Front Leg in Bow Stance

Postby Wushuer » Fri Dec 19, 2003 1:56 pm

I don't know where the saying "walk like being on the edge of a cliff", or however it's exact translation runs, comes from, but I have tried it and I think I see what it means.
I happen to live a short distance from a rather substantial cliff. It's a fall of over 200 feet, straight down on to rocks.
So I decided to test that theory out and see what the difference would be between walking at the edge of a cliff face and walking on a level surface with no sudden drop right next to you.
The difference, I found, is rather profound.
You are suddenly very aware of your balance. You know, infintesimally, where your center point is and how you are weighted.
So I tried doing a form at the edge of the cliff.
Man, oh man, oh man, OH MAN!!!!
All I will say is, most definitely give this a try.
Your awareness of yourself will increase exponentially with how close you come to that cliff face. Your awareness of your surrounding increases in direct proportion as well. You KNOW, with certainty, if there is someone anywhere near you. You are so attuned to NOT wanting to go over that edge.
It's a very good training method. I'm going to recommend it highly to every single person I train with, or student I have in the future.
Now, I haven't quite figured out how to do the "thin ice" thing. I live by rivers, they don't freeze very often and if they did I still wouldn't wish to go through the ice into a running river.
Working on it though.
In the meantime, I can do the cliff thing regularly, and think I will.


[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 12-19-2003).]
Wushuer
 
Posts: 631
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 7:01 am

Postby Gu Rou Chen » Sat Dec 20, 2003 4:00 pm

Hi Louis,

"take steps as if approaching the edge of a cliff." (mai4 bu4 ru2 lin2 yuan1) occurs in Wu Yuxiang's 'Taijiquan jie'. (Taijiquan pu, Renmin tiyu chubanshe, p. 45). I'll scan for "walking on thin ice" and get back to you. Interesing, but not surprising that the locus classicus of similar phrases may be that early! Thanks for the citation.


Wushuer,


Thanks for sharing your cliff experience! This and the "walking on ice" experience may help to answer questions about "pushing against the ground."

If on thin ice one fears most about breaking the ice. If on solid ice one fears most about slipping. If next to a cliff one also does not want to give the opponent(s) something to push against.
Gu Rou Chen
 
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 7:01 am

Postby Audi » Sat Dec 20, 2003 7:41 pm

Greetings all,

Louis, I must confess I am confused about your statements about mechanics and hydraulics. I have never formally studied either physics or engineering and so do not know what formally distinguishes mechanics and hydraulics. Can you amplify further?

I also am not sure what defines a “machine.” Didn’t the Chinese design mechanical clocks run by flowing water? I think I understand “dissipation of energy within a system,” but this does not help me understand the significance of the point you are trying to make.

If I squirt a hose against the side of a house, the house will not move, but energy will still be applied against the house. The same energy can push along something lighter or something with less frictional interaction with the ground. Is this hydraulic or mechanical action? Whatever the right answer is, can you give an example of the other type of action so that I can understand the difference?

If I push a stick into the ground, I think it is clear how my pushing energy moves the tip of the stick deeper. If I push one tip of a relatively strong bow against a concrete sidewalk, most of my energy will be reflected (?) or deflected (?) away from the concrete and be dissipated (?) into increasing the bend of a bow. If I can suddenly move my hand away, the bow will spring upward. If the bow is extremely weak, but still springy, almost all my energy will go into the bend and little will be applied against the ground. The bow might still spring back, but it will not have the power of the strong bow.

As far as I know, the tendons and muscles in the legs do not in fact have the springiness of a bow, but why would what I have described above not apply to how we can use our legs?

Jeff, I have thought a lot about what you posted and am still unsure if what you are describing is what I have understood and what I do or something different. Linguistic images are tricky, and sometimes quite personal.

You quoted the following: “It is possible for the opposing force created by the push of the feet against the ground to be completely absorbed (or used up), due to the complex transmission system of the tendons, bones and joints. This force thus disappears without a trace.” Taken at face value, I agree 200% with this. It in fact states what I was trying to describe quite succinctly. If you push heavily against the ground, this force is transmitted through your tendons, etc. throughout your body, but is not necessarily seen coming through your hands. How much force is actually revealed in your hands depends entirely on what you do with your tendons. In form, you reveal nothing, since there is no opponent to push against. I advocate not stinting on the pushing force in your legs, at least initially, because you want to have this very feeling as the force threads through your body. Without this, how can you easily discriminate the feeling of “mutual constriction” mentioned by Yang Zhenduo?

