Bending of the head forward

Bending of the head forward

Postby Yury Snisarenko » Sat Oct 02, 2004 8:31 pm

Greetings All,

My question is about bending of the head forward. While practicing, I found that a slight bending of the head forward (in the neck area) for a moment in particular movements helps throw off the tension in the neck and relax mentally. Besides it seems that the bending of the head is a natural tendency in some movements. For example, when you "brush" the knee and shift your attention to the forward hand/palm. But I have some doubts about it – there is still a requirement of "straight head".

Every comment is welcome. I'll be very grateful if somebody shares his/her opinion about what Yangs say on this topic.

Yuri
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Postby Kalamondin » Sun Oct 03, 2004 11:19 pm

Hi Yuri,

My sense of things is that the neck should generally be a “straight” extension of the spine. I say “straight” in quotation marks because the spine has natural curves but when you look at the form from the outside, it should look like the head is an extension of the back and not be tilted forward or back. Even in downward postures like Snake Creeps Down, or Punch to the Knee, the head retains its alignment relative to the spine. I think that the “head top suspended” remains one end of an axis through the body that extends down the spine. Even if the body is leaning forward slightly, like in Brush Knee, or Push, the head maintains this line with the spine.

We are advised not to tilt our heads. Tilting down too far can mean that your attention is directed downwards instead of at the opponent. It can also result in a “hang-dog” expression where the face already looks defeated. Hanging the head down can constrict blood and chi flow to the brain and prevent the spirit from rising up.

I know what you mean about brush knee –there is a natural tendency for the head to follow the striking hand with a slight downward dip as the hand comes in past the shoulder. We’ve been told not to do this though and that it can be corrected by paying attention to where the opponent would be and not the striking hand. Allow the attention to rotate toward the front as the body turns. If the head is down too far it will be hard to see what the opponent is doing. Also, I imagine any misalignment in the neck during striking could lead to painful consequences.

Try thinking about keeping the head-top suspended. Think of it as the top point of a more or less vertical axis (because there are many leaning postures, so the axis should conform to the direction of the lean). This might help keep the head from bending forward too much. When my head top is suspended, I am able to relax more b/c I feel like my spine is hanging down from something. It actually feels easier to let go of tension because my head is balanced on top of my spine. Even in the leaning postures, having my head straight feels more comfortable b/c the stronger flow of chi up my spine helps to hold up my head. If I bend it too much, the chi constricts and I feel weary holding my head up.

Good luck with this. I hope some of this is useful to you.
Best wishes,
Kal
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:43 am

Hi Kal,

Many thanks for the comment! It caused me to debate the matter in my mind again. Generally I agree with you that "suspended head" is the best state. But I think there is another side of this medal.

1) First of all I meant only a slight tilting of the head down only for a short time (or even for a moment). I don't think that it can constrict blood and chi flow to the brain. Conversely I believe that it opens the third gate (on the base of the skull) and helps qi to circulate upward in that area.

2) I absolutely agree that this action lowers the spirit and can also result in an expression where the face looks defeated. I only would not name it "hang-dog" expression. But look at the other aspect - it helps to relax mentally. If you ever seen/read W. Lowenthal's book "There are no secrets" about Professor Cheng Man Ching (Zheng Manqing) you might notice just this expression on Professor's face with a slight leaning of the head down on one of the photos (p. xvi). It looks very meek but it didn't result in a weakening of his pushes or in less spirited expression during his attacks.

3) When eyes look down it helps to sink qi along the Ren Mai (Conception vessel) down. The natural tendency when eyes look down is a slight tilt of the head down.

These are just my thoughts.

Take care,

Yuri


[This message has been edited by Yury Snisarenko (edited 10-04-2004).]
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Postby Jamie » Mon Oct 04, 2004 11:33 am

Hi Guys,


My 2 cents is that you can use your eyes to follow movements but keep the crown suspended. I've studied photos of YCF and notice that the crown up is important. Even if the body leans over (descending single whip, needle at sea bottom) his crown points up. This means at times the back of the neck bends in, but not much.

