The Thirteen Postures of Taijiquan

Postby psalchemist » Sat Oct 18, 2003 4:10 pm

Greetings Audi,

Thanks for the great posting on SHI SAN SHI.

You said:
<The shi san shi are not really postures but different ways of configuring the energy between the practitioner and the opponent> Audi

That is an important aspect which I had neglected to put in my last posting. I shall remedy that...an essential distinction.

Also you said:
<Using sizheng involves a certain risk to your stability which is not encountered with the siyu> Audi

Ineresting comment, how so? I might have thought that to be contrary, could you explain please?

I appreciate all the details you have provided, you have been very helpful.

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Audi » Tue Oct 21, 2003 12:49 am

Greetings Psalchemist,

When you use the four primary techniques (Ward Off, Roll Back, Press, and Push), you tend to bring the opponent’s energy in to your center and then redirect it out. Some say that the basis of these four energies is really Ward Off (Peng). As you bring the opponent’s energy in, you may have difficulty using Hua to return it back to the opponent and thereby lose your stability.

When you do the four secondary techniques, you usually do not bring the opponent’s energy inward in the same way. With Cai and Lie, you usually are directing the opponent’s energy away from you and do not need to bring it inward so much. With Zhou and Kao, your opponent’s energy is already inside some of your defenses and will probably be cut off by your application of energy. These energies do, of course, have their own disadvantages; but the stability of your root is, I believe, less of an issue.

As for you list of energies, I would have to say that this reflects more Zhang Yun’s view of things than what I understand of the Yangs’ teachings. I do not know what the Yangs’ view is on all of these things, but I have not heard mention of the heavenly stems or this particular correspondence with acupoints. Zhang Yun also emphasizes certain characteristics that seem to go beyond what I have been taught to concern myself with in the past.

My understanding is that the Yangs value simplicity and directness, even though what they teach is quite detailed. As a result, “more” is not necessarily “better” for their teaching methods. As you know, doing things naturally or spontaneously (“ziran”) is a core value of Yang Style (and other styles, as well). The more you have to drill procedures into your technique, the further you get from this principle. Of course, some drilling is necessary, and different people will have different judgments about what is necessary.

By the way, "Tsi" should be spelled "Ji," in order to be consistent with the transliteration scheme used in the rest of your post.

Psalchemist, you asked the following in an earlier post about the basic energies:

<<Do you consider these to be more advanced techniques? What level of student would enter into such training?>>

I think that the Yangs’ system, and most systems like it, proceed as follows. One first learns what the basic principles of Taijiquan are. For the Yangs, this means the Ten Essentials, supplemented by certain other ideas and methods. In the context of a four-day seminar, they do this through a morning lecture. They also do this on the three-volume video referenced on this site.

After one has an idea of what Taijiquan is and how it should be practiced, one then learns the gross movements of the form to have a medium with which to practice. There are many purposes for this, but a principle one is to learn how one’s body moves and what its potential is in various configurations.

After one begins to feel comfortable with expressing the principles through the form and begins to have a conscious understanding or feel for Taijiquan movement principles, one can then go on to push hands. I have not heard of any rule for how long this should take. I would guess somewhere around 6 months’ to 3 years’ worth of practice, depending on many circumstances.

As I understand it, one of the main purposes of push hands to understand the principles behind the movement of one’s partners. It is not so much a vehicle to practice or perfect “applications” or to concentrate on one’s own movement per se. First, you learn how to “listen” for the opponent’s energy (“Ting”). Once, you know what to listen for, you learn to understand the meaning and implications of what you “hear” (“Dong”). Then you learn to begin learn how to deal with what you understand (“Hua”) so that the energy does not automatically defeat you. The Eight Gates really begin to come into play at this stage.

At the same time as you are working on these skills, you also begin to try to get a feel for adhering, sticking, linking, and following (“zhan-nian-lian-sui”), since these are basic push hands and fighting skills. Once you begin to have a feel for all these things, it begins to make sense to work on “applications.”

