Empty and Full

Postby tai1chi » Wed Jul 16, 2003 9:15 pm

Hi Polaris,

though it may seem so, I have no dispute with Louis. I agree with your concept of clarity, and I'm only looking for that on this particular issue. I understand it may be somewhat futile to reach a consensus. But, if a student were to ask me "What should my finger be full of?" "And, how is that related to the full or empty of my opponent?" -- it seems I should be able to give some idea of what that is.

Louis's citation, here or elsewhere, certainly seems to align with many of the theories already presented. As in the admonition against direct engagement of force against force. Doing so might be considered "double-weighting", but that seems only loosely connected to what Xiang was discussing.

Again, I'm not arguing against anything, only for clarity. It may be perfectly logical that "double-weighting" has more than one meaning.

Hmm, of course, weighting could be considered the combination of li/qi/yi/shen. But, then I'm interested in the relationship --in principle-- of that to the opponent. Oh well, it's just a matter of analyzing the principles, not disputing them.

As for the style names, I think that started because students needed to say who they learned from. It might be interesting to figure out whose students changed their styles the most, since most are very individual.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Polaris » Wed Jul 16, 2003 10:21 pm

Steve,

You haven't seemed contentious to me, quite the contrary, I've found what you are saying and asking to be courteously thought provoking.

As for asking what the full of full and empty actaully IS, naturally people are going to want to know that. One thing that I'll tell my students is that they should be prepared to be frustrated on the subject for about 10 years, and I'm only half joking!

IME it is the sum of all the training which I've done before, the rooting, the flexibility, the sensitivity, the calmness - seeing the other guy and myself for who and what we are through the veil of projection and cosmetic appearance. If someone isn't calm, balanced, rooted with years of real stuff, real kung fu, behind their intent then it will fizzle. I'm afraid my words aren't really getting it across completely. At a certain point, you just know that it will work and work well, 100% confident, but in the sense of neutral confidence - not underconfident, not overconfident. The global system of leverage and alignment in the framework of the human body becomes so well trained by traditional T'ai Chi that the seemingly miraculous effects on the outside (not to mention the inside) appear to be effortless to the practitioner. So, to paraphrase the ancients, it is your Shen (connection to the infinite still point) that makes it possible for your I and Ch'i to have 4 ounces of Li move 1,000 incoming catties. Meow!

Cheers,
P.
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Jul 17, 2003 3:16 pm

Hi Polaris,

I agree that the process of working out what the terms mean is a life-time endeavor. I do not think it's simple to explain how a finger can be "double-weighted", especially when someone asks "with what?" Yes, once one has a clear idea of "what" --and consequently, "what not"-- then "empty and full" (or "emptying and filling") can have a meaning that is consistent with what it is referring to: That is: strategically, it could apply to "where the finger is" (disposition); and, tactically, it can apply to "what the finger is doing" (action).

Sun Tzu works fine for that. But, apart from Sun Tzu, I think we also have to take the theory of "changes" into consideration. I.e., that the continuous oscillation between yin and yang is a fundamental requirement. Imho, failing to do that results in "double-weighting" and "not distinguishing between empty and full."

I think it's right to say that one must be aware of the "intent" of the opponent's movement and where "it" is manifested in/by his body/mind. Either it is in his finger or it is not, but it will change. Listening for, interpreting and understanding that, one can respond appropriately. Not doing so also results in "double-weighting" because the opponent's "intent" also carries his qi, and usually his li. So, that's where I see the relation.

Anyway, again, I don't intend my views to conflict with anyone else's. If I were stuck without books or internet access, that would be my best attempt at how I see this small part of the issue.

Regards,
Steve James
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Postby Polaris » Thu Jul 17, 2003 4:20 pm

Steve,

Very good. I'm not sure that I understand exactly how it works completely, but I am familiar with the effects of the process, fortunately.

