Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby pyyp23 » Tue Jul 19, 2011 11:25 pm

Just found a link to the previous combat and healing too

http://issuu.com/nasserbutt/docs/c_h_2010
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby Audi » Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:37 am

Hi Pete,

Thanks for your interesting response.

I think it will be easier if I try not to put everything in one post, so it may take some time for me to give a complete response. You or anyone else should feel to chime in in the meantime.

It would be good to hear Yang Jun's opinion on the form that i know and get a chance to question him on the shao hou side of the family.

I certainly cannot speak for him; however, when I have heard him or his grandfather asked this type of question, they usually decline to comment. I think their view is that they know their form and their line of transmission, but don't feel they can be arbiters of others' learning or others' understanding. They do often state that their family has been teaching for a long time and in somewhat different ways, and so different students may have learned different things or have a different understanding about various things.

In response to the push hands question, i am not used to the phrase eight gates, you'll have to explain that to me for me to answer that.

Sorry about that reference. I hate it when others are needlessly obscure and did not mean to commit the same sin. By the "eight gates," I meant peng, lv, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou, and kao (ward off, roll back, press, push, pluck, split, elbow, and shoulder stroke). We consider these basic energies that must be learned fairly early in push hands practice.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby Audi » Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:28 am

Hi Pete,

How does what i have described compare to your way of push hands?

Others might have other ideas, but I do not have the sense that I am learning about "combat" itself, but rather about energy (Jin 劲). This energy can then be used for many things, including fighting.

I would say that the teaching I have received seems to be based, at least in part, on Sunzi: If I know myself and I know my opponent, I will be safe. In order to know my opponent, I want to know her full and empty and not let her know mine. Success does not originate from me, but rather from my opponent's mistakes.

We learn the form to learn about how to make our own energy flow strongly. We learn push hands to learn about our opponent's energy.

Push hands is a bridge to fighting skills, but is not itself fighting. You can use it develop your skills or to test them. In developing your skills, you have to focus on ting 听 (listening), dong 懂 (understanding), hua 化 (neutralizing), and fa 发 (issuing). In other words, you focus on detecting the elements of your opponent's energy, then on understanding what those elements mean, then on how to neutralize what you understand, and then on issuing properly.

I have learned about a dozen circles so far that teach you how to deal with energy coming from various directions. As you practice the circles, you focus on sticking, which can be divided into zhan 粘 (making stick), nian 黏 (being sticky), lian 连 (linking up), and sui 隋 (following). With experience, you begin to understand these skills better and can use them to smoothly go through the changes, control your opponent and affect his empty and full. You start with completely choreographed movements, then begin to change unpredictably, transforming one circle into another. Ultimately, you learn to move without any pattern in any way you wish, as long as you maintain the sticking.

After you gain a foundation in most of the circles and begin to learn how to stick, you can begin learning how to use peng, lu, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou, and kao for applications in a semi-cooperative way. Even though our philosophy is that you can succeed only if the opponent gives you a chance, we are taught that you should be able to create opportunities where such chances can arise. After you learn at least one way to do an energy application, you can then learn variations or other methods to get a better feel for the energy. Even though we try to focus on a single energy at a time, we normally use them in combination and rarely use a single energy completely by itself. You can also go further and practice most of the postures of the form in a way that is suitable to push hands. Yang Jun shows the circles and applications quite well on the two DVDs he has issued.

Once you gain some experience with the applications, you can learn counters to them. We call them counters; however, this term is a little misleading. They work only if your level is sufficiently high with respect to your opponent. If you opponent's level is high enough, the counters will not work, since they rely on knowing your opponent better than he knows you. The counters include different ways of using peng, lu, ji, an, etc.; however, they also include other energies and other principles I do not have names for. They also work according to various principles that can give you an even better understanding of energy. Some are subtle and merely stop the opponent's technique. Others can have quite dramatic effects.

Some of this play is like doing the form, in that you can do a fair amount of movement without actually demonstrating internal skills, but much of it will not work very well without some level of mastery. Generally, we try to play in a way that puts safety paramount, and so it may not look very impressive or very martial to some people; however, how you issue depends on your intent and your understanding of energy. You can issue in a way that is safe or in a way that is quite nasty.

