who describe themselves as Yang Stylists.


Single Weighting Versus Double Weighting

Here are my current working hypotheses:

· Weighting is connected with the concepts of solidity (or being substantial/full/etc. (“Shi”)) and emptiness (being “insubstantial” (“Xu”)).

· Solidity and emptiness are relative terms for Taijiquan theory, not absolute ones. (I have philosophical reasons for this view, as well as reasons based purely on my limited understanding of modern Chinese grammar and educated guesses I can make about Classical Chinese grammar. It is not an issue of dictionary meaning.)

· Solidity and emptiness both exist simultaneously in any context as a philosophical law of nature that needs no “help” from our minds or bodies.

· Having solidity in emptiness and vice versa is not a choice to be made, but a reality to be understood and incorporated into one’s thinking.

· Although we cannot affect the existence of solidity or emptiness in any context, we can come to understand their relationship to each other and control this relationship to the extent it is relevant for martial or health purposes.

· All traditional Taijiquan requires that we “Fen xu shi.” Some practitioners interpret this to mean: “Separate those things that are solid from those things that are empty.” I personally do not have this view of the Yangs’ teaching, since it implies that some things or activities can be entirely solid or entirely empty and that physical separation is the goal. I prefer a meaning like: “Discriminate the solid from the empty” or “Discriminate what is solid from what is empty.” (By the way, although I am quibbling about meaning, I am not arguing here about the merits of one particular translation over another, for that involves other matters.)

· The concept of “Double weighting” or “Doubling up” comes from two Chinese characters. The second of these two characters has two slightly different meanings that have different pronunciations depending on which meaning is meant (“shuang zhong” vs. “shuang chong”). The context in which the Taiji classics use the characters is not clear enough to determine which pronunciation or meaning is meant, and so oral teaching and reasoning must be relied upon. Regardless of which interpretation is used, more than pure percentages of body weight must be involved, if the theory is to include upper body movements and to changes in the legs over time.

· Traditional Taijiquan teaches to avoid “double weighting” or “doubling up.” To learn how to do this, some teachers favor specializing the function of corresponding body parts in both the upper and lower body. Some teachers ignore the upper body. Some teachers favor trying always to root through one leg at a time or primarily through one leg at a time.

· The Yangs favor rooting through both legs whenever possible and have arranged the movements in the postures to minimize the necessity of generating significant power while only one foot is in contact with the ground.

· All styles of traditional Taijiquan contain postures that culminate with body weight on both legs and postures that culminate with the body weight on a single leg. Based on this, I believe that neither type of posture exemplifies a necessary core principle of Taijiquan.

If any of these hypotheses give you or anyone else major heartburn, please let me know.


Practical Thoughts:

I think the Yangs’ basic idea is that two legs are better than one and that power should be generated at all times by both legs if at all possible. In some movements, arm movements are “delayed” until both feet have time to root (e.g., Diagonal Flying and Repulse Monkey.) In reality, the arm movements are not actually delayed, but rather segmented: i.e., one thing is done while the stepping foot is in the air, and another is done after the stepping foot has had an opportunity to root.

I more or less agree with what Michael stated in his post. I think one of the reasons that what he stated sounded inconsistent with your experience is that the two of you are describing different types of posture testing. What the Yangs seem to favor is testing a posture in a static way that does not allow the student the opportunity to neutralize the force through movement.

One of the scenes that occasionally pops up on the homepage, as Jerry has recently designed it, shows Yang Zhenduo pushing on the hands of a student who appears to have reached the culmination of the Push posture. If I read the scene correctly, the purpose of the testing was probably to see if the student’s arms or legs would collapse against sustained pressure along the path the “jin” is supposed to take. In such a situation, standing on one leg is simply insufficient to hold a posture against someone pushing (or pulling) with both legs firmly on the ground. Two legs are simple more powerful and more stable than one leg.

On a different note, one thing that it took me several years to realize was that the Yangs seem to segment the possibilities of shifting body mass to a much finer degree than I had realized. As you know, quite often, postures are articulated by changes in the type of energy manifested. In the form the Yangs teach, these changes seem to correspond to multiple leg positions. Something that may help you keep your styles separate is to make sure that you have a separate purpose or even a separate upper body movement for each of the movement segments I am going to lay out below.

