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Understand The mysterious Tai Chi’s “Four ounces move a thousand pounds.”

“Four ounces move a thousand pounds” is a technique in Tai Chi Quan for applying force. It is a metaphorical expression of the artistic aspect of striking in self-defense, as well as an advanced method in the realm of self-defense in Tai Chi Quan. Although it may seem straightforward to use force against an opponent, it actually contains rich internal principles and is profound in nature. It incorporates concepts such as leveraging, exerting force, combining forces, inertia, center of gravity, leverage, waist and hips, reflexes, and the principle of yielding to effectively defend oneself. It embodies the philosophy of achieving victory through the use of less force against greater force, slowness against speed, and weakness against strength. It represents the mystery and profoundness of self-defense in Tai Chi Quan, as well as the interpretation of the profound Tai Chi diagram..


  1. The Mechanical Lever Principle in “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds”

To effectively utilize the “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” power in Tai Chi Quan, one must first understand the important role of the waist and hips in Tai Chi Quan, which involves the mechanical principles of the lever: the three elements of the lever, namely the fulcrum, the effort point, and the load point. The closer the fulcrum is to the load point and the farther it is from the effort point, the less effort is required for lifting. Conversely, the farther the fulcrum is from the load point and the closer it is to the effort point, the more effort is required for lifting. In Tai Chi Quan, there are three sections: the upper section, the middle section, and the lower section. The upper section refers to the hands, the middle section refers to the waist and hips, and the lower section refers to the feet. The upper section serves as the effort point, the middle section serves as the fulcrum, and the lower section serves as the load point. Therefore, the hands are the effort point, the waist and hips are the fulcrum, and the feet are the load point. Chen Xin, the 16th generation master of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan, once said, “A thousand changes depend on my movement, and the lower body and two feet establish the foundation.” The basic power of Tai Chi Quan originates from the feet, passes through the waist, and extends to the end of the arms. Tai Chi Quan uses the spine as the axis and the waist as the wheel. When the waist and spine rotate, it is as flexible as a rotating wheel. When a wheel rotates, centrifugal and centripetal forces are generated. When a stable axis is rotating, the centrifugal force and the centripetal force balance each other. Once force is applied, these two forces interact and rotation occurs, resulting in both flexibility and the formation of lever action. According to this theory, Tai Chi Quan requires practitioners to maintain an upright posture, use the waist as the pivot, and move freely in all directions, resembling the shape of a wheel. All movements are driven by the waist, with the hands and feet following its lead. Chen-style Tai Chi Quan places great emphasis on the waist and hips. Without the movement of the hips, it is not true Chen-style Tai Chi Quan. Therefore, correctly utilizing the hips is the essential core for exerting the “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” power. Regarding the waist and hips, I have already discussed them in the article “The Three Stages of Push Hands,” so I will not describe them again here. The principle of the lever has been explained above: the closer the fulcrum is to the load point and the farther it is from the effort point, the less effort is required for lifting. The basic principle of Tai Chi Quan’s power is that it originates from the feet, passes through the waist, and extends to the end of the arms. Proficient practitioners of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan will lower the fulcrum from the waist to the hips, increasing the distance between the effort point and the fulcrum. When employing the techniques of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds,” it becomes more effortless, time-saving, and energy-efficient. By forming a line through the connection point and the hips, regardless of being suddenly attacked anywhere, one can apply the theory of hip rotation, constantly changing the effort point and direction, neutralizing the opponent’s power, causing their power to fall outside the circle of one’s own power. This is the mechanical lever principle within “Four O

unces Move a Thousand Pounds.”

  1. The Balance Lifting Principle in “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds”

Everyone knows that when the weight on both ends of a balance is equal, the balance remains level. Combining this principle with Tai Chi Quan, having a dual burden and being equally heavy leads to stagnation, while having a biased heaviness leads to adaptation. When two people engage in a fight and their hands stick to each other, if both sides exert force against each other, a dual burden is created, resulting in stagnation where both parties are unable to move. This can easily lead to a state of sticking and adherence, ultimately favoring the stronger party. At this moment, if one party follows the force, spirals downward, relaxes the waist, and sinks the hips, assuming a biased sinking posture, this aligns with the principle of the balance. The opponent will be affected by the relaxed waist and sinking hips, spiraling downward and falling due to the principle of bias. Simultaneously, this also aligns with the principle of wheel rotation, directing the opponent’s power, neutralizing their force. The opponent follows the relaxed and sinking movement, losing their central position and leaning forward. This is the balance lifting principle within “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds.”

