Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thoughts on Double Weighting

A friend of mine from my original NYC Taiji class was in the Bay Area and stopped by TToPA for a visit. Lincoln came on a night where we had Taiji instruction in the first class - covering Cloud Hands - followed by an open class where we did some basic two-person drills and a bit of free-style. It was great to have Lincoln visit and he seemed to have enjoyed himself as well.

While he and I were discussing some of the differences between the way the form is taught at the two schools, Lincoln observed that at TToPA, our archer stance is not nearly as front-weighted as taught by Master Chen and he asked if that caused any problems with double weighting.

Double weighting is discussed in the Taiji classics - students are admonished to avoid it otherwise they will not progress beyond the beginning stages - but it's never actually defined clearly, which leaves it open to interpretation. When I first heard the term, I thought it simply meant that you should never have weight on both legs at the same time (and I have read a number of interpretations that say just that) but that definition avoids the points that 1. you almost always have weight on both legs as you move from posture to posture (i.e. a large percentage of the time) and 2. even in styles that do have their archer stance weighted more towards the front, the distribution is still 70/30, which means that a non-trivial amount of weight is on the back leg.

My current understanding of double weighting is based on the following analogy: consider one of the postures where you are on one leg (e.g. White Crane Exposes Wing) - at this point think of that leg being filled to the top with water. As you transition from that leg to the other, it's like the water is pouring from the first leg to the second (it feels this way as the weight shifts). As long as you keep moving from posture to posture, the water keeps flowing from leg to leg.  Double weighting occurs when the flow of the movement is interrupted, which causes the water to collect separately at the bottom of each legs and makes you feel like your legs feel heavy - it takes effort (and time) to get them started moving again. That doesn't mean all movements have to occur at the same speed - you can speed up and slow down as long as the water continues to flow.

So, in response to Lincoln's question, my answer was that the weight distribution of the stance doesn't matter as long as the movement flows. That's my understanding at this point but I'm open to hearing other interpretations.