As you learn skills from push hands, you can use this knowledge to improve your form and upgrade the internal content of what you are in fact practicing as you do form. The two activities begin to be mutually supportive.

Just as the forms have sets of standard postures, the push hands drills also begin with set patterns and set “postures.” The patterns have a graduated series of complexity that allow the practitioner to develop a progressively deeper understanding of the movement principles involved.

I hope this is helpful.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby psalchemist » Wed Oct 22, 2003 7:47 pm

Greetings Audi,

Thanks for patiently answering my questions.

Firstly, you explained:
<When you use the four primary techniques(Ward-off, Roll back, Press and Push) you tend to bring the opponents energy in to your center and then redirect it out. As you bring the opponents energy in you may have difficulty using Hua to return it back to the opponent and thereby lose your stability.

When you do the four secondary techniques, you usually do not bring the opponents energy inward in the same way. With Cai and Lie, you usually are directing the opponents energy away from you and do not need to bring it inward so much. With Zhou and Kao, your opponent's energy is already inside some of your defenses and will probably be cut off by your application of energy. These energies do of course have their own disadvantages; but the stability of your root is, I believe less of an issue> Audi

That is a very logical answer. Understandable and helpful. That might have gone unnoticed by my perception for a long time without clarification. Thank-you.

You pointed out:
<As for your list of energies, I would have to say this reflects more Zhang Yun's views than what I understand of the Yang's teachings> Audi

Thanks for making that distinction for me. I myself am not qualified to distinguish the differences between traditional and modern viewpoints in Taijiquan aspects and texts, and appreciate the gesture.

Yes, the list I provided was a ninety-ten split with Zhang Yun text prevailing......actually, better make that a seventy-thirty split. Image

The idea was to gather information in one spot to use as a platform for inspecting the subject of shi san shi...something to correct, question, add, subtract to, etc.
Something to be modified as the thoughts and sources appearing on the thread progress.


It was good of you to provide an example of the order of training for Yang style Taijiquan. Pretty much what I had expected...moreover, it seems to make logical sense.

Lastly you said:
<By the way, "tsi"should be spelled "ji", in order to be consistent with the transliteration scheme used in the rest of your post> Audi

"By the way"...was that intentional? Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha! Witty, Audi, that tickled Image

Thanks for the Tsi/Ji distinction, I will correct that in my post. Is that due to different dialect, Family style, other?

Nice day,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Oct 23, 2003 4:49 pm

Greetings all,

I have a specific question I would like to submit:

Which of the 'additional'(adhering,sticking,binding etc.....) Taijiquan techniques/skills is used specifically to 'uproot' the opponent, or more directly, used to make him lose his 'grounding'/'rooting' quality?

Also,
If on the recieving end of this type of application, how would one counter such a technique?

Thank-you,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Oct 23, 2003 5:37 pm

Psalchemist:
FINALLY! A point I can address in a meaningful fashion.
Sorry, just got excited.

If I'm reading your question correctly, you seem to be asking which of the four basic Nei Jin (Zhan, Nian, Lian, Sui) would be used to "uproot" an opponent.
I don't know if I would use "uproot", exactly, to describe the process in this instance, but I would say that the specific Nei Jin you are looking for would be Zhan, which means 'adhere' or 'stick up' if my recollection is correct.
The way I understand Zhan (and I am no expert) is that you use one of the other skills to make your opponent lose his balance or "lead to fall into an empty place" as it was explained to me, and then you apply Zhan to shake them so they lose their balance, or "root".
Zhan is where you borrow energy from your opponent and use it against him (Ja Li Da Li, I believe) by shaking or moving his root so he must follow, or stick to, you in order maintain his balance. The more force he uses to maintain his balance, the more energy you can borrow from him to apply Zhan, which makes him more unstable, so he uses more force to stablilize, so now you have more energy to apply Zhan...
Until he falls over.

