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PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2003 9:21 pm
by Polaris

T'ai Chi Ch'uan training is (or should be) predictable for those who have gone through it. Its application, however, in my experience relies on the creativity of the practitioner. Spontaneity can be an aspect of creativity, but as a descriptor in itself of an attribute it is too neutral. Spontaneous combustion, bowel movements or emesis are very rarely desirable outcomes.

We train to get back to the "uncarved block" but we also seek to train focus and spirit into eventual rational AND intuitive mastery over the merely physical at the same time. Infants have all of the physical attributes the TCC student looks for: softness, open circulation, gouts of energy, naturally abdominal breathing, even spontaneity, but they cannot do martial art. That is where the focus of an adult comes in. Not mere egocentric navel-gazing, but alive awareness of the consequences for ourselves and others of living in a world based on cause and effect, at least for now! ;-)


PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2003 9:29 pm
by Polaris

You're welcome. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

It is nice to know there are others in the world who read reference works for entertainment...


PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2003 7:40 pm
by Audi
Hi all:

Louis, great post! Thanks for all the background.

Your thoughts on xuxu shishi lead me to some speculations I would like you to comment on. It seems that “xu” can refer negatively to a weak or undefended place, but also positively to a dispensable place that needs no defense. When you attack, you try to attack weak and undefended places (negative “xu”?). When you defend against solid, or “shi,” attacks, you try to present illusory or unnecessary targets (positive “xu”?). Does this make sense?

If my understanding is correct, one interpretation of xushi xushi is that it refers to acting on the actual situation (“xushi”) and attempting to implement defensive/offensive tactics that will defeat the opponent (“hands trade merits”?). Xuxu shishi would then refer to keeping oneself in readiness (“gathering the spirit within?”) and exchanging feints with the opponent until an opportunity presents itself to press home a defense/attack according to the actual situation. Again, does this make sense?

Louis, by quoting from Sunzi’s (Sun-Tzu’s) Art of War, you remind me of one quote that has being going through my head over the last couple month’s of discussion on the board. I reproduce a bastardized translation below.

One point of the quote that you have touched on is the inadequacy or “futility of fixed configurations.” Another point I get from the quote is that no one is completely strong, completely weak, completely fast, or completely slow. The key is to understand what is strong, weak, fast, or slow in a particular situation and to act on this knowledge in order to “de shi” (“acquire the aspects of the situation” or “obtain the strategic advantage”).

Here is the quote:

“For, should the enemy reinforce his front, he will weaken
his rear; should he reinforce his rear, he will weaken his front;
should he reinforce his left, he will weaken his right; should
he reinforce his right, he will weaken his left. If he reinforces everywhere, he will weaken everywhere.”

Assuming that this thinking of xu and shi has been replicated in Taijiquan’s theories, it seems to me that the idea concerns neither trying to be xu or shi in a given situation or even trying to separate them, but trying to understand how to arrange them appropriately for any given situation.

Another quote I would like to throw into the discussion is contained in Kuo Lien-Ying’s T’ai Chi Boxing Chronicle, where he quotes Ch’en Ch’ang Hsing (Chen Changxing), the reputed teacher of Yang Luchan. Here it is:

“Completely Yin without Yang is weak.
Completely Yang without Yin is rigid.
One Yin with nine Yang is a club.
Two Yin with eight Yang is scattered.
Three Yin with seven Yang is stiff.
Four Yin with Six Yang is good.
But five Yang with five Yin is called the mysterious hand.
The mysterious hand’s one movement.
One T’ai Chi after action completes and returns to nothingness.”

There are probably many ways to interpret this quote, but what I get out of it is the absolute importance of relativity of Yin and Yang and understanding how the interact.

Two last quotes I would like to offer up also come from Kuo Lien-Ying’s book.

After a heading entitled: “6. Divide empty and solid. The upper and lower follow each other,” Kuo states the following:

“If revolving [rotating?] is done with dexterity and liveliness without impediment, it is due to the division of empty and solid. When first practicing T’ai Chi boxing, you divide into a large empty and a large solid. Later the empty and solid become less and less obvious until finally the difference between empty and solid is clear but very minute. First the empty and solid of the hands and feet are divided about twenty percent to eighty percent, then later about thirty-five to sixty-five percent. Lastly one foot will have fifty-one percent and the other forty-nine percent. Because when the empty is to a greater degree small, then the changes become much faster.”

