Where is everyone?

Postby Michael » Mon Apr 01, 2002 9:07 pm

Audi,

Unweighted/weighted, these are relative terms. Nothing is ever completely this or that. There is always Yin in Yang.... David describes weight transfer pretty well.

When I move my toe out from a Brush left knee to a right ("weighted" move) for instance, I will move some weight from my bubbling well or from the forward "nails" (however one choose to describe it) to my HEEL or rather, just ahead of it as David describes. Just enough to allow the toe to be moved out. Because I have moved "no" weight (or very, very, little--depends on the move) to my rear leg it is a "weighted" pivot. If however I transfer a significant amount to the rear leg it is an "unweighted" pivot. To go forward something must always go back first. The amount that you shift back and to where depends on the situation or the technique (the move) one is using, offensive/defensive....

Pivoting on the bubbling well in the front (weighted) foot doesn't seem sound to me or in tune with principles. I frankly have never considered it before. When playing with it, though very stable, it seems to cause some blockage in the other side of the body (in the Kua). I do I like the feel of it. It also seems to limit your mobility if one needs to change direction in a hurry more so than the heel pivot. If you were speaking about doing so in the rear foot to generate power, well that is another thing.

Michael
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Postby Audi » Tue Apr 02, 2002 4:55 am

Greetings Michael and David,

Michael, thanks for your response. Let me try to drill down one more level if you or anyone else is still interested.

In the normal performance of the transition from Brush Knee Left to Brush Knee Right, the right leg starts in a position I interpret as "thrusting" (deng) forward into the left one. As the pivot is begun, the legs briefly exchange function, and the left leg momentarily "thrusts" backward into the rear right one to allow for the heel pivot. This switch in function is accompanied in our form by a slight rearward weight shift and in the modern Beijing forms and in the Cheng Man-Ch'ing form by an almost complete rearward weight shift. The problem I am describing, however, does not discriminate between "slight" and "complete" in this instance.

The feel I am attempting to describe is when the legs do not switch function at all, and the rear right leg never ceases to thrust forward into the front left one until 100% of the weight is transferred. Although the front left leg props up (cheng) the force of the thrusting (deng) right one in the rear, I feel the two forces to be different in quality, even though they are relative to each other (i.e., each containing some yin and yang qualities). For me, power must flow in only one direction at a time in a circumstance such as this, or else stagnation occurs (i.e., double weighting).

The awkwardness I describe is in lifting the left toes and ball of the foot while trying to execute the propping (cheng) function of the left leg against the thrust (deng) of the rear right leg. If someone has even a minute weight shift back from the front left leg to the rear right one before or during the pivot, I believe a different situation occurs.

As far as I am aware, the only place where the situation I describe takes place in the regular form is during the spin in Turn the Body and Kick with Right Heel, where a heel spin/pivot is said to be inappropriate. My situation is slightly more extreme, however, because I am describing a pivot where the pressure or "weight" on the pivoting foot will actually be increasing throughout the pivot, rather than remaining steady.

A counterexample might be the transitions that follow Snake Creeps Down (Squatting Single Whip), where the left foot pivots outward on the heel before Golden Rooster and Step up to Seven Stars. I confess, however, that I shift my weight back ever so slightly prior to these pivots.

Supporting examples to my thesis might be the procedure used for "Stepping up" into the Grasp Sparrows Tail postures that follow the second Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch and Punch to the Groin. In both these transitions, it seems that Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun have taught a slight rising or backward "gathering" movement that allows enough power (jin) to be stored for the following leftward pivot of the front left foot and the accompanying transitory Ward Off Left executed by the arms.

Can anyone see a different explanation for the method used to "Step Up" in these two transitions? How do folks accomplish these two transitions who practice other variations of Yang Chengfu's form?

Michael and David, do any of my clarifications strike any chord? Anyone want to add any further speculation?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Michael » Tue Apr 02, 2002 5:29 pm

Audi,

I will have to think awhile about all that you have said. i will be interested in what David might have to say here. I agree pretty much with how you describe things but my question is how much and when...and WHY?

I am talking about the Brush knee transitions here.

Have you noticed that Yang Jun does not shift back as far as His Grandfather? I was told that he (Yang Jun) does not shift back as far as he used to. Someone who learns from him maybe able to comment on this better than I can. I do what Yang Jun does most of the time, it seems to be a "happy medium" with little loss of efficiency. But just off the top of my head i would say that except for in obviously DEFENSIVE situations it is more efficient to to keep "more" weight in the front leg when the energy is going forward out of this transition. As I said before, some weight has to shift back to go forward, how much is determined by the need at hand and comfort.

