This principle is one that has countless applications for health and martial art practice. This simple phrase gives you a lifetime of work that will always bring fruit and ever expanding self-discovery. Many times the principle of “Move 10,000 pounds using only 4 ounces” becomes the measuring stick to say if someone’s practice is truly Tai Chi. So let’s look at what this means…
To put it simply moving 10,000 pounds with 4 ounces can be summed up in one word, efficiency.
What do we mean by efficiency?
Be efficient! That’s the main point of this principle. There are many ways to be efficient and no matter how hard we work or how efficient we feel at the moment we can always improve. This constant work on efficiency in our Tai Chi Chuan practice is what brings relaxation to our body and mind. When you can move more relaxed you are doing w/e thing more efficiently than before. The key to this lies in alignments and letting go, which I cover here: Tai Chi Chuan an Art of Principle
Beyond simple alignments the application is in how you use these things in relation to something else. Whether this other thing is a strike, some form of aggression being directed toward you, or you have to move furniture to clean your house, finding the most efficient way to do these things is seeking this principle. Seek to accomplish all things you do moving 10,000 pounds with only 4 ounces of force or perceived effort.
There are many illustrations of this in the martial applications of Tai Chi Chuan, however, they all follow the same progression when learning this skill. The most important precursor to moving 10,000 pounds with 4 ounces is learning to yield to force while maintaining proper structural alignment. Force comes, not only in the way of a strike coming toward you, but also in the structure of an opponent. In order to move their entire weight using minimal effort we must primarily use our structure to do so, not excessive muscular tension. The entire practice of Tai Chi is shaped around this main concept, use structure and correct alignment to move, NEVER excessive force.
The easiest way to explain this principle is in the act of off balancing an opponent, although it does apply to strikes, counters, kicks, and all things in Tai Chi. When seeking to throw someone off balance the act itself is simple, help a majority of their mass off of their feet. With someone very experienced in Judo, Jujitsu, push hands or wrestling, this is very difficult to do, because they are trained to keep and manipulate their center of balance. Push hands (Tai Chi's first testing ground) is essentially a game of finding and taking your partner’s center, helping each other make progress along the way.
The concept of moving 10,000 lbs using 4 oz can basically be done in 3 ways:
Use a break in their alignment or their own tension to off balance them
In this application of Ward Off your partner keeps his center quite well, punching and/or pushing without over extending. However, his postural alignment isn't completely correct. In this example his hips are not tucked nor his spine in a position to redirect the force into the ground. Using ward off with your hand at his shoulder you'll perform the technique just as in the form. Your force will be directed toward his hips and @ a 45 to his rear, doing so while his spine is out of alignment and w/ your leg behind his to deter a step to regain balance he will fall because of a lack of structural alignment to redirect the force into the ground. This is similar if not the same as if they have tension that diverts the force away from their connection to the ground.
Go around their alignment to off balance them
In this application of Ward Off your partner keeps his alignments and weight well centered without over extending. Using his own push on your one side you make contact w/ his shoulder simultaneously while he provides pressure. You direct his pressure through your body keeping proper alignments and turn your hips, so the whole body functions as a unit. Allowing his force to direct the technique will spiral him around your center disturbing his balance and circles him around.
When they're over extended help them keep going to off balance
In this application of Ward Off your partner over extends his push and lets his momentum take him through his movement. This application requires either a preparatory step back and/or a strong sinking action to execute properly. The other things remain relatively the same. the hand will connect at the shoulder, and hips will initiate all the movement. In order to yield to the force we must move our center away from the line of attack and help them continue through their intended target, helping them continue on.
Daniel R. Hyde