Ten Essentials in the Form

Ten Essentials in the Form

Postby Audi » Sun Aug 03, 2003 5:02 pm

Hi all:

As we do form, we are told that we should incorporate the 10 Essentials into our movement. In trying to do this, I have found from time to time that a teacher or friend has called my attention to one of these principles in connection with a particular movement and that principle has assumed a clarity or depth that it did not have for me before.

Such moments may be impossible to put into words. Even if they can be described, I am not sure the experience of mini-enlightenment is transferable or even useful to everyone. Nevertheless, I would be curious to explore the topic.

Basically, I have two questions. Do others use parts of the form to help them define any of the 10 Essentials? If so, what are the parts that do this for you and which are the principles involved?

Since I need to be prepared to give in order to receive, let me name a few parts of the form that have special relevance for me.

“Distributing/Sharing out/Dividing up full and empty” has been a lively topic of discussion on this form of late. For quite a while, I have had a particular association with this principle that stems from the unusual movement that occurs in the Yangs’ form right after the second of the Strike Tigers. At this point in the form, I find that the actions of the two legs have an unusual relationship that, for me, has particular resonance for “dividing up full and empty.” One of my teachers corrected my movement with reference to this principle, and this association has always stuck in my head.

I should make clear that this particular movement is probably different from Yang Style forms not taught by the Yangs. These other versions of the form may very well be performed in a way that eliminates the special feeling I am trying to allude to. In the Yangs’ form, the two instances of Strike Tiger are 180 degrees from each other, the first performed to due north and the second to due south. The subsequent Kick with Right Heel is performed to due east.

Basically, what I feel is a strange serious of shifts in loading between the two legs and within the feet as the focus of the body shifts from south to east. All this takes place with very little movement of the body mass. The right leg goes instantly from a feeling of receiving the mass of the body to providing an anchor or root to push the left foot to pivot outward. “Front” and “back” seem to switch without much change in position. Also, within the right foot, there seems to be a shift in emphasis from the heel to the ball of the foot.

The left-foot pivot also feels interesting because it is initiated without a dramatic change in the weight carried by the left foot. There is also a strange feeling of a shift of front and back in the left foot. I think this is because one first has a feeling of rolling from the heel to the ball of the foot from northwest to southeast in the initial bow stance to the south, and then one changes to having a feeling of rolling on the foot from southwest to northeast as the left-foot pivot progresses. Again, all this is hard to put into words.

Another spot in the form that has special resonance for me is the final position of both instances of Strike Tiger. Here, the principle I especially feel is the first of the Ten Essentials: “Having emptiness and lightness crowning the energy at the top of the head” (Xu ling ding jin). Keeping the spine straight at this point is a challenge that this principle seems specifically created to address. The unusual position of the arms seems to tempt the spine, shoulders, and neck to curve to the side toward which the upper fist points to.

I also feel a special connection to this same principle as I assess the state of my spine at the end of Double Peaks/Winds to the Ears (Shuang Feng Guan Er). I think the issue here is that the height of the fists seems to invite the mind to use them as the top reference point for the spine, instead of correctly maintaining a connection with the top of the head. Lifting both arms and sinking the shoulders also seems to provide an unusual counterpoint to the feeling of trying to lift the head and lightly extend the neck.

One last instance I can mention is the position toward the beginning of the Saber Form that occurs when one steps forward into a left Bow Stance and first grasps the saber with the right hand. (This occurs when the word “nuo” is said.) For some reason, I think I just rediscovered what sinking the shoulder means from corrections I heard at a recent seminar. The corrections concerned the position of the right shoulder as it pushes the handle of the saber forward at this point in the form. I have been able to translate this feeling into numerous places in the hand form where I now realize that my internal feeling (and perhaps external posture) was somewhat defective.

Do any of these positions I have mentioned have any resonance with anyone else? Do any of you have other points in the form that might give especially powerful non-verbal clues about how to understand the Ten Essentials?

