OLD Yang Style FORM

Postby Michael » Sat Mar 30, 2002 2:14 am

Audi,

I must confess that twenty five minutes might be most "comfortable" as far as my body is concerned. A forty or a forty five is much more demanding on the body but more satifying. I "feel" much more at that pace, "get" more, and learn more. After a forty five I always end with an exclamation of "whoa!" or a "Wow!". It is rare that I do so (or have that feeling) after doing a good (as opposed to a poorly done) twenty minute set. But that is just me.

Concerning the advice Yang Jun gave me as I wasn't especially clear. It seemed to me his concern had to do with the effects of fa jin (coupled with "full" extension) on ones OWN body not on the accidents that may occur with a training partner. Note that I don't mean a locking of the joints when talking about "full extension". Joint expansion would be a better way to describe it. And in this is what I think Yang Juns warning was directed towards.

Could you describe what you mean concerning the "spirit" that you need to mobilize the whole body being "optional"? Here I may be just reading the wrong thing into your words. I understand how the fast explosive stuff may be "optional" and trained less frequently but i am confused about that "spirit" being "optional". Bao shen, cultivating spirit (I think that is the translation) is how you get to the higher levels in taiji or the dao is it not? I haven't got there, that is for sure. Having that "spirit" being CONSISTANT in ones' practice is probably what defines a "Master". That consistancy is the hard part.
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Postby Audi » Sun Mar 31, 2002 10:46 pm

Greetings Michael,

I spoke in short hand and so was misleading. My intent was not to advocate practice without cultivation of the spirit (By the way does anyone know what character corresponds to the "bao" of what Michael has quoted from memory as "bao shen"?), but to say that I feel the consequences of its lack only when playing around with fajin. For instance, in doing form, I can glance around and compare my postures with those of others around me or with my image in the mirror. As long as my intent is reasonably precise, the results seem more or less okay to me.

When doing fajin, I find that I have physical difficulty in executing movements without strongly alining my spirit with my intent. For instance, in regular form, I feel I can do a decent job at Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch with my eyes darting here and there, with any kind of breathing, and with a silly grin on my face. Focusing on the mechanics and monitoring the flow of energy (jin) seems rewarding enough.

When I play around with fajin, however, I need more. I feel my eyes must be focused, I must expel breath to stabilize my "generous" gut, and my expression has to match what I am doing. Without these elements present, I cannot credibly pull off the technique. Alternatively, I can add local speed and power, but this leaves a feeling of awkard mishmash.

I would still maintain that "moral" aspects of the spirit, i.e., appropriate mixtures of humility, confidence, a spirit of challenge, honest self-assessment, etc. are important even for "laid back" execution of the form. Either giggling or sighing at what I see in the mirror is a definite no-no.

My basic point was to express a little bit of wonder at how certain concepts that sound like "high-level" theory or just mumbo jumbo seem all of a sudden to become quite immediate and practical in the right circumstances. Also, for me, much of these things seem more and more integral parts of Taijiquan at whatever skill level and not things merely to be added on as one improves.

Some of this approach has become increasingly important to me, because I assist occasionally in one of my classes. Recently, I have been trying to explain my understanding of how power circulates in certain moves, such as Roll Back and Step up to Seven Stars in the Saber Form and in the barehand form. One of the things I have stressed is that without understanding something of the intent within these movements, it is very difficult to perform them without major defects that are subtle, but definitely visible.

Because of my lack of teaching skills, I am occasionally met with protests that I am focusing on "high-level" details, excessive precision, or else prematurely expecting levels of performance that exceed the skills of the people involved. My own, perhaps mistaken view, is that these "high-level" details are meant to have immediate and visible effect, independently of skill level.

What I try to argue is that without some mental feel for how power is generated in the postures, it is hard to execute them accurately and that with even a little of this feel, it is hard to execute them wholly incorrectly. If the mind is used appropriately, the power and speed come naturally. If the mind is not directed appropriate, it is almost impossible to force power out of the movement.

In Step up to Seven Stars, most people naturally focus on the length and strength of the movement of the right fist and move as if this is the source of the power. I try to explain and demonstrate that this way of thinking does not apply to the Taijiquan we attempt to do. I usually have no success in getting my point across unless I both explain theory and demonstrate application of the theory to the extent I understand them. I find that people cannot really "see" what is being done without both some theoretical basis (e.g., one of the Ten Essentials) and some proof that understanding matters.

