Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:19 pm

Hi Bob,

Thank you for your explanation, I agree with you that some movements bring emphasis to specific feelings more readily than others, but my take was that there is a central source (the yaoma and the rotation of the lower dantian) from which these specific sensations are generated and it is always beneficial for the practitioners to be aware of this.

Besides from my own experience, I have found the movements from Diagonal Flying have a stronger “trigger” in making me become more aware of the opening and closing feelings and how important it is to open at the end to deliver the parting Jin diagonal upward and downward instead of horizontally as in WHPM, which has a lighter feel than DF. I am not in disagreement with Luis, my intention was to elaborate on what he was saying.

With regard to plucking up the back, I think it refers to keeping the shoulder blades free of the back of the rib-cage as we open and close our arms, so the scapula (shoulder blade), the humerus (upper arm bone) and the clavicle (collar bone) can move freely when we do the movements. But like you said, it is a whole new thread, so lets leave at that.

XJ
PS, I was writing this just when Luis made his post, so please consider this reply is to both gentlemen.
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:56 pm

References to the spine are few in the literature, but another I can think of is in Wu Yuxiang's "Mental Elucidatgion of the Thirteen Postures," which states that "the strength issues from the spine," and "the qi adheres to the back, then collects into the spine."

Hi Luis,

I am not sure if the term "li you ji fa" 力由脊發 should be translated as "the strength issues from the spine" or "the strength issues from the back", because the character ji 脊 can mean jibei 脊背 (the back) or jizhu 脊柱 (the spinal column). My understanding is the back includes the muscles and tendons around the spinal column as well as the back of the rib cage and we need to control them to deliver the froce generated from the ground upward and outward, whereas the spine on its own cannot do this. What is your thought?

XJ
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:53 pm

Hi XJ,

From a body-mechanical perspective, I agree with you that the entire back is involved in delivering force. I don’t think, however, that 力由脊發 specifically addresses body mechanics. One might draw a distinction between “issuing, releasing” (發), and “delivering.” Prior to the follow-through of delivery, there is the initial pulse of energy from the spine. That is the 發, or issue.

Note that the words of both Wu Yuxiang and Yang Chengfu make a clear and deliberate distinction regarding the back and the spine. Yang Chengfu states in his essential number two: “If one can raise the back, the strength will be able to issue from the spine.” Wu Yuxiang’s wording in like manner describes a clear relationship: “the qi adheres to the back, then collects into the spine.” Elsewhere he states that “the strength issues from the spine (脊)."

All of this is in keeping with an art the emphasizes the internal, not the external.

Does this clarify the translation and meaning of 力由脊發?

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:00 pm

Extra,
I was unable to tell from the context of your post if you were agreeing or disagreeing with the authors, good to know you were in agreement and that you liked the explanation.
As for Diagonal Flying having a stronger "trigger"...
I don't know that I would say it that way, though I can see why someone else would.
Contemplating the "feelings" I get from these two very similar movements...
I think "stronger" wouldn't be my word choice.
I'd more than likely go with "bigger". It is, when I do it at least, a larger feeling, more expansive, less compact.
That may be due to the more diagonal axis for applying the energy which makes a larger circle, or it could be due to my interpretation of the martial application that I imagine when I do my form, or it could just be that I put more "oomph" into Diagonal Flying than I do into Part Wild Horses Mane for reasons I would have to explore.
I see DF as having a slower beat; being more of a "bump" to begin with, applying "split" only after full contact with my opponent has been established and my "bump" has cut his root. Since the two do not happen simultaneously, I see this movement as having longer "time in contact" with my opponents center and using larger circles, with a more diagonal axis of rotation through my center.
I see PWHM as using a faster beat; the "bump" and "split" happen almost together so less time is spent in contact with my opponents center while the circles made by my center are smaller and nearly horizontal (there is a small amount of diagonal expression but mostly I keep this one level).
Again that's just how I interpret my "feelings" between the two, your feelings will be different and that's what's important for you. I'm just throwing this out there for the sake of the discussion, not trying to bust anyone's chops over semantics.
Whether one is better than the other for helping someone feel the open/close as we discussed earlier...?
I don't know.
I guess that would depend on the person in question.
I found it first in Left Ward Off, to be honest, then again in Single Whip, then again in White Crane Spreads Wings, then in the Brush Knees, Apparent Close Up...
It goes on but I think you get the idea.
It's everywhere, some folks seem to feel PWHM expresses it more clearly than most other forms and I do have to agree that it most certainly can.

