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PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2002 7:37 pm
by Audi
Hi all,

Thanks for all the interesting descriptions of applications and associated commentary.

Michael, would you be so kind as to describe what application you envision for the horizontally circling arms in the transition from Push to Single Whip, especially the use of the left hand, if any, as it circles back to the right? Also, if you view Single Whip as an application where you control the opponent’s right wrist and attempt to sweep him or her from right to left over your left leg with your left arm, where is the opportunity for the opponent to seize your left wrist and begin the sequence that leads to Push Down? Do you not connect up these particular applications?


At a recent seminar, Yang Jun indicated that a/the application of Step up to Seven Stars in the Saber Form was a ward off with the left arm and a punch to the chin with the right fist. From his general comments, I would presume that he would view this as one of the potential meanings of the same posture in the bare-hand form. At a previous seminar, I believe I recall him demonstrating Step Back to Ride the Tiger with a left to right sweep of the opponent’s right leg, in addition to some sort of counterclockwise vertical circling of his arms that swept the opponent off balance.

At the recent seminar, in response to a specific inquiry during a break, I believe that Yang Jun indicated that one application of the rearward sinking of Push Down (Squatting Single Whip) was to pull the opponent with the left hand from right to left across your left leg, rather than to the ground in front of you. From the context, I do not believe, however, he was indicating that this application tracked the exact movements of what he teaches in the form.

From the picture at the top left of this web page and what I have been taught, I have always presumed that the peak movement of Push Down was the snake-like movement of the left fingertips along the left leg. I would guess that this is related to your question about “invading the opponent’s private parts.” In some versions of Single Whip, I have seen some people envision a downward windmilling strike of the right fingertips of the right hook hand to the opponent’s groin, as a follow-up to the left hand action.

By the way, from what I recall of Fu Zhongwen on video and of the Yangs in person, I believe they perform Push Down with the identical sequence of pivoting, weight shifting, and sinking.

At the recent seminar, in response to a casual question, Yang Jun seemed to perform Bend the Bow and Shoot the Tiger in a way that emphasized the power of pulling the opponent from left to right with the sinking of the body and the weight shift. Since the Yangs perform the preceding Lotus Kick (and all the kicks I have seen) with the standing leg more or less straight, the sinking of the entire body to the usual level of the form has a lot of power. In Yang Jun’s one-time casual demonstration, it seemed as if the opponent was in effect pulled off balance so that he or she would fall into the oncoming circling of the two-fisted punch. The right fist seemed to aim at the opponent’s face, and the left fist at the opponent’s right ribs.

Although, I do not believe these movements mimic how one bends and shoots a bow, I still find the final position somewhat suggestive of this, especially envisioning a retreating horseman shooting backward against the direction in which the horse is galloping. Also, I believe some versions of this posture ( David’s?) actually do have the fists moving in opposite directions, which would make the analogy even closer. I have assumed that those doing the posture this way, envision an energy exchange similar to Strike the Tiger, with the right hand pulling the opponent’s right arm to the right, while the left fist punches to his or her left ribs.

I have no explanation for Yang Chengfu’s reference to a horse riding stance in Bend the Bow, but want to mention that the transitional stance which follows Bend the Bow is an unusual stance, in which the feet are diagonally parallel. Although the feet are not equally weighted (the left has 70%?), the fact that the feet are parallel replicates one of the characteristics of a horse stance. For those who do not do this version of the posture, I can describe it as follows. After Bend the Bow, where the fists strike to the northeast (?), the left foot pivots from east to northeast, followed by the right foot, which pivots 90 degrees from southeast to northeast. In response to a casual question during a break, Yang Jun indicated that having the right foot pivot 90 degrees, rather than 45 (which would result in a bow stance), made picking up the foot easer to continue Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch.

Louis, where you have translated “xu” as “reserve,” would it not be possible to use the translation “store” or “store up”? I have always envisioned this word as referring to storing up or accumulating energy (“jin”) before issuing it (“fajin”), like loading a spring. To my ear, “reserve” seems to have a connotation of “holding back” or “opting not to use.” Is this what you think Yang Chengfu had in mind?

Take care everyone,

PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2002 12:30 am
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Audi,

You wrote: 'where you have translated “xu” as “reserve,” would it not be possible to use the translation “store” or “store up”? I have always envisioned this word as referring to storing up or accumulating energy (“jin”) before issuing it (“fajin”), like loading a spring. To my ear, “reserve” seems to have a connotation of “holding back” or “opting not to use.” Is this what you think Yang Chengfu had in mind?'