Below is what I understand the practices to be. These are my words based on what I have seen the Yangs teach and obviously have no authority. I have never heard the Yangs or any of the Yang center directors articulate a generally theory of “segmented” stepping, but am simply playing out what I believe to be the implications of how form is actually taught:

For forward steps into bow stances, there seem generally to be six positions. The end points of these positions are defined by: (1) moving the body mass slightly rearward, (2) returning the body mass forward as the front foot pivots, (3) allowing the body mass to rotate as your rear toes and heel successively leave the ground and the foot is brought inward to central equilibrium, (4) stretching the steeping foot forward to have the heel touch (generally without rotation of the body mass), (5) rotating the body mass and shifting it slightly forward to fully flatten the foot, but without straightening the forward knee, and (6) shifting the body mass (with or without further rotation) further forward in order to bend the forward knee and to end up with 60% of the weight on the forward foot.

For forward steps into empty stances (“xu shi bu”), the last three movements are replaced by extending the heel or ball of the stepping foot forward and touching the ground and then using the back leg to thrust about 30% of the weight forward, while keeping the forward knee relatively straight and extended.

For the backward steps of Repulse Monkey, I believe there are four positions. The respective end points are as follows: when (1) 100% of the body weight is shifted rearward while the front toes raise up slightly, but the front heel remains in contact with the ground, (2) the front foot is withdrawn to central equilibrium and then stretched rearward to have the toes touch in back of the body, (3) the heel of the rear foot touches to flatten the foot and to root the entire leg, and (4) 60 % (I am unsure of the percentage) of the weight is shifted to the rear as the front foot realigns its angle.

For backward steps into empty stances, there seem to be four different phases. The ending points of these phases successively occur when (1) the toe of the stepping foot touches, (2) the heel touches, (3) a large portion (60%?), but not all, of the weight is thrusted rearward, (4) the toes of the front foot are lifted off the ground and the remainder of the weight (100%) is shifted rearward, and (5) the toes or heel of the front foot are placed on the ground (with the knee extended) and receive 30% of the body weight as the rear leg thrusts.

The number of the “leg position” I have described is often modified to suit the sequence of particular postures. I am just trying to show the extent of the general possibilities and have probably been inaccurate in doing even this. I do want to assert, however, that this type of segmentation seems to be present in all movements, but is not often very obvious to the eye.

Usually the energy imparted to the arms by the various segments “overlaps” somewhat. The Yangs do not do form in a jerky or robotic way. I only began to notice the segmentation I am describing after Yang Jun called explicit attention to this sort of phenomenon at a saber seminar I attended. You could probably make use of this type of segmentation without fellow students in your class even noticing you were doing anything different.

Sometimes there is no change in the energy used, as one segment blends into the next; in fact, most of the postures do not really have different arm positions for each of the segments. Even so, there is always a subtle difference that a close observer can see.

Postures where I think it pays to look for “hidden” matches between arm motions and the different leg positions include: Brush Knee and Twist Step, Single Whip, two of the four repetitions of Fair Lady Works the Shuttles, Lifting Hands, White Crane Spreads Wings, Needle at Sea Bottom, Step up to Seven Stars, Flying Diagonal, Repulse Monkey, Fist Under Elbow, Play the Guitar, and Step Back to Ride the Tiger. Usually the hidden match corresponds to either when the foot is flattened or when weight is shifted to the front leg of an empty stance. Sometimes what is hidden is that significant power is not generated until both feet clearly and firmly root.

On one occasion, Yang Jun described failing to move weight forward at the culmination of an empty stance as failing to “finish the posture.” As he demonstrated this, it looked to me that he felt he could not complete his arm motion unless he shifted weight forward. At least a portion of his arm motion (or even a different motion) seemed to be always reserved for the slight forward shift of the weight.

Although I have talked mainly about shifting the weight backward and forward, let me mention that the Yangs also seem to care about vertical shifts. Where postures culminate on one leg, the Yangs always have a vertical shift of weight that is accomplished by straightening the standing leg. This usually corresponds to a dedicated arm movement or energy. The subsequent lowering of the body mass also usually has a purpose, or rather an association with a specific arm movement or energy.

Lastly, in the Sword Form, let me add that there is one posture where there is no change in posture, but there are nonetheless two shifts of weight that are “hidden.” In Waiting for the Fish, the weight is shifted slightly backward and then returned forward to correspond to a circular swinging of the sword along the left side of the body.

