Hi Yuri and everyone,
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Well, I have been thinking a while about the "elongation" and came to an idea that "elongation/elongating" could be a reference to what in some books is called "drawing silk out" (chou si jin).</font>
This is an interesting idea; however, I think of them as related, but not the same. For me “elongation” and “[I]fang song[\i]” (“loosening out” or “relaxing”) are essentially the same thing. One of the ways I concentrate on doing this is to think of leaving my hands and limbs “behind” during certain transitions and letting my torso force the movement. This often smoothes out my movements and gives a feeling of “pulling taffy” or “drawing out silk threads.”
As for “course strength,” I understand it be an ingredient of “energy” (“jin(g)4”); however, maximizing “course strength is, of course, not the Taiji method for maximizing “energy.”
Think of a spring made from concrete or wrought iron. Because the material is stiff, the “spring” will have no resilience.
Think of a spring made of steel. Because the steel is [I]rou2[\i] (“soft,” or “elastic”), each point in the spring can transmit energy smoothly to every other point and the spring has resilience.
Think of a “spring” made from coils of rope. Because the rope has no strength ([I]li[\i]), the points on the spring are not unified and the “spring” will have no resilience.
The secret to creating energy, according to my understanding, is to remove some of the “stiffness” by which “course strength” is characterized. What is left behind is “energy.” If you start from the other end, with the limpness of a rope, then you have to put some strength in. Energy is a perfect blending of stiff and flexible, hard and soft
In reality, the standard Taiji training regimens concentrate on eliminating stiffness, but do so in a way that will naturally build up physical strength where needed, particularly in the legs. I also find that the idea of “elongation” is a way of avoiding the limpness of rope and making sure that the limbs feel full of energy. Elongating the limbs encourages a feeling of the tradeoffs between stiffness and flexibility.
My understanding is that, for Yang Zhenduo, [I]zhuo li[\i] does not literally equate to “muscular strength,” but rather to stiff and tight use of the muscles that causes them not to act in the unified way of the coils of a steel spring. In Pushing Hands, the idea would not be to avoid use of the muscles, but to use them in a particular and unified way. A secondary principle is that you generally do not want to expose yourself by emitting a great deal of energy that could be turned against you. The idea is either to use the opponent’s energy as much as possible or to emit energy only when the opponent is “double weighted” and thus helpless to adapt.
I have used the coils of a spring as my analogy here, but I think this image can also be limiting. I think similar points could be made using the points on a long bow, the links of a chain on a suspension bridge, a waterbed, or a beach ball.