Again, I do not think the issue is percentages of weight, but rather how refined one’s sense is of what is relatively empty and what is relatively solid. The trick seems to be refining how your mind relates to your body, rather than any particular stance.

Despite the length of my post, I cannot resist this last quote, which I believe clarifies what I posted before about stepping like a cat and about the importance of full and empty during transitions. I especially like the two thoughts in the last sentence:

“Stepping like a cat resembles a cat catching a mouse. The rear foot sticks to the earth and the front foot moves. If the front foot is put down heavily, it has not divided the empty and solid to the proper degree. This will cause your foundation to rise up, and this is not T’ai Chi boxing’s foot method. While the steps rotate from empty to solid, the drawing of silk must also be used and you will be able to rotate while the steps are made….”

I would like to draw attention to the fact that Kuo talks about drawing silk during the transformation from empty to solid and also that rotation can also take place during this transition.

Wushuer, I do not believe that the Yangs’ so much advocate particular weight distribution in stances (like 70/30 or 60/40) as try to generalize what has been handed down to them. What I recall them saying is that they were taught by a more direct method. They were told when the postures were executed correctly and when they were not. I do not believe that any fixed formula for weight distribution has been handed down traditionally. I also think that even the approximate weight percentages vary somewhat from posture to posture and that focusing on fixed weight percentages outside of doing form is antithetical to the idea of “forgetting oneself and following the opponent.”

I would also like to add another wrinkle to the concepts of full and empty that Yang Jun mentioned at the push hands seminar I have been referring to. Maybe this can further clarify my understanding of the Yang Style position on how these words are used.

As I recall, Yang Jun said that a good strategy to use against an opponent is to mess up their transitions from empty to full and vice versa. If the opponent is making a part of his or her body “full,” one can move in such a way as to make that part “fuller.” The specific context he used this in was a counter to a Ward Off attack that was itself a counter to a circular outside Push.

Yang Jun explained the timing of the technique as follows. To make it succeed, you have to execute your technique at the appropriate time. The best time is when the opponent has taken the decision to move, but has not yet begun to move. At that moment, he or she will (probably?) be “double weighted” and unable to change. In explaining this, Yang Jun tried to articulate in English a subtly he seemed to find easier to say in Chinese. I understood his explanation as differentiating between the meanings of yun4 and dong4 in the word “yundong” (“movement”); however, I am not sure that I heard the words correctly. Also, my knowledge of these word elements is not deep enough to confirm my interpretation. According to what I recall, Yang Jun said that people always do “yun” in preparation to doing “dong” and that attacking in between these moments was the goal.

According to what I understood of Yang Jun’s explanation, he was atttributing the term “full” to the point of major leverage the opponent was using to apply Ward Off. This movement did, of course, involve certain weight shifts or attempted weight shifts, but I do not think this defined what part of the opponent’s body was becoming full or empty.

The whole point of the instruction seemed to be that the opponent became double weighted according to how his or her mind was relating to his or her body and also to the other person’s body, not according to how weight was distributed between the legs. Also, the relevant points when the opponent was manifesting full or double weight were mere instants in time, rather than prolonged states.

Take care,

PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 5:52 pm
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Audi,

Thanks for your excellent comments. I think you summarized the issue beautifully with your remark:

“. . .the idea concerns neither trying to be xu or shi in a given situation or even trying to separate them, but trying to understand how to arrange them appropriately for any given situation.”

Here are some notes:

I found the original for the poem you quoted from Kuo Lien-Ying’s _T’ai Chi Boxing Chronicle_. It appears in the collection published by the People’s Physical Education Press in 1991, _Taijiquanpu_ (p. 294), which has most of the major taiji classics from the various family branches. It evidently first appeared in Chen Xin’s book (pub’d. 1933), but could possibly have originated with Chen Changxing. The one thing that makes me question that is that some say that the art taught by the Chen family was not associated with the word or concept “taiji” until after Yang Luchan taught for the imperial family in Beijing. In any case, I agree with your thoughts about it having to do with the relativity of yin/yang, and more importantly, I think, with achieving a balance of yin and yang. I was curious about what Guttmann had translated as “club” in the line “One Yin with nine Yang is a club.” What I was able to find out is that the term, “tou2 gun2,” was an instrument of torture made of bamboo. What do you suppose the significance of this would be? What it suggests to me is that a martial art that is unbalanced in favor of yang is cruel and crude—a blunt instrument. It may be effective, but it is not a subtle art. Guttman’s translation is OK, but there is some undisclosed nuance that I find important. He left off the character “shou” after most of the lines, missing some important tactile imagery: What is being described is the practitioner’s “hand” as technique or expertise. I also think he got the parsing wrong in the final sentences. Actually, rather than explain further, I’ll do my own rendering:

