The 72 stages of progress.

The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Sugelanren » Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:28 pm

Hi everyone.

This is my first post on this site, and this question is the reason i joined.

I recently bought "Lost classics of the late Ch'ing Dynasty" By Douglas Wile, and have a question about one of the texts (so, not really suitable for the book forum).

The book gives you the Yang Family 40 chapters, and in chapter 7 is says "Clearly distinguish the 72 stages of progress".

My question is this. Is there anywhere that i could find something about these "72 stages of progress" ? I've tried a bit of Google Quan to no avail, and i'm sure if are still written about, this site might be the place to ask about them.

Thank you for looking at this post. Peace.
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:16 am

Greetings,

There are many references to 72 in Chinese history and literature as an auspicious number. For example, the protagonist of the novel 西遊記 Journey to the West, Sun Wukong, often just known as "Monkey," was known for his ability to change shape. In fact, he had "72 transformations." You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Wukong

In his book Tai Chi Secrets of the Yang Style, Yang Jwing-ming includes his translations of the Yang Forty Chapters that Wile translates in Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty. In his commentary to text seven, he writes:

"Traditionally, Chinese like to use seventy-two stages of processes to represent the progress of any achievement. If you can accomplish all of the seventy-two stages of this training process, you will have reached to a profound level of martial capability and a scholarly comprehension of the art."
--Yang Jwing-ming, Tai Chi Secrets of the Yang Style, p. 51.

From my understanding, the way it is being used does not imply precisely 72 discrete stages, but "many" stages, "many" repeated applications of intent and practice.

The term Wile translates as "progress," and Yang Jwing-ming renders as "maturity" is 火候 huǒhou, which refers metaphorically to a level of attainment in a practice or skill, but is rooted in the imagery of heating, cooking, or smelting. See: http://www.zdic.net/cd/ci/4/ZdicE7Zdic8 ... 318338.htm


Take care,
Louis
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Sugelanren » Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:14 am

Thanks Louis.

I thought maybe it was going to be some sort of esoteric knowledge, so much of the 40 chapters went over my head. I actually read Chen XiaoWang's "the five levels of Taijiquan" and came away wishing he had added a few levels. Being one of the 999 in every thousand who are level one was slightly annoying. When i read the Yang family had 72, i was straight on to google to try and find them...trust me to take a Tai Chi book literally.

At least that's one question less to ponder.
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby DPasek » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:16 pm

There are many ‘auspicious’ numbers in Chinese cosmology that make appearances in Taijiquan literature. The reference to two of these numbers, 72 and 36, added together equals 108, is what many claim as the number of postures in their long forms are the same numbers that produce the 108 outlaws of the marsh [Water Margin; Shuihu Zhuan (36 heavenly stars + 72 earthly fiends)], as well as Buddhist rosaries with 108 beads.... Traditionally one may also say that there are 36 main types of jin (trained force) in Taijiquan. But all of this seems to me to be rather arbitrary attempts to fit the art into auspicious numerology and should not necessarily be taken literally.
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Sugelanren » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:54 pm

36 types of Jin? Why did i think there was 8?

I should stick to Qigong, and leave the literary tradition to the experts.
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby DPasek » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:10 pm

You are likely referring to Peng, Lu, Ji, An, Cai, Lie, Zhou & Kao [the eight energies ‘in the hands’], but you probably have also heard of others (e.g. ting or listening, dong or understanding, as well as short and long, etc). Stuart Olson gives a translation of many types of Taijiquan jin in his book:
http://www.amazon.com/Intrinsic-Energie ... 093804513X
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Sugelanren » Sat Feb 23, 2013 3:23 am

DPasek wrote:You are likely referring to Peng, Lu, Ji, An, Cai, Lie, Zhou & Kao [the eight energies ‘in the hands’]


No, i think i have a list of energies in one of my books that include ting jin and Fa jin. I'd have to go through them, i have little time to read what with work and family, but i like to get one book a month and read it at least once. I'd love to have a better level of memory of what i read, but even my favourite book i have to re read it every now and then. I'm waiting on "Cultivating Qi" by Jun Wang for this month, Last month was "Scholar Boxer", and thanks to Louis i have my book for next month planned. (i think Blue snake books is due to give me a loyalty card) I hope as i progress i can return to the books and find new things i previously didn't understand, and re reading the basics are a good way to hammer them home.

I found the first 10 chapters of Yang's 40 to be around my level, i keep reciting "Butting, insufficiency, separation, and resistance" when i do partner work. I still have problems getting the connection, but i'm getting there.
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:36 pm

Greetings,

Paul Brennan translates #7 from the Yang 40 in his online translation of Yang Chengfu's Taijiquan Shiyongfa.

Interestingly, he doesn't mention the number reference to "72 stages" or the like, which may be a judicious reflection on the number being more of a rhetorical trope than intending some actual number to follow.