This is an interesting bit of linguistic nuance, isn’t it? To my mind, “reserve” here already entails the storing up and accumulating of strength. But, now that you mention it, I would not want to avoid the connotation of “holding back” or “opting not to use” that you’re objecting to. I think that an instance of yielding to and “leading the other’s strength” (qian bi zhi li) is in fact a holding back—it is in fact precisely a strategic non-application of strength against the oncoming force of the opponent. This is not to say that you are not using strength, but rather that you are not using it *against* the oncoming force. This would not only be wasteful, but it would give your opponent a “purchase” that you would rather he not obtain. I do sometimes use “storing up” to translate xu, but I like “reserve” in this instance. The fact that the word qi is used here instead of li, jin, or shi, almost calls for a rendering of “conserve” rather than “reserve.” My sense of it is that Yang Chengfu was talking about an instance of the precise timing known in taiji theory as “deji deshi” (seizing the opportunity and strategic advantage). In this instance, what you don’t do with your strength is as important as what you do with it, and the timing of when you do each is more important still.

The verbal sense of “reserve” as in “to retain or hold over to a future time or place” is, after all, the basis for the noun “reserves”: “a military force withheld from action for later decisive use.”

Take care,

PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2002 8:05 pm
by Louis Swaim

Revisiting this thread, it appears to me that your question to me may have been referring specifically to the use of xu in the Draw the Bow and Shoot the Tiger narrative: “All [of the above movements] require reserving of one’s power [xu qi shi], and the sinking of jin in the waist.” I had in mind the description appearing in Squatting Single Whip: “The right leg works simultaneously with the waist and kua in sitting down, in order to lead the other’s strength while reserving my qi (yi qian bi zhi li er xu wo zhi qi).” In the latter, there is a clear reference to “leading,” which I think supports my interpretation of xu outlined above. In the former it is less clear, but I still think that a case can be made for translating xu as reserve.

Another occurrence of “xu qi shi” in Yang Chengfu’s book is in his narrative of Observe Fist Under Elbow, where he says: “My right hand swiftly forms a fist, turning and arriving beneath my left elbow, the tiger’s mouth (hukou) facing up, in order to reserve its power (xu qi shi), meet the opportunity, then issue. With no chance to respond, [the opponent] will fall.” There seems to be a clear sequential ordering of events here, very similar to the notion expressed in the “Da Shou Ge” as “Attract him into emptiness, join, then issue” (yin jin luo kong he ji chu). There also seems to be an emphasis on the timing involved in reserving or storing of strength prior to issuing.

What do you think?

Take care,

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 05-19-2002).]

PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2002 9:24 pm
by Michael

Horizontally moving arms/hands and left hand. I have just begun to really work on this transition, so i can maybe share a few useful ideas. Coming from push as is commonly taught the left circle can be a ward off or a strike as used going into cross hands. But I would say it is primarily a ward off.

Because Yang Jun seems now to teach a greater distance between the hands at the completion or the rotation to the left it has changed my thoughts about the rightward movement. My teacher talks primarily of the rightward decending movement as "pushing" down, I understand this is what Yan Jun primarily speaks about. This makes perfect sense as at this point we have only shifted our weight back to the right and have not yet turned the waist. IF the waist is turned as we shift back the energy seems strongly imply an elbow strike back to the right. If the waist rotation occurs at the end of the weight shift, it projects the right into the "hook" arm techniques. The left hand now comes into play.

As the right hand goes out and turns over, the left elbow drops with the right forearm turning and the hand rising. There seem to be two functions that I have found so far other than getting the left arm in position for something else. The most important one seems to be this. IF you are "capturing" the opponents right and turning it over so that his elbow turns up toward you, the same motion of the waist puts your left into position to guard against him using his elbow if he steps in. It is really simple, effective, and mechaically "beautifully" thought out (NOT by me). If you are striking with the left it is there in a "ready position" to ward off or strike out, etc.

A secondary use of the left would be this. If while capturing the incoming arm, and if appropriate, the left could be used against the elbow or the shoulder (your left hand outside or inside the elbow)while still having his wrist with your right. This would be accomplished by stepping forward and behind the opponent and turning your waist back to the right. If the angles are right, the step may not be needed. If he is able to bend his elbow (your left inside his elbow) and he attempts an elbow strike you continue to turn the waist directing his energy across infront of you. If he only retreats you step as your waist turns and the result is the same. Now this isn't in the form but it flows really well. But again it all must be appropriate and no significant force used except from the waist turns etc.