Hopefully this has been informative for you.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Oct 23, 2003 5:41 pm

Greetings Psalchemist,

Just to address your second question, one technique I've learned in the push hands context is "hopping." That is, when you know your root has been compromised (and once it has, there is not much you can do about it!), you simply join with the incoming force and allow it to carry you away. But it requires that you keep your frame "intact" and upright, so all of the postural requirements of "song" must be in effect. What happens with this technique is that instead of losing one's balance and falling down, you sort of bounce away in a springy fashion, always landing on your feet. I've seen reference to this, I think in T.T. Liang's book, where he refers to bouncing like a sparrow. It's a perfect image. If you observe sparrows on the ground, they move by hopping in a clean, intact maneuver, appearing almost weightless. In push hands, when "launched" by an opponent who has skillfully severed your root, it's actually fun to find yourself soaring and bouncing away. But if you're not song, it may not be so fun.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Oct 23, 2003 5:42 pm

Ah! Question the second, which I had missed due to my eagerness to answer question the first...

Which Nie Jin would you use to counter Zhan?
The answer as I understand it is Lian.
If your opponent applies Zhan against you, you would use your 'linking' or 'continuing' skills to follow him, adjust yourself, then beat him back.

Hope this one was informative as well.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 10-23-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Oct 23, 2003 5:59 pm

Louis,
Are you saying to always keep a 'song' in your heart?
Sorry, couldn't help it.
Never heard it described that way, "sparrow hopping", but you are correct in that it resembles a bird hopping. I like that name for it.
I only use this if I have been "launched", when I lose contact with my opponent.
This is where, as I've mentioned before, I use laughter to maintain 'song'. It's hard to be tensed up if you're laughing and, as you say, it can be a fun experience as long as you are keeping that 'song' in your heart.

Sorry again. I just can't help myself sometimes.
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Oct 23, 2003 6:45 pm

Greetings,

Thanks for the speedy replies!

Louis,
I appreciate the descriptions you provided on 'bouncing'/'hopping'. New perspective, for me.

Wushuer,
Your explanations are along the lines I was considering...
If one is not in a situation where one has been 'bounced-off', but the root has been 'compromised'...
You said: "You would use your 'linking' or 'continuing' skills to follow him, adjust yourself, then beat him back.

Could you explain the implementation of these particular techniques in more detail please?

Happy to see such enthusiasm and amusement at my 'practical' question... Image

Thanks,
Best regards,
Psalchemist
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Oct 23, 2003 7:23 pm

Hi W,

The Mandarin word, “song” (loosen) is closer in pronunciation to the vowel sound in “moo,” or “boo.” But if singing helps you to loosen up naturally, I’m all for it. Laughing is always good, too.

As for the hopping, I’m away from my sources, but I think I’ve seen it called “tiao4 jin4” (leaping energy). I think tiao is the verb used to describe the hopping of birds, and it’s used in the name for the flea (tiao4zao3), a notorious hopper. I wish I knew more about the source of “hopping like a sparrow.” It could be a remnant of some oral tradition, which would fit in nicely with the imagery of “Grasp Sparrow’s Tail.” Does anyone have any leads on “hopping like a sparrow?”

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Oct 23, 2003 8:36 pm

Louis,
Well, shoots that pun all to heck. Oh, well.
Not an old chinese proverb that I know of, but one Sifu used to say "Laughter is the best medicine, so if you've lost your root medicate yourself".
May not have any lineage behind it, but I always found it easy to follow that advice.
Never heard any words used for the "hopping" you describe. We asked the Detroit Academy Sifu one time what that was he was doing to recover after watching him go through the hopping exercise after being "launched" by a student who got lucky. He told how to do it and then had us practice it, but I don't know that I ever heard a name mentioned for it by anyone.
They may have, but those kinds of things don't always stick in my head, especially if they used a chinese word for it with no english translation.
I really, really like the "sparrow hopping" description. As you say, that's exactly what it looks like.
Wish I could help with the historical background stuff but as you well know, I have NO idea about that kind of thing. So I will wait with you to find out if anyone else does.
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Oct 23, 2003 9:03 pm

Greetings Louis and Wushuer,

You make it sound hopeless...