Jeff, I think your intent is to use this quote in reverse to explain how a strong push against a practitioner need not manifest itself as an equal increase in pressure against the ground. Is this correct? If so, I again agree completely. My view, however, is that this is precisely not the feeling to cultivate during the Yangs’ form, because then one will not get a clear feeling of what it is to move Jin through the body and through the legs. Does this make sense?

“Thin ice” works very well for me as image indicating to use careful and precise stepping. This seems to serve virtually the same purpose as the image of the “stepping cat.” When someone is testing my posture for structure and root, however, the image of “thin ice” does not work for me yet. Without changing my body, I cannot figure out how one could control the amount of force being applied against the floor. If I change my body during the test, it is easy to control this force, as I stated above; however, then, my static posture is no longer being tested, but my ability to neutralize the force. Are you saying that if you were standing in soft snow and someone pushed on you, you would not sink any further as a result of the external force? Am I missing something non-mechanical, as perhaps suggested by Louis?

I guess that the way I would explain the importance of structure in Taijiquan is that you absorb force in such a way that it tends to reinforce your structure. To do this, you must reflect the force against the ground, but not try to have it all manifest itself against the ground. You use the difference to alter your joints, dissipate some of the force, and set up your counterattack. When you focus purely on muscular strength and let all the force apply itself against the ground, you have the feeling that your structure is always under threat of collapse and acting in opposition to the outside force.

One way in which “thin ice” does work for me as a metaphor is when one is about to lift an empty foot from the ground. Here the easiest and most natural thing to do is to push off against the ground. If one does this, however, one surrenders somewhat to the rule of momentum, which is not permitted in the Yangs’ form in most postures. For me, this is simply the reverse of how one is supposed to place one’s foot onto the ground—at first, without any transfer of weight or momentum, but then with a gradual shifting of weight powered by the legs. Stepping in this way does indeed work the lower back muscles and provide the feeling of extracting the feet from the mud. Is this what you mean, or do you have this feeling throughout the entire cycle of stepping?

Steve, I liked your post. For me, I think all of this is an issue of communication.

For anyone interested in answering, I am curious about the boat image as used in connection with defining Peng. Louis’s post above talks about “water floating a boat and of water flowing downstream.” I have a vague recollection of a slightly different image, that of “water floating a moving boat.” What exactly is the classical image? I think there are at least three choices: a still boat that is floating in still water, water flowing downstream, and a moving boat floating through still water. Is the last image in the classics; and if so, what difference does it make that the boat is moving?

Wushuer, I have no experience practicing atop cliffs or on thin river ice, but I have practiced quite often on frost/ice. For various reasons, I have often practiced outside before dawn in a location without enough light to view the quality of the surface. Only when the sun would rise during my practice could I then tell that I had been practicing on an iced over surface.

One of the reasons that I gave up my old way of practicing was that it felt very dangerous to me on slippery surfaces, whereas the new way greatly increased my feeling of security and control. When I now have to walk on ice outside of practice, this is now the method I use. I actually put this to an unplanned test, when I once found myself, out of sheer idiocy and obstinacy, carrying a sleeping child up and down a narrow waterfall trail that was covered with slippery rocks beside potentially fatal drop-offs. Because of fatigue, I had to use both my arms to carry the child. I was petrified of slipping even once, since several hundred yards of the steep trail had no railings and no real space to land safely, even if I was lucky enough not to slip directly over the edge. The urge to survive and protect has a wonderful way of clarifying the mind and putting aside worries about theory.

Wushuer, during one brief period, I used to do form with the image that I was standing and stepping on a surface as unstable and tricky as a windsurfer or a canoe. This focused me not only on precise balance, but the ability to be able to change to match the unpredictable effects of shifting “wind,” “waves,” and “passengers.” I found it impossible to maintain any stiffness in the legs with this image, since it incorporates the utmost necessity for continuously updating one’s balance to match changing circumstances. There is no time when you can say to yourself that you have reached a permanently stable posture and can “rest.” I no longer use this image, since I prefer to focus on other things.

