A chain analogy

A chain analogy

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Mar 11, 2003 7:09 pm


Something in one of Audi’s recent posts reminded me of an image that Yang Zhenduo used in a past seminar—that of a chain. I’m working partly from memory and partly from notes, so I would appreciate it if anyone else has any recollection of his use of the image.

The image has to do with the difference between differing interpretations of “fangsong” as either a proposed absolute relaxation or slack, and something more closely resembling a distributed minimal tension in the sinews coupled with a loosening of the joints. As I recall, Master Yang used the image to illustrate the classical requirements of “rooted in the feet, issued by the legs, governed by the waist and expressed in the fingers,” and of movement that is “threaded together joint by joint.” Yang Zhenduo talked about how a chain when lying loosely on the floor is disorganized—disjointed if you will—but when swung from one end, there is a unity of tension from link to link. Key to the sense of linkage and threading, then, is maintaining one’s focus on the pivot point—the waist, or lumbar spine—and loosening the joints so that the tension is evenly distributed, flowing out to the fingertips.

Can anyone else recall any specifics on the use of this chain image?

Thank you,
Louis Swaim
Posts: 1334
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby laopei » Thu Mar 13, 2003 1:03 am

Dear Louis:
It is so nice -for me- everytime you write. Your contributions are very helpfull and i appreciate everything you have contributed to this -and many other boards on the net.
(short story)
I had a similar experience with teacher Yang.
In 1992 I was very lucky to go to China for the first time to study with YZD and then very lucky to be allowed to stay for a few extra weeks by myself to continue the studies.
It was Teacher yang, the translator and me, every afternoon for 3 hours.
One afternoon the translator could not make it and after doing the form and resting we sat for a few moments, look at each other and smile and ... could not speak to each other.
I used my best “questioning” intonation and said:
Yang Lao shr.. Peng Jing? and put my arm out in “ward off posture”.
He smile and proceeded to remove the key from his key ring and belt:
he put the chain on the floor (it was a lump); then he picked up one end of it and let it hang down and said “fang song” and then he began to swing it around over his head, and then in front of him, and in many different directions and said “Peng jing”
It was all non verbal, except for those two words but I felt that I learned a lot (A LOT) that afternoon. I often used this image to convey these points to students.
What I understood then (non-verbally) was: for peng Jing one has to fang song.
In moving, open and extend all joints in all directions:
for example, lowering the right hand from “white crane” into “brush knee” (the counterclokwise circle of the right arm) is peng jing (even though it does not look like the posture “ward off”)
this is my little experience with this.
Probably, we can exchange more on this but... i am off to class now.
Thank you, Louis
Posts: 44
Joined: Wed Feb 07, 2001 7:01 am
Location: San Antonio

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Mar 13, 2003 6:31 pm

Greetings Horacio,

Your story makes the chain analogy vivid! It’s also a great illustration of the subtle ways in which taiji knowledge can be transmitted.

Thank you,
Louis Swaim
Posts: 1334
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

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