Eight Gates

Postby TimB » Wed Jun 05, 2002 10:37 pm

I agree Steve, I think it "is" possible to reduce those specific actions to a set of factors. It's like a puzzle unravleing rather than being put together. We use the theory of deduction rather than induction. When we practice with an opponent and step away from the situation to analyze what is happening, it's very easy to reduce the action to set of factors.

For instance going back to Louis' point of synergistic movement and central equilibrium. This can all be broken down into factors of the application equation. When a action is made and a counter is applied... our central equilibrium will move with our hands and feet as one applied motion which can be analyzed as a fact of movement.

I think the both of you Steve and Louis make very good points. That sets me thinking even more about our discussion and my own practice and how I will teach this.

Great !!!

Tim
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Postby Erik » Thu Jun 06, 2002 2:11 pm

Here might be another way of looking at the 5 elements (forward, back, left, right, central or whatever terms you personally use for them). In order for the body to generate the most power possible, already assuming you are moving with proper structure, you must use 3-dimentional movement. Pitch, roll & yaw. You must have an element of forward or backward motion...combined with...spinning around your central axis to the left or right...combined with...a slight rising or falling motion all while staying aligned with gravity. Only by using 3 dimentional movement can you generate power to it's fullest potential. You may be doing it already and have never thought of it as such. It's sort of a western way of looking at the 5 elements but that's how I experience it and teach it.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when trying to generate power but I usually look for any errors first in my alignment with gravity and if that wasn't the problem, then next with 3 dimensional movement.

Good Training - Erik
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Postby Erik » Thu Jun 06, 2002 2:21 pm

Hi Guys,

Just browsing the above posts. My mandarin is not what it used to be. I haven't been back to China in a while - but what about the "13 Gestures"? Just a thought.

Good Training - Erik
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Postby TimB » Thu Jun 06, 2002 2:33 pm

Erik,

You've enforced my statement of stepping back and analyzing the movement from a different perspective when you talk about your center of gravity moving from left to right. This is a very good point about central equilibrium and how it can spin on your axis.

We all know that it's a constant and used with kinetic energy.

Thanks for breaking that down.

Tim
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Postby tai1chi » Thu Jun 06, 2002 3:40 pm

Hi Erik,

I think you're right to think in terms of three dimensions. Anyway, I think that central equilibrium is not quite a "gesture", only an essential aspect of any one, so I like the idea of "disposition" better --it's also 3-dimensional. Hmm, ok, I guess this can't be style-specific. If you were to do the form while holding pencils in your hands, what shapes would/should you draw?

Respects,
Steve James
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Postby Erik » Thu Jun 13, 2002 5:20 am

Pretty ones! Haha!

- Erik
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Jun 13, 2002 8:05 am

The word shi4 can mean postures, as in zi1shi4 'postures'. Another usage is ta1 zhan4 you1 shi4 'he is occupying the more favorable position'. Vaguely similar to English 'having the upper hand' or 'having an advantage over someone'. Opposite: lie4shi4 'unfavorable position'. 'Stance' by contrast generally comes out as bu4fa3 'foot method', 'footwork'.
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Jun 13, 2002 8:19 am

I think '13 stations' works better than '13 dispositions'; 'disposition' is really more about disposing than position.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jun 13, 2002 6:05 pm

Greetings Jerry,

You wrote:
“I think '13 stations' works better than '13 dispositions'; 'disposition' is really more about disposing than position.”

I suppose that highly nuanced actions require highly nuanced words for referring to them. If disposition is more about disposing than position, then I think that supports my point that it’s a good rendering for the 13 shi. “Stations,” again, sounds too static to me, unless you’re thinking of “the act or manner of standing: posture.” But consider this: disposing, after all, is an action. One disposes troops, positioning them along a line of defense. The disposing is prior to, and essential in, the positioning. Disposition includes connotations of “orderly arrangement,” “prevailing tendency,” so the word does a good job of capturing the ‘yi’ of taijiquan movement technique. I think of shi as a configuration of jin and intent.

Here’s a passage from a wonderful book by the French Sinologist, Francois Jullien, _The Propensity of Things: Toward a History of Efficacy in China_. The whole damn book is about the word "shi." Although Jullien makes a few references to taijiquan in his book, quoting Despeux's book _Taiji Quan: Art martial, technique de longue vie_, he is in this passage speaking specifically about calligraphy theory. It really applies to numerous arenas, as he demonstrates throughout his book:

"When translators do gloss shi, they render it indiscriminately as 'postures' ('positions') or 'movements.' But actually both 'postures' and 'movements' are simultaneously involved. On its own, 'posture' seems inadequate because it implies immobility, however temporary: our notion of reason seems incapable of analyzing a disposition without petrifying it. But given that, in reality, one gesture follows into another, it is not possible to arbitrarily distinguish between one individual 'position' and the movement that both stems from it and leads into it." (1995, Zone Books, p. 113)

To me, that applies beautifully to the art of taijiquan.

Although sometimes rendered “power,” I think that etymological arguments can be made that shi is more about the management of power or resources, carrying an entailment something like the English word “husbandry”: ‘the control or judicious use of resources.” Roger Ames, in his translation of ch. 9 of the Huainanzi as _The Art of Rulership_, argues convincingly that the word shi developed primarily in the area of military theory, where its meaning was usually one of “strategic advantage.” Later, it was appropriated into political usage, where it had a meaning something like “purchase” as in “to get a purchase on” or what modern politicos may call “traction.” 'We aren't getting any traction on that issue in Vermont.' But in both contexts, the term shi referenced and depended upon the prevailing circumstances—environmental, psychological, etc.

