Empty and Full

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Aug 19, 2003 7:14 am

Hi Audi,

The four illustrations appearing in Jou Tsung Hwa’s book are clearer in the original Chinese book by Hao Shaoru, which I have in Gu Liuxin’s compendium of the major styles, Taijiquan Quanshu. Your reading of the characters mentioned is correct. The thing to keep in mind, I think, is that Wu/Hao style is a rarefied version of the art, with less and less attention on the outward form, and more and more attention to inner intent. “It is as though,” Hao Shaoru states, “the body is suspended in air.” The labels in the illustrations each describe, not so much explicit body mechanical phenomena, but the intent required in the practitioner for the various states of “potential born of disposition” (a phrase I steal from Francois Jullien).

Hao Shaoru names the illustrations “Nodal Sequencing Illustrations,” and his book precedes them with some explanatory narrative as follows:

‘All of the movements of Wu [Yuxiang] style taijiquan are arranged according to the nodal sequencing of “begin” (qi), “continue” (cheng), “open” (kai), and “close” (he). . . . Within each and every nodal sequence, although there is the phenomenon of slight pauses, nevertheless one must preserve [the principle of] “jin duan yi bu duan” (the jin breaks off, but the intent does not), and within there must be a continual linking up, so that when practicing there can be no suspending [of intent] if one is to accord with the nodal sequencing.’ (in Gu Liuxin, ed. Taijiquan Quanshu, p. 587)

Hao Shaoru’s father, Hao Yueru (1877–1935), wrote of these four stages within the sequence named Lazily Tie Coat, but cautioned about rigidly correlating individual movements: “This, however, is not a wooden, unvarying production; there are openings lodged within openings, within closings there are still more closings—what is called ‘without letting go or resisting’ (budiu buding), in every place it is appropriate and unified.

You wrote: ‘One of my questions, concerns our old friend “teng2 nuo2.” In all four illustrations, there are arrows indicating that the forearms (?) should be “tengnuo” (springy?).’

The term tengnuo appears to take on special significance in Wu/Hao style. Hao uses it countless times in his book. It may have been introduced into the art by Wu Yuxiang, who listed it as one of the essential features of “shenfa” (torso method), and it appears in Li Yiyu’s writings. I find it difficult to obtain a neat rendering, but as I stated in our exchange on the Saber koujue way back, it appears to refer to a neuro-psychological phenomenon—a split-second, nearly spontaneous adaptive response to a rapidly changing situation. Hao Yueru defined the term: “When there is the intention for a move, but before the move itself, and in advance of the posture/form (shi)—this is called tengnuo.” (ibid., p. 581) This makes the labelling of the forearms and calves in the four illustrations as “tengnuo” a sensible proposition, as the forearms are often the immediate points of contact with an opponent, and the legs must swiftly adjust the stance in response to changing conditions. In his discussion of distinguishing empty and full in stances, Hao Yueru closely follows Li Yiyu’s classical remarks, partly quoting, partly paraphasing: “Empty is not completely without strength, within there must be tengnuo, that is, a disposition prepared to move (yu dong zhi shi ye). Full is not to completely stand firm, the vital spirit must be allowed to permeate with an upward rising intent.” (p. 583)

You wrote: ‘Another feature of these illustrations that I find interesting is that in the last three states, both palms are linked to the phrase “Yi4 xiang4 shang4 sheng1” (“The mind intent rises upward or towards the top”?). Does anybody know what this refers to?’

Perhaps this is the counterpart of “seating the wrists,” with the intent drawing the palms upward as the wrists and elbows sink. To me it’s simply a different way of stating the same idea, with the effect of leading jin into the palms.

That’s all for now.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Aug 19, 2003 8:19 pm

Greetings Louis Swaim,

Thanks for the translations and explanations on the subject of kai/he, I find this aspect of Taijiquan very complex.

You also mentioned something about techniques 'leading jin into the palms'.

I was wondering what level of student, in your experience, in your opinion, would be capable of manifesting this capability constantly and consistently when practicing the form?

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Aug 19, 2003 8:33 pm

Greetings Stephen,

I am interested in this sequence of "open,float,sink,close-release".

Sink is probably the only one I am really familiar with so far...

Float? Would this be those instances in the form when one is using a whole body pivot such as the first outward pivot in Lu(bring down)(for example)?...I ask this because I am unsure where these torso/waist pivots fit into the scheme of things. If not then WHAT IS 'float' and what ARE these pivots in the form all about? Any ideas? Clarifications and explanations would be appreciated.