Here's Brennan's version:

定之方中足有根
先明四正進退身
掤捋擠按自四手
須費功夫得其眞
身形腰頂皆可以
粘黏連隨意氣均
運動知覺來相應
神是君位骨肉臣
分明火候七十二
天然乃武並乃文

When standing centered, the feet should be rooted.
Start by understanding the four core techniques, then advancing and retreating.
The four techniques are ward-off, rollback, press, and push.
You have to do a lot work to get them to be real.
For the body’s posture, the waist and headtop should both be correct.
When sticking, adhering, connecting, and following, the intention and energy are to be uniform throughout.
Movement and awareness answer each other.
Mind is sovereign and body is subject.
When you get the degree just right,
you will naturally have both the civil and martial.
[i.e. If the “degree” is not right, there is “overcooking” or “undercooking”, in which case too civil would be undercooked and too martial would be overcooked.]
--Paul Brennan, trans., from http://brennantranslation.wordpress.com ... hiyong-fa/

I like the way Brennan condensed it down to "When you get the degree just right. . .," which nicely captures the "cooking" or "smelting" entailment of 火候 that I mentioned. His bracketed note clarifies ever further.

I see Doug Woolidge also left out the number language in his translation of the Wu family Gold Book, Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan. He translates the last line, "Those who can clearly differentiate these in regular practice can move to a level where they will naturally acquire intellectual and martial aspects." --Woolidge, p. 27

Take care,
Louis
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:00 pm

Sugelanren wrote:36 types of Jin? Why did i think there was 8?

I should stick to Qigong, and leave the literary tradition to the experts.


Greetings Sugelanren,

Don't be discouraged. I've been math challenged all my life, and I'm cheerfully skeptical of numerology. That hasn't kept me from enjoying taijiquan for nearly forty years.

Or was that forty days and forty nights?

--Louis
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Sugelanren » Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:43 pm

Louis Swaim wrote:Greetings Sugelanren,

Don't be discouraged. I've been math challenged all my life, and I'm cheerfully skeptical of numerology. That hasn't kept me from enjoying taijiquan for nearly forty years.

Or was that forty days and forty nights?

--Louis




Hi Louis. It's very rare that i'd get a chance to ask this of someone who has practiced Taijiquan for so long (and being 39, i doubt i'll ever reach that level of practice myself).

Any advice for a novice you could give me?
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:20 pm

Sugelanren,
I'm not anywhere near as versed as Louis in T'ai Chi Ch'uan theory or history (few are) but I have played the form a few times and may have some things I can contribute that might be of some help to you.
First, don't get too caught up in the "numbers game". You'll find a lot of references to numbers in T'ai Chi Ch'uan books, most of them are, as mentioned, metaphors. My personal favorite: "The Ten Thousand Things". That one gave me headaches for a few months until a philosophically minded senior brother at the school I was attending at the time explained what it really means. I kind of wanted to kick myself after he did that, but how could I have known?
Second, that "numbers game" also flows over into peoples declarations of their "time spent in the art". For me it would be: "I have been training T'ai Chi Ch'uan for 27 years". What does that mean? Well, to be honest, not much by itself. I do not recall where I first heard this but it sticks in my head as a very good formula to follow; "Don't tell me how many years you've been doing T'ai Chi Ch'uan, tell me how many times you've done the form." It's possible to have been training TCC for 27 years and to still only be doing the long form once a week when you go to class; or you could have trained for 27 years doing the long form ten times a day, as well as doing pushing hands, sparring and weapons training for several hours each day. Which of those scenarios is going to give you a better understanding of the art? Personally, after 27 years I still think of myself as the most rank amateur in the history of the art of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. I find it helps me to keep my perspective and not fall into the trap of thinking that I actually know what I'm doing, because every time I start to think that I find myself getting into trouble.
Third, you can't pick this art up from reading the books. That's not my rule, it's just how it works. That's not to say you can't learn about the art from reading the books. You most certainly can learn about it that way, but you can't learn to do it that way. Big difference. There is only one way that I have ever discovered to learn the art; by doing it with a qualified teacher. It really is that simple and it really is that hard. That's not to say reading books about TCC is bad, not at all. Reading the books brings your mind into play and that is very important. It introduces concepts to you that you might not hear about any other way and that's never a bad thing. However, without a teacher leading you along the books very quickly become meaningless. You mention that you think "Butting, insufficiency, separation, and resistance" when doing partner work. The book told you to do that and those are all good things to pay attention to. But... Do you know how those things feel when you do them? Without someone there who has that knowledge, and the ability to pass it on to you, those words don't really tell you very much. All of TCC is like that.

All of that being said, the best advice I can give you is to relax and take it as it comes. There are no shortcuts and trying to find one will simply waste your time, just do the work to get there and you will get there.
When I say to "relax", I mean it both literally and figuratively. The more you tense up, both in body and mind, the longer it will take you to reach your goal.

