Front Leg in Bow Stance

Postby JerryKarin » Sun Dec 07, 2003 6:33 pm

I always pay close attention to what Gu Rou Chen says because I have experienced first hand pushing with him that he knows what he's talking about. Re toe grip, I don't think Yang Zhenduo advocates forceful gripping with the toes. Simply turning them downward slightly works against a pull because the opponents force causes them to dig in. The foundation is still bubbling well.
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Dec 07, 2003 6:43 pm

Greetings GuRou Chen,

Thank you for providing your knowledge and experience governing these matters. I have been pondering the concept of 'toe gripping' and 'pressures placed on the soles' for some time and am grateful for the input.

Much appreciated,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.



[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 12-07-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Dec 07, 2003 9:32 pm

Greetings all,

In considering the 'pull test', I noted different results when placing the 'toe down with pressure' as opposed to 'pressure on the heel' (as opposed to the proper pressure on the bubbling spring, as GuRouChen suggested).

I find that,
Pressure slightest to the toes,(during this test-not push hands, notably), actually has a detrimental effect and adds to loss of forward equilibrium.
While,
Pressure to the heel creates a definite structure, which, although, seems to create a 'stopper' effect, halting the pull forward, it also seems to be 'locking' at the knee somehow?... a tendency towards double weighting perhaps?
I would be interested in knowing what that effect is, exactly, if anyone knows what I am speaking about.

I also have some queries related to the 'bubbling spring', in respect to postures which raise the heel or the toe, thereby losing contact with this point...such as the heel pivot when turning the waist in "Tsi Feng Shi".

If I were to execute this movement against an opponent should I be rooted in that left heel foot?
If so, does the 'root' extend 'through' the heel at that point?
I am wondering if Rogira's question of shifting weight has a connection???...but find this thought very elusive.

I also note pressure on the outside and inside of the step...Is this adviseable? Integral?

Assistance appreciated.

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby dorshugla » Mon Dec 08, 2003 9:38 pm

Gou rou chen's example of mehanical properties in the playing or martial knowledge aquisition is more apropos to teaching and not the philosophical theories that abound.

The philosophical stuff comes later (after the basic body and mental requuriements are met, not before) and it becomes a distraction with discussion only. My learniong style involves actual participation and not reading (reading is a good thing) but it does not impart skill except at reading).
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Postby Michael » Mon Dec 08, 2003 10:37 pm

Steve,

I am talking the "300lb gorilla".

Gotta run, more later.

Always nice talking to you,

Michael
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Postby Audi » Thu Dec 11, 2003 2:14 am

Greetings all,

I think an interesting perspective can be gained by contrasting the stances exemplified by Kuo Lien Ying and Wu/Hao usage. Kuo’s shin in his “bow stances” does not even reach the vertical and looks to my eye more like the (40-60?) stance that I think is extensively used in Chen style. As I understand it, he favored deep wide stances that are even larger than those shown in Jeff’s hyperlink to Li Yaxian.

I do not know much about Wu/Hao style, but I think that they tend to avoid entirely the “articulation point” implied by Bow Stances, by simply bringing the back foot up to the front foot in order to “end” a posture. I can imagine how all these variations could be effective in practice, but would insist that underlying each implies different practice methods. I would also say that within the Yangs’ forms, there are actually quite a number of positions from which power can be delivered and that imply the utility of these other methods (e.g., Snake Creeps Down (Xia shi), Step up to Seven Stars, Golden Rooster Stands on One leg, many of the Sword and Saber postures, etc.).

As for the issue of pulling, I think some good postures to examine would be the transitions into Needle at Sea Bottom, Apparent Closure (Ru feng si bi), and Repulse Monkey. For instance, can our various theories explain the structural usage that happens between Golden Rooster and Repulse Monkey, where the transition and pulling power begins with the weight only one leg?

Michael, I agree with most of your comments. In thinking about your ideas of structure, would your test work equally well if you drastically shortened your stance and your rear toes were almost in line with your forward heel (still maintaining the shoulder width as the lateral distance)?

Jeff, thanks for the explanations. I agree with many of your statements. I absolutely accept the concept of “impressionistic descriptions of experience” and that these often express different physical realities. I, however, still remain attached to modern ideas of physics and so hesitate to try to implement descriptions that appear to violate these, unless I am very sure what kind of feeling someone is trying to get at. I am unsure if you and I are actually discussing either different physical realities or even different subjective realities, but I suspect that there is a true difference in technique.