Take care,
Audi
Audi
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Dec 21, 2003 11:58 pm

Greetings Jeff,

Thank you for locating the “approaching a cliff” taiji quote. So it’s Wu Yuxiang. That makes sense; Wu was a scholar, and often made classical allusions of this sort. It also does not surprise me that these kinds of early literary allusions have a place in taiji writings. Thinkers in early China often expressed ethical and philosophical ideas in starkly physical and/or physiological terms. After all, the scholars (shi) of that time were essentially what had been the warrior class, so theirs was not a world of abstraction and speculation, but one of physical engagement with the concrete. The Analects passage, “We should be apprehensive and cautious, as if on the brink of a deep gulf, as if treading on thin ice. . . .” is spoken by one of Confucius’ disciples, Zengzi. He is ill and dying, but he is telling his companions that he has succeeded in making it through life “in tact”—he has avoided bodily injury. (“Look at my feet; look at my hands,” he says.) A cardinal Confucian virtue is protecting one’s person from harm, as the body is considered to be a gift from one’s parents, so he quotes the Book of Songs to illustrate the care one should exercise in this endeavor. The words he quotes appear in the first poem in the Xiao Min section of the Shi Jing, and in slightly different form in the poem that immediately follows. In both, they convey a sense of being apprehensive and extremely careful.

Another spot where the notion of approaching an abyss (lin yuan) appears is in Chapter 21 of the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu). In this story, a guy named Lie Yukou was demonstrating his archery skill to a guy named Bo-hun Wuren (translated literally by Mair as “Uncle Obscure Nobody.” At first, Lie Yukou seems pretty slick. “He drew the bow as far as it would go, placed a cup of water on his elbow, and let fly. One arrow had no sooner left his thumb ring than a second was resting in readiness beside his arm guard, and all the while he stood like a statue.” (Watson, pp. 230-231) Bo-hun then chides him, saying, “This is the archery of an archer, not the archery of a non-archer” (‘shi she zhi she, fei bu she zhi she ye.’ I.E., it’s just ordinary stuff, nothing exceptional.) Then he challenges Lie to climb up a nearby mountain to further test his skills. “Accordingly they proceeded to climb a high mountain, scrambling over the steep rocks to the brink (lin) of an eight-hundred-foot chasm (yuan). There Bo-hun Wuren, turning his back to the chasm, walked backwards until his feet projected halfway off the edge of the cliff, bowed to Lie Yukou, and invited him to come forward and join him.” (Ibid.) However, Lie Yukou was unable to do it. He just cowered on the ground. Bo-hun Wuren proceeded to lecture him, telling him that his skills weren’t really worth much if he wasn’t able to employ them under such conditions.

Wusher,

Thanks for your comments about standing near a cliff. I agree that it has a dramatic effect on one’s sense of balance and orientation. Parents know that this feeling is compounded when one’s small child gets too close to a drop. When my daughter was younger, we were hiking on the Pacific coast along some cliffs. I kept grabbing her or warning her to keep back. Finally, she just looked at me and said, “Dad, when you were a kid did YOU ever fall off a cliff?!” I had to admit that I hadn’t. Then I explained to her that I was very confident in her ability not to fall off a cliff, but that the parental protective feeling was just too strong, and I couldn’t help expressing it. It’s really a physical feeling that goes right through your body!

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby psalchemist » Mon Dec 22, 2003 12:53 am

Thank you for providing those historical documentations...Interesting and education-filled.

Your conveyance of parental dread and worry is something I can relate to...guess I'm just too tense! Image

Mention cliffs to me and it invokes a not too old memory of a tragedy which happened while I was staying at a village resort in Spain, called Cala MontJoui. There were narrow treacherous roads edging tremendous sheer drops leading to the resort (the only way in besides boat), which always made my stomach sink when travelling them. One day we recieve notice that a tourist bus which was supposed to arrive had gone straight over the edge...fourty or so perished Image ...without question...A five hundred foot drop or so...I guess these things fixate in your memory.

I'll try to avoid parental lectures in future.

Thank You,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 12-21-2003).]
psalchemist
 
Posts: 619
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 6:01 am

Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Dec 22, 2003 3:30 am

Greetings,

Audi and Steve, it appears I’ve done a poor job of it, and not presented a very lucid case. I was really trying to think unconventionally and deep-structurally (I avoid the au currant phrase “thinking outside the box” like the plague—where’s the box we were thinking inside of before?) I should have been clearer in distinguishing *mechanics*: “the branch of physical science that deals with energy and forces and their effect on bodies,” from *mechanical metaphors* and the way they can amplify or distort an explanation. I was really responding to the passage Jeff quoted, where Wu Tunan contrasts how force behaves in a biological system with how force behaves in a mechanical system, presumably one that is simple and observable.

