## Reference Points

### Reference Points

Greetings all,

Recently, I have become increasingly aware that I use definite reference points in the form to judge position and speed, but that I do not really have the full vocabulary to discuss them. Does this resonate with anyone?

For instance, when you judge that you are moving with even speed, what is it exactly that is moving evenly? Surely the different parts of the body move at different speeds at the same time, and no part of the body stays at the same speed throughout the form.

When you move your arm straight back, what is the reference point that makes the movement "straight"? When we move the arms in a circle, what again is the reference point?
Audi

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I would suggest that you look for a 'primary' arm in each move. This would be the one that attacks or receives. The speed of this arm should stay fairly uniform. However, it is not totally uniform because different moves require covering more or less distance. Still I think that provides a general guide to uniform speed. In moves like An4 you might say there is no primary arm, though I have heard advanced teachers say it still has a primary. In any case it doesn't matter since the speed is roughly same.
JerryKarin

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In the case of circling, this is highly variable. In the beginning go for fullest extension and make the circles as big as possible. Gradually later they can become smaller.
JerryKarin

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Another way to look at speed is to take the same amount of time, roughly, to get to the end of a weight shift, such as reaching the end of a bow step.
JerryKarin

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
Another way to look at speed is to take the same amount of time, roughly, to get to the end of a weight shift, such as reaching the end of a bow step.</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I also think part of what Audi is referring to as "even speed" is all parts (even though some, as he points out, may be moving at different actual speeds) reaching the end of the posture simultaneously; and possibly also in synch with his breathing.
taiji-jim

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I would suggest that you look for a 'primary' arm in each move.[\/quote]
I think I do this to some extant and it would seem to be reasonable, but then in a move such as White Crane Spreads Wings, where the arms circle and change shape, what part of the arm are we to use to judge?

[quote]Another way to look at speed is to take the same amount of time, roughly, to get to the end of a weight shift, such as reaching the end of a bow step.</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I think I do this to some extent as well, but then wonder why I must be shifting back and forth between the two methods. Perhaps, you have to switch when there is no weight shift, such as when you are standing on one foot during Fair Lady Works the Shuttle.

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited October 18, 2009).]
Audi

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Audi:
<B>
....
I think I do this to some extant and it would seem to be reasonable, but then in a move such as White Crane Spreads Wings, where the arms circle and change shape, what part of the arm are we to use to judge?
....
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

At any given moment there is a primary and secondary arm. Many forms have several parts so you have to get more granular to look at primary/secondary. However White crane is pretty simple. Once the arms have circled into a shape which looks like the beginning of ward off, the right arm is primary for the remainder of white crane. Even in the setup for the move, which is like a rollback, the right arm is also primary. As to what part of the arm - I think you are making more difficulty than really exists here. All we are talking about is rough benchmarks for how to gauge uniformity of speed. Like the weight in the legs, no one is going to get scientific instruments and measure speeds and weights exactly...

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited September 29, 2009).]
JerryKarin

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Let me add that I think the use of some benchmark such as I suggested for speed should be temporary while learning the form or for teaching. We should not be checking every five seconds to see if speed is uniform. Once you have got into a regular way of practicing the speed is automatic. And if you are really worried about speed, get the recording of Yang Zhenduo calling out the moves and practice with it for a while. What you should focus on once you have learned the form and have some reasonable habits in regard to speed is employing the 10 essentials.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited September 29, 2009).]
JerryKarin

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A couple more notes about speed. The notion of practicing all movements at uniform speed is very late stratum Yang style taijiquan, basically going back no further than Yang Chengfu. It is a suggestion for practice more than a rule and is disregarded in application. Yang Zhenduo specifically mentions this when teaching - in application the constraints and conventions of our daily practice regimen fall away. In Chen style there is actually a principle suggesting more or less the opposite: "fast and slow relieve each other" and this is to a great extent active in Yang style when applied, IMHO. What is a requirement is not uniform speed but smoothness, even-ness (as opposed to herky-jerky execution) and continuity.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited September 29, 2009).]
JerryKarin

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When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

--Wallace Stevens, from 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird'
Louis Swaim

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Location: Oakland, CA

Greetings Audi,

Of course I have in mind some "reference points" for each posture that were given me by Fu Qingquan laoshi. They could be pretty different reflecting specifics of particular posture. And of course as many others I still have questions doing the form - whether the posture (or the movement) is completely correct. Though I understand that perfection of my teacher's forms comes from many years of practice and that probably level by level there are always some more "reference points". For instance - as far as White crane spreads its wings is concerned - the right hand movement in this posture may be performed just as upper block - shang peng in jin terminology. As simple as it is. But further IMHO it could become something more - one can add a bit of offense, an jin, for example, following after. But basically it is just shang peng in the right hand and cai in the left hand. When I see photos of Fu laoshi and other modern masters - how perfectly their postures look - I sometimes question myself is it possible to attain that perfect equilibrium and look without help of a mirror. I mean - now almost all of us have possibility to check our postures in mirrors as often as we like - almost everyone has a big mirror in a house or a gym - isn't it a good "reference point"?