Earlier in my practice of Taijiquan, I think I used to shift weight by physically trying to sink into the empty leg and then lifting my back leg with minimal exertion of the leg muscles. I am not sure this is the same as what you have explained, but it seems comparable. Two things I never understood about this technique is how one can do this without having to change the height of the body independently of what the opponent is doing and how one can do this with sharpness and speed, since it seems to rely on the limited speed of gravity. For instance, how would one use a full leg to leap into the air without “pushing against the ground”? If, on the other hand, a “pushing feeling” is acceptable here, why would it not be acceptable in Brush Knee and Twist Step?

Psalchemist, you asked about what happens to the Bubbling Spring in postures where this is not in contact with the ground. My understanding is that you root through whatever is available.

If it is consistent with your purpose, keep both your feet flat on the ground. If it is not, root with whatever is available for as long as you can. Diagonal Flying (Xie fei shi) will probably not be done at speed the same way you would do it in form; nevertheless, you want to reach for the same feelings of rootedness to the extent possible. Remember that some or all styles of Taijiquan even include leaping techniques where nothing is contact with the ground. Even here, I believe you reach for the same connections with the ground while you are in the air.

You specifically asked about rooting through the left heel during Diagonal Flying. I would think you certainly do this; however, if you leave things there I think you can run into trouble. If your balanced were threatened by the opponent during the technique, you would probably not insist on keeping the sole of your foot in the air and would end up aborting your technique and rooting with the whole foot flat on the ground. Since this possibility is inherent throughout the technique, I think that you never really entirely abandon the connection through the Bubbling Spring and simply lift your foot enough to allow for easier rotation. Another way of looking at this is that you do not maximize the flex in your ankle to make the heel’s contact with the ground prominent.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Michael » Thu Dec 11, 2003 4:31 am

Audi,

Kou's stances were pretty much 50/50. Sometimes photos show him moving forward. Li's depth is pretty close to what is done in K(G)uang Ping Yang style. Now before anyone starts with the "double weighting" questions, remember that this is just one point in time.

As far as the "pull test" goes. The closer you get to a "horse stance", structural resistance will get weaker for most of us. Then other stategies are necessary. Yours is a good question. I would guess the distance would vary with the individual, ones ability, and simple physics. There needs to be some "opposition" in the legs providing the base, so upper body muscle use is kept to a minimum. That is the key. The upper body being "upright" is even more important when the stance is shallow. Remember that here I am only talking about structural resistance to a pull.

If both opponents are in close and upright, pull becomes less of a concern in most situations. As the other (not taiji trained)moves away--where he can get leverage for a pull, I should feel it and respond with a push or to follow him. If he tries it when in close, he has already lost.

I think this mostly applies to stepping in on someone to deliver a technique, maybe with a foot and a half between the toe and the forward heel or more. At distances less than this, stepping and waist I think become more important.

I have not actually played much with the very shallow stances to see just where the cut off would be in using structural resistance or something else. I would be interested to know myself.

Thanks,

Michael

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 12-10-2003).]
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Postby Audi » Fri Dec 12, 2003 2:34 am

Hi Michael,

Your post has given me some food for thought, because I had not really thought through the implications of timing in a fighting situation and how that might change one’s preferred starting “stance.”

You also remind me of a question I have had recently. A few months ago I was shown a “standard” counter that involved delivering a Shoulder Stroke with a forward step. I was wondering about which ways of performing the step were acceptable or best.

Basically, if you are using Press (Ji) into an opponent, he or she can use An (Push?) and Pluck (Cai) to guide your forward arm downward and along the direction the fingers of that forward arm are pointing toward. The result is that you are “pulled” forward out of your root and across the opponent’s body. As a counter to this counter, I was shown that you could go with the “pull” and step into the opponent with Shoulder Stroke (Kao).

In performing this counter to the counter, I was advised to step first with my back leg and then with the front leg (shuffle step?), rather than doing the reverse (slide step?), in order to avoid having my leg swept. Although this explanation seemed logical to me, I have to confess that such a movement does not come naturally to me at all. The most natural things for me seems to be to step first with the forward foot (slide step?) and not even to bother step up with the back one. The resulting stance is a little too wide, but that is what comes naturally to me nevertheless.