I haven’t studied physics formally, but my interest lies more in the history of science, and in how we use language and metaphor. The “mechanical metaphor” can probably be traced to the early physicist/chemist, Robert Boyle (1627-91), but was amplified by Newton and Descartes. Boyle endeavored to demonstrate “the machanical affectations of matter," which he claimed were analogous to “the various operations of mechanical engines.” He even spoke of the human body as a “matchless engine,” and the universe as “an automaton or self-moving machine.” I’m sure by mechanical, he meant the formal physics sense when he wrote his work, “Experiments about the Mechanical Origin or Production of Particular Qualities,” but I’m troubled by the pervasiveness of the mechanical metaphor in our thought and culture, and its unexamined implications. A predecessor of Boyle, the physician William Harvey (1578-1657) was famous for his study, “On the Movement of the Heart and Blood in Animals,” where he spoke of the heart as “a piece of machinery in which though one wheel gives motion to another, yet all the wheels seem to move simultaneously.”

In the realm of physics, the word mechanical does not refer exclusively to machines, but to principles of movement. Hydraulics falls into the generally category of mechanics, I suppose (again, Boyle famously enunciated what was termed the “corpuscular” view of matter, including fluids, in which everything was reduced to the the intricate movements of particles of matter, in demonstrably “mechanical” behaviors.) The word “machine,” as I understand it, is rooted in a Greek term that meant a “contrivance.” It meant something that was constructed, that was designed for a particular purpose. So the term “mechanics” in its physics meaning likely came about from the use of “contrivances” such as inclined planes, pendulums, and the like to explore their properties in movement, and in turn for extrapolating those properties of movement to things in general. But as often happens, the metaphor brought along unexpected baggage, so that attributes of contrivances are sometimes wrongly attributed to things that are not contrived. For me, this indicates a philosophical problem of the teleological variety: the assumption of design in nature. People habitually make remarks like, “the knee was DESIGNED to bear tremendous weight,” or “the eyelids were DESIGNED to protect the eye from foreign objects.” Designed by whom or what? This notion of design comes directly from the above mentioned mechanical metaphor. The cognitive scientist/linguist, George Lakoff (who, by the way, happens to be a long-time Guangping taijiquan practitioner) explores this teleological language as it occurs even among scientists who presumably otherwise subscribe fully to evolutionary explanations of life. In his book, _Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought_, he notes occurences in scientific literature of statements like, “Trees in a forest grow toward the sun *in order to get* the light they need. Positive ions *need* another electron. The immune system *fights off* disease.” Or, “Scientists have identified a gene *for* aggression.” (Implying that the gene has a purpose.) He points out other examples in which researchers wrote of the “job” of the cerebral cortex, of how it must “cooperate with” neural networks, and that neurons “report” what is happening in the retina. Lakoff then writes, “There is, of course, a difference between conceptualizing and reasoning about the world according to this metaphor and actually believing that the metaphor is a truth.” (Philosophy in the Flesh, p. 227)

Incidentally Audi, you said that in my translation of the peng document I used the wording, “water floating a boat and of water flowing downstream,” but I didn’t write that. I used the words, “It is like the water that carries a moving boat.” In any case, I cited the peng document as an example of the use of both hydraulic and mechanical metaphors.

I’m certainly not arguing against enlisting physics to explain taiji structure and movement. I’m very much in favor of that. I also think that the rich storehouse of metaphors found in taiji teachings, mechanical and otherwise, are very evocative. I’m just reacting to the possibility of confusing the metaphor with the phenomena it describes, per Lakoff.

I wish I were better equipped to get more specific about some of the excellent issues both of you have raised. For example, I like your example of the bow, Audi, and I think it can be applied productively as an analogy. I suppose what is different is that the movement of the bow operates in a single plane, whereas muscles, tendons, and joints do not. Human kinesiology is a very challenging subject.

Have I just further botched it, or is any of this making sense?

