Concealing Intent

Postby Fred Hao » Sat Nov 19, 2005 11:59 am

Make the opponent's attack energy drop empty everywhere on your body; at the same time our energy just adhere;stick,follow him,and never attack him. According the principle, you can practice to achieve this theory--"The opponent never knows you; you knows him quite well."

It is a hard challenge to oneself by practicing this way. You have to
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Postby Fred Hao » Sat Nov 19, 2005 12:03 pm

You have to do this way patiently. How long will it takes ? It depends on individuals.
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Postby Audi » Fri Nov 25, 2005 8:47 pm

According to my understanding of Yang Chengfu's principles, the goal is not to try to become empty, but rather to distinguish empty and full, both in yourself and in your opponent. By distinguishing between the two, you call always arrange your energy in the best way to receive the opponent's force and return it to him or to trap the opponent in a place where they must use crude force to try to escape.

As for "intent," I think you have to distinguish between two different concepts. Some say that one's intent should always be strong. Others say that one should do Taijiquan without any intention." I think the former is more characteristic of the Association's Taijiquan than the latter.

Saying that you should not have intention is similar to saying that you should abandon yourself and follow the opponent; however, I think there are important differences between the two methods. Again, I think that the Association's Taijiquan embraces the latter concept, but not really the former.

In my view, if you truly distinguish full and empty, have the correct strong intent, and follow the opponent, "concealing intent" is not a problem. "Following" and "leading" become more or less the same thing and there is no need to think about when to switch from one to the other. The key raw material you are working with is the opponent's own disposition of force and so there should be little to conceal. If, on the other hand, you overreact, underreact, or otherwise act independently of the opponent, you offer something that can be detected and countered.

If your face reveals your intention to push, I would think that there must be a disconnect and a failure to do lian2.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Fred Hao » Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:25 am

Hi,All

Leave the intent at the spine. Let the spine move and the rest parts relax. Thus the "Qi" will spread everywhere in the body. In the push hands, you can detect others; others can't sense your body but Qi.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Dec 07, 2005 4:36 pm

Audi,
Leading and following are the same thing...
I'd never thought of it like that before, but it makes sense.
Hmmm......? Something to think on. I need to play with that for a while and see if I can clear up the concept.

As for intent...
I had always considered having intent as being a full time thing, not something to do or not do depending on circumstance. I don't give up my intent to follow my opponent, following my opponent IS my intent. I can only surrender to and follow his lead if my intent is to do so. In this way, my intent is clear at all times.

Bob
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Postby Audi » Sat Dec 10, 2005 12:02 am

Hi Bob,

At this stage of this discussion, it occurs to me that it is worth teasing out what exactly we mean by “following.” From what I understand of the Yang family teachings, “following” essentially means “sticking to the opponent’s force”; however, there are four aspects of this: zhan, nian, lian, and sui that should be distinguished. We have discussed these at length in the past, but let me pick up some of the threads of that discussion again.

First, I believe these four concepts as a whole are supposed to describe how to control the opponent’s movements. Sometimes, I think that reducing all these concepts to the single idea of “following” can obscure this fact, particular because it loses the offensive, and even aggressive, aspect of these concepts. Second, these concepts describe fairly specific skills that encompass more than mere “yielding,” “softness,” or “passiveness” that are sometimes implied by some usages of “following.”

Zhan is pronounced like the English name “Jan” and seems to be translated most often as “adhering.” The everyday meaning of zhan is “to cause to stick” or “to paste.” In Taiji usage, I think the main meaning is to cause the opponent’s movements to stick to yours so that you can pull the opponent out of her root. In practice, I think this means to offer the opponent pressure where she expects or seeks pressure. You can than use this pressure to lead her to overextend her force in a direction that is helpful to you. In the single hand, horizontal circling, I look for this feeling as I “pull” the opponent’s push towards me into a position where I can do Pluck.

Nian is pronounced like “knee” and “yen” run together. It seems to be translated most often as “sticking.” The everyday meaning of nian is “to be sticky.” In Taiji usage, I think the main meaning is not to allow the opponent independent movement. In practice, I think you prevent the opponent from opening up space to execute techniques against you or to get away from your techniques. In the single hand, horizontal circling, I look for this feeling mainly in two places: as I follow the opponent’s ward off into his body and as I try to do the two rotations without any sliding or slipping. I think it can be particularly helpful not to view the “push” phase of the circling as a mere “push,” but rather as an opportunity to stick to the opponent’s withdrawal and cramp his posture.

