Comparison of Yang and Wu long forms

Comparison of Yang and Wu long forms

Postby Tripper » Tue Jun 07, 2005 10:37 pm

Hello All,
Apologies in advance for the long pre-amble but my excuse is this is my first posting here and I am mindful of to whom I am addressing it, and I wish to do so with the respect many of you deserve (no I'm not implying some of you don't!). If I can introduce myself I am a student of Sifu Wu Kwong Yu based in the UK - greetings to my elder Kung Fu brothers and sisters some of whom I know are here: Polaris, Sifu Britt if he's a-listening - I have only discovered this forum recently and I have been catching up with back postings. One of which back in '04 had a diversion from the main topic by 'Wushuer' into Cloud Hands:
"I found out I was not holding my downward then across arm correctly for Yang style, I was still holding it in Wu style mode, which works with the energy but was confusing the heck out of some the newer folks who were watching me do it. In the same vein I was keeping my arm too close to my body, because in Wu style that arm folds down directly across your side and turns with your hip, rather than being extended and turning with your waist. I can reconcile the energy movement as being the same, but the external manifestation is quite different. "
I learnt a Yang long form some 20+ years ago, then the teacher moved away, I stopped practising 'til maybe 5 years later I started again with Wu Style and here I am still going. The Yang form is too far back for me to remember and cross compare and I wondered if Wushuer or any others of you who study/have studied both would be prepared to comment on any differences in internal feeling/ energetics of the two (or similarities for that matter). I ask the question in the spirit of holding up a mirror to my practice to see if I can learn something from a different angle, and not in any way to suggest/imply "my styles better because...."
Hope this is a suitable topic for a Yang Family forum. (Also apologies if this is a Been There Done That issue).
Tripper
 
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Jun 09, 2005 3:29 am

Welcome Tripper,

Sounds like a good topic to me! I look forward to hearing more about the internal similarties and differences between Wu and Yang and other styles as well...but I've only studied Yang style and am not terribly far along with the internal stuff so I'll have to wait with you for others to reply.

Best wishes,
Kal
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Postby Audi » Mon Jun 20, 2005 1:04 am

Greetings all,

I can only base my knowledge of the Wu form from a few things I have read on this forum and elsewhere and from a few videos I have seen of various practitioners. Here are a few areas where I am curious about possible differences.

Applications

There are many places where the Yang form postures can be adapted for throws; however, there is no place I recall throws to be the emblematic application of a posture. In other words, throws seem to be a secondary application, rather than a primary one. From the discussions on this forum, it seems that throws and sweeps have a more prominent role in the design of the Wu form.

Footwork

It seems to me that stepping techniques always involve compromises between what is a natural stepping motion, what is most nimble, and what is most powerful. The parallel footwork of Wu Style seems closer to natural stepping than the typical Yang Style footwork; however, this seems to have different implications for power generation and structure. Yang Chengfu's form has many places where the angle of the rear foot requires adjustments before or after the step. Sometimes this complicates transitions. Yang Styles that do not have this foot configuration have quite different footwork. One thing that the rear foot angle does is train an emphasis on linking "right" and "left" in a different way, since the basic stepping technique tends to require stepping in one direction in order to head in the other direction.

Full and Empty

My current belief is that Yang and Wu Styles adhere to the same principle of distinguishing full and empty; however, I wonder if the surface implications are different. For Yang Style, I think that this doctrine dictates that the steps of the basic form are generally performed without using momentum. This method is what I understand to be "stepping like a cat." For Yang Chengfu's form, however, this doctrine does not dictate that one leg of a stance carry 100% of the weight and that the other carry none. Such weight distribution applies to the method of stepping, but not to the weight distribution of a final stance. This means that "Distinguishing full and empty" in fixed-step push hands has nothing to do with transferring all the weight or all the force from one leg or arm to the other. In general, where power is needed, the weight distribution stays within a more equal weight distribution.

Leaning

I frankly do not understand the Wu lean, but from discussions on this forum, wonder whether it is a necessary corrollary to the parallel stepping and the emphasis on throws and sweeps. In Yang Style, opinion seems to be divided. Yang Zhenduo and Yang Jun teach a slight lean in all the Solid-Empty Stances and a definite lean in Bow Stances where all the energy is directed forward. The reason for the lean is structural strength, although I find that the lean also encourages me to loosen my waist and allows me to keep my frame big with less strain on the rear hip socket and knee.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Tripper » Mon Jun 20, 2005 8:33 pm

Thanks for the considered reply Audi.

