Hi Yuri, Steve, and others,
I realize that I may have left a few things unclear in my last post. First, I was analyzing the Wubu
in the terms of one circuit and one “technique” that had the component energies of Wardoff, Rollback, Press, and Push. I was not trying to draw any necessary correlation between any of these Shi
and the Wubu
except in this one very particular instance. My premise was that any named posture in the form could be analized in the same way.
This disregard for physical directions might seem absurd to some and indeed may be completely off base. I have posted this to provoke thought rather than to advance a theory that I have worked out extensively or that I have been taught by anyone in particular.
In defense of this sort of abstraction, let me bring up the English phrase “look both ways before crossing the street.” What exactly is the core meaning of this phrase that we could explain to an alien? Does it simply mean to look left and right when crossing a street? What do you do when crossing an intersection, where danger can come from eight directions? Does the phrase mean to look everywhere (i.e., including behind)? Perhaps, the phrase really means to draw attention to the fact that the act of focusing on an immediate source of danger may blind us to a secondary, but equally deadly source of danger. Our gaze can take in only half of the world at a time.
From what I understand the phrase “Gaze left and look right” (“zuo3 gu4 you4 pan4”) is an ordinary Chinese phrase used in everyday language with no connection to Taijiquan. I am not sure what the core meaning of it is, but one of the meanings is basically “to look left and right warily.” Again, I think the meaning is couched in directional terms, but really pertains to the purpose or thoroughness of the “looking.”
For quite a different take on the Wubu
, see the following link, which I have posted before on other threads:http://www.geocities.com/ycgf/arti_TJ13.htm
I believe the author of this article is Zhang Yun, who seems to be a noted representative of Northern Wu2 Style Taijiquan.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Yuri
<B> In one-hand even circle (dan shou ping yuan) the two main jins are -- JI and PENG, the two attending jins are LU and AN.
To me, AN is a downward strength in its core. The following after it push is just its elaboration. I.e. AN is not just movement of hand(s) forward.
In our case of ping yuan JI is a forward push by one hand. Usually, as I know, JI associates with a movement forward (i.e. it gets sort of imaginary 'squeeze ' from the two sides).
PENG here is a ward of when we are shifting back (though, this is a bit academic approach and at more advanced levels usually LU are used instead of PENG at that phase).</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Rather than give a short conclusive answer, let me give a more complete background so that you can analyze my reasoning. I can claim only a little understanding of this stuff, and certainly no physical master of it. I am quite curious to hear your further elaboration of your views or of what you have learned. I too believe there is no right answer, but I do believe that different views of these matters can drive one’s understanding of the theory and therefore one’s practice in different directions.
If I recall correctly, there are notable practitioners that seem to define a forward push as Ji
. Perhaps, someone can come up with some specific citations that might clarify matters. I would also be curious to know how many other forum posters understand or have been taught Ji
in this way.
I myself have not been taught much theory directly, but what I have been shown seems to define Ji
differently. Below is one way of thinking about Ward Off, Rollback, Press (Ji
), and Push. I am basing my presentation of the material on something Sam Masich showed in his seminar, but mixing in things from other folks and other readings.
Based on what he said and what I myself believe, I do not believe this scheme fits particularly well with all styles of Taijiquan. In other words, I am describing something particular to one vision of Yang Style that other visions and other styles may or may not share to a certain degree.
Imagine that Taijiquan is concerned with controlling the interaction of energy between you and the opponent. You exert this control principally through touching your opponent’s arms, particularly the wrist and elbow. Imagine that your opponent is projecting a stream of energy at you. This stream can be expressed through his or her arms, hands, feet, shoulders, or even head, but the details do not matter to the basic theory. Controlling this stream involves, at its core, fighting up close and personal and more or less squarely facing the opponent.
Your first concern is to “connect” (“da1”?) with the opponent to create this interaction and establish a Taiji relationship. If you do not establish such a relationship, you remain a mere target and must rely on speed and strength to withstand, evade, or forestall the stream of energy.
Your next concern is to protect your key point so that your opponent cannot control you and your energy. This key point is your center. The natural way to protect this center is to project an expanding sphere around it to keep your opponent “away” from it. Your “straight” spine can act as an internal strut and your loosely extended arms can establish the outlines of the surface of the sphere. Your arms naturally assume a double Ward Off shape. One possible origin of the word Peng2
is a written variation of a word that means “shelter, shed, etc.” with the tree radical and “barrier between archer shooting lanes” with the earth radical. I conclude from this that Peng
refers to sheltering the body from harm and erecting a barrier to the opponent’s attack.
Because of the way gravity operates and the way your arm joints work, the most effective soft way to use your body in this shape is through the soft inner part of your forearms, usually to interpose your expansive center between the opponent’s “center” and his or her root. You tend to lift the stream of energy out of the control of your opponent. This will tend to happen on the inside of the line marking your maximum periphery, since you cannot rely on intercepting the stream of energy at the tip of your outstretched arms.