  1. The Principle of Yielding Oneself to Follow Others in “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds”

In the Tai Chi Quan song, it is mentioned: “Ward off, rollback, press, and push must be taken seriously. Up and down should follow each other, making it difficult for opponents to enter. Regardless of the opponent’s great strength, if I can lead them and move with them, then the force of four ounces will move a thousand pounds. Guiding them in and making them fall short, sticking and connecting without losing the advantage.” When engaging with an opponent, following the requirements of the Tai Chi Quan song, one should not resist or clash with the opponent. Instead, one should adapt to their movements. Without opposing them, one should go along with their movements, understanding the opponent’s force and accurately intercepting and redirecting it. Remaining neither arrogant nor overly yielding, with a calm and relaxed mind, one adjusts and extends in response, without resisting or deviating. By following the opponent’s force and adapting to their direction, the opponent’s strength is exhausted and becomes ineffective, while one can use this opportunity to exert force and defeat the opponent. For example, when the opponent forcefully strikes me, I yield myself to follow their force. Not only do I refrain from countering with force, but I also do not resist the opponent. I do not receive their force, but instead, I go along with the momentum of their strike, intercepting it in the direction of their force, amplifying their forward momentum. There is a reason they will not be able to maintain their balance. Just as Master Chen Zhaopi said, “When seizing an opportunity, one should stand firm and not yield, raising the hand without showing mercy.” Even though the opponent may weigh a thousand pounds, as long as I yield myself to follow them, applying four ounces of force, their power will be redirected, and they will fall. This demonstrates the skillful application of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” by yielding oneself to follow others, achieving victory through smallness over bigness, weakness over strength, and slowness over speed.

The training method for effectively applying “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” is called the “Zhonghe” training, which is a crucial and important aspect. It includes training in receiving force, reaction ability, body coordination, flexibility of footwork, timing control, understanding jin (energy), knowing jin, and using jin, among other comprehensive aspects.

In terms of reaction, regardless of the opponent’s attack techniques, the brain quickly sends signals to the body, ears, and eyes, and the nervous system and skin receptors respond swiftly. This concept of reaction refers to already having found a way to solve the opponent’s attack. At the moment the opponent attacks, one must have a sensitive and accurate response, discerning the opponent’s force direction, speed, and strength. This is embodied in the Tai Chi Quan saying: “A feather cannot be added, and a fly cannot land. Others do not know me, only I know others.” It represents the skill of adapting to changing situations. This also includes training in intention. Whether in a competition, an unexpected enemy attack, or any unforeseen situation, as long as the opponent attacks in any way, one should naturally and reflexively respond, following their force and neutralizing their power. By using the method and techniques of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” and coordinating with the spiraling force throughout the body, one can dissolve the opponent’s force by directing it away, regardless of the opponent’s speed or strength. This makes their force ineffective, without any point of focus, causing their force to continue unabated and uncontrollable, ultimately resulting in their automatic fall. This demonstrates the skillful application of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” through the ability to react.

Body coordination refers to achieving agile coordination in the vertical, horizontal, and lateral dimensions based on reaction. For example, when the opponent throws a straight punch to the face with their right hand, one follows their force by turning the right hand to the right, slightly rotating the upper body to the right, while simultaneously spiraling and sinking the right hip, and pointing the right toe to the right or stepping back with the right foot. These coordinated measures allow one to follow the opponent’s force, neutralizing it effortlessly and easily catching the opponent’s right wrist. The reception should be unbiased, light, nimble, and precise. This also involves the coordination of spiraling, sinking the waist, and dropping the hip, forming a partially sinking posture. These are crucial elements in the techniques and methods of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds.” Only through understanding jin and knowing jin can one match and lead the opponent’s force without exceeding or falling short of their strength. The timing should not be faster or slower than the opponent’s, but rather merge with the opponent’s force, thus becoming the guide for their force’s direction.

