Middle Frame?

Middle Frame?

Postby Wushuer » Mon Apr 28, 2003 9:14 pm

I see constant references to "Large Frame" TCC and "Small Frame" TCC. Today I was reading an older thread off this site and followed a link to a site that contrasted Chen style with Yang Cheng Fu style, there they mentioned Yang Ban Hou's brother, Jian Hou, who they claim practiced "Middle Frame as taught to him by Yang Lu Chan", while Ban Hou learned the "Small Frame" from his father.
I was under the impression that YZD and YJ were descended from Jian Hou (it says this in YZD's and YJ's bio I've read at a YCF center site, but I don't know this for sure so PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong) so this seemed the logical place to ask some questions about this reference to a "Middle Frame" style.
I've seen veiled references to a Middle Frame before but no specifics, and have always suspected that there had to be a Middle Frame to TCC. It just seems logical to me that if you have styles called Large and Small, there has to a point somewhere in the middle to compare them with.
Having studied a descendant of Ban Hou's style, Wu Chien Chuan style TCC, and now studying Yang Cheng Fu's larger syle of TCC, I have been very curious about the existance of a middle frame and how it looks and works.
My questions are:
Is there any truth to a "Middle Frame" of TCC as studied by Yang Jian Hou?
Is there, perhaps, a named "style" descended from students of Jian Hou? (IE: Wu Chien Chuan's "small frame style" that he learned from Ban Hou)
Does this branch (YZD, YJ) teach or practice this frame?
Wondering if this branch of the Yang family teaches or practices a version of Yang Small Frame?

Simply curious to know for my own personal knowledge. I'm not asking about any "secret" or "better" style or even suggesting they exist because I don't think they do and YJ says they don't, and I'm not in any hurry to run out and start trying to learn another frame. I need to keep working on this one for much, much longer before I could do that, that's for sure!
It's simply a question I've had on my mind for quite some time, in fact I believe I sort of asked the question once on another thread without receiving any kind of reply, and I am hoping now to get it answered.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 04-28-2003).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Apr 29, 2003 11:16 pm

Greetings Wushuer,

On the home page of this site, under the “Tai Chi Info/Misc.” sublink, there is a family tree chart that will clear up your question about who descended from whom.

I don’t know much about the term “middle frame” except that it is said to have been the classification some people applied to Yang Jianhou’s form. The Chinese term I recall seeing was “zhong jia shi” (middle frame style). To what degree the terms “small frame,” “middle frame,” and “large frame” have any technical implications for functional or qualitative differences in the forms, I just don’t know. I suspect it’s more likely that these terms were merely based upon subjective observations of differences in the natural morphology and individual style distinctions of given masters then actual technical differences. Later, the terms stuck, and through repetition gained more weight than they may deserve. This, though, is just my hunch.

I will say that the form illustrations (line drawings) in Xu Yusheng’s 1921 Taiji manual are remarkable to me for how much they resemble the received Yang Chengfu form. There are differences in shape and sequence, but they are fairly minor. Xu was a student of Yang Jianhou, so we could assume that his manual was a fairly accurate record of Jianhou’s form. Also, I have seen photos of Wang Yongquan’s postures (Wang studied at least some with Yang Jianhou), and they look very close to those of Yang Chengfu. Jeff, who posts here sometimes, may have some insight into this. He knows much more about Wang Yongquan than I do.

I hope others who may have more complete information will chime in.

Take care,
Louis Swaim
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Postby DavidJ » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:54 pm

Greeting Louis,

I'd love to see the drawings. Is Xu Yusheng?s 1921 Taiji manual available anywhere?

Do you know of anywhere some of these drawings (and photos mentioned) are online. If not, can you scan them and post then?


David J
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Apr 30, 2003 6:05 pm