I really don't see any "stagnation" as the intent (one option) is to step forward with the right leg. Some (not me) say that shifting too much weight back, (let's say as much as Yang Zhen Duo does) having loaded the front (left) leg then loading the right rear and then the left again for the step is "stagnation" in terms of inefficiency. How much of a "change in function" is necessary? The energy is moving but to what useful purpose? What people (outside our lineage) forget or don't realize is how defensively oriented Yang Zhen Duo is. I think it is very apparent in what he teaches. Defense first, offense second. I can't say for sure, but critics tend to be more from the camp of there is no difference between the two. I understand their point of view, but there are many points of view and all are valid if the principles are adhered to. Ones intent determines how the form is done. As our intent changes so does our form.

The amount of weight shift depends on intent. "Loading"/"unloading" occurs no matter how much (or little) weight is transfered. How much do the legs have to change functions? How much weight has to be in the front leg in an empty/solid stance to maintain stability to carry out technique or be able to respond? 30%, 20%, 15%, less??? We know what is required in performance of the form but in real situations that could depend on distances, intent, the ground, any number of things. These things need to be considered. The same with the pivots. You have to find what feels right for you and fits your intent. One must always remember that the pivots we are talking about are transitions and not set in stone. There are techniques in these transitions, how they are used are again determined by intent and the situation. Maybe I don't have to ward off in a transition but only have to step forward to meet or follow the threat. This must be considered also. Do I have to shift a lot of weight back just to step forward? But maybe i do when responding to the intent of an opponent who is in close. Then how much do I HAVE to yield?

Concerning your "Stepping Up" How much do you have to load the rear leg? You use the word "slight" and "gathering movement". The waist is doing the work of the ward off left (before stepping up into ward off right), the energy is produced by the root. Where must that root be and when? How much energy is needed? I guess the only answer is it depends. Seriously. I guess that is why I practice both "more" and "less" weighted pivots. My intent or my objective differs so the weight shift differs. It (intent) can and will be different in every position and transition in the form the deeper one gets into it. Taiji creates a structure that allows endless variation. One of the key principles is to do what is called for with as little possible, it applies to pivots and everything else.

Thanks for the good thoughts, great talking to you, much to ponder. Forgive all the redundancy, redundancy, redundancy....

Michael




[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 04-02-2002).]
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Postby Audi » Fri Apr 05, 2002 6:12 am

Hi Michael,

This is a tough topic to convey, but thanks for hanging in there.

First, let me make clear that I have no problem with what I understand Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun to be teaching in the form. My problem is how to stretch their principles to a situation I do not specifically recall anywhere in the three Yang forms I have learned from them. My question is how does one step forward out of a bow stance when no special considerations apply.

I say "when no special considerations apply" because my assumption regarding the Brush Knees and the "Stepping Up" transitions is that the slight backward weight shifts correspond to specific yielding techniques that precede the intention to step forward. As a result, I have no issue with these. But what do you do if a yield is inappropriate and you want to step forward directly? Must you slip in a tiny weight shift?

For instance, how should one step forward in freestyle moving push hands, where one cannot be sure where one has to step next and cannot afford to telegraph, interrupt, or delay a forward weight shift to slip in an outward foot pivot? This situation seems to have been systematically eliminated from the forms, where one chases an opponent forward either by assuming a non-standard bow stance (e.g., Dragon Walking/Poke the Grass to Seek the Snake in the Sword Form or the transitional Roll Backs that precede Separate Foot, Right and Left) or by stepping forward with the foot at an angle (e.g., Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch; the beginning of Fair Lady in the Saber Form; or Three Rings Encircle the Moon at the beginning of the Sword form).

What am I missing here? Is there some principle that forbids what I am talking about or always requires some back weighting before stepping forward?

In talking about stagnation, I am not talking about the decision whether or not to shift weight backward, but rather about the technique used to come forward without previously shifting any weight rearward. As long as even a tiny bit of weight has been shifted rearward, a subsequent heel pivot feels fine to me. With no weight shift at all, it feels as if I must momentarily freeze the relationship between my legs to allow me to lift the ball of my foot. (Hence, the stagnation.) Alternatively, if I insist on continuing to thrust forward, I cannot "swing" my line of force from the old position of the sweet spot in my forward foot to the new position. In between, I am floating or falling forward into a hole.

