Eight Gates

Eight Gates

Postby TimB » Tue May 14, 2002 4:39 pm

I have a question about the "Eight Gates" within applications. I know these are fundamentals of the "four corners" and "four cardinal" directions and they correlate with the cyclical flow of Yin/Yang Theory and the Bagua.

My question is this... when applying them, do they actually apply to the direction of which they are named? The reason I question this is that when you actually apply "peng" or "ward off", it actually is not in a straight line but moving energy from one corner to the next or it will not work.

If someone can explain this in further detail that would be great.

Thanks,

TimB
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Postby Audi » Sat May 18, 2002 9:56 pm

Hi Tim,

You asked whether the "Eight Gates"

<<actually apply to the direction of which they are named>>.

What exactly do you mean by "direction by which they are named"? I am not aware that any of the eight gates are directional in the sense of being connected with relative or absolute compass points. As a specific term, I understand Ward Off energy to refer generally to lifting energy upward. I do not thing any other directionality is implied.

As a general term, I think Ward Off energy is also thought of by many as energy that expands or bounces out from one's center. In this sense or perhaps in its former sense, I understand Ward Off energy to be the characteristic energy of traditional Yang Style, as opposed to Silk Reeling Energy in Chen Style, etc.

You also stated that

<<when you actually apply "peng" or "ward off", it actually is not in a straight line but moving energy from one corner to the next or it will not work>>.

I am not sure I am following your thoughts here. What do you mean by "moving energy from one corner to the next"? Are you talking about physical corners as seen from a particular posture? The corners on a bagua diagram?

By the way, in the most recent issue of Tai Chi Magazine, there was what I thought was an excellent article on Ward Off energy. I do not agree with every detail of what the author said, but nonetheless feel what he was describing was authentic and the same phenomenon that I perceive and try to develop. He went to great pains to describe what Ward Off energy was not and also gave specific descriptions about how it can be used.

If you saw this article, what did you think?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby TimB » Mon May 20, 2002 2:22 pm

Thanks for your reply Audi,

In the explanation of the "eight gates", each part of the "eight gates" refers to a direction of the bagua. "Four corners" "Four Sides". Ward off, push, roll back and press are the four sides of N, S, E and W. elbow strike, shoulder stroke, pull down and lifting energy are the four corner directions. They correlate with the yin/yang theory of flow. When they're applied they will change with the situation and flow of energy being emitted.

I had my question answered earlier last week. The above information comes from the Yang Family Transmissions and the Tai Chi Classics. They also refer to the Five Elements in step similar to Bagua. Meaning Eight Gates/Five Steps.

Maybe this information will give you some more insight into this subject.

Thanks again for your reply.
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Postby Audi » Wed May 22, 2002 3:56 am

Hi Tim,

I notice in your reply that you use the term "lifting energy" for one of the corner directions. I assume this is a reference to what is commonly translated as "split energy." Can you tell me where you got this particular translation? I am curious because the Chinese character/word for this energy seems to be rather obscure, and I have been trying to get at what the root meaning may be. I feel reasonably comfortable with the Taiji meaning of the word, but have never been able to pin down for certain the origin of the character.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby TimB » Wed May 22, 2002 2:17 pm

Audi,

Thanks for your question...

"Lifting Energy" or "Split Energy" can be used to describe the same application. When you apply split energy your are spliting the opponent's center axis or center of gravity and "root". When you apply lifting energy you are applying the same energy on a different plane of axis. It all depends on the energy that is being directed toward you.

As far as the character and meaning, it's best to go by the direct application because the translation can get very lost when you're directly applying it to use.

My information came from my teacher and the Yang Family Transmissions and the Tai Chi Classics.

As with traditional saying goes, you can receive knowledge on your own but you need a guide to show you how to apply the knowledge.

I hope this helps out. Feel free to ask me anything. If I don't know the answer, I'll find it for you.

Tim
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Postby Erik » Sun Jun 02, 2002 7:11 am

Hi Guys,

I like to think of the word "lie" as "rend". Mis-aligning the opponent's central axis or in plainer words - making the top half go one way and the bottom go the other. Although it's considered a secondary energy in the Yang style it is the primary energy for most throws.

