On Pung jin:
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I still see the energy as “lifting” because this action tends to float or buoy up the partner’s push…. I am not a fan of emphasizing the primacy of gravity and so do not see “lifting” simply as opposing the action of gravity, but rather as describing a type of interaction with the partner’s energy. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Aha! I see what you mean now—I was stuck on the idea that lifting means “upwards/against gravity” but your descriptions above make more sense to me.
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I not only enjoy splitting hairs with you and others, but it is actually the core of my learning method. I am extremely concept oriented, and so any inconsistency that threatens a concept is for me a basic issue, not a philosophical one. One of the implications of such an approach means that I have to be willing to change concepts whenever hairs do not “split” appropriately. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Sorry if I seemed to be criticizing your learning style, Audi, I didn’t mean to. I was having a bad day and I’m sorry some of my general irritation got through. I enjoy splitting hairs with you because it forces me to try and categorize, catalog, analyze, break down, and reconstruct moments of movement—but now and then it feels like hitting my head against a wall because it’s not always easy to do these things. Condensing things into categories just does not come naturally to me. Talking with you forces me to think about the things I do or perceive in a way that is different from what I normally do. The many excellent conversations we have here have stretched my thinking and understanding of the art—which of course is the point of the forum. So thanks to you and everyone out there!
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">These were offered as clearer expressions of the energies than what is shown in the limited constraints of the continuous circling. Even these applications, however, often involved mixing or blending of energies, either simultaneously or in sequence. </font>
Yes, I think we were trained similarly and I don’t disagree with your conclusions. We break each movement down into its constituent elements so that we can learn to express and interpret each kind of energy clearly—and then we are shown how to combine them in sequences or blends.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">There are uses of the energies in the form that are not very effective by themselves to uproot your partner entirely, but are very effective as a component in self-defense. This is the area I am trying the most to explore in our dialog, because it helps zero in on whatever is the core of each energy. </font>
Which ones were you thinking of? What aspects are you interested in?
As an aside, I’m willing to have a go at unearthing the cores of the various energies, but I feel a bit out of my league here. As long as you don’t mind me muddling along in the dark—I’m still learning and can’t say I’ve zeroed in on the core of anything. Furthermore, I received the bulk of my basic circle and applications training back when Master Yang Jun first arrived in Seattle and wasn’t as comfortable speaking English. So much of my early training came from physical demonstrations. So I can give you my interpretations of various cores, but I have no idea if I’ve got it right, and because they are so experiential, I’m not sure I’ve ever tried to put them into words before. Furthermore, there are always exceptions to the rule—so if I’m thinking of one interpretation on one day, there’s no guarantee it’ll be the same the next day. Well, I suppose that’s where it’s necessary for me to be willing to alter my concept of things as well. Just so everyone’s clear that I’m still learning too and am in no way claiming to have the definitive answer about anything. Experience is so subjective and each one of us is on our own path.
That said, there’s a new batch of beginners this year, so perhaps I’ll have a chance to revisit YJ’s early instruction in applications and energies, but the beginners are still circling. I’ll keep you posted. Better still, Master Yang’s doing a push hands seminar this Sept. 24-25 in Seattle for those of you out there who are able to make a trip out here (registration limited to 20, more info on their seminar web page).
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I have been taught that the eight energies are internal things and not dictated by external shapes. … [E]xternal shape is not sufficient to define internal function. Another way to interpret this, which is more challenging, is that internal function does not need any particular external shape. </font>
I agree with what you’ve posited above. I think your push/kao example makes sense. I’m not sure this is a core postulate, but I’ve been taught that push nearly always something that is curved into, like a freeway curve that suddenly straightens out. It’s rarely possible to go straight into push without circling beforehand (when pushing with tai chi people). Push is really useful when you can lead your opponent into it so smoothly they don’t notice until it’s too late that you’ve borrowed their energy. Kao (shoulder) on the other hand seems more straightforward, albeit on the diagonal. You have your opponent in close, you find their center (sometimes with a circle), you let loose.
So if we use push as an example, I think one could theoretically use any section of the body in any position to push (some more effective than others). Elbow, shoulder, hip—it doesn’t matter what the part is, so much as the kind of energy you’re using. Elbow energy can be quite drastic, but the elbow itself can safely be used for pushing and pressing in push hands when applied very gently. In other words, you can use the elbow, but it doesn’t have to be elbow energy. The hip can be used for push, but is often more effective when combined with Kao energy (sometimes translated as “bump,” right?).
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What the scheme leaves unresolved or imprecise is what exactly is the “function” or essential characteristics of each of the eight energies? Does Rollback occur only with the arm and two points of contact/leverage? If we omit one arm or the other from the Rollback posture in the form, is there still an element of Rollback Energy in what is left, after all both hands have an element of under-to-over twisting? </font>
These are still questions that I have too. My current working theory (which is different from last month’s under-to-over theory) is that Rollback requires spiraling energy about the surface of a cone. Rollback is often two points, on two circles cross-secting a cone, 180 degrees away from each other, rotating in the same direction in concert. However, Rollback can also involve point-to-point transfer so long as the energy points follow a spiral path about a cone. Geometry seems like a good model for many of the energies’ trajectories.
