## Single weightedness?

Hi Louis, DJ,

I agree with you Louis; the central pivot is not a fixed point, per se. Perhaps it's better to conceive of it as part of a relationship: that can be applied to a body or among/between bodies. I think the mechanical analogies are just examples of principles ---which become infinitely more complex when applied to the potential for human motion. One needs at least a rudimentary grasp of calculus to describe the mechanical rotation of bodies. OTOH, a child soon learns how to spin a top, and we all "know" how axles, wheels and gates work.

Anyway, David J., your experience with cycling shows in your remark about "weight" on the pedals. That's because you can climb hills while seated ! But, I think you might be implying that the "stregth" one applies to the pedals isn't "li", but more like "jin"? Of course, this might not make sense to anyone but a cyclist To me, I guess it means that "every part of the body is contributing" a part to the overall force output. Maybe that's just blah, blah, though.

Cheers,
Steve James
tai1chi

Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:01 am
Location: NY

Steven,
No offense taken and no reason to be careful. I just wanted to clarify the point of the disciple being a relatively new one and that she is a former student of mine, that's all.
Her skill level is high and her knowlegdge is as well. I was in no way disparaging her.
I guess I have a bit of a pride/hurt ego problem with my former students now being disciples. The problem was an internal one for me and I let that slip out in my reply.
I'm proud that former students of mine have gone all the way up to the top/my ego's a bit bruised that I have not.
But I was not offended in any way.

All,
The reason I say that your waist is not like an axle is purely mechanical. It's not.
An axle turns around a fixed center point, the hub. The center point of the hub does not move even if the entire wheel does. You can move (roll, toss, drop, no matter) that wheel and it's center of spin will not change. The hub is the center of the spin and as long as that wheel stays true to round it will not change. In that way, the human waist is not like an axle, in that, as all have said, the center of your body changes position and the hub of a wheel never will.
An axle is not likely to have two legs attached to it that it is dependant on for movement, and even if it did unless you put a pawl in that axle it will not have a stopping point and is free to spin around in circles endlessly.
I don't know a human in the world that can either keep his legs stationary or step with his legs and still have his waist free to spin in circles, non-stop, around the central hub of their spine.
Yes, as I said, if you step you can continue the spin in a complete circle but as others have pointed out your center of gravity changes as soon as you take those steps, killing the axle analogy immediately. An axle just spins around it's hub, it doesn't need to step and even if it did it's center would not change.
So I feel my original point is valid, the human waist is not like the axle of a wheel.
Now, a swinging gate is not exactly like the human body, but it is a much closer analogy.
Picture a gate, it's attached to a post through it's hinges. Let's say that this gate is free to swing around in nearly a 360 degree swing, stopping only when the hinge no longer allows it turn. You can swing that gate all the way around to the outer reaches of the hinges in an arc in either direction, it's center of gravity changes but is unaffected because of the hinges holding it in place.
Now, picture the human body as that gate. You have to get a bit Wu style with me here to see this analogy I'm afraid, so bear with me.
A Wu stylist at a 100/0 weight distribution is pretty much just like that gate. He is centered on his one leg and through his spine like a post, his waist (tantien, cinnabar field, you say tomato, I say tomatoe) is the hinge. He can swing his body around in almost a 360 degree arc, stopping where his joints will no longer allow him to turn. In order to get back around, he has to swing back the other way around his waist. He can't spin in circles around the hing of his waist, it's not built that way and neither is a gate.
I believe this analogy may be what lead to the Wu family use of the word "hip" to sometimes try to convey what they mean their students to use as a "hinge" point. Because the way I learned it, the tantien is what you use to drive the movement, using the hip joint as your hinge to swing the gate of your body.
If you're 100/0 weight distributed, this hinge that is your hip becomes very important in the scheme of things.
I'm not seeing or feeling anything even close to this in YCF style TCC. It is one of the more confusing issues I have been trying to overcome.
Is there such a thing in this style? I've been curious.
This may be one of the roots of the real question I've been attempting to asking all along.