As far as I am aware, you and I perform the "Stepping Up" transition in the same way. There is no waist involvement or pivot as the weight is shifted slightly backward, but only as the weight is returned forward. How much "loading" is appropriate feels totally dependent on the application I envision, just as you describe. Any clearer?

Am I being totally confusing and not striking sympathetic chords with anyone on the Board? Is there no one else doing any pivoting out there? Am I way out on a limb trying to lure Michael to come out with me?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby DavidJ » Sun Apr 07, 2002 5:37 am

Hi Michael Coulon,

Many of what you term as "ball of the foot" pivots I was taught not so much as a pivot but as "pushing off" with the toes; and though the foot does turn, the turning is done as the pivot point rolls from the ball of the foot to the toes. The amount of weight on the pivot changes as I begin to shift the weight, push off, and then complete the weight shift.

Seeing the pivots in relation to what follows i.e. heel/substantial and ball of foot/insubstantial, makes sense. Seeing everything, in relation to what follows, makes sense.

Thanks,

David J
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Postby DavidJ » Sun Apr 07, 2002 5:44 am

Hi Audi,

In my post of 3/20/2002 I wrote, > One example of where I use a dynamic pivot would be in moving from 'The Arising' to 'Grasping the Sparrow's Tail to the Right,' with the center of gravity gradually moving to the right leg as the body is turning. <

You asked, > [snip] Would this fit your description of a dynamic pivot, or is there a weight shift during the pivot itself that is important? <

The weight shift during the pivot defines it as dynamic. I think we do that pivot differently, a clarification:
The bending of the knees begins *before* the pivot. The weight shift to the right foot begins at the same time the pivot begins. Probably somewhere between 2/3 to 3/4 of the weight is on the right foot by halfway through the pivot, and then the amount of weight on the foot remains the same until the pivot is complete. Then the rest of the weight is shifted to the right leg.

The spin just before 'Right Heel Kick' (performed near the end of the Second Section, right before the abbreviated Deflect Downward, Parry, and Punch) I do on the ball of the right foot, with my weight over that leg until toward the end of the spin, then I put my left foot down and shift the weight onto it. This may be characterized as much a "step around" as a spin.

In the transition between 'Brush Left Knee' and 'Brush Right Knee', when I pivot on the heel and leave the ball of the foot down there is no rearward weight shift. When I occasionally lift the ball of the foot, there can be a little weight shifted rearward because of the geometry of the situation, but I've never detected any strain on the ankle (this might be because I tend to not bend the ankle - that's what moves a little bit of the weight back geometrically). One of the benefits of weighted pivots with the ball of the foot left on the ground is that the knee remains over the toe.

One of the main errors that I've seen is the failure of keeping the knee over the toe (weighted pivot), or in line with the toe (unweighted pivot), and often the bad knee alignment in a pivot is followed by bad knee alignment in the subsequent weight shift.
***
Your comments on imbalance while spinning lead me to think that you've been looking in the wrong place for the correction. Try looking to your upper body, your shoulder blades in particular. Try the spins with them "out" rather than "in".
***
You wrote, > David, in considering "heel" versus "bubbling spring," I wonder if I am touching on what you seem to be hinting at by differentiating between pivoting on the heel and pivoting slightly in front of it. Up until formulating my thoughts on this and trying to describe it, I could not attach any particular importance to your distinction. Can you relate to any of my description? <

The loooong answer involves looking at the bones in the foot and the structure of the arches, and how the body's weight is spread over a comprehensive set of triangles, The short answer is to ride, standing, on a city bus and look for the place on the bottom of each foot that makes effortless the use of your legs in handling the acceleration and deceleration.

Also, try not bending the ankle when you lift your toes, and see if you weight distribution and balance is OK.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Michael » Mon Apr 08, 2002 4:37 pm

David and Audi,

David (and Audi), I think we do the weighted pivots the same but you say that you make No weight shift to the rear in your weighted pivots, not even miniscule ones in the front foot only? As I said before, I do a very small one towards the heel (not to the rear leg). To move the "ball" of the foot, even though it does not lose contact with the ground, some weight has to be moved towards the heel.

I'll have to qualify that last statement. The amount of weight shifted into the forward leg is the determining factor here. Where and how that weight is distributed into the lead foot is a main factor. Playing with this I can accomplish a pivot with NO weight shift whatsoever--not even towards the heel only. It feels very good. And here intent is everything. Why would you not need to put "full" weight into the front foot? Because the opponent has retreated. The weigth shift into the front foot is transitional and the amount arriving into the "ball" will be less (a matter of timing) hence not needing any weight shift at all. In delivering a succesful palm/heel strike I will have the weight distributed in the front foot a little differently.

