Breathing and the Form

Postby Audi » Mon Apr 12, 2004 12:47 am

Hi Michael,

Your post raises a number of questions for me.

What are you thinking of when you talk of forcing? I would think that anything contrary to one's unconscious breathing patterns could be thought of as "forced." Are you talking about a matter of degree?

Also, does not breathing "in the chest" contradict the Yangs' instructions to breath long and deeply? What is your abdomen doing during your "Daoist" breathing, executing an opposing movement? If so, how can the diaphragm be responsible for both?

By the way, I think Jou Tsung Hwa talked about the two types of breathing somewhat differently from what you have described. For "reverse breathing," he talked about pulling in the abdomen on the inhale in order to lead prebirth Qi to mix with the postbirth Qi pulled down by the diaphragm. Pushing the abdomen out then circulated this "mixed" Qi throughout the body for healing and martial purposes.

Jou placed tremendous emphasis on this activity to the point that people studying with him seem to recall this principle of "Dantian in" and "Dantian out" more than almost anything else. It seemed to be the bedrock of his practice.

By the way, I think that this "piston" pumping of Qi did not have to match the breathing at all times. Jou seemed to be more interested in the Yin-Yang alternation of the Dantian movement than in the inhalations and exhalations or even their coordination with the Dantian movement. If you held a position, you could breath "normally," but still had to maintain the position of the Dantian.

One of my greatest surprises in first attending the Yangs' seminars was the complete absense of any acknowledgment of this Dantian practice or principle. I even recall talking to a Center Director who had never heard of it. Whether or not the Yangs actually subscribe to it or not, I have found the difference in emphasis to be incredibly important in making sense of their respective teachings. In doing the Yangs' forms, I have left Jou's viewpoint almost completely out of the picture, because the training approach seems to me to conflict with theirs in many important ways.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Apr 12, 2004 2:09 pm

I have also always understood reverse breathing to be from the abdomen. I have never heard of using your chest for any type of breathing related to TCC.
Reverse breathing, as I understand it, is drawing in the diaphram when you inhale, relaxing it when you exhale.
I have never heard that this is used in YCF style TCC. I cannot say that it is not, but I certainly can't say that it is.
Does anyone know Master Yang Zhen Duo, or Master Yang Juns take on this practice? I'd sure like to know.
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Postby Michael » Mon Apr 12, 2004 3:42 pm

Audi and Wushuer,

Yes, it is still diaphram breathing. I could have used the abdomen as the prime example or the chest. I used one primarily for the example rather than the other. That is all. Sorry if I explained that poorly. When the abdomen expands, the chest falls....for every action there is a reaction.

The chest is not being used to do the breathing but I was only pointing out how it responds to the action of the diaphram.

"Forcing" would be exactly that I mention above. If one breathes using the chest muscles to futher expand the lung capacity, that would be forcing, the same with the abdomen. You also could "force" using the diaphram. Unnatural tension will tell you if it is forced. Practice of course increases the range without tension.

Audi,

I don't really know about using the abdomen to pull down the diaphram. I cannot distinguish between the two. Chicken or the egg? I cannot say this for anyone else but my breathing seems to originate from the diaphram, NOT initiated by the abdominals. This was the case when I learned diphram breathing but not now. The abdominals and the chest seem expand and contract as a result of the movement of the diaphram. If that is NOT actually the case, the starting point of one is so close that they cannot be distinguished.

I can conciously use either the chest, the diaphram or the abdominals to start the process. But that is not "natural".

I should mention again that "reverse breathing is "natural" to me. That is how I have always breathed.

Though this does not pertain to the subject at hand..."pre birth" (reverse) breathing, is said to be the the pattern of the fetus before birth by some. I do not know if this is valid or not, but it is an old belief.

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-12-2004).]
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Postby rvc_ve » Mon Apr 12, 2004 7:46 pm

Normal Abdominal breathing:

- Inhale = diafragm expands.
- Exhale = diafragms contracts.


Reverse breathing:

- Inhale = diafragm contracts
- Exhale = diafrags expands

Normal Abdominal breathing = relaxes body. Good for health


Reverse Breathing = Expands chi in exhalations. Better for matial applications.
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Postby Michael » Mon Apr 12, 2004 9:17 pm

rvc_ve,

I would say that works.
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Postby Polaris » Mon Apr 12, 2004 9:45 pm

The "reverse" breathing also trains the abdominal musculature differently than "standard" abdominal breathing. In standard breathing, the diaphragm rises up and down as a unit to move air out of and into the lungs, with reverse breathing the diaphragm folds in the middle, the middle part (under the heart) rising upwards on the inbreath, the two outer parts (under the two lungs) dropping down on either side at the same time, thus pulling air into the lungs and compressing the abdominal cavity gently (no force is required), giving one a nice internal massage with every breath. The breathing issue was presented to me very concretely - that if you do A, then B happens. On a cautionary note, you have to be shown these things by someone who knows them well, to try to do reverse breathing or any sort of breath work from a written description isn't advisable.