Thanks again,
Psalchemist.


[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-19-2003).]
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Aug 19, 2003 10:40 pm

Hi Audi,

I took a peek at your post and at its peak it piqued my interest. Image

Generally speaking, some look at "open" as an outward movement and "close" as an inward movement. Others look at open as issuing, and closing as gathering.
I addition, many people think of issuing energy outwardly, but the issue can be inward as well.

In "Repulse the monkey" it may be easier to see how releasing and gathering may be done at the same time, and also how one may issue inwardly.

I hope this helps a little.

Regards,

David J
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Postby tai1chi » Wed Aug 20, 2003 2:51 am

Hi David J., Audi, and all,

Audi, I see the theoretical problem that might confuse/conflate "open" and "close." Fwiw, I've never tried to catalog the movements that way, but, for example, Brush Knee Twist Step would be an example of a "close" while White Crane would be "open." In general, "close" does imply to "contract"; but the left side can Open and the right side close at the same time. Both, afaik, could be used to "fa". I think there can be a confusion between "opening" and moving "outward." An outward movement can certainly involve closing, even when it will (must) transform to an opening movement. Oh well, best I can do.

Cheers,
Steve James
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Postby psalchemist » Sun Aug 24, 2003 1:24 pm

David J and Steve James,

If I am learning anything about the art of Taijiquan, it would be the fact that everything about it is a paradox. When we say 'on the one hand',we should also specify 'on the other hand'.

This is a good point, which is never repeated often enough.

Also,(along the same lines of defining Taiji)that it is always a process of emptying and filling rather than empty and full.Opening and closing rather than opened and closed. Opened/ closed, empty/full do surely exist, but are present for mere split seconds in the overall process...

I find it all to be very mind expanding.

Thank-you for the details of opening and closing,

Best regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 08-24-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Sep 01, 2003 9:19 pm

Greetings All,

Open-Float-Sink-Close-Release...

If this is considered the sequence to be exploited in each posture of the form, does this mean that the (fa-chin?) release occurs after the breath has been exhaled(quiesence) during the closing action, or is it a simultaneous action similar to threading, occuring almost simultaneously. Do we exhale completely first before releasing?

Also, concerning Float, is that the particular pause which occurs during stepping in the Yang style form, or is it a suspension of breath?

Could someone explain the idea of 'float' within the order of method?

I'm confused why Float precedes sink. I've been doing open-sink-float-close-release....I think...Hmmm, I really don't have much of a clue what 'Float' means.

Clarifications and explanations most welcome.

Thanks,
Psalchemist. Image
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Tue Sep 02, 2003 10:46 am

response to Audi's 8/17 post

Audi's post repeated: "Your post leaves two questions for me that I would appreciate your comment on. First, let me say that all you presented seems quite accurate and reasonable, and I will assume for the moment that this is how I should understand my own practice. Despite this, I have heard other descriptions of opening and closing which seem different from what you presented and for which I cannot satisfactorily account within this framework. Let me give more detail.
I recall at one seminar that Yang Jun took great care to break down Lifting Hands and Step Forward into a two-part arm movement. He described the first part as opening and the second part as closing. He emphasized that one should not merely bring the hands together in one movement. If I recall correctly, he was teaching in English, and so I cannot be certain that he was referring to kai/he; nevertheless, he did make a quick reference to the fact that in order to close, one first had to open. I have read in other authorities, perhaps in Yang Jwing-Ming and/or Kuo Lien-Ying, that the movement described by Yang Jun corresponded to He Jin (i.e., closing energy).
At least on the surface, I cannot reconcile the above description of closing with what Wang Yongquan says. Wang Yongquan implies that Fajin results from opening, whereas the other descriptions seem describe that Fajin will take place during closing. Can you or anyone else explain the discrepancy?" (end Audi post)
Below are repeated translations of Wang Yongquan:
Taiji push hands skill is primarily manifest in the application of two types of jin4, concentrating jin4 and diffusing jin4. These two types of jin4 are entirely the application of internal qi4. This is the basic difference between Taijiquan and external martial arts. The essential point is that it is the unification of hardness and softness; it is soft outside and hard inside. . . . . . . . . . .
In the case of concentrating jin4 one uplifts the partner with changes occuring primarily in one's own body. Elastic or springy jin4 is a type of concentrating jin4 that is manifest between opening and closing (kai1 he2 zhi1 jian1). When closing you must close into your own body and lead the partner's incoming force towards you and then cause it to miss its target completely (yin3jin4luo4kong1). When opening you must open into the partner's body and focus one's shen1, yi4, qi4 (spirit, mind, qi4) on his body. You must cause him to not only not be able to get away, but also must cause his active force to become a passive force (i.e. force that I can now borrow). Only in this way, where you first close and then open causing inner qi4 to pulse and swing, can you cause your partner to be bounced away. It is important to remember that bouncing is not pushing. The partner should feel that he has run into a spring and has been bounced off. (page 230)
Diffusing jin4 is manifest primarily in adhering, connecting, sticking, and following (zhan1, lian2, nian2, sui2) and loose, sinking jin4. If you want to get a handle on your partner's movements, you must first influence his center and induce him to emit zheng4 jin4 (jin4 emitted in a straight, head-on direction). Zheng4 jin4 is jin4 that the partner emits after his center has been influenced. If you want to get a handle on his center you have to send your loose, sinking jin4 into the partner so that it penetrates into his center, and then either attract him towards you or bounce him away. The method of employing attracting force is but one use of diffusing jin4. In the method of using attracting force you have to use all sorts of ways to dissipate your partner's incoming force by sending it outside your body via your elbows. In this way your partner will uncontrollably lose balance, i.e. he will be led forward and miss his target. The successful implementation of attracting force involves being good at changing one's hand techniques. The changing of hand techniques when using attracting force requires that one does not bend the wrists backward or down in a hook; the wrists should be naturally extended straight and rounded with fullness. So, through one's hands, take the partner's force and lead it down to your elbows, and then from the elbows lead it outside your body. Don't lead it into your body. At the same time you must accurately control the timing of the attraction; only when these changes are executed very precisely can you prevent the partner from being able to react and force him into a passive state.
(p. 230-231)
Below is an additional section where Wang describes the phrase, "he2 ji2 chu1":