In one of his posts, Jerry related a little about Yang Jun seeing certain joint movements as if they were parts of interlocking gears. If you add this idea to my descriptions, you can get an idea of how all the subtle forward and backward weight shifts can link up with upper body movements. If someone does Yang Chengfu’s form without these, it will appear to many students of the Yangs as if their joint “gears” are slipping or as if “upper” and “lower” are not in sync. This is particularly obvious if you employ empty stances that end in 100/0 percentages of weight. You will appear either to move your arms prematurely to the correct point or to fail to move them enough. The following movement will also appear “off,” since you will have no weight to shift backward to “power” the next arm movement.

In closing, let me say that I view Taiji form practice as a compromise between various goals. I do not believe there are any universal solutions, only different training strategies. I cannot and would not say that the way the Yangs do form is the only correct one. At the same time, I am wary of assuming that all compromises necessarily arrive at the same results. For several years, I did a YCF form where all the bow stances ended with weight in both legs and equal rooting, but where the empty stances ended with all the weight in one leg, and unequal rooting. I value what I learned by this practice, but believe it do be a different way of relating to my body mass than what I have learned through the Yangs form.

Let me know if any of this helps.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Dec 03, 2002 4:45 pm

Audi,
Wow.
Now there's some detail for me.
Unfortunately I don't have the time at this moment to give your post as thorough a read as it deserves, though I will ASAP.
It seems to me that what you are saying (quick read assimilation only, I may be off) is that these subtle shifts of weight with the corresponding arm movments are a core element in the YCF form.
If this is your contention, I would have to agree.
These particular shifts are inherent in all family style forms I have observed and they are part of the "flow" of the postures not always apparent to beginners. The "body mechanics" I discussed earlier from a different point of view, I think.
It is just RE-dawning on me, now that I am studying another style, to pay close attention to the correlation between hand movement, leg movements, tantien shifts and total weight shifts in the forms.
I had learned the subtler Wu style weight transfers and body alignments to the point of not thinking much about them anymore. I had them down in my form and I then completely "forgot" them in any conscious capacity.
It is in teaching these forms to others that we realise how important these subtle shifts and co-ordination of movements are.
Or, in my case, by learning a different form where the subtle shifts are in different places.
I have just begun to grasp the idea of the weight shifts and hand, tantien, foot co-ordinations in YCF style that I have unconsciously performed for over a decade in Wu style.

I will re-read your post and evealuate the different steps as you describe them with great care, as soon as I can.
That pesky work thing is getting in my way right now, though.
You'd think these guys pay me to do work or somethi....
Oh, yeah. They do.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Dec 05, 2002 11:05 pm

Audi,
You seem to have covered all the bases of the YCF steps fairly well. I went over every type of step as you've described them, doing the forms and breaking down the steps as you've described, and I think your post here should be required reading. You've broken the steps down wonderfully into their seperate components.
And proven to me, at least, that Wu style stepping is MUCH less complicated.
At least in Wu style, you're 100/0, and as long as that's how you are, you're correct pretty much every time. This 70/30, 60/40, 90/10 stuff is making me crazy. There's SO much to remember.
It's also a lot of fun!
I can add nothing to what you have written about the movements in the steps, and have no insights into the subtleties of YCF style arm and tantien co-ordination, as I'm not far enough up the food chain in this style yet to say definitively one way or the other.
Now..
As for Wu style. That I can speak to.
Wu style steps are broken down much more easily.
Forward steps are made by adjusting the positioning of your foot as you step. There is no "giving back" of weight between the legs to make a step. If you're stepping into a posture that requires your toes to be 45 degrees to each other, you step into the posture with your toes at 45 degrees, mostly.
Sometimes you also adjust the positioning of your positive leg by simply moving the toe, without giving back so much as one iota of weight to your negative leg. An example of this is during "diagonal brush knee and push" from the Wu form. You are 100% on the left leg, you turn your tantien and you shift 100% of your weight to the left heel, lifting the toe very slightly, all simultaneously, while you spin on your heel and then set your right foot down in it's correct position before going into the brush knee and push aspect of this posture.
Backward steps are much the same.
You also can adjust your back foot through a process described to me as "dragging your toe" to that angle during the execution of the form.
An example of "dragging your toe" is during the transition between "white crane spreads wings" and "left brush knee and push". You start out on your right leg, take a clear step 90 degrees to your left, your right toe is pointing straight ahead at this point, you turn your tantien to face left, moving your arms into position for your brush and push, then shift your weight into your left leg, emptying the right leg completely. While doing this, your right toe is "drug" forward from it's current 90 degree position to your left foot, coming to rest at a 45 degree angle.
This "drag" happens frequently in the Wu form. If you are going to set your toe to 45 degrees other than that, it's a definite part of your step into the form and is set before any weight shift takes place.
You do not "give weight back" at any time.
At no time do you bring your negative leg back to your center before stepping anywhere in the Wu forms, either. You step clearly and cleanly to a channel at all times. Bringing your negative foot back to your center was considered a waste of time and effort by my teachers, something that would seriously impare your ability to apply your postures martially. In fact, when we got new students in with any Yang experience, it was one of the hardest things we had to break them of doing. Much like my "lean" in the postures doing YCF style. I find myself often skipping this in my steps while doing YCF style and have to correct myself, or be corrected by my instructor.

