"Sung" word in taijiquan practice

Postby Anderzander » Wed Dec 08, 2004 8:56 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bamenwubu:
<B>Anderzander,
No, floating isn't one of my issues.
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hiya

I meant perhaps you were interpreting Bamboo Leaf as floating (being too loose) - rather than the lightness that I interpret him to mean.

No aspersions to your practice made Image
Anderzander
 
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 6:01 am
Location: UK

Postby Gu Rou Chen » Wed Dec 08, 2004 8:57 pm

“The Stretch Reflex
When the muscle is stretched, so is the muscle spindle (see section Proprioceptors). The muscle spindle records the change in length (and how fast) and sends signals to the spine which convey this information. This triggers the stretch reflex (also called the myotatic reflex) which attempts to resist the change in muscle length by causing the stretched muscle to contract. The more sudden the change in muscle length, the stronger the muscle contractions will be (plyometric, or "jump", training is based on this fact). This basic function of the muscle spindle helps to maintain muscle tone and to protect the body from injury.
One of the reasons for holding a stretch for a prolonged period of time is that as you hold the muscle in a stretched position, the muscle spindle habituates (becomes accustomed to the new length) and reduces its signaling. Gradually, you can train your stretch receptors to allow greater lengthening of the muscles.

Some sources suggest that with extensive training, the stretch reflex of certain muscles can be controlled so that there is little or no reflex contraction in response to a sudden stretch. While this type of control provides the opportunity for the greatest gains in flexibility, it also provides the greatest risk of injury if used improperly. Only consummate professional athletes and dancers at the top of their sport (or art) are believed to actually possess this level of muscular control. “

(quoting from ‘www.ifafitness.com’)


I think that the key issue here is developing the ability to train in a way that habituates (reducing the signaling of) the muscles in this fashion. “Sōng” involves a proactive, conscious control of this process. Once this process is discovered for one group of muscles it can be extrapolated to others. Because it involves conscious, focused control it feels like you are lengthening the individual muscles. This is radically different from going limp.
Going limp would involve one set of nerve pathways that go to the muscle and “sōng” would involve a set of nerve pathways that go to the muscle spindle.
Does this make sense physiologically? Any researchers out there who have access to a biomechanics lab? Seems like a simple experiment to set up and would not take much funding. Maybe someone has already done this?


Jeff
Gu Rou Chen
 
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 7:01 am

Postby Bamenwubu » Wed Dec 08, 2004 10:58 pm

Anderzander,
Ah. My apologies for misunderstanding.
Bamenwubu
 
Posts: 184
Joined: Mon May 03, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Dec 08, 2004 11:09 pm

Greetings Jeff,

Thank you for a fascinating post. I reached the conclusion sometime back that “song” in taijiquan is akin to an optimal state of muscle tonus, and tonus implies a minimal threshold of muscle contraction. Although we often hear well-intentioned advice to relax “completely,” I think that is in fact a physiological impossibility for living humans. I like to remind people that if you were “completely relaxed” you wouldn’t be able to remain standing in an upright posture; you would simply collapse into a heap. Although I enjoy studying proprioception and other such body concepts, I lack more than a layperson’s knowledge of these things. However, I recall that over thirty years ago my first sifu, Gate Chan, told us that human bodies are never “completely relaxed,” even when asleep. The human body is constantly making micro-adjustments as it seeks equilibrium. One of the things I learned from practicing standing postures is that the body is never completely still. I suppose this is one of the things that makes standing practice valuable; you become acutely aware of the “movement in the stillness”—the tiny muscle adjustments that keep the body in upright equilibrium.

Take care,
Louis

P.S. What’s that URL? I can’t get it to work.
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Anderzander » Thu Dec 09, 2004 12:17 am

Louis

I like the idea that relaxation is being in balance with your enviroment - tension is more muscular effort than required - collapse too little.
Anderzander
 
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 6:01 am
Location: UK

Postby JerryKarin » Thu Dec 09, 2004 1:25 am

JerryKarin
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 7:01 am

Postby Gu Rou Chen » Thu Dec 09, 2004 5:25 am

Accomplished practitioners can demonstrate “sōng” in their muscles as if turning on a light switch. When “sōng” is turned off, a state of limpness occurs. Likewise, when flexed muscles are relaxed, or turned off, a state of limpness occurs as well. So, Louis, In contrast to your description,


“……’song’ in taijiquan is akin to an optimal state of muscle tonus, and tonus implies a minimal threshold of muscle contraction.”


