This is thought provoking information. Wang Yongquan’s breakdown of taiji movement into starting point, progression, end point, and transition in some ways challenges my way of thinking about this. The ‘beginning point’ I understand, and the term zhongdian as ‘point of stopping’ makes sense, although this was not a term I was familiar with before. For ‘transition,’ the term ‘bianhuan’ implies not only a change, but also a reversal or inversion, right? That would certainly describe the energy change that takes place at the terminal point of a pendulum’s swing, or, by analogy, the shifting directionality and momentum at the end point between one taijiquan posture and the next. I’m a little confused, however, about what we may refer to as “transitions” and “progressions” in the taijiquan form. To me, Wang’s definition of transition refers to a very small instant of time and space between the endpoint of one movement and the beginning point of the next. It occurs to me, though, that there may be some gray area in what we sometimes call “transitions.” For example, sometimes the whole section of movement between the first An (‘push’ in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail), and Single Whip is referred to as a transition. Is this only because it is not a “named posture?” Some refer to that section as “bagua yu” (eight trigrams fish), perhaps reflecting some oral tradition, but this is just one example of an issue that I find of ongoing interest—that what we call postures in taijiquan often seems to be rather arbitrarily determined, and that being the case, understanding what an endpoint is may not always be a simple matter.
It would be good if you could elaborate some on the ‘point/plane’ distinction. Intuitively, this notion appeals to me, but I want to make sure I understand it properly. Does the distinction refer merely to surface area, or is there more to it? Does it rather have more to do with specific focus within a given area of contact, whatever the surface area may be? In push hands, whatever surface you make available to your partner is potentially a ‘landing area’ for their advance, so on one level you would want to minimize the surface area you’re making available. Conversely, the greater the surface area, perhaps the greater will be the amount and quality of information you may be able to gather about the opponent’s intention, stability, directionality, and strength. So, it seems to me that there is a rationale for maximizing surface area, but that there must be a refined sense of focus (dian) within a given “plane” (mian). That is, if the shared surface area is the palm of my hand in contact with the other’s forearm, I will want to maintain maximum surface area, but the actual point of focus for me may be a specific point at the end of my ulna (which may or may not be apparent to my partner). To shift the perspective, if the point of contact from my point of view is my wrist in contact with the opponent’s palm, I may want to endeavor to keep the surface area at its maximum, while shifting the focal point of contact as I turn my waist and rotate my forearm, hopefully providing a rolling trajectory for my opponent’s advance away from my centerline.
So in my interpretation of the point/plane distinction, the point would refer as much to a point of focus as to a physical point of contact within a plane of wider contact. This has some resonance to me with the classical notion of “yi chu you yi chu xu shi” “each place has its place of empy and full.” Even a point (dian) can be broken down into empty and full aspects, theoretically without limit. Does this align with Wang’s presentation at all, as you understand it?
I also noticed a possible pun in the phrase, “yao dian, buyao mian.” This may be wild conjecture on my part, but taking ‘yaodian’ as ‘the important point,’ and ‘buyao mian’ in the sense of ‘mianzi’ (face), you could read this as “The important thing is not to be anxious about saving face.” Or, “[try to] want [only] a bit, and don’t [try to] want face.” That is, “don’t be greedy, and don’t worry about gaining or losing face.” Seems like a good attitude to maintain in push hands. But maybe I’m being silly. Sometimes my appreciation for puns gets the better of me.
[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 01-10-2003).]