The important thing is that you should breathe how your own teachers show you to. If you are a student of the Yang family, then follow their instructions as closely as you can if you want to progress. Mixing styles can be fruitless at best and dangerous at worst. If a student comes into my class and starts to practice Chen style silk reeling, I am going to stop them! There is nothing wrong with it as such, but what are they saying then about what I am teaching? I know what I had to go through to learn what I've learned, and if someone in one of my classes wants to tell me that they know T'ai Chi better than me, they'll have to prove it or go someplace else. There have to be standards set by the instructors or things get too muddled. Yang Zhenduo said in a 1995 interview (which I looked up because this discussion reminded me of it):

"Whether you do Chen style or Yang, or the two different Wu styles or the Sun style, they are all different. You can say that each one is unique, that they are all different.
In China, there are different tastes: sweet, salty, sour and spicy. You may say spicy is no good, but all the people in the south have to eat spicy food. People in the north, when they eat spicy food, all say this is horrible. So it depends on which one the practitioner likes. You say this one is no good, but I say this one is the best. So you cannot say which one is better than the other."

So even though an instructor may not be showing you something that you heard of somewhere else, you have to trust that they are preparing you for the art the way they have learned it the best way they know how. This is the traditional way, the way that has brought the art down to us from ancient times. If you don't have that trust you should do yourself and your instructor a favor and find an instructor you do trust.

Cheers,
P.


[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 04-12-2004).]
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Postby DavidJ » Mon Apr 12, 2004 11:54 pm

Hi Audi,

> My understanding is that the Yangs give downward movements of the body (the trunk?) as examples of natural places to breathe out and upward movements as natural places to breathe in. A specific example I recall is breathing out when bending forward in Needle at Sea Bottom and breathing in when pulling the hand back and up (before and after the posture?). Is your breathing the opposite of this?

No, it is the same. Breath in as the right hand comes in, breathe out as you bend over and extend the hand, breathe in as you straighten up and bring the hands in front, breathe out as you step forward and push out the left hand.

> You mentioned your breathing pattern at the beginning of the ?Arising? (?Qi Shi?). This does indeed seem to be the opposite of what I did. Can you describe the pattern through the end of Ward Off Left? I cannot figure out where you could fit in the cycles if you lower the arms with an inhale.

There may be small stylistic differences I hope these make sense to you anyway.

Consider the idea that "change happens at the apex."

Take a deep breath, raise the hands as you exhale until your hands are the farthest from you. Inhale as you draw them in.
In Tung's school the hands are raised facing each other and at the top of the movement it's like running your hands over the surface of a sphere (the sun which is rising) at the point when the wrists straighten you exhale while the hands push down until they are near the thighs.

As you bend your knees and the right hand raises as high as your heart you inhale; when you pivot your right foor to the right you exhale; as you shift your weight onto your right foot (and step out) and gather your left hand in front of the dantien you inhale; While your weight shifts toward your left leg and your left hand rises you exhale.

You mentioned breathing during "An" - 'Push.' In the form the pace may seem slower than in the previous moves.
Inhale and exhale as you shift your weight back; inhale and exhale as you shift the weight forward.
In Tung's school this is clear: while sitting back the hands rise inward (inhale) and fall inward (exhale) while shifting forward the hands fall outward (inhale) and rise outward (exhale).

> David, you also said: <<If the oxygen intake requirement changes your breathing must change.>> This is an eminently reasonable statement; however, it would seem to argue that natural breathing conquers all. What do you find do be the ?effectiveness? of uncontrolled breathing versus the "effectiveness" of matching breathing to the movements? <

Depends on your definition of natural. I believe that the human body has a strong, healthy, vibrant state naturally. However very few nowadays are that much in touch with their bodies. Most people will have to find what is natural for them. A lot goes into this - it isn't just that people are out of touch with themselves, but that there can be phases and peculiarities. We are individuals, there are variations. This is why I have the drill of breathing without interfering with it, and learning to move with the breath. Try different things and find what sits you.

For a begginer I recommend doing the entire form everyday, mindfully, paying no attention to your breathing, for a full year. And then see what you do, naturally.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Michael » Tue Apr 13, 2004 5:42 am

Polaris,

Excellent post on reverse breathing. As I said I have always done this naturally. It was explained to me in different terms but the mechanics are exactly as you describe.

Very good advice as well.

my best,

Michael
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Postby Michael » Tue Apr 13, 2004 8:29 pm

Wushuer,

Don't have much time but just a comment or two until later when I can read your whole post.

