What about those Spins?

What about those Spins?

Postby Audi » Wed Feb 28, 2001 8:37 am

To my knowledge, there are four spins and/or one-legged pivots in Yang Cheng Fu’s form:
(1) Turn and Kick with Left Heel, following Separate Left Foot,
(2) the left heel pivot at the beginning of Double Wind/Peaks Pierce the Ears,
(3) Turn and Kick with Right Heel, preceding the final Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch in the Second Paragraph, and
(4) Turn Around and Lotus Kick, before Bend the Bow and Shoot the Tiger.

What exactly are we supposed to be training in these postures? I must confess that I find these postures a little disconcerting, because the stepping technique seems so different from anything else in T’ai Chi. We spend so much time learning to draw energy up through the bubbling spring/well point in the foot and rooting into it that the spins seem a little bit strange. After carefully shifting weight throughout the beginning of the form, we get to Turn and Kick with Left Heel and lift the right bubbling spring right off the ground (of course, while keeping the heel touching the ground). What gives? What happened to total control over movement and not irrevocably committing to a step?

Lest we consider this first spin an aberration, we repeat this technique at the beginning of Double Wind/Peaks Pierce the Ears, this time by lifting the left bubbling spring off the ground. (In preparing this post, I checked Fu Zhongwen’s Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan and discovered that this spin is described as being on the ball of the foot, whereas my memory of Yang Zhen Duo and Yang Jun is that they perform it on the heel. If I am correct about this, why did Fu Zhongwen use different techniques for these two pivots/spins?). I find this pivot particularly curious because all the other one-legged pivots or spins at least facilitate direction changes that would otherwise be impossible with such economy of movement. Since this pivot goes only 45 degrees, it seems hardly worth the effort. Again, what am I missing here?

In pushing hands or one-movement application drills, I have spontaneously used my knees to deflect kicks or knee strikes in ways that resemble the first two spins. Could this be what is envisioned in these moves? What about the last two spins? I have heard some suggest that they represent leg sweeps, but their execution seems too high for this.

What about refinements in the performance of the spins? Should we use our eyes to spot a place on the horizon to maintain balance like dancers, or scan our surroundings for multiple opponents? I know of balance techniques from other arts, but am reluctant to use them in the spins if this would detract from the T’ai Chi aspect of the training.

Do we control the amount of spin by the initial “waist” movement, by changing the shape of the empty leg, or by stopping the motion by touching the ground with the “empty” leg? How much “jin” (internal power) should we strive to feel in the empty leg during the pivots/spins? Should the solid leg in the one-legged pivots remain relatively straight, as in the kicks, or bent? Do we change our internal alignment to root through the heel during the pivots, or somehow root through the bubbling spring/well through the small space left under the sole? In a post primarily about empty stances, Steve James also raised some of these questions, and also whether the spins could legitimately be performed as a series of small pivots.

Any thoughts about theory, specific teachings, or personal experience with these postures?

Audi
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Postby Michael » Wed Feb 28, 2001 6:46 pm

Audi, thanks for asking some of the questions that have been posed to me before and which I have been unable to give adequate answers to.
Your number(3) and (4). Leg sweeps.

Your Number (2) probably just to change the direction---that is all I can come up with. And I have been taught to do it on the heel.

My guess is that other than the leg sweep technique, we train the spins so that if we NEED to do it we had better be able to do it. And most importantly to train balance and control. Heel/ball? same reason, even though on the ball is much more stable and there is more control.

Though I would rather step, there may be the situation where your heel is on a stable surface and your toe is on an unstable one. that is just pure conjecture. I would also say that if you had to "commit" to a spin (other that a sweep) it would be due to the others actions that made it such that you HAD to. What that situation is I don't really know. I am sure someone out there has come up with an appropriate situation, let me know.
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Postby Steve » Wed Feb 28, 2001 8:21 pm

There is a saying that has been used by the Chen family to describe the Yang style:
"Taiji hands, Bagua feet."

This refers to the character of the circular action of the stepping in the Yang forms (the Chen forms are more linear, turning principally to change direction).