It almost always reqires 2 attacking points (1 high & 1 low) on opposite sides. This can be seen as the shoulder and arm on the opponent's chest and the leg behind the opponent's thigh in "Diagonal Flying" gesture. Another good example is the hand pushing the chin or head up and the other hand pushing the small of the back down while hugging the torso from the side in "Embrace Tiger".

Remember when you were kids and your friend knelt down behind someone and you then pushed him and he fell over your friend on his butt? Perfect application of "Lie" energy! Your push was the top attacking point and your friends crouching body was the lower on the opposite side.

Imagine you see a refrigerator in a field. You want to push it over. If you push straight forward it will be much more difficult that pushing it up in order to tilt it then allowing it to fall on its own. That's the LIFT energy that is present in any "lie" application. If there is a low wall behind the fridge you have a perfect "lie". If you could spiral it in some way as it fell the force of the impact as it landed would be even more destructive - like how I feel when someone successfuly throws me with "Diagonal Flying". ...ouch!

I see the 8 gates as different "jin", "waves of force", "qualities of movement" or what-ever you want to call it. The body absolutely must move in a certain way to generate a specific desired wave of force. I don't believe that it has to be in any specific direction of the compass any more than I believe you actually grasp a sparrows tail.

There are also quite a number of different jin described in Taiji classical writings - around 30 I believe (without looking it up). Peng, Lu, Ji, An are just the primary 4 and Cai, Lie, Jou, Kao the secondary 4.

The confusing thing is that these words refer to specific movements in the form AND specific waves of force.

Remember that all chinese subjects are filled with symbolism. Sometimes not so user-friendly.

Good Training - Erik
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Jun 03, 2002 12:58 am

Greetings Erik,

Your explanation of lie is very helpful, and much in accord with the way I interpret it. I see lie as essentially a "spreading", or "separating out" -- connoting the separating out of the two arms in opposite directions. This is initiated in the turning of the waist, but manifests in a kind of centrifugal force whose bi-directionality results in the unbalancing and uprooting of the opponent in a fashion as you describe.

You wrote:
‘I see the 8 gates as different "jin", "waves of force", "qualities of movement" or what-ever you want to call it. The body absolutely must move in a certain way to generate a specific desired wave of force. I don't believe that it has to be in any specific direction of the compass any more than I believe you actually grasp a sparrows tail.’

Very nicely put! Historically, the compass points associated with the eight gates had cosmological/metaphorical rationale, which were developed to a fine point in late antiquity when, for example, the directionality of winds (ba feng) were correlated with seasonal prognostications having to do with agriculture, military threats, and other affairs of state. Early medical theory also correlated pathologies with certain directions or characteristics of winds. But there is no reason to construe the “directions” of the eight gates in taiji theory as having any literal sense of actual compass points; it is rather just a convenient conceptual metaphor connoting the ordering and hierarchy of the “jins.” One could say it’s a post-facto overlay of theory on a pre-existing body of practice.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby TimB » Mon Jun 03, 2002 2:21 pm

Louis,

Thanks for clearing this up. I am able to decipher between history and application most of the time. But you know, most of the time you need a little guidance. Thanks for all your replies. It helps a great deal.

TimB
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Jun 03, 2002 10:49 pm

Hi Louis, Audi, and all,

Louis, you make the point:

"Historically, the compass points associated with the eight gates had cosmological/metaphorical rationale, which were developed to a fine point in late antiquity"

However, later in the same paragraph, you write:

"But there is no reason to construe the “directions” of the eight gates in taiji theory as having any literal sense of actual compass points;"

I'm unclear here. Are you saying that the "'directions'" are related to the "eight gates in taiji theory"? But, that this was not part of traditional CMA or TCM theory? And, if it were attached at a later date, as you suggest, "a post-facto overlay of theory on a pre-existing body of practice", then does it apply, can it be applied, or not?
I agree that it is a conceptual metaphor, but I'm curious about the structure. Although there are some, like some of T.T. Liang's students, who would (and do) maintain a strict correlation between a particular compass direction (one based on the I Ching hexagrams) and a particular posture. I'm not sure if they suggest that there's a necessary correlation between the "force/jin/wave of movement" and any static direction. However, that *any* particular movement has a particular "vector" or "direction" in space away from some real or imaginary center. Clearly one can "Lu" to the Northwest, or to the Southwest, depending on which way one is facing, not to mention changing the position of the feet. I guess I'm trying to say that "direction" needn't be reduced to "compass point" and then discarded as being non-traditional or non-descriptive of what it may be meant to describe. I think the problem comes from confusing the "jin" with the "direction." Anyway, I agree that they are not the same.

