Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:45 pm

Greetings,

Here's some more good material from translator Paul Brennan. http://brennantranslation.wordpress.com ... ji-da-wen/

This is an online translation of Chen Weiming's 太極答問 , previously translated by Benjamin Lo and Robert Smith as T'ai Chi Ta Wen: Questions and Answers on T'ai Chi Ch'uan. Brennan is quoted on the Tai Chi Center of Madison Face Book page, saying:

"I have made a translation of Chen Weiming’s third Taiji manual – the famous Q&A book.

A previous translation of it was made in the 80s by Ben Lo and Robert Smith, but that version was rather incomplete. The original text contains 131 question & answer segments, 41 of which are entirely absent from the 80s translation: questions 23, 40, 60-62, 64, 66-84, 88, 89, 118-131."

I'm looking forward to digging in!

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Oct 31, 2012 4:47 pm

Greetings,

There's a passage in Taiji Da Wen in which Chen Weiming quotes a chengyu, 刻舟求劍 kè zhōu qiú jiàn, which means "to mark the boat to seek the sword." First, here's Brennan's translation of the passage:

~~~
[21]
問太極拳七十餘式之次序。必須如此。而亦能變動否。
In the Taiji Boxing solo set there are more than seventy postures in sequence. Must it be like this or can we change them around?
答相傳之次序如此。其相連接之處。亦極自然。故學者當謹守之。譬如一篇好文字。增一字减一字不可。雖然。文字本有無窮的變化。太極拳亦然。若將各式顚倒。其連接之處。果能自然。又何嘗不可耶。太極拳架子。本是平時練功夫之體。若用時。則又何能刻舟求劍。而必依其次序耶。若然則眞愚之至矣。
This is the traditional sequence and the way they are linked together is very natural, therefore students should follow it faithfully. Take for example a work of excellent literature. You may not add to it or subtract from it a single word. That being the case, there were no limitations to the manipulation of words during the original writing, and the same is true for Taiji Boxing. If the postures get flipped around, as long as they are still linking up naturally, that would be okay. The Taiji Boxing solo set is the everyday essential training, but when applying it, how can you “dive into the river to look for your fallen sword while your boat keeps moving down the river” by insisting on doing it according to the sequence? To do so would be monumentally stupid.
~~~

The chengyu is a favorite of mine from the Lu Shi Chunqiu, a compendium of wisdom compiled around 239 B.C.E. The story the chengyu is based upon is so funny and good, I thought I would share it here.

"When a man from Chu was fording a river, his sword fell from the boat into the water. He immediately made a notch in the boat and declared, 'This is where my sword went in.' When the boat stopped, he went into the water to search for his sword in the spot indicated by the notch he had made. The boat had moved, but his sword had not. Was it not sheer delusion to search for a sword this way? Using ancient laws to govern the state is no different. Since the time has changed but the laws have not followed suit, will it not be difficult to bring about order using them?"
--The Annals of Lu Buwei: A Complete Translation and Study, by John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel, pp. 370-371.

In my opinion, Brennan didn't quite capture the drift of the chengyu, but his rendering of the whole passage is a great improvement over the Lo-Smith translation (p. 20) which ignores the chengyu altogether.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby DPasek » Thu Nov 01, 2012 6:59 pm

Louis,

Thanks for the additional information; it does add clarity to the translation. Brennan seems to have tried to convey the idiom’s overall meaning while using quotations to reference the original characters without having to use a footnote for further elaboration. He does seem to have fallen slightly short, though it must be rather difficult to accomplish while trying to stay reasonably concise.

Google translate actually has “disregard the changing circumstances” for 刻舟求劍, which I suppose may convey a reasonable meaning unlike a more literal translation like “to mark the boat to seek the sword” which is not understandable without knowing the story being referred to. Idioms, parables, proverbs, etc. must be rather difficult to decide what to do with when translating, and I thank you for pointing this one out.