As for "pluck up" or "round" the back and this particular "feeling"...
I have gone back and forth on that point.
Mostly I do not view it that way due to an answer Yang Jun gave at a seminar I attended when he was asked that very question.
I do not recall exactly how he phrased it, but his answer indicated pretty strongly that he viewed the sinking of the chest and raising of the back to be more of a horizontal aspect and this was a vertical one, similar to but separate from "round" or "pluck up the back".
I really wish I could recall how he answered the question more accurately, but I don't right now.
Anyway, since his reply I've done my best to keep the two feelings separate from one another, where previously I felt they were the same concept.
And from what the authors quoted by Louis say, they seem to feel that it is also part of the "sink, round" equation.
So...
Perhaps I misunderstood.
Or perhaps not and this is another one of the infamous "could be both, could be neither" ideas that T'ai Chi Ch'uan is chock full of.
Which can be frustrating, but also can lead to some very good discussions.
I'm open to all theories. I try them all on for size and if a new one fits better than the old I keep on wearing it.
I guess I haven't found the right fit, for me, on this theory yet.
I'll keep plugging away and see where it leads me this time.

Bob
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:19 pm

Hi Luis,

Being a China scholar, I presume you would know the yin/yang concepts of xing 形 and qi 氣, you 有 and wu 無 as applied to Li 力 and Qi 氣 through the External 外 from the Internal 內; all expressing the relational between the Ti 体 and the Yong 用.

With these concepts in mind between the tangible and the intangible, the form and the formless, the manifested and the hidden, I would match the Li with the back – the External and the tangible aspect of the movement with the Qi with the spine – the Internal and the intangible aspect of the same movement. So to me at least, the form Li is issued from the back while the formless Qi is gathered in the spine adhering to the back.

Of course I am only speaking from a personal experience, trying to make sense of the experiential with the metaphysical, while translating the words from the classics.

I can understand you might not agree with me from a strictly translation point of view, but I hope you can get the gist of what I am trying to say.

XJ
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:27 pm

Hi Bob,
In the beginning I went with the theory to the practice but as I grew older and kept at it year after year, I begin to work the other way around and that goes with the way I try to translate the Chinese into English as well. Nowadays I trust what I can do physically more than what I can understand from reading the theories.
XJ
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby Audi » Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:55 pm

Greetings all,

For me, opening and closing are slippery, but ultimately simple concepts. "Opening" means things coming apart or expanding, and "closing" means things coming together or contracting. In PWHM, I cannot say that I feel my shoulder blades opening up internally or externally in the final position, but rather the opposite. I am still unsure why i would even want to feel them opening, since it would seem to weaken my energy. What I do strongly feel, however, is that the opening of my hands comes from the action of the strong muscles in my back. Perhaps, this is the feeling you all are describing.

Using strong muscles, rather than weak ones, to generate power has been a major part of my practice and teaching of late. It is how I interpret many of the classic injunctions in more concrete terms.

As for the difference between FD and PWHM, I find the former bigger and snappier. The latter feels more deliberate. As I understand it in our form, the former trains striking energy more, whereas the latter gives more scope to Ward Off, or possibly Shoulder Stroke, Press, or Elbow. In the former, I will give up all the energy on contact from a long motion, but with short energy. In the latter, I will use shorter arm motion to deliver longer energy to uproot and then launch or throw my opponent.

