Single Whip Hook

Single Whip Hook

Postby Audi » Sat Jun 08, 2002 5:51 am

Hi all,

In Single Whip after the hook hand is formed in the southwest, should you consciously move the hook leftward and rightward to match the movements of the left leg, waist, and left arm, or is it your intent to keep it more or less still until the conclusion of the posture? If the hook is supposed to move, what are you coordinating it with?

Thanks in advance for any replies or ideas,
Audi
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Jan 04, 2005 10:00 pm

Audi,
I just saw this question that you posted a while back, and the only real way I could answer you would be to post this article that Bill Wojasinski has on his website.
Here you go:

Single Whip of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan
Written by Dr. Mei Ying Sheng, Si Chuan Province, China

Translated by Ted W. Knecht, Shen Zhen, China

The Single Whip posture of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan has a historical record of three
generations. Among the large frame postures as standardized by the late Yang Cheng Fu,
Single Whip is one of the most precious postures characterizing the basics of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan. Because of Single Whip importance within the Yang style, it appears numerous times within the traditional 108 posture routine.
The 37 postures of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan, including the Single Whip posture, have their
own applicable fighting techniques and artistic structure. To illustrated this point, an example of Single Whip’s martial application is as follows: Should an opponent use a palm or fist to
attach toward my face, a hook hand can be used to counter by dissolving the strike to the right side. At the same time, I would advance a step forward allowing the internal energy (jin), generated by the stance, to issue from the right heel through the right leg, up the spine into the left arm and finally out the palm in a relaxed, flexible whipping motion to strike the opponent. This exemplifies the physiological phenomena in which the root is in the heel, the power is issued through the legs, generated in the waist, and shaped in the hands. From the
view point of the overall mechanics of the posture, one can see how the origin of the name, Single Whip, was created.
The Single Whip posture as illustrated in figure 22 has been copied from Master Fu Zhong Wen book entitled Yang style Tai Chi Chuan which was originally extracted from the drawings of Yang Cheng Fu in the book, Comprehensive Volume of Tai Chi Chuan Uses. As shown in the drawing, the toes of the left foot point to the east with the lower part of the leg vertical to the ground (knee above the heel). The right leg is naturally straight. The toes of the right foot
point to the south with the foot turned in ten degrees (both feet form an 80 degree angle). The upper body faces due south. The feet are planted flat on the ground to allow the internal energy to spiral into the ground. The hips are relaxed and the groin is rounded to form a left side bow stance. Using this correct stance as a basis of the Single Whip posture, the left wrist
is dropped at shoulder height with an erect palm. The right wrist is curved upward slightly higher than the shoulders with the hand forming a hook. Both elbows are sunk downward with the joints relaxed and open. The arms are outspread to the left and right. Looking from the front view, the hands are equal distance from the centerline of the body.
Because of the balanced nature of the entire posture, structurally, it is very stable and firm; and artistically, it is very beautiful and appealing to the eyes. If force was applied to the left palm of the Single Whip posture of Yang Cheng Fu, the route in which the force travels is from the left arm and shoulder down the spine into the right leg and into the heel of the right foot. If one were to look from above, the force would travel through the body in a straight line.
A Chinese proverb states that a thousand pounds cannot break a straight piece of wood. This suggests the stability and strength of the Single Whip posture.
The following discussion will examine the "Single Whip" posture performed by Yang Cheng Fu as compared to the various stationary postures of more recently developed Tai Chi Chuan routines (refer to the following drawings as examples of these recently developed Yang style
Single Whip postures). There are three apparent differences between the "Single Whip" of the more recently developed routines and that of Yang Cheng Fu:
1) The toes of the right foot are turned in too much of an angle causing tension in the
muscles of the groin and hip areas. This will subsequently cause the muscles, joints, and tendons of the lower body to loose its relaxed and natural state.
2) The directions of the left arm and left leg as compared to the right arm and right leg are quite different; and the upper and lower relationship of the arms and legs are not uniform.
The stationary Single Whip posture must conform to the six harmony relationship in which the hands and feet, elbows and knees, and shoulders and hips must be vertically in line with each other; if this relationship does not exist, there will be a lose in the balance of the left and right sides of the body.
In Yang Cheng Fu’s Single Whip posture there is also an alignment with the left fingers, the toes of the left foot, and the nose to form a triangle pattern. This conforms to the basic requirements of the methods of the hands, eyes, body, and legs. Throughout the history of Yang style, those who have studied Yang style Tai Chi Chuan have followed these basic essentials.
3) Due to the turn to the left in the upper body, the line between the left palm and the right foot is off-set. Consequently, if pressure is applied to the left palm, the energy will be directed to the left rear, not to the right heel. As one can see, any power issued from the right heel
would never reach the left palm. Under the situation in which the components of a straight line are of equal length and when the distance between the ends of a bent line are shorter than when straight, then the Tai Chi requirement of “extending long and attacking far” (fang chang ji yuan) is not satisfied.
The following discusses more minute details of the Single Whip posture. If the thumb of the left palm is bent inwards, the face and/or point of the palm can not be used as the striking surface. The thumb interferes with the surface. By allowing this, the edge of the palm is the only area that can be used for striking. This does not conform to the requirements of sinking the wrist and relaxing the fingers. If the left wrist is higher than the left shoulder there will be
insufficient force for striking. The wrist must be in direct alignment and at the same height as the shoulder in order to deliever sufficent force in this technique.
Every posture in Tai Chi Chuan is intimately composed of four tightly related components
which consist of a start, a rise, a turn, and a close. Each component is mutually related to each other and appears in every movement within Tai Chi Chuan. Consequently, in order for a posture to close, it must also have a beginning, a rising and a turning motion. The closing component is the stationary posture and is also the goal of each movement. The closing component of a posture is the end result of properly performing the beginning, rising, and
turning component of a movement.
The stationary posture of a routine is the end point/result of a technique and the starting point for the next technique. Therefore, if the starting point has a fault, the beginning, rising, and
turning components of the next movement will go a stray.
If one looks in detail at the recently developed Yang style Tai Chi Chuan routines and the various video tapes produced in China and abroad, one can see that there are very few that resemble the stationary/ending postures of Grandmaster Yang Cheng Fu.
Yang Lu Chan learned Tai Chi Chuan from Chen Chang Xing. Afterwards, the Yang style
was passed down through the generations to Yang Jian Hou and Yang Cheng Fu. Through
these generations of study, the masters changed some of the founding principles of Tai Chi Chuan while at the same time also maintaining many of the theories and principles to further the development of the art. Tai Chi Chuan gradually advanced to high levels after many years of research and practice. Through this evolved a brilliant radiance of energy from the county
of Yong Nian in Hebei Province.
The practitioners of this generation have varying differences in the way the Yang style is performed. This occurs due to many reasons such as differences in teachers, one’s physical condition, differences in the level of education and various other attributes; therefore, it does not really matter if the postures are slightly higher or lower, faster or slower, more or less;
what really matters is to preserve the tradition teachings of the founding fathers of Tai Chi Chuan which would include the theories and methods of training. These should be strictly followed without deviation.
The author does not necessarily suggest that the older a style is, the better it is; but one must continue to maintain strict attention to the philosophy and tradition of the style in order to continue to improve the art for future generations.