[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 03-28-2003).]
Wushuer

Posts: 631
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 7:01 am

All,
I also have not received any resonses to a post I made a few days ago, outlining an insight I had into some of the reasons I'm so uncoordinated in YCF style.
Specifically, the frame of the styles. How far down I "sit" into my knees and how big of steps I take.
Since I've allowed myself to come up more, not sit as deeply, and take larger steps, I have found much more balance and ease of movement in this style.
I am hoping this is correct and I'm not fooling myself. I do see an improvement in my YCF forms and I feel much more "correct" in how I'm doing things.
I sought the defect in my legs and waist and seem to have found at least some of them.
Any input would be greatly appreciated.
Wushuer

Posts: 631
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 7:01 am

I haven't ridden a bike in about....
Oh.........?
Ummm.............?
Let me think..........
WAY too long.
Interesting theory though.
Wushuer

Posts: 631
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 7:01 am

Well, it's one of two things you never forget how to do, in spite of lengthy hiatus, I've been told.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim

Posts: 1283
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Hi Wushuer,

well, imo, there's no need to disqualify the "axle of wheel" analogy because a waist cannot turn 360' freely. Even half a wheel --("rockers") for example-- can be mounted on axles. I think you're making a big distinction between "swinging" and "rolling/turning." Anyway, a gate can always be considered to form part of the arc of a complete circle. Ymmv as to how helpful that image might be. Well, ime, the "like a cartwheel" analogy is quite common in cma. I think the "like a" part is important. Thus far, your argument has been that the body (waist) is "not" like an axle. Of course, one could also argue that the body is not like a gate; after all, how many gates have two legs --unless you're thinking of saloon doors. I don't recall ever hearing or seeing anything written about tcc that says the waist is "like a gate." Even the "men" in "Ba men" (8 gates) might not be related specifically to the mechanical function of the waist. (Though it's interesting to consider). Personally, I think the metaphors are useful only insomuch as one can relate them to practice. If there is a metaphor that one cannot relate to, then use another one. Gee, individually, any of these analogies can be shot down: that's why they're just analogies. But, that doesn't make them incorrect or inapplicable. Just mho.

Best,
Steve James
tai1chi

Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:01 am
Location: NY

This discussion is getting interesting! As Louis notes, these are very core topics. From my practice/experience I cannot stress how -very- important the axle analogy is.

In the Taiji Classics of Wu Yuxiang the ‘axle analogy’ is:

Qi4 ru2 che1lun2, yao1 ru2 che1zhou2
Qi (is) like (a) vehicle wheel, waist (is) like (a) vehicle axle

It is ‘Qi’ that is turning like wheels.
So, what is the axle made of? An interesting description related to this question is found in Wang Yongquan’s book, Yangshi Taijiquan Shuzhen (p. 249). The 'center line' in Taijiquan is not the same thing as the 'waist,' but its activity is directly related:

Three cases where one should not attack

When you encounter the following situations it is best not to continue pushing the opponent..

1. The opponent’s center line is soft and active. You cannot get a reaction from any of the points along this center line. When you test him your own jin4 becomes clearly evident to the opponent and you fall into a vacuum. In this kind of a situation it is evident that the opponent’s skill is higher than yours.
2. The center line of the opponent moves chaotically and is not in a calm state, or his pendulum/bell clapper rises up, descends, or revolves in uncertain ways. This shows that his skill level is relatively high.
3. The center line of the opponent is wide and has a strong expanding feeling. After testing him he is still stable. This shows that he has remarkable skill.

Note the wording in (2) 'revolves in uncertain ways.' From this very brief description in Wang it is clear that there is a lot going on inside to create and make the 'axle' move in various ways. It cannot be taken to be the simple turning of the torso around the pivot of the waist/spine.

Jeff
Gu Rou Chen

Posts: 105
Joined: Wed Jan 08, 2003 7:01 am

I am not discounting the axle theory, I was merely trying to get a discussion going on the merits of the "swinging gate" theory I am more familiar with vs. the axle theory that seems prevelant here.
I took a bit of a protagonistic stand, I do have to admit, but that's just because I was trying to advance a point that seems unfamiliar to most here and in order to do that I need to get my mindset into that theory and try to explain it as best I can if I want it to be debated.
I happen to personally find the swinging gate theory easier to wrap my mind around, mostly because it's the one I trained with early on.
I was hoping someone would take a "point/counterpoint" kind of stand and fire back off at me with why the swinging gate theory doesn't stand up or even a different theory or analogy to throw into the mix.
Jeff,
One reason there are so many analogies! Some people can relate to one, some to another. I seem to be more comfortable with a swinging gate, what I'm looking for is the reason why an axle would be more analagous in YCF style.
Steven,
Good points to remember. I have not seen this list before. Of course, I haven't seen MOST lists before.
I am aware that the "center line", "tantien", whatever, is not the "waist". In fact, since your center of gravity changes, your "center line" is constantly changing, so it couldn't be located directly on your "waist". But it is a good point to make for the sake of this discussion.
Wushuer

Posts: 631
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 7:01 am

Hi all,

There have been some terrific posts that make terrific points. Before trying to carry the discussion any further, let me first make a comment flowing from my previous exchange with Wushuer.