As for spine versus back, I think that we would describe all these issues as part of the external aspect of generation of energy. The internal generation is more connected with the Dantian, the lungs, the meridian networks, and the connection between spirit, intent and Qi. The external, however, has again both external and internal aspects. I would call the shape of the chest and back external, but the energy produced in that shape, internal. An arch, a whip, and a bow can all assume a similar external curve, but the energy inside is different. I think the masters talked about drawing out the back to address shape and about sticking Qi to the spine to address the energy produced within that shape.

When I issue, the energy will visible travel from bottom to top. The last place it gathers before the final snap is in the soft tissue in my upper back that connects my spine to my shoulder and arms. If my back is not rounded or my shoulder is bent backward, the energy cannot gather there. It feels like trying to feel energy in an unstrung bow. If, on the other hand, the relationship between my chest and upper back does not change, it again feels like the energy cannot be concentrated there. It simply moves through, like pushing on a spring that is already compressed. This is also the point where the vertical flow of energy transforms into a horizontal flow. The external aspect of the energy bounces off the root, goes from back leg to front leg, branches off to go up the spine, and then splits off into one or both arms. If you do not round the crotch, the connection between the legs is broken. If you do not loosen up the lumbar spine and drop the butt (松要落跨), the connection between upper and lower is broken. If you do not draw out the upper back and enfold the chest (含胸拔背), the connection between left and right is broken. Where you last feel Qi concentrate in the body is where left and right meet, in the upper spine.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Wed Jun 12, 2013 2:57 am

Thank you Audi, what you described is what I was trying to say ealier that every movement in the form should involve all the 13 “essentials” as mentioned by Hao Yueru in their varying degrees of "experience" as one progresses further and further. I tend to feel them in 3-d plus time these days rather than in lines and planes like I did in the past and I try to work with the Li and the Qi at the same time to produce the Jin, so in the end the "external" and the "internal" can merge together to be holistic. Thank you for sharing, gentlemen.
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:10 am

Greetings,

Here is some more taiji theory regarding the roll of the spine. This is the fifth of Li Yiyu's "Five-Word Formula," also from Brennan's online translation of Hao Shaoru's book on Wu-Hao style taijiquan:

5. The spirit is GATHERED.
上四者俱備,總歸神聚,神聚則一氣鼓鑄,煉氣歸神,氣勢騰挪。精神貫注,開合有致,虛實清楚。左虛則右實,右虛則左實。虛非全然無力,氣勢要有騰挪;實非全然占煞,精神要貴貫注。緊要全在胸中腰間運化,不在外面。力從人借,氣由脊發。胡能氣由脊發?氣向下沉,由兩肩收於脊骨,注於腰間,此氣之由上而下也,謂之合。由腰形於脊骨,布於兩膊,施於手指,此氣之由下而上也,謂之開。合便是收,開即是放。能懂得開合,便知陰陽。到此地位,工用一日,技精一日,漸至從心所欲,罔不如意矣。
With the four above prepared, finally spirit gathers. Once spirit is gathered, then energy is tempered, and this smelted energy then reinforces spirit. Energy is ready to move and spirit is concentrated. Expand and contract are decisive. Empty and full are distinct. When left is empty, right is full. When right is empty, left is full. Empty does not mean you are in that area completely weak, but that energy should there be ready to move. Full does not mean you are in that area completely stuck, but that spirit should there be concentrated. It is crucial that changes are within your chest and waist and are not external. Force is borrowed from the opponent. Energy is issued from your spine. How can energy issue from your spine? It sinks downward, going from your shoulders, gathering in your spine, and concentrates in your waist. This energy going from above to below is called “contracting”. Then it goes from your waist to your spine, spreading to your arms to be applied at your fingers. This energy going from below to above is called “expanding”. Contracting is gathering. Expanding is releasing. When you can understand expanding and contracting, then you will understand passive and active. When you reach this state, then daily work will yield daily refinement, and gradually you will reach the point that you can do whatever you want and everything will happen as you imagine.
--Trans., Paul Brennan, http://brennantranslation.wordpress.com ... yle-taiji/

Very subtle stuff. . .