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 12-22-2003).]
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Audi » Sun Dec 28, 2003 3:55 pm

Greetings Louis,

Thanks for the clarifications. I think I understand now much better what you were expressing. I certainly agree with the thrust of your point, but have to say that my concerns with abuse of mechanical metaphors have tended to apply to other spheres of discourse than Taijiquan.

My experience with Taijiquan has been that some people seem too ready to seek mysterious or miraculous explanations for things that in my opinion do not need them. It seems to me that many teachers and writers set a vary reasonable stage to explain how to make Taijiquan work, but then some practitioners rely on a “deus ex machina” J that undoes the relevance of much of the preparatory work. From what you have posted previously, I do not think my opinion is far from yours in this respect. With more deference to mechanical, hydraulic, or other similar models, I think there would be less fuzzy thinking and less reliance on mysterious forces.

I do want to say, however, that I do not like approaches to Taijiquan that reduce all principles to such things as efficiency of external techniques, angles of force, and years of practice. For me, the mental aspects of Taijiquan are very important and go beyond ideas of “fighting with spirit,” using “sensitivity,” and mental focus. I believe that how one conceptualizes things can matter in real time, since our bodies and minds affect each other and we do not have full control over these relationships. Conceiving the wrong thing in your mind can set off ripples in your body that you cannot really control and may not even perceive clearly.

Because I have great respect for certain mental aspects of Taijiquan, I definitely welcome and even require fuzzy, touchy-feely, non-mechanical imagery meant to capture these mental aspects. Again, I do not think I differ from you or the vast majority of this forum community in this respect. This is also the way in which I understood Jeff’s quotation from Wu Tunan and Yu Zhijun. They seem to be trying to communicate a feeling that is important to experience. I believe I must take their opinion very seriously in this respect, but would be dubious if their words were meant as descriptions of physical reality. In either case, the main mental block that prevents me from processing the quote is my lack of certainty as to what is being communicated. This is the sort of thing that can be resolved in thirty seconds of live instruction and that twenty pages of description might not resolve.

By the way, Louis, one aspect of metaphorical usage that your language reminds me of is the concept of “loose reference” in linguistics. As you probably know, many languages habitually use words and expressions in ways that seem literally to violate the dictates of logic, but which allow for easier expression. Examples would be stating that a book “says” something or that a foot “kicks” out. Books cannot talk or even write, but their authors can. The Bible cannot “say” anything, unless it is through an Audiobook version. Feet have no will power to take any independent action, but people do have such power and can command their feet to move.

Languages do not make equal use of loose reference; and Chinese, as you know, is one that is especially liberal in matching up words. On top of this, Chinese allows wholesale omission of sentence elements that is not permitted in many other languages. I often wonder whether many sentences rendered into English falsify the original by locking in relationships between subject and verb or between purported agents and their actions that would occur differently to a mind truly fluent in Chinese.

For instance, if I translate “Yong yi bu yong li” as “Use your intent; do not use your strength,” this implies a direct command and a direct prohibition. If I translate it as: “Through intent, not through strength,” this leaves open, and even suggests, many other possibilities. One is called to speculate about context and about what the main verb should be, rather than remaining content with a blanket injunction and prohibition. “Fen xu shi,” as we discussed in the past, can be interpreted as: “Distribute full and empty” or as: “Full and empty are distributed.” The former is a simple injunction. The latter could be a statement of expected consequences to look for, implying, for instance, that practicing in a certain way will result in a particular distribution of full and empty. Here the agency is the method of practice, and not the immediate intent of the practitioner. Another rendering could be: “Distributing full and empty.” This emphasizes process and implies a need to understand what is full and what is empty. Again, a context is implied, but not specified. The agent would probably be the practitioner.

As for my misquotation of what you said about water, moving boats, and Peng, thank you for your correction. Please continue to point out my often sloppy scholarship. Too often, I find proofreading and rechecking my sources too tedious for my own good.

Putting my confessions aside, I would still appreciate it if you have any speculations about why it is important for the Peng metaphor that the boat be moving. Is this perhaps a reference to the movement of the opponent, and how it does little to perturb the water? I must admit that I find this metaphor easier to conceptualize as something still than as something moving. When thinking of Peng, I find it important to my mental imagery that I move with respect to the opponent. I conceive of the opponent moving with respect to me only in the sense of bouncing off my center, not in the sense that a boat glides through water. I find puzzling why the boat should be moving in the metaphor.