Wushuer, in following up on my earlier post, I would like to repeat that I was not really trying to describe your Wu Style, but really trying to set forth a coherent view of Yang Style that dealt with such things as gravity. In my opinion, you have no need to defend the validity of your other style. If “single weighting” is a necessary aspect of “Distinguishing full and empty,” then we are all enriched by a discussion of it. If it is not, that just means that it may be a peculiarity of Wu Style that is not relevant to traditional Yang Style, like leaning from side to side. I also want to repeat that many self-styled Yang Stylists seem to express an adherence to “single weighting” or to a preference for 100/0 and 0/100 weight distributions.

Wushuer, you also posed some questions about discoveries you have made about doing forms in different frames. You mention doing something with your knees that, unfortunately, I do not quite understand. For me, once I set the length of my step, everything else is absolutely fixed if I am to remain “Song.” I do not have a choice about what to do with my knee. I consider this an extremely important aspect of my practice and would be very resistant to the idea that one could freely adjust the angle of the knee (at the culmination of a posture) independently of the length of the stride.

Since I do not understand your description, let me explain how I view things to see if that can help establish some common ground.

I can make an analogy to a parachute. Once deployed, the shape of the shroud and strings of a parachute are just about absolutely fixed in shape. The shape, however, is not determined by any rigidity in the shroud or string, but by how the energy imparted by the air molecules interacts with them. The shape is fixed by the action of energy and the connectedness of the material, not by rigidity in the materials. If the materials were rigid in any way, the energy could not do its thing. Once deployed, one cannot alter the length of one string or the width between a pair of strengths without interrupting the flow of energy in the system or changing its nature.

Humans are not parachutes, of course; but in my view, the mind’s intent to continually extend and loosen the joints combined with focus on particular “Jin” points provides the same energy as the air molecules. The body assumes a “fixed” shape without actively fixing any of the joints at any particular angle. The posture merely emerges from the sum of the extension of each of the joints.

Another analogy is a pendulum. When you set a pendulum in motion, only two sources of energy need come into play: the action of your hand in pulling the ball to the side and the action of gravity in pulling the ball downward. Both of these energy vectors are straight lines, but their interaction, along with the string or chain holding the ball, makes the ball travel in an arc. The interplay of potential and kinetic energy is absolutely smooth and absolutely dictates the path of the ball. These two energies are in a Taiji relationship that is always present, even when the ball is motionless at the peak of its arc or moving at full speed at the bottom. As I understand it, these energies are as real as physical matter and not mental constructs. I never had physics in school, however, and so may have the specifics wrong.

Humans are not pendulums, but I believe the same principles apply. If you directly try to move any part of your body in a curve, you will probably be using local muscle. My belief is that the curves necessary in the form are achieved by judicially mixing straight-line extensions and by allowing our tendons and joints to impose their own natural limitations on the movement of the limbs. In other words, one allows a mix of different vectors of energy to create curves, rather than trying directly to form curves by controlling individual muscles. Similarly, the shroud of a parachute is not curved because it has a rigid, curved structure or because the action of gravity is curved.

This is why I do not understand what you mean by “sitting into your knees.” In my language, it sounds like you are talking about adjusting one angle in a triangle without changing any of the others. This is, of course, a geometric impossibility. Let me stress, however, that everyone has a different private language for how they view form and I am trying not to nitpick with your use of language. There is no automatic reason why my language needs to make sense to you, or vice versa. As a result, I am not trying to deny or affirm the usefulness or validity of what you describe. Maybe if you or someone else could provide a “translation” into my language or analogies, I could comment more specifically.

All I can say is that for now, I cannot figure out how your experience intersects with mine. I can certainly understand how habit can make a particular frame of the form more comfortable than others; however, I think you are not really talking about that and looking for something more that I cannot get at.

Let me now return to the larger discussion of empty and full that everyone has contributed to. I recently attended a brief push hands seminar with Yang Jun that left me feeling that I had come to understand this issue better than I ever had in the past. He had a way of putting things that made everything seem quite simple and logical. Unfortunately, I do not recall his exact words; and even if I did, they would not have the same meaning without his physical movement to illuminate them.

I think the idea of avoiding double weighting and of “Dividing full and empty” are essentially the same. I want to reiterate, however, that focusing too much on the words “full” and “empty” can be deceptive, since there are quite a few grammatical subtleties within and between English and Chinese that can obscure important aspects of how these words are used (e.g., differences in verbal aspect, states vs. actions, and absolute qualities vs. relative qualities), even where bilingual and fluent speakers are involved. For instance, does “to empty a leg” mean to take 100 percent of the fullness out of it or just a little bit? Are an “empty leg,” a "leg that is 'emptying'” and a "leg that has been 'emptied'” all the same thing? All of these expressions and concepts might be rendered with the same Chinese words.