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:34 am

Hi Louis,

Yes, very subtle indeed.

Earlier Wu Yuxiang said, “Li you ji fa” 力由脊發 (The strength issues from the spine) and now Li Yiyu said, “Qi you ji fa” 氣由脊發 (The Qi issues from the spine) and if we read the rest of Li’s words, the term “fa” 發 has the connotation of transmitting rather than issuing.

According to what Li Yiyu has written, the Qi is transmitted to the fingers by first sinking it downward to the waist along the spinal bones (脊骨) by “contracting” (“he” 合) and then upward again along the spinal bones to the fingers through the should by “expanding” (“kai” 開).

The Qi is in fact not issued from the spine but is transmitted along the spinal column using the waist (thre dantian) as the “Taiji”, changing from the yin of “he” to the yang of “kai”, and then released to the limbs.

When we look at Wu Yuxiang’s words again and read them in their context:

蓄勁如開弓,發勁如放箭。曲中求直,蓄而後發。力由脊發,步隨身換。收即是放,連而不斷。

“Store energy as though drawing a bow. Issue energy (fa jin) as though releasing an arrow. Seek the straight in the curved. Store up, then issue. The strength issues from the spine; the steps follow the body' changes. To gather in is in fact to release. To break off is to again connect.” (Louis Swaim’s translation)

It seems to me that he is talking more about the mechanical aspects of issuing jin (fa jin), and in this sense, the li (strength) comes from the back by first storing and then issuing, the storing first and then issuing after (the curved and the straight) turns the li 力 into jin 勁, a dynamic force. Whereas Li Yiyu, in his “Five Words Formula”, is more concerned with the energetic aspect of the same thing.

What is your thought on this?

XJ
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:54 pm

I have been thinking since writing the last post, may be a better way to express what I was trying to say between Li and Wu's writing is Li was talking about the Principle/Body (Ti 体) and Wu was talking about the Function/Usage (Yong 用) of Taijiquan.
氣為体, 勁為用. But I am not sure if this will lead to further confusion than using the term of "energetic" and "mechanical" to differentiate between the writings of these two masters.
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby DPasek » Wed Jun 12, 2013 3:02 pm

extrajoseph wrote:According to what Li Yiyu has written, the Qi is transmitted to the fingers by first sinking it downward to the waist along the spinal bones (脊骨) by “contracting” (“he” 合) and then upward again along the spinal bones to the fingers through the should by “expanding” (“kai” 開).

The Qi is in fact not issued from the spine but is transmitted along the spinal column using the waist (thre dantian) as the “Taiji”, changing from the yin of “he” to the yang of “kai”, and then released to the limbs.

XJ

XJ,

Are you confident that Li Yiyu means that the Qi sinks to the Dantien ‘through’ the ‘spinal bones’ during ‘contracting’? My understanding of the flow of energy is that in Taijiquan it follows a similar path as in Qigong practices, that is, the Qi goes down the front (Ren channel) and up the back (Du channel). To me this also makes sense in terms of ‘contracting’ and ‘expanding’ since the muscles in the front of the torso are what are used to draw something towards you (‘contracting’) whereas the muscles on the back of the torso are used to extend and issue energy away from us (‘expanding’). The punctuation in Brennan’s translation allows for a reading that could be consistent with this cycle. If the ‘contracting’ is through the front of the torso, then energy could sink to and gather in the Dantien area (waist) where the cycle of energy rotation (Dantien rotation) would generate energy to the back (the Mingmen and spine).

Since I cannot translate Chinese, your understanding of this writing would be greatly appreciated.

Dan
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:01 pm

Hi Dan,

As far as I can read from the original Chinese text and from Brennan’s translation, Li Yuyi has not mentioned anything about the Ren and Du channels nor the qi goes down the front and up the back.