At the risk of sounding like Bruce Lee, all T'ai Chi Ch'uan technique is only training to get students the point to where they can consciously discard all thought of technique. This is a rare level. The Wu family has a saying "First there is a teacher, then there is no teacher, first there is a system, then there is no system" that describes the process. The teacher and the system are necessarily first, and what they have to teach must be completely worked through, no shortcuts. My music teacher used to say, "Technique isn't everything, but you can't do anything without it." You train and discipline yourself, train, discipline, get corrected and train some more until you attain complete freedom of action, just through the discipline, which one would expect to have the exact opposite effect! It is a corollary of the concept that you soften and soften until you are as hard as steel. The more disciplined you become, the more resources you will have, the more freedom of decision that you will have in everyday life, not just martial arts.

This is where some more "modern" martial artists miss the boat. They reject respect for tradition out of hand, saying that it is ritualistic and hidebound, they reject the authority of the teachers, just because they haven't disciplined themselves to be able to see the end of the traditional path that an orthodox teacher can take them to. They come up with all sorts of shortcuts, just wanting to learn to fight, and in the end they still don't have the kung fu of the authentic traditionalists. The teacher's expertise is necessary to prevent discipline from stagnating into a rote drill, to keep everything alive and progressing for the student. Some of the teacher's method can seem terribly mysterious at first, but that is because the student doesn't yet understand where the teacher is taking them with it.

T'ai Chi Ch'uan is loaded with these paradoxical situations. To get back on subject, the T'ai Chi Ch'uan practitioner should be able to assign empty and full anywhere in complete freedom of decision, yet the assignment is based 100% on the opponent. So, in another classic paradox, it is a conditioned arbitrariness...

Cheers,
P.

[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 07-17-2003).]
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Jul 17, 2003 6:22 pm

Hi Polaris,

You wrote:

"some more "modern" martial artists miss the boat. They reject respect for tradition out of hand, saying that it is ritualistic and hidebound, they reject the authority of the teachers, just because they haven't disciplined themselves to be able to see the end of the traditional path that an orthodox teacher can take them to. They come up with all sorts of shortcuts, just wanting to learn to fight, and in the end they still don't have the kung fu of the authentic traditionalists."

I agree, even though I think this is a traditional (ancient) problem. It gets back to the point about differences in style and interpretation. Because there are so many, and now so many opportunities to sample many, I think "contemporary" practitioners have atendency to leave one teacher before they've had a chance to understand what he was trying to teach. I guess you'd agree that kung fu requires (if not means) consistency; and, confusion is an obstacle.

Otoh, it has also been said, wisely, that even a great teacher can only put three legs on a student's table. If they don't allow the student to --or the student doesn't-- make it his own, the art dies. Individual refinement is necessary; it certainly has been for the Yang and Wu styles.

Even in their day, the 1st and 2nd generation Yangs had styles that were considered different. Today, one can find lots of arguments about who has preserved YBH's form. Unfortunately, imho, there'll never be another YBH. Rather than try to recreate a teacher, I tend to think it's better to try to preserve the principles and methods of his art --through one's individual expression.

Anyway, I agree with you that it is typically paradoxical.

Regards,
Steve James
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Postby DavidJ » Thu Jul 17, 2003 6:38 pm

Hi Everyone,

I don't know if this will make sense to anyone, but the discussion has brought to mind the following:

Someone can be double-weighted in their intent, like a motorist who is stuck at a green light unable to decide whether to turn right or left or to go straight. The non -double-weighted motorist would have pulled out of the way and would be making sense of the map and then deciding which way to go.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Jul 17, 2003 8:15 pm