In the old classics there is the phrase, "yin3jin4luo4kong1he2ji2chu1" (lure forward such that the partner misses the target, close and emit). "lure forward such that the partner misses the target" means that first one must lure out the partner's force and then cause it to miss its target. More specifically, after contact is made take the force to your elbows and use your elbows to direct it away from its target. At this time the hands must have the effects of zhan1, nian2, lian2, sui2. During this, it is very important to maintain control of the hands; the elbows must be empty, but you must avoid emptying the hands at the same time; they cannot be empty. Otherwise, the partner will escape from your control, or take advantage of your hands being empty and attack your center. The hands must lead and the elbows must be emptied. "he2 ji2 chu1" means, after the partner has been led forward and missed his target, he must reveal his center. I then concentrate my shen2, yi4, qi4 on the partner's center which has already been exposed and he will then be sent back.
(Wang Yongquan. Yang Shi Taijiquan Shuzhen. p.236)

Audi:

It may not explain the discrepancy you describe above, but below is a tentative step-by-step of the basic process of using "concentrating jin4" that I work with.

1. Prep stage
a. concentrate jin4 into your own body
b. open outward (send your jin4 outside)
2. Contact and Connection
a. connect with the partner (find where his strength is coming from)
3. Use
a. concentrate jin4 back into your body (bring the jin4 back; partner's center revealed)
b. open outward (send your jin4 outside in a focused direction)

Jeff
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Sep 02, 2003 2:05 pm

Greetings Jeff,

Excellent posting, much to consider, but before I go off on a thinking tangent...

Just thought I would say thanks. I think you have provided the perfect example to clarify the confusion I was experiencing trying to understand the term 'float'...

Is this the part of 'lift hands-step up' which sinks the elbows?
'Float' does seems quite pronounced in this movement, if I am indeed interpreting it correctly.
It seems it could also be some type of 'preparation' for sinking ( or , at least that is what I am using it for,presently) and allows me a minor 'pause' to readjust any minor alignment corrections as I am sinking ( a type of 10 essentials checklist) .

Thanks for providing your knowledge of the use of 'float'.
I am relly not sure I understand the difference of drawing energy in and sending it where it should go though.

Best regards,
Psalchemist.



[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 09-02-2003).]
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Wed Sep 03, 2003 6:04 am

I am not familiar with the terms Anderzander uses:

rolling, releasing, rise, float, sink, compress, release.


What are the Chinese equivalents? Are these terms that originated in translation of Cheng Man Ching's teaching?

