Wushuer, I probably should have made clear earlier that I, like others, did not find any of your postings offensive or particularly partisan. I am not sure where Ron got his impressions. Although I may not agree with all your ideas, please do not read criticism of you or your ethics into anything I have posted.
I also want to make clear that I see no need to defend the authenticity of the Wu Family’s teachings and hope you do not feel I have taken such a position. I am a firm believer in the value of Occam’s (sp?) Razor and of “not forsaking the near for the far.” Any exploration of the theories of Taijiquan that requires the Wu Family’s theories to be “wrong” leads to territory I think is untenable.
I have heard seemingly cogent and authoritative criticisms of every figure of note in the “history” of Taijiquan. To give credence to all these criticisms, leads to the rather dubious conclusion that no one has every practiced the “real Taijiquan” to an acceptable standard. To pick and choose between them in order to decide which among them had the “real thing” and which were mere “wannabes” requires more expertise than I can aspire to. As big as my ego may be, I am not up to the task of reinventing Taijiquan with nothing to go on but a rudimentary knowledge of Daoism, Chinese philosophy, and martial theory.
On the other hand, I am not a supporter of trying to practice all styles of Taijiquan simultaneously or even of requiring all to be consistent with each other. The training methods simply do not seem to be the same. Because of this, I think it is completely legitimate to examine why one style adopts one viewpoint and another style adopts another one. Also, as one focuses at the level of styles, sub-styles, and the methods of individual teachers, I think it becomes increasingly imperative to understand what fits and what does not. If “Intent” is important, we must strive to understand the intentions of any teachers we attempt to emulate.
By the way, your posting to Michael about how you have recently done Wu Style forms sounds like a completely orthodox way of doing and describing Yang Style. Maybe there is hope yet for an easy and grand synthesis.
I like your analogy with standing up in a boat in high swells, but I like standing up on a surf board (or maybe in a canoe) even better. In my view, the whole point is that balance is not so much a state to be achieved, but a whole-body process to engage in. Letting the energy stagnate is just not an option.
Louis, just for kicks, I checked two dictionaries for the phrase “bu pian bu yi.” Both listed “lacking partiality” or similar phrases as the only meaning, without any reference to physical leaning. This seems strongly to support your findings about the reason this phrase was quoted in the classics. I also noted that “pian” seems to have a core meaning that is not so much “lean” as “deviate” or “to one side.” (E.g., “da3 pian1,” or “shoot wide of the mark,” and “pian1 ting1,” or “to hear only one side.”) Again, thanks for the reference.
Psalchemist, I think your reference to horse riding works pretty well, up to a point. The need to keep your spine “straight,” yet lively, is probably fairly comparable. The need for physical communication between horse and rider is especially apt for understanding the nature and necessity behind some push hands skills and why their external appearance does not capture their essence. I am not sure, however, that a horse riding analogy works well for how the legs and waist move in Taijiquan.
For what its worth, let me say that some of what Wushuer has said about his own experiences with theory and practice applies to my own, and probably also to many, if not most, of the contributors on this board. Although I have read a decent amount of Taiji literature, much of what I think I feel confident about comes from specific comments my teachers have made in specific physical contexts. The most important of these have usually occurred when my teacher could match up something I was trying to emulate physically with something he or she could perceive was going on in my mind. It is not easy to translate such magical moments into words that are meaningful to someone who was not there or has not shared the same experiences.
You recent posts also seem to address the idea of “mind intent.” My understanding is that Yang Style and Wu Style have exactly the same view of this; however, my understanding is that the mind intent must be precisely matched to the demands of the moment. Since the postures of Yang Style and Wu Style are different, the manifestations of the “mind intent” will also be different, even though the principle and method is the same.
The Chinese word “Yi4” that is often translated as “mind intent,” basically refers to the idea behind a person’s action, i.e., what the person intends the action to accomplish. As I understand it, it does not really refer to “will power” or “planning.” It also does not refer to mentally rehearsing something or even really to mentally anticipating something. As I understand it, focusing on your “Yi” means creating a mental framework that gives your physical actions purpose and meaning. For instance, how does the changing orientation of your hip or the changing position of the point of your elbow contribute to what the posture is supposed to accomplish?
