New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:56 pm

Here's another remarkable achievement from Paul Brennan -- a translation of some of Chen Yanlin's most interesting and valuable materials from his book, 太極拳刀劍桿散手合編 TAIJI COMPILED: THE BOXING, SABER, SWORD, POLE, AND SPARRING.

http://brennantranslation.wordpress.com ... en-yanlin/

This includes the fascinating section discussing jin (論勁), here translated as "Discussing the energies."

There's lots of food for thought and discussion in Brennan's latest contribution.

--Louis
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Audi » Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:45 am

Greetings Louis,

Thanks again for the heads up. Below are some random thoughts.

I explored some of the text and some of the translations. My overall impression is how much of it is both similar to what I have learned and how much is different. Often my reaction is something like: "I wonder why that is what he wants to emphasize that particular aspect or that particular context." An example is how he describes the eight gates.

One textual surprise is his frequent reference to "Taiji," rather than "Taijiquan." I know some English speakers, at least, set great store on this difference, and yet here Chen seems to be using the two as interchangeable references to the art. I was not aware that this was normal or even possible in Chinese.

Another surprise was the reference to Taijiquan being "as inimitable an achievement as the Guangling Melody." (幾如廣陵散之將成絕響。) I could not understand this sentence and have not hear of this melody before. Is it really so famous? I quickly scanned the relevant Chinese Wikipedia article and didn't notice much of interest. A scan of Baidu does seem to confirm that it is famous, but does not seem to make clear why it is so "inimitable."

Even though I do not agree with all of Brennan choices, I still find much of choice of words in translating "liberating." For instance, translating 凌空勁 as the energy of "traversing emptiness" is much better than what I have seen in the past. I understand these words to refer to energy that "soars through the air."

Take care,
Audi
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:02 am

Greetings Audi,

You wrote: Even though I do not agree with all of Brennan choices, I still find much of choice of words in translating "liberating." For instance, translating 凌空勁 as the energy of "traversing emptiness" is much better than what I have seen in the past. I understand these words to refer to energy that "soars through the air."

Yes, I agree that's better than some renderings of lingkong jin I've seen, such as the meaningless "empty force" and the like. I recall suggesting the translation "airborne" skills 凌空勁 for example in this old thread about a passage by Wu Tunan about the idea: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=718

I think there's a problem in Brennan's Chen Yanlin section on lingkong jin. He seems to have missed a passive marker and gotten the subjects mixed up in the following:

藝高者發此勁時。僅須口中一哈。對方卽雙足離地而後退。蓋因被發者。精神已為發者所吸引。無可抵抗。

Brennan translates: "When one who has a high level of skill issues with this energy, there only needs to be a “ha!” and the opponent’s feet leave the ground and he falls back. This is because the one issuing is mentally already issuing while drawing in, and so it cannot be resisted."

What he's translated as "the one issuing" should be "the one who is being issued" taking into account the 被. So I would render that as, "It is because the mental state of the one receiving the issuing has already been engaged by the issuer that he is not able to resist." [reading 吸引 as "engage," or "influence"]

That to me is pretty key to understanding what Chen Yanlin was talking about. It's kind of like psyching out the opponent to disarm him mentally/emotionally.

The passive marker is important for identifying the subject in the next sentence as well, and again Brennan appears to have missed it: 然被發者必須先明沾黏等勁。故一哈之後。卽由感覺而後退。否則發者仍無效。Brennan translates: "But to do this, the energy of sticking must first be understood, and then once a “ha!” is sounded, the opponent will feel like retreating, otherwise the issuing will have no effect."

I render this as, "But the one receiving the issue must as a prerequisite have an understanding of sticking, adhering, and other energies. Thus immediately following the "ha," he at once retreats as a result of his conscious feeling. Otherwise the issuer's [action] will have no effect."

Again, Chen is telling us that this "airborne skill" is a result of a sort of mental agreement between the two -- the issuer and the issuee. This is what my friend Jan Diepersloot, in his book, The Tao of Yiquan, has called a "game of perception."


Take care,
Louis
Last edited by Louis Swaim on Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby DPasek » Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:17 pm

Louis Swaim wrote:I think there's a problem in Brennan's Chen Yanlin section on lingkong jin. He seems to have missed a passive marker and gotten the subjects mixed up in the following:

藝高者發此勁時。僅須口中一哈。對方卽雙足離地而後退。蓋因被發者。精神已為發者所吸引。無可抵抗。

Brennan translates: "When one who has a high level of skill issues with this energy, there only needs to be a “ha!” and the opponent’s feet leave the ground and he falls back. This is because the one issuing is mentally already issuing while drawing in, and so it cannot be resisted."