Audi
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Postby psalchemist » Wed Aug 06, 2003 3:44 pm

Audi,

Excellent idea for a topic, I am eager to explore many aspects of the thoughts and ideas you have presented here. I have many thoughts and questions on the subject of the 'ten essential principles', so I will undoubtedly return unceasingly to this subject in future. I am presently considering the points you have presented, but due to a lack of hours in the day(and night) am unable to respond thoroughly as of yet, I'm still thinking, but I'll be back! Image

Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Anderzander » Tue Aug 12, 2003 1:32 am

Hi Audi

Regrettably I don’t know either of the sequences of movements you have described Image

So I'm a bit lost for appreciating them.

It got me thinking about the ten points and my form etc though.

At the risk of answering your post back to front, I find that since being able to move the body as one unit, it is more that certain postures are more disruptive than others, they make it harder to maintain all of the qualities descibed within the ten essentials.

I remember reading that the postures aren't beyond opening and closing, and they aren't.

However what is difficult is stopping the body having hollows and protuberances. I still have elements of my posture that aren’t symmetrical and certain postures exasperate that.

I don't know how much of that is to do with either my own individual shortcomings or the posture in it's own right though?

It seems to be me.

For me the ten essentials were less accessible than Li I Yu's text, which I treated as a formula (do x and y with your attention and it will = z)

I was amazed when it did too! I'd thought of the classics as being an analysis or metaphors -when in fact they are of course direct descriptions of what to do.

Everyone has a different doorway into them, and from one thing you will know a few. Practice these few and more will become apparent. Through these few more, more will make sense. Then practice this new total etc.

So whilst the 10 essentials weren't my doorway in, I have come to know what they mean.

Whilst my post hasn’t been quite in accord with your direction Audi, I hope it will be of use to someone.

Stephen


If anyone is interested the 'doorway' I used most was the Li I Yu text I posted about before: http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000036.html
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Aug 12, 2003 4:34 am

Greetings Audi,

'Strike Tiger'/'Yo-Tso Da Hui Shi'

You said<For quite a while, I have had a particular association with this principle that stems from the unusual movement that occurs in the Yang's form right after the second of the Strike Tigers. At this point in the form, I find that the actions of the two legs have an unusual relationship that, for me, has particular resonance for dividing up 'full and empty'.>Audi.

I share the same feeling concerning the uniqueness of this movement. I have always felt there was a different elemental aspect to this posture, but never realized what it was until lately when I began my study of emptying and filling in cross alignment.

This does not explain why this is so, it has simply confirmed to me that studying these patterns can help me to discover exceptions and discrepancies, which I may then (being aware of an exception)seek answers.Hopefully to better understand the deeper meanings within the posture. I am not saying that an exception is wrong,but rather that it is a sign there is some important piece of information to be sought within. In other words, there must be a reason why the masters have created an exception, and I am interested in knowing what that would be.

The outward pivotting of the foot left does not seem to reflect the way the lower body usually controls the upper body.

Usually the left lower foot would be goading the right arm into action until it became grounded, but in this case, it doesn't seem to be allowed to react in usual accordance.

Right after that foot pivot though, everything seems to resume 'normalcy' in the cross alignment sense...The right leg propulses the left arm into action(both yang) and the left foot is grounding while the right arm is supporting(both yin).

But then, in the final portion, right before 'Yo Deng Jiao' we are back to a contrary movement(to compensate for the initial change in the pattern- otherwise it would 'disturb' the rest of patterns within the form. Whoever made the initial exception, knew to calibrate all portions of the move to not disrupt the overall patterns of the form following.)...?


This contrary compensation seems to be when the right arm(crossing) and right leg(raising) are both seemingly yang and the left foot(grounded) and left arm(fixed/blocking) are both seemingly yin.

Then back to normal with the yin-yang-yang-yin in 'Tso deng Jiao.

Why this has been done is a mystery to me also.

As I mentioned before, I think this will be a great forum for discussion...I will work at it bit by bit, since there is so much to discuss. I am still contemplating the definitions of essentials in individual movements, interesting idea. Image

Best regards,
Psalchemist.



