Breathing and the Form

Postby Kalamondin » Thu Jul 14, 2005 11:24 pm

Hi Audi and others,

On Pung jin:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
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.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
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!
Kal
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Postby DPasek » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:41 pm

Audi: <<Peng energy as "lifting" because this action tends to float or buoy up the partner's push.>>
Kal: <<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.>>
<<Rollback requires spiraling energy about the surface of a cone.>>



Since this thread started delving into the topic of the eight energies (jin) of Taijiquan, I have started trying to think in terms of possible general definitions that would not be exclusive to one style and would seem to incorporate the multiple variable manifestations of the energies while still conforming to common illustrations of, and definitions for them. I find that while some definitions are beautifully applicable to certain individual movements, or for particular styles, they are not always broadly enough applicable to accommodate other approaches. I also attempt to be comprehensive, covering at least a majority of all possible ways to receive or issue energy. Since Kal's post I decided to offer these preliminary ideas.

While humans are not spherical, I think it is useful to view some of the energies in relation to how they work in relation to an elastic sphere. Lets try setting the Taijiquan "sphere" as being one that connects the feet and hands when in a typical Taijiquan posture (as opposed to the well known representation of human dimensions showing a person with arms and legs outstretched inside a circle and a square) with the dantien as its center. This idea of a sphere is commonly used in martial arts and, as I understand it, is very applicable to Taijiquan. Then…

Ward-off [Peng] could be viewed as the structural force that allows the sphere to maintain its rounded shape (the structural integrity of the taijiquan postures, and thus this is why it is said to be present throughout the taijiquan form). This energy would then be expanding in every direction simultaneously. But the common application example is like Audi stated which "tends to float or buoy up" the opponent's energy, and this initially does not seem to fit precisely. I would argue that because the "sphere" in Taijiquan is rooted to the earth, a force being exerted straight forward against it would tend to "roll" that incoming force upward unless the incoming force were able to come in level with, or lower than the center of the "sphere" (hence the common principle of getting under your opponent's center). Since force is typically issued through the arms, which are attached to the shoulders and is thus typically applied above the waist, this would mean that that force would typically come above the center and would be "floated or buoyed up." Although our Taijiquan training teaches us to apply integrated force from the ground and transmit it through the structurally integrated body [Peng again] thus generating the force originating below the opponent's center, when it is expressed through the arms it still has a tendency to have its effect above the opponent's center. Lest someone interpret the statement "rooted to the earth" as making the idea seem too rigid or fixed (Taijiquan does move, and these principles must be applicable to the fluid stepping exhibited during Taijiquan as well), this illustration works equally well if the "sphere" is viewed as floating on the surface of water (perhaps weighted on the bottom in order to maintain its "top" up position), allowing it to move freer than if viewed as being fixed to the ground.

In my opinion, the typical view of ward-off "tending to float or buoy up" is just one subset of possible Peng applications. I feel that it can be applied in every direction. This understanding of ward-off, then, would be simply what results to an incoming force due to the resistance to deformation of your integrated structure. If your center is below your opponent's force, then you can Peng upwards easily, but I feel that you can also Peng straight, downwards, to the side, and even to the back.

Kal's example of "spiraling energy about the surface of a cone" is excellent for illustrating roll-back [Liu] as done in Yang style, but will not so easily fit Chen style as I understand it (which has both lower roll-backs where the arms are moving down to the side without the rotational emphasis of the arms relative to each other, as well as upper roll-back where the arms are moving upwards). I would argue that Kal's representation includes split energy (which I will cover later), and it again illustrates only a subset of Liu energy. I propose that roll-back [Liu] energy is simply what results from the "sphere" rotating/turning in response to an incoming force (again possible in any direction).

Keeping with the elastic sphere analogy, other possible responses to incoming force would be to compress or deform (which I assume is undesirable in Taijiquan, but also realizing that we can purposely change our shape while maintaining our Peng structure and thus we can conform to an opponent's attack without resisting, i.e. we can change shape without "deforming" or resisting). The compressing would produce elbowing [Jou] and shouldering [Kao]. The "sphere" can thus be thought of as actually being three concentric spheres, the outer being hands/feet distance, closer would be elbows/knees, and closest would be the torso (shoulder/hips).

Ward-off [Peng] and roll-back [Liu] give the major ways that the "sphere" responds to or receives an incoming force (with elbowing [Jou] and shouldering [Kao] as less important energies). Push [An] and press/squeeze [Ji] give the major methods of issuing force.