According to Kuo Lien-Ying of the Guang Ping school, the body is the center of the wheel. The opponent is the outside of the wheel. If the hub turns only a little, the outer rim must move three times as fast, and three times the distance, to cover the same rotation. Thus, "spinning" can become a powerful method for transferring energy to an opponent.

The preferred method, as I understand it, is to use a series of small pivots. However, it can be done in the following manner for a large turn:
1. step with the lead foot turned inward;
2. set down. as you transfer the weight, use the twisted foot as your new direction to turn (through the waist), while sweeping your other leg in a wide outside arch.

This is a Roll-Back method applied in some characters of Push-Hands, and in the Chen forms. It applies a great deal more energy to the usual Roll-Back, and creates an opportunity for a strong Qin Na application.

Spinning and turning in the Yang style is more than just a change of direction or a leg sweep. It provides a greater range of circular motion, both to striking and to deflection/neutralizing/and Rolling-Back techniques. For my part, I would suggest that in usage you do it is such a way as to either spin behind the opponent, or pull them across your body. Otherwise, you may wind up turning your back on the opponent, which is never a good idea.

SB

[This message has been edited by Steve (edited 02-28-2001).]
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Postby tai1chi » Wed Feb 28, 2001 9:56 pm

Hi Audi,

wow, what a nice comprehensive question. This is something that interests me for several reasons, some historical, some practical.

First, is there a difference between "spinning" and "pivoting." Well, I guess this could get into the "weight v. jin" debate, but, for the moment, it is possible to imagine that rotating the body, whether 45, 90, 180, or 360 degrees, will produce a certain amount of "energy." We can ask, then, whether the creators of the form intended that this "energy" be used, or not. I, personally, and humbly, believe that they did --even if only a secondary source. Since the energy of rotation can be extracted or added to any other "energy" produced, it can also be thought of as distinct from them --though not separate from them, and Steve B. gives a good description of how rotation can be used.

You have several specific questions that probably have different answers based on the circumstances and the intention of the practitioner. You noted:

"I checked Fu Zhongwen’s Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan and discovered that this spin is described as being on the ball of the foot, whereas my memory of Yang Zhen Duo and Yang Jun is that they perform it on the heel"

This seems similar to the "weighted front foot pivot" question. If different family styles have different approaches, it probably has something to do with intention. If one expects to practice on a smooth, slippery floor, then one way of pivoting might have advantages. For example, flat-footed might be fine then. OTOH, on uneven ground, it might not be possible. Spinning on the toe might be preferable, but it is also less stable. So, it depends. However, it is possible to distinguish between "empty" and "full" at the sole of the foot, even while the foot is flat on the ground. (It's a question of "mind", yep). So, imho, keep the foot flat and use your intention. This also has something to do with a point on the "Empty step" thread. A spin is, in effect, a type of transition; and it is the transitions where the applications lie. So, in application, a spin will have to fulfill all the necessary tjq requirements: e.g., "sticking," "following," etc., and not just be a movement isolated from what the opponent is doing. The variety of spin/pivots are, as your post points out, quite comprehensive. Well, there's no 270. Anyway.

"In pushing hands or one-movement application drills, I have spontaneously used my knees to deflect kicks or knee strikes in ways that resemble the first two spins. Could this be what is envisioned in these moves? What about the last two spins? I have heard some suggest that they represent leg sweeps, but their execution seems too high for this."

Well, energy can be generated from the spinning of the "great pole", and there are a myriad of ways to use it. The height of the foot, etc., are things that depend more on your personal flexibilty than on specific usage. What was that story about YLC (?) "shouldering" someonein the knee?


"What about refinements in the performance of the spins? Should we use our eyes to spot a place on the horizon to maintain balance like dancers, or scan our surroundings for multiple opponents? I know of balance techniques from other arts, but am reluctant to use them in the spins if this would detract from the T’ai Chi aspect of the training."