Hope this helps. It sure helped me.
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Postby Kalamondin » Mon Feb 07, 2005 7:47 pm

Hi Audi,

I just asked for access to the members only areas—this was a two year old question of yours and I don’t know if it’s still a question in your mind, but I thought I’d give a go at answering. This is my current understanding, which I am still revising: after the hook hand is formed to the back right corner, it does not move left or right, but remains more or less still. It’s difficult not to move it left and then right again. It’s very easy to turn the waist leftward, opening it square to the direction of the left strike (West?), and then turning it right again as the torso opens farther than the right corner. But I think this is incorrect. I believe that the waist direction is pretty much set when you load the rear foot for the whip strike with the right hand. Yes, the waist guides the movement, but it feels like a very small, almost entirely internal waist movement that spirals the left arm through its ward off rotation into its forward strike position. The waist and the torso remain open and in basically the same diagonal orientation from the whip strike to the left palm strike. This lends an efficiency to the movement, culling extraneous waist rotations and allowing you to fa from back to front with the waist and torso already in position.

Of course you know that the final torso orientation is open slightly farther than the corner direction. I’m not very familiar with the compass directions for tai chi steps, because I usually hear things like “right foot to corner direction,” “left foot straight,” and “open body to more than corner direction.” I’m having some trouble with where South and West are in your description, but if you mean that’s the direction we face in “Prepare” and that West is to the right, East is to the left, and behind is North, then the torso in Single Whip faces somewhere between SE and ESE. Yikes, no wonder degrees are somewhat easier!

As an aside, for conversation with me, I think I’d find it easier if we talked about where we are with relation to the opponent as “front” and then oriented in terms of left, right, back, back right corner, etc.. So, Single Whip would then be a whip strike to the back right corner to attack someone coming from behind, and then a front strike to another opponent. Sheesh, that’s even less precise, I know, but it hurts my head to figure out where the cardinal points are and then decipher whether posters are using the Chinese cardinal points or the Western ones.

Anyway, does this description of the hook hand movement accord with what you’ve learned in the last two and a half years? Single Whip still doesn’t feel quite solid to me, so I’m interested to hear what other people are working on.