What he's translated as "the one issuing" should be "the one who is being issued" taking into account the 被. So I would render that as, "It is because the mental state of the one receiving the issuing has already been engaged by the issuer that he is not able to resist." [reading 吸引 as "engage," or "influence"]

That to me is pretty key to understanding what Chen Yanlin was talking about. It's kind of like psyching out the opponent to disarm him mentally/emotionally.

The passive marker is important for identifying the subject in the next sentence as well, and again Brennan appears to have missed it: 然被發者必須先明沾黏等勁。故一哈之後。卽由感覺而後退。否則發者仍無效。Brennan translates: "But to do this, the energy of sticking must first be understood, and then once a “ha!” is sounded, the opponent will feel like retreating, otherwise the issuing will have no effect."

I render this as, "But the one receiving the issue must as a prerequisite have an understanding of sticking, adhering, and other energies. Thus immediately following the "ha," he at once retreats as a result of his conscious feeling. Otherwise the issuer's [action] will have no effect."

Again, Chen is telling us that this "airborn skill" is a result of a sort of mental agreement between the two -- the issuer and the issuee. This is what my friend Jan Diepersloot, in his book, The Tao of Yiquan, has called a "game of perception."


Take care,
Louis

This is very interesting Louis. To me both renderings make sense for my level of understanding of Taijiquan.

To me, we DO want to have both yin and yang in our actions such that “the one issuing is mentally already issuing while drawing in, and so it [when one who has a high level of skill issues with this energy] cannot be resisted." This is why we move in circles, and tend not to telegraph our changes from drawing in to issuing out. In order to have a continuous, uninterrupted change from drawing in to issuing out, we need to have the cycle of yin to yang (& yang to yin) so that our yin still contains yang (and our yang still contains yin).

In the [8] ISSUING section, Brennan translates this concept as: “Those at a high level of skill are able to continue from neutralizing right into issuing, contained within a small circle. The deeper the skill, the smaller the circle, half of the circle being the neutralization and the other half of the circle being the issuing, and because of this, they are often invisible. This is why it is said that advancing is retreating and retreating is advancing, and gathering is releasing and releasing is gathering.”

On the other hand, if the opponent continues with our drawing in (does not resist), then our drawing in can finish them off; but if we get them to begin resisting our drawing in, then our issuing out will be more effective since we would then be ADDING our issuing energy to their retreating energy.

Since the quotation is in the section [25] TRAVERSING EMPTINESS which deals, presumably, with non-contact energy, your point and translation are probably more appropriate here. Note that this section also states: “Although this energy is subtle and invisible, it is not something you ardently need to strive for, for it is really just a parlor trick.” I take this to indicate that it is not “a result of a sort of mental agreement between the two,” but is more likely the issuer taking advantage of a startle or fear response by the receiver.

Dan
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Apr 07, 2014 8:03 pm

Greetings Dan,

Well, what's important here is getting the translation right, and the fact that Brennan missed the passive marker, bei, makes a big difference in understanding the passage. Chen Yanlin is referring to both the one who issues, and the target of the issuing. Again, in Brennan's translation, "This is because the one issuing is mentally already issuing while drawing in, and so it cannot be resisted" he has not only gotten the subject referrents wrong, the "already issuing while drawing in" is just not a plausible translation of the Chinese. I remember that Jeff (Gu Rouchen) did a partial translation of this same lingkong jin passage, and found the link to the thread where he posted it: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=702&p=9293&hilit=lingkong#p9293

Have a look at Jeff's translation for comparison. I think he got it right:

"This type of energy is extraordiarily profound, bordering on the mysterious. People who witness this don't believe it. In actuality though, it is just a kind of effect upon the consciousness. When high level masters use this energy, all they have to do is shout "ha" and the opponent's two feet will leave the ground and they will jump back. This is because the consciousness of the person being bounced has already been enticed by the master and they cannot resist. This being the case, the person being affected such, must first understand the energies of adhering and sticking. He moves back from (his own) feeling (of these energy changes in the master). Without his first having a familiarity with these energies it will be ineffective."
--Jeff, Tue Sep 26, 2006 7:29 pm

As for it being a parlor trick, that's true. But the important information Chen is relaying is that in order for the trick to work, both participants need to have acquired the requisite level of skill.

--Louis
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Audi » Wed Apr 09, 2014 3:20 am

Greetings all,

Louis, thanks for your thoughts on the translation of the "bei" passives. I had subconsciously noticed this discrepancy, but frankly had dismissed the English as not making much sense with how I see my practice.