Since humans are essentially bisymmetrical, I think that the other energies are illustrated better without the sphere analogy. I propose that push [An] and press/squeeze [Ji] merely differ in whether the force is separated or concentrating into one point towards the centerline. I think that Audi's "asymptotic lines converging on the opponent's center" is a fairly good description of a subset of press/squeeze energy, but I also believe that it can be done with only one arm that is squeezing towards the opponent's center between their arms. I think that push could also be done with only one arm by simply pushing without the concentrating-towards-the-center aspect.

Split [Lie] I have already discussed in an earlier post that I proposed as being a force-couple that would rend/tear/rip/split in its application of energy. Again, this would be a push-pull type of energy applied to the opponent. Kal's "lines going in opposite directions around a sphere or circle in a single plane" again seems to be a good description of a subset of this energy. I don't see the need to say "in a single plane" and I think that this energy is frequently applied with one end relatively fixed is place with the other point making the larger motion. This is why I thought that Kal's analogy of the cone for roll-back actually expresses an element of split in it. The force could be like scissors working straight against each other, like wringing a towel with the force, as well as like Kal's rolling cone analogy.

Finally, pluck [Cai] can be thought of as a force that tips the opponent off of their vertical axis. A common analogy for this energy is that of a scale/balance where a downward force on one end causes the other end to raise up, but I think that this only illustrates a subset of this type of energy since it implies only a downward force, and thus "pull-down" is often the given translation. I think that this force can be applied in various directions including horizontally as well as angling upwards, and therefore I prefer the term "pluck" for this energy (as in plucking fruit, which can be done in various directions).

Well, is the above fairly comprehensive? Can anyone point out applications of energy in Taijiquan that don't seem to fit somewhere in the above (noting, of course, that the energies are often applied in combinations)? I would also appreciate any other comments, especially where the above descriptions of energies don't seem to agree with how they are performed in your practice.

DP
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Jul 19, 2005 12:51 am

Hi DP,

I very much liked your explanation of why pung energy tends to buoy up the opponent on account of force applied towards the top portion of a sphere. I have experienced pung energy applied on me in a downwards direction and was somewhat at a loss until I read your explanation.

This exercise in extrapolating the core of the various jins across the styles is really fascinating…but I can only hope to help a little and only with Yang style because I haven’t studied any others.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Kal's example of "spiraling energy about the surface of a cone" is excellent for illustrating roll-back [Liu] as done in Yang style, but will not so easily fit Chen style as I understand it (which has both lower roll-backs where the arms are moving down to the side without the rotational emphasis of the arms relative to each other, as well as upper roll-back where the arms are moving upwards). </font>


Well, I wonder if it’s only Yang style. The Yang style hand forms’ Rollback does not have any “rotational emphasis of the arms relative to each other” if one removes what I (perhaps erroneously) am thinking of as the transition from Ward Off right into Rollback. If the “meat” of Rollback begins when both arms are facing the upper right corner of the body, then the arms don’t rotate at all relative to each other as they move to the lower left. It’s only that the whole posture rotates about the dan tien while moving simultaneously backwards and inwards (inward spiral about a vertical cone with the cone “mouth” opening upwards).

Also, not that I’ve experienced Chen style upper rollback, but I might have seen it once. Could the cone not also be curved like a cornucopia or a twister (tornado/hurricane)?

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I would argue that Kal's representation includes split energy (which I will cover later), and it again illustrates only a subset of Liu energy. I propose that roll-back [Liu] energy is simply what results from the "sphere" rotating/turning in response to an incoming force (again possible in any direction). </font>


Respectfully, I disagree. (More on split later, too.) I think that your description of a “sphere rotating/turning in response to incoming force” is more like my understanding of Ward Off. You’ve described well the pung energy that’s the staple outward spherical expansion. But I think that a rotating sphere is a good explanation for the core of the application.
I don’t like to separate pung jin into “air pressure” (“chi pressure?”) vs. “martial application” because they are inextricably tied. (Not saying you were doing that, it’s something I’m struggling with.) But if one has good “chi pressure” in their pung jin sphere and the sensitivity to turn well, then I think pung energy is the jin that, when rotating, deflects people off to the side (like that image of a pebble thrown at a ball spinning on the ground). When pung energy is not rotating, it’s the energy that can bounce people out (sudden expansion of sphere in response to incoming force), or absorb (the compression you spoke of), depending on intent and use.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">…realizing that we can purposely change our shape while maintaining our Peng structure and thus we can conform to an opponent's attack without resisting, i.e. we can change shape without "deforming" or resisting). </font>

Well said!