Technique? If it fits with a form..I don't think that there is anything to even consider. I taught my YCF teacher techniqes I learned in Kuang Ping Yang Style, and some Shaolin tech that are found in the YCF set--though done slightly different.

Breathing. I have never heard any "official" statement from the Yang family on what type of breathing one should do. Only "breathe natural". My way of looking at this is do what you do but don't force it. They generally say don't worry about it, it will take care of itself. I doubt any Yang family member or instructor is going to have any issue over if one does "reverse breathing" or the other style. I think it is up to you, and what fits you and your personality etc.

I should also mention a formal discple of YZD who also studies Silk reeling with a Chen teacher, and I am sure with the blessing of the Yang family. The one thing I have found with the Yang family is an openness, reaspect, and an acceptance that is not always found elsewhere. I think that the traditional set is taught in class, as it should be. But as one becomes more accomplished there is nothing wrong with "blending" in ones own practice. I doubt Yang Jun or anyone else would object. Once the set becomes one's own, it is precisely that. The principles are what matters.

IF however one teaches this blended style which incorporates postures form other styles, one should not call it "Traditional Yang Yang Style TCC".



[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-14-2004).]
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Postby Michael » Tue Apr 13, 2004 9:51 pm

Wushuer,

You are preaching to the choir here my friend. Even though my post was addressed to you, not all contained were to you directly--esp the last lines which were to others.

You discribe the evolution of TCC, that is the way it works and evolves. Yang Jun does not do the set as his grandfather....

I was just saying that I won't teach the YCF set including a Kuang Ping position that is not in the YCF set. I may teach some KP form as a single movement practice to supplement technique where useful.

My "flavor" also will be passed on as I am an individual with a personality and certain inclinations. If one continues "slavishly" to a particuliar "way" or strict method one will miss a lot.

So if you did not know, we are in agreement.

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-13-2004).]
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Apr 13, 2004 10:05 pm

Michael,
That was understood. I was only expanding on my previous post because there were issues in my mind that weren't covered as well as I would have liked.
Yes, anyone who thinks they are going to learn the exact same form as Yang Cheng Fu and do it the exact same way...
You couldn't do that even if you trained directly under YCF himself. It's just not possible.
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Postby Wushuer » Tue Apr 13, 2004 10:09 pm

Michael,
I did wish to address your post in one aspect that I left out earlier.
I have also found an openess and acceptance of other ways in Yang family TCC. Very open people, very easy to get along with.
It goes a long way towards explaining why this website is SO popular and yet lacks most of the usual flame wars you see so often on most forums.
These folks are very understanding and accept that we all have different backgrounds with differing points of view.
One of the reasons I'm here as oft as I am.
Well, that and I have a goodly amount of time in my job where I'm watching blue bars go across screens and twiddling my thumbs until that's done.
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Postby Polaris » Wed Apr 14, 2004 11:50 pm

Greetings All,

This does get us to Yang Zhenduo's statement:

"Whether you do Chen style or Yang, or the two different Wu styles or the Sun style, they are all different. You can say that each one is unique, that they are all different.
In China, there are different tastes: sweet, salty, sour and spicy. You may say spicy is no good, but all the people in the south have to eat spicy food. People in the north, when they eat spicy food, all say this is horrible. So it depends on which one the practitioner likes. You say this one is no good, but I say this one is the best. So you cannot say which one is better than the other."

The different training systems are different. T'ai Chi Ch'uan itself is one thing, and you can do it or you can't, but the 5 main styles YZD mentions aren't the art itself, they are only ways of training your body and mind so that you can reproduce the art form physically. Moving your arms repeatedly through the P'eng motions dictated in the form is not T'ai Chi itself, being able to neutralize attacks consistently with P'eng is. So, all the masters of old could see that the other masters could actually do it, and were happy for them. They still, however, wanted their students to have to go through the system that they knew would work because they'd been through it.

Knowing their system well, I can say that if someone has (IME) worked with the Wu family and their senior instructors for 15, 10 or even 8 years, they should have enough to work on for the rest of their life. Around 8 years is the point at which a serious student becomes "self-correcting" in the Wu style, where the basics can then be applied to situations and they retain their internal consistancy. The family says that knowing the basics that well is like gold, you can hammer it, melt it, break it, but it is still gold. You may study Yang style out of curiosity, perhaps, but not because there is anything missing at that point.