Thanks,
Kal
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:29 pm

Kal,
I'll let Audi answer most of your points, as you asked him the questions, but I do want to comment on one aspect of your post.
"Single Whip would then be a whip strike to the back right corner to attack someone coming from behind, and then a front strike to another opponent."
This is how some people see Single Whip, and I'm quite certain it works out very well in this fashion if used in this way.
However...
This is not the application given for SW by Yang Cheng Fu.
I don't have the exact quote in front of me right now, and I don't have the time I usually do to go find the quotes and post them, but I will when I can if required.
For right now, let me just say that YCF did not speak of SW as "a whip strike to the back right corner to attack someone coming from behind, and then a front strike to another opponent".
The move was described as meeting an attack from behind, but not an attack from behind and to the right, rather an attack from behind and to the LEFT.
This is speaking, I feel sure, of the long form of SW right after GTBT and not the shorter one in other portions of the form, though the second half of the description is apt for those as well.
From memory and my perspective, and it might have been faster to jump out and find the quote than do it this way but....
Here goes.
The turn from the GTBT position all the way more than 180 degrees to your left is used to meet an opponent who is coming up from behind you on that side (left), turning back to the right from there isn't mentioned as a whipping attack to the right, but rather is used to lead your opponent to the right after meeting his energy. The hook hand is then made to "dissolve" an attack coming in from your right, and the turn to the left and subsequent striking with the left palm is done using the dissolved energy of that strike to direct the energy right back at your opponent.
I can recall no place in YCF's application descriptions I've read of Single Whip where the hook hand is used to attack an opponent behind and to the right of you. He speaks of the movement as if the opponent is either directly in front of you, or slightly off to your right side, not to the left of you or to the right of you and behind.
This makes better sense to me, maybe, due to learning another lineage of the forms where the Single Whip is done from right to left but without the turning and with the opponent pictured immediately in front of you as your focus, so I can see this kind of appliction perhaps more clearly than someone studying only YCF forms. However, the clear indication from YCF and many others that I have read is that the turns to the left and to the right are more of a leading motion than a striking motion.
For one thing, the hook hand as practiced in Yang family TCC isn't a "striking" hook hand. The hand is not "firmed" up, not as much as in the hook hands I've learned from other transmissions, which point the index finger much further down and open the back of the wrist, along the forearm, to a hard, solid striking point. The hook hand of this transmission is clearly softer than that, and works perfectly for "dissolving" energy to be absorbed into your frame and redirected to your opponent, but is rather weak for attacking.
I've tried to drive that hook hand into my partners body while practicing the type of whipping attack you suggest, and it hurts my hand worse than his body. If I use a more solid hook hand (I've heard it referred to as Eagle Beak hook hand) then it works just fine, but not the softer hook hand of the Yang transmission, which just bounces off harmlessly.
Near as I can figure, this movement has been opened significantly wider than the actual application usage in the Yang family forms to allow for greater expression of jin in the form practice. It is a healthy thing to do, opening this form really large, and as in many other forms it needs to be applied smaller than it is practiced. The "application" of this form then is not going to be so large, it's a much smaller movement and is directed immediately in front of you.
Think of the smaller version of SW, the one after Cloud Hands in Section 2. You eliminate the big turns to the left and then back to the right in this version and step immediately out of Cloud Hands into the hook hand formation. Think of how you make that hook hand, and how you then make the turn to the left and take the step, then issue.
These are the steps that can allow you to clearly see how SW was intended, as the "dissolving" of the incoming energy, then the redirection of it and applying it back to your opponent. The "turns" of the longer version are transitory motions used to set up your opponent where you want him, not to attack him.
That said, Master Yang Jun last year at the Louisville Seminar told us that using the turn back to the right as a "whip" against an opponents chest or throat was perfectly acceptable as long as it is done more like the SW portion of Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain, with the set, upright palm strike rather than the hook hand strike. However he did clearly state that the first application for those turns is to lead your opponent, not to strike.
Picture the hand that is leading the way at that moment as leading your opponent, the other hand "follows" and is maintaining contact. Again, these are transitory movements leading up to the actual application of SW.

Hope that helps.
Let me know if you need the quote from YCF or if you are familiar with it allready.

Bob
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Feb 09, 2005 8:20 am

Hi Bob,

Well, I guess even left and right are confusing when I’m not clear about what the starting point is. When I was talking about making the hook hand, I started in the middle of Single Whip, after the right toes have turned in 135 degrees, after the arms have made their large level circle and as they are moving across the lowest ribs toward the right to make the hook hand.

Even beyond my confusing post starting in the middle of Single Whip, there’s even more confusion because this movement has so many possibilities. As you said, someone could be coming from behind and left when you are still in push. Or, you could still be connected to them from the original push and turn it into pulling them around you in a big circle, right to left, your left hand on their left wrist, right hand or forearm on their left shoulder, and then pull them across the front of your body, forcing them to stumble after you off to your back right side where you do a whip strike to their throat, nose, chest, whatever. More possibilities below.

I don’t disagree that the first circling movements of Single Whip, large circle and smaller circle (the part that looks like half of the Yin-Yang symbol) are about meeting and leading your opponent. But I do maintain that one application of the right arm is a whip strike. I will quote from the Association newsletter, No. 5, Spring of 2001 in the Practice Department section featuring Yang Jun.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">“The application of single whip is when your opponent is punching you with their left fist. You use your left hand to grab their wrist, and touch their upper arm with your right forearm. Use your waist to pull them forward in the direction of their punch’s momentum. Continue their movement and redirect it around you. After yielding to the left side, make a hook hand and use it to strike their throat.” </font>


There are some excellent pictures here of YJ doing Single Whip and inset photos of his hook hand and the application.

Here’s a slightly different series of events from Yang Zhen Duo’s book Yang Style Taijiquan, Morning Glory Publishers, 1996, pp260-261.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>“If someone attacks me from behind or from one side, I immediately turn my body and move my arms along with the waist. At the same time, I change my right palm into a hooked hand. When I have turned round to the place in from of the opponent’s chest, I hit his chest with my wrist. If the opponent discovers this quickly enough and draws in his chest to keep clear of my wrist, I can quickly raise my right hand and hit his chin when he bends his head down.
If another person hits my back from the other side, I immediately turn my body and strike him with my left [palm].” </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

(The book says “plam,” but I believe it’s a typo.) There are three photos that accompany this section. I don’t have access to a scanner at the moment, but perhaps I will experiment at work tomorrow.

You said,
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">“For one thing, the hook hand as practiced in Yang family TCC isn't a "striking" hook hand. The hand is not "firmed" up, not as much as in the hook hands I've learned from other transmissions, which point the index finger much further down and open the back of the wrist, along the forearm, to a hard, solid striking point. The hook hand of this transmission is clearly softer than that, and works perfectly for "dissolving" energy to be absorbed into your frame and redirected to your opponent, but is rather weak for attacking.”</font>


As I understand it, the index fingers and other fingers are extended and straightened downward as far as they can comfortably go and that the wrist is likewise bent as far in as is comfortably possible. I’m not sure how “firm” it is compared to other styles, as I have no basis for comparison, but as I understand it, it is relatively soft until it is suddenly hard at just the right moment. I have explicitly heard the movement of the right arm described as “like a whip” by Yang Jun, combined with him making a fast striking motion with his hooked hand. Per YJ, the striking surface is the back of the hand, between the wrist and the fingers.

I think the most reasonable place for striking this way would be with the first third of the back of the hand between the wrist and fingers. This is the part that feels solid to me. Strike too close to the knuckles and it could hurt the wrist…but then this is me experimenting gently on the furniture and I don’t know for sure. To add to the confusion, in YZD’s description of the chin strike, it looks like he’s using the back of the wrist to strike the opponent’s chin.