Without such focus, your physical actions are said to be stiff and lifeless. Although I am talking about the mind and body as separate things, using your “Yi” does not really mean viewing your body as an independent object that is separate from your “mind.” Your very thought processes should produce sympathetic echoes in your body that reinforce your “Yi.” For instance, when you engage in a yawning stretch, you do not plan how your shoulders will move in relation to how your wrists bend; nevertheless, you can feel their relationship to each other and how the movement of each relates to every stage of your yawn. The whole movement is natural, rather than practiced or contrived.
If you are interesting in putting more “Yi” into your form, a good place to start would be by learning to channel “Jin” through the focus points on the body that are specific to each phase of the postures. This can give clear purpose to each part of your body and to the integrated movement that they create as a whole. This allows every part of your body to relate to every other part, rather than trying to make each part mimic some isolated standard without internal meaning.
I can make an analogy to someone trying to learn how to pronounce a sentence in a foreign language without knowing what any of the words mean or anything about the grammar. Although it may not be too hard to approximate the correct sounds and even make oneself understood, it is difficult not to reveal that one has no understanding of what one is saying. Emphasis and slurring will be in the wrong places. The stress rhythm will be off. The intonation, or sentence melody, will be unnatural. The word breaks will not be appropriate. The delivery of the sentence will not be adapted to the context. The style of pronunciation may not be appropriate for the speaker’s gender, age, mood, or station in life. In my opinion, the same considerations apply to doing form. Without the appropriate “mind intent,” it is extremely difficult to do the postures while keeping the internal principles intact. The movements begin to lose internal coherence and become empty and inefficient.
You also asked about Yin and Yang in connection with being double weighted. My understanding is that being double weighted is usually discussed in terms of full/solid and empty, not in terms of Yin and Yang. At least this seems to be true of what the Yangs teach. One way to think about it is in terms of air pressure and airflow. Air flows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. Where pressure is equalized, there is no flow. If you want Jin to flow, you want to distinguish between full and empty and create “pressure differentials.” Without differentials in “pressure,” the Jin will not flow. This applies not only to the body’s extremities, but also within each joint. Areas of stagnation and blockage can occur anywhere necessary change fails to occur.
Some of my other teachers have advocated bisecting the body into Yin and Yang parts, for instance, urging that one arm should feel strong, heavy, and firm, while the other should feel weak, light, and pliant. One justification I have heard for this is that it tends to confuse the opponent about the state of your body, since he or she will perceive contradictory signals. Although I can imagine how this can be the basis of sound martial strategy, I do not fully understand this reasoning in the context of traditional Taijiquan. I have not read about such a strategy anywhere in the classics. As I have posted before, a similar idea does indeed seem to fit the Yang Style stepping method, but I do not understand it outside of this context.
One last thing I would like to say is that the concepts of Yin and Yang do not seem to be used in the same way in all areas of traditional Chinese philosophy. I am curious, however, as to what others may have to say about this.
As I understand it, the theory of the Wuji and the Taiji is not quite the same as the theory of the Bagua. Both are somewhat different from the theory of the Wu Xing (“Five Elements/Phases”). When you talk about trigrams (e.g., “Yang+Yang+X(yin/yang)”), I think you are talking about the theory of the Bagua as put forth in the Yi Jing (I Ching). As I understand it, Taijiquan applies this theory to hand and arm techniques (i.e., the eight gates), but not really elsewhere. I myself am not sure where kicks per se fit within any of these schemes. Perhaps someone else can help with this.
Elsewhere on the web, Zhang Yun, who is a Wu Stylist, talks about something like “Keeping the Taiji in your head, the Bagua in your arms, and the Wuxing (“Five Elements/Phases”) in your legs.” By this, I believe he means that all three theories are important to Taijiquan, but each works best in a particular area of application. In discussing these theories, he says that the one concerning the Taiji is the most important for Taijiquan and that is why you must keep it “in your head.” I think that full and empty work better within the framework of the Taiji than within the framework of the Bagua.
I have heard that Guangping (Kuang P’ing) Taijiquan has a 64-movement form (the same number as the number of hexagrams discussed in the Yi Jing (I Ching) and otherwise emphasizes correspondences with it. I would be surprised, however, if all the ins and outs of such correspondences have been worked out and generally accepted. It seems that many authorities do not even agree on how the Eight Gates match up to the Bagua and do not make much of the theory beyond asserting certain correspondences.
Again, one of the other contributors to this board could probably give more detailed and more accurate information than me.
This is all I have time for now.