Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weighted Step Tendencies

"Weighted step": In this circumstance I mean turning or stepping with a foot that is already bearing most of the weight in the middle of a movement. I just realized the other day while correcting papers, that it seems Aikido uses this very often while Tai Chi Chuan from my experience usually doesn't ... but then does in some styles of movement.

In my Tai Chi Chuan experience, with formwork and push hands, I started internalizing and developing a pattern of movement that would rock back and forth between feet; rolling back while yielding, and moving forward for a push. I think this tendency reflects the yielding soft side of Tai Chi Chuan, but it is not by any means a law or requirement of TCC. At a seminar a year back, we were working on Ward Off, starting from a stance with partner who had their hands on our Peng for a push, and we would deflect that push with our Peng and bring the other arm underneath the armpit for another Peng or Parting the Wild Horses Mane. However, we could do this in generally two different ways. One, is shifting our weight to the back leg while neutralizing the push and then coming forward, or two, we would keep our weight on the front foot while deflecting the push to the side, and progress forward. In the latter movement, there is no movement of your weight to the back, and progresses straight forward (Hsing-I people would probably prefer this). That is the "weighted step" I'm talking about. At the time I was confused when I asked which one was better, because the answer was both "There is no better", and "It depends on the situation," and I ended up settling on the non-weighted turn with the roll back because I thought it adhered more to TCC ideals, and it was easier for me.

Well, a year later, and now in Aikido, that weighted step has come back to haunt me as its present in so many movements. As Aikido emphasis yielding and opposes using force against force, I thought my freshly acquired "yielding" experience would give me a head start; but it didn't. I would naturally always put my weight back when yielding, but that is just not done in my experience here in Aikido. When yielding and neutralizing, it seems always to be done with footwork that moves you forward and to the side or a bit underneath your opponent. If you move back, which sometimes is the case, you move your whole body back, but keep your wieght on the front foot (in my eyes sometimes looking like a bow stance, but I hesitate to make connections between Karate bow stances and Aikido movements).

I'm getting better at this, and see a great advantage to this ever moving forward movement, and see how my TCC teacher a ways back at that seminar would employ the wieghted step Roll Back. And actually, I now remember that teacher preffering the weighted step Roll Back.

I have to say though, I miss that shift of weight to the back in push hands, because I think it allows you to make big movements, or fully neutralize someone without even taking a step.

Weighted step: What do you think!? Especially for those Aikido people, I'd like to hear your experience.


  1. Here's another question for you to ponder;
    Why does Aikido turn on the ball of the foot, while Tai Chi Chuan pivots more on the heel?

  2. I must say I prefer the non-weighted step. In push hands practice, moving back and then forward adds strength to a push (this only applies if you actually want to push forward, otherwise it's no use), wich is a smart move especially if you don't have much strength in your arms.
    In other circumstances, if I understand correctly what you mean, is similar to a jump (you can only jump with leg/s you have your weight on) and therefore quicker but shorter and less nice for your joints. I've been KO for more than a week now because of my knees so I can tell you shouldn't play too hard with them :D

  3. I have a question for you which has nothing to do with this post...
    Do you only practice empty handed aikido? My brother used to practice aikido too, a long time ago, and he also trained quartestaff and katana, the latter probably just taken from kendo... so, does aikido actually include weapon techniques?

  4. Yes! We practice with a ken (wooden sword) and jo (short staff). I've talked with other Aikidoka who also practice with weapons, but they say that they only practice once a month in class. In the class I attend on the other hand we practice either the ken or jo each night for about 20 minutes, which I highly favor. I find them both to be extremely helpful in honing empty hand techniques, though they are very different. Thanks for the great question!