For a picture of a spiral around a cone, click this link and scroll down to the bottom two pictures: http://www.computing-objects.com/en/meshtools_gallery_2da.html
For more background on cones, circles, cylinders, click here: http://www.math.cornell.edu/~dwh/books/eg99/Ch02/Ch02.html
Here’s a visual: Imagine a cone lying on its side and rolling. One point is on the topside of the small end, the other point is on the underside of the large end (180 degrees away if they were on the same circle). These are two possible contact/leverage points. The point closer to the pointy end of the cone represents the relatively stationary point or the twisting hand (or the left hand when doing Rollback from right to left). The larger end of the cone represents the part that does the bulk of the under-to-over movement—in this case, the right arm. The form itself doesn’t really show this conical movement of the arms, but it’s easier to see when drilling the basic Rollback in push hands.
Rollback can still be Rollback with one arm or no arms. Take the single arm Rollback in the single-hand figure 8 push hands drill. It only appears to have one point of contact: the forearm. Actually, are still two points of contact and a few different ways to think of this one. One could say that the elbow is like the small end of a cone, and that the hand is like the large end—but neither of these surfaces ever makes contact with the opponent (in this style of Rollback). But I think it’s more accurate in this case to say that one is tracing a spiral around the surface of a cone from a point closer to the tip (point) of the cone to a point nearer the base (wide part). The two points of contact are at the surface of the forearm itself. Point one is where you have contact, point two is the next point where the arm makes contact in it’s twining rotation—so actually, as you trace this spiral, there are many “points one” and “points two” as the contact points shift sequentially up the line of the spiral on the surface of the cone.
So I’m tossing the “under-to-over” component of my theory because a cone can rotate in any direction, around any axis, and so long as the principles I outlined above are intact, I believe it’s still Rollback. For example, if I’m sitting on the ground and someone bending over above me tries to punch straight down, I could still apply Rollback from right to left around a vertical cone opening upwards.
What about Rollback in the form? First, let’s leave out the transition from Ward Off Right where the arms rotate towards the right corner. I think of this movement as rather transitional, getting the arms into the right position for Rollback, and with a bit of a continued Ward Off energy to the right corner. Basically, I’m leaving it out because I’m not sure how it applies to my working theory. Not good science perhaps, but I’ll leave that question for someone else to answer. I think it’s something separate from the model I’m working with.
Perhaps Rollback in the form still adheres to my spiral-about-a-cone model: think of a cone that opens upwards, like an ice cream cone. Think of the dan tien as the point of the cone. The arms trace a small portion of a spiral around of the cone as they move from the upper right corner to the lower left corner…perhaps this is more like tracing a Great Circle through a sphere on a diagonal plane, but I really feel there’s an implied inward spiral as the arms make the transition from Rollback into Press.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">When I proposed that an instance of Rollback Energy was possible after Step Forward and Punch Down, I was trying to get at this type of energy usage. If the opponent grabs your torso from behind, can you change the interaction of the energy in a way that executes the “function” of Rollback? In proposing this, I am not trying to exclude simultaneous use of other energies, such as kao. In fact, since the arms would not initially be in contact with the opponent, it would be necessary to use kao (i.e., direct torso energy) in order to apply lu (“Rollback”) (i.e., up to down, rotational, and sideways energy). </font>
I do believe one could apply Rollback energy with any part(s) of the body one can figure out how to use in a spiral rotation with two points about the surface of a cone. The torso (as in your example of the transition into Turn Around and Chop with Fist after Step Forward and Punch Down) or with the head/neck—it’s just much more dangerous for one’s self. Using the torso puts the opponent really close one’s center so quick changes and small circles would be required, and using the head/neck—well, not such a bright idea, though it can have the element of surprise.
I think Rollback could also be done with one’s legs: from the ground with both legs or standing with a single leg. I thought of a nasty possible application for Rollback with one leg while standing. As a caveat, it violates the usual tai chi idea of keeping one’s legs on or close to the ground, sounds difficult, inefficient, would require both strength and balance, and puts the practitioner into a really vulnerable position. I have never seen it taught or advocated anywhere. I think I just made it up. In this imaginary application, one’s hip joint is the small end of the cone and one’s knee traces the larger end. The opponent kicks with the right leg, waist-high, and one contacts the underside of his/her thigh with the upper part of one’s thigh while standing on one leg. Then, one lifts the opponent from underneath with the leg, spiraling one’s leg under-to-over around the outside of the opponent’s leg until he/she is forced to rotate at the hip or topple. The opponent’s leg is still horizontal but faces downward, as does the torso. If one pivots on the standing leg, one could topple the opponent with a pulling motion (sort of like Rollback to Pull with the arms). But if one continues the spiral, one could use split energy on the opponent’s leg at the hip joint. One’s contact points for split are anywhere the opponent’s right leg contacts one’s right side (say, hip) and the inside of one’s right knee. If it goes as planned (a big if) their hip joint is either out of socket, or they have collapsed to the ground to take the strain off the excessive arch in their lower back.
Some preliminary ideas for some of the other energies:
Push— tangents that spin off a sphere—one coming in from the opponent circles around the sphere and heads back to the opponent’s center.
Press: Asymptotic lines converging on the opponent’s center.
Split—lines going in opposite directions around a sphere or circle in a single plane.
OK, all for now. Let me know what you think….Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
Happy practicing all!