I suggest that we think of “sōng” as not being a ‘minimal’, but a ‘maximal’. I say this because in Taiji I do not feel that some mechanism is ‘turned off’, but precisely the opposite, that some mechanism is ‘turned on’; and it is turned on full blast. A maximal of what then?


Well, if there –is- a connection between “sōng” and this physiological description of muscles then we could say that “sōng” is the maximal implemention of control over both the spindle fibers (Intrafusal fibers) and coordination with the ‘regular’ (Extrafusil fibers) muscle fibers. This control and coordination is expressed as an ability to very finely balance muscle length to match and overcome external pressure.

With control of only ‘regular’ (extrafusil) muscle fibers, relaxation is a process of ‘turning off’ the signal. This is a process of alternation between merely contraction and and no contraction. It is also uni-directional; either in the direction of contraction or stopping. With control of the spindle fibers this process of ‘flex and no flex’ rides over, or is superimposed on top of, the state of forced lengthening. This means that when the ‘regular’ (extrafusil) muscle fibers are turned off the muscle can not only return to its ‘normal’ resting length, but can also –actively- go beyond this length. This could explain the state of bi-directionality that masters are able to demonstrate; a strong push on the arm suddenly removed does not result in the arm springing away from the body uncontrollably. Unlike a limp noodle, there is always flow in both directions.


Here is a citation from another source that relates to this type of muscle control:


“We have two systems by which our muscles are controlled by motor nerves (i.e. the nerves that go to the muscle from the brain). The first, and until recently thought to be the only, system works, as already described, by making muscle fibers contract and shorten. Fifty-five percent of the motor nerves look after this activity. The second system, which uses the remaining 45% of the motor nerves, works on quite a different basis. The nerves from this system do not go directly to actual muscle . . . but to a complex structure, called a muscle spindle, lying within the belly of the anatomical muscles. Many thousands of these lie lengthways in the muscles. They are about 8 mm long, bulging in the middle, and tapered at the ends. They are concerned with the lengthening of muscle, and not with its contraction.

. . . The spindle is a much more sensitive adjuster of muscle than is the overlying anatomical muscle itself. Its register of length works in parallel with the overlying muscle, not only to damp down excessive oscillations during activity but also to induce a lengthening of contracted muscle after activity. . . .

. . .the lengthening of anatomical muscles can be brought about not simply by stopping off the activity which originaly made that muscle contract, but by learning voluntarily to lengthen muscles until they achieve a better resting length.
Apparently the muscle spindle plays a very large part in this production of length in contracted muscle. It should be mentioned that spindles are connnected not only with the cerebral cortex (through which we control our actions) but with the reticular formation (the nerve network in our brain that is responsible for our conscious awareness of the world about us and our ability to think about and react to it.)
We can consciously learn to lengthen tense muscles not just by stopping the action that made them contract but as a definite act of will by which we can release and relengthen contracted muscle.” (pp. 84-86)

Barlow, Wilfred. 1990. The Alexander Technique: How to use your body without stress. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Link to an article listing some commonalities shared between Taiji and Alexander Technique.

www.ati-net.com/taichi.htm


Jeff
Gu Rou Chen
 
Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 7:01 am

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Dec 09, 2004 9:29 pm

Greetings Jeff,

I think I understand what you’re saying, and I find this kind of investigation very stimulating. Just to clarify my meaning about a minimal threshold—I think it is important that the taijiquan concept of song be understood in light of muscle tonus. That is, normal muscle tone requires a minimal, involuntary, state of contraction. I’m just trying to counter the notion that song means “complete relaxation,” which is physiologically untenable. A lack of this minimal level of contraction would indicate a pathological condition: atonia. Ironically, the psychiatric pathology known as catatonia (i.e. against tonus), has as one of its symptoms “muscle rigidity.”

As you suggest, as one lengthens the muscles in extending and opening out into taijiquan forms, the level of muscular contraction cannot simply remain at the minimal threshold of contraction, but must meet an ideal state of balance for that particular form.

Re: I suggest that we think of “sông” as not being a ‘minimal’, but a ‘maximal’. I say this because in Taiji I do not feel that some mechanism is ‘turned off’, but precisely the opposite, that some mechanism is ‘turned on’; and it is turned on full blast.”

I wonder about this. You may be right, but I wonder how this reconciles with the way traditional taiji concepts are usually expressed. That is, many of the postural requirements are expressed as negative admonitions. For example, “xu ling ding jin” implies an “emptying” of force, intention, tension, or what have you, from the neck muscles. The prescription to “fangsong,” to “set loose,” implies a release of control, rather than a full blast implementation of control. To “han xiong” implies not throwing out the chest—a negative prescription as opposed to a positive action.

