Breathing and the Form

Postby Polaris » Fri Apr 23, 2004 2:27 am


Yes, I am aware of the syndrome you (accurately) describe. Admittedly, we teach that way for some classes, mostly for seniors or group classes in community centers that run once a week every, say, 8 weeks. For those classes the facility hosting the class decides the rate, usually about $75 U.S. for an 8 week session. The speed which people progress certainly isn't very fast in a group class like that, and that is fine with most of them who just want a little workout. "T'ai Chi Lite." It isn't as interesting for the instructors, either, IMO.

So, we also make classes available for people who want more and would progress faster if they had the opportunity. These are "flagship" classes (my term), run in one of our Academies or a nicer facility outside of our Academies, and meeting more than once a week. In a flagship class they get individual instruction, and the rate of "downloading" is tuned to the student's capacity. These are also the classes that go much further into the martial, healing and meditative aspects of the art when the time is right.

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Postby sifubritt » Sat Apr 23, 2005 8:18 am

I have seen my name appearing on many messages in this discussion group. If anyone wishes to hear from the "horses mouth" what I teach and why, please feel free to contact me. I am concerned that much mis-information can be transferred second or third hand and would like to give anyone interested the opportunity to find out my position first hand, rather than by hear-say or Gossip. Thank you. Sifu Stephen Britt
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Postby shugdenla » Sun Apr 24, 2005 3:31 am

This "multistyle" stuff is interesting since one usually teaches according to the specific variant, be it Yang, Wu (2) or any taijiquan.
The chanssujin principles should be in all styles/variations. If I see a style with "hands only" movement without torso/kua/hip involvement there is already a problem.
The bottom line, I think is thjat regardless how we think we incorporate the principles of the teachers, a major problem is ourselves and how we synthesize what we imagine the teacher is saying. External movememnt can be copied but the internal characteristics are more easy to read.
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Postby Geoff » Thu Apr 28, 2005 2:12 am

I am wondering about the opening and closing that is often mentioned. It seems opening should accompany an in breath and closing an out breath. However, at times, such as holding the ball before ward off, the hands are coming together - closing, with the in breath - which seems like it should be opening.

Am I doing something wrong? Should I actually be opening the body, or something, while I am bringing the hands and arms in front of the body.

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Postby JerryKarin » Wed May 04, 2005 2:07 am

I have deleted some messages in this thread which were not in the proper spirit for this board.
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Postby Audi » Mon May 23, 2005 1:32 am

Hi Geoff,

Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun do not teach “holding the ball” or matching opening and closing the with breathing per se. As a result, I cannot reply to your question in terms of my current practice or with any particular confidence based on my former experience with this type of practice. Here, however, are some speculations.

I think that what is important about opening and closing is that one must first do one in order to do the other. The two are in a Taiji relationship. I do not think that it is important that all aspects of the body must agree on opening and closing in synchrony, given that prominent masters say that within every closing is opening and within every opening is closing. Closing in one way usually entails having simultaneously to open in another, just like with the complimentary angles in a parallelogram.

One possible solution to your dilemma is simply to allow your arms to do something different from your “body” or “breathing,” since the requirements of the moment may apply differently to them. I actually would have guessed that the holding-the-ball position would qualify as “opening,” since I was originally taught to move my hands apart to reach this circular position. The equivalent posture in the Yangs’ form definitely involves bringing the hands closer together and is called a closing move, but I am not sure whether this is relevant to the form you appear to describe.

Another possible solution is that many practitioners practice so-called “reverse breathing” or “Daoist breathing.” With this type of breathing pattern, one pulls in the Dantian (presumably closing) at the same time one breaths in and fills up the lungs (presumably opening). If you do this type of breathing, your “closing” arms would match your “closing” Dantian, while still mandating an in-breath.

I have moved ever further from this type of practice and so cannot give any personal recommendations, but these are my best speculations. I would reply to a similar question about the Yangs’ form in quite different terms, as was alluded to and discussed earlier in this thread.

