Greetings Psalchemist and David:
David, thanks for the information. You remind me that all forms are not the same and that I need to keep making that clear in stating any opinions about what energy techniques are being practiced in what postures.
Psalchemist, without knowing what form you are learning I should make clear that what I say may not match up to the movements you perform. I should also repeat that my knowledge of how postures should match up to energy techniques is also quite limited.
I just got back from a Yang Family seminar and need to revise what I said in my earlier post about Fair Lady threads the shuttles. It seems that right after the first and third pause points, the right hand manifests Pluck as the arm opens up to the right and the left foot does its pivot. David, I guess this is what you were referring to in your post. It is not clear to me how this technique would link up with what follows or whether any link is intended. I would appreciate any ideas on this point.
From talking with friends at the seminar, I also get the impression that the pause points in Fair Lady could also be instances where Split (Lie/Lieh) is trained. This is contrary to what I said or implied in my earlier post. When I first saw a demonstration of the “meaning” of this posture, the energy I saw manifested was more like what I would call “An,” or Pushing/Pressing. It was basically used to push the opponent away.
If the same motion were done more “abruptly” and perhaps with more intent in the left arm to open up the opponent’s body and with more intent in the right palm to make the energy penetrate, I think this might be better described as Split.
My last comment reminds me that I should make clear that people use the term “application” ambiguously. Most of the time, people seem to use it to mean different patterns in which the parts of your body can interact with other parts of the opponent’s body. Another sense of “application” that can be more subtle is when people use it to refer to the same external match-up of body parts, but with an intent to refer to different interactions of movement energy.
The posture Roll Back from the form is a good example of the possibilities of this latter sense of “application.” As I understand it, the posture primarily trains Roll Back, but done with slightly different amounts and angles of twisting, pressure, or rotation in each of the arms, the same posture can be used to pull the opponent around you, lever him or her to the ground beside you, push him or her away from you, temporarily immobilize him or her, cause pain, injure his or her elbow, or even injure his or her shoulder. Within these different actions, one could argue that Roll Back, Elbow Stroke, Shoulder Stroke, Pluck, and Split, as well as other techniques, can have varying degrees of prominence.
Psalchemist, you posted the following:
<<To address the portion of this movement which simutaneously raises one arm(as in a lifting action), pulls backward with the other (I thought was pluck)and 'sneaks' in with the foot. Is this simply the 'filling' section of the whole 'press/push' energy?>>
I think I probably should not insist too strongly that the motion you describe as Pluck is not in fact Pluck. The word “Cai” in Chinese basically refers to the “plucking,” “picking,” or “gathering” action one can perform on fruit, flowers, or similar things. As such, the image is different from merely “grabbing” something, but nevertheless implies some closing of the fingers. In Taijiquan, I believe it generally refers to hand shapes that involve use of the Tiger’s Mouth; however, I can see how the opponent’s own grabbing action might serve the same purpose.
In Fair Lady, I understand the main reason for withdrawing the right arm to be an attempt to pull one’s hand out of the opponent’s grasp. The left arm could then be seen as using Ward Off primarily to help strip the opponent’s grip away. This is similar to “Apparent Closure” (Ru feng si bi). On the other hand, one can use the withdrawing action to “set up” the opponent’s arm and use one’s left arm primarily to immobilize the opponent’s shoulder or even to attempt to break the elbow with Split. These are actions that I associate more with the supporting action of Pluck. Of course, these techniques can also overlap somewhat during the same action.
<<If 'press/push' is the 'out' energy(fajin?) is there a name for the 'in' energy, or can that possibly exist?>>
Just to be clear, Push/press (“An”) is not the same as “Fajin.” As I understand it, “Fajin” refers to suddenly releasing or emitting a large amount of the movement energy stored in the body. Push/press need not be done in this way. I have on good authority that the opposite of “Fajin” can be viewed as “Huajin,” or “Neutralizing/Dissolving/Transforming Energy.” In other words, one is generally either neutralizing (dissolving or transforming) the energy being manifested by the opponent or else one is suddenly returning it back to him or her.
The characteristic direction of An is said to be downward, while the characteristic direction of Ji (Press/Squeeze) is said to be forward. Generalized Peng is described as expanding energy outward. In the specific sense, it is described as a lifting technique. Lü is described as moving energy inward towards one’s center. In a simplistic sense, these four techniques cover “downward,” “upward,” “forward,” and “inward.”
<<Concerning 'Pi' and 'Li' energies... Do all weapons movements possess different energies than the hand forms, or just different names of energies implying the same essences?>>
First, let me say that I am not altogether certain that “Pi” and “Lie” are best thought of as “energies” per se, rather than as “techniques” one does to “energy.” “Pi Jin” can be translated as “Splitting Energy,” but I believe that in both Chinese and English this expression could mean either “the energy that does ‘Pi’/Split” or “the action of performing ‘Pi’/Split to [the] energy (‘Jin’) [flowing from or to the opponent]”. The former implies that the expression “Splitting Energy” is made up of a participle modifying a head noun. The latter implies that “Splitting Energy” is made up of a gerund phrase that includes a verb and its object.
I have read enough texts in English to be sure that “Split” is referred to as an “energy” among the English speaking community and by some authorities who are fluent in Chinese. I have not, however, read enough texts in Chinese to confirm that this view is the most helpful one in studying or discussing the Chinese classics. The main reason I resist the easy path of talking about “various energies” is that it tends to encourage an aura of mystery that I am uncomfortable with and that can detract from the essential simplicity of what is being discussed. Phrases like “’Peng’ energy” suggest to me some sort of magic force field that manipulates the opponent’s body in some way. A phrase like “doing ’peng’ to the opponent’s energy” seems much more straightforward to me, while still suggesting the importance of the internal aspects of Taijiquan.