Do you have any thoughts about stepping technique in such situations? I am torn between simply drilling a canned response into muscle memory and trying to find a natural trigger for such a movement. Where should elegant theory yield to hard practicality, or are there other alternatives?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Michael » Sat Dec 13, 2003 1:12 am

Audi,

Unfortunately I can really only say "it depends" on which step one would use. First, which foot of both persons is forward, right/right left/right? The angle that your (and his) energy is moving. Is his chest square orininally, is it angled? are you coming in at angle to him. What distance?

Now this is just an opinion, but I think a "Sweep" is the least of my worries. It is easily countered as is a kick (when in close) if you have some degree of sensitivity.

My first response is always (if possible)would be to step "behind" his forward shoulder. Not always possible. I have to say that I am often in favor of two quick short steps as one might find in Bagua. Front leg then the back one to create angles. In the situation you describe I am not sure. Just off hand I would favor the front foot first, but I am going to have think about that.

If your structure is firm and uncompromised at the beginning of the counter, you should not be at any risk if you have not overextended, then an elbow will take care of the situation, if not, the elbow, then move to the shoulder. If recognized early enough the "slide" will be safe, as his energy is already moving to the rear and out. It would be hard I think, to lift that front leg for a sweep and not be toppled himself if you still are rooted. In a similiar situation to what you have described I once found myself needing to step due to my structural error. I felt his weight shift to the rear and his front leg empty to sweep my front leg that had slid in. All I did was slide it in more and turned slightly to the ouside and he fell over my front leg. I don't know if it would work again, but it did in that place in time. The key was early recognition. Get comfortable with deep stances, they are very useful. I expect what you describe as "wide" stance is what I mean by a "deep" one. "Wide" will work nicely if you set up the angles properly. There are a lot of things one could do. One thing will work here but not there. There is really no such thing as "If he does this I do that". I am not telling you anything you don't know. It is all a matter of feeling.

There are so many variables. If you can set something up X,Y, and Z, I might be able to be more helpful. I think you have been shown ONE counter to one situation. And in that given situation it is certainly correct. But it is rarely like one sees in the "classroom".

Forgive me, but this is why I harp on the importance of structure so much. It takes care of most of the possibilities,. esp the possibility of a counter move and ones own counter move. If at all possible I prefer to step in deep with whatever leg is appropriate. If I am in close and step deep I should still be aware of any attempt to sweep. For a moment I may even be in a stance of 50/50 weight distribution, but that changes quickly. I am solidly rooted with opposing energy in the legs that I can shift in either direction, and I am less vulerable to any number of things. Even when stepping and in the given situation of closeness I should be able to feel his intent, change the direction of my step with my waist and upsetting not only his "plans" but also him. I could do it with an elbow, a forearm, or a shoulder....in a "perfect" world. But then again I also like short, multiple steps, but that........

I expect I confused you more. I am kind of in a rush. I have to go and will gladly try to clear up all things I have "clouded up" later.

Michael

Again I also favor short fast quick steps to the opponents backside. It depends on the situation.
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Dec 13, 2003 1:34 am

Greetings Michael,

You wrote something to the effect of 'short quick steps as outlined in the bagua'...

I am curious to know how "short steps" are correlated to the bagua...

Could you explain, please?

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Michael » Sun Dec 14, 2003 1:21 am

psalchemist,

Not "the" Bagua, but Bagua Chang. the martial art.

There are a multitude of steps in Bagua. What I am talking about is short quick stepping to circle the opponent. In my very limited understanding of Bagua, the short steps I am refrring to allow the individual the ability to defend, counter, and attack at any point during his circling movement.
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Dec 14, 2003 5:52 pm

Greetings Michael,

Thanks for the clarification, that's quite a distinction.

On the subject of "small steps"...all I know is that Bruce Lee is a very big fan of "small steps"...He must repeat it's importance at least a dozen times in the couple of books I've browsed of his.