I would be happy to elaborate on my linguistic thinking if anyone is interested, but I think a safe way of avoiding hidden ambiguity is to think about “filling vs. emptying.” (This is an idea I got from Louis, who, however, may well disagree with much or all of what I am saying.) Using process words forces one to consider the different aspects of these processes and makes them live. I will promptly ignore my own advice in this post, but I wanted to offer up this cautionary opinion in any case.

To explore what “Dividing Full and empty” means I would like to propose the exercise I describe below. It is inspired by applications that Yang Jun taught during the push hands seminar I attended. It is not, however, something he taught and I cannot cite him as a direct authority for anything I say. I mention the connection only to make clear that I am not inventing all of what I say from whole cloth. I am not particularly good at what I describe, but I have gotten this to work almost immediately with friends with very limited experience in push hands. Doing it in person is fairly quick and simple, but putting it in writing will be a challenge.

Scenario 1:

Imagine two guys, Attacker A and Defender B, who are standing face to face with their feet shoulder width apart. They are standing an arm’s length apart from each other with weight equally distributed between their legs and their arms at their side. Imagine that, without moving his feet, Attacker A launches a right-hand Karate-style punch to Defender B’s left shoulder or to the left side of his chest. If Defender B does nothing to intercept the blow, Defender B is likely to get hurt. It does not matter how his weight is distributed. Even a blow to a dangling (and, therefore, arguably empty) arm is likely to cause injury. Defender B can, of course, attempt to dodge the blow or to block it, but such a strategy depends on speed, which is not the focus of Taijiquan as I know it.

I propose that the above exchange describes an interaction that is outside of what Taijiquan teaches, because Defender B does not connect with Attacker A’s energy. Without joining with his opponent’s energy, Defender B cannot work his Taijiquan skills. He is not really in a “Taiji” relationship with his opponent. “Dividing full from empty” really does not come into play.

Scenario 2:

Now let’s imagine the same scenario, except that both Attacker A and Defender B begin with their right arm straight out in front of them. Each person has his right palm against the left chest and shoulder of the other. Their left arms remain at their sides, and their feet remain shoulder width apart with the weight evenly distributed.

If Defender B remains more or less stiff, Attacker A can easily push him backwards and cause him to lose his footing. To counter Attacker A’s push, Defender B can attempt to “yield” with his left shoulder, by twisting his torso and retreating his left shoulder along with the push. If, however, Attacker A has some skill and can follow this movement, Defender B reaches a point of maximum rotation and gets stuck. At this point, Attacker A can now launch his push in earnest by pushing through Defender B’s center, with the same result as before.

Scenario 3a:

One solution to this problem is trying to root through only one leg at a time and act like a “swinging door,” as Wushuer has described. I will describe this based on what others have told me previously and do not assert that this fully encompasses what Wushuer has been describing. I do not myself practice Taijiquan in this way and so can only give an impressionistic description. I do so just for illustration purposes and to bring this idea within the ambit of this exercise and contrast it with other strategies.

To root through one leg, imagine that you are Defender B in Scenario 2 above. This time, however, shift all your weight at the outset to the right leg, rather than having the weight equally distributed between the legs. Leave the sole of the left foot in contact with the ground, but unweighted. When Attacker A begins his push, you make sure to keep the left side of your body “empty.” This allows you to “yield” on the left and twist your torso much further than in Scenario 2, since the axis of your spine is now more or less over one leg, rather than being between two legs that act like anchors to restrict movement. Attacker A can, of course, thwart this defense by changing the direction of the initial push, but that sets up a different dynamic that would call for a different response.

Scenario 3b:

What I personally do not understand about the approach in Scenario 3a is that it seems to require an extra initial condition that I find problematic: i.e., having the weight already shifted over the right leg. One solution to this is to say that Defender B does not need to begin the exercise with the weight shifted, but merely needs to begin mentally rooting through the right leg and emptying the left leg. Defender B would then physically shift the weight from left to right only as time and reactions permitted. This has the added benefit of not revealing the nature of one’s defense before the attack is launched and allowing the attacker to adjust the direction of his push.

I find this solution better, but I still wonder a little about its practicality. It would seem to me that, if Attacker A is skilled, he can follow the shifting of the weight in such a way that Defender B can never quite rid himself of Attacker A’s force and will end up getting stuck over one leg with no remaining ability to rotate away Attacker A’s force. I repeat that I have only limited acquaintance with this type of practice and so do not have much confidence in my judgment. I think it is better to be clear about my doubts for others to judge, rather than to ignore the issue.