[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-11-2003).]
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Aug 12, 2003 5:14 pm

Hi Audi, psalchemist, Stephen,

I don't know if this will be useful to you, but I do 'Strike the Tiger Right' to 'Right Heel Kick' differently. For newcomers I do Yang Style which has come through the Tung family.

For me there is no exception or discrepancy. The pivot is perfectly placed on the binary chart. It is a weighted dynamic outward pivot, which means the weight is shifted to the left foot during the pivot.

Also the angles change of the pivot is different: Audi, you may recall that I start the 108 facing east. With that in mind 'Strike the Tiger Right' is done to the southeast and 'Right Heel Kick' to the south.

I think this is a good topic and might have something related to the ten essentials in a while.

Regards,

DavidJ
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Postby tai1chi » Wed Aug 13, 2003 4:39 am

Hi Audi,

well, I think you're asking several subtle questions. As "essentials", ime, most of Yang Chengfu's "points" apply to most cma.

6. Using The Mind Instead Of Force
9. Importance Of Continuity
10. Tranquility In Movement

The above, taken form YZD's book, seem to be descriptive of tcc, but also of bagua. I think the term "essential" is crucial. I seem to remember that the word was sometimes translated as "important." But, if they are essentials, then they should be taken as requirements for all movements.

I guess I'm not clear why a particular posture should reflect any specific essential. I can not think of a movement where the points that I have suggested (weakly) are not essential.

Anyway, I think the suspended head does create a specific feeling, as does sinking the shoulders and elbows. At that point, it becomes a matter of interpretation. I.e., what is the 'intended' way to suspend the head (or "relax the waist")? And, what about the places where we seem to have to violate the essentials? -such as when we seem to have to raise the elbows.

I've heard different instructors give different explanations of the supposed deviations from the essentials. Then again, maybe we're trying to apply YCF's "10" to all forms of tcc, as if he intended them to be general prescriptions.

Oh well, I have no answer for that. Could I ask, though, why you think that a certain foot pivot would violate any of the 10 essentials?

As far as a direct answer, I might consider the "beginning" to be the place where I feel the "10 essentials". Maybe it's simply a feeling, but I try to keep it during the entire form. Perhaps I'm not addressing whay you had in mind?

Best,
Steve James
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Postby psalchemist » Fri Aug 15, 2003 11:43 am

Audi,

I think Stephen has pointed out several apt points...

I tried ,myself, to define some of the postures in the form through the principles, but find I must agree with Stephen's comment-all ten essential principles are applied to all movements in the form- I cannot define them by any particular principle...All principles are essential to each move. There may be some principles which seem to dominate (or be more subtle influences) in certain stances, however, it would be futile and perhaps offensive or discriminatory for me to consider these possibilities.

Also, Stephen made reference to the bagua...I think this was what my thoughts were leading me to as well, I just couldn't put my finger on it. The various energies of the bagua seem to already 'define' these postures.

I guess I would be well to study the different energies...Does anyone know of a reliable site which would give thorough descriptions of the Bagua as applied to the individual movements of the Yang long form?

Thank-You,
Regards,
Psalchemist. Image

P.S. I don't believe the differences(exceptions) I have alluded to are actual 'violations'. They simply depict different aspects of the form which I, as yet, still do not understand...Perhaps it is unacceptable to question the individual movements? I just don't know of another way,personally, to discover 'more' about the form, without first picking it apart...for deeper understanding.
I guess 'tradition' etiquette is not my forte. Feedback on these points would be helpful.

P.S. I woke up realizing that I had forgotten/misplaced a certain important piece of information that Audi alluded to in the 'Yo Ye Ma Fen Zong'(form forum) topic a while back...something about requiring all the energies to be within each posture of the form, similar to the 10 essentials.



[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-16-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Aug 16, 2003 5:34 pm

Hello All,

The 10 essential principles
The 5 elements (lower body)
The 8 bagua (upper body)
The 4 emptying and filling in cross- alignment
The 2 opening and closing
The 1 acheiving meditation during movement

Would these represent the points to be concentrated upon during form practice?

Regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Audi » Sun Aug 17, 2003 11:24 pm

Hi all,

Thanks for your responses, all of which I find helpful. I do, however, find them somewhat surprising, because it seems that the way in which I relate to the form may not be as common as I had thought.