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I propose that push [An] and press/squeeze [Ji] merely differ in whether the force is separated or concentrating into one point towards the centerline. I think that Audi's "asymptotic lines converging on the opponent's center" is a fairly good description of a subset of press/squeeze energy, but I also believe that it can be done with only one arm that is squeezing towards the opponent's center between their arms. I think that push could also be done with only one arm by simply pushing without the concentrating-towards-the-center aspect. </font>


Push [An]: I think push is a very linear motion that does aim exactly for the center. A single-arm push aims straight for the center (as a tangent line) after it leaves its circular trajectory. A two-hand push also aims exactly for the center, but uses any area of stiffness as a “handle.” Imagine an inverted T shape where each hand is at an edge of the crossbar and the base (now top) of the letter is the line of force directed at the opponent’s center. Now imagine pushing a cart with a T shaped handle. In order to steer the cart, you have to alter the pressure on one side or the other, but the three points: handle 1, handle 2, and opponent’s center, are inextricably linked through the crossbar of the opponent’s stiffness. Even with a single hand, one can use the surface of one’s palm to change the “handle” points if the opponent tries to get away.

Press [Ji]: For Press, I still like the converging asymptotic lines of force idea. Let me explain more. For those who haven’t seen the word, an asymptote is a line that makes a curving approach towards another line, but never reaches it. See picture and definition here: http://www.mathnstuff.com/math/spoken/here/1words/a/a28.htm . Earlier, I thought of Press as a kind of triangulation—using two converging and intersecting lines to find and influence a third, like a triangle. But now I think that the lines of Press curve inward towards the opponent’s center, (straight lines being more of a Push energy) but never reach the center. Why? In order to better control the opponent’s center. We’ve talked about Press on this discussion board as having the quality of “backing the opponent into a corner.” Maintaining an approach that never quite reaches the opponent’s center allows one to squeeze and keep squeezing him/her into a corner no matter where he/she tries to turn. This is what makes a well-applied Press so much like pushed by an inexorable bulldozer.

Press with one arm: the same principle applies, only the two lines curving in towards the opponent’s center start out much closer together than if one were using two arms. Where are the two points from which the curve issues? They are the two points on your forearm (or whatever you are using) that feel the contact with the opponent most keenly. These points can change. Though at least two points are necessary, they need not be far apart. I believe Press could be done in the space between two knuckle joints—in theory! Image
And hmm, I suspect that as one's skill in tracking multiple points increases (whole body awareness), one could use multiple points, all curving in on the opponent’s center, like space warping around a black hole. Like this picture here: http://www.astro.umd.edu/~miller/poster1.html .

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Split [Lie] I have already discussed in an earlier post that I proposed as being a force-couple that would rend/tear/rip/split in its application of energy. Again, this would be a push-pull type of energy applied to the opponent. Kal's "lines going in opposite directions around a sphere or circle in a single plane" again seems to be a good description of a subset of this energy. I don't see the need to say "in a single plane" and I think that this energy is frequently applied with one end relatively fixed is place with the other point making the larger motion. This is why I thought that Kal's analogy of the cone for roll-back actually expresses an element of split in it. The force could be like scissors working straight against each other, like wringing a towel with the force, as well as like Kal's rolling cone analogy. </font>


Well, I don’t think that one relatively fixed end negates the single plane theory. Take a circle and draw a line through the center. Any point along that line, except the outside edges of the circle, can be the pivot point for the force-couple. The “short end” of that line is the relatively fixed point. Same thing for scissors—but then it’s two lines, both doing split energy, around the same pivot point. But the towel wringing…this does throw a bit of a wrench into my theory. I’m going to have to think about that one.

As for Rollback including Split—I don’t think so. I think the Rollback I described could very easily become Split, but it’s not until one of the rotating ends of the cone reaches a point where a force couple could be applied in opposite directions in a single plane. Think of Rolling back an orange traffic cone: the left hand has the top of the small end, the right hand has the underside of the large end. First there’s the spiral conical motion. Then, past a certain point, the spiral turns into a circle. If the large end had a fulcrum point, a place where the large end had to stop and couldn't go any farther (analogous to the shoulder joint at the end of its flexibility), the downward application of force from the right hand coupled with the upward application of force from the left hand would bend the cone along the straight line edge of the cone. Force is no longer contained within the shape of the cone itself, but applied against the straight line edge of the cone to bend it, like folding a traffic cone in half. The straight edge of the cone becomes the line that goes through the circle for split energy. The immovable point where the cone can't go any farther is analagous to the fulcrum point at the shoulder joint.