One way to solve the problem I raise would be for Defender B to use reaction speed to prevent the Attacker from getting a good sense of the path towards his center; however, I do not think it is good Taijiquan to rely on speed as an essential component of technique.

Another possible solution would be to incorporate torso leaning into the mix of defensive tools. Adding vertical rotation to the horizontal rotation makes it much harder for an attacker to find the path to the defender’s center. This seems much more flexible to me and still in keeping with the principle of Taiji; however, it does go against the majority of the Taijiquan traditions that counsel against a great deal of leaning. At this point in my studies, I wonder if this is the general approach that Wu (2) Style takes. Any speculation?

Scenario 4:

Let’s return to Scenario 2. To repeat, both Attacker A and Defender B have the weight equally distributed between their feet, each with the right palm against the other’s left shoulder and chest. As Defender B feels Attacker A begin his push, Defender B splits his body vertically into empty and full. The left side of this body empties and the right side of his body fills. As Attacker A pushes, Defender B follows his force and circulates it into his right side and into Attacker A. He does this by rotating his torso counterclockwise about the axis of the spine. For every inch his left side retreats, his right side and right arm advance. Defender B must maintain good Ward Off energy in his right arm and through the middle of his back. If Defender B does this correctly, he will borrow Attacker A’s force, circulate it from one side of his body to the other, and allow it to manifest in his right palm to push Attacker A backwards out of his root.

Defender B’s technique should make Attacker A feel as if he has pushed himself, rather than that Defender B has beaten him to the “punch.” Attacker A should feel as if there was no time lag and that it would have been physically impossible for him to anticipate or avoid Defender B’s counter push.

There is a desktop ornament that I think displays a similar use of energy. This is the ornament that has a row of metal balls suspended from two parallel horizontal rods. Each ball is attached to its own individual pair of strings. One string in each pair hangs from one rod, and the other string hangs from the other rod. Each pair of strings forms a “V,” with the ball at the bottom. When at rest, the metal balls hang touching each other. Along with the strings, they form a long row of vertical V’s that are arranged front to back.

If you pull back the ball at one end of the row and allow it to swing back in place, pendulum-style, into the remainder of the balls (which must be in contact with each other), the last ball at the other end of the row flies out from the resulting energy. The other balls remain absolutely stationary in the middle, despite the apparent force of the striking ball. When the other ball, which is now in motion, swings back down against the row of balls, the original ball is now flung up to conclude the cycle in the other direction. If two balls are originally used, then two balls swing up in reaction. The more balls used, the more that will swing up.

In Scenario 4, Attacker A’s right palm plays the role of the initial ball, while his left shoulder and center play the role of the ball at the other end of the row that is flung up by the impact of the initial ball. Defender B plays the role of the balls that remain suspended motionless in the middle and merely transmit the force back and forth.

Notice that this technique does not depend on a given weight distribution among the feet, but rather a transfer of energy through the torso that can be accomplished with various weight distributions. Notice also that the difference between Scenario 2 and Scenario 4 is not so much in the disposition of Defender B’s body, but rather what he does with it. In this exercise, one becomes double weighted simply by not using the mind to split the body into empty and full, not by failing to assume a particular posture. This failure can result from many different causes, such as ignorance, inattention, distraction, or inexperience, but rarely merely from faulty initial positioning.

Notice also that the body cannot act by itself to product this effect. Both mind and body must act. One cannot separate empty and full in the mind alone or allow the body to act like a mindless dead weight independently of the mind’s control. Merely “yielding,” being “soft,” or “relaxing” are insufficient to product the effect, although these qualities are involved. Notice also that Defender B must adjust the “degree” of emptiness and fullness absolutely in accordance with the movement of Attacker A’s push and cannot control the essential speed of the action. Defender B must “forget himself and follow the other.” Any attempt to control the timing interferes with the free circulation of the energy. Allowing the right elbow to “relax” and go limp will defeat the purpose of the movement, since the right palm will not become full. Likewise, trying to “push” independently by flexing the right shoulder or elbow in isolation will not work, since this intent splits the one action (which has a yin and yang aspect) into two separate ones. This destroys the Taiji relationship between the two.

My understanding of the rationale behind splitting your body into full and empty is that it allows the opponent’s Jin to flow into you, through you, and back out. If one does not do this, the opponent’s Jin will stop in you and cause damage or upset your root. The idea then is to allow the opponent’s energy to circulate in unrestricted fashion through your body, rather than to promote positional flexibility that will allow you to launch other techniques.