Thank you, Louis. I always appreciate hearing from you on these things.
I have personally come to be a true believer in the differences in "frames", at least in going back and forth between the two styles I practice. That is, of course, my opinion but it is bolstered by some experiments I have made and which were verified by one disciple of the Wu family who watched what I did to try to figure this out and they did agree with my conclusions.
Also seems to be corroborated by the Wu family themselves on their website.
I know that doesn't make it official or anything, but it did help me immensly when it comes to doing both forms correctly by themselves.
I have found the "Large Frame" of YCF style to be distinctly different from the "Small Frame" of Wu style as I learned it.
One thing I have found that does help clear up the "frame" issue is if you replace "frame" with "circle" (this being the english term I know, I'm sure it's different and more confusing to us non-chinese speakers if you use the actual chinese terms) then it makes more sense.
On the Wu family website (North American Wu Style, for the purists here) there is the Wu families history of Chuan Yau's time training under Ban Hou and Lu Chan and the back and forth that Chuan Yau went through between the two Masters. It clearly states that Ban Hou taught Chuan Yau the "big circle" form of TCC and Lu Chan then taught him "small circle" when Ban Hou had to travel and Lu Chan took over his training.
To summarize very briefly, Chuan Yau was a student of Ban Hou and Ban Hou believed in "no pain, no gain". The Wu website claims Chuan Yau was made slightly lame during push hands practice with Ban Hou in which he was repeatedly thrown to the floor and could not defeat or even hold out against Ban Hou using the "big circle" methods that Ban Hou taught his students. When, for a period of three years, Chuan Yau trained with Lu Chan he was shown the "small circle" methods of TCC by Lu Chan. Chuan Yau was then able to match Ban Hou during push hands and much prefered the "small circle" methods taught to him by Lu Chan.
There is much more history there, but that in a nutshell is what is important to my questions here. They clearly differentiate between "big circle" and "small circle" TCC styles as taught to Chuan Yau by the Yang family.
Then, after following the link from an older thread on this site and seeing the reference to Jian Hou doing "middle frame" TCC, I was curious as to how this all tied together.
I can clearly show the differences in body "frame" between Wu style and YCF style by doing some simple experiments with distances in steps and the even clearer difference of depth in the bending of the knees and body weight distributtions between the styles. Also, in Wu styles smaller frame, or circle, style the arms are kept much, much closer to the body then YCF style and more emphasys is placed on keeping the arm and leg movements small and the circular motions of the whole body small throughout the forms.
Again, I am simply curious. In no way am I suggesting a "better" or "secret" form. This is all simply for my own, personal knowledge.
Having met the "large" (or big) vs. "small" issue head on when crossing over between these two wonderful styles of TCC with no idea why I was having such a hard time until I finally put my thinking cap on and figured it out for myself, I may be more curious about this than most.
Hopefully, Jeff, or another of our group here, will have some insight for us into this "middle" aspect of TCC.
I am curious about how it compares to other styles than anything else. How it looks, what the differences would be in arm distance, size of steps, depth of knee bend and general theory.
I may just be wasting my time on a chase started by bad translation, but at least I'm having fun.
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Mon May 05, 2003 4:44 pm

Here is something from an earlier post I made that relates to this topic:

"There are different ways of practicing with different results. Wang Yongquan writes about this specifically in his book as well. He distinguishes the ¡®for health¡¯ practice in which movements should be large, open, and have internal expansion, from the martial type of practice which has smaller, more detailed movements/changes. The ¡®for health¡¯ practice is the foundation for the martial type of practice. I think that by doing things large, open, and expanded makes clear the changes and wavelike motions inside the body. When these motions are clear one can do them smaller, quickly and in rapid succession without losing the total body connection.
. . . . Once you feel the waves of internal movement and feel that you can change direction of large motions without losing connection you will naturally start to break things up smaller and more quickly."

Wang Yongquan studied primarily with Yang Shaohou. Students of Wang Yongquan I know usually do the form in a much smaller frame than that seen in pictures of Yang Chengfu, but when asked about the frame size say that it does not matter and demonstrate by doing it very large at one moment and very small at another. As noted above, in the type of practice for fighting the movements are smaller and there are more detailed movements/changes. (maybe what some refer to as circles) Also, many postures look quite different from those of Yang Chengfu and this along with a tendency to practice in a smaller frame may have caused some to think it was a totally different form. My understanding is that it is the same form, but you can practice it several different ways with different results.

I have been told by many experienced practitioners in Beijing (both Yang and Wu stylists) that larger or smaller "frames" are also the result of one's age. The older one gets generally the smaller the frame.

Related to "large frame" is the issue of stance depth. I have consistently been given contradictory advice about deep stances. Everyone says that it is best to go into large, low stances as long as you can take it- it is better exercise. The problem is that everyone also warns that most of the older generation destroyed their knees in their younger days and had serious knee problems later in life. This is a serious warning that all long term practitioners should take note of. I am sure I was doing serious damage to my knees the way I used to practice as well. Now I can go very deep for an extended period of time without my legs or knees getting tired. There must have been a forum on this topic here in the past???

Gu Rou Chen
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Postby Polaris » Mon May 05, 2003 6:17 pm

Another thing that I have been told about the martial merits of small vs. large circle is their relative leverage applications. The large circles are conducive to throwing opponents a large distance away, done properly. The small circles are handy for quickly breaking whatever is in front of you, for "hitting really hard" as my teacher says.

So, both large and small circles have health and martial applications, and both (and everything in between) are seen at our place as necessary to a rounded self-defence curriculum.

The large circle forms and pushing hands train us to eject opponents from confrontations in order to buy more time. This is helpful for dealing with multiple opponents. The small circle forms and pushing hands train us to stop an opponent cold with the first shot.

Large circle training has an expansion in 360 degrees that small circles doesn't, and small circle training has extensions in distance directly away from the body, "long arm," that large circle training doesn't.

I see them as like yin and yang, complementary.

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Postby Wushuer » Fri May 09, 2003 6:13 pm

Jeff and Polaris,
Sorry it took me a couple of days to get back to this subject. For some reason my little light bulbs haven't been lighting up for "new posts" to let me know when they are there. I got dependant on those little light bulbs to let me know when to read new posts and so haven't checked back here until now.