Happy training
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Mon Oct 04, 2004 1:31 pm

Jamie,

Thank you for your 2 cs. I've reviewed YCF photos again and must agree with you – his head is always an extension of imaginary straight line passing through his torso.
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Postby DPasek » Mon Oct 04, 2004 6:13 pm

On tilting the head, here are a few other things to consider:

The body tends to go in the direction of the head. This is perhaps easily illustrated through riding a bicycle, where if one looks (focuses attention) to the side of their path momentarily, the tendency is for the bicycle to veer off the path in that same direction. The head actually has a significant weight to it, and since it is at the extremity of the torso a slight action of the head could affect the entire torso. If you tilt your head forward briefly it could still be enough to increase your vulnerability to "pull-down" or other actions. Try this: sit in a rocking chair with your feet off of the ground (and, if possible, your back not touching the back of the chair), head upright; then tilt your head forward slightly and see if you rock the chair slightly forward. If not, then the amount of tilt of the head that you do may not be a problem, but if you do rock the chair slightly forward it could indicate a potential vulnerability if an opponent can read that forward energy and time a technique to take advantage of it (or the slight backward energy when the head is straightened back upright).

As I understand it, we want to develop a "soft focus" with our eyes while keeping a wide and alert peripheral vision. If trained this way it is easy to see the actions of the hand by the knee without feeling the need to tilt the head forward.

In old age people tend to loose their vitality and this is often very visible in the drooping forward of their head. The late Jou, Tsung Hwa thought that this was an important point and interpreted it to indicate that it is important to keep the head upright for retaining health and vitality (and he certainly maintained his vitality into his 80's, before he died in an auto accident).

DP
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Tue Oct 05, 2004 6:25 am

Hi DP,

Thanks for your very interesting analogies! The concept of a soft focus seems to be very deep and might be seen not only as peripheral vision. As I mentioned above I agree that "suspended head" is the best state. But question here is how to reach that state when it's done only by the idea without the slightest tension. If you are too concentrated – the neck will become tense at first insensibly. If we don’t use constant concentration then we must find the other way of "dealing" with the head.

Take care,

Yuri
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Postby Jamie » Thu Oct 07, 2004 3:07 am

Hi Yury,


To avoid becoming stiff in the neck don't try too hard - begin by using your imagination. I noticed over time that once I could sink that eventually a light energy floated to the top of my head. So focus on relax and sinking energy to the dantien - eventually the spirit will rise - visualize this when you train - but don't force it.

Happy training,

Jamie
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Thu Oct 07, 2004 6:49 am

Hi Jamie,

Thank you for sharing your experience. I believe you are absolutely right, that's the right way.

To Kal.
I continued to think about lowering of the spirit and changing of the face expression for some more time and have made the conclusion that you were right – it's not allowed to do. Thank you for pointing me that out.
Only one thing to consider for you – I was taught to don't rely on whether I see my opponent or not (look in his direction or not). Sometimes bouts can take place in darkness. However the line of vision in the direction of the opponent can play other roles.

Take care,

Yuri



[This message has been edited by Yury Snisarenko (edited 10-07-2004).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Fri Oct 08, 2004 12:46 am

Hi Yuri,

I'm not saying that the head must always be horizontal, only that it follows the angle of the spine. If this was what you meant, then we agree, but because I can't see you, I’m not sure.

Luckily, I have Wolfe Lowenthal's book at my desk this week. I had a look, but it's hard to tell what his spine is doing, so I found some other pictures to compare. These are from one of the Italian YCF centers-I found it on the Dong Yinjie topic. http://www.taichiyangfamily.it/albumfotografico.htm

If you look at Master Yang Jun in Snake Creeps Down, you see his head in line with his spine. Also, in the picture of Master Yang Zhen Duo shaking hands (I don’t know who the other man is) it’s very clear that his head is in line with his spine even though he is bent forward at the waist.

I’m not sure about the third gate, but I think that generally, keeping the head top suspended stretches out the small spaces between the vertebrae, thus allowing for greater chi flow along the spine and into the head.

Yes, looking down can help the energy go down when that is where we want it to go. This is great for Punch to the Knee, Punch to the Groin, Snake Creeps Down, Needle at the Sea Bottom, and whatever else I forgot. But in Yang style, as I understand it, we’re not specifically thinking about Ren Mai, Du Mai, or the Microcosmic Orbit.

An additional thing my teacher mentioned in class recently is to avoid tilting the head from side to side as though dancing to internal music. It’s good to feel the chi moving, but not allow it to dictate the movement. The mind should lead and this focus can keep the head steady.