The families don't train the same way; P'eng is P'eng, but how they get to P'eng is different. Training different styles can be a problem if, when your Yang style instructor is expecting you to work on his "Grasp Bird's Tail" you are working on Eddie Wu's or Wu Ta-hsin's (they are different) or Cheng Man-ch'ing's or whoever's. From an instructor's point of view that is "teacher shopping," mixing and matching and behaviour that is very common in the West (people don't even know that they are doing it), but it doesn't inspire a good teacher to go out of their way to show more things to the student who does it. The traditional teacher/student relationship isn't very well understood anymore, for many reasons, and isn't enforced the way it used to be by the families, including the Wu family, but you can bet your last deutschmark that they are paying attention to who is doing what! A good T'ai Chi instructor can tell just by the way you walk and move if you've been getting somewhere with your training, if you've been working on what they've shown you. They can also pick up the flavour of another style right away, too. So, there are no shortcuts. If you are training now with the Yang family, you owe it to them to consciously forget about what else you've learned. It is a different path, Yang Ch'eng-fu famously changed the form that he learned from his father, uncle and brother, Wu Chien-ch'uan changed how he taught what he learned, Wu Kung-yi changed it again, Wu Ta-kuei changed it again, and Eddie Wu has changed it even more. As much respect as there is, there is as much technical difference in training emphasis between the two schools, it is too confusing. Your body will remember some things of course, you don't learn this stuff with your mind, but what comes out should be a pleasant surprise instead of a conscious grafting of small circle onto large.

Anyway, that's just my advice, you can make what you want of it.

Regards,
P.
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Postby Michael » Thu Apr 15, 2004 7:09 am

Polaris,

I expect most of what you have written is for Wushuer.....

Only speaking for myself. I would agree with what you say. I would also say that if one studied Wu (let's say)for years and now was training in Yang style his former tarining will never leave them. It will always color some of what he now does.

I do not think YZD statement means all that you give it credit for. I do not know that it means that each style is as mutually exclusive as you seem to indicate. It just means to me at least, that one "style" is not better than another, nothing more.

In my Case I studied Kuang Ping Yang style. What I learned there in no way was contrary to my YCF set. They look different but the energies were basically the same in the corresponding postures, though the arms may move in different angles and the stance was deeper. All it did was to show me "hidden" techniques that was in the other set, as some techniques are more evident or favored in one than the other.

Today I only do single movement training of some of the Kuang Ping postures. I do take "techiques" from other styles when I see it fits the principles of the style which I have dedicated myself. There is more than enough in it to occupy two or three lifetimes to be sure. But sometimes other methods spark one to an understanding, some things speak louder to the individual than another, sometimes not.

I learned to like weighted shifts and stepping from the KPYStyle. This is not contrary to the YCF style. This method is more aggressive, whereas shifting the weight back before going forward is more defensive orientated. Because a Yang teacher does not teach this, should I abandon this method? I have watched Yang Jun use both but he I have never heard him talk about it. This would be just one example.

I also learned how to use my body in closer to the opponent from the Kuang Ping than I had from the YCF set. There are differences on how you move, your posture, and the angles you use. The differences are not one's of "style" but of distance. Energy and how it travels in the body is the same, just a slight difference in posture can make a technique effective in the right situation. By training both "close" and "closer" is a benefit. It does not translate into altering your set in any significant any way. I will admit that I do the YCF set more upright than most. I figure if I can properly use my bodys energy in the upright postion, which I believe is more difficult, It is easier to do the same following through and incorporating a greater lean in the appropriate postures. My practice has born this out. Some would argue this point. Some actually say that you cannot effectively do a Yang style push from a maintained upright position. Well not if you are farther away than the method was devised for. I could go into this more. but it is not the appropriate place. I will also mention I prefer this more upright posture as I have some back problems. If someone was to watch my set, I might get corrections on it, and some other may think, Iam "disloyal" to the family allowing corruption...no, it is only because of my back.

Do you think that because "reverse breathing" is not mentioned by the YZD line that it is inapropriate to do so? That is how I have always done it, it is natural for me.

If at any time my words sound somewhat "testy", defensive or something in this post, know that all I have said is done so with the utmost respect, and there is no intention otherwise.

I forgot...

I mentioned "silk reeling" exercise earlier. It is not an opposing method of training. A number of branches of the Yang family talk about silk reeling and train it. It is not something only to be practiced by The Chen Family.

I understand your thoughts and respect them. But one should also understand that the "Large circle" is only a means of training to arrive at the "small circle" when considering usage. The KP is smaller, and I have seen how the "large" translates into the "small".

My best,

Michael

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-15-2004).]
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Postby Michael » Thu Apr 15, 2004 11:14 pm

How could one forget? Why would you want to? In no way is this disrespectful.

Polaris' stand is from Traditionalist based thinking. I understand that but, but it is rather "narrow" to my way of thinking. I know little except for this---the more I understand from my experience will only make me better. It is about "principles" after all, not outward form.
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