Purely yin without yang, this is soft hand,
Purely yang without yin, this is hard hand;
One part yin nine parts yang, this is basically (gen) a cudgel (tougun),
Two parts yin eight parts yang, this is confused hand;
Three parts yin seven parts yang, this still feels hard,
Four parts yin six parts yang, this is clearly a good hand!
Only (wei) in having five yin and five yang, with yin and yang balanced, is it called marvelous hand!
With marvelous hand, one touch (zhuo) is one taiji, completely without a trace, changing to return to nothing.

What I translated “yin and yang balanced” is “yin yang wu pian”—our old friend “pian” (leaning, biased). So it means without favoring yin or yang. The “marvelous hand” is “miao shou.” The word miao means “marvelous, ingenious, skillful,” and the compound “miaoshou” can mean a wonderfully skilled artist, surgeon, or craftsman.

I’m very interested by your recollection of Yang Jun’s explanation of timing in push hands technique. The word yundong for movement is a relatively modern term, probably introduced as technical terminology for “motion” in translations of Western texts on mechanics. Later it came to be used for movement in general, for sports, and, like movement in English, came to be used for political and social movements as well. The more traditional word for motion is “dong” by itself, while “yun” typically meant to circulate or rotate. The word yun can mean “to mobilize,” as in the lines in the Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures: “Mobilize jin (energy) that is like well-tempered steel, capable of breaking through any stronghold.” or “Mobilize energy (jin) as though drawing silk.” There is this connotation, then, of setting something into motion, or of the impetus prior to movement. Some of Zheng Manqing’s writings exploited this same “deconstruction” of the modern word yundong in order to delve further into the relationship of mind with movement. For example, speaking of the taiji classics, he wrote: “In terms of movement [yi qi yundong er lun], when they speak of ‘using the mind to direct the ch’i, and the ch’i to mobilize the body,’ it is always the case that movement follows mobilization [yun er hou dong]. This is like an electric train or steamship which borrows the power of ch’i and mobilizes it to produce motion [yun zhi er hou dong].” (Douglas Wile, Master Cheng’s Thirteen Chapters On T’ai Chi Ch’uan, 1982, p. 11) Wile points out in a footnote that “Cheng’s argument, here, is based on a linguistic device in Chinese which is impossible to reproduce in translation. Taking the colloquial synonym compound, ‘yun-tung’ (exercise, movement), and separately explaining the two characters as ‘mobilization’ and ‘movement’ respectively, he is attempting to bring out the special quality of movement in T’ai-chi. . . .” (p. 83; see also a similar usage by Zheng in Wile’s Cheng Man-Ch’ing’s Advanced T’ai-Chi Form Instructions, p. 47.) So when, as you recount, “Yang Jun said that people always do ‘yun’ in preparation to doing ‘dong’ and that attacking in between these movements was the goal,” it seems he was addressing this very thing. I would add that this timing is the crux of “deji deshi” (seize the opportunity and the strategic advantage).

The notion of deji deshi is very clearly rooted in the Sunzi and other early bingfa (strategy manuals). Lisa Raphals, in her book, Knowing Words: Wisdom and Cunning in the Classical Traditions of China and Greece (Cornell, 1992), discusses the terms shi (strategic advatage, configuration), ji (trigger, pivot), and another important word, “quan,” meaning “lever” or metaphorically, the “weighing” of tactical and strategic factors in order to grasp the “actual situation” (which you’ve pointed out is one meaning of the compound “xushi”). She writes:

“The assessments associated with quan involve a number of factors that are discussed as pairs of polar opposites: near and far, empty and full (xu shi), crafty and straightforward (qi zheng). The general principle by which one uses quan [weighing] is to determine for each pair which pole the enemy is using and to oppose him with the complementary pole. That is, the hard oppose the soft, the near oppose the far, etc. This skill is the hallmark of the commander.