Polaris,
I must say, reading your posts takes me back to my old WTCCA days. You sound like a combination of Wu Yan Hsia (miss her too much for words), Wu Ta Sin, Eddie, Sifu Britt, my brother and my mother (also a Wu family disciple) all rolled into one posting sometimes.
Your words about studying only one style hit home with me, hard.
Almost wish I could. Almost.
I remember thinking for a long number of years that I couldn't possibly learn anything from another style of TCC that I hadn't learned in Wu style. Why do you think it took me nearly six years after I moved to seek out a new school? Plain old prejudice against "those Yang guys down the street" held me back for way too long while I tried my best to retain my old skill from tapes and solo practice. Due to this prejudice (which, I hate to say, does exist in the old school) I lost out on years of training and quite a bit of the old skill that I worked for nearly a decade to achieve was lost to my hubris.
I feel, however, that taking some time and studying a different branch of TCC has really helped me in the long run.
First it has shown me that as much as I THOUGHT I knew about TCC, I really didn't and that a lot of what I thought I had forgotten I had not.
Second I have learned humility, at least, by studying a new style.
Third, I have found one of the subtler Wu style methods by trainig Yang style, the "movement from the waist" that I learned, but had certainly never been overtly shown by any instructor in WTCCA. I just showed my mother that one last night, in fact. She also saw the correlation to Wu style forms and movement, but was as equally amazed as I at the concept of only using this waist turn and not turning "from the hip".
Does the expression "The more I know, the more I know I don't know" sound familiar? I have heard some people we both know quote that many, many times. It rings quite true to me today as I reflect on being "multi-styled".
Almost every old master of legend had multiple styles of martial arts training. The list of original TCC masters, who are nearly revered today, who studied more than one style of martial arts is too long to even consider putting down someplace.
Yang Lu Chan didn't start out with TCC. Sun Lu Tang studied several styles of martial arts, if the legends be even half true. The Chen family were Cannon Fist masters for generations before studying TCC. I feel confident that Wu Chuan Yu was studied in at least one other style of martial art before training under Ban Hou and Lu Chan.
Would anyone like to try to explain to me why these guys benefited so much from training more than one style of martial art but no one else would? I can't think of one good reason, but I'd like to hear one if it exists.
While I remember well the prejudice against "cross styling" that is practiced in martial schools I have previously attended (no, not just WTCCA, I have trained at five different schools of martial arts in my time) it seems to me that MOST of the near legends of TCC started with a different style of martial art and moved on to TCC later. Knowing this, it puzzles me now as to why this prejudice exists.

Anyway...
As absent as I have been lately due to an overwhelming tidal wave of actual work at the workplace, I will be completely absent for two weeks while I go practice my TCC on the beaches of sunny Ft. Lauderdale.
My kids are with my mother (my son being under orders to spend two weeks getting the snot kicked out of him by his Wu family disciple grandmother while she teaches him Wu style push hands techniques to come back here and beat my butt with... I mean to come back here and teach his old man a refresher course in, as well as the rest of our push hands group) and the wife and I are going to celebrate our fifteen year wedding anniversary in Florida.
Isn't that awful?
I know I hate myself about it...

So...
Regards to all. I will try to catch up when I get back in town.
If anyone happens to be in Ft. Lauderdale over the next two weeks, I will be on Ft. Lauderdale beach, right across from the Sloop John B. Raw Bar for the most part. I'll be the guy who's practicing both Wu style and Yang style forms on the beach. I'll be the pasty white skinned (lobster red after a day or two) with the blonde hair and the pot belly next to the hot little red head in the bikini.
You won't be able to miss me, I'm sure.
Drop by and say "hi" to me. If you'd like, we can push hands or do forms.
For the rest of you, I'll be back in about two weeks.
Cheers.
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Postby psalchemist » Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:33 am

Hello everyone,

I have been experimenting with this new found information concerning emptying and filling over the last few days.

I am not sure where or how to use the term cross-substantiality, but I will try to make myself understood despite this little handicap, anyway. Please feel free to correct me wherever and whenever I have erred in my expressions or other.

Really, what I would like to do is toss in a breakdown of the emptying filling process of 'cross hands' to give an example of what I've learned. Just to see if I am indeed headed in the right direction or not, if I may.

In the Traditional Yang family style Taijiquan 103 move Peking long form (YangZhenDuo style):Cross Hands/Shih tse shou:

From what I have deduced... there are two, what I'll call 'cycles' of emptying and filling within the cross hands posture.

We start off(from a standstill) from 'Ru Feng Tsi Bi' with two hands pushing to the left direction. Left leg leading. Left forward pushing hand is full. Right forward pushing hand is empty. Lead leg/foot is empty(to match opposite arm/hand) and right rear leg is full(to match opposite arm/hand).