Is there no way to recover one's 'root' immediately after losing it?

Wushuer, you say that trying to regain one's balance after Zhan is not only futile but even more endangering to one's stability...

You really must restore my faith in 'medical treatment' and tell me there is another remedy available besides a)falling on my donkey, b)laughing like an idiot or c)hopping like a sparrow...none of which, I imagine, would be quite appropriate for the setting I was considering. Image


Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 10-23-2003).]
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Oct 23, 2003 9:31 pm

Psalchemist:
You asked:
Could you explain the implementation of these particular techniques in more detail please?

I don't see how, exactly, I could do that in words.
I could show you, but that would require us to be in close proximity.

I'll give my general ideas on Lian, but it may not be what you're looking for. I know how I view Lian, and how I use it, I'll try to ramble on long enough to make sense about it, though I certainly can't guaruntee that I will. That said, here goes:

Lian, as I understand it, means to 'continually follow' or stay in contact with, an opponent and to 'link' your changes to your opponents changes.
To 'continually follow' means that you maintain contact with your opponent and never lose it. This is 'sensitivity' at it's finest. If you lose contact with your opponent you cannot bring any of the other skills to bear on him, so Lian is the first Nei Jin most people learn to use during push hands or sparring.
I guess a simple way of describing Lian in this context would be: stay in contact with your opponent while waiting for a chance to use the other Nei Jin skills.
It is also used to 'link' your changes with your opponents movements, or changes. If you are using Lian in this way, then you are sensing your opponent all the time so that you can always "know him" and link your changes to his before he even knows he's going to make one.

That said,
If my opponent applies Zhan to me and my root is shaken, but I'm not "launched" away from him and maintain contact, then I would 'continually follow' my opponent until I was able to reroot myself, then 'link' my changes to his and wait until I could beat him back with one of the other skills.
I have heard there is a also a connection of
'spirit' with Lian, though I am not well enough versed in that portion of the skill to speak of it with any authority.

This may not be what you were looking for, my rambling, nearly incoherent definition of Zhan, but it's all I have to offer.
Like I said, I could show you if you were here what I mean.
But how do I put that into words? This is something you really need to feel to understand.
At least, I did.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Oct 23, 2003 9:39 pm

Psalchemist:
I didn't say that, Louis did.
He's right though.
Once you've lost your "root", balance, whatever, you're goose is cooked with anyone who knows what he's doing.
Fortunatelty, the person who truly knows what he's doing is very, very rare.
The only recovery I know of are the two mentioned here, though that doesn't mean there aren't more.
Either you maintain contact and apply your Lian skills to recover, or you sparrow hop and hope he's not following through with a devastating blow.
Actually, there is one more way I know of to effectively recover from this. It's very simple and your opponent may have helped you with this technique immensly, if he really got your root and "launched" you away in summary fashion.
Run like hell with all that energy he gave you. Run like hell, and don't look back. If he got you that bad once allready, sounds like your best bet is to hope you can run a whole lot faster than he does.

That's all I got.
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Oct 23, 2003 10:05 pm

Greetings Wushuer,

Thanks for the explanation I think I understand.
It was not incoherent at all, but I appreciate that it is a difficult subject to describe...
I will consider Zhan and Lian in more detail.

I know I am becoming a pest Image ...but is there no more 'self-sufficient' manner, perhaps, of breaking the grip of Zhan and recovering root?

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.

P.S.Wushuer,
I got your last posting after posting this one, disregard the pester...

Run! Image Image Image Oh, yeah, that would be memorable!



[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 10-23-2003).]
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