For those of you who may be relatively knew to this discussion board, I wanted to mention that we have discussed this issue twice before. The most recent time was on this forum on a thread entitled Sticking vs. Adhering
. An earlier more extensive discussion was on a thread entitled Posture Names
on the Barehand Forum, beginning with a post dated 6/20/2001.
In the earlier thread, we discussed Zhang Yun's article, which I also liked and still like very much. As much as I do like his treatment of the subject, I have, however, begun to wonder whether the focus of his article is a little different from what I have been taught.
Zhang Yun's article appears to discuss zhan-nian-lian-sui in the context of a competitive freestyle push hands session. I have begun to believe, however, that the skills in question are equally supposed to be manifest, usually in combination, within individual applications, whether of push hands or otherwise. In other words, it may be less about what you do over ten to twenty seconds of freestyle push hands, and more about how you execute an individual application.
For instance, if you were to use an application based on the Push of Grasp Sparrow's tail, you could use sui
to follow the opponent's force as it approaches you. You can then use hua
to change the force and lead it into emptiness. You could then use zhan
to lead the opponent into excess and to lose her root. You could then use lian
to stay connected as she tries to change defensively. You could then use nian
to prevent her from changing effectively. You could then finally issue in total safety and with total effectiveness, at least in theory. I am not sure if I have the energies right in this particular example, but hopefully am still conveying the idea.
If I had to describe what are key concepts about Yang Style Taijiquan, at least as represented by the Association, I would point to the concepts of zhan-nian-lian-sui for the push hands/combat theory and to "self-aware movement" (zhijue yundong) for the form movement theory.
If you take to heart the idea of sticking and following and try to add them to the idea of ¡°self-aware movement¡± in the form movements, I think there are literally hundreds of small form details that can take on new meanings and deepen your practice. It also becomes easier to understand why extreme precision is desired even in transitional movements..
Consider for example the Press of Grasp Sparrow's Tail. This movement is an effective push hands application; however, to executive it effectively in the fashion shown in the form, you need to use Adhering and Connecting to set up the correct energy flow. Without Adhering, you cannot borrow enough force to overcome the opponent's root. Without Connecting, you dissipate whatever force you have borrowed.
Consider the rightward redirection of Deflect Downward Parry and Punch. Without Connecting, the opponent can disengage and successfully retreat to launch another attack. Without Sticking, the opponent can withdraw his left arm and easily strike again.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Zhang Luping taught to act like you are spreading something viscous (like honey) on your opponent/partner. See how this affects their movements/postures. Initially you may want to do this large, i.e. with your palm actually sliding over the partner¡¯s flesh, but this can be gradually reduced such that there is no slipping.</font>
I can see how this might be an effective visualization and an effective training technique. It is an intriguing visualization. I think, however, that the Association's training method may be a little different. From the very beginning, you are not allowed to slide or slip at all (except for pivoting around a single point). In addition to the macro-level movement, you are supposed to pay attention to this micro-level quality of contact. In this view, any sliding or slipping indicates a failure to stick and, in the ¡°traditional practice,¡± authorized your partner to deviate from the normal push hands rules and strike you. I view our practice as basically an exercise in learning the uses and consequences of light and medium physical pressure. Slipping or sliding dissipates pressure.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>They say give oneself up to ones partner, but I assume this cannot be literal completely?
Since one must maintain ones own root?
Would be a correct assumption?</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
To understand what this reference means in Taijiquan, I think it is essential to ponder and understand the full import of what Sunzi was getting at in Chapter 6, line 17 of the Art of War
and to understand the concept of empty and full. According to my understanding, ¡°Giving up yourself and following the other¡± has nothing to do with surrender, giving up your root, being passive, or even being empty. It has to do with putting your faith in the fact that no initiative you take based on yourself is safe. Instead, you want your opponent to take the initiative and reveal his empty and full. If he completely reveals his empty and full to you and you have the requisite knowledge, he cannot protect himself from your attack. If he defends the left, the right is exposed. If he defends the right, the left is exposed, etc. If you use the opponent¡¯s initiative for your purposes, he cannot use it for his.
More concretely, consider the practice of the basic single arm, horizontal circle. In practical terms, this exercise has little in the way of application. Even this little, however, may hide quite a lot of potential and illustrate why offense and defense should be dynamic.
I think it is easy to make two mistakes in the single-arm horizontal circling that can obscure its relationship to zhan-nian-lian-sui. First, I think it is easy to think of it simply as drawing a circle pattern in the air. This violates the idea of ¡°forgetting yourself¡± and will obscure the interplay of energy. A circle is indeed drawn, but only indirectly through the actions and reactions of you and your partner. Although I think that the concept of zhan-nian-lian-sui means the most during applications, I think it is also intended to be experienced in the circling as well.
The second mistake is to see the circle simply as an alternation in attack and defense, thinking, ¡°I push, and my partner will try to deflect it. She will then push and give me a turn at deflecting.¡± Although yin and yang have an aspect of alternation, the doctrine of the Taiji, as I understand it, means that yin can never depart from yang and yang can never depart from yin. In other words, as you move through a complete circle, you can ¡°attack¡± not only by shifting the weight forward and pushing, but also by shifting weight backward and using Adhering and turning the waist. You defend not only by retreating backward, but also by advancing forward and using Sticking to complicate your opponent¡¯s withdrawal. With this view, you are always moving toward an attack and always developing a defense as you move around the circle. What happens is not a simple alternation, but rather an ebb and flow and a dynamic ¡°complementarity¡± between various techniques.
I should clarify that some versions of Yang Style circling (e.g., Cheng Man-Ch¡¯ing) do indeed seem to be structured around an alternation of attack and defense, rather than a circle where attack and defense are not so clearly separate. If this is the kind of push hands you do, I am not sure if my words will make much sense.
There is also a third mistake in the single-arm horizontal circle that I think is also easy to make and that I myself make more often than not. This mistake is to misunderstand what it means to avoid resistance. With this mistake, you divide the backward weight shift into a retreat and than a deflection. The problem with a retreat is that it must come to an eventual end. The idea violates the principal of continuity. Although you may not want to offer resistance against your partner¡¯s push, your feet restrict your movement and provide a limit to your retreat. Your retreat is really a collapse.
If you try to save yourself by deflecting the push, you provide an ¡°angle,¡± a ¡°corner,¡± or a ¡°discontinuity¡± that is extremely easy for your partner to feel. If he shifts his pressure into this angle, he can make you push yourself. (This assumes that your stances are close enough that you cannot simply shift weight backward out of range of an effective push to the body.) To avoid this dilemma, I know I have to focus on three things in the typical counterclockwise circle with the right foot forward. First, I must coordinate the backward weight shift with my adhering intent. Simply retreating at the first sign of pressure is problematic. Second, I cannot be passive, but rather must convert every centimeter of my partner¡¯s pressure into a centimeter of subsequent redirection. The feel I want is much more of pulling my partner into position than of deflecting his arm. This conversion must clearly start from my partner¡¯s pressure and not my own. Third, I must relate my center to the various pressures and counter pressures in real time and cannot move in a rote trajectory. If I do all these things, I expect my partner not to feel any discontinuity or abrupt change. I also expect to feel us mutually creating the trajectory of our movement with an ebb and flow of Adhering, Sticking, Connecting, and Following.