For purposes of my explanation, I will assume that Pi, Lie, etc. are techniques one uses to affect the disposition or configuration of movement energy jointly manifested by you and the opponent. With this preamble, it is natural to assume that the hand techniques and weapons techniques will be different. When one uses the palms to press on the energy of the opponent’s body, this is called “An.” When one uses a weapon to press down the energy manifested by the opponent’s weapon, this is called “Ya.” I think that “An” in Chinese implies use of the hand, while “Ya” is not limited in this way.
In the empty hand, a major objective is to interfere with the flow of Jin through the opponent’s body by causing him or her to lose root or to lose mobility in a critical joint. In weapons practice, a major objective seems to be to interfere with the opponent’s ability to use his or her weapon appropriately or to strike the opponent directly. You no longer bother so much with such things as trying to lock up the opponent’s shoulder or topple him or her over.
Pressing down on the opponent’s weapon will likely have different consequences than pressing down directly on the opponent’s body. The former action can be used to open up the opponent’s body for a subsequent attack with a weapon, while the latter action is more likely to be used directly to uproot the opponent, without the necessity for a follow-up attack.
Taijiquan (or Taiji Fist) is said to use thirteen principal “Shi” (postures or dispositions or configurations of movement energy) that include eight upper body ones (the eight gates) and five lower body ones (the Five Steps). Taijidao (or Taiji Saber) is also said to use thirteen “Shi,” but each of these are different from those of Taiji Fist. They basically involve different interactions of the saber with the opponent’s saber or body. Taijijian (or Taiji [Straight] Sword) also has thirteen “Shi” that overlap those of Taiji Saber. I believe Taiji Spear/Staff is similar.
I believe that the thirteen “Shi” of Taiji Fist (Taijiquan), Taiji Saber, Taiji Sword, and Taiji Staff/Spear are viewed as analogous to each other; however, in some ways, I think this can be taken too far. For instance, the Five Steps are only listed among the Thirteen “Shi” of Taiji Fist; however, I believe the Five Steps also apply to all the weapons practices. One can also say that Peng (Ward Off) in the general sense is something that is the basis of all Taiji techniques, including those for weapons.
I think the best way of thinking about all this is in terms of training progression. One begins by learning Taiji Fist and the significance of the Eight Gates and the Five Steps. After these are learned and somewhat internalized, this knowledge and these skills are used as the basis for learning thirteen new sword or saber skills.
As I believe I have stated before, it is unclear to me how much philosophical scrutiny this system can and should withstand. As I understand it, there are other martial systems besides Taijiquan that talk in terms of thirteen “Shi.” I think the reason for the prevalence of the number “thirteen” is to prove that such systems are based on the principles of nature and the Dao, rather than from arbitrary human decisions. These systems also provide a convenient unification of Yin/Yang theory with Five Element theory.
<<Is 'play the lute'(ti shou shang shih)a 'press' energy?>>
Play the Lute/Pipa is actually “Shou hui pipa,” while “Ti/T’i shou shang shi/shih” is Lift Hands and Step up. Both are probably best viewed as vehicles to train Split (Lie or Lieh) and to damage the opponent’s elbow. Done less “abruptly,” however, both postures could be used to push the opponent away by working on his or her elbow to lock up his or her shoulder and then destroy his or her root.
Instances of Press/Squeeze (“Ji”/”Chi”), at least in the form the Yangs teach, include the Press posture of Grasp Sparrow’s Tail and the transition into White Crane Spreads Wings. Since I am not certain in which sense you used the word “press,” let me give a little explanation of what I believe to be behind some of these words in Chinese.
“Ji” in Chinese means to press, squeeze, jam, or crowd into something. I think the connotation for Taijiquan is either that one is crowding one’s energy close into the opponent or that one is squeezing the energy in one’s hands and arms together. “An” (or Push/Press) is what one does to a computer key. It has a connotation of “downward,” but this is not absolutely required. For example, when can “An” a doorbell, which involves pushing/pressing a button horizontally. “Tui” means to “push” and is the word used for the expression translated as Push Hands (Tui shou). It is also used to describe the horizontal striking action of the palm in such postures as Brush Knee and Twist Step. It can also describe what one does to the saber (tui dao) when the back of the left arm helps to push out the saber in Fair Lady Works/Threads the Shuttles to the Eight Directions.
As for your bird motions, I do not think that they really involve alterations of filling and emptying. I think of filling and emptying as involving the control and use of momentum and mass. The motion of a bird perched on a clothesline does not really seem to reflect this much. I am also wary of looking at mere alternation as sufficient evidence of a Taiji relationship. In my opinion, the Yin and Yang of Taiji really involves interdependence more than alternation. The crest of a wave is caused by the trough, and vice versa.
However, your analysis of Li and Kan is somewhat intriguing. The only reservation I have is that to really make your analysis work, you would need to define the bird’s overall types of movement in terms of eight different aspects, rather than describe only one isolated motion. In other words, just because something is clingy does not make it correspond to the “Li” trigram. The trigrams are purely relational and not absolute descriptions of anything.
At the literal level you are proposing, stillness would correspond to the Yin broken line and movement would correspond to the Yang solid lines. Movement at the top and bottom and stillness in the middle would then correspond to the Kan trigram. This trigram has the attribute of the danger caused by rushing floodwaters. I am not sure, however, what insights one can draw from such a view of a bird swaying back and forth on a clothesline.