This post is already quite long now, and so I will try to continue later when I have time.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby pyyp23 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:06 pm

Hi Audi,

Having read your post I think that we train in principle the same thing in push hands. Just what we look at as the outcome is different. The way I have been taught is that when you begin to train you will take the combat first and then as you progress you move towards healing. I suspect that you have been training longer than I have and also other yang or taiji linages in general place more emphasis on energy rather than combat.
It should be said that the healing side of taiji was considered by erle to be the highest level one could hope to.achieve, but you couldnt reach that without first learning the martial side. As I understand all of the postures of the form can be used as a way to heal yourself in terms of internal healing/energy and also to heal others by gently striking meridian points and directing energy into them, not unlike acupuncture.
Relating that all back to push hands, you need to use soft fajing in the healing which you develop in push hands.
I know that you are saying you pull your shots when training, I do also, however it is only body or head shots we pull. Shots to the arms are fair game.
My point about the push hands that ive seen is the competition stuff that ive seen on YouTube, which admittedly probably isnt the best source of taiji. When I look at it, it doesnt look like any of the energy are present. They really look like sumo wrestlers, palm strikes with the odd pull. I have said before that I don't agree with martial arts in competition. It gives rules to fighting arts which were intended for self defence thus taking the real essence of the systems away. My current instructor shares this view as does my old wing chun sifu. He in particular was dismayed when competition chi Sao was introduced because it removed some of the tools.he would have used in real combat. These people who win such competitions may well take these skills into the real world then wonder what went wrong when they get hurt.
Sorry about the rant but I really disagree with competition martial arts.

Regards,
Pete
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby Audi » Wed Aug 03, 2011 3:09 am

Hi Pete,

Having read your post I think that we train in principle the same thing in push hands. Just what we look at as the outcome is different. The way I have been taught is that when you begin to train you will take the combat first and then as you progress you move towards healing.

I am not sure that the difference is healing, but rather our training seems to be more focused on fundamentals and general principles. I think what we do is based on the experience a Yang family member would go through starting at a young age. As a result, learning to fight is not so much a priority as learning the concepts and basic skills.

I know that you are saying you pull your shots when training, I do also, however it is only body or head shots we pull. Shots to the arms are fair game.

We do not normally train with strikes, but the energy we use is nonetheless usually not safe to use at full speed and power with its original intent. Of the eight standard energy applications we learn first, I alter all but one, because of safety reasons. You can alter them by changing the contact points or by using long energy instead of short. Since they are not strikes, we don't really need to "pull" anything.

I think your training emphasizes strikes more than mine. When I have time to do my full workout, about once or twice a week, I do about 300 repetitions of various fajing exercises. Of these, only twenty are hand strikes. As I understand it, we want to be able to issue with any part of the body and so train more the fundamentals of fajing than any particular strike. You do not have to practice fajing at all if you are not interested in mastering martial application. Even if you are interested, we want you to have practiced the soft aspects of the style for quite some time so that you have less of a chance of injuring yourself. In my view, you also have to work up to it, otherwise the amount of force you use will end up causing you problems.

I have said before that I don't agree with martial arts in competition.

From what little I have seen, I would agree that much competition can drift quite far away from the traditional training principles. On the other hand, I know of at least three individuals who I know have competed who have great skill. I, myself, divide the uses of martial arts at least between fighting, self-defense, competition, health, and self-cultivation. They support each other, but concentrating on any one aspect will diminish the results in the others, since they have different goals.

In my opinion if the opponents hand is withdrawn i.e. Contact is broken, then I should strike them.

I was told the same thing by one of my teachers. I was not maintaining the sticking, and so he was cautioning me. He never did strike me, however. I think that push hands can have different rules depending on what you are training and who you are training with. If two people are playing by different rules and have different expectations, this can cause problems.

demo push hands which i feel looks quite pretty but doesn't look like there could be any practical application for, in particular the really long low stances (i get that its for flexibility and stability)

I think another reason for low stances is that it makes it easier to feel weight shifts and to separate full and empty. As you gain skill, you can separate full and empty with less and less movement visible from the outside and so do not need the low stance. If you can do this, you can issue quite strongly with little extension visible.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby pyyp23 » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:09 pm

Hi Audi,

You are right in saying our training is geared towards combat. We train taiji as a martial art as well as a healing art which in my opinion is what it was originally intended to be.

