<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Jaime Marx:
[b]I have seen mention of the four energies, Peng, Lu, Ji and An, on this board, and I know that they are the first four of the thirteen postures of tai chi (I believe they are ward off, roll back, press and push.)
Could someone explain the basics of these energies? Are they different kinds of jin, or just jin moving in different directions? Can someone learn about them by practicing the barehand form (I don't have any one to do push hands with)?
Great question! I am far from qualified from answering, but in order to stimulate discussion, let me offer this post.
First, I have found much of the literature on this subject somewhat inconsistent, quite esoteric, and often very impractical at my level of knowledge. My view of these things that it is dangerous to operate on incomplete knowledge, but since some things are so fundamental to T'ai Chi practice, I think it is more dangerous to ignore them.
A school friend of mine once gave me a few chess pointers that I have found good life lessons. One pointer was that a bad plan is usually better than no plan. A bad plan can be reviewed and revised, but no plan is just simply--no plan. Devising personal T'ai theories is probably a bad practice, but having no theory is worse. Ideally we get these things from competent instruction, but for reasons of time, accessibility, compatibility, this is often not possible, or at least requires supplementation through books.
Peng, lu, ji, and an are the names of the four postures that compromise Grasp Sparrow's Tail. They are also the names of four of the eight jins that are the foundation of T'ai Ji hand techniques and which are the prominent jins in the four postures of the same names. The eight jins are also referred to as the eight gates (men2), but I do not know the significance of this terminology. Perhaps someone else can clarify.
I personally do not like the term "energy" as a translation of the word "jin," even though it seems the most common one. As I understand it "li" and "jin" simply mean strength in everyday language and are more or less synonymous. If a distinction is forced onto the terms, jin has a connotation of "li" (raw strength) plus something else. Louis has kindly posted references that cite "jin" as being applied in ancient texts to the integrated strength of a group of well-trained soldiers, as opposed to the sum total of their meer muscular strength.
Again as I understand it, a baby is born with sufficient "li" (raw strength) to move its arms. As it learns to control its limbs, gains skills, and brings its experiences to bear, it beguns to express "jin" (i.e., crude strength plus). Although T'ai Chi cultivates specific jins, jin itself is not a T'ai Chi thing. I personally prefer the English translation "power," which in a martial sense connotes the use of strength plus something. It introduces a sense of potential and capabilities that I believe are absent from the term "jin," but "power" is the term I have always heard used in non-T'ai Chi contexts to refer to the particular effectiveness brought to a technique by a skilled martial artist.
In addition to the eight primary jins, T'ai Chi has many, many others that arise from combining these in different ways and introducing other qualities, such as sharpness, suddeness, length, etc. In addition to these, there are also ones like "ting jin" (listening power/energy), "dong jin" (understanding power/energy), "na jin" (seizing power/energy), and "fa jin" (emitting/issuing power/energy) that do not necessarily refer to hand techniques. Again use of the word jin implies that one integrates one's skills and experiences into the activity in some way.
Can one learn these energies without pushing hands? I personally believe that this would be like learning tennis strokes without using a ball or how to hit a baseball without a pitcher. It is not completely impossible, but there really is no substitute for the real thing. Even with just a little experience with pushing hands, the form takes on a new meaning and opens many doors to practice that are hard to open in any other way.
A good description of peng, lu, ji, and an is located at the following URL, which David Salvia kindly provided on another thread: http://shenwu.com/taichi.htm.
The discussion is towards the end, under "Tai Ji Quan Combat." The only aspect of the description that I found a little unusual was the description of "ji jin" (press/squeeze energy/power) which I had not heard described in that way.
In addition to this URL, let me offer my thoughts for comment on these jins. My understanding of one difference between the martial approach of T'ai Chi and that of many "external" styles is that the latter focus on acquiring and perfecting a repertoire of offensive and defensive techniques, whereas T'ai Chi focus on learning to manipulate the energy flow between you and the opponent. In doing form, we should not be practicing techiques in the Karate sense, but be practicing how to manipulate jin through our bodies with our "yi" or will.
Let me digress back to my chess buddy. Another thing he taught me was that I should not look at chess as consisting merely of the calculation of possible moves. Each piece exerts a "force field" that is stronger or weaker, depending on the position of other pieces, but which is always present. Even at the very beginning, these fields of force or control exert influence over the entire board that should be visualized.
In T'ai Chi, rather than focusing only on the particular configuration or posture of our opponent, we should strive to envision the lines of force that the opponent is manifesting. In doing this, we pay most attention to controlling the rooted power that is linked to our opponent's center, since that is the most powerful. The primary ways we have of doing this are the eight gates (peng, lu, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou, and kao). Peng, lu, ji, an are the principal jins, with peng, in its general sense, being the most important and fundamental to the others.
Some authorities speak of peng, lu, ji, and an as manipulations of power/energy upward, sideways, forward, and downward, respectively. If this is helpful, please let me know, because this has always made little sense to me.
My view of peng, lu, ji, and an is as follows. If you visualize power/energy as going from our opponent's center to our center, peng is the technique we use in a general sense to prevent the power from reaching our center. In a more specific sense, it is the technique we use to float our opponent's power harmlessly above our center. A typical application is using our forearm to deflect an opponents punch upward and sever its power from our opponent's root. In the four-hand push hand set, it is used to prevent our opponent's push from reaching our center and to set up a "lu" attack.
Lu is the technique we use to draw our opponent's power harmless to the side and around our center. In the four hand set, it is used to draw our opponent's committed push to the rear and to the side, uprooting him or her.
Ji is the techique we use to deflect or "squeeze" power/energy forward, such as in defense to our opponent's attempt to use "lu" on us. Alternatively, you can view it as joining the power in both arms.
An is the technique we use to draw/deflect power/energy downward. In the four-hand set, it is used as a defense to a "ji" attack and as a way of "pressing" our opponent's arms down below our center and then toppling them over and out of their root.
I hope this is helpful and reasonably accurate. I am curious as to what thoughts others have on these issues.
[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 03-28-2001).]