Interesting point, but I think spotting would be most useful in multiple spins --where there's the real chance of getting dizzy. If one develops a style of using an extraordinary amount of rotating, then this is an issue. Well, see bagua.


I wouldn't be able to analyze any of this from the perspective of "jin" or from the history of the form. I.e., how many more or less spins were there in Chen style? What was their application? ETC. But, I will leave that.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby DavidJ » Thu Mar 01, 2001 6:30 pm

Audi, Michael, Steve, Steve,

I like the questions and answers. The smooth floor reference hints at the importance of traction avaliable for all pivots/spins and surfaces.

I think the availability of possibly movements, in general, is an important aspect of Tai Chi.

Most of the answers about spins focus on the feet and legs, but don't forget about the back fist.

As to where the eyes look, try this on the Lotus kick: back straight, head up, look at the foot, spin while paying attention to your peripheral vision. Please note I said TRY this, I can't quite recommend doing this regularly. It has its points and its drawbacks.

There is a 270 degree pivot from the first shuttle to the second shuttle.

David
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Postby Michael » Thu Mar 01, 2001 6:58 pm

SJ. Your use of the small spin or pivot in blocking a kick gives me something to think about. I am however very cautious of any technique with ONE foot high (six inches or more.) off the ground. They must be used sparingly and appropriately.

If I have an opponent (who has some skill) controlled momentarily in a rollback or whatever, and he can regain his footing and I have a foot up, no matter what kind of momentum I am supplying, I am the one in trouble. If the opponent is going to kick, I would rather pull him down when he moves his leg.

As for the sweeps (which are, and can be srtikes, or indeed, other things) , the one before the end of the second section, and the one at the end of the third, you will find that the foot is low as you have to transfer your weight to it to execute the kick that follows.

And as you said, different schools do things according to the intent or technique that they may favor. And we all know there is a multitude of techniques in every transition and posture.

I might mention that the last spin in the set is the most useful in my estimation as it uses the pivoting, a scissoring, (which can be used to deliver a great amount of power in a number of techniques) and the spin. If the opponent regains his feet or your tecnique wasn't completely effective, you then could sweep him before he becomes stable.

A spin can be used to get behind an opponent while HE (STRONG emphasis on the HE)is delivering a technique with the least threat to your stability. This after nuetralizing, using his energy to move you around and behind, or to avoid(see example below). If he is stepping it would be better to step and cut him off or to step to his side or behind rather than spin in most instances as you give him options. And if an opponent is behind you and you spin and you are upright, you are "dead".

SB, I am very leary about pulling an opponent ACROSS my body while one leg is off the ground (when spinning) or having any FIRM contact with him (until just before the end) during an ACTUAL spin of any real distance. I can be controled more easily than him if he has any skill.

If I am "pulling" him across my body I already may as well continue that action and extend that energy by leading him forward and around in the direction it is already going than to step behind which could very well break the flow and possibly give him more options. In the right situation though what you suggest could work, esp if leading his energy short, around, and down. Here you can use his energy (And the ground) to spin behind him with little threat to your own stability.

Unless your level is VERY high you will not deliver much power when striking with one leg in a SPIN that does NOT travel considerable distance. This is the energy of momentum, which can be effective, but it is not the full body energy we seek to use. 'Though in contact with the ground, it is very tenuous and we use little of it's power. A Karate or TKD spinning roundhouse is much effective than any spin/strike from an upright position. Simple physics....though as I said, if your level is high enough it can be a different matter. More and More Practice.

But as you said, the use of small pivots and I would say small steps that could resemble small spins, work very well. My Kuang Ping teacher has brought me to the ground doing nearly two full circles (to keep from hurting me) using the pivots. I think Guo was talking about this type of usage, but i will re-read that portion of the book. I will ask my teacher in two days about this and other uses of the spins, he has answers, not me.

I must state that after my experience with TKD(years ago) I am a firm believer in two feet on the ground when it comes to combat. And that the less time one has one foot off the ground the better. I am strong believer in stepping and pivots(which is a great subject in itself due the awesome power contained within them).