Stephen, you make a bunch of excellent points, including those about opening, closing, and symmetry. Let me comment, however, about one statement you made:

<<However what is difficult is stopping the body having hollows and protuberances. I still have elements of my posture that aren’t symmetrical and certain postures exasperate that.

I don't know how much of that is to do with either my own individual shortcomings or the posture in it's own right though?

It seems to be me.>>

I think that my general orientation towards the world is that knowledge is the key to everything and that, if one truly knows a principle, practicing it is not difficult. Because of this orientation, I believe I truly understand a principle only when I can consistently practice it despite the circumstances. I find that “exasperating” postures are the key to exposing situations where I need to deepen my understanding of a principle. In other words, I believe that in one sense, all the postures or more or less equally difficult, but that the difficulty is more apparent in some postures than in others.

Stephen, you also said:

<<For me the ten essentials were less accessible than Li I Yu's text, which I treated as a formula (do x and y with your attention and it will = z)

I was amazed when it did too! I'd thought of the classics as being an analysis or metaphors -when in fact they are of course direct descriptions of what to do.

Everyone has a different doorway into them, and from one thing you will know a few. Practice these few and more will become apparent. Through these few more, more will make sense. Then practice this new total etc.>>.

I am glad you mentioned your affinity to Li I Yu, because I think I understand better your position on various matters. I strongly agree with your approach to the classics and like the way you put things. The only thing I might change in your formulation is that I do not think that the “few” or “few more” are things that are best thought of as being added to the “one thing,” but rather as constituting deeper aspects of the “one thing.”

Steve, you said: <<Could I ask, though, why you think that a certain foot pivot would violate any of the 10 essentials?>>

For some reason, I seem to have given the impression that I think that some aspects of my description violated the 10 essentials. Several people also seem to have gotten this impression and have commented on this. Just to be clear, this is not my position.

What I was trying to convey is that in certain positions I feel I understand better why each of the 10 Essentials is “essential.” In other words, I feel a place where I cannot do the movement to my satisfaction in any way other than by observing the particular principle at issue. It is true that one could say this of all the postures and positions within the form, but I do not think this is always apparent.

Steve, you also mentioned the following:

<< The above, taken form YZD's book, seem to be descriptive of tcc, but also of bagua. I think the term "essential" is crucial. I seem to remember that the word was sometimes translated as "important." But, if they are essentials, then they should be taken as requirements for all movements.>>

Just to be clear, I am not in any way advocating that any of the Ten Essentials are dispensable in any of the postures. I agree that they are always essential. What I am trying to get at is that the necessity is not always apparent.

Steve, you also mentioned that you think of the Ten Essentials at the “beginning.” I try to do the same; however, for many years, I felt that I could do the Preparation Posture satisfactorily without having to do anything specific or physical to incorporate the Ten Essentials. All I felt I needed to do was stand there and concentrate on relaxation and calmness. I now feel quite differently and accordingly apply my mind, muscles, and joints differently than before, even in the Preparation Posture. If all I knew of the form were the Preparation Posture, I cannot imagine myself progressing in this way. For instance, I would not have felt the need to do anything in order to have my “shoulders sink” or my “elbows droop.”

Here and there in other postures or positions, I have found it impossible to do a movement to my satisfaction without reaching what I felt was a certain level of understanding of one or more of the Ten Essentials. What I was trying to do with this thread was explore if others had had this experience and if so, what the nature of these experiences were. Is this any clearer?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Aug 18, 2003 2:14 am

Hi Audi,

"you also mentioned that you think of the Ten Essentials at the “beginning.” ...
If all I knew of the form were the Preparation Posture, I cannot imagine myself progressing in this way. For instance, I would not have felt the need to do anything in order to have my “shoulders sink” or my “elbows droop.”

Interesting that you should say that. I probably feel that I don't need to see much more than the very beginning to appraise a form. Well, not just "the beginning" but "how it begins."