Here again, intent concerning the concluding and/or the following action is again the determining factor of how weight is distributed, where, and the timing.

Audi, I agree that in the set the shift back is a teaching of a yeilding technique. However it is a transition and various options exist. Here in the set everything is all mapped out interms of direction of movement, but your intent, and what techniques you are focusing on at any particular time (especially in the transitions) can change the performance in a number of ways, particularly in weight distributions. Other than directions of movement in the set, "special conditions" play a very big role. In Single whip am I warding off and then striking with the left palm, am I striking to the rear with the wrist or...? When the arms seperate are we spreading someones arms apart? I won't even get into chin na. Am I stepping behind the opponents front leg and sending him over it with a rotation of the waist and the left arm? In the transition are we striking, pushing/pulling when going to the left or right? when we shift weight, when we pivot, and how he distribute the weight is all determined by "special conditions" of our intent. The same is in the pivots also.

If you find discomfort in doing the weighted pivots all you can do is experiment enough to get comfortable with it. Your body will tell you what and how much weight you need (or don't need to shift) to accomplish it effectively. Focus on your intent and see if that in itself does not create the structure and flow that you need---rather than focusing on the structure itself. Who knows?

When you talk about freestyle push hands or even actual combat there is no such thing as a "standard bow stance" in a sense of stepping direction. One certainly will not often step out into them that often. One would certainly not pivot a toe out to step forward in such situations unless that waist turn was called for in a defensive action. In following you simply step to whevever you need to and adjust (if needed) the rear foot to deliver power and/or for stability. This being accomplished by either a pivot on the ball or the heel.

just thinking out "loud"

good practice,

Michael
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Postby Bob3 » Wed Apr 10, 2002 12:11 am

Dear Audi (et al),

When you mentioned stepping forward from a bow stance to follow a partner in push hands, you reveal one of the weaknesses of the form you practice. I also practice a Yang long form, but derived from Dong instead of the formal Yang family. In the 3rd section of the form, there is a ward off movement to the right immediately followed by the left foot moving next to the forward right foot. During this transition, the peng energy is briefly transferred through the root of the right foot then back to the left when the foot arrives next to the right. This then leaves the left foot to step out again for the press movement.

The practice of transfer of the root while maintaining the peng energy allows one to step forward (or where ever) to follow as necessary. This is very easy to say in words, but difficult to achieve in practice. However, once attained, and the form is maintained, the peng energy can be applied while walking forward or backward as needed, all the while maintaining good root.

I have seen some other similar forms that do a shuffle step to accomplish the same thing, but I believe that the above process is better since it is more controlled. Note that this doesn't work for all of the movements, but it is an exercise for the student to extend the technique to the moves where it can be applied.

Good Luck, and good practice!
Bob
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Postby Michael » Wed Apr 10, 2002 3:51 pm

Bob,

The Dong family teacher I am familiar with teaches the Yang Cheng Fu set, the Dong family sets (slow and fast). Do you study both, or just the Dong family sets?

No disrespect intended but be nice about the "weakness" comment concerning the style we or anyone practices. I am not being defensive. I like the differences between all styles and how they are taught. I study two distinctly different Yang styles and with little in common in terms of appearance (and often technique), but when one gets down into to it, they are the same.

I think "weaknesses" involve the individual student (and teachers). What is a "weakness" is more invloved in depth of or the level of understanding at any point along the path of learning. It is not really in the form or set itself. If one really looks one will see everything is in there... whether Chen, Wu, Yang With all it's legitimate lines--Dong most certainly being one of those)...appearance, method and focus may be different but when the body understands taiji it is formless anyway.

I understand what you are saying about your step and I have seen my teachers do similiar things at certain points. Often it is explained as a "balance gathering" (my words) but in light of your description it may also be just what you describe. I can see where in certain circumstances it could be useful and where it would natually arise. I thank you for describing it. I am familier with what you describe but in a different context so now I have something new to "play with".

I think many of us forget (including myself) that ouside of form most of the stepping that we would do in actual use will be shorter fast steps--like in Bagua application. Things like foot pivots usually will be meaningless except primarily in certain "defensive" situations or occaionally in the generation of power offensively.