I have mentioned the "throw" or "sweep" over your left leg several times here. In that situation there is only a few possibilities fo rhim to grab your forward (left) arm or wrist. If when stepping he cuts you off by moving to his right, you step inside. If he intercepts your left palm strike, with your front leg inside of his he is vulnerable to Push down. If he steps back with right leg and captures your left Push Down COULD be performed but I don't know if it would be appropriate in that position. I tend to think that the Push down might be more appropriate when other Single Whip techniques are being applied than the leftward sweep.

The flow from one position to the next is meant to highlight certain techniques for continuation. Numerous techniques may apply but many of the possibilities will not be appropriate for continuation in the sequence but are just as valid. Which technique that is used depends on the actions of the opponent obviously.

I might mention that although not found in OUR branch of the Yang style, that Push down is also performed by laying the right palm over the opponents hand which has grabbed your left wrist and which keeps him there for a moment as your shift back and or down. It is just something to be aware of as far as a possibility.

PostPosted: Mon May 20, 2002 7:56 am
by Hans-Peter
Hallo to everyone,

highly interested I follow the posts of the participants of Yang Yun's seminars. One thing in Audi's post from 05-18 made me think again about one fact which I always couldn't understand. Maybe we can talk about it here.


concerning Bend the Bow and shoot tiger you wrote, that after the fiststrike to the northeast, the left foot has to turn from East to northeast.
1. Did Yang Yun or YZD teach a strike to northeast? I've been always taught to strike to East with left fist.
2. On Page 241 YZD writes in his 1996 Morning Glory Book: "In this form, turn body from left to right for 405 degrees in all, that is, from due east turn around and let foot fall in the southeast direction."
This is shown on picture 542 and I think YZD's torso faces east. And doesn't his left foot points somewhat to the northeast corner?
But assuming he starts from Retreat to ride tiger, which is picture 536, where the right foot points southeast, where is the 405 degree-turn when he ends up also with the right foot to southeast and the left to east?
Greetings to all

PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2002 3:31 am
by Audi
Hi Hans-Peter,

As I understand it, after Turn the Body and Sweep the Lotus (Turn around and Kick Horizontally), the arms end up pointing horizontally to the northeast. As you sink down and step out to the southeast, the hands describe a vertical counterclockwise semicircle in front of the body. As the arms rise to point to the southwest and reach about shoulder height, they form fists and strike back within the same plane across the body in an arcing motion to the northeast. I am using exact compass points here, but I think I vaguely recall Yang Jun saying at the seminar that it was difficult to specify the exact striking direction of the fists. In any case, I think my logic gives the correct flavor of how the angles are determined. If you look carefully at Figure 551, I think it is possible to see that Yang Zhenduo’s arms are angled slightly to the rear of the figure and form approximately a 90-degree angle with his feet, rather than a 45-degree one.

As for Turn the Body and Sweep the Lotus, I can say the following. In figure 542 (Step Back to Ride the Tiger), Yang Zhenduo’s left foot is facing due east and his right foot is facing southeast. The 405 degrees result from the following. In Step Back to Ride the Tiger, the front foot (the left one) is facing due east. After the right foot pivots as far as it can, the left foot swings around and touches down (I believe heel first) but continues to pivot on the heel until the toes end up facing again due east and the body sits back onto the leg. When the right foot finishes pivoting on the ball of the foot and you let the heel pull naturally back, the right foot has become the new front foot and is facing southeast. The shift from front foot (left) facing east to front foot (right) facing southeast makes 405 degrees.

Is my description clear enough?

Take care,

PostPosted: Tue May 21, 2002 4:13 am
by Audi
Hi Louis and Michael,

Louis, I frankly had not noticed that Yang Chengfu was taking about qi, rather than jin. I also had not realized that "shi" was used in these circumstances to mean "power." Overlooking such details in Taijiquan is perilous.

Taking these words into account, I agree now with your choice of translation. Sequencing seems to be clearly implied, and "reserving" seems to cover this pretty well.