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
A couple more notes about speed. The notion of practicing all movements at uniform speed is very late stratum Yang style taijiquan, basically going back no further than Yang Chengfu. </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yang Chengfu says in the Ten Essentials that one should employ jin as drawing silk out and quotes classic phrase about continuous movement of a river and (waves) of an ocean. Wasn't it a part of Yang Jianhou and Yang Banhou practices as well? Am I missing something? Did anyone cross with any historical documents that say they didn't have slow forms in their regimens? As I very much doubt it.

[This message has been edited by Yuri_Snisarenko (edited October 02, 2009).]
Yuri_Snisarenko

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Very interesting discussion. Traditionally, we were taught that 'awareness' (yi), of energy flow (qi) should be smooth and even. This awareness of mind however, should not be confused with the physical deployment of the form (xing).

The physicality of form will deploy according to the structural boundaries of Taijiquan practice. That is, the working priniciles underpinning the thinking of the master or teacher.

Movements will ebb and flow, according to their nature. As the movements unfold from the ground upwards, the deployment will reflect this reality. As the arms, legs and torso can make potentially any shape, the positioning of each limb (in relation to all the other limbs), will align with the torso positiion, (and the requirement to 'root'), will dictate the fast or slow unfolding of the technique.

However, this over-intellection may not help during the performance, although variants of it might help to teach the movement/technique. For myself, yi (awareness), and qi (energy) movement keeps the form focused.

Thank you
HengYu

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"Taiji (of YCF style) is in details" quote of Fu Qingquan

[This message has been edited by Yuri_Snisarenko (edited October 08, 2009).]
Yuri_Snisarenko

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Quite often "reference point" = jin point.
Yuri_Snisarenko

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Greetings everyone,

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. It seems that the issue of speed overshadowed the issue of position, but I am still interested in both.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Another way to look at speed is to take the same amount of time, roughly, to get to the end of a weight shift, such as reaching the end of a bow step.</font>

The more I consider the issue, I think this is what I primarily pay attention to. From this speed, I then obtain the rate of speed used to turn my torso (or perhaps the other way around).

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Of course I have in mind some "reference points" for each posture that were given me by Fu Qingquan laoshi. They could be pretty different reflecting specifics of particular posture. And of course as many others I still have questions doing the form - whether the posture (or the movement) is completely correct.…I mean - now almost all of us have possibility to check our postures in mirrors as often as we like - almost everyone has a big mirror in a house or a gym - isn't it a good "reference point"? </font>

Mirrors are indeed good reference points and ones that I try to use as often as possible. As I consider my original quite vague question further, however, I think I am asking about universals, rather than “specifics,” although which is which probably depends on what aspect of a posture is being considered.

At present my understanding of how to practice the forms involves using externals to reach internals. These internals can then be used to express the correct externals. For example, in push hands, the Jin should be expressed smoothly. One way to practice and explore this in the form is to keep the speed quite even. (Now, as I understand it, we do not in fact keep the speed even. We are asked to show the peak Jin expression in every posture, and this expression involves showing a change. Simply showing a change in speed would be too external, and so we try to show a sinking or a release that will show slightly externally, but that will not give the impression of a stop.) By trying to keep the speed even, this will tend to show places in your posture where you are not smoothly expressing the Jin.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Quite often "reference point" = jin point.</font>

I think I agree with this and take advantage of this; however, sometimes I think there are shifts between Jin points and it is not always obvious how quickly to transfer from one to another.

As for body positioning, I think there are four standards that can initially be considered: instruction in the details, the imaginary opponent, the external environment (i.e., the floor, the practice space, etc.), and your own body. My belief is that we have to take our understanding beyond instruction in details, since these represent the “finger pointing at the moon” and not the “moon” itself. I also discount the importance of the imaginary opponent, since opponents differ and since this is best explored through push hands. I am then left with the external environment and your own body.
When I first used to withdraw my right arm in preparation for the final punch of Parry Block and Punch, I think I used to draw it back out of habit from drilling punches in Karate. As a result, I drew it back so that my elbow pointed behind me, at angle with the “cardinal” directions in the room. I then learned to pay attention to the position of my arm with respect to my body and made small changes to the location of my wrist. I then learned that that drawing it back “straight” meant drawing back so that the elbow pointed straight back as aligned with the room and the overall direction of my advance. This was a major change. As I now think about it, I may not need to change my alignment yet again, but might learn more by ignoring the room orientation and thinking instead about opening maximally away from the point I want to close on and strike. This would allow me to focus on a principal of wide application, rather than just on a narrow detail of one portion of one posture.

Take care,
Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited October 18, 2009).]
Audi

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