This is just my experience, but sometimes I think we tend to make things more complicated than it is, I know nothing, but i love to learn, and don't mind being taught. You guys always give me much to think about and play with, thanks.
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Postby Michael » Thu Mar 01, 2001 7:07 pm

Thank you David, i forgot to mention the back fist.
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Mar 01, 2001 7:51 pm

Hi All,

lots of interesting takes on pivot/spins:

David wrote:

"There is a 270 degree pivot from the first shuttle to the second shuttle."

Yep, you're right, the form is fairly comprehensive and, I trust, theoretically complete. "Fair Lady" is a good example. Maybe on another thread someone will want to discuss that kind of symetry in other areas.

MichaelJ wrote:

"SJ. Your use of the small spin or pivot in blocking a kick gives me something to think about. I am however very cautious of any technique with ONE foot high (six inches or more.) off the ground. They must be used sparingly and appropriately."

Although I didn't suggest that particular usage, and wouldn't preclude it depending on the circumstances, I agree with your concerns. The intention of the spin is more important than any particular application. Sometimes, a spin might be part of an application, or it might be the result of a need to turn around --as in confronting more than one opponent. Of course, although the form may contain a 360, there's no practical reason why it has to be such in application.

Well, in Yang style, I think you're right that the kicks are not like spinning kicks in TKD or Muay Thai. However, there are jumps and diffent sorts of kicks in Chen style. And, as I've heard, some of these movements were in Yang style at one time. My point concerns your comment
"This is the energy of momentum, which can be effective, but it is not the full body energy we seek to use. 'Though in contact with the ground, it is very tenuous and we use little of it's power."

Hmm, I think I see what you're trying to say, but it's hard to reconcile the presence of the movement with a lack of "full body energy." How can it not be a part? Ok, it's possible that certain moves can be eliminated because of their inefficiency, but that doesn't mean that the movements violate the fundamental principles. Anyway, I'm sure that the connection to the ground does not disappear in a spin. The extent to which both legs need to be connected is another question.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Steve » Thu Mar 01, 2001 9:42 pm

What I meant was not that you pull while spinning. It comes out more as a sequence: grab; step around; root; pull with the weight and the waist. No, there is no sense in trying to pull or roll-back without having both feet planted firmly on the ground. By turning before rolling back, you increase the circumferance of your "wheel" and thereby also the speed at which the opponent will have to travel in the course of your roll-back.

This is what I meant by "For my part, I would suggest that in usage you do it is such a way as to either spin behind the opponent, or pull them across your body."

SB
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Postby Michael » Fri Mar 02, 2001 12:29 am

SB, thanks for clarifiying, i was rather suprised by what i thought I was reading. My fault, I will be more careful in the future.

SJ, In a posture with one foot planted firmly on the ground vs the spinning foot, The actual amt. of square inches of the foot in contact with the ground have alot to do with how much of the energy of the earth can be used. That is all I meant. I don't mean that the "full body energy" is NOT there ,I think it is less powerful when one foot is on the ground spinning than what is possible with two feet on the ground (or one firmly planted). Certainly in most situations of close in combat (except in the circumstances i aluded to before). And of course if one has high level skills it is another matter.

In Kuang Ping you will still find the dble jumping kick, a canon fist..., a number of techs that have been taken out of the YCF set-- forward and backward "Brush Knees", that look nothing like ours, although Wind blowing the Lotus leaf is very similiar, two versions of Cloud hands and Repulse monkey,.... However I am finding over time that even more techs found in KP have been hidden very deeply in the YCF version. And some of our obvious techniques are hidden in the Kuang Ping. It is rather fascinating as to why of it all, but I am drifting off the subject here.

I don't ever think that I could judge a technique as ineffective in a style as old as ours. I figure if I don't appreciate it's value, I have not discovered it's true usage yet. If it has not been eliminated by the masters, it has a purpose--whether for training or combat. I could compare numerous examples from the two versions but i won't as it doesn't pertain to the subject at hand. Again, I'll check with my teacher and get back to you all on the subject of the spins.