If you now seat your palms downward, you exhibit Push/Press energy (“An” means “to push or press” as in what one does to a button). You use this to press on the stream of energy to control it. The most effective soft way to do this is to use your palms. There is a downward aspect to this, because of the way your arm joints operate, but this energy can also be projected quite easily forward.
If you merely press forward onto an unaltered stream of energy, you are only offering resistance and not exerting any control. If, instead, you are pressing forward onto a kink in the energy, you can exert control through the kink.
While Ward Off tends to roll your sphere of energy upward and backward, Push/Press tends to roll your sphere downward and forward. Ward Off controls your opponent’s energy stream by tending to roll it upward and into you. Push/Press controls it by tending to roll it forward and downward away from you.
Since Push tends to project away from your center, it is somewhat hollow compared with Ward Off. You have to “empty” your chest.
If you return to the double Ward Off position, but now seat only one palm, you display Roll Back. This rotates the opponent’s stream out of “square” or “straight.” If you seat the right palm, the rotation will primarily be counter-clockwise, in terms of a vertical clock face.
The rotation may not be apparent in the scenario I am describing, but it is there. Remember that Push/Press tends to go forward and down and that Ward Off tends to go backward and up. In actuality, both arms exhibit the same rotation individually and together. They will tend to separate slightly to increase the size of the circle they describe together. The Jin is expressed in the “sticky” rotation. In the bottom part of this circle, it tends to be in the direction from forearm to palm; and in the upper part, it tends to be in the direction from palm to forearm. The vertical rotation also tends to match with a horizontal counter-clockwise rotation.
Some people do Roll Back in the form with a very evident circular motion of the arms as the waist first rotates to the right. In Yang Zhenduo’s form and in similar forms, however, this rotation is so small and tight that the combined rotation of the joints is not really visible beyond the fact that there is coordination between the two forearms. The rotation is somewhat more apparent in the standard four hands exercise that the Yangs teach. In forms, where practitioners interpret the Roll Back posture as a Roll Back to the right and then another to the left, I think that Roll Back must be interpreted differently than what I am proposing.
While Ward Off and Push/Press attack forward and backward along the stream, Roll Back attacks away from it. It is thus a way of throwing the opponent out of the “groove” that the “square” approach strives for.
If we return to the double Ward Off position, but imagine that the opponent’s energy stream comes slightly from the side, we are threatened by an inferior structural position. The opponent is straight/square/regular, but we are being forced out of straight/square/regular into a diagonal/corner (yu2) position outside of the “groove.” We cannot as easily bring our entire body and all of our limbs to bear on the situation. This may be either because we have been attacked at an angle or because we have been unwillingly rotated out of the “square” position.
To prevent being “cornered”, we can seat the outside palm in the double Ward Off position and use Press/Squeeze to squeeze the energy stream back forward into straight/square/regular. Our arms tend to combine their strength. The squeeze tends to be expressed in the outside of the forearm of the inner arm and in the palm of the outer arm.
I think that the circular aspect of Press/Squeeze is more horizontal than Roll Back. While Roll Back seems to have more upward and downward in it, Press/Squeeze seems to have more backward and forward. You yield and “empty” along the opponent’s energy stream to squeeze back into it at the “full” end of your circle.
This horizontal circle is present, but understated in the form. If I can stick with the <I>Wubu[\i] imagery I proposed in my previous post, I would say that the end of Roll Back in the form hides the Water phase of the upcoming Press Posture. Although one does not do Press while doing Roll Back, the end of the Roll Back Posture allows for the start of the circle and the cycle that forms the Press Posture. After the Roll Back Posture, we carefully begin our Press attack by using Zhan to grow our energy and circle the arm more to the left and rear. This is an attempt to draw the opponent out of his or her root. We then expand the attack in the Fire Phase as we rotate to the right and do Nian (“Sticking”) for the Press/Squeeze. Lastly, we shift our weight directly forward during what I am calling the Metal phase.
Ward Off and Push/Press are symmetrical in the scheme I am describing here (although, in the form, Ward Off is not shown symmetrically). The symmetry means that there is no mystery about the primary Jin points in Ward Off and Push/Press. Each arm is the same.
In Roll Back and Press/Squeeze, there is no bilateral symmetry, and the question of Jin points is therefore more complicated. Which arm is the key to the energy? If the energy is done with only one arm, where should the energy be focused? In the case of Roll Back, I think that the rotation of either arm is sufficient, under the right conditions, to initiate the energy.
In the case of Press/Squeeze, it appears that some authorities put the emphasis on the pushing palm of one hand and conclude that this exemplifies the energy. Others put the emphasis on the forearm of the other arm, particular the outer side of it. This latter interpretation is more consistent with the applications and drills I have been shown.