You said,
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">“These are the steps that can allow you to clearly see how SW was intended, as the "dissolving" of the incoming energy, then the redirection of it and applying it back to your opponent. The "turns" of the longer version are transitory motions used to set up your opponent where you want him, not to attack him.”</font>


I agree with the first part of your statement above, but I think even the turns have the potential for attack. Any time you are controlling your opponent’s movement, have ripped up their root, and are leading them in a circle, you have the opportunity to toss them out of the circle. When you circle them to the left in a large circle, there’s no rule that says you have to circle them back to the right—you could just let go and let them fetch up against the ground or a tree or whatever’s there. Same with circling back to the right—you could just let go and even without any strike there’s the possibility of injury.

On the other hand, I don’t disagree with you that there are other applications for Single Whip and I would love to learn more about them, particularly this business of dissolving energy with the hook hand? I haven’t seen the YCF quote and if you’d be willing to dig it up that would be great.

All that said, going back to my post to Audi, I was totally wrong about the hook hand not moving. In that same journal, the photos clearly show YJ’s hook hand moving slightly left as he turns his body slightly to the left as he wards off with the left arm, rotating it into strike position. Then, as he extends into the final position, the hook hand moves back to the right. But it’s a very small movement, and utterly dependent upon the rotation of the waist. Not that I think about it, it’s important that the hook hand follow the waist in order to keep the chest sunk. If one were to leave the hook hand at 45 degrees while turning to the left, then it opens the chest too much, breaking the arm’s energetic connection to the body (it constricts the qi).

Anyway, thanks for making me go back and review that point.

Kal
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Postby Bamenwubu » Wed Feb 09, 2005 4:23 pm

Hey, you have a lot more journals than I do, I only go back to last January, and I'm not going to argue with YJ or YZD, at all. If they say it's so, it's so.
Yes, every single thing you have said is true, as I mentioned in my first posting, all I was getting at was that YCF did not talk about SW in this way, nor did YJ at the seminar I attended except in the way I mentioned above. He even mentioned hurting your wrist if you do this wrong to us.
Does that mean it can't be done this way? Nope. Not at all. There are infinite uses for any form movement.
I personally came up with a use for Wu style White Crane Spreads Wings that amazed Eddie Wu and Wu Tai Sin. They had never thought of it before and told me so themselves, but it quickly became the app practice of the day at that seminar. It seemed patently obvious to me when I learned the form, but I guess no one they knew of had thought of using it that way before.
Hey, I had never considered WCSW's from their transmission as a throw before they showed me how to do that.
Did you know that White Crane Lifts Wings can be used as a throw? The Yang transmissions form works equally well for that, too, once you know how.
It's all in how your mind percieves the form in question and each person is going to perceive the same form movements slightly, and sometimes even radically, differently.
This taught me a valuable lesson, that there are unlimited potentials to each and every form in the lexicon of TCC. To find them all would take every one of our ancestors their entire lifetimes of constant study, and then I'm still sure we'd miss some.
As for the hook hand, I can make this hook hand as hard as iron along the very back of my wrist, but the closer I get to my knuckles the less iron there can be. The hardenging quality just isn't there for me using this hook hand, which probably means I'm doing it wrong. I have found most people tend to strike with this hook closer the their knuckles, as it seems to naturally meet the opponent in this way if you're striking at their chest, and that seems to hurt the hands of everyone I know as it bends their wrists back. When I make a chest strike with the hook hand of the Yang family I hurt my wrist, as the leverage is wrong for this strike, for me. My partners have expressed the same problem.
When I make a strike to the throat using the "hardened" portion of my wrist joint, it is devestating, but that's a pretty small area to strike with so your strike must be aimed perfectly to the throat or you miss doing any real damage, at least I and my partners do.
Now, I have the advantage of having studied the Wu style for a little while. In thier Single Whip, which has no turns before the Whip at all, they use a hook hand as well, but it is a much more "hardened" hook hand. The fingers are held differently, the wrist is more set. This has the effect of "hardening" your entire hand and about half of your forearm. You can use this type of hook hand to strike along any portion of that "hardened" surface, including reversing the trajectory and strking with just the fingertips. It's a much more effective hook hand, in my personal humble opinion, for the purpose of striking than the one I've trained in the Yang form. It works remarkably well for Chin Na against fingers and wrist, as well, but I digress. If I were going to strike my opponent in the way we're describing using SW, I would most definitely use the Wu style hook hand so I wouldn't break my wrist. I have demonstrated this to my partners, with a nearly devestating effect. I was not prepared for the energy I could deliver in this way using this movement as I'd never wound it up all the way from south of Cleveland and issued to the Macinack Bridge like that before using a hook hand whip strike, and with that type of hook hand I nearly took my partners head off. Fortunately he's quite good at neutralizing and was able to absorb and release with no damage done. I wasn't even applying very hard, I thought, the energy build up was just amazing.
Does that mean that this transmissions hook hand is useless for striking? Nope. It means I don't know how to use if for striking and neither do most people I know.
I will be asking Yang Jun at the seminar in June about how to do this, as I wish to know.
Also, the "dissolving" aspect is in both hook hands, equally. My understanding of this "dissolving" is that you're accepting the energy along the wrist or forearm, intercepting a strike, "dissolving" can mean you either accept and neutralize the energy out through your root, or you redirect it back to your opponent.
Others will have differing opinions on what that means, and I'd be very glad to hear them as mine is not comprehensive, it's just how I know the term.
In the meantime, I will dig around and find the quote I'm thinking of from Yang Cheng Fu. I think Bill Wojasinski has it on the Louisville Centers website, www.kentuckytaichi.com. I'll go there to look.
Actually, I believe I posted that quote in this websites public forum under a Single Whip discussion quite some time back, so if nothing else I will look there for it. I don't have the book it came out of, I've borrowed it but I've never owned it.
I'll get to that ASAP and post his quote for you.