I think it’s good not to have to rely on seeing the opponent—but if you can see him, why not train to look there? Personally, I enjoy pushing with my eyes closed from time to time to see if I can still maintain balance, anticipate my opponent’s moves, and sometimes to better focus by tuning out extraneous visual input or to examine what’s going on inside. However, I must note that this goes expressly against what my teacher says to do. He insists that we keep our eyes open to be aware of what’s happening in the world. I think his is very sound advice…but I’m the kind of student who has to test everything to see if it’s true…either that or stubborn Image

Best,
Kal
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Postby Jamie » Sat Oct 09, 2004 2:21 pm

Hi All,

Kal, You wrote:

An additional thing my teacher mentioned in class recently is to avoid tilting the head from side to side as though dancing to internal music. It’s good to feel the chi moving, but not allow it to dictate the movement. The mind should lead and this focus can keep the head steady.

This is a good point which my Shifu told me also. He explained that it should apply to the whole body(not only the head). We use the mind to control the body - so that even though you feel energy flowing you don't let it make you sway or turn too much - keep the movements "clean". This is what makes Yang style different. I have students who go through this just as I did, they are very expressive with their bodies and what they end up doing looks more like Chen style. I tell them, as I was told, to internalize this and keep the outward expression clean - control the body with the mind. I'm still unfolding the reasons why Yang Lu Chan made this change. One thing I notice is that inside feels very stable this way - especially at the waist and in the vertical center. Very interesting and a good challenge for me to continue refining.


Take care
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Sat Oct 09, 2004 2:43 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Jamie:
We use the mind to control the body - so that even though you feel energy flowing you don't let it make you sway or turn too much - keep the movements "clean". </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Jamie,

That is an interesting thought! However, it seems that a few chen sub styles have similar approaches. For example, look at Feng Zhiqiang's words about Chen Fake's teaching:

" The recent years showed some phenomena that were not present when I was learning Taijiquan. Most of practitioners show a lot of Shaking Power. As I already said, the better the skill the smaller the shaking."

Take care,

Yuri


[This message has been edited by Yury Snisarenko (edited 10-09-2004).]
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Postby Kalamondin » Sun Oct 10, 2004 12:32 am

Hi Jamie,

Hmm, I like what you said about keeping the form "clean" and free of extraneous movements. It has a quality of efficiency about it.

I wish I could see more Chen stylists practice. I saw some students once, but I think they were mostly beginners because their fa jing had a forced quality about it--the shaking movements were more external than internal, not at all like the very powerful movements of Grand Master Chen Zheng Lei. I'd like to see what's in the middle too.

I could speculate that the Yang family might have removed the visible fa jing for a couple reasons. One of the dangers of fa jing is attempting to use it to early, before having learned to relax completely. As the Yang family had more and more students they may have removed the obvious external manifestation of it so students wouldn't get ahead of themselves. Two, there's that saying "I know my opponent but he doesn't know me." Perhaps concealing the fa jing within the form is a kind of withholding that follows the dictum "Never show 100% of what you are capable of." The power is hidden in plain sight.

Kal
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Postby Yury Snisarenko » Sun Oct 10, 2004 6:25 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kalamondin:
<B>
I could speculate that the Yang family might have removed the visible fa jing for a couple reasons. One of the dangers of fa jing is attempting to use it to early, before having learned to relax completely. As the Yang family had more and more students they may have removed the obvious external manifestation of it so students wouldn't get ahead of themselves. Two, there's that saying "I know my opponent but he doesn't know me." Perhaps concealing the fa jing within the form is a kind of withholding that follows the dictum "Never show 100% of what you are capable of." The power is hidden in plain sight.
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


Hi Kal,

I share your viewpoint. It makes Yang style look not so effective for fighting and causes some people to talk about that its aspect sarcastically. But I like it even more for that reason. Besides I think that its social aspect which was emphasized because of those changes is very precious.

Take care,

Yuri
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Postby Jamie » Sun Oct 10, 2004 2:14 pm

Hi Guys,


I agree with both of you on the points you made. I didn't mean to make a slight about Chen style at all! I know both endeavor to keep to the classics. As for visible fa jing I think it is a slightly different approach in Yang style - more of a wave motion when exaggerated as opposed to rotational. There are some clips of my grandteacher, Lin Mo Gen, doing fa jing. I'll add the link below. But I'm sure that Chen style fa jing is equally effective just focusing on different applications. For eg., short power is more effective with people who have good root who are difficult to move with long power. Long power works well with someone who has already lost their root. Just different moments in time that require different approaches.

Take care


http://www.cb32.com/My%20Webs/dshw.htm
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