It's also a little like a bedspring--it coils in a spiral and at the base, the spiral turns into a circle so that the spring doesn't poke through the mattress. So, Rollback can describe a conical spiral that twists into a circle at the end so that Split can happen. Regardless of artistic merit, here is a picture of a conical spiral that ends in a circle: http://www.vetriglass.com/artists/simpson_main.html .

I liked your Pluck description. Must dash for bus. No offense intended by any of these. Thanks for making me think more about what I mean.

7-19-05
Push revision: I no longer think that a tangent coming off a circle is essential to Push. This is how push is often used, but one can also use this approach with press, shoulder, elbow...and possibly others.

Now I think that push is at least two points in a line that intersect a third line perpendicular to it leading to the opponent's center. (T shape) However, more points are better, so the best bet is a plane that intersects a perpendicular line. See the grey picture on this page: http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/~pbourke/geometry/disk/ . Any angle other than perpendicular (90 degrees), going straight through the center is "off" enough that the opponent can escape. Think of hammering a nail with a large flat head. If one hits it at an angle, the force gets deflected to the side and the nail "escapes" and bends out of the way. If one hits it square, dead center, with a line of force that's perpendicular to the flat nail head surface, then it goes right through the wood.

Best,
Kal


[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 07-19-2005).]
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Postby DPasek » Tue Jul 19, 2005 6:15 pm

Kal,

Thanks for the reply. In some ways I prefer your distinction between press and push/squeeze better than mine, but I will need more time to contemplate it, examine push-hands interactions with it in mind, and formulate a reply. I was not entirely satisfied with my illustration of push vs. press/squeeze, and am not certain that I can entirely distinguish when they change from one to the other (there seem to be fuzzy lines between them in application - at least in my current understanding of them).

It is not uncommon for me to practice push-hands with my back to a partner. Without the use of the hands to amplify/express the energies in this situation, I think that most of the eight energies can still be demonstrated, and I wanted my explanations to reflect this. In this situation, ward-off (and structural peng), push, roll-back and shoulder/bump are perhaps the easiest to perform, elbowing backwards is also fairly easy to do. Press/squeeze is somewhat harder to define, but squeezing into the partner's space forcing them to retreat (as opposed to pushing them away) is also possible. Pluck and split only seem possible if I can catch one of their limbs between my torso and arm or between my legs, but can still occasionally occur.

As for roll-back and the rotational aspect, it has been well over 15 years since I have taken lessons in Yang style bare hand solo form, and have not studied it with Yang family members. Perhaps the variant that I learned differs from what the Yang family teaches, or perhaps I am letting Chen style influences creep into my Yang style understanding. While I set up the Yang style roll back with the rotation that you described in the "transition" leading to roll-back, I perform it with a large rotation initially with it reduced but still present throughout the turning of the waist during the roll-back. In practice I find that this makes it much more difficult for the opponent to recover since they are continuously subjected to multiple force vectors to deal with throughout the movement. While the rotation during the roll-back admittedly can be (should be?) quite small/subtle, I'm surprised that this is not done in your practice. This rotational aspect also allows one to lock the opponent's arm if desired, or even to dislocate or break it when more vigorous energy is applied (thus I view the rotation as being an expression of split energy, whereas the waist turn expresses roll-back energy). To me, adding the "cone" energy in whatever direction (e.g., a cornucopia or a twister [tornado/hurricane], etc.) would usually be adding split energy to the roll-back.

DP
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Jul 19, 2005 6:48 pm

Hi DP,

I just revised/refined my idea of Push and edited my last post to reflect this. What do you think? I hope to respond to your latest post this afternoon.

Kal
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Postby DPasek » Tue Jul 19, 2005 7:23 pm

Let me correlate what I have presented above for the energies of ward-off, roll back, press/squeeze, and push to what I understand of these four major energies as presented by Sam Masich at a couple of workshops I attended. I think his excellent presentation was very well thought out, insightful, informative and elegant, and so I feel that it is important that my scheme does not contradict his. His illustration of these forces focuses on what happens between one individual facing one opponent, whereas mine tries to encompass all directions (i.e., I think that the back could also be used to ward-off, roll back, press/squeeze or push, etc. someone attacking from behind, although use of the hands when facing someone certainly amplifies the effects of these energies and makes them easier to execute).