Now to begin cross hands we start by pushing backward with the forward left leg, so that we may sink into the right leg making it yin(empty)supportive, and pivot the left foot to face forward yang (full) active. While the right leg is becoming gradually more yin(emptying) the left arm is also becoming more yin(emptying). While the left leg is becoming more yang(filling), the right arm is taking over to also become more yang(filling).

So, now, both arms are extended to the sides, torso pretty much facing forward. All weight is going into the right leg/foot, sinking it/ grounding it, supporting it. The left hand is also empty, while the right hand is full(active)along with his buddy left leg/foot which is also active/full pivoting to face forward.

From that point we begin to reverse the roles in another way concerning emptying and filling(again in a cross substantial manner). We start sinking into theleft foot(becoming gradually more yin/empty, the right arm accompanying it's gesture, of course. While the left hand takes overby filling up , along with it's partnered right leg. Simultaneously.

Emptying a 'diagonal' to fill the opposite 'diagonal'.

At the ends of part 1 and 2 this leads us into 'Baho tuei shang' in part 3, into the final 'offering' closing.

When the right foot makes contact with the ground(the hands are now fully crossed)and it begins emptying, I beleive this is the start the next movement(ie BTS).

RU FENG TSI BI(LAST PART)

LT ARM=YANG RT ARM=YIN
LT LEG=YIN RT LEG=YANG

CROSS HANDS
(CYCLE1)
LT ARM=YIN RT ARM=YANG
LT LEG=YANG RT LEG=YIN
(CYCLE2)
LT ARM=YANG RT ARM=YIN
LT LEG=YIN RT LEG=YANG

BAHO TUEI SHANG(FIRST PART)

LT ARM=YIN RT ARM=YANG
LT LEG=YANG RT LEG=YIN

I note alot of superimposedness there, within a movement of two full 'cycles' in cross hands there is a yin and yang for each appendage, as well as other cycles.

Another conclusion I have arrived at is that One can only become double-weighted in a 'posture' if one stops moving...or one loses that distinction between empty and full.

All comments, and feedback welcome.

Best regard,
Psalchemist.
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Postby psalchemist » Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:48 am

Greetings,

I wished to add a little something to the same subject(above) for amusement, even though it may be slightly off topic.

Thinking brain functioning.The brain is divided into two hemispheres, right and left. The right side of the brain controls the movement of the left side of the body, while the opposite is true of the left side of the brain.

How does the brain deal with all this! It must have to (for example) be commanding the right arm to fill and the right leg to empty at the same time,WHILE,it is also using the other side of the brain to command the left leg to fill and the left arm to empty...mind boggling, no? Tai chi is probably seriously training our minds to work certain ways. Well... I thought it was interesting.What do you think?..is TCC teaching us to use both sides of our brain at once?

Regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 07-18-2003).]
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Postby tai1chi » Fri Jul 18, 2003 3:18 am

Hi David J., Psalchemist,

DJ, fwiw, I agree that one's intent can be "doubleweighted."
I think the vacillation you describe is a good example of that. It definitely relates to Sun Tzu's admonition to "know what you are doing." It also complies with tcc's ideal of "unified" (to me, ie, unification of yi/chi/li/shen) action. CMC said something like 'what good is having the fastest horse, if you're late to the race.' I guess it also reminds me of the saying "don't lay your dead meat on me." I.e., limbs moving without meaning. I guess I'm saying that there's probably nothing that cannot be "double-weighted", and no issue to which it is not attached. I'd still say that it is as much about the inability to change (or the lack of oscillation between yin and yang) as much as it is about any particular action. It's just my way of generalizing.

Psalchemist,

it's really hard for me to follow written descriptions. Probably, it's genetic. But, I think my response to David J. would be about the same to your analysis of Cross Hands. I mean, imho, it's a perfect example of using alternation --though, I guess you're using the term "cross-substantiality." Whatever it's called, I think it works because it changes --of course, in a specific way; but, regardless, of the specific application.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Polaris » Fri Jul 18, 2003 4:27 am

Greetings All,

Steve, it is an old syndrome, to be sure. Formerly in the Chinese martial arts you could not get away from the hierarchy (oligarchy?) of the Confucian family model for ranking in a traditional Chinese school of any sort. As you say, nowadays the sky is the limit - - - if someone has loads of time and lots of money, they may go to as many schools and seminars as they like, 'eclectically' mixing and matching styles and techniques whether they actually understand them or not. In the olden days someone like that would be weeded out fairly quickly by the experts (unless they were protected somehow), but now...

