I too, like everyone, enjoy and benefit from your posts. You consistently raise intriguing questions. Well, I'm kind of ecclectic, so I don't expect anyone to agree. In this case, though, it might just be a matter of perspective.
>>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 understand the confusion about my remark. I left out the important word "actvity" after "human." I meant that, imo, perceiving tcc and karate as being "extremely" different can be limiting. For example, many people believe that external and internal martial arts aim toward the same thing: i.e., putting the body and mind in harmony. Of course, every martial art has its own philosophy, strategy, and manner of training. So, if a tcc person walks into a karate school, or any other ma style school, he'll immediately note the difference. However, it's often the case that, if a tcc person and a karateka were put into a tournament, etc., they might look fairly similar. I'm not saying that is the "test" of tcc; I'm only making an observation. From what you said of Yang Jun's seminar, it seems that he also agrees that the form is training, not execution. That's what I supposed you meant by "formlessness." I believe that most martial arts seek formlessness through the form. As you know, there are a few that avoid any type of form training, JKD for ex. They too, see formlessness; they just train differently. OK, I am a traditionalist who believes in the benefit of form. But, at that point, I see little difference among the methods. I.e., they are all just that: methods of training. I mentioned bagua only because you questioned its stepping methods.
> . . . 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.
Well, there are bagua styles that utilize linear stepping. Circle-walking, though, is a crucial aspect of training that is relatively characteristic of bagua. The pigeon-toed step, per se, is fundamental to Wing chun, which peple say is "linear." Anyway, you raise a key point. Why is this sort of "pigeon-toed" stepping in the tcc form at all? My own answer would be that tcc is set of principles, derived from Chinese philosophy, which have been applied to previously existing martial arts. On another list, this statement from Wang was recalled:
"Taiji Quan, the other name is Chang Quan (Long Fist), also named Shi San Shi (Thirteen Postures). It is Chang Quan because it likes a long river and an ocean flowing forever wave by wave."
Some people actually take the first sentence literally and argue that tcc derived primarily from Chang Quan, a style which is often considered the basis for many of the northern Chinese martial arts. It is not unreasonable to suggest that some parts of tcc came from some of those sources. Feng Zhi Qiang has argued:
"Taiji is a compound of eighteen other martial art styles. Using the theory of Taoism, I-Ching, and Chinese Traditional Medicine to form its theoretical foundation, especially yin-yang theory and the meridians in traditional medicine."http://www.silkreeler.com/articles/wrkshp_trans.shtml
I could never demonstrate the 18 styles, but I suggest they're easy to interpret from the traditional "animal" names that suffuse our form; crane, snake, tiger, leopard, monkey/ape, dragon, phoenix, (horse), etc. All of which can be traced to techniques within traditional Chinese martial arts. Of course, the external forms are not what makes it "tcc." Anyway, again in regards to bagua, I'm reminded of YCF's words in Chen Weiming's Da Wen. YCF is asked *specifically* about the presence of bagua type stepping in tcc. Chen asks:
"Does Taichi have the Pa Kua boxing method of walking a circle and changing without limit?
YCF: Yang Shao-hou once taught me a method in which two men, their right hands touching, from low to high drawing a circle, simultaneously circled to the right with their right legs inside. . . . This was a two-man sticking practice embodying 't'ing chin', but since the feet changed it was no different from Pa Kua Boxing."
Well, I'm not going to try to interpret what he meant when he said "no different." I think, though, that it gets back to the idea I implied that thinking about tcc in a stationary sense and thinking about it in motion can be somewhat different. And, it can lead to thinking that something normal is abnormal, and vice versa.
You also wrote:
"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."
Hmm, well I can only say that these theories do occur in the works of Sun Tzu and other martial strategists. I agree that the tcc masters chose the strategies, tactics, and principles that appeal to me the most.
I like the way you put this, but I'm not sure if I'm entirely in agreement.
>"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."
I think that all martial arts may utilize any or all these qualities. Certainly, tcc has "flow" and some "flicks" here and there, even as it is. I guess I consider it as an encyclopedia of the best possibilities to maximize potential. Different people concentrate on different chapters, so they're not always on the same page; but they're still reading the same book.