Good Practice! I know of a guy teaching the Dong family Yang style in Missoula Montana that I am more and more interested in dropping in on next year.

Michael
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Apr 10, 2002 5:38 pm

Bob3,

Are you referring to a sort of 'cat step' where the weight is on one leg and the other foot is gathered in close to it, unweighted or nearly so? There are some examples of this in the curriculum taught by Yang Jun. For ex as you go from lift hands and step up to white crane, the left foot gets into a position like that. It happens fairly fast and there is no pause or interruption at that spot. This occurs elsewhere -left foot in single whip, right in embrace tiger, etc - in the barehand and quite a bit in weapons forms too.
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Apr 11, 2002 7:31 am

Yang Jun and Yang Zhenduo refer to this in Chinese as shou1 jiao3, 'bring in the foot' or 'draw in the foot'.
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Postby Bob3 » Mon Apr 15, 2002 8:48 pm

Jerry,

No, I am not referring to a "cat" step. The move I am referring to is an actual brief transfer of the root from one foot to the other, then back again to the original foot, when that foot has moved close to the other. By the way, pardon me for referring to a potential weakness of one form. Rather, I am describing a feature in the form I normally practice. This feature provides a capability that has application when moving forward or backward.

Audi,

To answer an earlier question - in the form I practice, there is only one place in the form where about a 360 degree turn takes place. This is in the transition to the lotus kick in the 3rd section. Even in this move, the hip is rotated and the foot placed to allow the body to rotate without rotating the foot. The left foot is placed in back of the right foot but rotated about 200 degrees to the direction of the right foot. The body then rotates about the hip and the right foot swings in an arc about 100 degrees to the right. (I'm guessing about the number of degrees here - mostly it depends on a person's ability). I think I'm on solid ground here since I did read a translation of Yang Cheng Fu's description of this move, and it first involves a couple of blocks to the rear before again meeting another attack from the front. As I write this though, I do now remember in my form that after the separate left foot, the foot is brought back to the right while there is a turn on the heel of the right foot of about 100 degrees before a heel kick with the left foot which then goes into a brush knee and punch downward. I hope this is the spot you were referencing when you mentioned a 360 degree turn earlier. You might want to look at the intent of such moves in the form anyway since turns of this magnitude don't seem to serve any real purpose unless elbows, knees or other body parts are brought into play for a specific purpose in another direction. That is one reason I found the application of the lotus kick was actually broken into two distinct applications, that the apparent 360 degree turn made real sense - there being an application during the execution of the turn itself.

I trust that I muddied the waters somewhat here, but perhaps there is some indication of direction also. Good practice!

Bob
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Postby Audi » Thu Apr 18, 2002 2:58 am

Greetings, Jerry, Michael, Bob, David, and everyone else,

Jerry, is the “shou” of “shou1 jiao3” the same character as what appears in the word for “income” (shouru)?

I play around with a “Yang” Style fan form created by Doc Fai Wong that I know only from a video. As I understand it, his standard forms derive form Yang Chengfu. However, in his fan form, he has multiple occurrences of a stepping method that I have only seen in videos of Wu/Hao form. In this method, after a foot has stepped out forward in the “opening” phase of a movement, one shifts 100 percent of the weight onto it, while bringing up the ball of the rear foot beside and slightly behind the forward foot. In Wu/Hao Style, the final posture is termed, as I understand it from Jou Tsung Hwa’s book, the “closing phase” of the posture, where the attack or defense is completed.

Bob, are you describing a kind of extended ”stutter step” movement? If so, Wong’s fan form has an occurrence of this during a variation of the standard sequence of Yang Chengfu’s Grasp Sparrow’s Tail. During this sequence, one steps into a standard Ward Off Right with the fan closed in the right hand. I believe Wong envisions this as a lifting “block” with the right arm under the opponent’s left punching arm. As one begins the rightward movement and arm rotations that begin Roll Back, one shifts 100 percent of the weight forward onto the right leg and brings up the toes of the left foot, placing them without weight at a 45 degree angle slightly to the left and slightly behind the right foot. I believe Wong envisions this as a clockwise snaking movement of one’s right arm around the opponent’s left arm and a grab by one’s left hand around the opponent’s left wrist. The leftward portion of Roll Back is performed by shifting 100 percent of the weight back onto the left leg, ending up in a standard Empty Stance, except with 100 percent of the weight in the rear foot. As the opponent disengages and attempts to retreat, one has now stored energy in the left leg that allows one to “chase” by stepping forward with the right leg into a standard Bow Stance to execute the standard Press/Squeeze posture (“ji”).