One thing that does puzzle me, however, is what Yang Chengfu means by xu qi shi in the context of the fist in Fist Under Elbow. Is his intent to clarify that the Tiger's Mouth must face upward in order to "preserve" or "conserve" the power of the fist? In this case, it seems that the power of the fist is actually used and not held back in reserve as in the other cases.

Michael, thanks for your details. I have much to ponder. You have also convinced me that I need to find someone to help me do some serious work exploring some of the possibilites of Single Whip.

I recall a brief seminar with Jou Tsung Hwa, where he said that Single Whip was the most repeated posture in the form and thus perhaps one of the most important. I don't recall him giving an explanation for all the repetitions, but I now wonder whether many of the repetitions actually envision either different applications, or at least different responses by the opponent.

One thing I wonder about in your description is that I believe the right hook/wrist strike to the southwest results from a counterclockwise waist rotation that is in the opposite direction of a waist rotation that would support a left elbow strike (to the ribs?) from left to right. By the way, I think I like your interpretation of an elbow strike even if the waist turn follows the weight shift.

One other thing I can add, if I did not do so already, is that I understand the leftward circling of the arms to represent guiding the opponent with both hands on his or her body (arm? shoulder? left? right?). I believe the right palm is actually supposed to be seated with the fingers unusually pointed to the right and with the thumb side of the palm heel leading to the left. Any ideas about how this could link up with the previous weight shift to the rear and the straightening of the arms that follows Push? Also, how might one link up the circling to the left with the circling to the right?

Take care,

PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2002 1:11 am
by DavidJ
Hi Jerry,

You wrote, about my description of the movements from 'Lotus Kick' through 'Double Punch to Chin' to 'Draw the Bow and Shoot the Tiger' > David's description is not entirely consistent with the way the Yangs or Fu Zhongwen show this. <

While I don't expect you to be perfect, Image I do think that it would be informative for you to discuss the differences. I don't know whether you recognise variations, but this seems to me to be a situation that you could use to the benefit of your students. I assure you that what I described exists as a legitimate variation that is consistent with the priciples.

Also I am interested in learning what those differences are.


David J

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 05-21-2002).]

PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2002 2:40 am
by JerryKarin
Hi David,

Sorry I didn't mean to seem like I was picking on your way of doing it. A lot of people who visit this site are members of the association who are learning the form taught by the Yangs, which is nearly identical to Fu Zhongwen's form. I don't have time to go into all the specifics but just look at the orientation of the left hand at end of move in Fu's book, for ex.

PostPosted: Wed May 22, 2002 5:29 pm
by Hans-Peter
Hallo to everyone,

the additional discussion concerning Single whip and the transitorial shifting from push interests me very much, since I'm also working on this topic a long time and I'm still not satisfied with my conclusions. Therefore I'd like to mix up this discussion, but first of all -


your explanation about the 405 degree turning is absolutely clear. Thanks a lot.


you wrote very interesting things concerning the hands shifting from the push to the left and the jobs that both hands have to do after the shift. Concerning the right hand - isn't it possible that it just works as a counterbalance for the heavy whiplike strike with the left? In the Tai Chi applications book of Yang Sau Chung there's a picture of YCF showing an application just in this manner. The text says: "Take a step towards the left with your left foot to which the center of gravity is shifted and turn your left palm outward to strike him on the chest. Stretch your right wrist and curve the palm with fingers closed pointing downward so as to have a better balance of force." You also wrote, that during the shift to the left, the palms stay errect. I just like to add, that due to a translation from YCF applications book published years ago in Taichi-magazine, YCF stated very clear that the hook should be already made during shifting to the left and not after shifting weight back to the right.If I'm wrong here, maybe Louis can help again. But which are the reasons that Yang Yun or YZD shift weight back to the right and then build the hook, then strike to the left while the hook stays stationary in the southwest. I always look to pictures 25 and 26 of YZD 1996 Morning glory book where this is obvious.I'd appreciate some words from you or from others, since due to the classics - if one part moves (i.e. the left hand) all other parts move (but here the right arm stays same as before). I'm looking forward to some enlightning words.