“In addition to the general recognition of cycles, the general must recognize the trigger or pivot (ji), the moment of change. This is the moment before a shift from one pole to its opposite becomes manifest. The general who can recognize this moment can act before it occurs.” (Raphals, p. 110)

This fits right in with your presentation of Yang Jun’s remarks on push hands, don’t you think?

Take care,

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 06-29-2003).]

PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 6:47 pm
by Anderzander

I'm new to the forum - and before I talk about the subject at hand I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your contributions. Image

The Xu Shi Jue is something that I have not looked into deeply - and is therefore, in some ways, a bit more enigmatic to me.... I think the texts speak in answers only - if you have your own context of experience they are very obvious - if not...then you either wait - or dig deep as you are doing Image

The fullness and emptiness that I experience in my own practice is firstly -the upper body and lower body split:

The stance is full the upper body empty. When the stance is correct it is strong and the upper body can sink into it. The attention is moved into the stance - clearing the way for a more subtle form of attention to come into it. The stance becomes full of Yi. The absence of Yi from the upper body invites ting into it.

The division of Yi and Ting is the first step in training the attention to deepen. I think that this is the first line:

'Using empty-empty full-full, the spirit gathers within'

So that is one become two, now for two becomes four.

The next separation is 'dexterity' - it's the separation of the left and right leg and their correlation to the right and left arms. When the right leg is full the left leg is empty - when the right arm is empty the left arm is full. This is the interchange of right to left and holds the martial interchange of forces. I think this is the 2nd line:

'Using empty-full full-empty, hands trade merit'

The next two lines reflect that the above is the most basic method of the body - and if you cant interchange left and right... well its not good Image certainly no flowing like a river anyway - more like lapping like the tide Image

The next two lines are a bit different to Douglas Wiles translation?

Which reads:

When one has the opponent’s vital point
in the palm of ones hand; finding empty
be on guard, but if full, attack.
If we fail to attack the full,
our art will never be superior

I think the meaning is clear enough though.

Back to the earlier descriptions of the body – the empty leg does not mean without strength. This to me is the next line;

‘Knowing that empty and full themselves contain empty and full’

This leads us to the discussion for the weight split – I believe that, as in Kuo Lien Ying’s text, the division of empty and full is a gross one to start with – and becomes more and more refined. From coarse to fine.

I think that the division of empty and full is also commonly mistaken to be one of weight. If a person is to have a gross division and it be confused with weight – they will have a stance where all the weight of the body is borne on one leg. 100/0. Can the '0' leg have strength? How can the body be balanced when issuing? How can you neutralise your opponents force into the ground?

Let me try and expand…

When the opponent pushes, you sink to one side – this does not necessarily mean that your own weight moves across (49/51) - the sinking prepares a channel for your opponents weight. A common error is to sink your weight onto the leg as well as your opponent’s push – this kind of pins you into the leg. The correct feeling is to have your opponents weight into your back leg and you to have the feeling of now being next to him. That way you absorb his force without rolling it back into yourself. You neutralise your own centre before your opponents.

On the basis of this I believe agility comes from being able to sink to one side - (which is not possible when the weight of your own body rests on one leg) – being able to sink to one side comes from being able to divide empty and solid.

I’ve run out of time ….. off to my class now. Sorry I haven’t referred to your individual posts – the volume of text was a bit overwhelming!


Ps: (you can play at this with a set of weighing scales under your back foot – you can see the weight climb as you neutralise the opponent – you can also reach a point where it looks like your weight is largely over your front leg, but with say a couple of people neutralised into your back foot - you can lift the front foot without moving – it did my head in the first time I saw it because there was no leaning or out of posture pushing from the other two – its just that the back foot had maybe 16 stone in it – which more than offset the weight of the chap being pushed)

[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 06-29-2003).]

[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 06-29-2003).]

PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2003 9:15 pm
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Steve,


The next two lines are a bit different to Douglas Wiles translation?

