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Translations/Abstracts by Wu Ta-Yeh and Wu Teng Shu-Hsien

Taijiquan Tutelage of Palo Alto Logo

By Wu Ta-yeh and Wu Teng Shu-Hsien
(May 1979 in T'ai Chi magazine)

In the last issue of T’AI CHI we have explained the difference between the strength applied at the two legs and the body weight from gravitation born by the two legs.

There are other queries on Tung Ying-chieh’s following statements which were translated in the January-February issue of 1978.

"In a forward posture when the front leg is bent, some persons consider the front leg firm (Yang) and the rear leg light (Yin). This is wrong. Try to stand with your front leg firm and your rear leg light, and hit your opponent with a fist or palm. Can you stand stably? Is your attack effective? ...

"In a stable posture, when both legs support your weight, neither foot should be light. If there is any difference, the rear leg may be firmer in most cases, with the front foot lighter. This is so because strength starts from the rear foot. It is only after the front toes are turned sidewise to prepare for a forward step that the front leg becomes really firm."

The criticism is on two aspects: (1) If neither foot is light, the stance falls into the pitfall of double heaviness. (2) In a forward stance, the front foot should always be firmer and the rear foot lighter.

In the last issue of T’AI CHI, it has been explained that what Tung meant by lightness and firmness at the legs is the strength applied there. If each leg applies no less than 50 per cent of its potential strength, both legs are not light. But the firmness of the two legs may not be the same, and therefore the stance may not result in double heaviness.

When you stand with one foot at the front and one foot at the rear, you always apply more strength at the rear leg to shift the position of your torso. You apply strength to stretch the rear leg to shift the torso forward and apply strength to bend the rear leg to shift the torso rearward.

For stationary forward postures, we may examine the photographs of Yang Cheng-fu, whose style dominates both inside and outside China.

Whenever Yang bends his front knee to press forward his palm or palms, his trunk is invariable forward inclined, forming a straight line with his rear thigh, at the angle of about 60 degrees with the ground. (See Yang’s photographs in "Application of Taichichuan" by Yang Cheng-fu and Tung Ying-chieh, 1931.) The forward inclination of Wu Chen-chuan, whose style is only next to that of Yang Cheng-fu in its popularity, is even more, up to 45 degrees with the ground.

In these postures, if you stand limply without applying strength, the front leg bears a larger proportion of your body weight. But if you apply dynamic strength for attacking with your palms, the more powerful forward strength must be generated from the rear leg, transmitted through the inclined straight line to your back and forearms. The front knee is not bent too much forward to that strength may be applied at that leg for its serving as a brake to prevent you from stumbling forward. When strength is applied in this way, both legs are not light. Yet the amount of strength and the direction it is applied at the two legs are not the same. Thus there is no double heaviness.

The authors have asked students in their classes to do two experiments:

Experiment I. Taking a fairly long stance like Yang Cheng-fu’s, the students first (A) apply more strength at the front leg to press (an) upon their partner; and then (B) apply more strength at the rear leg, with the front leg serving as a brake.

They found that they have less forward pressing strength in (A) than in (B). The difference is even greater if they apply both the forward strength and the braking strength at the front leg. If they do not apply the braking strength, they stumble forward in (A) when their partners suddenly withdraw their strength.

Experiment II. Doing continuously the rightward and leftward postures of "brush knee and press with palm" and "wild horse parts its manes," the students first do not apply forward strength at their rear legs so that more strength is needed at the front leg to support body weight. This way, they must bend rear legs to shift their trunks rearward before they can turn the front toes sidewise for making forward steps. Let us call this alternative A. Then, they use the front leg as a brake. Now, they can easily apply more stretching strength at the rear legs to twist their hips and front knees sidewise to turn out the front toes. They do not need to shift the trunk rearward before stepping forward. Let us call this alternative B. A difference they noticed is that while strength and movement are interrupted in applying method A, strength is smoothly continued with method B.

The need of a larger strength at the rear leg for effective forward pressure may be illustrated by pushing a stalled car. With a large resistance of the heavy car, which cannot move except with your own force, you do not need the braking strength at the front leg. When larger forward strength is generated from the rear leg, you have the maximum pushing power. It is only after your rear leg becomes almost straight and you start to raise the rear foot for stepping forward that the strength from the front leg takes over to continue pushing the car. This illustrates Tung’s point that, in Taichichuan, it is "only after the front toes are turned sidewise to prepare for a forward step that the front foot becomes really firm." In pushing a car forward, you do not shift your trunk rearward before stepping forward either.

From the above, it is obvious that larger relative strength at the rear leg is consistent to strength application, continuity of energy, smoothness of movement, flexibility, and agility.

Revised: 6/4/00
Copyright © 2001