Reference Points

Postby JerryKarin » Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:34 pm

It's like when you learn to write. You are given paper with an extra line in the middle and you learn to line up the tops of some lower case letters with this extra line. But eventually we need to put aside these crutches if we are going to write smoothly and fluently. In the beginning of learning taiji of course you line up hand with foot, check this, note that, etc. But eventually if you don't let go of that to some extent, you reach a plateau and can't make any more progress, because the secret, which is out in the open but most don't see it, is intent. Just like learning to walk or play guitar, in the beginning you are breaking down everything into intermediate steps, consciously lifting the foot, shifting the weight here, etc. But to walk smoothly you exercise intent and let the autonomic systems take care of the details.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:08 pm

I think Jerry is trying to say: Just do it!
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Nov 07, 2009 3:14 am

I'm trying to say that using 'reference points' to get everything lined up, while useful and unavoidable for a beginner, may be detrimental at this stage of the game for most of us here - non beginners - and that imagining, visualizing where you want to go, thinking peng and watching your leg shoot up, using consciousness to guide what should by now be well conditioned patterns and reflexes, may be what the doctor ordered.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:49 pm

That's what I said you said...
I think.
Sort of. ;o)
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Postby Audi » Wed Nov 11, 2009 2:25 am

Greetings all,

I do not have time for a full response, but I think that for the Association's Taijiquan, "feelings" and "intention" are very important; however, these are not just any feelings or any intentions. The nature of the Jin does not come from the position or even the movement of the limbs, but how the mind is using them. Since small differences in pressure, reaction, and speed can matter, only the active mind can design what is needed with feedback from the senses.

As for whether I can forget about the physical and simply rely on "intent," I think that I look at things differently. For me, the physical, mental, and "spiritual" are intertwined in Taijiquan. I still find value in some of the very earliest practices and very earliest principles I learned. I think I understand them more deeply, but I do not feel I have completely outgrown them.

For me, "intent" is not something I can just have in my head and let the rest of my body move on automatic. Every part of my body must have intent. It is less like walking and more like swimming, or standing on one leg. Movement based on unconscious habits or muscle memory is not enough for me.
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:48 pm

Here's an example. At seminars Yang Zhenduo used to do a horse stance, then pivot on a heel so one toe faced out 45 degrees. He would then drag the other foot straight forward into a bow stance. All this to show the correct spacing between the feet. Now after seeing this we would all check the spacing for a while but eventually you just know how that feels, know how to step, and don't check any more unless there is some special reason. If you continue to check this spacing for every move, your focus is always there and so you exclude other things. What I am suggesting is there is a hierarchy of what you focus on as you do the form. If you are forever stuck in lower levels, you can't reach the higher ones. Just like learning a language. In the beginning you are looking up nearly every word in the dictionary. In order to make progress you must memorize and assimilate the meanings of words so you no longer need to be consciously asking questions about them. This frees up your attention for more subtle things.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited November 11, 2009).]
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Postby Audi » Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:26 am

Hi Jerry,

Yes, I know what practice you are referring to. I actually still use it to check every now and then and ask others to do the same when I am in teaching mode. Even so, I also do not find it helpful while I am actually doing form.

While I am doing the form and in a posture that calls for a bow stance, I do however occasionally feel for whether the Jin from each foot can go straight into the corresponding shoulder and/or arm. I think of the Preparation Posture as establishing a stable norm, with the shoulders, torso, hips, legs, and feet as outlining a stable rectangle. I feel for this norm in many spots throughout the form. This is what I mean by "reference" point. In a way, I am probably simply rediscovering what people seem to refer to as the "six correspondences" (liu he); however, I did not realize that these were things that could be felt for.

I think that some people see things like Qi, Jin, Shen, and Yi as concepts that can be added to martial techniques to enhance them and make them more in line with Tai Chi principles. I personally do not find this point of view helpful, because I believe that everybody uses these things in all martial arts, though usually not consciously and not skillfully. For me, the question is not whether to use Yi (intent), but how to use it. My question about "reference points" is motivated by the search for ways of determining whether my Yi is actually correct at any given moment.

Let me give an example. Once I was demonstrating Brush Knee for one of my teachers. He said that the appearance of my form was very standard; however, he felt that my strike did not really use my back and so wasn't really using internal energy.