Which reads:

When one has the opponent’s vital point
in the palm of ones hand; finding empty
be on guard, but if full, attack.
If we fail to attack the full,
our art will never be superior

You’re right, my rendering is different:

Abiding in the empty, issuing the full; the knack is in the palm.
If the center remains full, with no release, refinement will be elusive.

Wile’s rendering of these lines sort of make sense, but I frankly don’t think it accurately represents the original wording or meaning. The sticky wicket may be in part with the character he translated as “vital point.” The character is “qiao4,” whose radical is in fact by itself the character “xue4,” the word for accupunture points and sometimes used to refer to striking points in martial arts. While the qiao character shares the meaning with xue of “a cavity or hole,” the correct reading here, I believe, is its meaning, “the crux, key point, gist, or knack.” Yang Jwing-ming’s translation (which has its own problems, grammatical and otherwise), does in fact capture this sense of qiao as “the tricky (keys) are in the palms” (in his _Tai Chi Secrets of the Yang Style_, YMAA, 2001, p. 22). As I mentioned, though, it is a difficult and obscure text, and my own reading may be flawed. Let me just say that I greatly admire Wile’s considerable translations and research into taiji theory and history. I’m just questioning what may here be a bit of a stretch.

Incidently, the bit I rendered as, “Knowing that empty and full themselves contain empty and full. . .” (xu shi zi you shi xu zai) appears to be a variant expression of the concept “within empty there is full, within full there is empty” (xu zhong you shi, shi zhong you xu), which evidently first appears in the writings of Li Yiyu.

Take care,

PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2003 12:58 pm
by psalchemist
Greetings all,
In the translation:
"Purely yin without yang, this is soft hand,
Purely yang without yin, this is hard hand;
One part yin nine parts yang, this is basically (gen) a cudgel(tougun),
Two parts yin eight parts yang, this is confused hand;
Three parts yin seven parts yang, this still feels hard,
Four parts yin six parts yang, this is clearly a good hand!
Only (wei) in having five yin and five yang, with yin and yang balanced, is it called marvelous hand, one touch(zhuo) is one taiji, completely without a trace, changing to return to nothing."-Louis(from Kuo Lien-Ying).

Any ideas or refereces as to why "Two parts yin eight parts yang" becomes CONFUSED hand?


PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2003 6:33 pm
by Louis Swaim
Hi Ps,

I really have no idea. In my own opinion, the decimal designations in this little document are arbitrary, and I wouldn’t put much stock in them. They are merely a way of adding interest to the accounting of yin and yang. As a matter of fact, the ditty strikes me as having sort of a funny, tongue-in-cheek tone, as though mocking these arbitrary breakdowns. The real aim is having a balanced approach, so that the adept can call upon one's bank account of yin and yang with split second timing.

As for the wording “confused hand,” the original is “san shou.” The word san means random, scattered, or loose. There is a compound, “sanshou,” which is used in taijiquan for free sparring (and also names a patterned two-person set to help train for un-patterned application), but here the meaning is more one of a “disorganized” hand. One still hasn’t sorted out yin and yang to an achieved balance in one’s technique.

That’s just my take on it.

Take care,

PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2003 5:48 pm
by psalchemist
Greetings Louis,

The conversion you kindly provided, concerning the decimal designations was very helpful, it might have taken me a long time to work it all out on my own.

I am fascinated by the idea of a "patterned two person set to help train for un-patterned application" Have you more details on this subject matter? Is this a type of instinct/intuition developpment training technique?

Thanks for investing your time. Your opinions are highly-valued and appreciated.

Best regards,

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 07-03-2003).]

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 3:20 am
by Louis Swaim
Hi Ps,

You wrote: ‘I am fascinated by the idea of a "patterned two person set to help train for un-patterned application" Have you more details on this subject matter?’

I’m afraid I have an irrepressible tendency to play with words, and in this case I was playing with some ironic uses of the term “sanshou.” In taijiquan, and in some other martial arts, sanshou (‘random hands’) refers to free sparring—that is, un-patterned, un-choreographed, improvised sparring. However, there is also a two-person set of 88 forms named “sanshou” that bring an array of offensive and defensive applications from the main solo form into play. The exact origin of the sanshou set is controversial, but it was documented with line drawings and narrative explanations in Chen Yanlin’s (a.k.a. Chen Gong, Yearning K. Chen) book on taiji pub’d. in 1943. That set, of course, is highly choreographed and patterned, but its objective is to help one learn to respond appropriately in a free-sparring or self defense setting, which is probably why it is so named.

