Is it Still Tai Chi Without Push Hands?

The Importance of Ting Jin -Sensitivity

by Sigung Richard Clear

Can you do Tai Chi without Ting Jin (Sensitivity) and still call it Tai Chi?

Ting Jin commonly translates as Listening Energy but is actually more like “sensing / feeling.” To me it is one of the most important – maybe THE most important – skills in the art of Tai Chi.


Allow me to explain.

Tai Chi is equally a healing and fighting art. The skill sets that make it a healing art are the same skill sets that make it a fighting art. The difference between healing and fighting is in the application of the skills.

If you are going to heal yourself using your mind, breath, relaxation, etc. then the first requirement is for you to be able to feel the injury and surrounding area. You must be able to discern where the problem is and is not and what the problem feels like to help determine what kind of internal adjustments to make and how much adjustment to make.

To fight with Tai Chi you must learn how to stop an opponent through light force strikes. This skill is important due to many factors including (but not limited to) the likelihood that the opponent will be younger, larger, and faster than you. Along with avoiding conflicts as much as you reasonably can this idea of an unfair fight is a basic understanding of the fighting part of Tai Chi.

Probably the best way to defend against such an attacker is to deliver a fight ending strike that penetrates to the opponent’s spine. The #1 internal target is the spine. If you can strike someone with a focused hit that goes directly into their spine and nowhere else then that will decisively end most confrontations.

To do this you must be either be able to generate incredible amounts of force or you must be able to aim the force you have to a specific area that will end the fight. The ability to feel the spine and into the spine (using your Sensitivity) is the primary requirement to make a hit go into the spine. You must be able to do this the instant that you touch them or that they touch you. In a real situation even a second delay is too much.

The ability to feel inside like this is referred to as Ting Jin. The ability to do it instantly is referred to as Knowing (Dong Jin). These 2 skills are of the utmost importance in Tai Chi Chuan and are specifically talked about in the Tai Chi Classic writings of senior masters from the past.

How do you develop Ting and Dong Jin?

The best way to do this is to play freestyle push hands. You can then use solo form work to practice the skills that you learn from push hands, but playing the freestyle push hands with a focus on the internal qualities is the best way to accelerate your progress. The 2 practices are of equal importance in order to really take your Tai Chi skill to more than just a beginner level.

One more thing. If you commit the “Double Weighted Error” it stifles your ability to properly move and to feel inside yourself and inside your partner / opponent. So, studying what the error is and how to avoid it are essential to your Tai Chi practice. To learn more about the Double Weighted Error please visit my page at .

Until then, keep training. 🙂
Sifu Clear

Additional Resources:
Push Hands Training:

To develop Ting Jin / Knowing:

Large Frame Tai Chi

In Tai Chi there are 3 different frames that are used. Large frame, medium frame and small frame. They each have their uses and applications. This post is about Large frame.

Large frame Tai Chi is good for teaching large groups because it is easy for everyone to see the teacher and follow along. It also lends itself to moving a little more slowly without stress. It is pleasing to the eye and is commonly what is used for picture and videos of large groups practicing in the park.

Due to the aesthetics, sometimes large frame can be overlooked as only a health and healing modality and can be thought of as not providing nice internal benefits. However, there are some very nice healing and internal benefits to be gained from large frame. I will explain some of the benefits in the following paragraphs.

Large frame Tai Chi is great for folks who have Parkinson’s Disease and related cognitive and movement disorders such as Palsy. Large frame Tai Chi performed with correct Yi training helps get the mind into the muscles and promotes full movement as well as help in rehabilitation. We have developed a Tai Chi protocol for Parkinson’s sufferers using Large frame, Yi training, and several other skills. Our protocol produces noticeable results in the very first session, including improved mobility and balance.

Large frame Tai Chi is great for working on your Yi (mind intent). You mentally fill up the space you are working in so that your mind perceives and maps the space you are occupying as you practice. This also improves proprioception. It helps create new mental pathways inside of your body, and it helps you to make better connection to any object / person you are trying to affect. The Yi that is developed from practicing large frame can then be used in both healing (yourself and others), and it also can be applied in very martial arts ways.