Take care,
Audi
Audi
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Dec 28, 2003 8:40 pm

Greetings Audi,

As always, I appreciate your thoughts on these language issues, and though at first glance they may seem far afield of practical taijiquan concerns, you’ve stated the matter well in saying, “I believe that how one conceptualizes things can matter in real time. . . .”

I like your analysis of “yong yi bu yong li.” I offered some of my own thinking on this in another thread regarding the aphoristic characteristics of contrasting an exaggerated notion with a conventional expectation. It would be an exaggeration to prescribe using no strength whatsoever in any kind of physical moving or standing that I know of, but the taiji saying has to do with emphasis rather than exclusive categories. Your idea of freeing up the phrase from a presciptive straightjacket is very helpful, and I agree that we should not leap to conclusions about who or what the agency or object must be in the contrasting of ‘intention’ with ‘exertion’. For example, from a strategic standpoint it is more important to know an opponent’s intention than it is to know his strength, since if you know his intention you may be able to prevent him from deploying his strength before he has the opportunity to do so. So, in my opinion, taiji aphorisms are examples of productive polysemy at its best.

I’m not clear what it is you are finding problematic in the pengjin document with regard to the depiction of a moving boat (xing2 zhou1). For me, in solo practice, peng refers to an expansive capacity. In partner practice it always involves a point of engagement with the partner. I can’t imagine peng being useful, necessary, or possible against a statue or a bank safe. So yes, the movement of the boat in the metaphor seems to me to depict the movement of the other in relationship to my movement. Yang Jwing-Ming’s commentary on the same pengjin text is useful in this case. He writes,

“Although it is powerful enough to carry a boat like water, it can flow and move smoothly, freely, and with ultimate fluidity. In pushing hands, Wardoff Jin can not only be used for offense but also for defense. When it is used for defense, it is like water slipping under the prow of a boat, carrying it smoothly, swiftly and effortlessly. In a similar way the opponent’s power is ‘carried’ and lead into emptiness.” (Yang Jwing-Ming, Tai Chi Secrets of the Wu Style, p. 15)

So I guess, Audi, I’m compelled to ask you what it is that puzzles you about the movement of the boat in the metaphor?

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 12-28-2003).]

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 12-28-2003).]
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Dec 28, 2003 8:42 pm

Greetings Gu Rou Chen,

You quoted Wu Tunan and Yu Zhijun:

"Biological transmission of force (li4) differs from a mechanical system where force at one end must result in an equal force being applied on the opposite end.
The human body is different. It is possible for the opposing force created by the push of the feet against the ground to be completely absorbed (or used up), due to the complex transmission system of the tendons, bones and joints. This force thus disappears without a trace."


Jeff, I wonder if it would help us to understand the point Wu Tunan and Yu Zhijun were making if you could provide a little of your own analysis to the passage you quoted. Specifically, I’m interested in what the Chinese terms are here for “Biological transmission of force,” “mechanical system,” and “complex transmission system.” What do you think Wu and Yu had in mind in using and contrasting these models? Could you ‘fenxi yi xia’?

Thank you,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby JerryKarin » Sun Dec 28, 2003 8:56 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Audi:
<B>
Languages do not make equal use of loose reference; and Chinese, as you know, is one that is especially liberal in matching up words. On top of this, Chinese allows wholesale omission of sentence elements that is not permitted in many other languages. I often wonder whether many sentences rendered into English falsify the original by locking in relationships between subject and verb or between purported agents and their actions that would occur differently to a mind truly fluent in Chinese.

For instance, if I translate “Yong yi bu yong li” as “Use your intent; do not use your strength,” this implies a direct command and a direct prohibition. If I translate it as: “Through intent, not through strength,” this leaves open, and even suggests, many other possibilities. One is called to speculate about context and about what the main verb should be, rather than remaining content with a blanket injunction and prohibition. “Fen xu shi,” as we discussed in the past, can be interpreted as: “Distribute full and empty” or as: “Full and empty are distributed.” The former is a simple injunction. The latter could be a statement of expected consequences to look for, implying, for instance, that practicing in a certain way will result in a particular distribution of full and empty. Here the agency is the method of practice, and not the immediate intent of the practitioner. Another rendering could be: “Distributing full and empty.” This emphasizes process and implies a need to understand what is full and what is empty. Again, a context is implied, but not specified. The agent would probably be the practitioner.