Take care,

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 12:56 pm
by psalchemist
Greetings Louis Swaim,

I enjoy your 'play' on words, it adds interest to the conversation.

I too was 'horsing around' with my terminology. I WAS thanking you for the explanation of the 'confused hand', but when I referred to the elimination of 'all that work' I was speaking of DECIMALS as in decimal CONVERSIONS. Your use of the term decimal designations led me to the binary/decimal converters. With that tool, hexagrams are easily reduced to their whole numbers.

With that piece of information, I should now be better able to 'discriminate' between NS/EW and decide what fits where.

Actually, I think all this discussion has drawn me to the realization of my 'life's work'. Once again, I'm not sure I can thank you enough.

About 'sanshou', I was looking around the net for the actual forms and names of the postures incorporated within this system. Do you know of any links for that?
If not, do you have any ideas what 88-5 would refer to?, A posture, a form..other?

Best regards,

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 07-05-2003).]

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 6:09 pm
by Audi
Greetings All,

Louis, thanks for your research. It certainly gives greater life to the poem I quoted. If I could impose further, could you tell me what the original words were that were translated as “soft hand,” “hard hand,” and “still feels hard”?

Also, thanks for the explanation of “Yun.” I had scratched and scratched my head, but could not figure out how to get to Yang Jun’s meaning from the meaning “transport.” I also could not figure out what transport had to do with “luck” or “fate.” Thinking of the core meaning of “yun” as “circulate” provides the key. It is easy to see where the senses of “mobilize,” “transportation of goods,” and the “ups and downs of fate” can all comes from this.

Anderzander, you stated the following:

<<The next separation is 'dexterity' - it's the separation of the left and right leg and their correlation to the right and left arms. When the right leg is full the left leg is empty - when the right arm is empty the left arm is full.>>

This is a principle that has come up for discussion before on this forum. Despite all the discussion, I still do not understand what it is supposed to mean in actual practice. Let me give you an example that gets to the heart of my confusion.

In the Saber Form, there is a place where one thrusts forward with the blade flat. This occurs at the end of the first straight line of movement, at the end of the second line of the Saber Formula. At the end of the thrust, you are in a bow stance with the left leg forward.

Near the end of the form, there is another thrust, just before the saber is circled vertically on both sides of the body. This is at the end of the eleventh line of the Saber Formula. At the end of this thrust, you are in a bow stance with the right leg forward.

If the right leg and right arm must alternate between full and empty, does this mean that one thrust must be done with a “full” arm and the other with an “empty” arm? If so, what does this mean in concrete terms?

If you are unfamiliar with the Saber Form, let me give an example from the hand form. Embrace Tiger Return to the Mountain in the Yangs’ Form ends with a Pushing Strike (more or less the same as in Brush Knee and Twist Step) where the left palm pushes out and the right leg is forward. Single Whip ends with the left palm pushing out and the left leg forward. High Pat on Horse and Thrust the Palm also ends with the left palm thrusting out and the left leg forward. Is the quality of motion in the left arm somehow supposed to be different according to which leg bears the weight? If so, how so?

By the way, I think you make an interesting point about sinking weight to the side. I am not sure if I agree or disagree, but it seems to speak more to me than imagining rotating on a single leg and leaving the other leg with nothing to do.

Wushuer, you stated the following:

<<My feelings are most likely influenced by long training in a philosophy of pure 100/0 physical seperationg except in certain postures for very specific reasons.>>

Could you explain what some of the “specific reasons” are? Also, can you explain why 100/0 physical separation is not advocated for transitions? In other words, what is special about the last instant of a posture that requires 100/0 physical separation at that moment, but at no others? Lastly, what about intermediate techniques? Where a posture contains more than one technique, how does 100/0 physical separation apply to them?

As for the Chinese equivalent of “waist,” that is “yao,” but let me again note that this term can also refer to the lumbar spinal area. “Kao” is the word that is usually translated as “shoulder stroke,” but really means more like to “abut” or “lean against” something. As far as I understand, this word has absolutely no association with the shoulder, or even any particular part of the human body.

