Thanks for the details of your Single Whip applications. Interesting possibilities.
I am not sure what to say about the differences you observe among the three Yangs’ performance of Single Whip. Since I do not have the pictures you refer to in front of me I cannot comment directly. However, I am pretty certain that in the pictures I recall of Yang Chengfu in the commonly seen poster series and in Yang Zhenduo’s new Chinese book, and in Fu Zhongwen’s book, Yang Chengfu’s torso is facing south-southeast, with his feet shoulder-width apart. One thing to notice is the position of the left shoulder. If he were facing due south, his left hand could not face due east without closing his left shoulder blade.
I find your comment interesting about some practitioners not adjusting the left foot between the end of Single Whip and the end of Lifting Hands. I have seen this done with two different methods. First, in the Cheng Man-Ch’ing form, the left foot is not adjusted, because the following empty stance maintains a 90-degree angle between the feet, with the left foot pointing due east and the right foot due south. I have never heard an explanation for this extreme angle.
The other method I have seen is by angling the entire final posture of Single Whip 45 degrees to the right of the way most people do it. This is accomplished from the Push posture by pivoting the right foot only 90 degrees, to due south, rather than 135 degrees to southeast. The left leg then steps out so that the heels end up more or less on a line going from east to west, but the shoulder-width channel remains on a northeast to southwest diagonal. From this position, no adjustment is necessary to move into Lifting Hands facing due south.
I recall seeing a performance on video of either Fu Zhongwen or Fu Shengyuan where a similar method was used for Ward Off Left and Right. From the Beginning Posture, the right foot was pivoted 90 degrees, rather than 45, and the left foot stretched out to southwest, rather than to south. The torso was then easily angled to the south and no adjustment was necessary to move into Ward Off Right facing west. I seem to recall reading a statement somewhere, perhaps in one of Yang Jwing-Ming’s many books, that Ward Off Left and Right were originally performed “to the same direction” and that the direction of Ward Off Left was changed for aesthetic reasons. I have seen no support for this elsewhere, but have seen applications that link the two moves together in the same direction. Also, during at least one seminar, Yang Zhenduo called specific attention to repeated instances of a transitory unnamed Ward Off Left that occurs in the form whenever Grasp Sparrow’s Tail is performed without the Ward Off Left performed to the south, for instance, following Punch to the Groin and the westward Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch.
Hans-Peter, you also pose an interesting question about full and empty with respect to Single Whip, Fan through the Back, etc. Alas, I have neither figured this one out nor heard a good theoretical explanation. I can think of no theory that accounts for the distribution of “full” and “empty” in the arms and legs in both High Pat on Horse with Thrusting Palm and Brush Left Knee. Similarly, the only way I know to do Pluck is with the main strength in the arm over the leg supporting my weight.
The only observations I have are that in all the postures that appear to violate the principle of an empty hand matching a full foot seem to involve opposing arm movements and a torso angled to the side, at least in Yang Zhenduo’s form. Of course, Repulse Monkey and Chop with Fist, which appear consistent with the general principle, also involve opposing arm movements and an angled torso. Again I remain puzzled and have abandoned this particular principle for the moment as a tool for “distinguishing full and empty.”
A further complication for me is that I have never heard a clear definition of what determines whether a hand or arm is “full/solid” or “empty.” Also, I recall somewhere in the classics about advice about when to attach to the “full” side or “empty” side of an opponent. Does this refer to the opponent’s legs or arms?
For distinguishing full and empty, I am currently relying on feeling the movement inherent in the various structures of the postures. As I understand it “distinguishing full and empty” primarily concerns avoiding stasis and lack of energy movement. For instance, in Fan through the Back, the hands and arms approximate a pulling structure similar to what one does in drawing a bow. At the end of Fan through the Back, the mind reaches for a different structure during the turn, like a tornado swirling clockwise into a big beach ball with compressive/expansive energy in front the chest. The left forearm bounces the opponent’s technique outward to the left and upward, and the right arm bounces the opponent’s other technique downward with the inner right forearm. The arms are roughly circular. As the pressure is relieved, the circle uncurls into another pulling structure for the back fist portion of Chop with Fist.
I apply this now to Pushing Hands by reasoning that if my own body is in dynamic equilibrium, forward and backward, left and right, etc. must be represented fully in my own body. I can incorporate the opponent’s energy into this equilibrium, but must retain the kernels of dynamic opposition within my own “energy” sphere. If, for example, I am both “forward” and “forward” or “left” and “left,” I can no longer circulate energy, I become static, and the opponent now controls one of the two kernels of my energy circuit and owns the keys to my equilibrium. If I have opposite qualities in my body, my opponent is always feeding energy into a moving circle or circuit.
If you have any better insights into “full” and “empty,” please share them.
In my question about applications in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail, I was asking specifically about the transition before and after Press, because I cannot come up with plausible movements of the opponent that match the form movement.
In one book I have, the application offered is that the opponent defeats your Press by shifting weight backward, moving the waist counterclockwise, and lifting the technique high with Ward Off. As the opponent then tries to shift forward and punch under his or her left arm to your midsection with his or her right fist, you then shift backward and guide the opponent’s left Ward Off arm in a backwards and downward circle to smother the punch. Using the opponent’s arm to smother his or her own technique sounds interesting, but sounds problematical against someone using a style of fighting that automatically chambers the passive arm, such as in Karate.
You seem to suggest that the opponent counters Press in some way that allows you to grasp his right wrist with your left hand and put your left palm on his right elbow. What is the opponent doing to allow this? Is he or she trying to Press with the right arm in Ward Off and the left palm thrusting? How does he or she counter the Push in a way that makes the beginning of the Single Whip transition meaningful?