Leaning

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 09, 2001 5:36 am

Greetings,

I dug up and edited an old post I made on this subject in another forum. I think some of the confusion about “leaning” comes from a basic misunderstanding of the classical injunction regarding “no leaning, no inclining.” The Chinese for this is “bupian buyi.” The phrase “bupian buyi” appearing in Wang Zongyue’s Taijiquan Treatise did not originate in the taijiquan context, but is an allusion to a spiritual/moral concept that appears in a number of philosophical texts. For example, the Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073) used the phrase “bu pian bu yi” in his text “Explanation of the Taiji Diagram” (Taiji Tu Shuo). The Song Dynasty philosopher Zhu Xi (1130-1200) used this phrase and another found in the Taijiquan Treatise, “wuguo buji” (without excess or insufficiency) in his commentary on the early Confucian text, Zhong Yong (Doctrine of Centrality). In its original sense, bupian buyi had nothing to do with physical leaning of the body, but meant something more like “not wavering from the mean.” It still carries a meaning of “impartiality” or “unbiased,” or holding a very precise and considered position.

There is a passage in Douglas Wile’s book, _T’ai Chi’s Ancestors_ that I think sheds important light on this “leaning” issue. He translates the following from Chen Xin’s famous 1933 book on Chen style taijiquan:

“Not leaning or inclining does not refer to the physical body, but to a natural centeredness of the spirit. . . . If we combine this with bending forward and backward, flexing and extending, we will achieve a completely unified method. . . . Although the body may depart from the vertical, the vertical still exists internally; we must not be dogmatic. . . . Although the body executes leaning postures, the central ch’i circulating internally is naturally without unevenness.” (Chen Xin, quoted in Wile, 1999, p. 81)

The advice not to be “dogmatic” is sensible, I would think. After all, every major style of taijiquan has at least some postures and sequences where there is some leaning of the torso, and yet in each case the prerequisite is to remain centrally aligned.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Audi » Fri Mar 09, 2001 5:59 am

Hi Mario, Hi Michael,

If neither of you could figure out my reference to a "sunken bow stance," it seems I really must have been describing something from left field. I was not using it as a technical term, but rather trying to use one word to capture the difference between the two bow stances. Does either one of you have other suggestions? I am certainly not an expert in Cheng Manching's T'ai Chi (or Yang Zhen Duo's for that matter.)

I am also not sure that I can lay claim to inventing the term "sunken" in this context, but I used it because I was taught that Cheng Manching counseled against straightening either the arms or the legs because this caused the qi to rise. Instead, one wanted to keep the qi in the dan tian. To do this, one had to concentrate on "total relaxation" and sinking into the ground. These principles are, of course, not unique to Cheng Manching's T'ai Chi, but the particular emphasis and physical expression do seem distinctive to me.

One teacher I studied briefly with and who said he was a "certified" instructor of T.T. Liang's or William Chen's T'ai Chi (I forget which) even instructed me in a somewhat knock-kneed slump-shouldered Preparation Posture in supposed furtherance of the principle of sinking the qi to the dan tian and avoiding extended postures as too tense or as revealing too much.

In comparing photos of Cheng Manching and Yang Zhen Duo side by side, the former, to me, looks like he is reserving his power and sinking vertically down between his hips, whereas the latter looks like he is expanding as far as possible. Do you both see this differently?

Changing subject somewhat, I recall that Jerry posted on a different thread a picture of a relatively young Yang Cheng Fu in a back stance as "food for thought." No one commented on it at the time, as I recall, but to me it looked clearly like Yang Cheng Fu had a forward lean. In fact, it made me think that pictures of a leaning Wu Jian-chuan I have seen were less unusual than I had previously thought. Any thoughts?

Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 03-09-2001).]
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Postby Mike » Fri Mar 09, 2001 3:31 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Michael:
<B>

THIS QUESTION AFTER ALL, MAY JUST BE ONE OF DEGREES! . Can you resist the pull? Maybe someday we will meet and experiment. I will continue to work with it all. Now, can you also resist the push on the shoulderblade or from a shoulder from the side if your push (or whatever) is neutralized, and the opponent steps to your side when you are in an extended position(or can you escape easily)?