I hope I described this clearly enough.
In other words, you use the weight shift itself, along with tantien turns, to "drag" your toe to a 45 degree bow-stance in your back leg, during the movement and part of it.

Hope this helped to clarify why I get so confused by the differences in weight distribution during the YCF forms? There are none during the Wu forms I'm used to.
If my descriptions of these foot movements is not clear, as it may not be, I will be glad to try and describe it in clearer terms. If anyone is still interested, that is.
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Postby DavidJ » Fri Dec 06, 2002 7:01 pm

Hi Audi, Wushuer,

Good descriptions from both of you.

Audi, your breakdown of the coordination has helped me better understand how the timing rules apply to each and every move, that is to say, how the overall timing rules apply in individual cases. Also it supplied a larger context for variations. Needless to say, good post.

Wushuer, There have been discussions here in the past about weighted and unweighted pivots, which might be hard to ferret out of the archive. Anyway, "White Crane, is an interesting study as I have seen more variations for this movement than just about any other movement.

In the Yang long form as performed by Tung Kai Ying the initial step out isn't 90 degrees (from the facing of the final posture), but closer to 60 or 70 degrees, and there is a right foot pivot while shifting the weight to the right leg, which closes the angle to between 45 and 60 degrees.

Also, some Yang styles, like what Master Tung teaches, have both weighted and unweighted pivots, so it isn't an either/or proposition, but both.

My point is that you don't have to "correct" or unlearn the weighted pivots that you do, but add the unweighted pivots to your repertoire.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Wushuer » Fri Dec 06, 2002 10:20 pm

David,
Yes, I see what you are saying. I like having a large variety of ways to change positions.
My problem is, I run the two styles together when I'm doing them and I don't want to. I do it without thining about it, mostly, and consider that a bad habit.
In the Yang 13 posture form, there is a point at which I seem psychologically incapable of NOT using the Wu style weighted pivot.
I think it's called "turn body, chop with fist" and I incorrectly do the weighted pivot on my left leg and then step, just about every time. You're supposed to do a "giving back" from your left to your right, adjust your left toe, then "give back" all to the left, then step. In class, I was frequently pivoted, stepped and half way through chopping before the rest of the class had stepped. It got to be embarressing.
I don't mean to. I try very hard to do it the correct YCF way. But the movement is so close in every way to a standard transitional move that goes through the entire Wu form, that I find myself pivoted and set before I remember I'm supposed to do it another way.
For now, I am going to work very hard to keep these styles of Taiji seperate. I want to learn to do each properly for itself, before I run them together in any way.
I feel it is a bit arrogant on my part to try and change anything in these forms.
I won't be to that point in my training for a long, long time. If ever.
But I am enjoying the challenge of being "multi-styled" for now. It keeps me honest.
Plus I get to compare the two.
Having just had the opportunity to do some free style sparring with some old Wu style friends of mine, I can tell you that YCF style has some advantages in it.
I was able to apply some of the YCF theories in my free style, with some pretty effective results.
For one thing, "giving back" the weight to shift throws off the Wu guys who aren't expecting it. It's a great way to get them to overreact to a weight shift on your part.
Remember, these guys have really only ever pushed hands or sparred with other Wu stylists. So there's none of that "give back" to shift in their cirriculum. I was using it to mis-direct them to where they thought I was going next. I would "give back" they would try to follow, and then I wuold shift completely the other way. It was beautiful.
It also is pretty effective against an opponents "fade". He thinks you're committing to one foot, as you would if you were using strictly Wu style, so he "fades" away from your expected movement, but you're really just shifting, so you can catch him out if he follows your initial "give" instead of listening for where you're really going.
It's more of a flaw on their part, then any skill on mine. They were not used to me moving in these ways, but instead of listening and following, they were anticipating. Their anticipation was their downfall.
It got them all thinking, that's for sure. And made this old man, who hasn't pushed hands in six years much less done free style, look like he kept it up pretty well during the break.
So you can see why I'm intrigued by the differences in the styles. I think it is going to be very, very good for me to get proficient in both styles.
Hey, Yang Lu Chan, Yang Ban Hou, Yang Shoa Hoa, all of them did "large frame" and "small frame" Taijiquan. Now, I will too.
There is a lot to learn from both.