The indecision DavidJ describes is both a definite symptom and a cause of double weightedness (how's that for not being able to make up my mind?). "Having your cake and eating it too." People don't want to commit to a direction, because deep down they don't trust their ability to retreat or otherwise change if things should go unexpectedly; so they hedge their bets, they hem and haw never going fully into whatever it is they finally do decide and thereby compromise their efficacy dramatically. "Of two minds." This is the problem inherent in linear thinking, the word mind. Any kung fu training (it doesn't have to be martial, great race drivers have kung fu in driving a car) should be directed at transcending the dualistic "double weighted" monkey brain.

This gets back to the question Steve J. brought up, what does the "full" in empty/full consist of? I believe we may speak about it, but we can only ever experience it and still never quite accurately describe it. We have to be able to say what it isn't, or what conditions it in order to teach TCC, but I don't thiink we'll ever nail it down verbally.

As for psalchemist and assigning yin and yang aspects to various positions, that concept is valid for teaching (I'm not qualified to comment on if what you have described is accurate for YZD's form). But ultimately, if I am standing behind you instead of in front, all the yins and yangs will switch. Yin and yang in a descriptive sense are arbitrary too, depending on the point of view of the observer.


Cheers!
P.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Jul 18, 2003 8:05 am

Greetings All,

There’s been some really great discussion from all parties. Some of your remarks brought to mind something I came to realize a number of years ago, something that impressed itself on me cumulatively from reading many different kinds of Chinese texts, and translations and studies of Chinese writers. What I realized is that Chinese writers have a terrific fondness for expressing themselves with seemingly pat formulas. That does not mean, however, that the thinking behind the formulas is formulaic. It’s a very important distinction. I think perhaps that it is in part due to the character of the language; it really lends itself to neat and tidy expressions that have a rhetorical impact with almost a ring of inevitability. There is great propensity for parallel structure, both at the surface and on deeper levels. There is a tendency toward balance and symmetry of expression and for word puzzles where everything fits into a harmonious pattern. Yet there is also a great appreciation for the unspoken—an acknowledgement that some things just cannot or should not be put directly, and so must be put indirectly or obliquely. So, personally, I can’t really make a lucid case for what empty and full mean. As theory, there is a beauty and logic to the ebb and flow of empty and full, but they cannot really be correlated to some cut and dried structure that we can refer to in three dimensions. Rather, the theories arose out of subjective experience of this movement art of taijiquan, and they are meant to appeal to a productive unfolding of experience in the student. That’s why I resist trying to identify a given gesture as yin or yang or empty or full. That would be mistaking the formula for experience that is formulaic.

Steve quoted a saying, “that even a great teacher can only put three legs on a student's table.” I’ve never heard it put like that, but it sounds like a version of a famous saying of Confucius that I’ve heard Yang Zhenduo repeat: “If on showing students one corner they do not come back to me with the other three, I will not repeat myself.” Here’s another of those neat formulas, this one with geometric overtones, and valuing the ability of a student to make productive inferences. All a teacher can do is provide a map reflecting his or her subjective experience.

In his 6/4 post in an earlier thread, Audi wrote: ‘In Yang Chengfu’s discussion of “Distinguishing Full and Empty,” it seems to me that he was assigning values to the polarity expressed by full and empty, rather than giving descriptions of them. In explaining the values he assigned, he naturally used the extreme cases of having all the weight over a leg and having no weight [over the other].’

I think Audi nailed it in that observation. Yang Chengfu wasn’t defining empty and full, but indicating how one can access the experience. Moreover, I think this was a case of “showing the student one corner,” and the student is expected to make inferences from this partial picture to the greater scenario. Once one can understand the value of centering over one foot, one can explore how to exploit that value in more and more subtle ways.