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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Nov 01, 2012 7:49 pm

Hi Dan,

Right -- I really just wanted to share the story to clarify the meaning of the saying. Chengyu can be incomprehensible unless one knows the story or the usage. I had a whole class on them when I studied in Taiwan, but this one I just recognized from having read the story in the Lu shi chunqiu. Here's a link to the original Chinese: http://ctext.org/lv-shi-chun-qiu/cha-ji ... F%E8%80%85

A better way of understanding the saying is "to take measures without regard to changing circumstances," but it can also mean "absurdly stupid" or the like. I like the way Chen used it to make a distinction between solo practice and application.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:07 pm

Greetings,

In reading through some of the "lost" sections of Taiji Dawen that Brennan translates, which were inexplicably left out of the Lo/Smith translation, I see this interesting section (23):

~~~
問楊澄甫先生現在所練之架子。與君所作之書。又略有不同者何耶。

The way Yang Chengfu presently practices the solo set is slightly different from the way you wrote it in your book. Why is this?

答澄甫先生現在所練之架子。惟第二次琵琶式後。又添一摟膝抝步。白蛇吐信之後。又將身體屈回如撇身錘後之搬攔錘一樣。此則無甚大關係者也。蓋若遇地方寬闊之處。左右摟膝抝步。本可多打數次。不但左摟膝可加。右摟膝亦可加。琵琶式變搬攔錘。與抝步變搬攔錘。均無不可。至於白蛇吐信之後。澄甫先生敎余之時。本未回身。若敵拳來擊。吾以左手接其肘。以右拳擊其脇下。故稍坐腰卽將拳打出。更為簡便。兩次撇身錘後及彎弓射虎後均係回身。蓋已有三次矣。

The way he presently practices the solo set, the only differences are that after the second PLAY THE LUTE there is another BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE added, and after WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE, he withdraws his body the same way as in the PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH that follows FLINGING-BODY PUNCH. This is not really a big deal.
If you find yourself in a spacious environment, LEFT & RIGHT BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE can be performed many times, and not only can a LEFT BRUSH KNEE be added, but a RIGHT BRUSH KNEE can be added too. PLAY THE LUTE changes to PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH or BRUSH KNEE changes to PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH – either way is fine.
After WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE, there was originally no withdrawing of the body when Yang Chengfu taught me. If an opponent attacked with a punch, I used my left hand to connect to his elbow and used my right fist to punch below his ribs, thus slightly sitting my waist then sending out the punch, which is simpler. After FLINGING-BODY PUNCH on both occasions [the second called WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE] and after BEND THE BOW TO SHOOT THE TIGER, all of these moments now involve withdrawing the body, so it now occurs three times.
--Brennan, Answering Questions About Taiji (Taiji Dawen)
~~~

In the other thread discussing Brennan's online translation of Yang Chengfu's first book, Taijiquan Shiyongfa, BBtrip asked why the form instructions in that book omitted the last Brush Knee before Advance Step, Deflect, Parry and Punch. I had speculated it was simply an editorial oversight in the original book, but Chen's explanation confirms it reflects an actual change made by Yang Chengfu. I've checked Chen Weiming's form instructions in Taijiquan Shu (also available on Brennan's website), and indeed, the Brush Knee is omitted there too. Obviously by the time Yang Chengfu's second book Taijiquan Ti Yong Quan Shu was published, Yang had added it in. I've tried the transition both ways, and yes, it works!

As for the other form change Chen mentions -- the withdraw after White Snake Darts its Tongue -- I'll have to think about that one. Does anyone have any thoughts on Chen's explanation of the earlier version, and how that would work?

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby BBTrip » Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:11 am

Louis Swaim wrote:"When a man from Chu was fording a river, his sword fell from the boat into the water. He immediately made a notch in the boat and declared, 'This is where my sword went in.' When the boat stopped, he went into the water to search for his sword in the spot indicated by the notch he had made. The boat had moved, but his sword had not. Was it not sheer delusion to search for a sword this way? Using ancient laws to govern the state is no different. Since the time has changed but the laws have not followed suit, will it not be difficult to bring about order using them?"
--The Annals of Lu Buwei: A Complete Translation and Study, by John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel, pp. 370-371.Louis


Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby BBTrip » Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:26 am

Louis Swaim wrote:In the other thread discussing Brennan's online translation of Yang Chengfu's first book, Taijiquan Shiyongfa, BBtrip asked why the form instructions in that book omitted the last Brush Knee before Advance Step, Deflect, Parry and Punch. I had speculated it was simply an editorial oversight in the original book, but Chen's explanation confirms it reflects an actual change made by Yang Chengfu.


