A Question of Translation

A Question of Translation

Postby extrajoseph » Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:24 am

In the video link posted by UniTaiChi, Master Gao Zhongfei wrote these words on the blackboard, how would you translate them?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtNcBci3 ... e=youtu.be

拳無拳 quan wu quan
意無意 yi wu yi
有意無意 you yi wu yi
是真意 shi zhen yi
有形皆是假 you xing jie shi jia
無形才是真 wu xing cai shi zhen
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby extrajoseph » Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:19 am

May be with this video of Mater Gao presenting tuishou we can understand better what he meant by these words:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP5RJqBA97U
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:54 am

Greetings Extra,

This appears several times in Sun Lutang's writings. He introduces it with the phrase 拳經云, "the boxing classic says." I'm not familiar with whatever source he's citing, but I'm fairly certain it's a Xingyi oral formula. You'll find it in several spots in Sun's book, 拳意述真, translated in Paul Brennan's online version here: http://brennantranslation.wordpress.com ... -teachers/

Just search the text for 拳無拳 -- it comes up several times. It differs slightly, however, from what Gao Zhongfei wrote. The formula Sun quotes is:

拳無拳。
意無意。
無意之中。
是真意。

Take care,
Louis
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby extrajoseph » Thu Jun 27, 2013 7:42 am

Hi Louis,

Thank you for your feedback, I could not understand Master Gao’s words and started to wonder if I know my Chinese characters at all!

有意無意, 是真意 don’t make sense to me at all and Sun’s quote that you have highlighted 拳無拳, 意無意. 無意之中, 是真意, makes perfect sense to me.

What are your thoughts on Master Gao’s last two lines 有形皆是假, 無形才是真?

Your comments are much appreciated.

XJ
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:57 pm

Greetings XJ,

Those last two lines strike me as Buddhist, but I really don't know where they come from or why they don't appear in the formula Sun quoted.

I would roughly translate:

有形皆是假, [phenomena] having form (i.e. visible, tangible) are all false
無形才是真 [phenomena] without form are true (or genuine)

Again, it seems rather Buddhist in meaning. I don't think it quite fits in with taiji theory, but that's just my impression. On the other hand, it has something of the flavor of Sunzi's Art of Warfare. See the line in chapter six: 故形兵之極,至于無形;無形,則深間不能窺,智者不能謀。Ames translates, "The ultimate skill in taking up a strategic position (形) is to have no form (無形). If your position is formless, the most carefully concealed spies will not be able to get a look at it, and the wisest counsellors will not be able to lay plans against it." (Roger Ames, trans., Sun-tzu: The Art of Warfare, pp. 122/126) The term 無形 appears several times in the 虛實 chapter of Sunzi. See the whole text here with Giles' translation: http://ctext.org/art-of-war/weak-points ... B%E6%9E%81

Take care,
Louis
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby extrajoseph » Fri Jun 28, 2013 7:51 am

Hi Louis,

Thank you for your further explanations, I have the same feeling that Master Gao’s sayings don’t quite fit in with Taijiquan skill. Without form or no-form (wuxing 無形) has more to do with a fighting strategy or a Buddhist philosophy (I have seen this phrase “有形有相皆是假,无形无相才是真”in the explanation to the Diamond Sutra) than with the movements of the body in Taijiquan.

Taijiquan by definition has to do with finding a balance between the Yin and the Yang in movements, between the Insubstantial and the Substantial, the Soft and the Hard, the Internal and the External, between No-mind and Mind, between No-form and Form.