I wonder if our received understanding of “weight” may in fact be a distraction from understanding empty and full in stances. I was really happy to come upon the notion of “loading,” “muscle loading,” and “muscle loading profiles” used by kinesiologists. It may be misleading to think in terms of ‘all of the body’s weight’ being over one leg or the other, as if the body’s weight were a singular mass of dead matter. If you think in engineering terms, for example (and I admit to being out of my league here), an arch distributes load throughout its structure, and an engineer could give you a schematic with little arrows showing the hidden patterns of forces that allow the thinnest and highest part to support heavy objects. A bridge can seem to defy gravity over a large stretch of water, and the load of the structure and the traffic it bears is distributed through its intricate network of struts or suspension cables. If this is true of inanimate structures, it’s certainly true of living moving bodies. So in my estimation, empty and full may be a way of expressing (among other things) a very sophisticated understanding of muscle loading profiles in moving human bodies.

Just some late night ramblings from a tired old guy.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Polaris » Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:26 pm

LS-
"Yang Chengfu wasn’t defining empty and full, but indicating how one can access the experience."

Agreed. It is a principle that a beginner has to work through to learn stability on one leg, but it doesn't end there. With accomplishment the matter of balance on one leg becomes a given and the principle should then be applied to all situations, right and left, up and down, front to back, etc, not just in the feet.

LS-
"Moreover, I think this was a case of “showing the student one corner,” and the student is expected to make inferences from this partial picture to the greater scenario."

There are two lines from the 'Song of the Thirteen Postures' (So I'm told, but I haven't confirmed the attestation yet for myself), which have been translated for us like this:

'Entering the gate, one is guided along the path by oral instruction.
Mastering the art (kung fu) requires unceasing self-cultivation.'

We have these two lines hanging on the wall of our schools, drawn out nicely on matching scrolls. A nice lady originally from Hong Kong in one of my classes translated it for me like this, however:

'You can come to class and the teacher can tell you how to do it,
But you still have to do it yourself!'

It is implied that the onus is on the student.

LS-
"I wonder if our received understanding of “weight” may in fact be a distraction from understanding empty and full in stances."

It is indeed. To go back to the beginning of this posting above, the students though have to get beyond the first layer of understanding themselves. The teacher can point it out, but the students have to work until they can apply the experience into situations they hadn't been able to previously. Some (most?) never do.

Best Regards,
p.
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Postby Audi » Sun Jul 20, 2003 2:36 pm

Hi all,

There have been some great comments over the last couple of weeks. I have limited time at the moment and so want to take the opportunity first to respond to some questions that Psalchemist had posted a while back.

Psalchemist, you asked the following:

<<Firstly, allow me to express my overall ignorance on the meaning of the word 'cross-substantiality' as used in Taijiquan. I am not versed as to the differences between cross-substiantiality, threading and silk reeling. Are these different phraseologies for the same ideologies? Definitions on these terms would be very helpful to my understanding of these subjects.>>

As far as I know, “cross-substantiality” is a term that was spontaneously coined on this thread. It is not a term of art I am familiar with in Taijiquan. However, the concept of the limbs having reverse polarities of full and empty on the same side of the body is one that has been expressed by diverse authorities and seems to be accepted by many within the Yang Style tradition. I cannot confirm, though, that this concept, however termed, is discussed in the classics or in any of the Yang Family writings. I would appreciate it if anyone could point me to any such occurrences.

I can see how “cross-substantiality” might be descriptive of some of things that go on in the body if you do form according to how the Yangs instruct, but at the moment I do not believe it is a concept one should focus on while doing the Yang Family form. As far as full and empty are concerned during form practice, I think one should basically (1) focus on where and when weight shifts occur, (2) stepping without using momentum (however slight), and (3) shifting weight first to the heel, then to the ball of the foot, and then gripping with the toes. In doing push hands, one can then focus on more subtle aspects of Distinguishing Full and Empty that are difficult to train by doing form alone.