Since some of you participated in recent classes of Yang Yun, I'm interested in the way he teaches the step with the left foot in single whip. In YZD's books and in the videos I can see, that YZD steps to the left, so that there's a hipwide channel between the left and right heel (see pict. 26 in the book mentioned above). YZD's torso seems to face southeast. I've learned two styles of single whip. One is the same way as YZD shows, another is a step to the east on the same line as the right heel, with left toes pointing somewhat to southeast but torso facing nearly completely to south, only eyes looking to east. That's the way as shown by YCF on his later photographs. Up to now I thought, that the Yangs currently teach the first version. But now I've seen the cover of Yang Yun's new video, showing just the single whip endposition and I seem to see, that his torso also faces south, so that he probably shouldn't have the "Channel" between his feets. Please let me know what you've seen in the latest classes or workshops.
Best regards

BTW - Michael, after we've talked over so much interesting Snake creeps down-applications, maybe it's interesting for you to hear, that I've seen a Xingyi-demonstration of it some days ago, where the left hand was used to grab a leg of the opponent (I think his left) through the hollow of the knee while still holding his right wrist with the right, threwing him over the left leg while standing up. I think you like these throws over the leg.

PostPosted: Sun May 26, 2002 5:07 pm
by Michael

The many repetitions of Single whip is a great opportunity to practice various "intents". Responses by the opponent will indeed be varied and this is good opportunity to working with a few of the possibilities and the "energy" involved.

Did you mean the "rightward" rather than the "leftward" circling? I think think of the technique of the right and left movements as being independant OR continuing. Just one way I view this is if the opponent side steps the push and comes back in, you guide him or his arms to your why we turn the waist so far (to the left) I am not sure and would be interested in any ideas. Let me say that one idea i have is that it implies turning the waist on a circular path with the right foot stepping in behind the opponent as you guide him around to the left as you may do in a rollback.....anyway, back to the original situation.... If the opponent then steps forward as you guide him to the your left, recovers, and comes back with an elbow or turns to face you again you can repeat the action to the right or.....remember that this is just guesswork on my part.

Hans peter,

i don't know if anything in the form is "just" anything, counterbalance or whatever. It is always dependant on one's opponent. The efficiency of the design is just so well thought out. Could it be JUST a counterbalance...maybe in one particular point in time, but at the same time it is something else.

I don't think i said anything about the hands staying "erect" during the turn towards the left. You do however have the wrist "cocked" with the fingers angling upwards a few degrees to aid in making good contact and to be able to control the opponents "arm"....

As far as when one part moves....when speaking of the actual use of techniques, the timing of when/what happens is greatly variable. The form is an idealized sequence of events. YZD formed his hook sooner than Yang Jun seems to do now. Someone correct me if I am wrong here but Yang Jun is turning over the right "hand" while the left forearm is revloving and the hand is rising (or elbow is sinking). This satifies the requirements.

Where I sometime had trouble is with the continueing movement...the turn of the waist and stepping forward. I have seen some people only complete the hook when the left heel has been placed on the ground when stepping. I guess this has to do with intent. It looks good but I think it overlooks a number of techniques that should be considered. Now again, when one completes the hook and the left arm movement there is continuation of movement with the turning of the waist and stepping out. Even though the right arm is not doing anything but following the body it is moving.

I have not seen the new video by Yang Jun but it would suprise me very much if his chest was facing the south. He did not do Single Whip that way last summer when I saw him last. It may have been an illusion or maybe something has changed again?

In the Kuang Ping Yang style, Single whip is how you describe. The chest is facing the "south", the heels are in line but with the toes at a 90 degree angle and the arms on the same line. If the chest is to the south I would say that the toes HAVE to be at a 90 and I don't think that you would ever find this in our style.

Thanks for the Xing-I technique. I don't know why this would not be "applicable" to our style.

Good practice!


PostPosted: Mon May 27, 2002 12:51 am
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Hans-Peter,

You wrote:

“I just like to add, that due to a translation from YCF applications book published years ago in Taichi-magazine, YCF stated very clear that the hook should be already made during shifting to the left and not after shifting weight back to the right.If I'm wrong here, maybe Louis can help again. But which are the reasons that Yang Yun or YZD shift weight back to the right and then build the hook, then strike to the left while the hook stays stationary in the southwest. I always look to pictures 25 and 26 of YZD 1996 Morning glory book where this is obvious.I'd appreciate some words from you or from others, since due to the classics - if one part moves (i.e. the left hand) all other parts move (but here the right arm stays same as before).”