Here are a few quotes from "The Tao Of Jeet Kune Do", Bruce Lee

<By constantly being in small motion, the fighter can initiate a movement much more snappily than in a fixed position. It is not recommended, therefore, that you stay too long in the same spot. Always use short steps to alter the distance between you and your opponent. Vary the length of your step, however, as well as the speed, for added confusion to your opponent. > Bruce Lee

Also
<Short steps while moving ensure balance in attack. Also, the body balance is always maintained so that any offensive or defensive movement required is not limited or impaired as the fighter moves forward, backward or circles his opponent. Thus, it is better to take two medium steps rather than one long one to cover the same distance> Bruce Lee

Also,
<Small and rapid steps are recommended as the only way to keep perfect balance, exact distance and the ability to apply sudden attacks and counterattacks.> Bruce Lee

<The step back as a defensive movement should always be adjusted to the length of the opponents attacking movements to ensure that the required measure is maintained for a successful parry and riposte.> Bruce Lee

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Dec 16, 2003 6:35 pm

Greetings Gu Rou Chen,

Thank you for the quote above from Wu Tunan and Yu Zhijun regarding what you astutely call “the dissipation of energy within a system.” I think taijiquan practitioners sometimes think they are being more objective and scientific when they resort to “mechanical” explanations of interactive body movement. In so doing, they fall prey to what Gilbert Ryle calls a “category mistake.” They aren’t alone; even scientists who know better habitually and unconsciously use mechanical metaphors to describe processes that are not mechanical, and many educated people subscribe to the folk theory that everything can be reduced to and explained in terms of mechanics. Ryle wrote: “The hearsay knowledge that everything in Nature is subject to mechanical laws often tempts people to say that Nature is either one big machine, or else a conglomeration of machines. But in fact there are very few machines in Nature. The only machines that we find are the machines that human being make. . . .” (The Concept of Mind, 1949) And, I would add, although humans are good at making machines, humans certainly are not machines.

The notion you describe as “dissipation of energy” is very apt, as is the description in the quote of force disappearing “without a trace.” This is what it feels like to me when I’ve pushed hands with high level practitioners. This kind of skill is difficult to explain in simple and absolute terms of “resisting” or “not resisting.” Other words I would use to describe it: “dissolve,” or “displace.” In fact, it occurs to me that the taijiquan terms “hua” and “huajin,” frequently rendered as “neutralizing” in English might be better captured by “dissolving,” as in the modern terms yehua or ronghua, with connotations of liquefaction, blending, or melting. Hua basically means to transform or change, and I think in the taijiquan context it refers to redirecting and blending with the force of the opponent. Interestingly, the underlying metaphor in these terms is hydraulic rather than mechanical. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that traditional taijiquan texts often use water metaphors, as in “move like a flowing river.” Of course, mechanical metaphors occur as well. Here’s a translation of one document that uses both hydraulic (displacement) and mechanical (spring) metaphors—the first section in the “Ba Shou Ge”:

“How do we unravel the meaning of pengjin? It is like the water that carries a moving boat. First, fill the dantian with qi. Next, you must suspend the crown of the head. The entire body has a spring-like resilience (tan huang li). Opening and closing are clearly differentiated. No matter the magnitude of 1,000 lbs., it is still not difficult to float (piao fu) him.”

Take care,
Louis
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Postby tai1chi » Tue Dec 16, 2003 10:25 pm

Hi Louis,

Imho, the use of mechanical metaphor is substantively different from believing that Nature is a machine. The essential issue is that someone has information he wishes to convey. There are very few non-physical means of doing so. The Classics, and the words of the masters you use at the end of your post, are full of mechanical metaphors. Water supporting a boat or flowing downstream do not necessarily represent the study of fluid dynamics, One might say it is merely to convey the idea that it is not like water flowing uphill or a stone falling in a pond. Finally, I can't think of an instance where even a non-mechanical action --performed by a tcc adept-- did not have a mechanical effect --whether internal or external. It is only the search for a mechanical cause that may be a waste of time.

just my opinion,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Dec 18, 2003 11:48 pm

Greetings Jeff,

You wrote: ‘There are phrases in the Classics that illustrate this: "walk as if on ice" and "take steps as if approaching the edge of a cliff."’

I’m curious which Classics you found these lines in. I don’t recall seeing them in any familiar taijiquan classics. Interestingly, though, it reminds me of a passage in the Analects, where Zengzi recalls a line in the Book of Songs (Shijing): 'We should be apprehensive and cautious, as if on the brink of a deep gulf, as if treading on thin ice. . . .” (zhan zhan jing jing, ru lin shen yuan; ru lu bo bing)

Could you let me know the source for your quotes?

Thanks,
Louis
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