[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 12-06-2002).]
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Postby Audi » Thu Dec 19, 2002 4:59 am

Wushuer (and everyone),

Let me add a little to my earlier comments, since I think I may have left room for some incorrect impressions. Based on what you have said, it seems clear to me that your Wu Style and my Yang Style have different emphases and different training methods, but I am not certain that they amount to different principles for push hands or for fighting.

In laying out all of the stepping segments in my earlier post, I am not so much trying to describe a particular type of Yang Style stepping method as to lay out how granular one’s feeling of each component of a step must be. Each component is important in itself. The importance and purpose of the component varies from posture to posture.

Ordinary walking involves a very detailed sequence of joint movements that we are more or less unaware of and that millions of years of evolution have made more or less automatic. My view is that Yang Style stepping ultimately differs from this only in one fundamental way: ordinary walking usually maximizes unconscious conservation of “rolling” momentum, whereas Yang Style walking focuses on conscious control over how the joints in the legs control the body mass. Everything else should simply come naturally.

By conscious control, I mean that in the normal barehand form, your method of walking, independent of your level of skill, should exhibit total control over your entire body. If someone touched you at any point in the form, you could immediately freeze every joint in your body for four or five seconds and then resume your form at the same pace and with the same effect. The spins and Lotus Kick are exceptions to this.

Such total control is impossible if you use even slight momentum to power your movements, especially during transitions. In controlling your movements, my understanding is that you must try to use your legs to “power” even the slightest movements of your body where possible. The “gear ratios” you use are variable, but the source of the power is not. When a snake writhes, everywhere it contacts the ground is in movement and affecting every other part of its body simultaneously. This is the type of movement I am trying to describe. Once one reaches a certain level of feel for this type of movement, momentum can be gradually reintroduced into one’s training as an adjunct of the power, but never as its essential component.

An ankle never bends without that movement affecting your entire body mass, and vice versa. The two legs form two ends of a bow, where possible. Using only one leg to do something to your body, implies cutting the bow into two uncoordinated pieces that can no longer form “one Qi.” Flexing one leg “bow” would not automatically flex the other. The two legs should combine to perform two aspects of a single action, not two separate actions that can be thought of as separate components of “a posture.”

From this perspective, my opinion is that in the Traditional Yang Style taught by the Yangs, you almost never keep a leg “ready” to do something. Instead, it is always actively doing something in a very physical sense. Usually the leg is doing something to your body mass that leverages your arms in a certain way that manifests itself as movement energy in the hands. The way the Yangs do form rarely seems to allow a leg to be a bystander to actions taken by the arms. I especially like what Michael mentioned about some martial arts using stances as platforms for arm movements rather than as fundamental parts of them.

Michael also mentioned that transferring some weight to the front foot in empty stances can allow one to really “crank down” in some postures. I agree with this statement, but want to amplify on it a bit, since someone coming from another style might understand it in more than one way. It is not merely weight in the front foot that generates the power, or even the process of transferring weight, since weight can be transferred by various mechanisms, such as leaning the torso. It is the fact that the ankle, knee, and hip joints of the back leg are “flexing” like a bow in a way that causes the ankle, knee, and hip joints of the front leg also to flex. In order for the two legs to exhibit a unified energy that is bow-like and resilient, both “ends” of the “bow” must be rooted. It is difficult to string only one end of the bow and expect the bow to store or deliver much power as a bow.

I have read and heard that one of the energies of traditional Yang Style Taijiquan that is especially prominent compared with other styles is Peng Jin. It is easier to train and exhibit this energy in the feet when both are firmly planted.


Wushuer, you mentioned difficulty in remembering to differentiate YCF-Style Chop with Fist and Wu-Style Chop with Fist. I am sure you are humbly exaggerating your difficulty to make a point, but I wanted to ask a question and make a few comments.

First, do you really do this movement in your Wu Style form with 100% weight in the left leg? I can easily see how one might do it with 60 or 70% of the weight, but 100% would seem strange to me. If I recall correctly, David has described pivots in previous postings where the left leg in this posture would acquire more weight during the pivot, but would not take place with 100% of the weight.