The proper use of Yi leads to the state of “Knowing” (or “Dong Jing”), which is a high level Tai Chi skill. Dong Jing is not achieved though Large frame Tai Chi alone, but requires specific training. There are concrete steps one must go through in order to achieve Dong Jing. You can learn what those steps are. All of the training you need to achieve Dong Jing is available in our course called “Knowing: Dong Jing & Yi.”

Learn more here:

Take Care,
Richard Clear

What kind of results can I expect from Internal Push Hands?

Last week I mentioned a Push Hands medalist. He went through the training for Clear’s Internal Push Hands before he entered the competition, and he came away with two Silvers.

His name is Harry Legg (yes, that is really his name!) and he is a Tai Chi instructor from New Jersey.

Harry was one of the first people to become a certified instructor in Clear’s Internal Push Hands. You’ll see him in the DVDs.

He is an accomplished Tai Chi player in his own right, so we asked him to write about his experiences with Push Hands. This is what he sent us:

“I play traditional push hands at meetups and in Tai Chi classes every week, and I continue to learn and gain substantial skill from this practice – it is absolutely necessary.

However, there are an abundance of skills and body states in Clear’s Internal Push Hands that are very difficult to achieve or to even realize exist through traditional Push Hands – be it stationary, restricted step or moving.

It is too easy to become skilled at the purely external/physical side of Push Hands if you are only playing the traditional methods.

The skills in Clear’s Internal Push Hands could fill a book. I’ll quickly touch on just a few here.

  • I have learned how to sense my partner’s root without physically touching them.
  • I have increased my root drop tremendously, which brings about the ability to bounce my partner out using root – and there are many other root-related skills.
  • I’ve learned to project Yi (Mind) and to feel my partner’s Yi in ways I never realized were possible.
  • I’ve learned to feel micro-movements in my partner and in my own body. You can lead your partner off balance by sensing those micro-movements.
  • I’ve learned how to “steal” my partners’ breath and use it against them.
  • One of the biggest revelations was in my misunderstanding of what it means to be double-weighted. This misunderstanding is common– even among many high-level teachers. Your Ting Jin
  • (listening/feeling) is greatly increased when you learn to properly eliminate double-weighting.
  • Clear’s Internal Push Hands also teaches very real and effective Fa Jin (Emitting Force).

Every element in this method has both a martial and a healing component. You do not learn this with traditional push hands.

The value to learning and playing Clear’s Internal Push Hands is immeasurable. It will improve your traditional Push Hands, your Tai Chi Form and your daily life.

If you are serious about Tai Chi, you will want to study and practice this method.”
– Harry LeggNew Jersey Tai Chi

I couldn’t have said it better myself. People in the know play Clear’s Internal Push Hands, and there is no better way to bring up your skill than our new Instructor Certification Package.

blog & homepage callout

The course contains nine DVDs with over 18 hours of teaching. It’s designed to give you all the benefits of real Tai Chi you’ve been looking for but can’t find anywhere else.

This program was put together with one goal in mind: to give our students the skills they need to become teachers.

We’ve laid it all out in simple, easy to follow instruction. Nothing is held back.
Clear’s Internal Push Hands Instructor Certification Package is available now!

Why there’s so much bad Tai Chi & How to fix it.

Bad Tai Chi is a favorite topic of discussion among many Tai Chi folks.

Unfortunately the blame often falls on other students and their laziness, impatience, lack of dedication or misguided goals.

The truth is no one intentionally studies bad Tai Chi.

Whatever their motivation or goals may be, every single student is trying to learn something effective and useful.

There problem is many folks don’t know what to look for.

Skill and achievement in Tai Chi are often talked about in very nebulous ways.

It can be difficult to know the quality of what you’re studying if you don’t know exactly what skills you should be learning and what you should be able to do with them.

In theory certifications and titles would help but they rarely come with a clear definition of what it means to earn them and they often represent how long someone has been part of an organization more than what skills they have acquired.

The solution is simple.

No, we don’t need some grand Tai Chi governing body. We don’t even need to agree on what the standards for Tai Chi should be. Or what skills should be studied or what benchmarks you should use for progress.

All we have to do is start talking about it.

The more Tai Chi folks talk about the skills they are learning and the benchmarks they use to measure progress, the better off all Tai Chi will be.