Bob, if you can follow my description and the principles correspond to what you describe, let me say that it does not solve my riddle, since it involves clear alternations of backward and forward movement of the energy. Although Wong’s sequence seems outside the “design logic” I perceive in Yang Zhenduo’s form, it does not violate any movement principles I am aware of. As Jerry points out, Yang Zhenduo’s form does have brief occurrences of these kinds of weight shifts and foot positions.

As far as my issue being a “weakness” in the form, let me say a few things. First, in my opinion, the “design logic” of Yang Zhenduo’s from seems to maximize ease and consistency in the context of slow movement. In my mind, this simply makes his form a “special case” of Taijiquan principles without omitting any of them. While some might cringe at any statement implying any limitations to the form, to me it seems clear that all long forms omit many techniques. For instance, there is a “lightning strike” (finger tips to the eyes) that is a basic movement of the Da Lü that seems to exist in none of the bare hand forms. This is one of the reasons I have difficulty with approaches to the design of the form that gloss over principles and focus exclusively on techniques and applications.

The same weight shifts and pivots I describe in the bare hand form are largely absent in the Sword and Saber Forms, where different design logic seems to apply. There, the increased speed seems to exclude them and replace them with different stepping methods. In the weapons forms, chasing movements are done either by forming non-standard bow steps that allow unlimited movement in one direction or by stepping with the feet at 45 degrees on opposite sides of a center line until a final standard Bow Stance is assumed for a coup de grace.

David, you said the following:

“In the transition between 'Brush Left Knee' and 'Brush Right Knee', when I pivot on the heel and leave the ball of the foot down there is no rearward weight shift. When I occasionally lift the ball of the foot, there can be a little weight shifted rearward because of the geometry of the situation, but I've never detected any strain on the ankle (this might be because I tend to not bend the ankle - that's what moves a little bit of the weight back geometrically). One of the benefits of weighted pivots with the ball of the foot left on the ground is that the knee remains over the toe.”

David, the fact that you describe the possibility of a rearward weight shift due to geometry makes me wonder if you are feeling the same thing I am. Even so, you may not be bothered by it for whatever reason. I fear we could only get at this by comparing movements in person, but let me describe my riddle in a different way.

To the extent that the pivot of the left leg makes “anything” go leftward and rearward, even more must go rightward and forward to chase the opponent, unless of course a transitory defensive technique is envisioned. If I execute the pivot in the way you describe, I am presented with one of three options as I thrust forward with the right leg. (1) I feel as if I am pushing into a hole, so that if I were subjected to a strong pull that sought to take advantage of my thrusting movement, I could not easily resist. The left heel feels an insufficient surface to push against. Perhaps, this is not a defect in this situation, because you have already committed to chasing the opponent. (2) I must slightly straighten and retreat my left knee (although keeping it aligned with my foot), which causes all sorts of sympathetic changes in my alignment that impede forward motion (e.g., my upper body wants to fold forward). (3) I abandon any idea of thrusting with the rear leg and use 100 percent waist power to give the forward moving energy to the right side of my body. For me, this feels somewhat weak and leaves my lower body feeling somewhat static.

David, I am also puzzled by how you can find optional lifting the ball of the left foot off the ground? As I try to copy what you describe on my carpet with sneakers on, I find the friction caused by this to be a tremendous strain on the knee and impossible to execute. My ankle is, however, fine. If you do the three-step moving push hands drill, is this the method you use to pivot the forward foot?

Thank you for your suggestion of focus on the upper body. I think I have indeed been neglecting my shoulder blades and focusing on the feelings in my upper body as an afterthought, if at all. However, when you mention “imbalance,” let me clarify for anyone who might be confused by my statements that my issue is not with “balance” per se. When it comes to Taijiquan, I understand balance to be an indicator of something else, rather than a proper focus of attention itself. Put another way, I can think of many ways to improve balance that I believe violate or ignore principles. My issue is what to do with the “mind intent” and how to lead or focus the energy (“jin”) during the 180 degree spin, whatever its application may be.

Michael, I am glad you mentioned both free-form stepping and Ba Gua.

When I first was exposed to sparring in Karate, I was surprised that stances and form we used in katas and in drills seemed largely to go out the window. When I asked about this, I was told that the arm movements and stances should be seen as ideals that were usually abbreviated in sparring or actual application out of necessity. While I am sure some of this applies to Taijiquan, I wonder how much. On the one hand, Taijiquan seems more formless to me than the Karate I learned. On the other hand, Taijiquan seems much more rigid about body alignment.