At first, I was a little surprised at what seemed like a suggestion to think about my back, rather than my hand, but then I recalled that the classics talk about "sticking Qi to the spine." Since receiving this correction, I usually try to check if I can indeed feel that Qi is available in spine. For me, using Yi means that I can feel the important role my back will play in the hand strike, rather than positioning my palm and elbow based merely on memory and habit.
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:29 am

I don't know, Audi, sounds to me like you have it backwards. The idea is where the yi goes, the qi goes. So we are not trying to produce qi, but rather qi follows our intention. By the way the qi sticking to spine idea comes from hanxiong babei. If you do those, the qi will stick, not the other way around. We don't 'stick qi to our spine', rather it sticks because of something else.

Part of what I am trying to get at here is that things like looking in a mirror are great to help tune up your form. But if you always look in the mirror, you can't really do it right, because your focus is on a crutch rather than the real focus - striking, kicking, turning, advancing, deflecting etc. Sometimes somebody will ask you to demonstrate something and you can't really do it right because you are looking at them, or self-conscious, or whatever. To do it right you have to go for it wholeheartedly, giving yourself over completely to the task (Bob calls this 'just do it!'). To my mind it is hard to do it wholeheartedly while thinking of reference points, useful as they may be at times.



[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited November 11, 2009).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:51 am

Consciousness is like this:

0

Everything outside of a narrow circle is excluded. To focus is to exclude. But if your focus in this circle jumps from reference point to check my feet to is my waist working, etc. etc this is all far away from striking, kicking, advancing, turning. In order to focus on striking, we have to assimilate and internalize many little skills, and in order to build on those we need to absorb them and then let go of them, let them happen at a lower level than the conscious while we focus on striking.
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Postby Yuri_Snisarenko » Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:04 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">While I am doing the form and in a posture that calls for a bow stance, I do however occasionally feel for whether the Jin from each foot can go straight into the corresponding shoulder and/or arm. I think of the Preparation Posture as establishing a stable norm, with the shoulders, torso, hips, legs, and feet as outlining a stable rectangle. I feel for this norm in many spots throughout the form. This is what I mean by "reference" point. In a way, I am probably simply rediscovering what people seem to refer to as the "six correspondences" (liu he); however, I did not realize that these were things that could be felt for.
</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Audi. Liuhe - 六合 is indeed one of the main principle of YCF style and one of the oldest trademarks of neijia (inner family) - namely the body methods that were unique for daoists martial arts. Just compare the way people try to move in neijia with some of shaolin styles, where sometimes there are much less restrictions for "limbs feints" and you'll see the difference and the meaning of this principle more clearly.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I think that some people see things like Qi, Jin, Shen, and Yi as concepts that can be added to martial techniques to enhance them and make them more in line with Tai Chi principles. I personally do not find this point of view helpful, because I believe that everybody uses these things in all martial arts, though usually not consciously and not skillfully. For me, the question is not whether to use Yi (intent), but how to use it. My question about "reference points" is motivated by the search for ways of determining whether my Yi is actually correct at any given moment.</font>


I think you are right here. And that's why the different branches of Yang style exist - the form is an expression of attitude.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Let me give an example. Once I was demonstrating Brush Knee for one of my teachers. He said that the appearance of my form was very standard; however, he felt that my strike did not really use my back and so wasn't really using internal energy.
At first, I was a little surprised at what seemed like a suggestion to think about my back, rather than my hand, but then I recalled that the classics talk about "sticking Qi to the spine." Since receiving this correction, I usually try to check if I can indeed feel that Qi is available in spine. For me, using Yi means that I can feel the important role my back will play in the hand strike, rather than positioning my palm and elbow based merely on memory and habit.
</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
I think probably some additional explanations of the inner work in YCF style particularly and in neijia generally from your teacher would be helpful - in neijia before one " really uses internal energy" as you mentioned above one needs to get something inside - that's one of the reasons it's called neijia. The spine may play certain role but if one has nothing inside then it would be more like a boat without wind IMHO.


[This message has been edited by Yuri_Snisarenko (edited November 12, 2009).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:38 pm

OK so here is my suggestion when you have an issue such as Audi brought up above:

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
I thought of another example doing my practice a few days ago. While I was doing the "Push" after Embrace Tiger and Return to the Mountain, I decided to look down and check my direction and noticed that I was off with respect to my legs. Then I wondered what "reference" I must have been using to make the error. Was my torso wrong, or did I step to the wrong direction? Did I "aim" at the wrong part of the room? Did I rely on the wrong visual cue? Should I not have used visual cues at all?

This turn is a little problematic for our form because it is short of the standard corner or 45-degree direction. During our form, we normally try to stay facing the "cardinal" directions, so that turns are normally 45, 90, 135, 180, or 270 degrees. In a few postures, such as Carry the Tiger, Return to the Mountain, we turn somewhat less or somewhat more than a 45-degree increment and can have trouble making sure the body is suitably coordinated.