Ward-off energy is illustrated by Sam in a posture like reading a book held in both hands in front of you. The rounded arms and the receiving aspect conveyed by the palms facing inwards correlates well with my elastic sphere model. To illustrate push in Sam's model, one only needs to turn both palms outward leading to a projecting energy that would also correlate well with an elastic sphere model. While I went away from the sphere model in my presentation in order to attempt to more clearly distinguish push from press/squeeze, push could still be viewed with the sphere model in mind. The turning of the hands in Sam's model determines whether the posture is receiving energy (palms in) or issuing energy (palms out). While this illustrates the principle naturally, I feel that in practice it is determined more by the mental intent (Yi) than by the actual palm position (i.e., one could receive energy with the palms either facing inwards or outward, and likewise for the projection of energy). For the sphere, the difference between ward-off and push would be whether the sphere is expanding out beyond a "neutral" (balanced) position (push), or had a "resistance" to being pushed inwards from that same "neutral" position (ward-off). Neither model utilizes turning of the waist for these energies, although, as implied for the sphere discussed in the earlier post, ward-off typically deflects upwards, and push would tend to go downwards for similar reasons.

For roll-back Sam's model would turn one palm in (as in the "reading-a-book" position of ward-off) while the other faces out (as for the push position). This would initiate a turning energy in the direction of the arm with the inward facing hand. This also correlates well with my "sphere" model. Press/squeeze would reverse the palm directions so that from a position turned away from the centerline, the energy would generate in the direction of the inward facing hand which is now turning you back toward the centerline. While this does not fit as cleanly with my model, it is still consistent with it. However, I think that it is possible (though not as common) to squeeze into the opponent's center without necessarily turning the waist. Isn't squeezing into an opponent's space [i.e., crowding them], thus making them uncomfortable and forcing them off-balance and thus into retreat, also an expression of press/squeeze energy? If so, then it is easy to see how this could be done without a waist turn.

Just some additional thoughts to ponder.
DP
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Postby DPasek » Wed Jul 20, 2005 4:11 pm

Ok, I think I have come up with a better, simpler and also more comprehensive way of describing push and press/squeeze energies while clearly differentiating between them. I never really liked tying them to the opponent's center, as doing so seemed to make the energy models less comprehensive. One could, for example, push an opponent with one hand, off-center to them, and it would still be push energy, even if it proved to be extremely ineffective push energy! Press/squeeze certainly seems to focus towards the opponent's center, but is that a necessary condition for it to be press? My new model explains why this is the tendency for press energy, but does not require it. Also, most of the eight energies applied to, or transmitted through, the opponent's center make them more effective, but the expression of the energies themselves don't necessarily need to be applied to anybody's center. Indeed, these energies are expressed throughout the solo forms without there even being a physical opponent to apply them against! Examinations of what makes the expression of each type of energy effective against an opponent in the context of Taijiquan is perhaps a topic separate from defining the energies themselves (perhaps the subject for a new thread?).

I now propose that push energy attacks through whatever surface structure the opponent presents, whatever shape that happens to be (i.e., push energy attacks through the opponent's structural supports). On the other hand, press/squeeze energy attacks through the gaps or weak spaces within that opponent's structure. The tendency for press/squeeze to be directed at the opponent's center is because their arms provide the structure that is most frequently encountered, resulting in a gap/weakness being between the arms, thus "funneling" the press/squeeze application towards the opponent's center. You could, of course, also press/squeeze into the gap/weakness between an arm and the torso, or into weak joints that result from poorly held postures, or into other open/weak places not defined by the opponent's arm positions (e.g., the throat, between the legs, etc.).

DP
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Jul 21, 2005 12:14 am

Hi DP and everyone,

I've been delving quite a bit into math stuff in my last few posts and this one too. I'm not assuming that people don't know these things already--but I'm not assuming that they do either, so I've tried to provide illustrations and examples wherever possible. I'm no great shakes at it myself, my math career being rather truncated and exceedingly dull. This is the most fun with math I've ever had. Ever.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I now propose that push energy attacks through whatever surface structure the opponent presents, whatever shape that happens to be (i.e., push energy attacks through the opponent's structural supports). On the other hand, press/squeeze energy attacks through the gaps or weak spaces within that opponent's structure. </font>


I very much like this distinction between push and press. Push attacks the structure, the solid parts, the full places in the opponent. And Press attacks through the interstices, the spaces between, moving through and filling the places where the opponent is empty and forcing them to move their full spaces farther out in order to maintain any emptiness. An analogy: push is like sliding a glass of water across a table to move the water. Press is like dropping pebbles into the glass to move the water. The glass is full (solid); the water is empty—formless and easily displaced when something solid (pebble) moves into its space. What do you think, does that work for you? I'm not sure about it yet.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The tendency for press/squeeze to be directed at the opponent's center is because their arms provide the structure that is most frequently encountered, resulting in a gap/weakness being between the arms, thus "funneling" the press/squeeze application towards the opponent's center. You could, of course, also press/squeeze into the gap/weakness between an arm and the torso, or into weak joints that result from poorly held postures, or into other open/weak places not defined by the opponent's arm positions (e.g., the throat, between the legs, etc.). </font>


I think there were two things I understood you were saying: 1) Push or press are still what they are even if they don’t go through the opponent’s center. And 2) They don’t have to go through the opponent’s arms as though through a funnel but can go through any point. Let me clarify what I was saying a little more.