The Scenarios I have sketched out above are limited in many ways. For instance, I have only described a simple horizontal waist rotation that Defender B can perform. It is my belief that other postures from the form exhibit other ways to circulate energy, such as between the feet or vertically through the torso. I welcome anyone to point out limitations in my scenarios to refute my points or to build on them to make other ones.

I think these scenarios can be used to illustrate other related points of Taijiquan’s theories, such as: Why you must “launch second, but get their first,” why remaining in contact is so important, why you must “know your opponent and not let him or her know you,” why keeping the body “song” is so important, etc. I interpret all these admonitions in a somewhat specific and literal fashion in the context of Taijiquan, rather than merely as exhortations to develop one’s skill to a high level.

Take care,
Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 04-07-2003).]
Audi

Posts: 1052
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Audi,
I don't have the time to read your entire post right now. I apologize, but I am sneaking on at work during some down time and I don't have that much down time.
I will come back and read your entire post and answer it as soon as I can feasibly do so.
I'll just say that I didn't describe very well what I mean by "sitting", especially as I said "into my knees" and didn't explain.
In Wu style, they always told us to "sit" down while we stood up. Literally to stand as if we were sitting on a pole that was an extension from our spine out of our anus and into the center of the earth. To do this you must bend your knees as if you were sitting down on a stool, like a barstool not a chair.
I have allways "sat" down rather deeply into my knees to do this, or more simply bent my knees quite a bit, to get into this posture. Doing Wu style forms this way sets you in what I am coming to recognize as "small frame" TCC. You don't take very large steps, your knees are quite bent, it makes being 100/0 MUCH easier to do and suddenly leaning isn't such a bad way to get around, because the lean is very, very small when in this mode of stance.
Now, because that's how I've done TCC for fifteen years, that's just how I stand when I go to do forms. My YCF instructor brought me up what I thought was miles in my stance when I first started, I feel like I'm standing up straight. But I can see, now, that it wasn't enough. Or I sunk down again unconciously. Because I have improved my YCF postures immeasurably by "standing up" out of this deep "sit" and only allowing my knees to go slightly limp, not really bent. This has allowed me to take much wider, or larger, steps and makes a 100/0 stance much less comfortable, in fact almost impracticable.
I feel I have hit on a major thing with this, as at my last class my instructor said that I'm looking much better through the forms.
Have to run, I will get back here ASAP.
Wushuer

Posts: 631
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 7:01 am

Greetings Audi,

We’re in agreement with regard to your remarks about “filling” and “emptying.” Closely related are the taiji concepts of “closing” and “opening.”

I recently found some support for my advocacy of using gerund forms, or process words, for these sorts of concepts in Taijiquan. In Manfred Porkert’s _Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine: Systems of Correspondence_ (MIT Press, 1978), the author has a discussion of the modulations of yin yang polarity with specific reference to the terms “kai” (opening) and “he” (closing), and “shu” (pivot). Porkert writes,

“The technical terms kai, to open, he, to close, and shu, pivot, do not describe absolute qualities of cyclic phases; they merely indicate qualities relative to other graded standards of the same polarity.” (p. 38)

In a footnote to this passage, he remarks, “European inflected languages oblige us to choose between perfect and imperfect (iterative) aspects, but this distinction is only latent in the classical Chinese text. ‘Opening’ or ‘opened’—it is the logical context which lets us decide which is suitable.”

I highly recommend this book, by the way, which unfortunately is out of print, but may be available in libraries or used bookstores. It is difficult reading, but I think it’s one of the more cogent and erudite books written on the subjects of yin and yang, qi, meridians, and other traditional Chinese medical concepts, all of which influenced taiji theory.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim

Posts: 1283
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Audi,
An excellent post, I might add.
At first glance, and this is only first glance, you have left out one more, obvious to me, scenario.
That would take more time that I have now to go into, but I will find that time in the near future and tap out a post to reply.
I mostly just wanted to get a read through of your post to start the juices going in my mind, and to let you know that I have read your post and have not forgotten.

I'll sign off this post as:
Wishing I even had the time today to do a 13 posture form!
Wushuer

Posts: 631
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 7:01 am

Mario Napoli wrote:
Hi all,
hello Audi,
first off congrats on your ability to write long.. it's deep man deep i bow to your strenght
if you are as deep in your tai chi training watch out .