Hope that helps you a bit, at least until Louis can get back on here and give you some advice you can use.

Bob
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Sugelanren » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:59 pm

Hi Bob. Thanks for the advice.

I don't really look to the books for instruction, i look to them for inspiration (of sorts). I love anecdotes about the training methods of the past, or how Yang Shou Zhong used to be thrown out into the courtyard to practice in the Winter. It's a good way to keep myself immersed in Taijiquan when i'm not practicing - either reading about it, or discussing it with classmates. I have an excellent teacher who keeps me grounded, and the quotes i remember the most are usually from him ("More Qigong" for example). Lastly, I've visited a few Daoist temples in China, either with my Sifu in 2005, or the one in My wife's city (Shenyang). I consider myself a friend of the Daoist Philosophy, and like to read about the history around it. I once did my Qigong in Dunhuang (in the Gobi desert), and it is still the place i go to when i do my Qigong (hard to explain).

Basically, i read about Tai Chi for enjoyment.

Peace...Sean.
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:24 pm

Greetings Sean,

You can find some very good advice on this forum; there’s quite a bit of information that has accumulated in the threads. Whenever you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to post here. As Bob suggests, no matter how many years one has been practicing, it’s important to keep your “beginner’s mind,” and continuously reapply yourself to the task of refining your art.

Like you, I like to look for inspiration to reinvigorate and sustain my attention. One reason we sometimes need inspiration is that practice can become boring. If you find yourself becoming bored with taijiquan, the first thing to do is acknowledge that this boredom is in itself a sort of breakthrough. That is, it could mean that you’ve reached a certain comfort zone; you’ve assimilated sequences so that they come almost automatically, and you’re no longer struggling with balance or stamina. However, it’s also a cue to avoid becoming complacent, and to look at ways to escape this comfort zone. A good source to turn to at this point is Yang Chengfu’s Ten Essentials. Go through them one-by-one and seek to test them in your daily practice of the form and push hands.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Sugelanren » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:51 pm

Oh....


Louis, i'm so sorry i never noticed till now. I was reading a thread in the book forum and just realised... I have two of your books. I have "Mastering Yang style Taijiquan", and "The essence and applications of Taijiquan". I never even noticed till someone else mentioned you translating these books.

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books.

Do you have any more?
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Re: The 72 stages of progress.

Postby Audi » Mon Mar 18, 2013 2:19 am

Greetings all,

Recently Master Yang Jun has been stressing three levels of practice that perhaps come from or match what is in the Tai Chi Treatise. He talks about (1) becoming familiar with movements, (2) learning to unify energy, and (3) reaching a level where your spirit is clear.

He describes the first level--becoming familiar with movements-- as something that goes beyond form and includes push hands circles, applications, stepping, etc. From what I understand, this is a step that continues throughout life as your study deepens; however, as you reach the point of doing a set of movements without having to think about the details you are working on, you can move to the next level.

The Tai Chi Treatise talks about Interpreting/Understanding Energy 懂劲, which is a phrase used in contrast to "Listening Energy," "Neutralizing Energy," and "Issuing Energy"; however, the context and Master Yang's description seem to require a broader understanding of these phrase in this context. Here it seems to refer to learning how to express energy properly through the movements that have been learned.

The third level refers to the point where a practitioner no longer has to think either about the movements or the details of managing the energy, but can simply use the technique as appropriate at will.

One reason we sometimes need inspiration is that practice can become boring. If you find yourself becoming bored with taijiquan, the first thing to do is acknowledge that this boredom is in itself a sort of breakthrough. That is, it could mean that you’ve reached a certain comfort zone; you’ve assimilated sequences so that they come almost automatically, and you’re no longer struggling with balance or stamina. However, it’s also a cue to avoid becoming complacent, and to look at ways to escape this comfort zone. A good source to turn to at this point is Yang Chengfu’s Ten Essentials. Go through them one-by-one and seek to test them in your daily practice of the form and push hands.

I would like to strongly support Louis' statement, especially with respect to the Ten Essentials. In some ways, they are simply. In others, they are layered and very deep. Not all flavors of Yang Style focus on them, but ours does.

Each of the Ten Essentials can be discussed in 5-10 minutes, but they can also be discussed using ten times that amount of time, especially if you discuss them in light of specific form postures, push hands exercises, or applications. What we are taught is that some primarily relate to body shape, others to energy, and yet others to spirit. However, the principles interrelate so that something that appears to discuss only body shape may have a strong impact on internal energy or on spirit. A principle that talks about energy may related to why we do certain physical movements the way we do, or a principle talking about spirit may also explain something about energy. Understanding all these interrelationships is one thing that can motivate years of fruitful and interesting study.

Anyone interested in hearing more about our take on the principles might want to listen to one of Master Yang's YouTube clips where he introduces them in the context of a seminar.

Take care,
Audi
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