Take care,
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Postby cheefatt taichi » Tue May 24, 2005 11:26 am

Hi guys,

Remember reading Chang San feng's writing in the classic of tai chi chuan that goes: "what is tai chi chuan? tai chi chuan is the 13 postures (jin)". All styles of TC didn't deviate from developing these 13 powers i.e. peng, lu, ji, ann, chai, lieh, zhou, kou, left, right, advance, retreat & chong din. Techniques and forms may vary but not the internal jin. However, different people have different preference and experience, hence some concentrate more on this jin than that.

Chen style was very martial, hence they train heavily on spiraling Jin for fajin. Yang Lu Chan was said to be an expert in hard style before learning taichi, naturally he will find peng jin closer to his existing skills. Wu stylist were nobles and scholars, they naturally find hua jin more interesting and so on. Same with Cheng Man Ching being a scholar, he is more pleased with huajin unlike his student Huang HSain Shing a white crane expert who likes lieh jin (spliting)and ann jin. All these past masters have special characteristic that shown clearly in their TC forms but they are good at other remaining jin too. It was said if one master one jin, one will master the rest which is very true to me. Hence, which style is correct or better is not a matter, the matter is which is suitable. However, one will have to spend considerable time to progress from level to level before one can understand what these 13 jin are to decide for himself what jin is best to concentrate on. Peng jin is not peng posture as in Yang style, it is present thoroughout the form. and same with other jin. For instance, when ann we are moving forward but there should be another force pulling back so mit is yin yang kind of thing. Looking at the form to understand jin is wrong, one should look internally to understand jin in the form.

I hope I didn't make things more confusing. Happy exploring friends.
cheefatt taichi
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Postby Audi » Wed May 25, 2005 12:10 am

Greetings CFTC,

You have expressed interesting thoughts here. I would expecially like to hear more about your understanding of the 13 Jins, although I wonder if this is the appropriate thread.

Recently, I recall a discussion about what Jin is best thought of as applying to the left hand strike at the end of Single Whip. My thought was that this was An, but someone else thought this was Ji. I can no longer locate the exchange, but would curious about your views on this specific issue and also on what makes An An and what makes Ji Ji.

Take care,
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Postby cheefatt taichi » Thu May 26, 2005 6:51 am

Hi Audi,

You are not alone in this..trying to differentiate what Jin is what. Personally my opinion is it doesn't matter, more important is Yi instead of Jin. Jin is but a physical manifestation of Yi, if your intent is to push long then your Jin will automatically become Ann, and if your intent is to push short, it will become Ji so it doesn't matter so much as what Jin is what. As long as your end meets your intent, why care what Jin it is? All Jin sprout from peng jin, therefore it is very important that you strive to understand what peng jin first and foremost.

Typically, Ann denotes a movement similar to a friendly and gentle push as when you pushes your friend as you usually do to get his/her attention. Which means, you don't concentrate Yi on pushing energy 100% outwards. Intent wise, you are only going to put 40% energy out to your opponent while another 60% on expanding your postural sphere. Ji is not ~press~ but 'put' if translated literally from Chinese. Different than Ann, Ji (put) denotes you put more energy out, it is sharper and penetrate deeper than ann. Figuratively speaking, in Ji, you put 60% energy out while remaining 40% within to expand.

What I meant by using energy to expand within can be analoged by an expansion of a balloon by a sudden and fast air been pumped into it. This is sometime called Yin Yang in application or open-close. 13 Jins are the result of one jin (pengjin) been applied in 13 different ways by YI. So most important is Yi. And while I am on this, let me share another secrets. What is the most important Jin in 13 postures? Peng, Lu, Ji, Ann, Chai, Lieh, Zhou, Kao etc...unlike westerners, Chinese has the tendency of mentioning the most important thing last. So Peng is mentioned first, it is most important, but do not neglect the last ....chong din. These two are the most important, get them and you will get the rest.
cheefatt taichi
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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Thu May 26, 2005 11:13 am

Cheefatt taichi,

Thank you for your explanation. It was always fascinating for me how traditional Chinese thinking can put all things seem to be confusing about subtle aspects of taijji into a harmonic order.

For me, the most "simple" things like stillness and movement or slow and fast still require an investigation.

still roaming

[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 05-26-2005).]
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Postby Audi » Sat May 28, 2005 12:43 pm

Greetings CFTC and everone,

Cheefatt Taichi,

I would also like to thank you for your explanation, which was quite clear and informative.