Dan, thank you for thoughts as well. I understand your point and that it fits within the core of your particular framework, but agree that Louis' interpretation is probably more relevant in the case of "traversing emptiness".

Another minor aspect of Brennan's translation that makes me wonder is his persistent translation of 懂 as "interpreting," rather than "understanding."

For instance, he makes the following translation:

能聽。然後能懂。此固為一定之理。然聽或不準確。卽不能全懂。故懂勁一門。亦甚困難。

If you can listen, you will be able to identify. This is indeed a fixed principle. But if your listening is not accurate, you will not be able to perfectly identify. Thus the method of identifying energies is extremely difficult.


With my limited skills, I would translate these sentences as:

"When you can listen, then you can understand. This is indeed a regular principle. However, if your listening is not accurate, you cannot then entirely understand. Thus, the subject of understanding energy is also extremely difficult."


Brennan's usage seem to put the emphasis on what type of energy is being used, whereas I would put the emphasis on understanding how the energy is being applied and what it can be used for and not on its "identity."

When I work with student's to study counters, often their counters fail to work not because they cannot identify what energy I am applying, but rather because they do not adequately listen to how I am applying it. We typically work from fixed scenarios with 90% cooperation and let the outcome judge whether the student has adequately understood what is going on.

Perhaps, my different understanding is that I do not divide these basic skills into as many categories as Chen. I do not understand "drawing in" or "yielding" to be at the same level as "listening" and "issuing." If I recall correctly, the framework I use has four categories: "listening," "understanding," "neutralizing," and "issuing." What Chen describes as "seizing," I would describe more as "making the opponent double weighted" and reserve "seizing" for a more specific technique. "Drawing in" and "borrowing" I would classify as specific techniques, but not basic ones. And "yielding" I would describe as an aspect of what it means to stick.

Any thoughts?

Take care,
Audi
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby UniTaichi » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:33 am

Hi,

I am with Louis on his translation. First, we need to translate the words to reflect it as close as possible. It is just wrong to translate the issuer as the receiver. Second, after which we can then relate our understanding to it. When I first read it, I do not really understand what he is trying to said or write.

The other translation which I consider to be bad, real bad, is
it is not something you ardently need to strive for, for it is really just a parlor trick
'' [quote但學者可不必深求。僅作遊戲觀可耳][/quote]

My translation is '' not something you need to strive for, take it as some form of game ''

This is not the first time Brennan used the word ''trick'' . Is he trying to expose some con scheme ? In another translation which I am sure all here might have read, he also translate '' trick for issuing '' which imo should be rendered '' way'' ''method'' ''technique'' NOT TRICK !

That is why it is good to know if the translater is a professional translater or/and if he does taiji, what is his level of understanding and stage of development.

In fact, I would also like to point out that Chen also said that nowaday, nobody have this ability any more and it is a 'lost' skill. IMO, if a person cannot find it does not mean it is not there.

End of rant.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby UniTaichi » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:56 am

Hi Audi,

Re your translation v Brennan, In fact I prefer Brennan version or word description if I need to choose. The word 懂 , imo for this content compressed of both understanding and identifying. Not just one. That is the why translating is so difficult if done word for word.

To put it simply, you are talking about the 4 basic skill technique , whereas, he is talking about the 25 type of energy/jin. These 25 jin is what one used when learning and practicing the 4 technique.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Apr 11, 2014 4:37 pm

Greetings,

I'm pressed for time, but I wanted to quickly weigh in on this:

能聽。然後能懂。此固為一定之理。然聽或不準確。卽不能全懂。故懂勁一門。亦甚困難。

Brennan translates: "If you can listen, you will be able to identify. This is indeed a fixed principle. But if your listening is not accurate, you will not be able to perfectly identify. Thus the method of identifying energies is extremely difficult."

Audi translates: "When you can listen, then you can understand. This is indeed a regular principle. However, if your listening is not accurate, you cannot then entirely understand. Thus, the subject of understanding energy is also extremely difficult."

I actually think both miss the sense of it.

I would translate the latter part: "So, perhaps [one's] listening is inaccurate. Then, if you're unable to understand [jin] comprehensively, understanding [even] one aspect of jin will therefore be extremely difficult."

I believe Chen is contrasting understanding a cohesive whole (全懂) with understanding individual aspects (一門). This seems to me very much in keeping with taiji theory, as in the Taijiquan Treatise: 雖變化萬端。而惟性一貫 "Although the transformations have innumerable strands, the principle makes them as one thread."

Thoughts?