You also wrote:
"Here and there in other postures or positions, I have found it impossible to do a movement to my satisfaction without reaching what I felt was a certain level of understanding of one or more of the Ten Essentials."

I think there will always be questions as to how to do "Fair Lady at Shuttles" and accord with the essential to keep the elbows dropped. Some styles literally keep the elbows down; others say this is completely wrong. The answer's probably somewhere in between. But, the "idea" of keeping the elbows down that, imo, must be maintained.
Similarly, in Needle at Sea Bottom, the head should still remain "as if suspended from above", yet it might not be in the same position as in Snake Creeps Down.

"What I was trying to do with this thread was explore if others had had this experience and if so, what the nature of these experiences were. Is this any clearer?"

Yes, I misunderstood your point about the pivot and what you meant about the essentials in the various postures.

Best,
steve James


Take care,
Audi
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Aug 18, 2003 2:52 am

Greetings Steve James,

You said...
<I probably feel that I don't need to see much more than the very beginning to appraise a form. Well, not just "the beginning" but "how it begins".

Very interesting. How so?
What would be the key qualities you would look for in the "commencement/preparation" movements?

Thanks,
Psalchemist. Image
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Aug 18, 2003 3:49 am

Hi Psalchemist,

well, I could say that I look for nothing other than what I look for in the rest of the form. I guess when most of us start, we concentrate on the "impressive" segments of the form, such as the kicks or Snake Creeps Down, etc. When we get a bit more experienced, we see that just going lower or higher isn't as importance as how well the practitioner manifests the 10 essentials in his performance. If he has not manifested them in the beginning, then he probably won't be able to maintain them consistently throughout.

I know. You're asking for specifics, but I can't really quantify it any other way. I.e., "head not suspended" is just that. I suppose what I wouldn't try to do is say that "if the head deviates from the vertical, relative to the ground, by X number of degrees", that it is not suspended. Or, that if the elbows go more than X degrees above a certain point, that they are not dropped. Otoh, coninuity and circularity are consistent requirements.

Oh well, I guess I can't really explain what I mean. Anyway, my judgment is not so important. My point was that a good form "begins" well and "ends" well. They demonstrate the origin and termination of "intention". In between is the manifestation of intention. So, that's why people might look for different things.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Aug 18, 2003 3:15 pm

Greetings Steve James,

Thanks for the explanation. Actually, that was exactly the type of general confirmation I was seeking. The ten essential principles are used as the primary tool for judging the quality of an individuals Taijiquan form. This certainly agrees with general concensus. I will make certain to maintain this prominence of priority in my studies and practice.

The 'big picture', little details, and everything in between are all equally important issues to me.

In general...Could you please provide some descriptions of the tangible(physical), and perhaps more intangible(other?) results of practicing Taijiquan while successfully implementing the ten essential principles.


Specifically...I have heard for example, that practicing Taijiquan correctly will lead to a 'good chi circulation'. What are some of the results of having 'good chi circulation'?

Best regards,
Thanks again,
Psalchemist.
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Aug 18, 2003 4:43 pm

Hi Psalchemist,

you wrote:

"In general...Could you please provide some descriptions of the tangible(physical), and perhaps more intangible(other?) results of practicing Taijiquan while successfully implementing the ten essential principles.

Specifically...I have heard for example, that practicing Taijiquan correctly will lead to a 'good chi circulation'. What are some of the results of having 'good chi circulation'?"

Well, I guess the results are something that you'd have to feel for yourself through the application of the essentials. But, I can say that, when the head suspension is accompanied with the sinking, the ch'i flows more freely than when these conditions are not met. As Audi said, there is a quality of relaxation that can also be achieved where the body feels as if it is moving as a unit. Maybe the best thing to do is to try doing a series of forms in sequence while trying to conform to the 10 essentials as best you can. Analyze how you feel before, during, and after your practice. Of course, don't forget to ask your teacher.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Aug 18, 2003 5:27 pm

Hello Audi, Hello All,

I finally have a direct(I think) question pertaining to the implementation of the ten principle essentials...

How would the head suspended, correct eye movement and the mind moving the chi work simultaneously?

Regards,
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