Would you mind contrasting what you describe as the short penetrating energy of Ji and the energy of Lie/Lieh? Some of what you said are things I might have said of Lie and am curious again as to how you view the differences.

Since you also mentioned that you think of Ji in English as "put," I thought I would share my "translation" ideas surrounding the eight gates. I actually use the conventional terms in normal use, but mentally use a different set of terms when I am thinking about the energies. My terms seem to change from week to week, but here are the ones currently in my head:

Peng: Ward Off, Lift, Shelter, Rebound
Lu: Roll Back, Side Rotate, interlocking treading

These two terms seem to have no ordinary meaning in Chinese. The English images I have are partly based on my physical understanding and partly based on guesses using character etymology.

Ji: Crowd into, jam into, squeeze into

I do not like the term "Press," because of the failure to distinguish this meaning from what applies to An, which to me is a closer equivalent of the English word "press."

An: Press on or against

I do not like "Push" because of the failure to distinguish it from the push of "Push Hands" and the failure to suggest any directional element at all. To me, both "press" and "An" can have a slight connotation of downward and so work well in understanding why seating the wrists can be an important element for this energy.

Cai: Pluck

I prefer to avoid "pull down" because there is no "down" in the Chinese term and because there are so many places in the form where Pluck seems to be done to the side. I also think that pull implies an even energy, whereas "Pluck" should be shorter and more abrupt. Another advantage of these words in English and Chinese is that they do not mean "pulling along," but rather imply extracting something from one physical state to another by careful use of the hands.

Lie: Crack into, rip into

This is a guess, based on character etymology and my understanding of the role of the energy. I do not like the term "Split," since this is also used for the sword energy "Pi." Also, as I understand it, Lie energy does not mean to separate into two pieces, which is what "split" implies. "Rend" is nice, because it could suggest rotation; however it implies a double grip used to tear something apart and so is too specific. I also question whether "rend" focus too much on the effect on the opponent and not enough on how the energy is deployed.

Zhou: Elbow
Kao: Abut, Come Against

I do not like "Shoulder Stroke," because the Chinese word includes nothing about "shoulder." I also wonder if "stroke" is too limiting an idea. My understanding of the core meaning of Chinese word is that it means that something comes horizontally right up to another object. Sometimes pressure is applied, sometimes not. My dictionaries have "lean" as a frequent meaning of "Kao," but I suspect the Chinese word never emphasizes "tilting," but rather closeness and/or the pressure that leaning on something causes or the effects that leaning or relying on something else produces.
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Postby Polaris » Sat May 28, 2005 4:48 pm

Greetings Audi & Co.,

A propos our other conversation on the likely translation of "Do not lean or incline" I hope it will be interesting for evryone to post what my teacher's great-uncle, the late Wu Kung-tsao, wrote on the subject of k'ao chin. As you know, Wu style is famous for its leaning, but k'ao can also be applied vertically, especially with the back. I don't know if this description applies to all orthodox training styles.

"K¡¯ao (¿¿, k¨¤o) or Shoulder
There are two types of K¡¯ao; Shoulder and Back Shoulder. Shoulder is generally employed as one ¡°enters by riding the emptiness.¡± The Shoulder strike pounds the opponent just as a pestle thumps the mortar. The Back Shoulder is predominantly used when opponents are holding each other or changing direction. The back rotates with the waist. Shoulder and Back Shoulder are related; those good at K¡¯ao with the shoulder will also naturally employ the back strike. It is not the stance, but the ability to send ch¡¯i (šâ, q¨¬) energy that is crucial to K¡¯ao. Properly applied it is like a sudden explosion that shakes the opponent."
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Postby Polaris » Sat May 28, 2005 4:51 pm

Sorry about the unicode trouble some may have with the above post. My browser isn't reading it properly, I hope that isn't true for everyone.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat May 28, 2005 5:09 pm

Hi Polaris,

The coding shows up fine for me. You may have entered it as Unicode, but if you set your browser's encoding to Simplified Chinese (GB), it should appear correctly (for those who have Chinese fonts installed).

Louis Swaim
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Postby Polaris » Sat May 28, 2005 6:31 pm

Thanks, Louis!

I can switch back and forth between GB and unicode (for Wikipedia, the other site I like to visit) fairly easily...
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