Lian is pronounced like nian, except with an “l,” rather than an “n.” It seems to be translated as “connecting” or “linking” and has the everyday meaning of linking things together. For Taijiquan, I think the main meaning is to make sure that in the flow of movement, there is no break in contact with the opponent’s movement. In other words, your flow and the opponent’s flow should always be linked. In the single hand, horizontal circling, I look for this particularly at the end of the weight shift backward, as the arm transitions from the rotation into a position to execute Pluck and then continues on into a smooth forward weight shift supporting a “push.” I think a common mistake is to finish the rotation too late, as if using it only to begin pushing forward. This means that there is a gap between the forward and backward techniques and you lose (“diu”) contact with the opponent’s force.

Sui is pronounced roughly like the word “sway” or the “swee” in “sweet” (or really as something in between). It is usually translated as “follow.” In both everyday usage and in Taiji usage, however, I think there is an implication of according one’s movement to some other force. For Taijiquan, I think the main meaning is that your movements should always go along with the opponent’s general tendency, so that your movements are allied with her movements. In the single hand, horizontal circling, I see this mostly in the tactical placement of the movements: I have the option of “pulling” when the opponent is pushing and the option of “pushing” when the opponent is pulling. The safest and easiest place to attack from is from behind the opponent’s force.

These four skills each have offensive and defensive aspects that are difficult to separate, but I think you can see how they can be used to control the opponent’s movements and lead him to where you want him. The seeming paradox is how you “control” and “lead” by “following” and “yielding the initiative.” Sometimes, I verbalize this by saying that each change in you should evenly change something in the opponent and vice versa. The four skills just tell you why and how to make these small subtle changes.

I am not particularly good at using these skills, but try to practice them primarily through a series of applications of the primary energies. Within the applications, I can identify places where I believe one skill or the other to be the key to making the application successful, more efficient, or harder to defeat.

If this model makes sense, I think it might also be clearer why “intent” is important and why it should always be strong. These skills do not describe limb positions, but rather force relationships. To execute the skills correctly, you have to relate to your body in very specific ways and give specific meaning to your limb positions. Being “in position” is not nearly enough, one must feel the potential in a particular position and act accordingly.

A simple thing like a seated wrist is essential in some situations and disastrous in others. Without paying attention to the “intent” of the seated wrist, it is hard to form it or use it correctly. Such faults are often visible.

One example I use is when people do the single hand, horizontal circling while making the mistake of “hooking” their wrist (flexing it backward) as they shift the weight backward and begin to rotate the hand. Usually, this is because their “intent” really is to hook and pull the opponent’s wrist across their body. This intent is manifest in even their subtle movements and affects how they use all their limbs. If their intent were instead to use the four skills described above, their subtle movement would be different. The fault of hooking creates a tangible “hollow” in your movements that subtlely encourages even an unskilled opponent to attack. Who submits willingly to being “hooked”?

If you can feel this interplay between “intent” and hooking in this exercise, you can begin to see and feel it in other more complicated exercises. You can begin to feel why the Yang family style puts such an emphasis on smooth and precise alternations between straight and seated wrists and why neutral hand shapes are generally preferred. Part of the outward force that can be generated in a posture like Push or Apparent Closure can be in pulling the opponent in when the weight is shifted backward. If the opponent binds up her intent in giving you something to hook on, it is very easy to pull her.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:54 pm

Greetings Audi,

Your mention of the mistake of back-flexing the wrist in the retreating movement of single-hand tuishou is apt. I’ve noticed this with beginners, and even in some long-time practitioners. I think those practitioners have a false sense that they need to do this in order to deflect the opponent’s hand away from their centerline, but it is a very labor-intensive way of doing it. If the wrist is kept straight, or slightly curved, the person can avoid setting up a condition of stiff resistence. The deflection of the opponent’s hand from one’s center should really take place in the turning of the waist.

You also make a very good point that “following” or “according” should not be interpreted as passivity. According with the partner requires engagement. Chen Yanlin, in his essay on lujin (roll-back energy), wrote that for lu to work, you must sometimes be able to entice the opponent. “Before you roll back, you should first deliberately employ pengjin (ward-off energy); upon using peng, the opponent will initiate resistance. Once this resistance is present, you can roll back.” (my trans. See also Stuart Olson, The Intrinsic Energies of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, p. 136.) Of course, this engagement does not mean using strong force against your partner, but rather just enough pressure to establish a connection on which to base the roll back.