I’ve notice that in more modern Chinese taijiquan manuals beginning in the 50s or 60s, the compound “zishi” is consistently used with a meaning of “posture.” In earlier manuals, it is usually just the character shi by itself. Often, for example in Yang Chengfu’s book, Taijiquan tiyong quanshu, it is used interchangeably with the homophonic shi meaning “pattern,” “model,” “form,” or “style” (as in Yang Shi Taijiquan). But I think it is misleading to think of “shi” as it appears in the earliest taiji texts, and in the traditional formula, “shisan shi” as “posture.”

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Jun 13, 2002 6:36 pm

I actually think 'posture', 'position' etc are not bad. 'Efficacious dispositions'? Sounds like gobbledy-gook or something a sideshow barker might say. Clearly shi does not mean movements. It's movements seen in snapshot, the state of play at a high point of a movement, etc. I think that the photos of Yang Chengfu display shi.
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Jun 13, 2002 6:46 pm

In the context of the 13 shi, 'stations' is better than is sounds at first. Stations are points you go through as you go round a track. We also have the use of 'station in life' etc indicating a kind of vertical or horizontal positioning.
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Jun 13, 2002 6:53 pm

13 'situations' is also not bad. 'situ' is reminiscent of shi.
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Postby TimB » Thu Jun 13, 2002 7:18 pm

Jerry,

I agree with you. I think "posture" or "position" should be used here. As Louis stated earlier. "shi" or "zhishi" is used later on to mean "posture" or "shi" meaning form or model. I think this makes more since in the context of our discussion.

I just spent some time with Master Yang Jun in Kentucky and discussed with him the topic of translation of classics and later texts. He said it very difficult to get true meaning from what was meant and how we look at things now along with straight translation. He said it nearly impossible to understand.
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Postby DavidJ » Thu Jun 13, 2002 8:25 pm

Hi Louis and Jerry,

Speaking, not from the point of view of any real familiarity of Chinese, but, only from the point of view of the form and English commentary on the form, in all the usages in the past that I have seen shi4 to mean something along the lines of a point on a curve - the place where one is "stopping without stopping" - the one dimensional point of the infinitely small pause.

So FWIW (probably less than $0.00) I think that Louis is closer than Jerry.

I also like "disposition" because it can imply an attitude.

Regards,

David J
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jun 13, 2002 8:44 pm

Greetings,

I would be the first to admit that “efficacious dispositions” is awfully wordy and inelegant. But my intent is to translate what shi means in the context of these old taiji texts such as the Song of the Thirteen Shi, or the Exposition on the Thirteen Shi, (neither of which, by the way, says much about thirteen postures or movements to my recollection) and I think there is a misconception in thinking that “shisan shi” means thirteen postures, as though taijiquan originally was composed of only 13 discrete postures. I’ve seen people assert this, but I think it misses the meaning. I think that the shisan shi are operative throughout the form we know today, however the numbers of forms are counted (85, 103, 108, or whatever), and they are operative as well in tuishou, dalu, and sanshou.

You state, Jerry, that “Clearly shi does not mean movements. It's movements seen in snapshot, the state of play at a high point of a movement, etc. I think that the photos of Yang Chengfu display shi.” I’m not sure of this. I think the photos certainly display shi, but the very fact that the photos freeze Yang Chengfu’s movement means that they cannot entirely capture his shi. We cannot mistake the photo for the shi. This is precisely the point that Jullien makes in the quotation I cited. Moreover, when Jullien writes that “our notion of reason seems incapable of analyzing a disposition without petrifying it,” he is making a profound statement about epistemology, about how we (specifically we as Westerners) perceive reality. I hope I don’t sound hyperbolic here. I’m perfectly serious.

Does Rollback only occur in the sequence Grasp Sparrow’s Tail? If so, what is the “high point” of lu? Is it at its beginning immediately following the completion of Ward Off Right, or is it at the endpoint of the leftward turn before changing to Press, or is it somewhere along the way? Or is Rollback the entire operation, and if so, there is no highpoint at all, but only the highpoint of how efficaciously the performer has engaged the posture and by extension, engaged the opponent? We know, of course, that Rollback is not limited to its occurrences in Grasp Sparrow’s Tail; that it occurs in transitions in the Brush Knee Twist Step sequences, in transitions in the Separate Legs sequences, and in numerous other places in the form, some more explicit and obvious than others. Which of these is the highpoint of lu? If we don’t have a photo of it, how do we determine what is the shi?

"Posture" is OK if it is well-qualified:

My Random House Unabridged has some potentially useful entries for Posture:

*The relative disposition of the parts of something. (God I love that word disposition!)
*A mental or spiritual attitude: 'His ideas reveal a defensive posture.' (YCF tells us that "What one trains in Taijiquan is the spirit, therefore it is said, 'The spirit is the leader, the body follows its order.'" Humm, so, one could say that the posture we train is in some important degree our mental or spiritual attitude?)
*Position, condition, or state, as of affairs.
and in verbal forms:
*To place in a particular posture or attitude.
*To position **especially strategically**: to posture troops along a border.

Tim relates that “He said it’s very difficult to get true meaning from what was meant and how we look at things now along with straight translation. He said it’s nearly impossible to understand.”

I would be the first to say that it’s difficult, but I would hope it’s not impossible.

Great discussion!

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 06-14-2002).]
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