This will create the expectation that if you study Tai Chi you should be acquiring a catalogue of skills and that you should be measuring and testing those skill to make sure you are progressing adequately.

There are far too many people who practice Tai Chi by rote, with only vague notions of what they want to get out of their practice.

The more we, as a community, can educate people on the idea that Tai Chi produces results,

…and that they should expect a clear road map from their teachers on how to get to those results and how to measure their progress along the way, the better off all Tai Chi will be.

Because when students expect results, teachers will have to deliver. Or be replaced by teachers who deliver.

When teachers teach well, they create skill students. Skilled students set the example of what Tai Chi can be and what new students should expect. and Tai Chi as a whole gets better.

Of course goals & standards will vary between teachers and systems. That’s ok. Not everyone studies for the same reasons.

Here is what it takes to become a Level 1 Clear’s Internal Push Hands Instructor:

If you have some previous Tai Chi experience you should be able to meet these requirements within a year. Possibly much less than that if you work hard.

All this and more are taught in the push hands Instructor course coming Thursday Feb 18.

…and that DVD package is an excellent way to prepare for the Clear’s Internal Push Hands Instructor Certification Workshop coming at the end of August.

Details on the workshop soon.

Tai Chi Error of Double Weightedness (The truth behind the myth)


Students and teachers training at the 2015 Clear’s Internal Push Hands Instructor Workshop

Don’t let this Tai Chi BS hold back your development.

Many of you have met long term Tai Chi practitioners who cannot use their art.

…and these aren’t just your “health only” Tai Chi hobbyists. Many folks who study seriously and have skilled teachers find that their hard work is not developing the level of skill and effectiveness they where looking for.

There can be many reasons for this.

…but there’s one problem that is outlined directly in the Tai Chi classics.

According to Wang Tsung Yueh’s text “Tai-Chi Chuan Ching” (18th Century)

“Many persons who have studied Tai-Chi for a number of years have not developed properly and continue to be subdued by others because they have not realized the error in double weightedness.”

Translated by Jou Tsung Hwa in his book “The Tao of Tai-Chi Chuan.”

Basically, If you make the double weighted error you cannot reach an intermediate level of skill in Tai Chi.

Unfortunately, the classics are cryptically vague in their language on what exactly “double weightedness” means and so there is a lot of BS out there on how to address this problem.

So first, let’s clear up some of the BS about “the error of double weighted:”

It has nothing to do with the pull of gravity.

Weighted in this context has to do with emphasis. It’s using the meaning of “attach value to” or “assign a handicap.” As in “not evenly distributed” or a “weighted statistic.”

It has nothing to do with your stance.

You can be double weighted while standing on one leg just as easily as when standing on two. It’s often easier to be double weighted when on one leg than when on two.

It has nothing to do with your opponent.

You can be double weighted when you’re all by yourself just as easily as when you’re pushing with an opponent. If you respond poorly to their force it can magnify the problems of the double weighted error, but this is merely a magnification of the symptom. Not the problem itself.

caption caption

Solving the error of double weightedness is a key part of overcoming larger opponents.

Now, to be fair, some of the above can crop up as symptoms of the double weighted error.

Symptoms can be useful in helping you know when the error is occuring.

…but do not mistake the symptom for the problem.

This is the most common error in the information out there about double weightedness.

Folks take a problem that can be a symptom of the error and mistake it for the error itself.

Unfortunately this won’t help you solve the problem. It only covers up one of many potential symptoms.

Without a full understanding of the double weighted error and all it’s symptoms, you can’t properly troubleshoot and solve the problem.

I’ll try to keep it as simple and practical as possible but the answer requires a bit of explanation.

One reason there’s so much misinformation out there is that this topic is difficult to understand and explain. Especially in a practical, down to earth way. (Of course, the teachers who deliberately hide information compound this problem.)

What does double weighted really mean?

In the Tai Chi classics the term “double weighted” pops up in this context:

“Many persons who have studied Tai-Chi for a number of years have not developed properly and continue to be subdued by others because they have not realized the error in double weightedness.”

The above translation of Wang Tsung Yueh’s text “Tai-Chi Chuan Ching” is from The Tao of Tai-Chi Chuan by Jou, Tsung Hwa.

