Sorry for messing with your head!
"spring"... is the likely definition you will find in a dictionary for the original Chinese word quan2. Another word that appears often is "fountain."
Now, I recognize that the English words are not as simple as this, as your post points out; but it did seem to me that "spring" more clearly indicated that something should be coming up and out than with a well. For me, even a bubbling well does not necessary mean that anything concrete gets out of the hole. I was not conscious of the possibility of anything "welling up" until you pointed out the possibility of this interpretation. [QUOTE]</B>
I think that’s just it: the English words are not so simple. In modern English usage, it’s easy to think of “spring” having two or three definitions only. It’s the same with “well.” Until I consulted the dictionary I was content with my image of a rock lined vertical pit with water coming up into it (but not out). Words in English almost always mean multiple (2 -20+) different things, but modern English usage is so simplified.
Using the word “spring” as an example, the OED lists “spring” as 5 separate words (3 nouns, 2 verbs) and each of those words has multiple definitions, totaling 58 separate meanings for this single word (!), not including compounds like spring-flowers, spring-green, etc..
I’ve always hated the American Heritage College Dictionary for being too simple and never having the nuances I wanted for words I was looking up. The translators who developed “bubbling well” and “bubbling spring” may well have been aware of the nuances we’ve been unearthing; it’s just that common use tends to dull the awareness of other meanings. Even if we know meanings like “welling up” or “springing forth,” they are used so rarely in daily speech that it’s easy to forget or overlook them.
I think there’s another meaning that we’ve been skirting around. You mentioned “fountain.” Actually, there was one definition for “spring” in the OED that I overlooked, (and I don’t have access to it right now) but it was something more like “geyser.” [6/1 Here are some water-related definitions, see in particular 2.d.: “I. 1. The place of rising or issuing from the ground, the source or head, of a well, stream, or river; the supply of water forming such a source. Now rare. 2. a. A flow of water rising or issuing naturally out of the earth; a similar flow obtained by boring or other artificial means. b. A flow of water possessing special properties, esp. of a medicinal or curative nature. Usually with various distinguishing adjs., as chalybeate, hot, mineral, thermal, warm, etc. d. transf. A jet or spray of water. --rare.
I think this agrees with your research below:
I am also beginning to wonder about the term "bubbling," since many dictionaries use stronger terms (like "gushing") to translate the original word yong3. In other words, is the issue one of effervescence or displacement through space? I made a quick search in one of my Chinese-Chinese dictionaries and found the definition shui3 xiang4 shang4 mao4, which means something like "water issuing upward." I then looked up the entire term yong3 quan2 and found pen1 chu1 de yong3 shui3, which means "gushing/spouting/spurting spring water."
I am not sure what to make of all this, but think it is worth considering switching "bubbling" to something stronger, like "gushing" or "spouting." Perhaps, "gushing well-spring" covers the territory? [QUOTE]</B>
I think we need to be cautious when considering whether “bubbling” ought to be changed. I agree that it is possible for energy to gush, rush, or spout from this point. I experimented with this during forms practice yesterday morning and I think this is how fa jing operates—like high-pressure geyser shooting from the ground—but I think that “bubbling” adheres more to the tai chi chuan tradition of delicate understatement.
Moreover, I think a “bubbling well-spring” is a better image for daily practice. After all, it takes a very strong person to withstand, contain, and channel that much energy rushing around all the time. Geysers that gush, like Old Faithful at Yellowstone, put forth one violent burst of energy and then must rest for a while until enough pressure builds for it to burst forth again. I think it would be exhausting to run energy like a gushing well-spring and only the very adept could do it. “Bubbling” also brings to mind restraint—a continuous, regular, inexhaustible supply of energy that gradually builds and can issue at need. There are also geysers that bubble (mudpots) instead of gushing.
As far as effervescence vs. displacement goes, I think it’s both. For daily practice, the bubbling well-spring provides access to clear, fresh energy that runs through the system, cleansing and recharging it, bringing in a fresh effervescent energy (like putting your hand over a Jacuzzi jet). When necessary, someone with a clear and open system could open to allow a quick powerful upwelling of energy—the geyser spout of explosive energy release—but with out a clear and open system that’s free of energy blocks and tension, this kind of gushing is damaging and exhausting.
Gripping the floor with the toes just seemed like such an image of local, tense force that I was uncomfortable with this wording. [QUOTE]</B>
I know what you mean.... I found, however, that gripping with the toes can be done with intention instead of local force. There are several different ways I’ve felt it operate.
First, there’s the sense of “feeling the ground” —the way one does when standing barefoot in a mud-puddle, on sand, or in a rocky streambed. It gives you a sense of the terrain and lets you explore it with your toes to “listen” for how to align the body to maintain vertical structure on uneven or slippery terrain.
Second, in push hands, gripping with the toes helps me maintain my ground—more like locking around the root somehow. It is an area of tension, but it’s different from stiff-strength and un-relaxed tension because it’s maintained with the mind and the intent and is still responsive. It’s the same as the tension one uses to maintain a strong grip on the opponent that’s still flexible and responsive.
Third, it sometimes happens spontaneously. It’s a little like watching a cat knead its paws—it seems to arise from an instinctive internal impulse.
Fourth, I think there’s an energetic component to toe-gripping too, that I haven’t yet heard discussed, but there’s a very different internal feeling up my legs and into my torso when I grip with the toes. Also, in a different tradition (Wudan Gate?) there’s a chi gung exercise for training internal strength for martial artists that involves different variations of toe clenching, fist clenching, and teeth clenching. I don’t really remember the sequence and would not wish to offend the teacher who taught the friend who demonstrated it for me by sharing it here. I tried it once, but it gave me a headache. I could tell it was good for power generation, but at the time it was too strong for me.
Now to toilet plungers—again.
As for foot engagement and disengagement—yes, I feel that it’s quite precise. It’s not just the heel to ball to toe, it’s the center of the heel, and a gradual rolling along the center line of the foot to the bubbling well-spring, and then a kind of splaying that allows the toes to “wrap” around the bubbling well-spring, completing the contact with the ground on all sides around the center. This is how it feels to me anyway.
Moreover, going back to the circular structure of the plunger against the ground, having the force distributed this way allows one to roll around the edges, as it were. The handle contact with the rubber dome is a flexible point of contact, like the ankle. When our opponent applies some pressure and we receive it, we cannot always channel it down precisely through the bubbling well-spring. Having a foot “perimeter” like the rim of a plunger, can help us roll the incoming energy around the edges before returning it to the center, much the way a basketball can roll around the rim before dropping into the center (or falling outside). If we can keep the entire foot in contact with the ground, there’s much more stability for rolling the point of contact with the ground so that our feet are, quite literally, always under us. Moreover, this business of using the toes to grip the ground also reminds me of the suction applied with a plunger as well (this metaphor has a life of its own!). With all points in contact, it’s harder for your opponent to uproot you because the root is not only deeper; it’s also more flexible and enhanced by a kind of energetic suction in its contact with the ground.
Added 6/1: During standing meditation, I discovered that if the toes grip the ground (gently, with intention, not force) then this "vacuum seals" the foot and there's then a raising up sensation at the bubbling well-spring as though a gate opens and something is drawn upwards (like a old-fashioned pneumatic tube).
[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 06-01-2005).]