Without Form there is no “Quan” (fist) to speak about, it will be too Yin to be effective. Chen Xiaowang in his “Five levels of skills in Taijiquan” wrote about how to strive to find this Yin and Yang balance:

http://www.chenjiagou.net/NetworkSchool ... SpecialID=

一阴九阳跟头棍, 


二阴八阳是散手, 


三阴七阳尤觉硬,
四阴六阳类好手, 


唯有五阴并五阳, 


阴阳不偏称妙手。

But he also said: 第五层功夫是由小圈而无圈,也就是由形归无迹的阶段 - In the fifth level of skill it went from the small circle to the no-circle, that is a stage (of training) going from form to return to no trace (of its movements) - so may be in this sense “without form” really means “without (traceable) form” 无(迹)形 and not just use the Yi 意 (formless intention) without the Xing 形 (physical form), as in Lingkong Jin (Miraculous Empty Force), which strictly speaking is against the Taijiquan principles in my point of view, and I have yet to find anyone to be able to do this to me without touching me.

What are your thoughts on this?

Regards,
XJ
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:39 pm

Greetings XJ,

Ah, we discussed that formula (I believe first published in Chen Xin's 1933 book) here back in 2003 on the "Empty and Full" discussion thread: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=673&p=8189&hilit=guttmann#p8189

You may enjoy reading through that thread.

The whole formula appears on p. 294 of Taijiquan pu. Here's how I translated it:

Purely yin without yang, this is soft hand,
Purely yang without yin, this is hard hand;
One part yin nine parts yang, this is basically (gen) a cudgel (tougun),
Two parts yin eight parts yang, this is confused hand;
Three parts yin seven parts yang, this still feels hard,
Four parts yin six parts yang, this is clearly a good hand!
Only (wei) in having five yin and five yang, with yin and yang balanced, is it called marvelous hand!
With marvelous hand, one touch (zhuo) is one taiji, completely without a trace, changing to return to nothing.

I don't have the time at the moment to key in the missing part from what you quoted from Chen Xiaowang.

--Louis
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby UniTaichi » Sat Jun 29, 2013 3:02 pm

extrajoseph wrote:Hi Louis,

有意無意, 是真意 don’t make sense to me at all and Sun’s quote that you have highlighted 拳無拳, 意無意. 無意之中, 是真意, makes perfect sense to me.

XJ


Hi XJ,

Would you like to elaborate what you can make out of the (Sun's ) quote.

thks,
UniTaichi
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby extrajoseph » Sat Jun 29, 2013 10:17 pm

Hi UniTaiChi,

Sun’s quote is very difficult to translate but I will give it a shot:

拳無拳, Strike without a fixed routine
意無意. React without any anticipation
無意之中是真意. Between intention and no-intention is the true mindfulness.

To me this saying describes the highest level of gongfu, when fighting an opponent (or in pushhands), there is no fixed routine, no deliberate intention or anticipation, just natural reaction and action.

After years and years of training in a fixed form/routine, the movements become formless and routine-less. After years and years of intention and mindfulness in practices, the conscious movements become natural actions and reactions.

The body and the mind become one without the need to think consciously of what to do when being attacked, and as a result your movements seem divine 神明 to your opponent.

That is how I understood this quote. I am open to other ideas both in translation and interpretation.

XJ
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby UniTaichi » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:02 am

Hi XJ

First thank you for the translation and interpretation. Two points I would like to add. 1st. IMO, both verse have the same meaning. Only Sun's uses simipler words compared to Gao's. In fact, I believed you translated Gao's version instead. Pls see verse below which I merge both ;

有意無意(之中) 是真意 Between intention and no-intention is the true mindfulness.

Your intention to translated Sun's verse but un-intentionally translated Gao's. 8)

More to come but post first before server cut me off , again.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby UniTaichi » Sun Jun 30, 2013 8:40 am

Hi,

I came across this verse found in the translation of THE VOICES OF SUN LUTANG TEACHERS, Liu Qilan said part 3.;

不空而空。是謂真空 “Empty but not empty, not empty but empty – this is known as true emptiness.”

If you replace empty with intention, it structure and meaning is the same.

2nd point, which might deflate some ego, is the Level of understanding. Stage would be a better word. As I have said in some of my posts, the same phrase have different meaning to those at different stage of development. imo, What was translated and interpretated is correct at that stage of development but not the highest or end stage in kungfu or martial art.