Thanks
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Postby Michael » Sat Mar 03, 2001 2:25 pm

Second posting of this notice.

Everybody, I have just read over my previous posts and was disheartened by what i found. I must APOLOGIZE for the misunderstandings that I am sure have resulted.
Over two weeks ago I sustained an injury. Since then my existence has more or less been made possible by the use of a fair quantity of pain killers. This has had, without a doubt, a significant impact on several occasions where i have misunderstood others, and in other instances where where by making poor choices of words, created misunderstandings for you.

I expect to do better now that I am aware of what has been happening. And mostly by remembering that I am here to learn from YOU. I know nothing.

Thank you for your patience, Michael

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 03-04-2001).]
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Postby Charla Quinn » Sat Mar 03, 2001 5:57 pm

There is a 270 degree pivot from the first shuttle to the second shuttle.

David[/B][/QUOTE]

Does this mean that you pivot your left foot 270 d. in one motion (without stopping the pivoting) during the transition or do you pivot it say 135 d. or as far as it will go, then do the last 90 or thereabouts when you finish the move? I cannot for the life of me pivot it that far at once! Thanks for your help. CQ
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Mar 03, 2001 7:00 pm

Greetings,

I've enjoyed reading the discussion in this thread, and thought I'd add some spin by posting my translation of Yang Chengfu's narrative on "Turn Body Sweep Lotus" from his book, _Taijiquan Tiyong Quan Shu_ (Complete Book of the Essence and Application of Taijiquan). Most of the sequence descriptions included suggested application scenarios, and I find this one particularly vivid and lively:

~~~
Turn Body Sweep Lotus:

From the previous posture [Retreat Astride Tiger], supposing there is
yet another opponent who is striking at me from the rear with the right
fist. Responding to opponents from [both] the front and rear is a most
urgent situation. So, I settle on my right foot, then, lifting and
suspending the left foot, follow the rotation (or "spinning" xuanzhuan)
of my body to the right rear. At the same time, use the two hands with
the left foot to employ whirlwind force (xuanfeng shi). Apply the hands
and foot to scrape (gua) the upper and lower parts of the [rear]
opponent. Upon returning in the turn to the original position, quickly
adhere (nian) to the opponent's right elbow and wrist; follow and
surround the opponent's wrist. Use rollback (lu) to lead to the left,
split (lie) to pull back. Quickly, with the back of the right foot, kick
the opponent's ribs, using transverse energy (heng jin). The leg's
movement is like a swift wind sweeping and rippling lotus leaves. What
is called "soft waist" is as though [it is] absolutely without bone,
loosened/relaxed (sa) [so that] the entire body is the hands. The secret
of this skill (gong) won't be understood by those who [engage in]
superficial study.
~~~

Take care,
Louis
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Mar 03, 2001 9:53 pm

Hi Louis,

thanks for sharing the quote. I wonder if you could answer a question about this part:

"Quickly, with the back of the right foot, kick the opponent's ribs, using transverse energy (heng jin)."

This "heng jin" (or "transverse energy") is special, isn't it? How would you relate it to other expressions of "transverse energy", as in "Brush Knee Twist Step"? I.e., does being on one leg or two make any difference?

Best,
Steve James
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Postby DavidJ » Sat Mar 03, 2001 10:08 pm

Hi Charla,

Technically, the 270 degree change is in the facing, not the pivot. The pivot is about 205 to 225 degrees.

First I pivot my left foot about 135 degrees or so, step out with the right foot the remaining 135 degrees, then finish the left foot pivot, that's about 70 degrees to 90 degrees, depending.

One important thing here is that in the end of the first part of the pivot (at 135 degrees) the left foot points along a line that stays in front of the right foot. You don't want to get what I call 'cross footed,' where one foot points toward the other.

I have learned Yang style from the Tung family line and their angle for the back foot is about 65 degrees, though I do use 45 degrees in some postures. I believe that the Yang family teaches about 45 degrees in general, so the second part of the pivot would be about 90 degrees.

I hope this answers your question clearly enough.

David
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