I have to mostly agree with your posts here. I found a link yesterday to a webpage with lots of quotes from Yang Zhenji and he says very much the same thing regarding "frames" as you both did.
That the "frames" or circles being large or small is dependant on what you train for, what you are trying to do and your particular body style.
So far, I'm more used to Wu Chien Chuan's smaller circles and am comfortable with this though I am getting more "large frame" as I practice YCF style. I'm a middle sized kind of guy though, 5'7" tall and about 165 lbs., so I have been wondering if "middle frame" and more medium circles might not be more advantageous for me to practice.
I think it was Polaris who pointed out how the size of the circles used are applied to different things for different reasons? And I agree, generally. However, I'm not so sure that smaller means you can't throw someone for a goodly distance or that larger can't be used explosively.
I have tossed some of my former cohorts for a good distance using Wu style White Crane Spreads Wings, which has an over the shoulder throw built in, with a forward bow from the waist after the arms reach the end of their movements (WCSW's in Wu style is similar to YCF style and at the same time very different, your legs are right next to each other not seperated, you are evenly weighted between your legs in this form, your arms start in front of you touching left fingers (seated palm facing forward) to right palm (palm facing you), you turn right palm up and over to make a seated palm and then split the arms apart similar to YCF style only the left arm goes lower and ends up naturally straight next to your left thigh fingers pointing straight ahead palm flat, your right arm goes up but does not arc over your head, it stops straight up and down from a seated bent elbow and the fingertips do not exceed forehead height, you then bow forward from the waist keeping your back straight and letting your left arm hang naturally down with the movement, you turn your tan tien to the left and straighten up when you reach the end of the turn bringing your left hand up to shoulder height with you, then turn your tan tien back right to center, it's a great throw) and this is a very small circle move. The circle is in your waist and it's small comparing it to a lot of the YCF style waist turns.
Wu Kwong Yu once tossed me about six feet across the room with this move, and to this day I feel he was being kind in aiming me at the floor mats. It was the first time I asked a question at one of his seminars. I was a beginner student, had only been studying for about six months and this was my second seminar, I had attended one very early on and so didn't really get much more than form refinements at that one. This time I was through the form and was doing well on push hands so Sifu thought I was ready for some application training and asked me specifically what form I wanted to learn applications for. I was flattered so decided to choose the form that I was most mystified by.
I spoke up and asked what possible application you could come up with for WCSW's.
I remember to this day that several of his long standing students and disciples, and even Wu Tai Sin, laughed and exchanged "those" looks when I asked this of Sifu Eddie. I would too, if I witnessed the same thing now!
Sifu Eddie had me approach him from behind and wrap my arms around him like I was grabbing him and the next thing I knew my feet were over my head and I was sailing through the air, to land what I later measured was approx. six feet away on the matts.
He then showed me, and everyone else, how to do that with WCSW's and we spent the rest of the afternoon working on this move with each other while Sifu and Sifa went among us and corrected us.
This may be one of the larger "small circle" moves, but it is still small and is quite powerful when used this way as a throw. It also works very well for just breaking a grab from behind if you don't get your opponents center with your right hip to throw him, or if throwing him is not your intention.
I think I will do what Yang Zhenji recommends in the article I read yesterday and try to do these forms in all three "frames", altering the size of the circular motions and my body positions accordingly.
I have been thinking about experimenting by doing YCF style smaller and Wu style larger, just to see what kind of energy I find and how it's different when I do this.
I think I will.
I'll let you know what happens when I do this. I'm not an expert by any stretch, but I've been in the game long enough and now back to practicing long enough that I feel a bit of experimentation might be in order.
At the very least, I'll have some fun.
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Postby Wushuer » Tue May 20, 2003 4:10 pm

My experiments have had some results.
I have tried to open up the Wu style postures and make them somewhat larger movements. What I find myself doing is the Wu style Larger Frame form I learned a number of years ago as well as the earlier Wu family generational forms.
The closest I come to what I would consider Middle Frame (this being simply my humble opinion as I know of no guage to measure by) is through the practice of the Larger Frame Wu form.
As this form is still smaller in frame style than the YCF forms I am learning and not as small as the standard fifth generation Wu form I practice I believe I may have allready studied the middle frame of TCC and not even known it.
I had always considered this a large frame and circle form, as it is larger in frame and circular application than the Wu family standard form. However after having learned 2/3rds of the YCF 103 posture form and consequently having some firsthand experience with real large frame movement and large circle application I feel that this Wu Larger Frame 108 form I have practiced for a number of years would fall quite nicely into the definition of a Middle Frame style.
As well, the Wu 2nd, 3rd and 4th generational forms are a study in progression of making a forms frame smaller and the circular applications of energy smaller.
I had to study a tape of Wu Yan Hsia practicing the 4th generation (with no narration) to relearn it, but now that I am practicing with a mind towards "frame" I can easily see the differences. The 4th generation is slightly "lower", the arms are slightly more extended, the steps are a bit larger than in the 5th generation forms.
I have no tapes of 2nd or 3rd generation Wu forms, unfortunately. However I did study these forms, quite a number of years ago I must admit so my recall may not be exact, and when I practice what I can remember of them I find them to be slightly larger in "frame" as you go back through each generation.

As I said, I am having fun with this. It is strictly, at this point, for my own pleasure of discovery that I run these experiments.
What I am hoping to learn or prove not even I can say.
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