The way Yang Chengfu presently practices the solo set is slightly different from the way you wrote it in your book. Why is this?
The way he presently practices the solo set, the only differences are that after the second PLAY THE LUTE there is another BRUSH KNEE IN A CROSSED STANCE added, and after WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE, he withdraws his body the same way as in the PARRY, BLOCK, PUNCH that follows FLINGING-BODY PUNCH. This is not really a big deal.


Hello Lewis,

Thank you for the update.
This is interesting news for me. I accepted your reasonable explanation; however, it still nagged at me that Chen WeiMing would make such an omission of sequence under the guidance of Yang Chengfu. Now I can sleep peacefully.

However, the following raises other questions.

After WHITE SNAKE FLICKS ITS TONGUE, there was originally no withdrawing of the body when Yang Chengfu taught me.
If an opponent attacked with a punch, I used my left hand to connect to his elbow and used my right fist to punch below his ribs, thus slightly sitting my waist then sending out the punch, which is simpler.


1. If I follow Chen’s sequence from his book The Art of Taijiquan, will I be 2 moves closer to Yang Luchan’s original form?
2. Does adding withdrawal to certain moves (where there was none) point to Chengfu’s change of emphasis from combat focus to health focus?

In application I find when I can advance--retreat in the same movement, it seems more efficient and most importantly more effective.

Here’s a quote from the famous Chen expert, Feng Zhi Qiang, on this subject,
Feng wrote:“You must be able to release energy at the same time you neutralize. It is called having release within neutralization.”


Just for fun here’s an edited excerpt from the article THE CHARACTERISTICS OF "SMALL FRAME" OF CHEN STYLE TAIJIQUAN,

"Rather advance than retreat."

“In Chen style small frame there’s a quote: As Ms. Chen Peiju explains "Small Frame basically never withdraws power back (Hui Jin) unlike Large Frame; in Small Frame the end of one movement is at the same time the beginning of the next one; the end of "explosion" (Bao Fa) of the preceding movement is at the same time "Storing of Strength" (Xu Jin) of the next one; this is one of the difficulties in learning Small Frame"


Peace,
BBTrip
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:04 pm

Greetings BB,

Regarding your question #1, I have no way of answering that.

Regarding question #2, I can’t speak to Yang Chengfu’s rationale for the change, but as Chen Weiming said, it’s not really a big deal. Here I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Yang had “added” a withdrawal to the sequence. It is there in any case, but in the practice form some movements are more explicit, more apparent, and meant to develop a dynamic that will likely look different in application. Take a look, for example, at Chen’s answer #25 regarding the circling back of the hand prior to striking forth in the Brush Knee form. I think his answer applies here.

As to your larger point that you must advance and retreat in one movement, I completely agree. This is fundamental in taijiquan theory, and something I learned about very early in my training. One way it was explained to me is that in contrast to styles in which one discretely blocks and punches, in taiji the same move can both deflect and attack. This is likely what Chen is describing in the alternate way of doing the strike following White Snake Darts its Tongue, or at least the connection of the left hand with the opponents elbow is less explicitly a drawing back, but that connection is still an important component of the application. My question about that way of doing it has more to do with how one then transitions to Deflect, Parry and Punch. I’m not sure how to do that transition without a weight shift from the right leg to the left. So the original way of doing it may have merely involved shifting after the right hand palm strike instead of before. It’s difficult to know for sure.

I note that Chen Weiming places White Snake Darts its Tongue in the form differently than it appears in the received form. That is, in the received form, there is a Turn Body and Strike (to the West), an Obverse Turn Body and Strike (to the East), and then later in the form there is Turn Body, White Snake Darts its Tongue (to the West). In the sequence presented by Chen, White Snake Darts its Tongue appears as the middle of the three, facing East.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu Nov 15, 2012 8:24 pm

All,
Watch a Wu Chien Chuan small frame Tai Chi Chuan form, pay particular attention to the transitions.
You will see how to advance/retreat at the same time pretty clearly without giving back any weight first.
When I first started training TYFTCC I was completely confused by "moving back weight" first then moving forward again in order to move into another form.
I now can see how each can be used and that both are necessary.

Bob
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Audi » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:30 am

Greetings all,

As for the other form change Chen mentions -- the withdraw after White Snake Darts its Tongue -- I'll have to think about that one. Does anyone have any thoughts on Chen's explanation of the earlier version, and how that would work?