We train push hands without gates strikes usually but when gaps appear our defence our partners will make it known like sweeping the hands just in front of the eyes etc to show what strike was on.

I would like to ask your opinion on a specific point in fajing, when issuing fajing properly on your opponent what should be the outcome? Should the opponent be thrown backwards like a huge push it should they drop where they stand? Or possibly explode into a million pieces like a movie?!? (im kidding)

Regards,
Pete
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:17 pm

Greetings Pete,

You may find some interesting tidbits regarding fajin in this old thread (all three pages). http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=716

--Louis
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby pyyp23 » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:32 pm

Hi Louis,

Had a look at the thread you posted. Its interesting to see others views on the use is fajing and what it should be. I found the thread related more to everybody understanding of the use of the term fajing.

Just to help my own understanding of what you guys see a fajing could you tell me what you would expect to see as a.result of a full fajing strike with intent on a person.

There are clips.on YouTube with people being thrown several feet and others where people go bouncing around like they are tripping on acid. My own opinion is that if the energy/jing is directed properly into a person they shouldn't move.backwards very much, but drop on the spot.

Regards,
Pete
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:44 pm

Greetings Pete,

Re: "Just to help my own understanding of what you guys see a fajing could you tell me what you would expect to see as a.result of a full fajing strike with intent on a person."

Well, it depends on the intent, doesn't it?

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby pyyp23 » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:51 pm

Fair point.
If the intent was to do the maximum damage possible.
Im not saying I would do it or you should make a video and post it, just what would you expect to happen.

Regards,
Pete
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:03 pm

pyyp23 wrote:Fair point.
If the intent was to do the maximum damage possible.
Im not saying I would do it or you should make a video and post it, just what would you expect to happen.

Regards,
Pete


In my experience in friendly practice situations, the result varies. But the descriptions provided by Gu Liuxin on page three of the fajin thread posted above are quite in line with what I've witnessed and experienced -- wherein an opponent is "launched" and becomes airborne, so either stumbles or "hops" away, or what Gu called "soaring" or "soaring and tumbling away." I've seen a whole array of results, but as for doing "the maximum damage possible," I don't spend a lot of time thinking about that.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby pyyp23 » Thu Aug 04, 2011 7:11 pm

Hi Louis,

From what you have said I think it would be fair to say that if you hit someone with any intent they should go flying.

I have a different question for you. Do you see and train taiji as a martial art?
I have encountered many different people during my time practicing taiji but they usually come in two main groups. Ones who want the martial art and those who don't. The ones who don't will practice all of the form, including small San sau and push hands, but they don't want to know the applications. I have actually seen people walk away from sessions when an application to a movement was given to help explain the mechanics. The answer was simply I don't want to know that.
The reason I ask is because you said that you haven't thought about what kind of damage you could potentially do.

Regards,
Pete
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Aug 04, 2011 7:49 pm

Well, not to be argumentative, but as I said, it depends on the intent. One can issue in an encounter with an opponent without it being a “hit.” Respectfully, if one makes a fetish of fajin as hitting, striking, and explosive action, one may miss out on other possibilities. Just to be clear, I didn’t say I haven’t thought about “doing damage;” I said that I don't spend a lot of time thinking about that. I have better things to think about.

I’ve trained in taijiquan for nearly forty years. I learned taijiquan as a martial art, but I’ve learned to understand that a martial art is about much more than doing damage. It can in fact be about avoiding harm, and avoiding doing harm. It can in fact be about still more than that. . .

There are two kinds of people: those who believe there are two kinds of people, and those who do not. I try to avoid placing people into categorical extremes in the hope that I won’t miss someone who exceeds my expectations or something that did not fit my preconceived notions or arbitrary categories.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby pyyp23 » Thu Aug 04, 2011 9:23 pm

Hi Louis,

Thanks for the response but I think you've read too much into my interest in fajing.
I know fajing as I know it and we can agree that we have differing opinions on what we each know as fajing. What I wanted to find out was if the stuff that I have seen on YouTube representative of association taiji.

I do however agree with you on the avoiding harm and avoiding harm part and taiji being more than that. All martial arts should be about cultivating oneself and not just be about combat but to cultivate oneself one should walk the path which leads through the combat. It is accepted that yang lu Chan was a great master and cultivated man with principles and morals by he was also an accomplished fighter. He is the one who gave taiji its reputation as the supreme ultimate boxing.