When I was talking about the various trajectories of push and press, these are lines of force that I envision starting from the point of contact and going towards the center of whatever one wishes to attack. I agree that one can attack any vulnerable part of the opponent’s body and this does not need to be their physical center. I also agree that one can push or press with just about any part of one’s own anatomy (with varied results). However, managing to attack the center of what one is aiming for will make the movement a great deal more effective, whether it’s a joint, or the throat, or the groin, or their center of gravity. Moreover, a direct hit (in terms of aiming for the center of one’s target) will affect the opponent’s body’s center anyway.

When I talk about press having lines that curve in towards the center, I’m seeing those lines coming directly off my contact point and aiming straight at where I understand my opponent’s center to be. These lines don’t go through their arms or trace their physical structure—they go through the air, and into their body, as though drawing curved lines toward their center.

I think we were misunderstanding each other a little—I wasn’t really clear about what lines I was talking about. I think that you’ve been talking about force vectors that go through the arms when you talked about force funneling through the. On the other hand, I was talking about vector sums—the sum total of the individual lines of force. So add up the lines of force going through the arms, create a vector parallelogram and the result is the vector sum. These curved lines I’m talking about in press are vector summaries, not the vectors themselves. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a simple picture of a dog on a leash that might help: http://www.glenbrook.k12.il.us/gbssci/phys/Class/vectors/u3l1g.html

This is the same for my understanding of push. The individual lines of force can go through one’s arms, the opponent’s arms, anywhere on either body, that doesn’t matter. The essence of push, as I understand it at the moment, is force exerted perpendicular to a line or plane. The perpendicular line is the sum of all force vectors involved. If the sum of the force vectors is not perpendicular to the base line/plane, then I think it's still push--it's just not well aligned...oh fudge, I just realized that push does not have to be perpendicular, the only requirement that I see now is that the vector sum go through the center of whatever you are aiming at. But I think push is really most effective when the vector sum is perpendicular to the base line or plane.

Let me illustrate it this way: say I am holding the base of an orange traffic cone and intending to push my opponent with the pointy end (pretending for a moment that the cone is solid enough not to collapse). If I push, the force vectors are transmitted from my hands, through the cone, toward my opponent. The sum of these vectors is a straight line that goes through the center of the empty space inside the cone. If I draw a line between my hands, this is the crossbar of a T shape—two connected points, intersecting a third perpendicular line that is the sum of the vectors going through the cone. If I wedge the cone between my opponent’s torso and my torso (no hands), this is still push. Only this time there are many more points transmitting force through the walls of the cone, all angling inwards toward my opponent. Connecting every single point where the cone touches my torso makes a single plane (the flat base of the cone). The summary of all those angular force vectors is a straight line that still goes up the hollow center of the cone, perpendicular to the plane. If I am aimed correctly at my opponent’s center and he/she does not move, I can push him/her out. If I aim my traffic cone at the shoulder, this is less likely to push my opponent off balance, but it is still push energy.

I completely agree that any of the energies can be used against any portion of the opponent, with just about any portion of one’s anatomy. The energies are not limited to the hands and arms for application. I suppose I’m reflecting a push hands bias for aiming at the opponent’s center. In a fight, I imagine I’d go for whatever I could.

A note about geometry: my teacher has said that two points of contact with the opponent are good, but three points are better. It seems to me that part of push hands is developing the listening skill and discernment to transform a one-dimensional understanding of attacking the opponent into a multidimensional understanding.

The first dimension is a straight line connecting two points: one’s hand connected to one’s opponent’s chest, the line from the center of one’s palm to the opponent’s center. It seems as though only a single line exists.

The second dimension is two points plus a third making a single plane. For example, both of one’s hands used to control the opponent’s center. Each hand is one point, and the opponent’s center is the third point. Another example: it can also be two points on one hand aiming for the opponent’s center--like the base of the thumb, and the base of the pinkie (smallest) finger.