Louis, thanks for continuing to link to these translations. As for question, could we not gain insight by comparing the various occurrences of Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch in what you are calling in the received form? I think we have four version: the one after the third Brush Knee in the first section, the one after Chop with Fist, the one after White Snake, and the one at the end of the Second Section after the right Thrust Kick.

1. If I follow Chen’s sequence from his book The Art of Taijiquan, will I be 2 moves closer to Yang Luchan’s original form?

I would think that this would be so; however, I think how Yang Luchan did the movements and how he trained outside the form would be more important considerations. I also wonder if Yang Luchan ever practiced anything that could rightly be called his original form. Even the Association's form, which tries to be well defined and standard for pedagogical purposes has optional practices and slightly undefined aspects. Older versions of the from seem to have allowed even greater variation and had less standardization.

2. Does adding withdrawal to certain moves (where there was none) point to Chengfu’s change of emphasis from combat focus to health focus?

I think this is likely; however potentially misleading. If memory serves, Master Yang Zhenduo compared two of the versions of this movement in our form at a seminar i attended. He described the one with the large withdrawal as "more complete." If there is less need to focus on rehearsing applications, you can focus more on ingraining principles.

In application I find when I can advance--retreat in the same movement, it seems more efficient and most importantly more effective.

I think that this is true, but that people may apply the word "withdrawal" too liberally to apply to any rearward motion. Many of our applications and counters involve sending energy to the rear.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:22 pm

Greetings Audi,

Re: As for question, could we not gain insight by comparing the various occurrences of Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch in what you are calling in the received form? I think we have four version: the one after the third Brush Knee in the first section, the one after Chop with Fist, the one after White Snake, and the one at the end of the Second Section after the right Thrust Kick.

In fact, I count six occurrences of "Advance Step, Deflect, Parry, and Punch." In addition to the ones you name, there is another following "Advance Step, Plant Punch," (what I call "Obverse Turn Body and Strike), and then right near the finish there's one following "Draw the Bow and Shoot the Tiger." And you're right, it's interesting to discretely explore the differences in transition to "Advance Step, Deflect, Parry, and Punch" in each instance.

--Louis
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Re: Brennan translates Chen Weiming's Taiji Da Wen

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:02 pm

Greetings,

In reading Brennan’s translation of Question 41 in Taiji Da Wen, I was struck by this notion of causing part of the body to “loosen and become uninvolved” (撤散而不連帶 — 撤散 is more like “withdraw/disperse.”). This seems to be a unique insight of Chen’s. As I was reading it, it rang a bell for me with another bit of commentary by Chen Weiming that Barbara Davis keyed in on in her translation of the Taijiquan Classics and Chen’s commentaries. In his commentary on some lines in the Taijiquan Jing, he used slightly different language to express the idea, 粉碎 fěnsuì, to break down into pieces. (See Barbara’s translation and note regarding fěnsuì on pp. 97-98, The Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation Including a Commentary by Chen Weiming.) I’ve always considered “integration” to be preeminent in taijiquan theory and practice, but Chen makes an interesting case for yet another taiji polarity: integration/disintegration! Or, perhaps a more taiji way of expressing it would be, "Within integration there is disintegration; withing disintegration there is integration." His chain analogy is a particularly good illustration of how this works. Years back, we discussed Yang Zhenduo using the analogy of a chain in a very similar way: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=643

By the way, in the Taijiquan Jing commentary, it’s not just 粉碎fěnsuì, but a four-character phrase, 虛空粉碎, xū kōng fěnsuì—“to hollow/break down.” Brennan’s rendering, “to empty and dissolve,” is, I think, quite good. In investigating this four-character phrase, I found some commentary by Wu Tunan, who associated this phrase with the same lines Chen Weiming was commenting upon, “一處有一處虛實. 處處總此一虛實. Each point has its point of empty/full. Everywhere there is always this one empty/full.” Wu mentions the Tang Dynasty figure, Li Daozi 李道子, sometimes named as as the creator of a proto-version of taijiquan, in his comments on the phrase, but I haven’t found any evidence that Li Daozi actually used the phrase 虛空粉碎, xū kōng fěnsuì.

Here are Brennan’s translations of the passages I’m discussing:

From Taiji Da Wen:

[41]
問太極拳必求其柔。柔之利益何在。
In Taiji Boxing, you must strive for softness, but what is the advantage of softness?