“Threading” basically refers to the fact that the Qi should flow freely through each of the joints. The classics refer to threading the Qi through all parts of the body as if it were going through “nine bends of pearl” (jiu qu zhu). I have heard or read this explained in two ways: first, as referring to a pearl with nine bends or holes in it and the difficulty of successfully threading something through the pearl, and second, as referring to nine pearls threaded on a string. The nine bends or nine pearls refer to nine major groups of joints. (I think I have heard nominations from the following ten groups: ankles, knees, hips/kua, “waist,” spine, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers/fist.) The string that threads them together is the Qi that leads the Jin. Any blockage in a “pearl bend” (i.e., a joint) will prevent the energy of the string (the Qi leading the Jin through the body) from acting as a unit and achieving its purpose.

For me, threading refers to a particular way in which you use and relate to your joint movement. It is not merely about imagining connections through the joints. For me, it is different in character, rather than in intensity, from ordinary movement and from the movement style I believe is used in Karate and similar martial arts. I can make an analogy to the way the different folds of an accordion relate to each other. It is not really that the different folds are “coordinated” in their movement, but rather that the same impulse simultaneously determines and unifies their movement. The way gears operate would be a similar example. One rusty joint can mess up the entire system.

“Silk reeling” refers to spiral, or rather helical, motion. I believe it is a reference to how silk fibers are spun together to make silk thread or perhaps to how the silk fiber unwinds from a cocoon during the same process. If you look closely at any natural fiber cordage, you will see a helical/spiral pattern in its makeup.

Silk Reeling is said to unify the circular with the straight and Yin with Yang. It is the characteristic and most prominent use of energy of Chen Style Taijiquan. Some Yang Stylists also talk about silk reeling and practice various types of silk reeling exercises. Some do not practice particular exercises, but still assert that the Jin moves through the air or through the body in invisible helical patterns.

As far as I can tell, Silk Reeling does not play a significant part in the Yang Family’s instruction. Here and there, they explicitly exclude some types of “spiraling” from what they consider proper movement for traditional Yang Style. For example, they do not spiral the hips or the shoulders, but keep them level at all times during the form. They also talk about sinking the Qi to the Dantian, but I do not think they want you to try to spiral the Dantain. Various rotations of the limbs do indeed play a major role within the Yang Family system; but as far as I am aware, conscious rotation always has a specific purpose that never includes simply moving through the air or generating or absorbing power.

Please note that there is a concept called “Drawing Silk” that is not the same as Silk Reeling. Ages ago on this forum, I was set straight about this issue. I believe “Drawing Silk” has to do with moving Jin in a way that is delicate, firm, and continuous. The term refers to the right touch that must be used in pulling on yarn as it is formed from silk fibers during the spinning process. An uneven pull will break the yarn, by focusing force on the individual fibers, rather than on their unified force.

Psalchemist, you also mentioned Peng and relaxation in your post. According to my understanding, the Yangs teach that if you “relax” properly, Peng, in the general sense, is automatically present. I have put “relax” in quotes because different people seem to mean different things by this word. In my opinion, focusing on minimizing muscular exertion is not at all what the Yangs mean by “relax.” In my opinion, your progress in their system will be greatly hobbled if you think about “relaxing” in this way. I have posted my share of rants on this issue in the past, so I will try not to repeat myself further here unless someone finds my comments mystifying.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Jul 22, 2003 8:35 am

Greetings SteveJames,

"'Double-weighting'...I'd still say that it is as much about the inability to change(or the lack of oscillation between yin and yang)as much as it is about any particular action."-SJ

I find I must agree with your statement entirely. The ability to adapt to change easily and efficiently seems to be paramount to the acheivement of success not only in Taijiquan, but also for life in general. I acknowledge the value of undergoing changes;Although initially uncomfortable, as most new things can be, I find it does usually lead to some type of positive growth and development. Double-weighting does seem to be clearly representative of stagnancy.


"It's hard for me to follow written descriptions. Probably, it's genetic."-SJ

A highly typical human gene I would wager. I too suffer from the same deficiency when faced with even the most well written literature on the subject of movements. Let me just say that it is much easier to spew forth incoherent descriptions of movements than it must be to actually try to decipher it. Sorry if I gave you a headache, I personally developped one when I attempted to understand myself the next day!LOL.

Thanks for the feedback,
Psalchemist.
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