Speaking of Olson’s Chen Yanlin book, among his notes to the translations is one that I’ve always liked, and it bears on your remark in your earlier post, ‘"Following" and "leading" become more or less the same thing and there is no need to think about when to switch from one to the other.’ Olson’s note is to the section on huajin (neutralize/dissolve/disperse), where Chen again makes a similar statement about the requirement of pengjin. Chen wrote, “Within huajin, there must be a bit of pengjin; without pengjin one will be unable to neutralize.” Olson’s note on this is quite good:

“When being pushed, act as if you were pulling the opponent in; when pushing, act as if the opponent pulled you in. This solves many problems for the practitioner of t’ui shou. 1) It takes away the tension of resistance in the arms. 2) It allows for more control over the opponent. 3) You can apply the energies of adhering and sticking, receiving and interpreting with much greater sensitivity and awareness. 4) The opponent cannot comprehend your intentions. 5) The applications of the five essentials of adhere, join, stick to, follow, and do not let go–do not resist are more readily understood and applied.” (Olson, p. 77, n. 3)

I think that captures the requisite quality of engagement quite well. Related to this is the taiji aphorism from the Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures, “To gather in is to release” (shou ji shi fang).

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Rich » Fri Dec 23, 2005 5:57 pm

Louis,

"Your mention of the mistake of back-flexing the wrist in the retreating movement of single-hand tuishou is apt. I’ve noticed this with beginners, and even in some long-time practitioners. I think those practitioners have a false sense that they need to do this in order to deflect the opponent’s hand away from their centerline, but it is a very labor-intensive way of doing it. If the wrist is kept straight, or slightly curved, the person can avoid setting up a condition of stiff resistence. The deflection of the opponent’s hand from one’s center should really take place in the turning of the waist."

My teacher makes a point of including the backflexing of the wrist at the last point of the neutralisation. This is to ensure that the opponent's hand does not come over the top to outmanouver our neutralisation. It also facilitates a downward peng, which nicely leads the opponent into emptiness.

It is not really to do with the deflecting - as you said, that takes place with the turning of the waist.

As for "stiff resistance" and labour intensity - this does not need to be executed stiffly. My teacher is very soft when he does it, very nimble; so much so you could miss it. This is why he makes a point of drawing attention to it! Stiff resistance is corrected by looking to the waist, as the classics admonish us to do.

Regards,

Rich

PS> To all: Excellent posts! very thought provoking and lots for me to put into my practice, Keep 'em coming! :-)
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Dec 28, 2005 11:47 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
My teacher makes a point of including the backflexing of the wrist at the last point of the neutralisation. This is to ensure that the opponent's hand does not come over the top to outmanouver our neutralisation. It also facilitates a downward peng, which nicely leads the opponent into emptiness.
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Rich,

This is just one of those examples of teachers teaching different aspects of the same thingÑnot because one or the other is wrong, but because each is focusing on a different aspect at this moment in time.

However, the fact that your teacher is entirely soft and without stiffness when doing these neutralizations (IMO) points toward the listening capability my teacher is having us focus on at the moment. The deflections and maneuvering positions you mention above are important martial considerations. But I think the Òno bending the wristÓ conversation is about one method for training the underlying listening-adhering-sticking-following skill that makes all of the above possible.

In imposing the requirement that we not hook our hands when we deflect we learn that itÕs not necessary to do so. I find itÕs more difficult to deflect without a hook until one has softened up enough to listen and stick. Also, if one has the opposite problem of being too soft and floppy then itÕs also hard not to stick without a hook to hang on the other person. But again, this is just a training exercise. In real time, a hook could be advantageous if used in addition to the fundamental listening skills.

Best wishes,
Kal
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Postby Rich » Fri Dec 30, 2005 2:14 am

Kal,

I agree with you entirely. Also, I failed to distinguish the difference between the palm turning up at the END of the manouvre, after turning and deflecting, and the palm hooking to pull at the beginning of the manouvre, which is indeed unneccessary.