The skill in receiving force and the application of techniques when practicing “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” is of utmost importance. The proficiency in receiving force is the first and crucial step in the application of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds.” The accurate execution of this step allows the opponent’s force to continue unabated, continuously moving forward. Together with the coordination of the waist, hips, and footwork, the effectiveness of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” can be achieved. If the opponent is left-handed, one can receive force with the left hand, turn the body to the left, spiral and sink the left hip, and point the left toe to the left or take a step to the left. This is the most basic form of coordination training, but in actual combat, it should be flexibly applied according to the specific situation.

If the opponent’s speed is fast and their explosive power is strong, without coordinated body movement and flexible footwork, it is impossible to neutralize their attack, let alone apply “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds.”

When applying “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds,” precise timing is crucial. The accuracy of timing is another key factor in the effectiveness of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds.” As a Tai Chi Quan instructor, if one is afraid to teach the applications and avoids students’ questions about application, it unknowingly restricts oneself and misleads students. When teaching Tai Chi Quan forms, one should not neglect practical application. Teaching students to only practice forms without push hands or sparring will limit their progress. No matter how well-known or knowledgeable a teacher may be, they will struggle to cultivate highly skilled disciples, and their own skills will be confined to a certain range. When faced with a strong and fearless challenger, they may inevitably be embarrassed. To achieve a balanced application of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds,” one must engage in more push hands, sparring, and practical combat. Only through this can theory be combined with application. Only then can the techniques and methods of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” be judged accurately, listened to truly, and responded to swiftly or slowly. Therefore, without long-term practical combat training, the skillful application of “Four Ounces Move a Thousand Pounds” is impossible.

Grandmaster Cheng Jincai, currently serves as the President of the National Chen-style Tai Chi Quan Association in the United States, President of the Henan Association in Southern USA, Advisor to the National Martial Arts Association in the United States, Advisor to the National Tai Chi Quan Association in the United States, Head of the International Promotion Center for Chen-style Tai Chi Quan, Honorary President of the Jiaozuo Tai Chi Quan Research Association in Henan Province, and Vice President of the Jiaozuo Martial Arts Association. He is also the publisher of the “World Kung Fu” magazine.

In Houston, Cheng Jincai is a symbol of Tai Chi. Currently, Master Cheng has over three thousand disciples in Houston alone, and his influence is widespread. Since 1994, he has been listed in the “Chinese Folk Martial Artists Dictionary” published by the Xinhua News Agency. In August 2001, he was included in the book “Houston Overseas Chinese Celebrity Rankings.” On December 9th of the same year, the Mayor of Houston designated that day as “Cheng Jincai Chen-style Tai Chi Quan Promotion Day.” In the “Yearbook of Famous Chinese Americans,” his name was recorded as early as 1998. In February 2002, he was featured in the book “ASIAN MARTIAL ARTS,” and in August of the same year, he was appointed as an advisor by the National Martial Arts Association of the United States. He was also awarded the “Outstanding Martial Arts Master Award” by the Martial Arts Association. On April 2, 2005, the Mayor of Houston, Bill White, presented him with a certificate and the title of “Honorary Citizen, Goodwill Ambassador.” Congressman Al Green of the White House awarded Cheng Jincai the “Special Contribution Award.” On September 9, 2006, he successfully organized the “National Martial Arts Competition” in the United States, and Judge Robert Eckels of Harris County presented the award, marking it as the first “National Martial Arts Competition Day” in the United States. In 2007, he successfully hosted the U.S. National Martial Arts Competition and Houston International Martial Arts Championship. In May 2007, he was included in the book “Contemporary Chinese Martial Arts Celebrities” published by China Baihua Literary and Art Publishing House. In 2008, he was included in the book “Xiaokang Monument” as a distinguished martial arts master in the construction of Chinese martial arts culture. He has been featured on the covers of the American “Tai Chi Magazine,” the British “Tai Chi Magazine,” the American “World Chinese Weekly,” and the American “Huaxia Fortune” magazine. To date, there have been over a thousand articles reporting on Master Cheng Jincai, and the American “World Celebrity Network” has dedicated a special section to track and report on Master Cheng Jincai…

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