>> I find this solution better, but I still wonder a little about its practicality. It would seem to me that, if Attacker A is skilled, he can follow the shifting of the weight in such a way that Defender B can never quite rid himself of Attacker A?s force and will end up getting stuck over one leg with no remaining ability to rotate away Attacker A?s force. I repeat that I have only limited acquaintance with this type of practice and so do not have much confidence in my judgment. I think it is better to be clear about my doubts for others to judge, rather than to ignore the issue.>>

it seems to me that you're jumping the gun here or coming to a short sited conclusion..

this type of game can just be an exercise of the legs or of the waist or whatever and to change the game as in A. changing his line of attack may not be correct..
but i can also see the game being played as you say with A. changing his attack , this will mean that B. has to try and solve this harder puzzle and in an inferior position to boot. i don't see the problem here
this type of a game sound to me like learning to lift 50 pound and the when lifting twenty pound it will not be as hard..
so as you can see this way not be so bad

>>> Scenario 4:

Let?s return to Scenario 2. To repeat, both Attacker A and Defender B have the weight equally distributed between their feet, each with the right palm against the other?s left shoulder and chest. As Defender B feels Attacker A begin his push, Defender B splits his body vertically into empty and full. The left side of this body empties and the right side of his body fills. As Attacker A pushes, Defender B follows his force and circulates it into his right side and into Attacker A. He does this by rotating his torso counterclockwise about the axis of the spine. For every inch his left side retreats, his right side and right arm advance. Defender B must maintain good Ward Off energy in his right arm and through the middle of his back. If Defender B does this correctly, he will borrow Attacker A?s force, circulate it from one side of his body to the other, and allow it to manifest in his right palm to push Attacker A backwards out of his root.>>

now it seems to me that you see this as a better way to practice and it may be a excellent way, but i can also see where A. uses B. returnd energy and counters it.

so i don't see much difference in this example you are just not making A. as cleaver here. but he can Chamnge the game here just as well. now it's hard for me to explain , but i'm sure you can see that B. return can be counter, it can even be done on purpose . A. may let B. think that the push is real and waits for B. to return and then A. uses B. push against him.. now seeing it in this manner this to me is not different the the game that we did before, they are just exercises for different reasons. or as they say different Jin .. one may not be better the the other..

>>> Defender B?s technique should make Attacker A feel as if he has pushed himself, rather than that Defender B has beaten him to the ?punch.? Attacker A should feel as if there was no time lag and that it would have been physically impossible for him to anticipate or avoid Defender B?s counter push.>>

like i said it depends if A. is helping B. the it goes according to plan . but A. may not want to help B. so B. will loose. unless they both are aware of what game they are playing..

also there is another game that we should mention here ..what if both players are of the same skill , but player B. is smaller and weaker the player A. what then ? how can B. make A. weaker the him?

>> Notice that this technique does not depend on a given weight distribution among the feet, but rather a transfer of energy through the torso that can be accomplished with various weight distributions. Notice also that the difference between Scenario 2 and Scenario 4 is not so much in the disposition of Defender B?s body, but rather what he does with it.>>

in a conflict one would want to be in the best possible position , in practice there is nothing wrong with playing with inferior positions as well

anyway i have no problem with the way you perceive that the better way should be practiced but also think about practicing from an inferior position too.and i hope ive understood you and not confused the issue

happy practicing..

ciao
m.

Take care,
Audi
mnpli

Posts: 12
Joined: Sun May 20, 2001 6:01 am

Audi,
I must again apologize for my lack of response. I asked for input and theory and you graciously responded with a very well thought out and articulate post that I am eager to repsond to in kind.
Alas, my time online is limited during the day to what I can spend during downtime in my job. I am fortunate in that my workplace allows me to do this, however I cannot in good faith spend much time online posting here if there is genuine work to do.
At home, my time is limited to what I can sneak in between two teen aged children and a wife who all seem devishly intent upon keeping me away from my own computer.
Not much time online there either, I guess I'm trying to say.
I have been working on a response offline that I will cut and paste in here as soon as I can.
That said, I must be off. Or else why would I be working here.................?
Wushuer

Posts: 631
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2002 7:01 am

Hi Wushuer, Louis, and Mario (and everyone else).

Wushuer, feel free to take as much time as you want to respond to me. Hopefully this discussion has relevance for folks other than you and I. Whatever is posted probably does not need a quick response or any response at all, if you do not have time or do not feel up to it. I have the same constraints as you and usually spend several days composing my posts at odd moments.

From your earlier post, I think I now get what you mean about your knees. I think you have exactly the right idea and have indeed made an important discovery.

Much to my initial surprise, I have found that the largeness of “large frame” has not really been an optional part of my training. There are many things about Taijiquan that I think I would not have learned if I had not made a conscious effort to keep my frame as large as possible. By saying this, I am not knocking other frames, but rather trying to say that, for me, mixing the training ideas of the different frames might not be as straightforward as one might suppose.