Take care,
Louis
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Apr 11, 2014 5:47 pm

I will state once again for the record that I have absolutely ZERO expertise at translation and so my post will not bear on that aspect of this thread in any way, shape or form.
I am simply replying with my thoughts on/personal experience with what Louis has posted: "Although the transformations have innumerable strands, the principle makes them as one thread."
To that end...
As I was learning Yang Family pushing hands the instructor I was working with kept saying things like, "This is Peng. This is Ji. This is Lu. This is An."
Which was very confusing to me.
It's not that I didn't understand that those were the names of the energies being demonstrated, I did.
However it was thinking about those names as I was doing the pushing hands that confused me.
When I would try to remember the name of the energy as I did it...
I would lose everything else.
As soon as I simply "listened" to how my opponent felt instead of thinking of the name of the current energy being employed by either of us I was able to actually do pushing hands again. (I had been doing pushing hands of another flavor for some time)
I finally figured out that if I wanted to learn to identify the energies being employed during the different positions, I should be watching other people do pushing hands.
If I wanted to learn to do pushing hands then it was much more important NOT to think about... well... anything. It was much more important to listen to what my opponent was doing.
The "strands" got me lost, the "one thread" allowed me to find my way again.

I felt an immediate connection with the comment Louis referenced and figured I'd comment on my experience with that.
I hope I didn't stray too far off the topic of this thread.
Now I'll go back to lurking and try to learn something more from those who have the knowledge to parse through this kind of thing and are kind enough to post their thoughts.

Bob
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:38 am

Greetings Bob,

For more in that vein, Chen Weiming quotes Yang Chengfu in his book, Taiji Da Wen:

“Taiji Boxing techniques are responses according to situations and are without a fixed pattern. If you know how to listen to energy, then hearing one thing lets you know a hundred, and if you don’t know listening energy, then even if you know many techniques, you will not be able to apply them well anyway.”

You can find this in Brennan's translation, section 54, "How are Taiji Boxing’s various techniques to be applied?"
http://brennantranslation.wordpress.com ... ji-da-wen/

--Louis
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby twc » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:29 am

能聽(劲),然後能懂(劲)。此固(然)為一定之(道)理。
然(而)聽(劲)或(许)不準確,卽不能(完)全懂(劲)。
故懂勁(此)一門(功夫/学问),亦甚困難。

The above is my take, bearing in mind how "stingy" the Chinese are when it comes to using words to explain. Probably we really believe the virtue of “惜言如金”.

cheers,
twc
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby UniTaichi » Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:08 am

Hi All,

Just back from taiji training. Here is my take on 能聽。然後能懂。此固為一定之理。然聽或不準確。卽不能全懂。故懂勁一門。亦甚困難。

On the last sentence translated by Brennan and Audi, I am with Audi as 一門 is talking about a subject and not just one aspect of it. (in this case tinjing and dongjin and other of the 25 energy) My translation would be ;

When you can listen, then you can understand/identify. After all it is natural/logical progression. However if one listening is not accurate, then you cannot say you know it all. Thereby, the subject of dongin is not easy.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby UniTaichi » Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:46 am

Hi ,

Since the quotation is in the section [25] TRAVERSING EMPTINESS which deals, presumably, with non-contact energy, your point and translation are probably more appropriate here. Note that this section also states: “Although this energy is subtle and invisible, it is not something you ardently need to strive for, for it is really just a parlor trick.” I take this to indicate that it is not “a result of a sort of mental agreement between the two,” but is more likely the issuer taking advantage of a startle or fear response by the receiver.



I have another translation which translate LKJ as Spatial Force. It relates to space and the position, size, shape of the things in it. Therefore, using this spatial energy in taiji will create affect on people in it surrounding. There are many stages within the various level of taiji. What was being descirbed by CYL is only the beginning stage of this skill. There are also other ''details'' involved if it is to be used as a strike . In higher stage of taiji development, the 'ha' sound is not audible.

The other info that I like to share is there are a couple of method to learn and executed, manifest this tyoe of energy. So it can be quite confusing . And I am speaking from experience with the few teachers(6) I came across and spead some time (and money) with. :?

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: New Brennan translation: More Chen Yanlin material

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:32 pm

Greetings UniTaichi,

I'm fairly convinced that 一門 should be read to mean "one aspect" or "one category." One of the meanings of 門 is a numerary adjunct for a class or a category, as in the phrase 分門别類 ("to put into different categories; to classify". To me, taking into account the thread of the grammar through the phrases, that makes the best sense of it. Moreover, I think Chen is making an important point.

--Louis
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