Bob
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Postby Bamenwubu » Wed Feb 09, 2005 4:43 pm

Here is part of the quote from YCF. I have not found the part yet where he talks about the turns before the whip movement, but here you can see he does not mention any kind of attack using the hook hand, only dissolving.

Yang Chengfu's Single Whip
An explanation of the practical application of Single Whip can be found in Yang Chengfu's
book entitled "Tai Chi Chuan's Practical Applications" published by Wenguang Printing Press in 1931. In this book, Yang Chengfu explains that "if an enemy attacks from the rear [as you stand in Push from Grasp Sparrow's Tail], I would use my right hand to form a hook hand to dissolve the attack; at the same time the left palm would straighten out from the front to the
left attacking the chest of the enemy.... The dissolving of the attack and the palm strike must be conducted simultaneously".
In Yang Chengfu's book entitled "The Complete Volume of Tai Chi Chuan Usage" published by the Zhonghua Book Company in 1933 explains the use of the right hook hand and the left palm in Single Whip. "If the enemy attacks from the rear, I would move my center to the left foot.... When the two hands wipe over to the left, the right hand forms a hook hand. The left palm moves inward with the center of the palm facing out. The waist and hips should relax as
the left palm attacks the chest of the enemy. This pattern of movements must be conducted at the same time."


In fact, he does speak of this as an attack from behing as I recalled, but there is no mention in the first explanation of the two turns we're talking about, at all. If you read the second explanation, it seems to include the first turning but not the second one before the actual hook hand gets made, though the explanation is sparse and I could be reading it wrong.
I clearly seem to recall reading an explanation of these turnings and their uses, and I seem to recall that it was YCF who said these things.
BUT...
I could be wrong.
I have read a lot of TCC books in my day, and I may have run something together. It could have been one of his disciples, or maybe even one of his sons books that I was reading, or it could have been someone completely different, and I mixed them up with YCF.
I'll have to do some more research on that and get back to you. I may have committed the error of being unsure of my source.

Bob

[This message has been edited by Bamenwubu (edited 02-09-2005).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Feb 09, 2005 10:08 pm

Hi Bob,

To my knowledge, Yang Chengfu’s published descriptions of Single Whip do not offer many specifics on the application of the hook hand. The 1931 book you mention, Taijiquan Shiyongfa, as I recall, says something to the effect that you gather your right hand fingers into the hook hand shape “to balance the force of the left hand.” The wording suggests that the hook hand serves as a counterpoise or counterweight to the action of the right hand. I don’t recall anything to suggest a “dissolving” application in his narrative, but I’ll have another look. That book has a separate applications section, and that may be where the dissolving is described. I'll check. Yang’s later 1936 book describes the forming of the hook hand, but contains no mention of how it is applied.

I was first taught an application of the hook hand as a kind of deflecting action in close-range fighting. Yang Zhenduo’s book, however, describes a use of the hook hand as a strike. I have read opinions about the implausibility of striking in a manner that would actually stress or damage one’s wrist, but I think it depends upon the target. It could certainly be effective if aimed at an opponent’s nose, throat, or perhaps even the solar plexus.

As always, it’s important to keep in mind there’s no one application for any given taiji movement. Single Whip is one of the most repeated movements in the form, and I’ve been told that different applications are implied, depending on the movements leading into and those following the Single Whip itself.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Bamenwubu » Wed Feb 09, 2005 11:21 pm

Louis,
Thanks for your comments. Always appreciated.
I thought I had covered that there are multiple applications to each move in TCC? I know this, quite well. I wasn't trying to tell Kal that this ISN'T a strike, I was trying to say it's not ONLY a strike.
Sorry if I gave the wrong impression there.

I pasted the entire quote from YCF's book in my posting, though I did get that off of Bills website because I don't have a copy of that book I've only ever borrowed it, and the translator used here and in the version I remember clearly says that YCF states:
"I would use my right hand to form a hook hand to DISSOLVE the attack; at the same time the left palm would straighten out from the front to the left attacking the chest of the enemy.... The DISSOLVING of the attack and the palm strike must be conducted simultaneously".
If YCF didn't mean "dissolve" then all the translations I've seen for this passage are wrong.
I'm not saying they are not, and you would certainly have a great deal more knowledge about that than I, but that's what all the english translations I've ever found have said.
If the Grand Master says it's a strike, then by gum it's a strike!!!!!!
I would never argue with a Grand Master.
I also clearly stated, I thought, that Master Yang Jun also stated this is a strike, but that he did say it would probably be better to strike with a set palm, like in Embrace Tiger Return to Mountain, than with the hook hand if going to the opponents chest, and to use the hook hand if going for the throat.
I don't recall a mention of the nose, but he may have.
Again, I KNOW that this can be a strike, I was only trying to toss out an alternative app for Kal to think about while doing this.

"Dissolving", "Dissipating", "Dispersing" were some of the terms used by Eddie Wu when he described how to utilize the hook hand of his transmission as well, so I was not surprised or puzzled to see this quote attributed to YCF.
Dissolving the attack, I believe, I covered in my last post as well.