I think that the translation you’re referring to probably is from Yang Chengfu’s earlier book, _Taijiquan Shiyongfa_, and it may be debatable how clear it is about the timing of forming the hook hand during Single Whip. In his later book, _Taijiquan Tiyong Quanshu_, it is also difficult to say with precision how the timing and ordering of the movements play out, but I would say that it seems to conform with the way his sons Yang Zhenduo and Yang Zhenji teach Single Whip. Yang Chengfu’s narrative does state that the hook is formed “when the two hands swing to the left. . . ,” however, this swing to the left is after a prior left and right turning of the torso: “Left and right, back and forth, one uses the power of a steelyard’s turning motion.”

In Yang Zhenji’s book, _Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan_, he is very specific about the turnings of the waist in Single Whip. Here’s my translation of one of his points for attention:

“Single Whip has three distinct movements of the waist guiding the hands and feet. The waist first turns left, then turns right, then again turns left. Yang Style taijiquan requires as a general rule that there be no independent movements of the four limbs; rather all involve the waist’s leading of the four limbs in rotations. If the waist and the feet and arms separate from one another [in their motions], then the movement is incorrect, and one will also not reach the finest practice results. [In the transition involving the forming of the hook hand], the movement of the waist has some differences from other movements [in the form]. When one sits solidly over the right leg, the lower frame [xia pan] does not move—it is only the upper torso [shang shen], using the waist as a pivot, that guides the turning movement of the two hands—the kua and the buttocks are essentially immobile. [In the transition into the ending Single Whip posture], the waist’s movement is a leftward swing—one swing leads the movement of the empty left leg, and leads the movement of the left peng hand. In these two movements, the function of the waist has its own unique features. In performing and practicing, one should bear in mind that there are these differences.

“Generally speaking, the performance and practice of Yang Style taijiquan requires that ‘the waist’s movement be a bit more, the hands’ movement be a bit less.’ [A favorite formulation of YZJ’s] The hands often maintain a fixed shape, following the waist and then moving. If one grasps well this one practice method, it is tantamount to getting a firm hold on the main characteristics of Yang Style taijiquan.”

It would seem, then, that there is some degree of consensus that the hook hand is formed after turning first to the left and then to the right. Even Fu Zhongwen’s son, Fu Shengyuan, prescribes it so, even though he advocates keeping the weight over the right foot throughout the entire transition prior to the final leftward swing into the ending posture. (Yang Chengfu’s _Taijiquan Tiyong Quanshu_, by the way, does prescribe a shifting back of the weight onto the left leg prior to the pivot.) This, however, brings up an important consideration, one that Michael has already mentioned, and that is the possibility that there are likely many variant ways of doing single whip, and variant applications for the hook hand. I think it is highly likely that early masters taught and practiced these variations as a matter of course. In my opinion, for example, good application rationales can be made for both the weighted-pivot version of Single Whip and the practice of shifting the weight prior to the pivot. The fact that there are so many repeats of Single Whip in the form invites speculation that at one time some of the repeats may have been taught as variants.

Just to add to the mix, here are some links that discussants may find interesting with regard to Single Whip. These are translations that Ted Knecht did of some essays by Dr. Mei Yingsheng, who studied closely with Fu Zhongwen.

Take care,

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 05-27-2002).]

PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2002 2:39 pm
by Michael

Please correct me if I got this wrong. Word descriptions of complex moves often confuse me---quite an easy thing actually.

In the articles is YCF saying that the hook hand and the left hand are moving east and west at the same time? In the Kuang Ping Yang style (through Chiang Yun Chung) after Push (which is on a diagonal) the hands move resulting in the left palm facing you, fingers upright and the hook formed below and to the right of the left hand (wrists in line). This at your center. Though closer together this is very close to what we do in the YCF form. The hands then move to the east and the west with the waist movement to the left. This last part of the movement which I just this type of arm motion similiar to what YCF is talking about?


[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 05-28-2002).]

PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2002 9:44 pm
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Michael,

Let me just preface my response with a favorite anecdote about the extraordinary jazz musician, John Coltrane. A European music enthusiast, upon listening to one of Coltrane’s tenor saxophone solos on his album, Blue Train, was captivated by the complexity of harmonic and rhythmic sophistication, and the architectural genius it evidenced. She spent a number of hours meticulously transcribing the entire solo note for note. Later, while Coltrane was touring Europe, she had the opportunity to meet with and interview him. During the interview, with an air of anticipation, she presented her transcription and politely asked him to play it. Coltrane carefully examined the transcription, then looked at his interviewer and quietly said that it was too difficult to play. This, of course, was no reflection upon Coltrane’s reading proficiency, but rather was an indication that the solo was an instance of spontaneous interactive creativity that challenged the very boundaries of form and notation.