One thing that Sifu Eddie emphasises quite a lot (and I think I have seen mentioned on this board previously), is that a lot of the training methods should be viewed as "training to the max", i.e. that you might not choose/be able to use a 'comfortable' stance/ posture/ angle in a real self-defence situation, so you train right up to the edge of the 'envelope.' If you use it for real and you only need to have a 45 degree angle on the back foot, or 60/40 weighting, or can be upright - all well and good. But if you're caught somewhere else (more difficult), its ok because you've been training there all the time.
[this my understanding and open to correction by any more in the know here!]

This has been said in context of the lean also - but I think there are other issues involved there as well.
Tripper
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Postby Kalamondin » Thu Jun 23, 2005 12:33 am

Hi Tripper,

I’m interested to know your perspective on the characteristics of Wu style internal energy. Because I don’t have any background in Wu style, would you be willing to talk a little about your experiences with this so I can have something to compare my experience with Yang style to? I’m definitely not coming from a “my style is better than your style” position either. I’m just curious about other styles and want to learn as much as I can to further my own understanding of the one I practice.

You said:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
One thing that Sifu Eddie emphasises quite a lot (and I think I have seen mentioned on this board previously), is that a lot of the training methods should be viewed as "training to the max", i.e. that you might not choose/be able to use a 'comfortable' stance/ posture/ angle in a real self-defence situation, so you train right up to the edge of the 'envelope.' If you use it for real and you only need to have a 45 degree angle on the back foot, or 60/40 weighting, or can be upright - all well and good. But if you're caught somewhere else (more difficult), its ok because you've been training there all the time.
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yang Jun mentioned something about Wu style years ago, something like, “Even though they seem to really be leaning a lot, the feeling is that they are upright.” I think I’m just starting to have a smidge of understanding about what this is from the recent discussions on this board about central equilibrium. If I understand correctly, the sense of being perfectly centered and balanced at all times should be maintained, whether one is leaning really far (but not unbalanced), or crouched, or twisted up. I have been trying to incorporate this more in push hands—being conscious of central equilibrium at all times—and it’s helping me to keep from overextending and helping me to extricate myself from locks and pretzel formations before it’s too late.

I wonder how much of a difference there really is between the different styles when it comes to push hands. For example, beyond the differences of circling patterns, when it comes to free-style I think all of us are trying to “push the envelope” and learn how to get out of crazy situations and turn the tables on our opponents. Master Yang has said that at the high levels, pushing hands with masters from different styles feels the same, even though the forms are very different. I suspect that if one has incorporated the principles well enough, then the form to formlessness bit applies and they can react to whatever comes in, no matter its shape or footwork position or frame size.

On the other hand, there’s no denying that there are a lot of different philosophies and approaches. What are the characteristics of the Wu style internal feeling/energy movement?

My teacher has indicated that when we use the applications, we’re not likely to have the lead time or large “wind-up” space that we practice in the form, that the application may have to take place at close quarters in a much smaller size.

Push hands beginners at the school I attend are taught to shift forwards and backwards in the full range of the bow stance—the front knee all the way forward in line with (but not past) the toe, then all the way back onto the back leg with nearly an empty stance weight distribution (about 70% weight on the back leg) and the waist rotating nearly 45%. But later this becomes smaller. Yang Jun seems to stay in the middle when pushing with us (we aren’t much of a challenge for him, I’m afraid). Both his legs are nearly straight and the stance is high and smallish compared to his form practice stance. It looks double weighted, but because he can distinguish between empty and full to a fine degree he hardly seems to shift at all.

Hi Audi,

What you said below about Full and Empty seems similar to what I’ve observed of Yang Jun’s pushing style (if I’ve understood you correctly):