Master Jou goes on to describe this to mean that Tai Chi practitioners fail to follow the basic principles of Tai Chi.

The key basic principle that is being violated here is described in “The theory of Tai-Chi Chuan” Attributed to Chang San-feng (est. 1279 -1386)

“One must distinguish substantial from insubstantiality. Where there is substantial, there must be insubstantiality. In all ways, one has to distinguish one from the other.”

…and you’ll find this idea crops up in various forms in many of the classic writings on Tai Chi.

You must differentiate between substantial & insubstantial.

…a failure to make this distinction is to make the error of double weightedness.

It’s interesting to note that the character often translated as “weighted” 重, is also associated with meanings like repetition, iteration, a layer, emphasis.

If we talk about a statistic or a test being weighted, we mean that it’s artificially skewed towards a specific result.

So to be doubly weighted is to over emphasize something or make an over commitment in some way.

A better translation within the context of Tai Chi Chuan is:

Students practicing Internal Push Hands at the 2015 Clear's Internal Push Hands Instructor Workshop

Students practicing Internal Push Hands at the 2015 Clear’s Internal Push Hands Instructor Workshop

“The error of paired repetition”
or “the error of double layers”
or, even better:

“the error of double emphasis.”

…and you do see some teachers talk about making the error of “double yang” or “double yin.”

Which is another way of talking about this idea.

But what the hell does all this mean in practical terms?!

It’s easy to throw these terms around and quote the classics all day without giving anyone something useful that they can take home & implement in their own practice.

..and unfortunately many teachers do this, whether it’s to hide their ignorance or to withhold information and knowledge from their students. I don’t know.

How to prevent the error of double weightedness.

Double Weighted Error is the Failure to Distinguish  Between substantial & Insubstantial

Double Weighted Error is the Failure to Distinguish Between substantial & Insubstantial

So, what does this mean in practical terms?

Think about your spine.

It’s made up of layers, and these layers alternate between somewhat solid and somewhat less solid.

These alternating layers of tissues are an example of a distinction between substantial and insubstantial.

If some of these vertebrae become fused together it causes problems.

Another example of this, is that to move you must both contract and relax muscles in the body. If you fail to relax the proper muscles or contract the wrong muscles, you can’t move properly or with full power.

…because you failed to create a distinction between substantial and insubstantial in your body.

Of course it’s not quite that simple.

Tai Chi is internal so we’re not just talking about the physical anatomy, we must also make sure we’re not double weighted in the energies and body states we use.

A basic way to do this is to sink the chi into the lower body so that it becomes heavy while the upper body becomes light.

You are now distinguishing between substantial in the lower body and insubstantial in the upper body.

This is a good start (for a day one beginner) but we need to go much further.

…because at this point you’ve essentially divided the body in half with a single distinction.

There are varying degrees of double weightedness

There are varying degrees of double weightedness

If you go up against someone who can separate heavy and light in the upper body and do it again in the lower body you will lose.

…because they are creating a much more refined distinction between heavy and light in their body than you are.

You are double weighted compared to them.

…of course they will be double weighted when compared to someone who can refine this even further.

Unfortunately, the above example does not paint a complete picture but it’s a good start.

At a more advanced level you can be all light or all heavy and still not be double weighted.

Our best 2 dimensional representation of the distinction between substantial and insubstantial while also distinguishing between the substantial qualities of insubstantiality and the insubstantial qualities of substantiality.

Our best 2 dimensional representation of the distinction between substantial and insubstantial while also distinguishing between the substantial qualities of insubstantiality and the insubstantial qualities of substantiality.

When you understand both the insubstantial and substantial aspects of lightness AND you distinguish between them then you can use lightness effectively.

If you don’t distinguish between the substantial and insubstantial aspects of lightness than you will find lightness to be very weak and your structure will collapse or you’ll be forced to retreat or run into other problems

Of course, light is just one of the many energies of Tai Chi.

There’s light, heavy, empty, full, open, closed, expanding, contracting, spiralling, magnetic, electric, and so on…

The classics say:

“In all ways, one has to distinguish one from the other.”