Regards,

Rich

[This message has been edited by Rich (edited 12-29-2005).]
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Postby Audi » Sun Jan 15, 2006 12:46 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
The deflection of the opponent’s hand from one’s center should really take place in the turning of the waist.</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

This is, as always, an excellent point. I have some questions about what some people mean by this type of waist movement, however.

First, let me explain my current thoughts about the "waist." Since Taijiquan makes little or no consistent use of the middle and upper vertebrae, the largest relevant "solid unit" of the body is the torso. This is then the unit capable of generating the greatest amount of jin. To control the position and use of the torso, you have to pay attention to the lower vertebrae, or the Chinese waist. Since the goal is to use the jin available in the entire body, the key building block must be the unit jin directly controlled by the waist. Once you get the most out of the waist and torso, you can then figure out what to do with the other units of the body to augment your power. Hopefully, you can go beyond additive power and can achieve some synergy.

In the single hand circling, if my partner is pushing through a circle that intersects the surface of my abdomen (that is actually how I was taught), I can, at least in theory, neutralize merely by turning my waist. It is like two circles touching. When one turns, the other must turn. Alternatively, you can visualize a stick pushing at the surface of a circle straight towards its center. If the circle is turned even a little, then the stick is "pulled" off course, without any contrary force.

I have, however, two difficulties with the above analogies in the context of the exercise. First, if my partner pushes in a circle that intersects where my body will end up in its retreat, then I cannot simply turn. Turning would involve some pushing back, since the rotation would cause the distance between the contact point and my center to decrease. This motion is like the back and forth movement of a piston connecting two circles.

My second difficulty is that my partner is not just pushing on my waist, he is pushing on my arm. If I do not allow the distance between my arm and my body to decrease fairly freely, I will be resisting my partner's attempt to push in a larger circle closer to my center. (In the way I was taught, keeping your partner from "collapsing" your arm against your torso was a lesser priority than maintaining good sticking and the ability to "rollback" in even such an extreme position.)

I have reached several tentative conclusions about this exercise after more instruction and practice. First, I find that the waist is the key to ordering the movements, but is not the only factor. Second, my partner can move in such a way as to make the exercise impossible, for instance, by making the circle so large that I cannot rotate my waist clockwise without engaging in the fault of resistance. Third, how close my stance is to my partner's makes a crucial difference in the feel of the exercise. Fourth, the exercise is limited in scope and is not designed or intended to deal with all types of circular pushes.

The way I now approach the exercise is quite different than before. I now view it as an exploration of basically three things: what motion is compelled (which includes what motion is forbidden), what motion can be freely varied, and what motions are interdependent.

I view the rotation of the contact arm as something that is compelled by the need to stick during the circling in a way that does not expose a vulnerability. It is then a happy coincidence, or better yet an aspect of the Taiji principle, that this rotation also does other things: e.g., change defense into offense, transform into An energy, or make possible the use of cai/ts'ai. If you do not rotate during the forward advance, you leave yourself open to rollback. If you do not rotate during the backward advance, you leave your wrist in an awkward position to maintain good wardoff energy.

I do not understand variation to be something emphasized in the basic practice; however, I think it is inherent at a subtle level. Different speeds, different pressures, and different shapes have to be harmonized to arrive at what appears to be a perfect circle that is traced at a constant speed. If you can force a speed, a certain level of pressure, or a certain shape without the cooperation of your partner, I think this violates the principles of the drill.

I see interdependency in the direction of my partner's push, the timing of my retreat, the motion of my waist, shoulder, and elbow. I know that some people describe the exercise as retreating and waiting for the right moment to turn the waist; however, I have difficulty seeing the exercise in such a straightforward way. In fact, I see some friends who do this and get the very strong feeling that they are completely violating any notion of "yielding self and following the other." In other words, I can feel that they take initiative and give me a sensation that demands that I attempt to counter their motion to their detriment. On the other hand, I now feel that the retreat is not called for until my partner lines up her push with where my center currently is. If she pushes in a circle that is larger than this, I would not retreat at all, but rather let the push expend itself on emptiness.
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Re: Concealing Intent

Postby mrjong » Mon Jun 27, 2011 12:18 am

when more skilled, you can feel the intent from your opponent's upon contact. for me, when i practice with my juniors, i allow them to feel my intent so that they can feel where i am and where my energy is. right when they feel they have captured me, i disappear into emptiness. when you cannot feel the your opponent's intent, then be grateful to be working out with someone more skilled than yourself.
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