I have been extensively coached on the hook hand of the Wu transmission, and I've gone over this transmissions hook hand with Bill as often as I thought I needed to to understand it (though I feel certain I will be getting a new lesson soon, HI BILL), and I can say with a pretty good definitiveness that the Wu family hook hand is much "harder", in that when I strike with it, no matter which part of the hand I strike with, I can do significant damage to an opponent. The hook hand of the Yang forms I have learned does not seem to embody that quality in every part of the hand. As I said above, the closer I apply the force to my knuckles and the further down my forearm I go the "hardening" lessens geometrically. This hook hand gives me a really solid wrist joint, but does not seem to extend that "hardened" quality to the rest of my hand or forearm.
The primary difference is easy to describe, so I will do so for everyones benefit.
In the hook hand as I understand it in Yang family TCC the fingers and thumb are all pulled together, the wrist is bent with the fingers going downwards away from the wrist and meeting at a common point, the wrist is higher than the forearm if the hook hand is held vertically.
In the Wu family transmission the hook hand is formed by pointing the index finger of the right hand straight down, dramatically so, and the thumb meets the forefinger at the second knuckle from the downward pointing tip, the rest of the fingers curl upwards into the palm, almost like a closed fist but with a slight hollow between them and the palm. The wrist is set just like in the Yang form version, but the extension of the index finger makes the bend a bit more dramatic. This gives the entire hand stability and I can strike with that hook hand at any point and I don't have any discomfort.
Try these two hook hands for me and compare them.
I would not, in a million years, presume I am doing the Yang family hook hand correctly, but I'm fairly sure of my Wu hook hand, and I am much better able to apply a strike of any kind with it.

Bob
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Feb 11, 2005 1:43 am

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your descriptions of alternate hook hands, various applications, etc. I've never used the Yang style hook hand and have never seen a real-time, striking force demonstration, but it sounds wicked.

And yeah, it really is marvel how each application has so much latent potential--and also how each energy can conceivably turn into any of the others. I know you were talking about the many potential applications within each application, but that's the direction your post took me in.

I scanned the journal and the book, but now I don't know how to post the images or if the files are too big (2 MB ea for the journal pages and about 900 KB for the book). They're .pdfs right now, but I could conceivably do it over as .tiffs. Any advice?

Must catch bus now,
Kal
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Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Feb 11, 2005 3:10 pm

Kal,
Can't help you, wish I could.
There is a way to post pictures on this site but I've never done it. Others have posted many pictures so I know it can be done. I've thought about posting pics before, but never got around to it.
Maybe one of the others can tell us both how it's done?

Yes, each form has unlimited potential. It's all up to you what you do with it.
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Postby Kalamondin » Sun Feb 13, 2005 2:53 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
In fact, he does speak of this as an attack from behing as I recalled, but there is no mention in the first explanation of the two turns we're talking about, at all. If you read the second explanation, it seems to include the first turning but not the second one before the actual hook hand gets made, though the explanation is sparse and I could be reading it wrong.</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I just want to clarify that when I wrote about the turn(s) as a larger circle and the smaller circle, I didn't actually have any references for that. I was just trying to find a way to put reference markers into what we both understand to be a single, unbroken movement...but I was having difficulty describing what, where, and when without breaking down the yin-yang symbol shape into large circle (outside) and small circle--where the fish head curves back in to form the tail. You've seen the yin-yang symbol described as two fish circling around each other, yes?

Anyway, just wanted to clarify that I've heard the transition into single whip likened to the shape of half of the yin-yang symbol but I've never heard of it being broken down into two turns, two separate movements, or circles. That was just me trying to describe it.

Kal
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Postby Bamenwubu » Mon Feb 14, 2005 4:08 pm

Kal,
When Bill Wojasinski first taught us the turns of Yang Family TCC Single Whip, he had a large Yin/Yang symbol with him. He used it to demonstrate exactly what you are saying, that the hands describe first the outer rim of the symbol as you sweep to the left, then the inner rim as they sweep back to the right.
Bigger/outer, smaller/inner, was the path we were to strive for in this movement.
It wasn't until VERY recently that I figured out how to do that, and I'm still not certain I am doing so correctly.
Making these two turns in anything approaching a "correct" fashion for TCC seems to be quite the feat of prowess, and there is no concesus for what is "right" and what is "wrong" that I can see.
My understanding of these turns seems to be quite different than how others perceive them, as is true for most forms as I'm an apostate, but this form seems particularly contentious amongst practicioners of even the same style.
I don't want to be contentious, I am more than open to every single interpretation out there.
My interpretation of these turns, so far, is that they can both be used to turn 180 degrees or more to address something going on behind me, they can be used to turn and strike or push an opponent behind me, and they can also be used to lead an opponent to the emptiness behind me.
The first usage would be simply to reposition myself quickly and with some meaning to my movement. It would allow me to turn to face someone directly behind me while I maintain my root in order for that face off to be effective. Both turns can be used for this quite effectively.
The striking or pushing aspects seem to be well covered and understood, no reason to go into them here.
The second turn seems to be where most people have their arguments. Is this a turn to strike, to block, what is it?
My thoughts are this.
Yes.
To all of those ideas and more.
I see so many possibilities in both of these turns I couldn't list them. I'd need all day to put them down and I'd miss at least two or three dozen uses that would be patently obvious to others.
I will do my best to avoid the next argument about this turn, which is:
Do you make the hook hand before or after you complete the turn?
I know what I do, but I will not attempt to pass judgement on what is "right", as in my opinion either way is "right".
To me, what is "right" will depend entirely on what you are trying to do with that "whipping" motion.
Are you trying to strike, and if so with what?
This second turn is the big grand-daddy of all "what do I do with this?" questions. It can be used to simply lead any opponent I have met behind me to emptiness, it can be used to follow my opponent back to the right, it can be used to trap an opponents arm and split his energy, it can be applied as a Chin Na, or even simply Na, movement. It can be a whipping strike to the throat of an opponent behind or beside me on my right, or to his chest, or to his nose, or to his ear, or to his temple. I can use my seated palm to make that strike, I can use the hook hand to make that strike, I can use the side of my flattened hand to make that strike, I could even use the fist of Step Forward, Deflect Parry and Strike if I wished or the spitting palm of Turn Body White Snake Spits Tounge. I could use my right arm to stay connected with my opponent and keep his left arm in an open position so I could use my left standing palm to strike into his chest cavity or under his armpit. I could do the same thing and use my left palm to strike his nose, throat, ear, eye, temple....
I could go on all day, like I said, and not cover a tenth of what you COULD do with this movement alone.
I won't, though. I think you see what I'm saying.
Make it yours, use it for what you may need it for.
There are no "rules" in actual combat, in case anyone's forgotten. Use whatever tool you have in any way necesarry. That's what it all means.
Form to formlessness is what we're shooting for anyway. Lest we forget, in a real altercation what you do will probably have absolutely no relationship to a form movement. It will be what you need it to be when you need it.