This subject is made more difficult, perhaps, because we are working in several different categories of language: informal notions of “relaxation”; formal scientific-physiological explanations; and traditional taijiquan prescriptions.

Let’s keep working on this. I think this is a useful discussion!

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby JerryKarin » Thu Dec 09, 2004 9:43 pm

I tend to agree with Jeff in viewing fangsong as active stretching, extending, lengthening, rather than passive letting go.
JerryKarin
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 7:01 am

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Dec 09, 2004 10:00 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
I tend to agree with Jeff in viewing fangsong as active stretching, extending, lengthening, rather than passive letting go.</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Greetings Jerry,

I do too, sort of. I don’t know that fangsong refers specifically to the action of extending, but more to the way one does it. When you stand in the preparation posture at the beginning of the taijiquan form, you are already required to fangsong. At this point, you aren’t exactly stretching and extending as you would be in, say, Luo Xi Ao Bu, or Gao Tan Ma, yet you are still required to fangsong.

I don’t think it’s a passive thing at all. This reminds me of the perennial tendency to misinterpret WUWEI as “doing nothing.” (I know that wuwei is not explicitly a taiji concept, but it is implicit in the theory, wouldn’t you agree?) Perhaps it’s better to think of wuwei as not acting in a contrived manner, or not engaging in action that is against the natural flow.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby Bamenwubu » Thu Dec 09, 2004 11:10 pm

I'm quite intrigued by this discussion as well, mostly because I am exploring this concept in my active practice, actually using the, (hint, hint, Jerry) finished and unfinished links that Jerry posted for us here as reference points to guide me.
He got an e-mail from me once, that basically said, "Hi, Jerry. When are you going to finish this up, huh? Huh? When?".
He was polite in response, so I've left him be since as I'm sure he'll get around to it and I've got plenty enough to work on for now.
I've been reading and rereading as much as he has translated and have been working on trying to integrate these concepts into my forms.
I was expecially fascinated by the idea that ALL jing is peng jing, just applied in a different way. If "applied" is the proper term to use? I don't know, but it's the only one I have so I'm stuck with it.
I'd never considered that seriously before. I had heard some vague references to it, but had never actually considered it as being so until I read the article.
Very intriguing. I can see it, now, but it took me some time to begin to grasp this concept.
I also am sort of fascinated by this concept because I began to feel it for myself in Yang forms in a way that just wasn't there before, right after I attended Master Yang Jun's seminar.
As I began to integrate what he taught us into my movements, along with what Bill had taught me about rooting, I began to pay attention to a feeling of warmth and coolness that seemed centered around my mingmen point that had always been there, but never that strong.
It had previously been nebulous, so I had not paid that much attention it to. But now it was very clear, one side of my waist would feel warmer, the other cooler, depending on which side was full and which empty. Warm, full, cool, empty.

Stay with me, I have a point here but it's going to take some typing to get to it as I'm not 100% clear on this myself.

When I mentioned this to Bill at our morning class he talked me through what I was feeling. I wish I could recall exactly what he said but I don't, and suggested I follow up on it, that I was beginning to catch on to something bigger than that.
Again, he used different words, but that's how I remember it.
I haven't been to too many more classes since, it got too cold for our outdoor class and the only indoor one around here right now I keep missing for various reasons. Anyway, I haven't had the chance to talk much more about it with him, but since his talk with me I have found something more in that experience, and that is that what I was feeling was the muscles in my waist as they reached their furthest extension or contraction. I could actually feel when one side was fully extended as far as it would go. It is a very unique sensation and seems very crucial to me at this point, though I may be way off base.
But since I've never been afraid to throw a concept out there before to get beat up about...
;-)
I found it first in Single Whip. I worked quite diligently on that form, because it bothered me that I could not turn my right toe around all the way with me to it's proper position as I made the turn to the left. I always had to "drag" it with muscular force. I still do, but not as much.
Anyway, I tried to recall what the Master told us, he was very specific about the way to get that toe all the way to where you need it to go so I worked on it.
I tried and tried, for a long time, but was not succesful (as an aside, something I read in the second article that Jerry put links to has triggered something about this very point that I want to try, but that will have to wait for another time).
Finaly I let it go as momentarily unsoluble, and started paying attention to that warm and cool feeling in my back again in Single Whip as it felt stronger in that form than any other.

Really, I'm getting there, bear with me.