One idea of traditional Yang Style that I initially find quite strange was the Yangs’ insistence on straightening the rear leg in Bow Stances (also, to a lesser extent, the front leg in Solid-Empty Stances). They say that the rear leg must be straight, but not locked. They describe this as “naturally straight.”

My personal view of this practice is that it is necessary for training purposes within the style, but often not necessary for effective application. The end position of the bow stance seems to act as a mental anchor that informs all the earlier movements. When I do it correctly, I feel as if I am moving through a funnel. At the wide opening of the funnel, I experience continuous feedback between the joints in my legs that becomes narrower and narrower as I reach the apex. If I fail to aim for the apex, the feeling immediately gets quite indistinct and lacking direction. In actual application, I feel that I really need very little range of motion to generate a great deal of power and that any three- or four-inch segment of the weight shift is as good as any other for many applications.

Another advantage of attempting to maximize joint extension is that one loses any desire to “freeze” or “lock” them in any position. The joints have natural ranges of motion that provide the constraints on movement, rather than any arbitrary decision of the mind. Since each joint and tendon imposes different constraints, the sum of the natural limitations can be quite different from what one might suppose. The energy exerted by the joints determines their positioning, rather than something else.

For instance, when one makes the arms “naturally straight” at the culmination of the Push Posture, they nonetheless retain some bend. I believe that in Traditional Yang Style, this bend is not achieved by learning a particular angle and drilling it over and over. My belief is that if one extends through the correct point on the palm and tries to line up the elbow between that point and the shoulder, the elbow cannot physically straighten. It naturally reaches a particular angle where all the forces even out. All this is independent of the amount of force exerted or the speed used.

Similarly, I find that the correct placement of the front knee in a Bow Stance is something intimately connected with straightening the back knee. Only when I do this, can I clearly feel the strength of the two knees play off each other and reach a happy compromise. I find this necessary to clearly feel the opposition of “cheng” (“supporting”) and “deng” (“thrusting”/”stamping”) between the legs. Without this, I feel I must learn a fixed position that I must “impose” on my front knee. When I have done other styles of Taijiquan or other martial arts, I have pursued a completely different feel when doing Bow Stances and no longer like mixing the feel of those styles with traditional Yang Style.

I used to perceive that locking joints was bad only because of the restriction on movement; however, I now think that locking joints implies use of certain vectors of energy that are completely antithetical to the idea of extension that the Yangs promote. In other words, if you are truly extending, you cannot also be locking. If you do not extend, many incorrect things will then be possible that are equally as bad as locking, but subtler to perceive.

Mario, I accept your observations. Certainly, there are always many options in push hands. However, I wasn’t so much trying to describe a sparring scenario as trying to isolate how someone could feel what emptying and filling can mean in traditional Yang Style. I also wanted to do it in a way that could show concrete results and not rely solely on hard-to-define feelings. One thing I think I left out from my description is that I am assuming that the Attacker A has committed to a push and thus is also double weighted and cannot change as long as he is so committed. If he merely probes with the initial push and can maintain a division of full and empty, all bets are off and many “games” are indeed possible.

I got the idea for these scenarios from something I thought up more or less spontaneously during a class, when someone asked me what full and empty meant. Drawing on my recent experience in the seminar, I acted out Scenarios 1 and 4 with me being Attacker A and the questioner being Defender B. The relative size, strength, and skill level of the person I worked with seemed to have no effect on the outcome. She was able to execute Scenario 4 and push me without effort. My sense of it was that I could not have avoided or neutralized her push, once I myself committed to the initial push, since there was no time to react.

Louis, I am glad to see that others have the same view of gerunds, verbal aspects, and polarities. As I have learned more and more Chinese, I even have begun to wonder more and more about how phrases like “kuai bu” (“quick steps/stepping”) should be understood. (E.g., “quick steps” vs. “relatively quicker steps” or “ta de bu hen kuai” vs. “ta de bu4 kuai”). This again seems to me an issue of absolutes versus polarities.

I especially like the quote you unearthed:

“The technical terms kai, to open, he, to close, and shu, pivot, do not describe absolute qualities of cyclic phases; they merely indicate qualities relative to other graded standards of the same polarity.”

This goes precisely to the heart of my question and precisely addresses some of the issues I was struggling with. It is particularly helpful that Porkert deals with the concepts of cyclic phases and polarity.

Since Porkert’s quote is so densely phrased and I have some scholarly pretensions of my own, I cannot resist a small tweak at the type of language we are using and will supply the following quote I ran across on amazon.com:

"The scholar," according to the great Japanese novelist Soseki Natsume, is "one who specializes in making the comprehensible incomprehensible." I plead guilty.

Take care,
Audi
Audi

Posts: 1052
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

PreviousNext