Yes, I have seen the "two fish" types of Yin/Yang symbols. I don't know, exactly, what they are supposed to represent. I have always meant to find out, but I have not yet tracked that symbolism down as to what it means.
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Postby Kalamondin » Wed Feb 23, 2005 1:33 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
I will do my best to avoid the next argument about this turn, which is:
Do you make the hook hand before or after you complete the turn? </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Bob,

Props for your avoidance technique! Image But seriously, I don’t think we disagree—the timing of the hook hand depends on what you use it for, and there are myriad possibilities contained within a single movement. (Nice list, BTW.)

What I can do is tell you my understanding of what I’ve learned. I was curious about the weight shift to the right before the hook hand arrives and was taught that the final loading of weight to the right foot (for the whip strike) should happen at the exact same time the right arm reaches its hook hand position. This makes perfect sense to me now—that I ought to put my weight into the strike (without losing balance, of course). Although I was using my waist to turn and extend the right hand, I was shifting my weight too early. It gives a whole different feeling to the movement.

As for when to make the hook hand, I’m going to talk about it as though it is a whip strike to the throat (although as you delineated, there are so many other things one can do with it). I was taught to leave the right hand open as long as possible to show the possibility of a pulling/leading/neutralizing application. The hook hand is formed near the very end of its extension to the right, such that the right arm is nearly completely extended (though not locked, of course) before the hook hand forms. And, as noted above, the hook hand is made at the same time the right leg is fully weighted (or as fully as legs get in tai chi). This means I’ve had to pay a lot of attention to how I load my right leg. The timing is still tricky for me.

Generally, what I’ve noticed about Yang style is that it’s preferable to leave the hands open until the last minute with movements that have a lot of potential for doing other things. I’m thinking of Punch to Oppenent’s Ears (with possible implications of press down, ward-off, push), Striking Tiger left and right (catch, join, press), Step Back to Ride the Tiger (same). No doubt I have not covered all the possibilities, but it makes good sense to me to leave the hands open and available for multiple uses and only close them into fists or hooks at the last possible second. This could also have the effect of disguising your intentions—hiding your fists in plain sight.

Of course there are plenty of other times when the fist is explicitly made early—all of the punches from the hip have the fist form at the hip, and also the deflections in Deflect, Parry, Step and Punch, and Seven Star punch too (although it does have a catch and pull or block and/or punch or press movement with the left arm).

Yeah, one could go nuts thinking of all the possibilities, but it’s kinda fun.

Good reminder about the form to formlessness bit—usefulness in real time is a handy bottom line.

Best,
Kal
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Postby Audi » Wed Feb 23, 2005 2:00 am

Greetings to all:

Thanks for the additional comments on this thread. In terms of my original question, I think I have concluded that the back of the wrist of the hook hand needs to provide an anchor for the left side of the body and so should move only slightly or not at all once it is set.

I just stupidly went through a two-day seminar with Yang Jun and forgot to look for this particular point. Basically, I was fixated on figuring out how the left side of the body should extend into the end of the posture. At present, I am speculating that Single Whip is a posture in which the Jin ricochets from right (west) to left (east) to right and then finally to left. A turning motion accompanies each change of direction in order to provide continuity. In the last “ricochet” to the right, I am thinking that you leave the right wrist as an anchor that allows you to extend the Jin through your body and “unfurl” it with the left arm into a “rolling” Ward Off and then finally into the Standing Palm of the left hand.

One major takeaway I had from the seminar was an increased perception of continuity and threading throughout the form. Arcs now seem connected up into circles, circles are more linked into spirals, and the lines of the form seem much longer to me than before. In Single Whip, the power going into the back of the right wrist seems to come primarily from the weight ricocheting or shifting from the left and being guided by the rightward waist turn.


Bob,

Thanks for reproducing the article from Bill’s site. I think I understand and agree with many of the points. I am glad Bill posted it. I also think, however, the article expresses a viewpoint that is slightly different from what Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun teach and so has to be taken with a grain of salt with reference to their teaching.

For instance, the article talks about a bow stance with an 80-degree angle between the feet; whereas, we generally practice with a 45-degree angle. For whatever reason, there seems to be many variations in the footwork among the younger relatives, disciples, and students of Yang Chengfu.

I was also surprised that the article talked about a start, a rise, a turn, and a close. I have read of this doctrine in Wu/Hao Style, but had not heard that it was an explicit part of Yang Style.

Kal,

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B> Of course you know that the final torso orientation is open slightly farther than the corner direction. I’m not very familiar with the compass directions for tai chi steps, because I usually hear things like “right foot to corner direction,” “left foot straight,” and “open body to more than corner direction.” I’m having some trouble with where South and West are in your description, but if you mean that’s the direction we face in “Prepare” and that West is to the right, East is to the left, and behind is North, then the torso in Single Whip faces somewhere between SE and ESE. Yikes, no wonder degrees are somewhat easier!