Now as to the issue at hand I have to say that in all honesty, I don’t know the answer to your question about Yang Chengfu’s description of Single Whip. The language in the book _Taijiquan Tiyong Quanshu_ is frankly often obscure with regard to sequencing and placement. Some passages are clearer than others, but with regard to the Single Whip narrative, the best I can surmise is that Yang Chengfu’s narrative *seems* to support an interpretation that the hook is formed after a turn of the waist first to the left and then to the right, but the descriptive detail is quite thin. So my advice is to look to the descriptions and teachings of Fu Zhongwen, Yang Zhenduo, Yang Zhenji, and Yang Jun for the best guidance toward a standard of descriptive kinesiology.

Early published manuals on taijiquan from the twenties and thirties might best be viewed as mileposts along the route in a gradual evolution from oral tradition and highly codified written texts that were privately transmitted, to more explicit notation of detailed body mechanics that were publicly transmitted. The kind of detailed description witnessed in modern manuals such as those by Fu Zhongwen or Gu Liuxin were most likely influenced by advances in formalized physical education instruction, for they are really unprecedented. The earliest written taiji documents (the classics), are probably best understood as supplementary adjuncts to personal, oral instruction. These fit into a common mold in historical Chinese military training manuals, archery manuals, and the like. These functioned less as explicit detailing of movement than as distillations of experiential principles. They might be viewed as a sort of “prompt book” for advanced students and masters.

An analog in Chinese literary tradition comes to mind—a tradition of literature known as huaben (talk book) stories. Huaben literature most likely came out of a tradition of teahouse storytellers. The storytelling art was passed down from master to student, or within a family tradition. Slowly, a written tradition developed that recorded the stories in a bare bones and formulaic presentation, whose sole purpose was to preserve the outlines of the stories and to serve as a memory prompt. Later, these prompt books were built upon and fleshed out into more narrative form by literary minded writers for publication. Thus what had been accessible to the public only through teahouse storytellers now were available to readers as a sort of proto-novel.

I know I’ve avoided your question in a very roundabout way, but the gist of what I’m trying to say—and I suppose I’m trying to explain this to myself in the process—is that we should be clear about what our expectations are toward these early taijiquan manuals. We should not look to them for the kind of clear movement analysis we see in the later manuals. By the same token, no matter how clear the more modern manuals are in their movement description, we should recognize that even this clear, detailed body mechanical description falls far short of capturing the whole art. On the other hand, there is great value in the earlier manuals such as Yang _Chengfu’s Taijiquan Tiyong Quanshu_, which is that they potentially put one in closer touch with the source. What they lack in movement detail is often made up for in highlighting some of the less mundane, and more intangible characteristics of the art.

Take care,

PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2002 12:47 pm
by Hans-Peter
Hi Louis,

you said:

"...the best I can surmise is that YCF's narrative seems to support an interpretation, that the hook is formed after a turn of the waist first to the left and then to the right but the descriptive is quite thin."

Isn't it possible, that the problems with the shifts and the building of the hook are due to the fact, that the shifts to left and right are described as parts of single whip in this form? In the so called "old Yang Style" - schools that I've visited these shifts to left and right have been described as a position of his own, mainly called: "Fishes in eight" (some said, that "Fishes" is due to the fact, that the hands move in the shape of the Ying - Yang symbol during the shifts).
Now it seems obviously clear to me, that these schools - as I understood - coming from the Yang Shao Hou or Yang Sau Chung lineage,
teach this "Fishes in eight" the same way as your transcription of Yang Zhenji's words implies: After the push shift weight to the left and turn the waist to the left. Then shift weight back to the right and turn waist to the right - hands also to the right. This is the end of "Fishes in eights". Now single whip begins with the weight over the right leg and the building of the hook only with the help of the waist in front of the bodies centre. Then the left foot steps out, left arm whips to the left, hook moves to the right, torso faces south, head turns to east.
In your translation of Fu Zhongwens book and in the teachings of those, who said that they follows the YCF-lineage, I couldn't detect a posture of his own rights between the push and single whip.
So I always thought that there's an obvious difference in this part of the forms between this "Old style" and the YCF-or YZD style.But now I think to see that it's quite the same - or is my resumee still wrong? What do you think?

Best wishes