Louis wrote earlier that the role of the spine was mentioned in the fifth of his "Five-Word Formula" but Li Yuyi also mentioned it in the third of his "Five-Word Formula" (“You must cause the energy to collect into your spine”), as well as contracting/storing/rising and expanding/releasing/sinking have to do with the breath and not with the strength/force (li 力):

“三曰氣斂

3. The energy is COLLECTED.


氣勢散漫,便無含蓄,身易散亂,務使氣斂入脊骨。呼吸通靈,周身罔間。吸為合為蓄,呼為開為發,蓋吸則自然提得起,亦拏得人起,呼則自然沉得下,亦放得人出。此是以意運氣,非以力使氣也。If your energy is scattered, then it will not be stored, and your body will easily fall into disorder. You must cause the energy to collect into your spine. Inhaling and exhaling penetrates and enlivens, influencing every part of your body. Inhaling is contracting and storing. Exhaling is expanding and releasing. Since with inhaling there is a natural rising, take the opponent up. Since with exhaling there is a natural sinking, send the opponent away. This is the use of intention to move energy, not the use of exertion to force energy.”

It is interesting to note that Li Yuyi again used the term “spinal bones” 脊骨 and not just the spine, and also the term “lian ru” 斂入 can mean “draw into” and not just “store in”. So for the Qi to be drawn into the spinal column, one has to gather it first and then make yin yang with it by inhaling and exhaling, contracting and expanding, storing and releasing to circulate the qi (yun qi 運氣) up and down along the spinal column with the yi 意 (heart/mind or intention) and not with the li 力 (strength or force).

XJ
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby extrajoseph » Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:36 pm

In the fourth of Li Yuyi’s “Five-Word Formula”, he made the subtle distinction between the “spinal back” 脊背 and the “spinal bone” 脊骨, yet Brennan translated both as the spine.

“四曰勁整

4. The power is COMPLETE.

一身之勁,練成一家。分清虛實,發勁要有根源,勁起腳根,主於腰間,形於手指,發於脊背. 

The power of your whole body is trained to become a single unit, distinguishing clearly between empty and full. To issue power, there should be a source of it. Power starts from your heel, it is directed at your waist, and expresses at your fingers, issuing from your spine. “

I think that is a grave mistake because if we read Li’s writing in their context, there is a clear distinction made between the back of the body and the spinal column. From my understanding, I think Li Yuyi is telling us that the jin is issue from the back of the body including the spine, while the qi is circulate up and down along the spinal column, turning the static strength of li 力 into a dynamic force of jin 勁, through a clear yin yang differentiation between the substantial and the insubstantial 分清虛實, so we can fajin 發勁effectively.
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Re: Some reflections on Wild Horse Parts Mane

Postby DPasek » Wed Jun 12, 2013 8:02 pm

XJ,

It seems odd to me that the energy would go both down then up along the back (the spine). Brennan’s translation of Chen Yanlin addresses the ‘contain the chest’ with the sinking of the energy to the elixir field while ‘pluck up your back’ is associated with energy in the back. These seem consistent with the energy cycling down the front and up the back (stored for the ‘opportunity’ to release against the opponent?), and while nowhere that I am aware of are the Ren and Du channels mentioned in Taijiquan classic literature, it seems like this interpretation would be consistent with this cycle of energy.
含胸
Contain your chest:
胸略內涵,使氣沉丹田,否則氣擁胸際,上重下輕,脚跟易浮。
“Your chest is slightly shrugged inward, causing energy to sink to your elixir field. If your chest sticks out, then energy will swarm to your chest area, resulting in your upper body being heavy and your lower body being light, and your heels will easily float up.” [YCF]

拔背
Pluck up your back:
使氣貼於背,有蓄機待勢之功。
This causes energy to stick to your back, where it is stored in wait for the best opportunity.
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