Basics of Double Heavy in Taijiquan


Basics of Double Heavy in Taijiquan

No concept in Yang Taijiquan has more confusion surrounding it than the concept of Double-Heavy. Much can be read about Double-Heavy in the classic Taiji writings. Much can be read but little understood. As with all Taiji concepts and principles, one must understand it before reading about it in the Taiji classics. Reading the Taiji classics without prior understanding will lead you miles in the wrong direction.

Another reason for the confusion surrounding Double-Heavy is that the Yang family spread misinformation about Double-Heavy to the public students of Yang Cheng-Fu, one of the greatest Taiji practitioners of all time. Since Yang family Taijiquan was one of the most secretive styles of martial arts in Chinese history they needed a way to appear to be teaching Taiji to public students but still ensure that they couldn’t possibly attain any level of real skill. In 1915, China was in a very impoverished state and many were hungry, including Yang Cheng-Fu. When he decided to teach his family’s secret martial art to the general public, there should have been serious repercussions with the older members of the Yang family but there were none. Of course, the Yang family would not really teach their secret art to the public. Yang Cheng-Fu told his public students that Double-Heavy meant having the weight evenly distributed between the feet. In other words, he taught that being in Zhong Ding (central earth) is an error. It is true that he never used those exact words but that’s what it boils down to.

Double-Heavy is the key to understanding Taiji because you cannot truly understand what Taiji is without first understanding what Taiji is not. This is why the misinformation about Double-Heavy worked so well to hide the secrets of Yang family Taiji.

We know that the Taiji classics tell us that Double-Heavy is an error and in actuality, you would have to look pretty hard to find an error in Taiji that does not stem from or lead one to Double-Heavy. So what is it?

The answer lies in the Taiji symbol...

Those little dots in either side of the symbol not only denote that there should be some Yang within the Yin and vice versa but also that there is a chunk of Yang missing from the Yang side ensuring that one cannot go to the extreme (on either side). If we do violate the properties of the Taiji symbol and go all the way Yang or all the way Yin then our symbol looks like this...

If our Taiji symbol has changed then so has our Taiji. It is no longer Taiji but instead it is Double-Heavy. How do we go to the extremes? There is a classic writing called “The Method of Achieving Perfect Clarity in Taiji” which explains the concept of Double-Heavy.

The second stanza will be sufficient for our explanation.

Leaning away is not correct, Butting in is not correct, Not leaning away and not butting in is correct.

So “leaning away” and “butting in” are the two extremes (the errors) and not moving all the way to the rear or all the way to the front are correct.
Yang JianHou explained this with an illustration of a bell. When inside a large bell, you may not touch the inside of the bell (going all the way to the extreme).

Notice that the man in the bell drawing has his ear lined up behind his front heel.

The traditional Yang family method for describing this concept utilizes a number system. Imagine “1” is your front foot and “5” is your back foot and “2”, “3” and “4” are in between your feet as you stand in Brush Knee. “1” and “5” are considered Double-Heavy. Having the weight all the way back in “5” is “leaning back” and having the weight all the way in “1” is “butting in”... both are Double-Heavy.
Now this is simply the structural explanation of the simplest level of Double-Heavy. The next level will challenge you a little more.

If you place your hands on the rear end of a vehicle and push, something very natural happens… your body creates an energetic pathway from the ground (at your rear foot) to your hands on the car. This is called a groundpath. It is completely natural for your body to do this and external martial arts use this natural path to maximize physical power into their punches and strikes.

In Yang taiji, however, we do not utilize this path at all. This path from the rear foot (#5) to the hand is the error of Double-Heavy (remember #1 and #5 are bad). Similarly, placing the front foot firmly into the floor and pulling something is also the error of Double-Heavy because the path from the front foot to the hand is called #1. So we see that occupying the space or utilizing the path of #1 or #5 is the error of Double-Heavy.

The Five Loosening Exercises of GM Huang (as taught by Shifu Adam Mizner) teach the body how to occupy the space of #’s “2”, “3” and “4” and avoid the error of Double-Heavy (“1” and “5”).

If you read further in “The Method of Achieving Perfect Clarity in Taiji” you will find that fear, desire, anger and frustration also lead one to the error of Double-Heavy.

This post was authored by Sifu Steffan de Graffenried

  • Posted on: 8/12/2016 1:05:39 PM -
  • Michael ODonnell

Is Double Heavy the same as Double Weightiness

  • Posted on: 8/12/2016 1:05:39 PM -
  • Benjamin Witt

Hello Steffan, Hello Adam

I’ve been following Adam’s videos for quite some time. Especially the last one on ‘da shao’ (da shou??) I like very much. I have no doubt on Adam’s achievements in Taiji. Actually I’d love to touch hands with him some time (maybe there is opportunity in Germany this year??)