Psalchemist, you asked about the quote: "Each part has its point of empty/full. Everywhere there is always this one empty/full." Jou, Tsung Hwa’s book The Tao of Tai-Chi Chuan (the last edition might be spelled the Dao of Taijiquan) had a discussion of this that might be helpful (on page 179 of my edition, Figure 4-1c). I will try to build on what he wrote below.

Assume someone has 70% of his weight in the right leg and 30% in his left. In my opinion, by definition and because of the linquistic vagaries of Chinese and the relative nature of Yin and Yang, that would mean that his right leg is solid and his left leg is empty. If one looks only at the right leg, one could go further and say that the right leg itself is 70% solid and 30% empty. If one were to examine the right foot, one might find that the ball and toes of the foot were bearing 70% of the weight and the heel 30%. The ball and the toes, considered in isolation, would then be 70% solid and 30% empty. This kind of analysis can be continued ad infinitum.

As I see it, the quote is saying that the practitioner must feel the difference between empty and full in every part of the body at both the macro and the micro level. From this general theory, one then can address specific situations, such as how one should distinguish solid and empty during steps, during strikes, neutralizing attacks, etc.

Take care,

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 7:20 pm
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Audi,

You wrote:

‘. . . could you tell me what the original words were that were translated as “soft hand,” “hard hand,” and “still feels hard”?’

“Soft hand”: ruan3 shou3; “hard hand”: ying4 shou3; and “still feels hard”: you2 (still, even yet) jue2 (to sense, to feel) ying4 (stiff, hard)

Regarding “yun,” the “transport” entailment may make more sense if you think of another usage of the word yun, as a military term meaning “to mobilize” troops. In fact, the etymology of the character reveals this meaning: jun1 (troops) combined with the ‘walking’ radical. I’ve noticed that the imagery of consolidating and deploying troops into a cohesive force is sometimes used metaphorically in traditional taiji writings. The word yundong certainly has an interesting modern history, and one can find it being used in such modern terms as “kinetics” (yundong lixue), “laws of motion” (yundong lu), “momentum,” (yundong liang), etc.

To add a little more perspective to the discussion about empty and full in taiji theory, I’ve pulled together a translation of a short text by Li Yiyu (1832-1892) that is evidently the locus classicus of the taiji slogans, “within full there is empty,” and “within empty there is full.” The original text accompanied a drawing, a schematic of a human body, with annotations identifying the top of the head, the neck, chest, back, fingers, feet, etc., which I can’t reproduce here. This text appears in the 1991 collection, _Taijiquanpu_, and was first published publically, I believe, in Gu Liuxin’s and Tang Hao’s 1963 _Taijiquan Yanjiu_ (Researches into Taijiquan). I’m not aware of any published English translations of this particular Li Yiyu text.

Illustrated Chart of Empty and Full

Full does not mean to completely stand firm; within full there is empty. Empty does not mean completely without strength; within empty there is full. The above chart speaks in reference to the whole body, and although it addresses emptiness and fullness in its broad dimensions, when we delve more minutely into the entire body, there isn’t a spot without empty and full, nor can one depart from this empty and full. One must keep them constantly conjoined, using the mind intent to employ the qi, and using the qi to mobilize movement. One must not let the body shift chaotically, nor let the hands and feet exchange in confusion. Emptying and filling, then, are just like opening and closing, so that in going through the form, or playing hands with a partner, you must engage your mind/heart in each and every movement.With more practice there will be greater refinement. The longer your efforts accumulate, the more your skills will be esteemed.
—Li Yiyu

In this document, Li uses some of the same phrases he uses in some of his other writings; the “full does not mean to completely stand firm,” and “empty does not mean completely without strength,” for example, appear in his “Five Key Words.”

Take care,

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 8:57 pm
by Anderzander
Howdy Audi!

Nice to type to you - I've enjoyed reading your old posts Image

Let me have a go at answering your quandary over dexterity.....

this is something I can do but may not be able to articulate easily.

I believe you are confusing moving energy with striking energy.

Moving energy is peng. Peng rises from the floor and has dexterity. Peng arises from sinking.

Striking energy is another layer. Striking energy is stored through the curve. It is rolling and releasing.

First you move - then you roll and release. You can’t strike with peng.