They are quite a few quote that are interesting similar to below from the translation of THE VOICES OF SUN LUTANG TEACHERS.
// When you have drilled the boxing to the point of nothingness, then you have in the boxing the condition of no intention, and then you can be one with the “grand emptiness” [the universe in its essence]. Thus you will act with such subtlety that you cannot be fathomed, and you will then have become a rare one indeed.//

All of them different masters advise to adopt the practice of the mind/spirit and return to emptiness/void/wuji as the highest stage in Internal martial art.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby extrajoseph » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:58 pm

有意無意(之中) 是真意 Between intention and no-intention is the true mindfulness.

Your intention to translated Sun's verse but un-intentionally translated Gao's.


Hmm, I see what you mean, UniTaiChi, I should have translated 無意之中。是真意。as "Within no-intention is the true mindfulness."

The missing characters 之中 in Gao's words threw me off the track.

Thanks,

XJ
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby extrajoseph » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:11 pm

All of them different masters advise to adopt the practice of the mind/spirit and return to emptiness/void/wuji as the highest stage in Internal martial art.


This is where we have a difference of opinion, to me the highest stage in martial art, both internal and external is to be shenming 神明 or to have the clarity of the spirit.

In Joseph Adler's article quoted by Louis elsewhere: http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/F ... uality.htm

it is said:

When the mind's capacity for psycho-physical intercourse with things -- its ability to penetrate, enter into, or pervade things, even in some cases the minds of others -- is developed to the highest degree, it is called "spiritual" (shen), or "spiritual clarity" (shenming). Thus Zhu Xi said:

Mind is human spiritual clarity (shenming). It is that by which one embodies the multitudinous principle and responds (ying) to the myriad phenomena.

Mind endows a person with "spiritual clarity" when its qi is purified enough to be able to penetrate all things and to conform, respond, or resonate with their principles. Shen in this sense is the finest, most free-flowing qi, with the capacity for unlimited responsiveness and penetration. The potential to be shen is inherent in all qi, but in humans it functions most clearly in the mind of the Sage.


To me, to "return to emptiness/void/wuji" is meaningless, you can't do anything with it, but that is only my personal opinion.

XJ
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby Audi » Tue Jul 02, 2013 3:40 am

Greetings all.

Hmm, I see what you mean, UniTaiChi, I should have translated 無意之中。是真意。as "Within no-intention is the true mindfulness."

I agree with your overall point, but wonder about the specifics. I think you lose an essential part of the meaning by using two different translations of 意. I personally also do not interpret 意 as " mindfulness" or "intention." I would translate it as "within no-intent is the true intent." For me what is interesting about this is that it puts having the "true intent" above having "no intent."

As for an emphasis on Wuji over Taiji, I think of this as characteristic of a legitimate Daoist approach it Tai Chi; however, I personally do not share this emphasis. As I understand I it, the version of Tai Chi I study draws on various aspects of traditional Chinese culture and philosophy, but does not put any one of them over the others overall, even though it does emphasize one approach over another for specific parts of the theory. At the moment, I can think of many, many times my teachers have referred to details of the Taij in explaining various things, but no times when Wuji was emphasized. I also have heard various times when the concept of Shenming was discussed in detail and so would also put that at the top or near the top of my goals as XJ has mentioned.

I have also heard discussion of no-form versus form in the context of our particular method. To me, it was clear that no-form was superior to form, but that the way to no-form was through form and was warned against trying to dismiss or de-emphasize form without really learning it first. From my observation, the challenge posed by our simple and "easy" form is several orders of magnitude greater than most even experienced practitioners assume and that several decades of practice is no guaranty that a person won't make clear mistakes in almost every postures, even if still making progress in overall skill and ability.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: A Question of Translation

Postby UniTaichi » Tue Jul 02, 2013 5:54 am

Hi Audi,

Yes. I agreed that the word used should be ''intent'' ''no-intent'' and ''true intent'' . :D

It is good that we can agreed on what word to use.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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