What would you suggest is the best method to use in this case? What reference should you use to know in what direction to push? I know that I use the position of the left leg as the reference for knowing where to step out with my right leg, but am now wondering about the direction of the striking left hand. Should I use some point in the room? Some point in my body? Some feeling in my body?</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Isolate this piece of the form and practice it over and over. Work on it until you have it together and can do it in your sleep. Otherwise, every time you come to this spot in the form your consciousness is going to be distracted by it and instead of thinking about the intent of the move, you will think about where the feet go etc. I think this approach is different in a general way from what Audi is proposing, ie to have handrails and guides and reference points all along. If you use scaffolding like that I think it is fair to ask: when are you going to get past those? Ever? Does Yang Jun do that when he practices? I doubt it.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited November 12, 2009).]
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Nov 13, 2009 9:37 pm

Audi,
I have a suggestion for you that may seem slightly off the topic, but I feel it may help you and that it really is more on topic that it will first appear.
Do some freestyle.
That was the advice I received a couple of years ago from Bill when I was obsessing over a particular form movement that was eluding me.
I kept working on that form (it was Fair Lady Works Shuttles) over and over and I just could not seem to remember the sequence of it correctly.
His suggestion was to just let go of the form, forget about and any other forms, per se, and just go have some fun with movement.
For reference he sent me a link to a Youtube clip of Yang Jun doing a form somewhere in China (go to youtube, type "Yang Jun" in the search bar, it shows up on the first page). If you watch the form, it is amazingly detailed and accurate.
But...
It is NOT any of the traditional Yang family forms. All of the elements are there, even down to some familiar looking sequences, but the form in not the 103, the 49 or any other form I've ever seen.
It is completely "freestyle".
I didn't think I could do that myself, my first name not being "Master" after all, but my teacher had suggested this to me so I gave it a whirl.
I absolutely LOVED it.
I found myself quite frequently falling into familiar patterns at first, doing jumbled sequences from the long form instead of doing anything really "freestyle", but after a couple of months I found that I could just start moving and after a while the principles of Tai Chi Chuan just came out of me seemingly on their own.
Now my freestyle forms are getting more and more truly freestyle and I can just move around and do what feels good with some very good results in terms of energy expression.
I find myself thinking more in terms of what I want to happen than what I "should" be doing for a form movement.

Why is this on topic?
Because by losing those "reference points" I had always slavishly followed I have begun to move beyond thinking only in terms of "should my foot be here, my arm be there?" and have started to just move and make things happen energetically with no regard for how my body does them but more regard for what I am trying to do.
Now when I do the long form I find I am always thinking more in terms of what I want the form to do, not in terms of how to do the form.

Bob
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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Nov 15, 2009 2:15 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Because by losing those "reference points" I had always slavishly followed I have begun to move beyond thinking only in terms of "should my foot be here, my arm be there?" and have started to just move and make things happen energetically with no regard for how my body does them but more regard for what I am trying to do.
Now when I do the long form I find I am always thinking more in terms of what I want the form to do, not in terms of how to do the form.</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Bob, yes, this is what I am trying to talk about!

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited November 14, 2009).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:10 am

Andy Lee had a dinner party at a restaurant years ago and Yang Zhenduo and several students were there. Susanna DeRosa (hope I spelled that right) asked Yang Zhenduo to explain a bit more about 'matching up inner and outer'. Chris Pei was translating for Yang Zhenduo then but he was away from the table making a phone call or something and I translated, so the incident has stuck in my mind all these years; it was really the first time I tried interpreting for Yang Zhenduo. What he said was: when you see actors in a play, how do you know they are good actors, their acting is good? You know it is good when they convey the content of the roles they are portraying: the feelings, emotions, the motivations, the essence of their characters. Taiji is like this. How do we know if someone is doing taiji well? We know it by how well they show the content of taiji. And what is the content? Martial arts. Attacking, defending, and so on. If we see that the person doing taiji is actually displaying the content, the martial intention of the move, then we know it is being done well. He expressed this more eloquently than I am managing here but this is the gist of what he said.


[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited November 14, 2009).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:22 am

Match Up Inner and Outer

What we are practicing in taiji depends on the spirit, hence the saying: "The spirit is the general, the body his troops". If you can raise your spirit, your movements will naturally be light and nimble, the form nothing more than empty and full, open and closed. When we say 'open', we don't just mean open the arms or legs; the mental intent must open along with the limbs. When we say 'close', we don't just mean close the arms or legs; the mental intent must close along with the limbs. If you can combine inner and outer into a single impulse (literally 'a single qi'), then they become a seamless whole.
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