The third dimension involves a minimum of three points (a plane) connected to a fourth point to make a three dimensional object. An example of this could be contacting the opponent with both hands plus a point on one’s forearm. A smaller example could be three points on the palm of one hand (say, base of thumb, base of pinkie, and tip of forefinger). As one improves, one can transfer from point to point on that single hand, tracking three points at once—keeping some, releasing others, adding new ones, all on the palm of one hand. Later, one can add even more points until one becomes aware of one’s hand as an undulating plane, all points in contact with the opponent, all points active and aware.

As an aside, IMO this is why there’s the idea of “the closer, the better” in tai chi, meaning that the more one is in contact with the opponent, the more chances one has to control the situation. Instead of a single plane with a perpendicular line intersecting a single point in the opponent, one could have a plane intersecting a plane (like bracing one’s hand (1st plane) against the back of a knife (2nd plane) to cut through a tough root vegetable. Or one could have a three dimensional object influencing another three-dimensional object (like a bulldozer pushing a tree). Of course we are all commonly regarded as three-dimensional objects operating in a fourth dimension, time, and who knows how many other dimensions it’s possible to become aware of. The point is that we become more and more aware of these things; able to keep track of more events in any given time. We train listening energy, in part, to improve our spatial awareness and learn understanding energy. (Yes, there are other reasons, but that’s a whole other topic.)

The fourth dimension of listening energy involves being able to hear the “impulse wave” of an opponent’s intention before the electro-chemical impulse of nerves firing moves from their brain to their muscles. There are detectable pulses of electric and magnetic energy that start in the brain before any movement happens. It’s called Bereitschaftspotential or readiness potential and can happen as long as 1.5 seconds before any movement occurs. See Oschman’s book, “Energy Medicine: the Scientific Basis,” pp 226-228. In the sometimes-stretched perception of time during periods of heightened awareness (like a fight), 1.5 seconds can seem like an eternity—plenty of lead-time to counter the opponent.

For those looking for a related tai chi explanation, please see an interview with Tian Yinjia here: http://www.art-of-energetics.com/frameset.htm . Click “Tian Family” on the left menu, then the interview. Here’s an excerpt from the Tian Yinjian interview:

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
Q.
Then, can we say that “listening” is not just the physical listening but has other meanings?

A.
Oh yes, yes, “listening” has many more dimensions. But just practice “listening” jin well. Then you will be able to open energy. This opens the wave. I use our understanding of the wave phenomena to reason. This represents a higher level of taiji philosophy. The more educated people become, the more they become interested in the philosophy of taiji.

Q.
It is not easy to understand “listening”. Sometimes when people touch hands they just feel the other’s arm but cannot change to listening. I want to understand how “listening” and touching are related.

A.
The early stage of the boxing practice is characterized more by the use of force and less by energy. You use touching and groping. Everyone who learns taiji must go through this stage. However, after you understand energy, the other’s intention will pass down to you through their energy-based wave. If you still use touching and groping to feel the other, then you can hardly receive and sense those waves. Then, being unable to receive and sense, how can you know yourself and know others? </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I don’t really understand this fourth dimension of listening energy yet. [For those interested in authenticity of transmission here, I’m making these “stages” or “dimensions” up as I go and have never heard my teacher teach anything about geometry or dimensions with regard to listening energy or push hands other than to say (iirc) “Two points are good; three are better.”]. I would like to know more about it if any of you are already practicing this kind of “hearing in advance” or “listening to the future.” I am interested in hearing what the experience is like for you. How do you experience it personally? When you are listening, do you hear it? Feel it? See it? Why is it called listening energy and not “feeling energy” or “looking energy?”

There’s the saying, “My opponent barely moves; I have already moved.” There is an intermediary stage between listening to the energy-wave of one’s opponent that involves listening to and correctly interpreting the opponent’s tiny, tiny initial movements and correctly predicting what they may become while understanding exactly what they are in the present. This still involves some small physical movement by the opponent and analysis of spatial dynamics. But I think “barely moves” can also be read as the opponent has sent out his/her preliminary “energy-based wave” or “impulse wave” and one is responding to that. Confound it; I think I’m going to have to take a physics class.

Happily befuddled,
Kal


[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 07-20-2005).]

[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 07-20-2005).]
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Postby DPasek » Thu Jul 21, 2005 5:47 pm

Wow Kal, you really are having too much fun with math! Seriously, you do bring up good points that math helps to illustrate, so go for it.