</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


I agree that Chinese offers some special types of ambiguity. Still, the grammar does generally provide discrete meanings (if it didn't one quarter of the people in the world would be constantly having difficulty communicating, but they don't). Avoid the temptation to regard Chinese as infinitely malleable and meaning almost anything. In other words in most cases there is not actually that much 'play' involved. Mostly the difficulty in translating martial arts material is related to concepts with no matching equivalents in English, like Qi, However, the two instances you cited are not at all ambiguous. Both are very clearly factor-object phrases, similar to english verb-object with the caveat that the factor is not necessarily a verb. In the context of shi yao ten essentials, it's very clear that these are injunctions: 'use intent, don't use strength' etc. Fen1 would be better served with 'distinguish' or 'separate' rather than 'distribute'. The phrase is often given as fen qing xu shi 'clearly distinguish' or 'separate clearly'.
JerryKarin
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 7:01 am

Postby psalchemist » Sun Dec 28, 2003 9:16 pm

Greetings All,
Great discussion here...Afraid it's a little above my head for comments or even questions...

Greetings Louis,
If I may ask, in your post to Gu Rou Chen you asked if he could "Fenxi yi xia".......Could you elaborate, please?

Thank you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.


Fenxi(explain)?...Yi(intention(meanings))?...Xia(Low(In depth))?

Anywhere near?

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 12-28-2003).]



[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 12-29-2003).]
psalchemist
 
Posts: 619
Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 6:01 am

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Dec 30, 2003 7:56 pm

Hi Psalchemist,

The word fen(1) xi(1) means “to analyze,” and yi(1) xia(4) means “once,” “a while,” or “a moment.” I was just inviting Gu Rou Chen to “analyze a bit” on the passage he translated for us.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Dec 30, 2003 8:55 pm

Greetings Jerry,

When I speak of polysemy in Classical or literary Chinese, I’m not suggesting an ‘anything goes’ approach to translation or interpretation. Rather, I’m talking about a discrete range of nuance that is open to legitimate inquiry and investigation. Actually, all languages are potentially ambiguous, and many utterances need context in order to understand them fully. Take the English sentence, “He fights every day.” The verb could mean one of several things depending on the context. We need to know who the subject is. Is he a troubled adolescent who punches out his classmates regularly? Is he a cancer patient struggling to maintain his strength and will to live? Is he a professional boxer? A bureaucrat? A trial lawyer taking on corporate excesses? If the pronoun were “she” would our assumptions and predictions about the sentence be different?

Overall, I’m in agreement with your thoughts on the “yong yi, bu yong li” phase. Within the context of the Ten Essentials, it’s clearly an imperitive injunction, and the “yong” is a full verb. I’m less inclined to agree with your choices regarding the verb “fen” in the “fen xu shi” concept. I think a strong case might be made that here we are within the realm of technical martial arts vocabulary. Moreover, martial arts is not the only realm where the technical concept of “fen xu shi” is found. It also occurs in brush arts and poetry theory, for example, with connotations that closely resemble taiji theory. Personally, I’m inclined to think that “separate” is a problematic rendering, and that “allocate” or “distribute” may have merit. It all depends on what we’re talking about. Two people who studied with Yang Chengfu, both of whom were highly educated, and both of whom were accomplished taijiquan practitioners—Xiang Kairan and Zheng Manqing—interpreted “fen xu shi” in distinctly different ways, pointing to some implicit ambiguity in the concept. One has to contemplate the intent in their writtings. Were they being polemical? Persuasive? Descriptive? There is some room to play, don’t you think?

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby JerryKarin » Tue Dec 30, 2003 9:07 pm

Hi Louis,

One of the reasons I think distribute doesn't work well is you frequently hear the phrase 'fen qing'. Ni fendeqing? Fenbuqing?
'Distribute clearly'? Doesn't work well for me. I like 'distinguish' better.
JerryKarin
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 7:01 am

Postby JerryKarin » Tue Dec 30, 2003 9:13 pm

Another thing about distribute is that distribution suggests a kind of sliding scale. 50/50 distribution makes sense but in the context of xu/shi it doesn't really... the point being here not the relativeness but the distinctiveness, one or the other, not both.
JerryKarin
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 7:01 am

PreviousNext

Return to Tai Chi Chuan - Barehand Form

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 2 guests