As an aside, for conversation with me, I think I’d find it easier if we talked about where we are with relation to the opponent as “front” and then oriented in terms of left, right, back, back right corner, etc.. So, Single Whip would then be a whip strike to the back right corner to attack someone coming from behind, and then a front strike to another opponent. Sheesh, that’s even less precise, I know, but it hurts my head to figure out where the cardinal points are and then decipher whether posters are using the Chinese cardinal points or the Western ones.</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Sorry for the confusion! As I understand it, the direction you face in the Preparation Posture is indeed conventionally designated as “south.” I say “conventionally designated,” because the true direction one faces when doing the form is irrelevant for most practitioners.

The direction in which we do Ward Off Right is “west,” the direction in which we do Strike the Tiger Left is “north,” and the direction in which we do Apparent Closure is “east.” By the same logic, the direction of Diagonal Flying is “southwest,” the direction of Embrace Tiger Return to the Mountain is “northwest,” the direction of the third Fair Lady strike is “northeast,” and the direction of Diagonal Single Whip is “northwest.” Something that may help with the directions is imagining standing in the middle of a map of a country, like the U.S. If you are facing the South (such as Louisiana), can you easily point to where the West Coast is (i.e., towards California)? How about Canada in the North? How about Boston in the Northeast region? Seattle in the Northwest or the Yukon in the (former?) Northwest Territories?

(As you may or may not know, Chinese compasses needles were traditionally thought to point south, rather than north. Where you orient depends on which end of the compass needle or which polarity of a magnet one looks at. If we think of orienting the form on the teacher at the front of the class in the same way we would orient a traditional Chinese map, the direction of the teacher would be “south.”)

One reason not to rely on orienting a posture with respect to an opponent is that the direction of the opponent may itself be part of the problem. One of the controversies about Single Whip that you all have already pointed out is whether it is designed to fight one opponent or two opponents and where exactly they are.

Bob,

One thing about Yang Chengfu is that the changed aspects of his form several times. As a result, practitioners can legitimately claim him as the source of practices that actually differ.

I think your analysis of applications make a lot of sense; however, I think that some of the form postures are not always meant to be optimized recreations of specific applications. Sometimes they involve a compromise that involves showing different applications simultaneously or that involves training a general principle in preference to some other movement that would be more practical in actual usage. I think that Kal covered a fair amount of this point in different words.

I also think that the hand shapes in our version of Yang Style have less independent reality within the curriculum than they do in some other versions. In other words, I think that the overriding principle is on adapting the hand to express whatever is necessary in the moment, rather than on learning to reproduce a specific shape flawlessly and consistently. I mention this because I am not sure that the Yang Style “hook hand” plays the same role as the Wu Style “hook hand” you describe, irrespective of application.

I also think that the Yang Style we study does not put much stress on hand shapes that are intrinsically hard or “hardened,” but rather on soft shapes that become hard according to the situation. Even the fists are nor supposed to be held too tightly (or too loosely), despite the fact that a tight fist is a “harder” structure.

My take on the way we form the hook hand is that we have the right arm lying on top of the opponent’s arm and that we are pressing down, with the wrist somewhat seated. We then borrow the opponent’s tendency to raise his or her arms in response to our pressure and then strike upward and outward toward the opponent’s throat with whatever part of the body is most convenient, which happens to be the back of the wrist. To balance the upward and outward energy of the wrist, we extend our fingers toward the opposite point, which brings them downward, together, and back towards the body.

This hand shape can also be formed quite naturally when the arms are lying on top of the opponent’s arms at the peak of the leftward movement at the beginning of the Single Whip transition. I think this is essentially the “deflection” that Louis alluded to. Here, the downward extension of the fingers helps provide a surface than can guide the movement of the opponent’s arms from the inside. Once this extension is performed, the logic I mention above loses most of its force, since the palm and forearm can no longer be used as a platform to bounce off of.

Kal,

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>Generally, what I’ve noticed about Yang style is that it’s preferable to leave the hands open until the last minute with movements that have a lot of potential for doing other things. I’m thinking of Punch to Oppenent’s Ears (with possible implications of press down, ward-off, push), Striking Tiger left and right (catch, join, press), Step Back to Ride the Tiger (same). No doubt I have not covered all the possibilities, but it makes good sense to me to leave the hands open and available for multiple uses and only close them into fists or hooks at the last possible second. This could also have the effect of disguising your intentions—hiding your fists in plain sight.

Of course there are plenty of other times when the fist is explicitly made early—all of the punches from the hip have the fist form at the hip, and also the deflections in Deflect, Parry, Step and Punch, and Seven Star punch too (although it does have a catch and pull or block and/or punch or press movement with the left arm).
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I think I agree with your point here, but had two comments. First, are you sure that
Punch to the Opponent's Ears (Double Peaks/Winds Pierce the Ears) belongs to the list of postures with "delayed" fists? I have always thought the fists form immediately after the redirection with the back of the hands, while the weight is shifted forward to flatten the right foot.

Also, I have heard many experienced practitioners express the view that Yang Style likes to delay closing the fist until the last moment, but I get a different sense from Yang Jun. To me it seems that one closes the fists as soon as the intent to use them arises. You covered this point in the second paragraph I quoted above.

Where one must express two different intents in the same posture, one must either close or open the fists at the last moment to express the alternate possibility that is most logically necessary. In Strike the Tiger, we should actually guide with one hand and strike with the other. Since either combination of hands can be used, the form shows neither as the exclusive possibility. Instead, it "violates" the usage requirements by showing both guiding and both punching and leaves it up to the imagination to decide which would do what in actuality. (Schroedinger's Cat?). In Step Back to Ride the Tiger, we show an attempt to punch to the temple that is forced by changed circumstances into a move to protect the head.

Does you are anyone else see this differently?

Take care,
Audi
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