Yesterday, I tried to demonstrate some fajin to make my point, varying the length of the punch from the hip in Step up to Seven Stars from one inch to 24 inches to show that the speed and strength of my waist movement was more or less the same and that the extent of my arm movement, despite appearances, was largely irrelevant to the level of power I was generating.

I also tried to show various ways of assuming the final stance that in my mind do not satisfy "distinguishing full and empty," "continuity of movement," or "power from the legs that is controlled by the waist and expressed in the hands."

I further tried to describe how these other methods destroyed the power in the movement or else left me vulnerable to injury or attack as I "fell" or "froze" into position and could no longer change during the "committed" or "static" part of the move. This is one version of what I think Jerry once described as making the Ten Essentials concrete.

I have gone into some detail to explain how some of these theories have concrete meaning for me and do not appear optional, but all I have said I class in the arena of "mind intent" and not "spirit," or maybe "using mind intent and not raw strength" (yong yi bu yong li). Until recently, I had felt that worrying about "spirit" (shen), other than as a moral matter, was in another category. After playing around a little with fajin, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that it is beginning to seem no different than the other aspects of Taijiquan theories, just a litle harder to demonstrate or experience. If I can ever overcome my general mental laziness, I may even try to incorporate this into my daily form practice.

By the way, despite what I say above, I want to reiterate my agreement with what you describe as your general approach to speed and power in training. I personally am not a fan of training with speed and power in the context of normal form practice, as opposed to using them in isolated groups of one or two postures. While I think performing fajin can reveal where power is lacking, I do not currently feel it is particularly efficient in cultivating power in the context of the regular form.

I hope all this is a little clearer. Any disagreement or anything to add?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby ELDER » Mon Apr 01, 2002 2:13 am

Hi Audi,

You mentioned in your last post the "laid back execution of the form".

Does it means that you train the execution of the whole long form in the inverted sequence of movements, from the last one to the beginning ? It appears to be so difficult for concatening that I didn't even think on its possibility.

Regards
Elder,
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Postby Michael » Mon Apr 01, 2002 8:01 pm

Audi,

What you were thinking (as opposed to the actual words--something I relate to) is what I expected having read your posts in the past, but I could not help to wonder. Thanks for the calarification your statement.

I agree that fa jin practice is not the same as or how to cultivate "power" in the form.


If I talk about "high level" skills or achieving them, I do not mean that they are something different like a technique to be "added" but more of a deepening of the basics. As you well know, there is level upon level upon level of the most (seemingly) "simple" things. You are not wrong about the "high level" details having an immediate impact---but only once the students "get it". It takes awhile for the body to understand (let alone the mind). Don't be impatient with them. Always point out that the more they practice the sooner they will understand your words and the concepts that you are trying to impart to them. When I teach I often have the fault of saying too much. It is probably the most common mistake when beginning to teach. This is a hard thing to overcome at first. Watch your enthusiasm, like me, i would guess that you have plenty. You want to inspire but it is easy to overwhelm (due to their frustration) especially beginners. Go slow, and in time each person (if dedicated) will come to an understanding in their own time. They will learn the value of that "excessive precision". Remember that some are only looking for an exercise (not taiji chuan which is OK), those are probably the ones who "protest".

I will get you the character for "Bao". It is going to take a little digging.

Shen is something i don't talk about much as I can't find words to communicate it. It might be useful if someone here could begin a discussion about it. I only know that it is insperable from all the rest. If anything is lacking....is it really taiji? That is a question I sak myself all the time.


Thanks Audi, it is always interesting to hear your thoughts.

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-01-2002).]
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Postby Audi » Fri Apr 05, 2002 5:18 am

Greetings Elder and Michael,

Elder, by "laid back," I mean simply to imply a performance that does not display great concentration. "Laid back" conjures up an image of "laying back in a couch in a relaxed way," rather than sitting tensely on the edge of one's seat. I have heard of people who indeed perform the entire form backward, but I think this is for fun, rather than as a serious training technique.

Michael, I agree with your call for patience, but it is often hard to reconcile it with passion, and maybe a touch of hybris. I generally try to inflict my views only on those who are at least semi-willing to hear me out and who are trying to stretch themselves. My biggest challenge is trying to respect learning styles that are different from my own, while also trying to help people get around temporary learning blocks or downright dead ends that I recognize from my own experiences.