I also know that Wu Yuxiang Stylists sometimes reorient their Empty Stances by putting their front foot briefly on the ground and quickly pivoting on the back leg. Is this the sort of thing you mean? In my terminology, this type of movement necessarily involves a double weight shift, even if a momentary and slight one. By the way, the form the Yangs teach does not have this sort of movement pattern.

In talking about keeping styles separate, one thing that might help is to focus on whatever you have been told about the purposes behind the different movements. When I have studied with teachers with great differences in method, I have usually noticed that they focus on very different principles. In laying out some of the segments I see in the stepping patterns, I was attempting to give you possible hooks for your mind. With such hooks, it might make new patterns come more alive in their own right, rather than feeling like unnecessary variations on a single theme your body and unconscious mind tell you you already now.

To take Chop with fist as an example, I will lay out below one scenario that might justify the particular weight shifts taught by the Yangs. Before giving details, let me say that the sort of speculation I am about to engage in can occur at several levels. In one of his books or essays, Zhang Yun (who should not be confused with Yang Jun) relates a saying about Taijiquan that goes something like this: "Keep the principle of Taiji in one’s head, the Ba Gua in one’s hands and arms, and the Wu Xing in the legs and feet." By these, he is referring respectively to the unifying principle of Taiji underlying the theory of Taijiquan, the eight principal energies of Taijiquan, and the five principal “steps.” I find it more helpful to think about applications in these terms than to think of them in merely mechanical ones.

I have talked to some people who seem to see Chop with Fist as an application in which one turns around to face an opponent as quickly as possible and then launches a rapid back fist followed by a palm strike. All the weight shifts, pivots, and preliminary arm movements are viewed more or less as preparation for this.

Although I think the sequence the Yangs teach can be seen in this way, I find it more helpful to break the movements down further. In my mind, none of the segments is strictly necessary and all can be altered, shortened, or abandoned to suit the circumstances. In other words, I view the sequence somewhat elastically and schematically, and not so much as a fused unit to be followed slavishly.

Here is the vision of Chop with Fist I am proposing. After completing Fan Through the Back, imagine you have just dispatched one opponent and have your maximum Yang aspect facing the east. Now you sense another opponent out of the corner of your eye, closing from the west.

Your Fajin to the east has opened up a slight space behind you, but left you vulnerable to attack from the rear, where you have your maximum Yin aspect. You have multiple vulnerabilities: you are not in contact with this rear attacker, have your weight misplaced with respect to him/her, and have your right side open and exposed. You are especially vulnerable to being tackled around the torso or punched in the ribs or right kidney.

Since you cannot yet see clearly to your rear and are not sure how much time you have, you make no preparatory movements. The first thing you do is try to connect with your opponent using Kao (“shoulder stroke” or “bump”). Without a connection, you cannot use your Taiji skills of sticking, adhering, linking, and following. You also want to have spare capacity in your left leg so that you have greater ability to yield if the opponent crashes into you.

You prepare to do Kao by circulating the energy back out of the Fan Through the Back and shifting weight rearward and westward, i.e., toward your opponent. You add a body rotation to add some defense in your offensive movement. If you are very late and the opponent seizes you bodily, you use Kao energy to try to use the bulk of your body to throw your opponent off to the right. If you are late, but not so late, you can add the point of the elbow to your turn and catch your opponent in the head, face, shoulder, or ribs.

If you are not late, but still pressed, you follow the actual sequence in the form and use Zhou (elbow) energy to connect with your opponent and keep more lines of defense between you and him/her. At this point, the opponent is punching with his/her left fist to your previously open ribs and/or abdomen, so you do Zhou by connecting with your right forearm to the opponent’s left forearm.

After connecting, you can now yield with your whole body by shifting your body weight rearward and eastward into your left leg. During the yield, you dissipate the opponent’s punch by pressing downward and opening up space. You also try to uproot him/her or open him/her up to a “counterattack” that would involve following any withdrawal of his or her left arm.

You now have Jin stored in your left leg to use in the same way you would if you had originally performed the “quick” weighted pivot after Fan Through the Back.

Again, I do not believe any of these segments need be completed in their entirety. I see the direction of the energy and of the weight shifts as being more important that then amount. All in all, I believe that one simply tries to connect and follow and to allow the opponent to “dictate” how the action will unfold. I see the form as simply teaching how to circulate, transform, and apply Jin even under the difficult circumstances of opponents coming from opposite directions.

Take care,
Audi
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