The key is the first part: “in ALL ways”

Any time you fail to make this distinction, in any way, you are committing the error of “double weightedness.”

As you can see this problem has a massive potential to crop up in all sorts of ways.

…and this distinction between substantial and insubstantial is an ongoing process that you can always refine and get better at.

How to spot double weighted errors and fix them.

Here’s the problem with fixing double weighted errors.

To fix errors you must be able to find them. In Tai Chi we typically do this by feel with the ‘Ting’ skill.

However, a symptom of the double weighted error is that it limits your ability to feel what’s going on inside yourself (and in someone else.)

…and so it’s a bit of a catch 22.

You must differentiate between substantial & insubstantial in order to perceive areas where you are failing to distinguish between substantial and insubstantial.

Excess tension is one example of this. The more tense you are the less you can feel (and the more you are double weighted.)

As you relax, you can feel more and more. However, there are often deep seated areas of habitual tension that are very difficult to find and deal with unless they are pointed out in some way.

So, here’s what you do:

1 Build Ting

Sensitivity drills are of the utmost importance. The more you work on building your Ting the better off you are. But this alone isn’t enough.

2 Look for Symptoms

Use the symptoms of double weightedness to spot and troubleshoot the error.

Some common symptoms include: an inability to instantly shift weight or intention, difficulty perceiving substantial and insubstantial, and excess tension is a common sign of the double weighted error. (though whether tension is the cause or the result of the double weightedness depends on the situation.)

IMPORTANT: Remember that the symptoms are NOT the problem and just because you’ve fixed a couple of the symptoms does not mean that the problem has been solved. So keep working.

3 Internal Push Hands

By far the most effective way to find and fix the error of double weightedness is doing internal push hands with a partner.

A partner will help you find errors you didn’t know you had and rapidly speed up your progress.

A key part of becoming a Clear’s Push Hands instructor is learning to distinguish substantial and insubstantial and learning how to find and prevent the double weighted error.

The Push Hands Instructor Training Course contains in depth training that will teach you to identify and fix the error of double weightedness and how to use the benefits of proper weighting including:

Become a Clear's Internal Push Hands Instructor

Become a Clear’s Internal Push Hands Instructor

  • internally manipulating your own internal energy
    • filling & emptying
    • expanding & condensing
    • targeting inside the body
  • advanced ting including…
    • capitalizing on someone else’s double weighted errors
    • feeling and following an opponent’s internal changes
    • internally hiding from an opponent so that they cannot feel inside you
  • neutralizing force
  • redirecting your opponent’s force back into them
  • higher level fa jin
  • much, much more

Details on the Push Hands Instructor Course are here:

An End to Training?

Training never reaches an end point. All a black belt really means is that you have “achieved” something not “become” something.

We are always in the process of becoming and along the way we are achieving. You are who you are today. Holding on to what was is an illusion. We can remember it fondly (if we so desire) and keep getting better or we can choose to stagnate and live in the past.

Like an apple. It is great today but next month it is great compost and no longer fit to eat in its current form.

As for me, each day I learn more new things and become who I am NOW.

Join Clear’s Tai Chi Online and learn something new every day.

Columbus Day sale! 20% off.

On Monday Oct 12 we are releasing our first two on demand titles through Vimeo on demand.

…and you can get 20% off if you pre-order now.

(the DVDs are also on sale. See below.)

You must enter the coupon code during checkout to get 20% off the following titles

coupon code: FALL

Clear’s Silat: Escape from Holds
Learn to destroy grabs, holds and tackles with quick and devastating techniques.

Clear's Silat: Escape from Holds – Street Self Defense from Richard Clear on Vimeo.

Clear’s Tai Chi: Silk Reeling & 4oz Moves 1000lbs
This popular DVD is now available on demand.

Learn to use the powerful spiral energy of Tai Chi and much more.

Clear's Tai Chi: Silk Reeling & 4oz Moves 1000lbs from Richard Clear on Vimeo.

Prefer the DVDs?

You can also get 20% off the DVDs with the coupon code: FALL

Click Here for the Escape from Holds DVD

Or Click Here for the Silk Reeling & 4oz Moves 1000lbs DVD

Clear’s Tai Chi: Sung, Peng, Lu, Ji, An

The foundation of Tai Chi.