I find Ba Gua an interesting reference because, from my limited exposure to it, it seems to forego pivoting altogether. Instead, Ba Gua seems to require quick continuous stepping, preferring “bizarre” foot angles to anything that smacks of being stationary or adjusting a foot once the root has been transferred to it. Does everyone believe that this is the logic that applies to “combat” stepping in Taijiquan? I think I recall from dim memory that this is in effect the stepping method that is used in the three-step moving push hands drill, where one cross-steps outside the opponent’s feet. If I recall correctly, the geometry of the stepping does not allow for pivoting.

Recalling this last drill brings to mind the other three-step moving push hands drill, where one’s foot positions are complimentary to the opponent’s. Has anyone been taught a specific stepping method for this? Do you pivot the front foot as you move forward, or do you simply place it wherever will ultimately be appropriate?

Take care all,
Audi
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Apr 22, 2002 1:10 pm

Hi Audi,

you wrote:

>On the one hand, Taijiquan seems more >formless to me than the Karate I learned. >On the other hand, Taijiquan seems much >more rigid about body alignment.

Fwiw, it seems that, from what you have said, that both tcc and karate use form to seek formlessness. I can't deny the importance of body alignment in tcc, but thinking that one form of human is extremely different from another might ultimately be a self-limitation. I.e., preconceptions of what one thinks something "should" be can affect one's apprehension of what "is." One reason I say this is because tcc is not the only martial that seeks "formlessness"; yet it is one of the only ones where practitioners, observers, and critics expect that either 1) "form" will be be strictly upheld and obviously apparent in usage --or 2, "formlessness" will be defined as "without movement." So, it's almost as if, in usage, we should see a Single Whip, but ideally the practitioner shouldn't move --just like in the books. Hmm, I guess the idea of "stillness defeating motion" is what distinguishes tcc practitioners, and what may often be taken to the extreme. This is related to your other comments.

>I find Ba Gua an interesting reference >because, from my limited exposure to it, it >seems to forego pivoting altogether.

This is an observation that is really, really insightful, imho.

>Instead, Ba Gua seems to require quick >continuous stepping, preferring “bizarre” >foot angles to anything that smacks of >being stationary

Yeah, I'd agree that "continuous stepping" is a desireable characteristic, and something that is trained for, in bagua. However, there is no step in bagua that is more "bizarre" than the ones in tcc's Single Whip or Fair Lady Works at Shuttles. Some bagua people would certainly argue that "rocking back" as in Brush Knee Twist Step is at best, unusual, and perhaps "bizarre". Anyway, here again, it seems like the characteristic of tcc that many expect is its being "static."

>or adjusting a foot once the root has been >transferred to it.

As opposed to "not" "adjusting a foot once the root has been transferred"? Can it really be that a foot moves only once. or that it won't need adjusted?

>Does everyone believe
>that this is the logic that applies >to “combat” stepping in Taijiquan? I think >I recall from dim memory that this is in >effect the stepping method that is used in >the three-step moving push hands drill, >where one cross-steps outside the >opponent’s feet.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Theoretically, the stepping in the form is tcc stepping as much as the stepping in the push hands exercises. There's "fixed-step" and "active-step", no? Well, it's also true that some people feel that tcc usage should "look" like push hands, and "fixed step" at that. This ends up in the same contradictions, though. The argument is often made that "this is what the old masters were famous for." I have no complaints about the state of things today, but I certainly understand when other martial artists point out that there's not really a single world class tcc fighter of equal stature to those in the early generations of tcc practitioners. Sure, it's a different age --thank goodness. And, sure, there are loads of people who are successful in full and semi-contact fighting who also practice tcc. But, in fact, there is no one who is successful in open competition (i.e., with other martial artists) who looks like he is doing the tcc "form" or "push hands." I'm not convinced that this has ever been possible. I'm convinced that demonstrations of "fa jing" are not sufficient. They called YLC's art "loose boxing" or "cotton boxing/fist." Very few tcc styles today remind one of that impression. Generally, "if loose, not boxing; if boxing, not loose." That's an exaggeration, and this is a rant. But, maybe this is therapy after time off the board. So, never mind.


Regards,
Steve James


> If I recall correctly, the >geometry of the stepping does not allow for >pivoting.