I don't know how clear this is to read. The difference is easy to feel - and as I've read you write - it’s easy to demonstrate too.

Let me try this too - you could practice the form only with the feeling of rising and falling. This would be peng and sinking. It would be an exercise in moving energy - and thus silk reeling.

It would however not be usable - (except for turning force off) - use comes from learning to roll and release, and that is not bound by the method of dexterity.

I hope this helps - and please feel free to make me clarify anything necessary.

(by the way I don't know the sabre form - I've always found more resonance with a katana strangely?)

Lastly - you said...
"By the way, I think you make an interesting point about sinking weight to the side. I am not sure if I agree or disagree........."

Can I explain more to help you decide either way?

I could add this to my description that my help?...

sinking to one side and neutralising yourself is just part of neutralising your opponent......

after that you move into central equilibrium where you feel the strength of both legs - and compress/close - that’s the last part of rolling (both legs having jing - but still retaining the difference of feeling from the initial separation of substantial and insubstantial)

then comes releasing.

I would state with some assuredness Image that with 100% of your weight on one leg it is almost impossible to have central equilibrium. And that to release without losing your balance, or having the force somewhat scattered, then you must have central equilibrium.

Wushuer, I hope that doesn't come across as aggressively against your stance (excuse the pun). Treat it as a friendly and lively push Image


ps Louis - thanks for your translation again. I always like Li I Yu's writing style.

Would you consider putting a word document together with all the translations you have done?

If not - then for goodness sake Image write a book!


[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 07-05-2003).]

PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 4:08 pm
by Audi
Hi all:

Louis, thanks for the information. I was interested in knowing the original words for “soft” and “hard” because, as you know, these words can variously have positive, neutral, or negative connotations. From the viewpoint of Taijiquan, I generally have negative attitudes towards “ruan” and “ying” and so feel very comfortable with your opinion that the poem is talking about balancing the two. By the way, I think that balanced “ruan” and “ying” leads us back to our old friend “rou” (“resilient”?) that is often inadequately translated as “soft.”

I now have two comments about your rendering. First, might not words like “flimsy” and “stiff” better convey the connotations of “ruan” and “ying”? Also, is it possible that “shou” should be interpreted as “practitioner” or “[martial] artist”? The first lines could then be interpreted as something like: “Completely Yin means being a flimsy practitioner; completely Yang means being a stiff practioner.” Later on, you would have “good practitioner” and “marvelous practitioner.”

Stevie, I think I follow the surface level of your comments, but I am confused as to how they relate to Solid and Empty. Are you asserting that “Distinguishing Solid and Empty” applies only to Peng and sinking or that it applies only to Rolling and Releasing? Is the injunction to have opposite polarities of solid and empty between the hand and foot on the same side of the body something that applies universally, only to training in the form, or only to striking?

My issue with the injunction remains my confusion as to what concrete behavior is being called for. Is something physical being required? If it is a particular feeling, what is the feeling? I use the form and push hands exercises as my guide for most things having to do with theory, and I am still unable to connect this injunction up with anything familiar from either.

As for the issue of sinking weight to one side, part of the reason for my lack of commitment on your statement of theory is that you are using a framework that is different from mine. Translation between the two is not easy for me. For instance, for various reasons, I do not think in terms of “neutralization.” I believe I am generally familiar with how others use this term, but when we are discussing fairly specific, but subtle feelings and situations, I am not always certain as to what is being discussed.

To help me “make up my mind” about your theory, you would have to describe a physical situation, preferably from the form or one of the basic push hands drills, and walk me through what you mean by “sinking,” “to one side,” “neutralizing oneself,” and “neutralizing the opponent.”

Stevie, you also stated the following:

<<I would state with some assuredness J that with 100% of your weight on one leg it is almost impossible to have central equilibrium. And that to release without losing your balance, or having the force somewhat scattered, then you must have central equilibrium.>>

What about Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg (Jin Ji Du Li)? According to your view, does this posture have a central equilibrium release while being on one leg? How do you fit kicks within your statement of theory? Does your form have no postures or transitions where there is a release at a time where there is weight only in one leg?

Aspects of what you say find resonance with what I feel in my own practice, but I have difficulty in fitting other aspects into a “grand theory.”

Take care,