答求其柔者。所以使全身能撤散而不連帶也。假如推其手。手動而肘不動。推其肘。肘動而肩不動。推其肩。肩動而身不動。推其身。身動而腰不動。推其腰。腰動而腿不動。故能穩如泰山。若放人之時。則又由脚而腿而腰而身而肩而肘而手連為一氣。故能去如放箭。若不能柔。全身成一整物。力雖大。然更遇力大於我者。推其一處。則全身皆立不穩矣。柔之功用豈不大哉。故能整能散。能柔能剛。能進能退。能虛能實。乃太極拳之妙用也。
Striving for softness means getting any part of your body to be able to loosen and become uninvolved. If your hand is pushed, your hand is moved but your elbow is not moved. If your elbow is pushed, your elbow is moved but your shoulder is not moved. If your shoulder is pushed, your shoulder is moved but your torso is not moved. If your torso is pushed, your torso is moved but your waist is not moved. If your waist is pushed, your waist is moved but your leg is not moved. And therefore you can be as stable as Mt. Tai.
When sending an opponent away, there is also the single continuous flow from foot through leg through waist through torso through shoulder through elbow to hand, and therefore you will be able to send him away as if you are loosing an arrow.
If I cannot be soft, my whole body becomes a single object, and although I may be strong, if I encounter someone stronger and he pushes just one area, my whole body will then be destabilized. So how can the function of softness not be important?
Therefore, be able to integrate [with all parts] and also be able to disintegrate [with any part], be able to be hard and also be able to be soft, be able to advance and also be able to retreat, be able to fill and also be able to empty. This is the subtlety of Taiji Boxing.
—Paul Brennan, trans., http://brennantranslation.wordpress.com ... ji-da-wen/


From Taijiquan Shu, Chen Weiming’s commentary to the Taijiquan Classic:

虛實宜分淸楚。一處自有一處虛實。處處總此一虛實。週身節節貫串。無令絲毫間斷耳。
Empty and full must be distinguished clearly. In each part there is a part that is empty and a part that is full. Everywhere it is always like this, an emptiness and a fullness. Throughout the body, as the movement goes from one section to another there is connection. Do not allow the slightest break in the connection.

練架子要分淸虛實。與人交手。亦須分淸虛實。此虛實雖要分淸。然全視來者之意而定。彼實我虛。彼虛我實。實者忽變而為虛。虛者忽變而為實。彼不知我。我能知彼。則無不勝矣。週身節節貫串。節節二字。以言其能虛空粉碎。能虛空粉碎。則處處不相牽連。故彼不能使我牽動。而我穩如泰山矣。雖虛空粉碎。不相牽連。而運用之時。又能節節貫串。非不相顧。如常山之蛇。擊首則尾應。擊尾則首應。擊其背則首尾俱應。夫然後可謂之輕靈矣。譬如以千斤之鐵棍。非不重也。然有巨力者。可持之而起。以百斤之鐵練。雖有巨力者。不能持之而起。以其分為若干節也。雖分為若干節。而仍是貫串。練太極拳。亦猶此意耳。
When practicing the solo set, empty and full should be clearly distinguished. When sparring, empty and full must still be clearly distinguished. Although empty and full should be clearly distinguished, you also should be completely aware of the way you are being attacked so as to deal with it properly. When he is full, I am empty. When he is empty, I am full. Fullness suddenly transforms to become emptiness. Emptiness suddenly transforms to become fullness. He does not understand what I am doing but I can understand him, and thereby I always win.
The connecting of the movement through the whole body from one section to another indicates the ability to empty and dissolve. If you can do that, then no sections will jam each other up. In this way he cannot affect my movement and I will be as stable as Mt. Tai. Although you empty and dissolve and no sections are getting stuck to each other, when you move you can nevertheless connect all sections and have them cooperate with each other. It is like the snake of Mt. Chang: strike its head and its tail responds, strike its tail and its head responds, or strike its middle and both head and tail respond. This is the epitome of being nimble and alert.
Think of an iron pole weighing a thousand pounds. Every bit of it is heavy, but if you are very strong you can lift it up with one grab. Then consider an iron chain weighing only a hundred pounds. Even if you are very strong you cannot lift it up with one grab because it is separated into many sections. Now although it is separated into many sections, they are still connected. Practicing Taiji Boxing is the same as this idea.
—Paul Brennan, trans., http://brennantranslation.wordpress.com ... -quan-shu/

Take care,
Louis
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