Respects,
Steve James


it is rather just a convenient conceptual metaphor connoting the ordering and hierarchy of the “jins.” One could say it’s .
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Postby TimB » Tue Jun 04, 2002 2:37 pm

Hi All,

I do want to make one point on this subject and maybe it will clear all of this up since I'm the one who brought this confusion to the table.

Understanding Taoist theory of Yin/Yang and the esoteric meanings of the I Ching will bring about some order to this discussion.

As Louis stated, it is metaphorical but, it still does apply in a since. You need to step away from the application and look at the energy body as a whole and delve into the theory of Change and Push & Pull in a Physical since.

The I Ching will state that all of these energies of the eight gates and five steps are represented in everchanging positions based on situational influences (hince: a negative and positive or vise versa in a fighting situation or give and take). If you look at an old diagram that explains the Bagua and these energies it all makes since.

Everything is like a wheel of change intermingling with each other. At static point they are represented at specific points to note some kind of form but are everchanging in application or flow.

Sometimes I think we need to just step away and not discount the ancient teachings because they are there for a reason. Maybe not the reason we are looking for but for a reason.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Jun 04, 2002 11:07 pm

Greetings Tim, Steve, et al.,

In saying that the bamen (eight gate) theory is “a post-facto overlay of theory on a pre-existing body of practice,” I was, first of all, expressing an opinion, and second of all, my post was a kind of an off-the-cuff response to something I thought Erik expressed very well.

The bamen correlative theory is of course quite old, as is the wuxing (five phases) theory. Both theories have spatial metaphorical entailments, and the historical origins and rationales for the directional/spatial associations are complex. The bamen model references actual compass points, and different traditions assign particular symbolic meanings to the directions of north, south, east, west, etc. In turn, each of the cardinal compass points, and each of the intermediate quadrants, is correlated with a given trigram of the Yijing. Even this system of correlations came relatively late to the evolution of the Yijing, for the earliest known versions of the Yijing made no mention of them. At some point in time, taijiquan incorporated or drew upon the bamen and wuxing models, correlating the Thirteen Postures (or what I think might more properly be termed the Thirteen Efficacious Dispositions) with these Eight Gates and Five Phases.

The more literal interpretations of these theories have their adherents among taijiquan practitioners. On the other polar extreme are more skeptical factions who see little of value in the taiji classics, and who complain that they are just a body of idle poetics that have nothing to do with the “practical” workings of a martial art. I find myself somewhere in between. I tend to have difficulty with literal interpretations of some of the language of the classical taiji theories, but see real value in understanding the metaphors inherent in the theory. When I speak of metaphor in the art, however, I never mean “that’s ONLY a metaphor,” as though metaphor is mere literary embellishment. I think that metaphors are very potent, and that they can open doors (or gates!).

Or, what this really opens may be a large can of worms, having to do with the relationship of the boxing art of taijiquan with the transmission of its theory. How much of the classical theory was developed and enunciated by later masters, and how much of the boxing art can be attributed to the explicit, consciously understood workings of theory? Was the theory a post-facto attempt to explain and rationalize an otherwise unfathomable and marvelous creation of intuitive body-mechanical algorithms? Or did the early masters intentionally and deliberately set out to create a boxing art that emulated and embodied these enduring cosmological themes? My inclination is to distrust any assertions too far in one causal direction or the other. I feel it is much more likely that the evolution of the art involved a mixture of these impulses, and that theory and practice developed more or less synchronically.

I hope you’ll pardon the verbose ramblings of this laotouzi (old head). I should probably stop drinking coffee and switch to green tea.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby TimB » Wed Jun 05, 2002 3:22 pm

Louis,

Very well put! My thoughts exactly! I didn't mean to sound or imply that you were only metaphorically speaking. I was agreeing with and you make a very good point in that what we have today has probably evolved into something in between the esoteric theories and the application of practice. I believe this whole heartedly.

I think the reason I opened this "can o' worms" is because I don't think people discuss these topics enough. I think talking over these theories with other practioners brings some "light" to interchange with the Tai Chi Community.