Recalling this last drill brings to mind the other three-step moving push hands drill, where one’s foot positions are complimentary to the opponent’s. Has anyone been taught a specific stepping method for this? Do you pivot the front foot as you move forward, or do you simply place it wherever will ultimately be appropriate?
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Postby Audi » Sun Apr 28, 2002 4:47 pm

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your comments. I like very much what you generally post, whether or not I agree in all respects.

You wrote:

>>I can't deny the importance of body alignment in tcc, but thinking that one form of human is extremely different from another might ultimately be a self-limitation.<<

I am not sure what you are getting at here, particulary with respect to what motivated your reference to "extremely different". I would agree, however, that Taijiquan has as many limitations as other arts. To me, it just seems a matter of choosing one's poison.

You also wrote:

>However, there is no step in bagua that is more "bizarre" than the ones in tcc's Single Whip or Fair Lady Works at Shuttles. Some bagua people would certainly argue that "rocking back" as in Brush Knee Twist Step is at best, unusual, and perhaps "bizarre".<

I am not quite willing to concede Brush Knee and Twist/Counter Step, but I have to admit you have me on the 180 degree stepping angles required by Single Whip and Fair Lady Works/Threads the Shuttle. As I understand Bagua theory, one is always stepping on the circumference of a circle and so will never have to step as much as 180 degrees. Still, such stepping methods as having the toes almost facing each other (in a pigeon-toed way") does not exactly seem "intuitive" to me, however effective in usage. In defense of the greater "normalcy" of Single Whip and Fair Lady, let me say that at least Taijiquan practitioners never have to look and execute techniques facing backwards.

My Karate stepping always seemed intuitive, if occasionally physically challenging (e.g., 3-quarter turns). Taijiquan seems counterintuitive in the slowness of ordinary practice requirements and the aversion to intermediate steps. Bagua seems counterintuitive in that every step seems transitory and you never get a chance to get "set."

As for your not so unreasonable "rant," it seems that you are very familiar with all of the debates about martial effectiveness, full contact, etc. and seem to have a reasonable position. My own bias from my Karate and wrestling experience is that I view full contact sparring as a special case of martial arts usage (essentially, a friendly duel) and not indicative of much outside this context. However, I also think there are some segments of the Taijiquan community in the U.S. who seem to have a view of sparring, self-defense, and combat that I find unrealistic.

I was at the recent Association seminar in Croton Falls, and Yang Jun gave brief introductions to the Saber Form and pushing hands theories that I found interesting and relevant to your comments.

What I understood him to say was essentially this. In the bare-hand form, we are required to keep all the principles, and make them clear. In the weapons forms, some of the clarity is sacrificed. For instance, weight shifts that would be 100% at the slow pace of the bare-hand form become less in the Saber, in order to meet the requirements for flow. In pushing hands, he stated that one kept the principles in one’s mind, but could not always do so physically. For instance, one might lose contact with an opponent, but would still try to maintain the idea of a physical connection in one’s mind. As far as sparring is concerned, he said something like: “Sometimes one keeps the principles, and sometimes one does not.” In all these endeavors, one was to begin by learning to do the moves in a standard way; after that, individual variation was possible and normal.

What I understood from all this is that the system the Yang’s teach seems to be one where the curriculum is meant to train the body, mind, and spirit in certain ways. After this point is reached, all bets are off. I would think, therefore, that high-level Taijiquan sparring would show the influence of the bare-hand form and pushing hands as a foundation, but would not necessarily resemble these in many specifics.

Lastly, with respect to our discussion about the “stationary” quality of Taijiquan, let me clarify that my view of this is that phrases such as “stillness in motion” or “overcoming movement with stillness” do not refer to gross movement, but rather to a combination of the requirements to “follow the opponent,” “not to move, unless the opponent moves,” and to “launch later, but get there first.”

I know that some take these to be statements of high-level quantitative ability that could apply to martial arts generally. They see them as essentially meaning: “Be alert, nimble, and quick in your reactions.” I prefer to think of these as qualitative statements of strategy and tactics that should apply to all but the very beginning levels of Taijiquan. In my mind, they do not refer to the tactics, strategy, or spirit of the little I have seen of other martial arts.

Put differently, it seems to me that Karate and Taekwondo flash, Aikido flows, Wing Chun flicks, Bagua swirls, and Taijiquan pivots at the fulcrum of power. What is most noticeable about the pivoting is the great effect gained by minimal motion and the difficulty of pinning down precisely what movements are the source of the effect.

Take care,
Audi
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