Your comments about push vs. press are precisely what I was trying to model in my post. The glass of water analogy is getting close, but is not particularly good. The pushing the glass to move the glass and water works for me, and the attacking the water rather than the glass to represent press is ok, but dropping stones into the glass only causes the water to spill out of the container, it doesn't cause the container and water to move across the table. Perhaps pushing the glass over causing the water inside to spill over the table to illustrate push, versus causing the water to spill by pushing an object into the mouth of the glass, displacing the water inside, and thus also causing it to spill onto the table may be better. It still has some problems stated this way though. Ideally both the glass and the water inside would be moved by either push or press, just moved by different methods. Also, spilling the water essentially separates the water from the glass, whereas a person's structural frame and the gaps/interstices/weaknesses/etc. remain attached.

Kal <<1) Push or press are still what they are even if they don't go through the opponent's center.>>

I would think so, it's just that going through their center typically makes the application of that energy more effective in controlling the opponent (you state essentially the same thing later in your post).

Kal << 2) They don't have to go through the opponent's arms as though a funnel but can go through any point.>>

Again, I think that this is correct.

Let me give a somewhat extreme example for press (as I understand the energy) in order to illustrate both of the above points. I hope that you are familiar with a technique sometimes used by youths against others standing up with their legs straight. The idea is to cause them to fall by coming from behind them and bumping against the backs of their knees (usually by pressing their own knees into the backs of the other's). To me, this would be utilizing press energy (although technically it should probably be called "elbowing" press because the knees, being in the same midrange sphere as the elbows [elbowing energy], are being used to express the energy). While this uses two points of contact which directly forces the center to go down and forward, the same energy could be done against the back of only one leg. Against one leg, essentially only one point of contact is being utilized, and it may not be as effective as when effecting both legs, but it can still cause the person to fall (although now the fall will occur towards the side with the attacked leg rather than straight as when both legs were attacked simultaneously). This press against the weak back of one knee causing a fall can often be seen in sporting events, if you have any inclination to watch sports. Even though usually occurring by accident in sports, this pressing against the back of one (or both) knee is often very effective at causing that person to fall. Whether one or both knee back is being pressed, the force vector (or vector sums) is typically straight forward (or even angling downward) and thus is not necessarily directed at the person's center.

I think that your ideas about vectors, contact points, etc. address the questions of how to make the expression of the energies effective, rather than what defines the energies themselves.

DP
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Jul 26, 2005 6:57 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
I think that your ideas about vectors, contact points, etc. address the questions of how to make the expression of the energies effective, rather than what defines the energies themselves.
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi DP,

Well, I'm at a bit of a loss then. I think math is useful for constructing models that help us think about energies in symbolic or absract ways but I agree that they are ultimately, only models and cannot duplicate the fullness of any single event or the essence of the totality.

People have tried various ways of explaining and defining the 13 energies--prose, poetry, physical demonstration, metaphor, math...but ultimately, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are only looking at a cross-section of the thing itself and it's the rare person who can see or comprehend more than a small piece...and I'm not one of them. I see my small piece, but beyond this I'm stuck so I'm just going to have to keep plugging away at it and hope that time and practice will bring a greater understanding.

I too am not fully satisfied with the push/press glass of water metaphor, but I don't know where else to go with it for the moment, so I'm going to drop it for now and perhaps someone else will have another understanding to contribute later.

Best wishes,
Kal
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Postby DPasek » Wed Jul 27, 2005 4:16 pm

Kal,

Math certainly can model many things including energy, but I have not yet been able to use it well for describing Taijiquan. How would the air pressure inflating a ball (thus describing structural peng) be modeled mathematically? How about the rebounding energy (ward-off peng) of a bouncing ball? I'm certain that they probably could be (and probably have been) modeled mathematically, but I'm not certain how useful it would be for the average Taijiquan practitioner. The other energies, as I have modeled them, possibly could be defined mathematically also.

When I studied Sam Masich's model (described in an earlier post), he used math to illustrate the hand positions for ward-off, roll-back, press and push. Ward-off, with both palms facing inwards would be yin-yin (or negative-negative, or zero-zero); push, with both palms facing out would be yang-yang (or positive-positive, or one-one); roll-back, with say the left hand facing inwards while the right faces out, would be yin-yang (or negative-positive, or zero-one); press, with the roll-back hand positions reversed, would be yang-yin (or positive-negative, or one-zero). While the model is elegant and comprehensive when considered in this way, the reliance on what the hands are doing to define the energies limits the model in my opinion.

One other way that I have heard these four energies described is, I believe, advocated by Mike Sigman (though I don't know if he originated the model). It is also rather nice in its simplicity and comprehensiveness, though I have other reasons for not favoring the model. The energies are described as upward, downward, outward, or inward respectively for ward-off, push, press, and roll-back.

Both of these models have their valuable points and benefit from their simplicity and comprehensiveness, but they do not satisfactorily describe the energies as I understand them.

DP
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