Thanks for your participation!

TimB
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Postby tai1chi » Wed Jun 05, 2002 4:29 pm

Hi Louis,

Your opinions are always more than worthwhile. I agree with your point about metaphors (and metaphorical overlays). I think adding the issue of the "wu xing" is also important. "Advance", retreat, look left and gaze right are also close to "directions." But, of course, they still wouldn't be as "pure" as compass point directions. (I.e., we don't always face directly forward; most often we are "looking" or "gazing" at some angle; we never face backward -we only shift, turn, or step to the rear. This reminds me of the saying "Eight in the hands; five in the feet." Anyway, you also raise another fascinating issue.

>did the early
>masters intentionally and deliberately set >out to create a boxing art that emulated >and embodied these enduring cosmological >themes?

I share your distrust of causal relationships. No one person or family thought it up or applied it. Well, fwiw, I think that the theory of "taichi" offers an accurate description of the (apparently chaotic) way things work, including the human body. At any rate, even though it is not scientific (in the western sense), it allowed the invention of black powder. And, imo, it can be applied to anything. So, to me, tcc differs *only* to the extent that its practitioners have deliberately approprated and incorporated taichi theory as the fundamental strategic, tactical, logistical and philosophical basis of their martial art. I believe that it has been possible (across time) for any person to realize or recognize the relation between whatever he was doing and taichi theory.
Yes, I agree that, at some distinct point in time, the connections were made.

Oh well, I guess now I'll have to beg your pardon for rambling.

Respects,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Jun 05, 2002 6:01 pm

Tim and Steve,

This is an interesting can of worms! I’m enjoying the discussion.

Regarding something you said, Steve: ‘I think adding the issue of the "wu xing" is also important. "Advance", retreat, look left and gaze right are also close to "directions." But, of course, they still wouldn't be as "pure" as compass point directions.’

Sarah Allan, in her book, _The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art, and Cosmos in Early China_, writes of early enunciations of this notion and how it’s often called something like “the five directions.” But she points out the semantic problem of referring to the “middle” as a “direction.” Of course it’s not a direction. In taiji theory, this “middle” is also sometimes translated as one of the “five directions,” but that just doesn’t make sense, does it? It’s also more properly called, “central equilibrium” (zhong ding). But this raises another semantic problem. Can “central equilibrium” be called a “posture?” Ideally, central equilibrium is operative even in movement, but “posture” says to me something static rather than dynamic. By the same token, can “advancing,” “retreating,” “look left,” “gaze right” be called postures? I don’t think so. That’s why I’ve come to think that translating “Shisan Shi” as “Thirteen Postures” is flawed. The Chinese character “shi” has a range of meaning that includes “posture” but that encompasses much more, including a meaning of “disposition” or “situation.” So that’s why I propose a rendering of “Thirteen Efficacious Dispositions” for the traditional notions of peng, lu, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou, kao, jinbu, tuibu, zougu, youpan, zhongding.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby tai1chi » Wed Jun 05, 2002 9:36 pm

Hi Louis,

Yes, I agree; "13 postures" may be one interpretation, but it leads to all the flaws that you point out. You write:

"The Chinese character “shi” has a range of meaning that includes “posture” but that encompasses much more, including a meaning of “disposition” or “situation.” So that’s why I propose a rendering of “Thirteen Efficacious Dispositions” for the traditional notions of peng, lu, ji, an, cai, lie, zhou, kao, jinbu, tuibu, zougu, youpan, zhongding."

Imho, "efficacious disposition" is a much better description of the cumulative and synergistic working of hands and feet. I think "tuibu" and "jinbu" imply movement. Hmm, for example, both "Peng" (ward-off) and "Ji" (squeeze/press) use "jinbu" (forward step) --as do Brush Knee, Fair Lady, etc. The Wuxing are "actions," not postures. You raise a great point about "central equilibrium," btw. Well, there are "ups and downs" in central equilibrium, no? Certainly, there are in the form; and the form, itself, can be lowered or raised. So, it could be argued that central equilibrium has more than one level. Anyway, my real point is that all the postures (if we decide to call them such) are the results of specific actions; and that it is possible to reduce those actions to a set of factors. I think the "13" are pretty comprehensive.

Oh well, more rambling.
Best,
Steve James
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