</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE> This is a good point, Michael

<B> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> This from The Nine Principles of the Practice of T'ai Chi Boxing.

"5. The body is upright and can withstand impact from all directions.

If the body is upright it can react to pressure from any direction. This is the ulilization of Peng Ching. If you lean towards the front, then the back has no Peng Ching. If you slant to the left, then the right has no Peng ching. No place on the body should be without Peng ching, and then no place in the body will have a shortcoming.

If you are weak in this area, you will miss the concept of T'ai Chi boxing's circular liveliness. During moving energy the body revolves a great deal and it is difficult to avoid overextending while receiving and releasing. The complete waist down to the tail must be centered and upright. If not, you will miss out on the foundation of flexability. The whole body equally must collect and strike. Boxing chronicles say: The tail is centered and upright and the spirit is threaded to the top. Make the waist like a flag and there will be no shortcomings."
There are points that can be taken to support a number of opinions, however they are "leaning" on this subject. I post the above only for yours and others take on it. i don't have any answers, and i think things are done for a reason. I could talk about what i am taught in my other Yang style but this is not the place. And i am sure that were Yang Jun to read this, he would know that I mean no disrespect and am just looking for honest answers.

I have heard the thoughts of those saying the leaning talked about is not in the physical sense. if they could explain, especially in terms of my examples (or others) i would appreciate it. i tend to be in the physical camp on this as is obvious, but i am willing to to learn.

Thanks </B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


As a prelude to the Taiji form, a "wuji" stance is traditionally held. In "wuji" the body is always "balanced in the 8 directions", meaning that it can ground or root a push from the 8 cardinal points (horizontally). In other words, the jin is not focused in any one direction (hence, wuji). Once the form starts, it enters the open and close cycles of Taiji that go on throughout the form... that is the Taiji. During the Taiji, applications go in various directions, but generally speaking, one never goes out of balance. If you do, you lose the finely balanced Taiji body which is always trying to rebalance itself (like a balance scale) in relation to any impingement by an opponent. Naturally, a not-leaning-much-at-all body is best in order to retain the "balanced in all directions". So the "leaning" has to be "internal" in terms of rooting, etc., and yet by supported by the external not-leaning-much-at-all, also.

In terms of being able to take a pull, a pull is simply a push in the other direction. If you can very relaxedly, but solidly, root to a push (e.g., to a wardoff forearm) and you are not "bracing" to the rear leg.... then you should be able to take a pull to that arm by allowing the root to shift to the front foot while still being relaxed.

My opinion, FWIW.

Regards,

Mike
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Postby Michael » Fri Mar 09, 2001 7:12 pm

Thank you Louis. I had forgotten about that in Wile's book. I would certainly say that dogmatism should have nothing to do with taiji (nor anything else) in particular. To be dogmatic certainly limits ones learning, appreciation, and evolution. And let me take this opportunity to thank you for your translation of the Fu Zhongwen book, I have found it very useful. I look forward to your future work, and Jerry's project.

I suppose in some ways i am trying to make the two seemingly different viewpoints on this subject compatable. Even in the Kuang Ping there are several "postures" where there is a forward "lean". And in that Yang style they really mean DO NOT lean. There is a diffence in approach and much of that has to do with structure it think, particularly the horse "stance" vs the bow "stance", and not any real philosophical diffences ('though that that may not be the case with the people involved). A number of you have helped me with the philosophical aspects of "to" or "not to", which however I have always suspected from my reading(and to some degree, practice).

Mike, thank you for noticing my practical concerns described in my examples above. This IS my primary concern on this subject.
Defensively, I believe (NOT "right" or "wrong") that the vertical should be maintained up until a point. That point is when the technique is successful--or rather has NOT been avoided or neutralized and you are still not entirely committed. Then offensively, one can then lean in (IF needed) to "add on" without the vulnerability that i described earlier. There is no question that power can be amplified in "straight" ahead applications with the small lean. That same power also be achieved by other techniques, but that is another subject

In the case of the above defensive example, could this be the meaning and proper use of training the lean?

Audi, i think your take on the Cheng and YangZD pictures is probably accurate. What you say about Chengs teachings, as i remember, is correct. i understand your "sunken bow stance".

Thanks all
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Postby Mike » Fri Mar 09, 2001 8:35 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Michael:
<B>
Mike, thank you for noticing my practical concerns described in my examples above. This IS my primary concern on this subject.
Defensively, I believe (NOT "right" or "wrong") that the vertical should be maintained up until a point. That point is when the technique is successful--or rather has NOT been avoided or neutralized and you are still not entirely committed. Then offensively, one can then lean in (IF needed) to "add on" without the vulnerability that i described earlier. There is no question that power can be amplified in "straight" ahead applications with the small lean. That same power also be achieved by other techniques, but that is another subject

In the case of the above defensive example, could this be the meaning and proper use of training the lean?

</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I think that a small "lean" can be argued from several directions, in terms of being "right" or "wrong". In terms of the academic argument, I have never been able to totally make up my mind. In terms of seeing the really powerful guys push (like YZD or Wang Pei Sheng, for example)I think that there is a slight lean, but not a lot... certainly they are not absolutely vertical in terms of a plumb bob.

The old way of determining a "correct posture" for the Yang style used to be to draw a dotted line along the rear leg and extending that dotted line to the hand. If you look at a lot of the old pictures, you'll see this is true. The jin/qi goes from the leg to middle to hand. However, the body structure must convey that resultant vector and the mechanical conveyance is easier if the body leans a bit, as in the Wu style. You can see how it boils down to "what is the best way to convey the qi to the hand", and there are valid arguments on all sides. Personally, I consider the base admonitions to always be balanced in all directions, but I'm aware there are legitimate counter-arguments if one wants to split hairs. Goes back to my original question, always: "What did the bad boys do in the old days?". Image

Mike
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Postby DavidJ » Fri Mar 09, 2001 9:28 pm

Michael, Jerry, Louis,

Thanks for all your comments. I particularly like the “not wavering from the mean,” and the idea of the balancing of forces as expressed in YZD's article.

Michael wrote, "Can you resist the pull?" Usually, but I can also improve what I do there.

He also wrote, "Now, can you also resist the push on the shoulderblade or from a shoulder from the side if your push (or whatever) is neutralized, and the opponent steps to your side when you are in an extended position(or can you escape easily)?" Yes, usually a waist turn will suffice, and agility comes into play, and here, too, I think I can do better. Escaping "easily," depends on the circumstances.

While I can describe some techniques that I use, I also know that I do some things that I can't put into words well. Also, I'm not at all sure that I have some of the problems that are described, in leaning and over-extension, to name two; and I think that I do waist turns differently from how others describe them in these discussions.

In this thread part of what we're talking about is channeling forces into the ground. Generally here, and in other threads, we are also talking about the education of our kinesthetic sense, and the techniques that we use.

But, specifically, Michael is exploring the problems regarding being pulled from the front.

There is a small technique that can help, but in terms of gradually exploring aspects of Yang Tai Chi, this may be going a bit too far, too soon, for now. So I must say beforehand that I'm not sure I can recommend this to anyone who is new to Tai Chi: I think that there are other things to learn first. (And I don't know if YZD teaches this.)

If you are in the bow stance, say, your right foot is in front, and your weight is in front; your back leg is pushing, but is not quite straight. The usual stuff; OK. Now, close your left hip: turn your back leg in as though you are pulling your left hip and your right knee toward each other. This will move your hips forward a little bit, less than an inch, but it will increase your root and you can take a forward pull and channel it through your waist and down your right leg into the ground.

David
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Postby Michael » Fri Mar 09, 2001 9:45 pm

Mike, wouldn't it be nice if we knew what men like Yang Lu Chan and Ban Hou actually did in the "good old days" (note: they were not so good). All our biases and questions would go away pretty fast and be replaced by a whole other set. The first being, where do i sign up?

No hairs to split here, just an interest in theory and practicality.

David, i can deal with my scenario more than half the time. The major factor being on the degree my commitment of course, and my partner's timing. The waist turn is effective in only a portion of this particular example (with the small lean).

It is so hard to try to covey this other than "A. strikes forward with his... "that is too hard to do here. it would be nice to have video of it. I do better with the vertical alignment than the with the lean. Which may just mean it just needs more work. If i can "master" both, I will be ahead. Practice More!

Thanks



[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 03-09-2001).]
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Postby DavidJ » Sat Mar 10, 2001 12:30 am

Michael,

Your response first read that you'd try my idea, but then that part was editted out. What happened?

If you tried it and there was no difference, maybe I didn't decribe it well enough. It is better to show this in a two person drill than otherwise.

David
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Postby mnpli » Sat Mar 10, 2001 12:37 am

Hi Audi

<<< I am also not sure that I can lay claim to inventing the term "sunken" in this context, but I used itbecause I was taught that Cheng Manching counseled against straightening either the arms or the legs because this caused the qi to rise. Instead, one wanted to keep the qi in the dan tian. To do this, one had to concentrate on "total relaxation" and sinking into the ground. These principles are, of course, not unique to Cheng Manching's T'ai Chi, but the particular emphasis and physical expression do seem distinctive to me.>>>

Audi I think one way to look at this is exactly the way you say it 'Not unique to Cheng's tai chi chuan " But just tai chi chuan principles, There is no straightening of any limbs in tai chi ' as they say find the straight in the curve' two keeping the elbows 'Down ' or heavy elbows is also a t.c.c. principle and practical.

>>> One teacher I studied briefly with and who said he was a "certified" instructor of T.T. Liang's or William Chen's T'ai Chi (I forget which) even instructed me in a somewhat knock-kneed slump-shouldered Preparation Posture in supposed furtherance of the principle of sinking the qi to the dan tian and avoiding extended postures as too tense or as revealing too much.>>>

Well that's just plain and simple 'Wrong ' the Classic say drop your shoulders relaxing the chest allows the chi to settle in the dan-tien and at the same time this idea rounds the back. all this knocked knee and slumped shoulders is nuts.and 'Not' a Cheng thing.

<<< In comparing photos of Cheng Manching and Yang Zhen Duo side by side, the former, to me, looks like he is reserving his power and sinking vertically down between his hips, whereas the latter looks like he is expanding as far as possible. Do you both see this differently?

<<< Well yes and no, let's start by saying that what Cheng's does in the finish posture is to Square is hips and YZd does not , at firsts I thought that that might be a
Cheng's thing but then I saw Yang Zhenji, square off when he did his postures. so I then I thought that Cheng's the only one who bends is leg , but then I saw Tung Hu-ling and his father also having their back leg bend, see

http://www.ttopa.com/thl.htm '

and on the same site look at YCF dressed in white doing brush knee is
back legs is slightly bent, hes hips are squared and no angular and loosk more up right then the so called leaning posture from his youth . now Audi im not making any conclusions just observations , and on a side note. Cheng tought to first shift with the back foot straight (Not Locked mind you ) and then when you square off your posture to bend the knee.

Mario
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Postby Michael » Sat Mar 10, 2001 1:47 am

David, when i edited my post i just did not get it back in. I understand very well what you are speaking about. Tomorrow i will try it out with a partner and get back to you. Thanks
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Mar 10, 2001 6:34 am

Hi All,

wish I had something really helpful to add on this question of "leaning." My only thought is that it might not refer as much to "forward" or "backward" leaning as it does to tilting from "side to side." BTW, some "unorthodox" (i.e., non-Yang Chengfu) styles of taijiquan do have some postures that tilt to the side -with crossed-legs, at that: viz., "Wuxing Taijiquan" for example. If we're talking about strict adherence to maintaining a perpendicular spine, then I'd have to ask about "Needle at Sea Bottom" or the "downward punch" in the Yang long form. I've seen people bend at the middle to do both. Well, personally, I think that "leaning" hasn't been well-defined yet in this conversation. Anyway, do we lean when we walk, or when we climb or descend stairs? Isn't leaning something we should not do because it places us off balance? I mean, couldn't YCF's posture be somewhat related to his physique. Certainly, it is possible to have incorrect alignment. There can also be "excesses and deficiencies." But, that's -imo- a slightly different, and larger, topic. As far as the capacity of a particular posture to resist "pulling" versus "pushing", I think that's somewhat a function of "pengjin" (not TM) --but, the ability to determine the power and direction of any force is product of "listening" and "interpreting." No structure, no matter how well founded or grounded, can only neutralize, redirect, dissolve, support, transform, etc., a finite amount. Larger structures, if they can support themselves, can generally support more than smaller ones. If one could put a handle on one of the Egyptian pyramids, would it be easier to pull it or push it? I know, we only have two points of support. However, my point is only that, in the finishing position of "Brush Knee" let's say, it would be ideal if one's arm couldn't be pulled forward, or pushed back, or up/down, or to the side. I.e., there would be a kind of energy like that of an inflated ball: i.e., equally radiating outwardly from the center, yet contained within a specific space. Oh well, my .02.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Mar 10, 2001 6:52 am

Hi again,

I was wondering. How would a tjq person work on a hill? Or, do the rules only apply to flat ground?

Half joke/half not,
Steve James
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Postby DavidJ » Sat Mar 10, 2001 9:55 pm

Hi Steve,

All things being equal, if the great pyramid was on rollers, and I had engines with enough torque to move it, I would choose to pull it because it would be so much easier to steer, and to apply the force efficiently.

On the Punch to Knee and Needle to the Bottom of the Sea, try turning your shoulders to the left. With the punch your left shoulder need not drop at all.

Your doing TCC on the side of a hill...raises the question, beyond what angle can we no longer adhere to a surface?

Sometimes I do picture the energy as a sphere.

David


[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 03-13-2001).]
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Postby Audi » Sat Mar 10, 2001 10:15 pm

Hi Steve and others,

For me T'ai Chi on a hill is no joke. Most of my backyard has a nice incline gentle enough to tempt me, but severe enough to really mess up my form. I go back and forth between thinking the challenge to adapt is good for me, and thinking that T'ai Chi has enough challenge already. Usually, I chicken out and do form elsewhere. When I have braved it, I have decided to align with gravity, rather than the slope. Anyone have different views?

You mentioned "Needle at Sea Bottom," which has always puzzled me for the reason you mentioned it. For all those who lean(forgive the pun) toward keeping vertical postures at all times, what do you make of this posture? I have seen performances of the modern 24-movement form that do not have a lean even in this posture, but I assume that this form has the least claim to be representing martial efficiency. Is a bending Needle at Sea Bottom simply an exception?

As for a definition of the lean, I have still not figured how much of a lean a slight lean is. At two seminars I have attended, Yang Zhen Duo has corrected me several times as being too vertical. When I try to recall what the angle should be, I fail. When on general principles, I increase the lean beyond my habit, I feel I am overbalanced forward.

I find that I resist a pull most easily with the following set up. Imagine that someone is pulling your arm and forcing your front knee to bend, but both feet remain on the ground. If the direction of the force would carry your dan tian area under the height of the knee, it feels as if the front leg is unconquerable. If the dan tian area would pass over the knee, your back foot feels like it will inevitably be pulled off the ground, using your front foot as an unwilling pivot point. In either case, you do not actually bend the front knee, I am simply describing the apparent force vector.

By the way, does anyone feel that a verticle posture actually produces a stronger forward flow of jin than one with a slight lean? Is this merely a question of avoiding vulnerabilities, or differing interpretations of how jin travels most strongly through the body? Also, is there anyone who maintains a reasonably strict vertical posture during vigorous push hands?

Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 03-11-2001).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Sun Mar 11, 2001 1:49 am

Charla Quinn pointed out to me that in my earlier post in this thread when I said:

"Yang Zhenduo advocates leaning forward slightly in a bow step whenever both hands are going in the same direction. That means all bow steps except single whip and fan through back".

I neglected to mention left ward off, which also has no lean. (I have corrected the original post up above).



[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 03-10-2001).]
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