Yuri, ass I understand it, the left palm at the end of Single Whip and Fan through the Back is An </I>(Push/Press) and not [i]Ji
(Press/Squeeze). I understand Brush Knee and Chop with Fist similarly. Do you understand these as Ji
Using my proposed scheme, the one-hand horizontal circling (dan shou ping yuan?) in a counter-clockwise direction contains the four straight energies as follows: going from the midline to the left with the weight forward is Press/Squeeze, pulling the circle back is Ward Off, going from the midline to the right with the weight back is Roll Back, and pushing the circle back forward is Push/Press.
Again, under this scheme, the one-hand exercise can be evaluated as follows. Push/Press energy is expressed in a clear and effective way. Press/Squeeze energy is not very clear and not very useful for attack, since the waist rotation is out of synch. Roll Back has some effectiveness for attack, but often needs support from Pluck. Pluck, however, is really outside the scope of the exercise. Ward Off is clearly expressed, but ineffective for attack.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I think Yuri brought up the translation of An as “Press Down”. That is quite “directional”, but has little to do with the compass points.</font>
As far as I understand, “An4” means just “press,” as in what one does to press a doorbell. I think that in both English and Chinese there is a light suggestion of downward pressure, but this suggestion can easily be overcome if circumstances dictate. “Press” often implies putting weight on something, but one can press in any direction, even upward.
I can see where one can find downward pressure in the An
or Push Posture that is part of Grasp Sparrows Tail, but how about in the last strike of Single Whip? I have difficulty thinking of “downward” as an essential part of what makes An An
One interesting thing that Sam Masich described at the seminar was a Chen Style exercise that was termed something like the Three Olds. If I recall correctly, it included Lu, An, and Ji, but no Peng. The circumstances of this exercise clearly required a downward An that might account for why some teachers insist on this aspect of it. He suggested that this aspect might not be so essential for how An
has developed in Yang Style.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> However, I would argue that “turning the waist to the left” is always “gaze left.” And, any of the shi that require a waist turn to the left could be described in terms of Gaze Left. As a corollary; every movement where the waist turns to the right can be described in terms of Look Right. And, of course, some of the shi will require one to move forward while looking right or gazing left and the same is true for backward and right.</font>
This is certainly a sensible and logical view, but then I would indeed question how up and down fit in. I would also ask why such definitions are particularly defining of Taijiquan in opposition to other martial arts. Also, why is there no distinction between “gazing” and “looking”? Are these distinctions mere word play to avoid boring repitition?
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B> .[Audi] [snip]… I am suggesting that the theory may not primarily be defined in these terms, but rather in terms of typical interactions with the opponent.
In talking about stepping on or underneath an opponent, I was trying to address the issue of grappling. Although I have heard that such training is an intergral part of Wu2 Style, I have not read anything about this in the general classical theory. I am suggesting that the classical theory presupposes a standing confrontation square-on with an opponent. I have heard various explanation and justifications for this, but that is probably a matter for another thread.
[SJ] Well, the last part is saying a lot. Another thread would be nice, but I do believe that wrestling/grappling (Na, etc) has always been part of every CMA. I do agree that there is no preference in the classical literature, afai am familiar with, for grappling –as in the “mat work” of judo, bjj. Then again, there’s nothing in the literature to suggest anything like pro-boxing or muay thai, either. Therefore, I’m not sure I can agree on your logic as to what the classical theory presupposes. I would suggest that, for both theoretical and practical reasons, any martial art that was created after Suntzi would incorporate those theories –and Sun’s ideas about good generalship. I believe that, by distinguishing between grappling and “tcc”, one is making a tactical decision that wouldn’t appear in a theoretical (strategic) text. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
My point was not to exclude grappling from TCC, but to say that it does not seem to be essential to the basic theory. I would think that anything in the basic theory would at least be suggested in the form, and I cannot think of anything in the forms that I associate with grappling. This is actually why I might speculate that most versions of Yang Style have moved away from lots of splits and leaps. They appear to be peripheral to the core theory and may thus be less worthy of deep study within Taijiquan.
By the way, I do not understand “Na” to mean grappling. I understand “Na” to mean things like joint locks, whereas I think of grappling as how one fights on the ground.
Steve, thanks for the quote from the Yang Forty. This was actually one of the passages I had in mind in formulating my provisional theory.
What I could not figure out from the passage was how exactly the Bamen relate to the Wubu. I referred to Zhou Dunyi because it is probable that the Taiji in Taijiquan is a reference to the Taiji Diagram that Zhou Dunyi devised and which was a major element in the foundation of Neo-Confucian thinking. Neo-Confucian thinking is the type of Confucianism that dominated thinking in Chinese-influenced Asia for about 800 years. See the following link for more details, especially further down the webpage:http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Reln471/CHOU.htm
Zhou’s diagram contains references to Yin, Yang, Qian, and Kun on the same diagram. Having now re-read his explanation, he seems to state that the Five Elements together are the same as Yin and Yang, but he is not clear about the status of the Trigrams. I was hoping that his diagram would make clear how a master of Taijiquan writing in the 1800’s would expect the two different systems to interrelate or at least how he would expect his audience to understand them.
My post is already several times overly long, so I will end here and await further comments, questions, speculations, explanations, etc.