It was then that I figured out that those feelings were my muscles way of telling me when they were fully expanded or contracted, and further the differing degrees of that feeling indicated to me at which point I was at in between full extension and contraction. It is a great guide for where my waist is pointing in relation to my tantien and hips.
That was a big "gotcha" moment for me, and I followed up on that feeling, playing with how to make that help me somehow, since Bill told me it might.
I began to push the limits of how far my waist can turn, reaching for full extension and contraction, going for the outside edge to experiment. I concentrated more on keeping my tantien, using my navel as a rough reference point, facing in one direction while my waist turned. I began to feel that when I did this and my waist reached the furthest end of its possible rotational turn, the "stretch" I put on my waist muscles would actually begin to lift my empty leg to make a step if I wanted it to, or in the case of single whip it allowed me to reverse that feeling quite quickly to turn my waist 180 degrees back to make that "whip".
I began to feel what I can only call "energy" transmit from my waist to the muscles of my leg, and either lifting my leg to step or reversing my waist rotation at my command.
I flowed with that, and it went further. That "energy" I feel at that point is very much influenced by my "intent". If I am clearly thinking about where I want to step, my leg will simply follow that "intent" and move there, or if I am clear on how much energy I wish to rechannel through my waist and where, it goes right to that point as well.

OK, that's enough for now. I've bored everyone sufficiently with my rambling for today.
But that is where I am, and that seems to be where this discussion is going, without all the technical terms.
That is one way I've been putting "fang song" into my forms. Right or wrong, I don't know, but it has given me some questions to continue to work on and this discussion seems to be answering some of them as I keep up with it.

Thanks everyone, for your insight and knowledge.
Bamenwubu
 
Posts: 184
Joined: Mon May 03, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby JerryKarin » Thu Dec 09, 2004 11:46 pm

I know what you mean. In my first seminar with the Yangs I came away with the distinct impression that the arms were always doing either peng or lu. If you view lu as the reverse direction of peng then it's all peng.
JerryKarin
 
Posts: 1067
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 7:01 am

Postby Anderzander » Fri Dec 10, 2004 12:19 am

Hello!

This is my experience

Relaxation creates sinking, sinking creates movement. Relaxation is a
softening of the body.

When the body relaxes the weight / gravity can be led / directed by the mind
down through the body. The movement of the energy (gravity) down into the
ground is sinking.

Sinking creates emptiness in the body meaning another persons weight /
energy can be neutralised down through the body and into the ground.

If we remember the basics - that all movement starts in the feet is then
magnified in the legs and ripples through to the whole body, and that this
applies to both upward and downward movements.

So we have the energy(gravity/chi) and intent(yi) under ground creating a root or base (As we know the Chi follows the Yi)- and with the body being empty movement is created (in the body by the movements of Yi and Chi within the base)

It is very important to suspend the crown whilst doing this or you will merely be creating compression - ie the force will not be passing through you but compacting you like a spring.

This downwards internal movement creates a stretch in the body - this stretch is Jing.

I won't go into laboroious details (as I do want to be involved in a dialogue!)....

but,

there is quite a strong case for the Chi in Tai Chi being gravity - not the Chi of TCM

I believe there is scientific evidence the shows that force in stretched muscle is upto 10 x stronger than a contracted one

Plus I feel all of it can of course be corroborated within the classics.

Stephen

ps - Mr Wubu - well done Image sounds like you started to get propelled movement? :-)
Anderzander
 
Posts: 210
Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 6:01 am
Location: UK

Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Dec 10, 2004 12:08 pm

Jerry,
Yes, I am beginning to understand the concept of peng jing being the basis for the rest. It's funny you mention Lu, because I actually seemed to feel it first in my Yang forms. Bill and I both showed up early for a class one night, I think it was actually a Chin Na class rather than a form class, and we were working on section 2 right about then and I was practicing, Embrace Tiger Return to Mountain, badly.
Bill gave me some corrections on it and as he showed me the roll back part of that form and what it was for I suddenly understood how to make roll back work.
I practiced that for weeks and it lead me to understand Peng, ward off, as well as soon as I figured out that it was simply the opposite.
It was a good feeling, but now I'm realising that it's all just peng with different intentions.


[This message has been edited by Bamenwubu (edited 12-10-2004).]
Bamenwubu
 
Posts: 184
Joined: Mon May 03, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Dec 10, 2004 12:10 pm

Anderzander,
I guess I am. I didn't know that's what it was, though.
Thanks.
Bamenwubu
 
Posts: 184
Joined: Mon May 03, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

PreviousNext

Return to Miscellaneous

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest