More on Empty Stance

More on Empty Stance

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Feb 16, 2001 12:14 am

Greetings,

I’ve translated a passage from Yang Zhenji’s book, _Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan_ (Guangxi Minzu Chubanshe, 1993) that specifically addresses empty stances. I’ve previously expressed some reservations about the 70/30 wording as a firm prescriptive guideline to be taken literally. I think of it more as a pedagogical device, a rhetorical or metaphorical way of speaking (something like the familiar “four ounces/thousand pounds” aphorism). When I do the form, there are no gauges or instrumentation of any kind present. The following lends some support to this perspective.

~~~
Front-Empty Rear-Solid Stances: This kind of stance method is divided into left and right empty stances. The way of doing the left empty stance is that the right foot plants solidly, the left foot lifts upward toward the left front direction, extending out a half-step, using the ball of the foot to touch (dian) the ground, as in the stance of the White Crane Displays Wings posture, [or] by using the heel of the foot to touch the ground, as in the Fist Under Elbow posture. The left and right feet change positions when forming right empty stances. This kind of stance method requires that the rear foot sit solidly. The front foot is not entirely empty; it also possesses some sustaining force (zhicheng de liliang). In the left and right empty stances of Yang Style taijiquan, the front foot is never entirely empty (kong: void, hollow), but must always share responsibility for the weight of the body. The solid foot’s share of the weight is a bit more, the empty foot’s share of the weight is a bit less. The ‘more’ and ‘less’ depend upon the height of the frame, and take the upright alignment of one’s weilu (coccyx) and the naturalness of one’s turning movements as the measure of appropriateness.

In the stance methods of Yang Style taijiquan, there is no formulation of the kind where ‘the solid foot’s share of the body’s weight is seventy percent, the empty foot’s share is thirty percent.’

There is still another kind of front-empty rear-solid stance in which the rear foot is solid, and in which the entire sole of the front empty foot contacts (zhuo) the ground, for instance, Step Back Dispatch Monkey.
~~~

I want to be clear that I don’t post this to in any way challenge the validity or usefullness of the 70/30 notion—I think the objective in that is to make it clear that there is indeed something “there” in the empty foot. What I’ve rendered as “sustaining force” in the empty foot is zhicheng de liliang. Zhicheng means to sustain, support, or to prop up. Liliang is strength or force.

Comments encouraged,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 02-17-2001).]
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Postby Mike » Fri Feb 16, 2001 1:13 am

Hi Louis:

I'd have to say it's a nice translation, but 70/30 refers to weight and "full vs empty" refers to jin. Often the jin is in the weighted foot, but it is not necessarily always the same. See the example I gave earlier in the double-weighted thread. Just because the legs carry both weight and jin doesn't mean they are the same thing. Image

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Feb 16, 2001 1:27 am

Yang Zhenduo refers to this as san1 qi1 zhi1 cheng1 '3/7 support' and sometimes san1 qi1 fen1 cheng1 '3/7 split support'. Yang Zhenji's point about not having a 30/70 formula is not to say that doing that would be wrong but that like foot angles and degrees of turn, in Yang Chengfu's time and before they did not specify hard numbers. Obviously, 30/70 is nothing more than a general indication of the proportion. Since no one does taiji with scales on their feet, there is really no way to know the precise numbers. Louis was kind enought to send me the passages in Chinese (anyone know where to get the book? I've been trying to find it for years). It would be difficult to improve upon his translation.



[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 02-15-2001).]
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Postby tai1chi » Fri Feb 16, 2001 3:16 am

Hi Louis,

thanks for the translation. This section confirmed my opinion:

"The front foot is not entirely empty; it also possesses some sustaining force (zhicheng de liliang). In the left and right empty stances of Yang Style taijiquan, the front foot is never entirely empty (kong: void, hollow), but must always share responsibility for the weight of the body"

As I learned it, "one leg/foot always helps the other." This is one of those yin-yang conditions for taiji. At any rate, it has always been suggested to me that the "empty" leg is just there "to help." And, the amount of help needed depends on the practitioner, not any rule. For example, I haven't heard anyone address the question of the "spins" before "kick with heel/sole." Is the standard to put the left foot down first (after spinning on the right), or should we hhold it up? or should the "spin" actuaally be a series of small "pivots"? My opinion is that it depends on the strength and intent of the practitioner. Anyway, thanks for the input.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Charla Quinn » Wed Feb 21, 2001 8:36 pm

Last night while practicing, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I went to an empty step on "toe" (ball) in Hand Strums the Lute, suddenly mentally blocking and feeling strange I went to my notes to find the reason it felt strange and why for the life of me I couldn't remember if heel or toe was correct. Sure enough it said on heel, thus why it probably felt strange. But, this made me wonder why are some "toe" (ball) and some "heel?" Is there a general rule of thumb? How is their function different from heel to toe? Oh and one other question, my former teacher used to have the leg/knee bent a bit more during the toe empty step, the leg fairly straight with the heel one. Any comments on that? Thanks for your help. Charla
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Postby Michael » Thu Feb 22, 2001 8:07 pm

The toe down implies a hidden kick. it also could be used more readily to step back. The toe up can be a hook, one could be using the leg for the opponent to be "helped" over or to step forward....the answer to your question about your teachers knee bends can be duduced from above. I have not seen anyone do that , but it makes sense.
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Feb 22, 2001 10:48 pm

Hi Louis S.,

you mentioned that you had translated a portion of Yang Zhenji’s book. Is it still possible to get copies? Are you planning on publishing a complete translation?

Anyway, thanks again for the quote already provided.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Feb 23, 2001 6:28 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by tai1chi:
<B>Hi Louis S.,

you mentioned that you had translated a portion of Yang Zhenji’s book. Is it still possible to get copies? Are you planning on publishing a complete translation?
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Greetings Steve,

Although I don't have any current plans to translate Yang Zhenji's book in full, I wish I did have the time to do so. Practitioners would certainly benefit from Yang Zhenji's experienced perspective. His book (difficult to come by in the U.S.) offers a great deal of excellent, well-presented information. Perhaps as time permits I'll post more brief passages here in the future if they are relevant to topics under discussion.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby tai1chi » Fri Feb 23, 2001 8:06 pm

Hi Louis,

granting that 'empty and full' can have different connotations, can be applied to different types of things (jin, weight, intent, shape, volume, etc), I'm curious about this part of the quote you cited:

"In the stance methods of Yang Style taijiquan, there is no formulation of the kind where ‘the solid foot’s share of the body’s weight is seventy percent, the empty foot’s share is thirty percent.’"


Do you have any idea where the first reference to the ration of 70/30 or to any particular ratio at all? This is not to question the legitimacy of the formula, only its history.

I ask because 70/30, as applied to "weight," I (humbly) think I can conceptualize. However, It's much more difficult for me to think in terms of "70% of intent." And, it is also somehow not quite comfortable to think of 70% as being "full." IMHO, the emphasis is placed on the difference "between" empty and full since neither quality exists on its own. Well, imo.

Thanks again for taking the time to translate the book excerpts.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Audi » Wed Feb 28, 2001 8:33 am

Charla,

A couple of years ago, I posted a question similar to yours (on whether the heel or toe should touch in a given empty stance) on a different message board, but never received satisfactory answers. I like Mike's response, but have an additional thought. It seems to me that whenever the posture implies a downward energy applied to the opponent, the heel touches; and whenever an upward energy is implied, the toe touches.

Audi
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Postby Mike » Wed Feb 28, 2001 4:09 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Audi:
<B>It seems to me that whenever the posture implies a downward energy applied to the opponent, the heel touches; and whenever an upward energy is implied, the toe touches.

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

Hi Audi:

The "jin from the legs to the waist to the hands" etc., is indeed helped by posture, or we wouldn't have to be concerned with the "best position" for various postures. The jin "ease of flow" can be helped by subtle adjustments of the body, but an analysis of many adjustments done by real experts (not just your local teacher making ritual adjustments to make you think he understands the Universe better than you do Image ) will show that local tensions, etc., are being removed to allow the "flow" to be better. That being said, it should be pointed out the jin can be propagated through some fairly coarse postures, also, because the mind is what arranges jin.

My point is that the mind will arrange the "up" or "down" (or "away from body"=ji or "toward the body"=lu) without depending on whether the toe or heel is in those particular positions; the mind is the important part, not the foot. Image

Regards,

Mike Sigman
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Postby Charla Quinn » Wed Feb 28, 2001 6:20 pm

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

A couple of years ago, I posted a question similar to yours (on whether the heel or toe should touch in a given empty stance) on a different message board, but never received satisfactory answers. I like Mike's response, but have an additional thought. It seems to me that whenever the posture implies a downward energy applied to the opponent, the heel touches; and whenever an upward energy is implied, the toe touches.

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

Oh thank you Audi! The light bulbs really went off with this completion of my question! And thank you Michael for your help too. I noticed in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" how they used that "hook" foot! Charla


[This message has been edited by Charla Quinn (edited 02-28-2001).]
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Postby Michael Coulon » Mon Mar 05, 2001 1:21 am

Charla,
Another thing to look at when performing these empty stances is the position of your waist and how it affects the stance you are in. A heel stance will open the waist up more to the side/corner, while the toe stance will keep your waist more squared to the front. This makes a big difference to the posture you are in and what energy you are utlizing.
Two examples to illustrate this point. In 'hand strums the lute' you transition into a heel stance. The left foot steps out to the heel which opens the waist/hips more to the right side. This in turn help facilitate the right hand pulling in and the left arm coming up in front of the body. Contrast this with 'white crane spreads wings' where the left foot steps out to the toe. The waist remains more squared off to the front allowing better position for the left hand to pull down to in front of the left hip and the right arm to ward off to the overhead position.
I think that this attention to the waist is very important as that all movement should generate from the waist. Hope this helps.
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Postby Charla Quinn » Sun Mar 11, 2001 2:36 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Michael Coulon:
In 'hand strums the lute' you transition into a heel stance. The left foot steps out to the heel which opens the waist/hips more to the right side. This in turn help facilitate the right hand pulling in and the left arm coming up in front of the body. Contrast this with 'white crane spreads wings' where the left foot steps out to the toe. The waist remains more squared off to the front allowing better position for the left hand to pull down to in front of the left hip and the right arm to ward off to the overhead position.
I think that this attention to the waist is very important as that all movement should generate from the waist. Hope this helps. [/B]</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Thank you Michael, some more food for my thought re the empty step! Now, I'm wondering if you or Audi could relate this part of your msg. with Audi's of 2/28:

"It seems to me that whenever the posture implies a downward energy applied to the opponent, the heel touches; and whenever an upward energy is implied, the toe touches."

Using what you both said I'm feeling a "downward energy" with Hand Strums the Lute (while opening my waist, lt e.s. on heel) and an "upward energy" with Stork Spreads Its Wings (while squaring to the front, lt e.s. on toe)? But otoh, one hand seems to be going up while one is going down in both moves? Well, I'll work on it and thanks again for your help. CQ


[This message has been edited by Charla Quinn (edited 03-11-2001).]
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Postby Michael Coulon » Mon Mar 12, 2001 4:51 pm

Charla,
I am happy to hear that you beginning to feel the difference with the stances. You pose a very good question regarding the two statements that Audi and I have made. I do not see any conflict between the two and view each as different ways of looking at the original question.
To paraphrase your question, you are asking if there is a conflict because each of the postures used in the examples utilizes energies in two distinctly different directions. Audi stated "It seems to me that whenever the posture implies a downward energy applied to the opponent, the heel touches; and whenever an upward energy is implied, the toe touches." I think the key here is knowing which of the energies utilized in that posture is the primary one.
To return to my original examples, in 'Hand Strums the Lute' you take a heel stance which allows better positioning of the waist and body to better execute the posture. In the martial application the right hand has pulling energy which pulls your opponents arm toward you and down across your left arm which exhibits ward off energy. The primary energy is in the right; the pulling energy that is initiated by the waist movement. The ward off energy in the left is secondary; it acts as the fulcrum point that the opponents arm is pulled across to get the arm bar (joint lock at the elbow).
In the example of 'White Crane Spreads Wings' The primary energy is the ward off energy exhibited by the right arm. The left hand utilizes pulling energy, but this is secondary to the ward off energy in the right.
Determing which energy is primary brings us to knowing the martial application of the postures. By knowing the applications we learn what the original intent of the posture was and what energies are exhibited in the moves.
I am interested in what my friend Audi has to say regarding this and hope to hear soon on the matter. Hope this has also helped.
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