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>
This means that "Distinguishing full and empty" in fixed-step push hands has nothing to do with transferring all the weight or all the force from one leg or arm to the other. In general, where power is needed, the weight distribution stays within a more equal weight distribution. </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Let me see if I can add something. Let me know if you disagree—I’m still working it out. I think that distinguishing between full and empty is much more than weight distribution percentages. In use, I think it’s closer to riding the line between yin and yang. The body comes to know which side is which, even if it’s not conscious. Each part of the body is both empty and full, from large distinctions between left foot, right foot, all the way down to small distinctions between left side of little toe, and right side of little toe (and smaller). Staying balanced through attention to central equilibrium allows one to distinguish between empty and full to a fine degree, even if the stance appears nearly 50-50. If someone is distinguishing between empty and full, even a stance that looks stagnant at first glance is actually not.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> My current belief is that Yang and Wu Styles adhere to the same principle of distinguishing full and empty; however, I wonder if the surface implications are different. For Yang Style, I think that this doctrine dictates that the steps of the basic form are generally performed without using momentum. This method is what I understand to be "stepping like a cat." For Yang Chengfu's form, however, this doctrine does not dictate that one leg of a stance carry 100% of the weight and that the other carry none. Such weight distribution applies to the method of stepping, but not to the weight distribution of a final stance. </font>


Hmm, I agree with you 100% about stepping like a cat—any foot that comes down has to be able to be immediately retracted. I also agree that steps are performed without momentum in the sense that the body falling forward does not influence the length of the stance the way it does (a little bit) in the Yang sword form or when sprinting. The length of any stance is dependent upon how much weight the supporting leg can bear.

But I wonder: do you think that momentum can be conserved even if one steps like a cat? For example, the transitional footwork in deflect, parry, step and punch has a continuous, unbroken sense of moving forward, even though one has to be completely balanced on the supporting leg before the next foot touches down. I think that Yang style requires that steps be made without reliance on momentum for length, but I don’t think it’s adverse to using momentum within each stance for power generation or even from posture to posture: root first, then issue. As soon as the root is made, one can use the momentum generated through weight shifts within each stance. And I suspect that through balance training, one could learn to gauge the shift from step to step such that the requirement for cat-like stepping AND some degree of forward momentum is maintained.

Here’s an analogy (I may have heard it somewhere before): even a swinging pendulum hangs perfectly vertical for a split second even though its arc is continuous. Thus, the body’s momentum from one step to the next can be unbroken and continuous even though the weight has to be 100% balanced over the supporting leg as the next step touches the ground. But once the foot touches the ground, the transfer of weight is continuous.

How does Wu style handle the transfer of weight from one step to the next? What about momentum?

Thanks,
Kal
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Postby Audi » Sun Jun 26, 2005 5:19 am

Greetings all,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">But I wonder: do you think that momentum can be conserved even if one steps like a cat? For example, the transitional footwork in deflect, parry, step and punch has a continuous, unbroken sense of moving forward, even though one has to be completely balanced on the supporting leg before the next foot touches down. I think that Yang style requires that steps be made without reliance on momentum for length, but I don’t think it’s adverse to using momentum within each stance for power generation or even from posture to posture: root first, then issue.</font>


I think I expressed myself poorly. I actually think that from the scientific viewpoint, Yang Style makes a great deal of use of momentum and that this is actually what lies behind a lot of what we call "internal power." However, to learn to control this, I think we train to show no external expression of this as we do the barehand form, except for the spins and swing kick.

We are told to do form with the energy, continuity, and power of the Yang-Tse River; and yet the flow of this river is dictated principally by gravity. There is no mind behind it. If we copy the energy of this directly, we would concede control to gravity and let qi dictate our yi. We would let our arms swing into position and sway from step to step. I think that this is not what is meant by "walking like a cat."

By learning to create continuity without making use of the constant of gravity, I think we train to use momentum with greater clarity. Instead of leaning to shift weight, we learn to push it from one leg to the other and thus learn to use the muscles that can control the full range of speed and power that can be brought to bear on a weight shift.

By introducing some momentum in the weapons form, I think we train to understand where gravity may even need to be a determining factor in forming our yi. For instance, there is no way to control the sword in doing liao ("scoop"? or "upper cut"?)(This is the backward circular motion that precedes the Big Dipper) or ji ("strike"?) in Dusting in the Wind in the Sword Form or in doing Look Left and Gaze Right or any of the jumps in the Saber Form. These moves require the use of external momentum. In fact, controlling the motions of the tassle and scarf always require the use of external momentum.

If you are thrusting with the spear or staff to practice fajin, I think you must again use speed and momentum, but with a muscular feel and clarity that is different from what external martial arts cultivate.

Does this sound more reasonable?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Tripper » Mon Jun 27, 2005 8:05 pm

Thanks for continued interest - will try and reply to questions with as much consideration. Am really pushed for time this week and don't want to rush answer, please bear with me.
Regards,
Tripper
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