Nevertheless, after watching the latest clip i came here reading a little bit around and came across this post on ‘shuangzhong’. Indeed, ‘Double-Heavy is the key to understanding Taiji’ and ‘No concept in Yang Taijiquan has more confusion surrounding it than the concept of Double-Heavy’. Still, i believe that in this small post the core problem on ‘shuangzhong’ has not been touched, maybe has added even more confusion to it, since it lacks clarification.
As the post says, also in my opinion, there are many levels of talking about ‘shuangzhong’. certainly the most superficial level is just to regard the weight distribution between both legs. In my opinion ‘shuangzhong’ has nothing to do at all with the weight distribution between legs. No matter if you stand in horse stance weight evenly distributed between both legs or you have clear Yin or Yang on front or rear leg, it has nothing to do with the concept of shuangzhong.
Also the explanation with numbers from 1-5 in my opinion has not brought the core problem of shuangzhong on the point (but maybe the post was not intended to make it clear)

In my opinion, shuangzhong concerns the whole of body and mind. Not having shuangzhong in body and mind, is not beeing attached to anything, beeing open and free…. Practically speaking it means ‘change’, aliveness in the body, no matter if you’re moving or in stillness. Every part, every joint in ones body has to be concerned to ‘shuangzhong’. Is your body connected and soft (real ‘song’) then it is alive, open and free and there is no shuangzhong, no matter if one is using power or is just soft and yelding. If the body ist stiff, not connected and ‘dead’, then no matter if one is relaxed or using power, there is always the problem of shuangzhong and one can be very easily ‘read’ and taken advantage of.

Anyway, very nice seeing you work (Adam) which I really do appreciate. Would love to meet you some time.
Best wishes!

Benjamin Witt

  • Posted on: 8/12/2016 1:05:39 PM -
  • Alexander Glavan

Hi Benjamin,

you’re welcome to your comment and opinion, I don’t see why we would be removing your comment 🙂
Regarding: “DH can be made understood from the first lesson on, and it truly has nothing to do with weight distribution.” – As I understand it (I’m no expert disclaimer), Taiji = non-DH and DH = non-Taiji, so DH goes from beginner stages all the way to the subtleties of mastery, both in the body and the mind. It surely can be introduced early on, and developed, tho it is never extinguished (when does one ever completely master Taiji?).

I don’t believe Steffan was trying to say everything there is to say on the subject in just a couple of pages, it seems to me he was trying to provide a body method or at least an idea of the gross manifestation of DH in the body. Having had a chat about the subject with him, I am sure he did not mean to say that DH is weight distribution, and I don’t think he has said that in the article. When you say “5-1 or 2-3”, that does not by any means refer to weight distribution, it’s just how the phases of motion are counted in the figure (which for some reason I can no longer see in the article.. let me see what I can do about that).

FWIW I agree with most things you say, I feel this is a simple misunderstanding due to different work models and terms.

You said “This is something that has nothing to do with the outer form; wether moving or being still; wether even weight distribution…” – as far as I know that is true, and for instance, at higher levels you don’t even need structure. However we do spend many years perfecting the structure! We perfect it, so we can build higher skills on it. Later on, we can transcend structure. I found value in the article as it shed light on what I was working on at the time I first read it, so of course, DH does not need to be in the structure, but the correct structure can eliminate at least the gross DH of the beginner. Because 1-5 has nothing to do with weight distribution, but with structure, the question becomes “how can I possibly move my weight completely on the front foot, without going in position 1 (but rather be in position 2??” The question seems impossibly, but a beginner can ask their body, and the body will find a way. Which is the internal connection and sinking. My two cents.

  • Posted on: 8/12/2016 1:05:39 PM -
  • Benjamin Witt

Dear Steffan,

Thanks for your reply. I understand what your point is. If it wasn’t for you claim to shed light on the little understood problem of DH, I wouldn’t have said anything. Also because this is a promoting window for Adam, which I respect.
But let me be honest. What I was talking about is the entering gate of Taiji and not the 36 chamber. Only on the basis of understanding DH there is a possibility of letting behind “ordinary” motion for higher quality motion. DH can be made understood from the first lesson on, and it truly has nothing to do with weight distribution. As I said, your claim is very high and from such a point of view it is just wrong to connect DH with weight distribution. Also the other points you made needs to be examined closer. Probably also not understood clearly because of the first misconception of DH as weight distribution…

DH is only about getting your body connected, to get an unbroken movement — even whilst not moving (if you can understand this contradiction). This is something that has nothing to do with the outer form; wether moving or being still; wether even weight distribution, or 5-1 or 2-3 or what ever position somebody is in… It’s only about not getting stuck in structure.
The same applies for Pushhands. Once you get stucked, there is DH.

Once you flow, stick, adhere or even break your opponent, there is aliveness and so there is no DH.You don’t need to post this comment. It just made me sad when somebody is speaking with such high claims about such a central concept of Taiji and still gets ist so completely wrong.
Believe me, understanding unbroken movement; getting your body connected and hence not having DH is just the beginning and preliminary requisite. From here on Taiji only starts to become fun. The real Art has only just begun.

No offence, please 🙂 Best regards
B. Witt

  • Posted on: 8/12/2016 1:05:39 PM -
  • Steffan de Graffenried

As I stated earlier, there are many levels of DH. The most basic is “positional” which does have to do with where your body is positioned in relation to your feet so yes it is about distributing the weight properly. I wonder how you learned DH first if not this way.

  • Posted on: 8/12/2016 12:59:40 PM -
  • Benjamin Witt

Hi Alexander, Hi Steffan,
Nice having this little exchange here and I appreciate the little discussion. I think at this point maybe it’s not the platform to continue the discussion. There are many ways to a goal, as long as the goal is clear and definitely there is no limit in dissolving DH in actual practice and use, as Alexander said.
Would love to put hands on some time 🙂 Nice talking to you!

Best wishes

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