The foundation of Tai Chi.

Learn to build and use the primary energies of Tai Chi: Sung (softness,) Peng (ward off,) Lu (rollback,) Ji (press,) & An (push.)

These 5 principles are considered the foundation of Tai Chi.

In this video Sigung Clear breaks down these principles. You’ll learn how to build them and use them to add more power and effectiveness to all your Tai Chi skills and techniques.


*note* This dvd does not teach the physical postures associated with these energies. Instead you will learn the energy, principles and usage of Sung, Peng, Lu, Ji & An.

One Simple Secret to Effortless Power.

There are a bunch of ways to generate power in Tai Chi.

However, this is only one aspect of Tai Chi.

Tai Chi training spends much more time learning to exploit the opponent’s weakness.

…and so there are many ways to appear powerful & effortlessly manipulate an opponent simply by exploiting their weakness instead of using any of your own power.

The simplest example of this is to let an opponent off balance themselves and then give them a little nudge in the direction they’re falling.

Of course this doesn’t look like power it looks like they fell off balance.

The secret to taking this to the next level is that everybody is always falling even if they don’t realize it.

Even when you think you’re standing still, your legs are working. Making constant micro adjustments to keep you from falling over.

Learning to feel this is in the opponent is a critical part of Tai Chi training.

You’re building a foundation for this in The Practical Guide to Internal Power and in Clear’s Tai Chi Level 1 & 2 you’ll get specific drills to help with this aspect of sensitivity.

When an opponent tries to push you (or strike you) their instability becomes even worse and with a little practice you can neutralize their incoming force and increase that instability even more.

This is typically called Hua Jing and it’s one way to employ the principle of 4oz moves 1000lbs.

Back in 2013 Sigung Clear did a small group session in Fairfax VA specifically on building Hua Jing and learning to use it.

The first 5 lesson are available right now in the brand new Clear’s Tai Chi Online Members area.

Clear’s Tai Chi Online has been & updated and we’re adding a bunch of new footage and bonus lessons including the workshop on Hua Jing.

You can start a 14 trial membership for only $5 and get instant access to Clear’s Tai Chi levels 1 & 2.

Is Tai Chi Ever Going to Get Any Respect?

If you spend some time browsing youtube comments our hanging out in martial arts message boards you’ve probably seen a lot of vitriol being thrown at the Internal Arts.

Even if you stick to internal arts and Tai Chi groups there can be a lot of debate about what’s legitimate, what’s not and why most Tai Chi is garbage.

It can make you wonder what’s wrong with the martial arts today?

…and is Tai Chi going to be increasingly ignored as nothing more than an inferior form of yoga for old people?

Don’t worry, people are just louder than they have been in the past.

And as Tai Chi people it’s our job to be just as loud.

More people than ever have heard of Tai Chi and access to Tai Chi training is greater than it’s ever been.

Tai Chi does need a little help from you though.

The quality of a lot of Tai Chi out there is lacking.

The more we can improve it, the more benefits people will get, the longer they’ll stick with it and more new people will take up Tai Chi.

Now here’s the trick…

Don’t criticize other Tai Chi folks.

All too often it’s not MMA or RBSD people attacking Tai Chi. It’s often other internal martial artists.

They complain about the poor state of Tai Chi and then criticise other Tai Chi people for doing it wrong.

This doesn’t work.

In fact it only serves to fragment Tai Chi and it weakens Tai Chi as whole.

Many popular arts have fallen to infighting and petty politics amongst its practitioners.

Don’t let this happen to Tai Chi.

All you have to do to improve the quality of Tai Chi as a whole is to improve your personal Tai Chi practice.

Lead by example.

Continue to learn and practice and inch by inch you will get better and better. (and in Tai Chi an inch is all it takes to toss someone effortlessly.)

…and as you get better others will want to know how and you can help them.

Between the free Practical Guide to Internal Power and all our youtube videos we’re working to make it as easy as possible to find good resources to learn from.

All you need to do is train.

Grab a partner and put in some regular work with The Practical Guide to Internal Power.

…and when you want to dig deeper, we’ve revamped and upgraded Clear’s Tai Chi Online where you can access the entire level 1 & 2 curriculum.