As for the two groups of people, I did say usually. I try not to generalise but often it helps in making a point.

Regards,
Pete
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Re: Essence and Applications of Taijiquan

Postby Audi » Mon Aug 08, 2011 1:35 am

Hi Pete and Louis,

Before I respond to the latest exchange, I'd like to finish talking about what the Association teaches, since that has a strong bearing on my own views. First I should say that our theory stresses that you do not focus on either the opponent's or your own external technique, but rather on energy. Energy has no shape, but it makes itself known through shapes. This is kind of like chess. Experienced players think more in terms of "pressure," "control," "development," etc, rather than just on “winning moves” or captures.

Once you get a good foundation in fixed step push hands, you begin practicing moving step. Moving step makes generating energy easier, but makes controlling it much harder. We start with straight steps, with corresponding foot work, and then move on to cross steps, with symmetrical footwork. Then we do a combination. You practice the stepping first in simple ways, and then with increasing difficulty so that you learn to adjust your step length and position to whatever you need and to whatever gives your opponent trouble.

You also learn to do energy applications from the moving step, matching the direction of the application to the appropriate direction and positioning of the stepping. You also begin to separate briefly from your opponent to simulate more what you would experience in free fighting. When you finally can step where you want and move your arms however you want, you get close to what free fighting would be.

Somewhere along this journey, those truly interested in martial skills will practice fajing, using the shaking staff, solo exercises, and partnered exercises. While I think some people think of Tai Chi fighting as consisting of strikes, I think we have a broader view. At least at the level that I have been taught so far, we want you to be able to issue energy with any part of the body and do not focus particularly on hand strikes. We want you to be able to use long energy, short energy, throws, locks, and strikes and use peng-lu-ji-an, etc., as the foundation for this.

I would like to ask your opinion on a specific point in fajing, when issuing fajing properly on your opponent what should be the outcome? Should the opponent be thrown backwards like a huge push it should they drop where they stand?

Either result is possible, but the latter is probably best not discussed in too much detail over the Internet. I also think there are other possibilities, even if you are fighting in earnest.

What I understand and teach is that the object is to attack from a point of maximum advantage where and when the opponent is at his greatest disadvantage. In other words, you want to attack only where and when the opponent is helpless to defend; otherwise, you enter the realm where speed, strength, and external technique are paramount and Tai Chi has little advantage. Depending on what you are attacking and what the opponent is defending, this strategy will have different outcomes, even if you are fighting in earnest.

As I understand it "fajin" or "fajing" merely means to "send (out) or issue energy." Yang Jun does, however, often refer to "explosion energy" or some variation on that theme. When actually demonstrating with strong long energy, he more often seems to refer to "sending out your energy." Energy can be sent out in different ways for different purposes. If it is sent out in a truly "explosive" way, we would tend to refer to it as "split energy," or perhaps short energy. This type of energy is generally dangerous to practice with, and so we usually replace it with some sort of similar movement, except for certain limited drills. Long energy can also be dangerous, but usually requires a deliberate choice to use it in this way.

What I wanted to find out was if the stuff that I have seen on YouTube representative of association taiji.

I would say that some of it is and some of it isn’t. The best way to see would be to look at Yang Jun’s Push Hands DVD, volume 2. He shows many applications, focusing on what can be safely practiced in Push Hands and how to understand aspects of Tai Chi theory as seen from the Yang Style viewpoint.

The ones who don't will practice all of the form, including small San sau and push hands, but they don't want to know the applications. I have actually seen people walk away from sessions when an application to a movement was given to help explain the mechanics. The answer was simply I don't want to know that.

I would say that the association does not cater to people who want to take the “martial” out of “martial art,” but nor do we focus on fight training. My view, as I mentioned in a previous post, is that Tai Chi can have many goals and many uses: fighting, self-defense, competition, mental and physical health, inner cultivation, etc. I would say that we tend to focus on the generalized principles that are framed in a martial way, but do not really presuppose any of those goals. That is left for the students to decide. In fact, one of the things that I really like about Tai Chi, at least, how we seem to do it, is its flexibility. You can do a little or a lot. You can do it for health, for martial ability, or for training the mind.

Take care,
Audi
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