Michael, you mention "shen" as a good topic. After a little thought, I would propose that it corresponds in Taijiquan to something like the "focus of one's entire being" or the "expression conveyed by one's entire body."

Linguistically, I can add the following about "shen." I think the root meaning in general Chinese is something like "a divine spirit." From this comes a meaning like "attention," represented in the compound "ning shen," which literally means "freeze spirit" or, more properly, "focus attention." From this comes the meaning "expression," as in the compound "yanshen," which means "spirit of the eye(s)" or "facial expression."

In Taijiquan, the last two meanings seem the key ones: the first, where the "shen" is supposed to direct or lead the "mind intent" (yi4), and the second, where the eyes are supposed to reflect best the state of the "shen."

At a more concrete level, have you noticed the expressions the Yangs have in their eyes during the Preparation Posture? The first time I saw this, I began to have doubts about Taiji "relaxation" (fangsong) having anything to do with being "laidback" or "soft and cuddly."

Take care,
Audi
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Postby ELDER » Fri Apr 05, 2002 4:33 pm

Hi Audi,

Sorry for the linguistic mess with "laid-back" and thanks for the clarification.

I have been involved during last weeks into becoming natural with the execution of the long form starting from right and also from the left (which we call inverse form). It is a good technical exercise to remove blockages, once you can't preview if attacks will come from left or right, so both sides must be exercised.

So I became surprised with the idea of practicing the form backwards, it should involve several technical challenges; (how to get back to snake coming from the gold cock, for example, and so on).

You talked about the eyes expression on Yang's, what you mean ? There is a Qi-Gong "eight pieces of brocade" (Pa Tuan Chin) which has a posture called "punching with angry eyes", is it anyway related ?.

But I will stop writing because it is going farway with the original subject (Old Yang Form), even though I have included some new posts for other subjects with no answer (do you know any administrator address ?).

Regards
Elder


[This message has been edited by ELDER (edited 04-05-2002).]
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Postby DavidJ » Sat Apr 06, 2002 1:13 am

Hi Audi,

You said, > only giving back the level of aggression I have received < I wish to note that being able to do the form at different speeds gives you the opportunity to match the speed of your opponent, as well as the level of aggression.

You also wrote, > I would also wonder whether an even tempo would still make sense. David, are the Tung sets performed with an even tempo? <
> Also, can you elaborate on "slow" fajin? How slow is slow? Is it something you feel can be spread out over all of a movement or done only at the "end"? How is it distinguished between performance of the movements without fajin? <

The long form is mainly done with an even pace. When I do the long form fast I tend to get rhythmic. The fast set is done sort of stop/start/stop/start where there is a clear stop before changing directions (but is it really a stop?):^) The family sets are done with both fast and slow movements.

You asked, > Are they [Tung sets] normally performed with intermittent fajin movements, as in Chen Style? < What I've seen of the Chen style, I'd say that there are similarities.

I asked on the TCC list what speed defines fa jin, and though many did define fa jin as fast, no one answered how fast. What is fast for one person may not be fast for another.

You wanted to know what distinguishes "with fa jin" from "without fa jin." A few thoughts: the fast set can easily be done five times in around 10 minutes, and leave you breathing fast, but you can be left breathing fast after doing the fast set with fa jin only once. You might get an idea about it if you pretend that you have a ten pound weight in your hand when you emit.

Some do indeed concentrate fa jin only at the end (even defining it that way), but I think that it can be something felt over much of the whole movement. In other words you can emit virtually at any time, virtually in any direction, and with virtually any body part (though within that there are limits).

As a side note for Elder: I used to do the long form backwards just to do it. It made my first teacher laugh. The only thing needed was concentration so that I wouldn't lose the flow.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Michael » Mon Apr 08, 2002 5:07 pm

Audi,

I go along with your words on shen but for me it is still in the "feeling" that I can't describe. I can recognize it in others, feel it, but not really talk about it as words don't do it justice.

Yang style is certainly NOT "laid back and cuddly". But that depends on what one wants from it I guess.

Earlier I was going to talk about learning styles but I had gone on much to long as it was. I would say rather than "respect" them, think about developing a greater "uderstanding" of them. I doubt you lack respect. Teaching is a challenge--but a rewarding one. It is like learning all over again.

David,

Backwards sets? The thought scares me. Left sets are hard enough to learn.

[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-08-2002).]
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