Jeff
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Postby Wushuer » Wed Sep 03, 2003 6:07 pm

All,
I will only say this.
Don't get "open" and "closed" set in stone in your minds. These are guides, not set "permanent" markers on postures to be followed slavishly at all times.
Empty from your mind any ideas of "this is an open and always will be, this is a close and always will be".
You can "open" from a close posture. You can "close" from and open posture. They are interchangable, as are most things in TCC.
I don't know all the big chinese (or even english for that matter) words that are used to describe this, I just know anytime I ever asked Sifu, "is this the open or close part of this posture?" I would be answered with "Yes".

It's a good way to train "open, closed" during form practice, just like it's a nice way to practice the forms in a set, stylized manner during form practice.
In reality, it's not going to work out so nicely.
What do you do if you've gotten caught out during a "close" when you're sparring, or in a real fight and you have to "open"? If you've got "close" set in stone in your mind at that moment, as in "during this posture when I train I close and issue fa-chin", and you do not vary from that, you have left yourself wide open to your opponent in a large number of ways.
One thing, you've set the chain of "close" in motion, you are on that path and cannot vary at this point. Your chi will follow your minds intent, you will be offset or worse.
What do you do when you have to change a close to an open in the blink of an eye? Do you think you can just stop breathing out and breath in now? I'm here to tell you, you don't have that kind of time.
It has been my experience that if you set these kind of "breath in on close, out on open" in stone in your mind and don't learn to do it the other way...
That would be a very good example of being "single weighted" as we have defined that state here.
Be careful with absolutes, I have found there are none in TCC. Guidelines at best, but no absolutes.
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Postby Audi » Sat Sep 20, 2003 12:53 am

Greetings all:

Thanks for the replies to my posted query on opening and closing. Your responses raised some further questions I would like to pose.

Stephen, do you happen to know the Chinese equivalents of “rolling” and “releasing”? I have heard and read these terms often from people following certain methods, but I want to make sure I am equating them to the appropriate concepts in what I have been taught.

Louis, what is the Chinese for “vital spirit” and what do you think this actually means in the context of Taijiquan? I have been all over the map in my understanding of this phrase. I also am not sure I correctly understand what the possible range of connotations of the term “jing1 shen2/0.” I think I know enough Chinese to be wary of many of the exclusive interpretations that some seem to associate with terms such as “energy,” “mind,” and “spirit”; however, I am not sure I have many of these right.

David, you stated the following: <<In "Repulse the monkey" it may be easier to see how releasing and gathering may be done at the same time, and also how one may issue inwardly.>> Can you expand on your physical reference? I am not sure be what you mean by “releasing,” “gathering,” or issuing “inwardly.”

Steve, could you explain why you would classify Brush Knee and Twist Step as “closing”? What aspect of the posture are you referring to?

Jeff, your explanation was quite clear. I have not been taught in this way, but it seems to match what I have generally been groping toward. What are the Chinese words for “diffusing” and “concentrating”? Is “diffusing” the same as “hua4,” or something different?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Sep 20, 2003 3:42 am

Hi Audi,

"Steve, could you explain why you would classify Brush Knee and Twist Step as “closing”? What aspect of the posture are you referring to?"

In this case, well, the "chest" closes --as opposed to opens-- and, in consequence, one side moves toward its partner. This is a limited sense, of course. There are degrees of "open" and "close," so it's best not to be too dogmatic. For example, consider the "punch" that concludes "Step Up, Parry...". it is even more closed than Brush Knee. Or, one can say that, when the legs approach each other, they are closing; and, when the are moving apart, they are opening. This is probably more clearly defined in the Sun style, which is often called "Kai he" tcc. However, imo, any "crossing" or "twisting" is a closing movement.

Anyway, one might argue that, when one aspect of the body is closing, its corresponding part is doing the opposite. If, for ex., the chest is closing (or hollowing, becoming concave), the back will usually be opening, rounding (or becoming convex). Btw, I'm not trying to covince anyone of this, especially if it is contrary to his experience.

Well, I also agree that one side of the body can be opening and the other closing. However, I think we'd agree that when the hands clap, they close; and from there, they must open in order to clap again. If one then says that, "Well, my back is opening when I clap hands", then that would be true. But, where is the "intention" of the movement? On the hands, or on the back? I think, again referring to the famous "Kai he" that is characteristic of sun style, I would say that the distinction there is fairly straightforward. Clearly, there are places where it is not, or the terms can be applied to another aspect of the body.

best,
Steve James
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Sep 20, 2003 3:54 am

Greetings Steve James,

That was an excellent posting of 'Kai he' which I found very clear and helpful. I see no reason to differ Image

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Sep 21, 2003 7:59 pm

Greetings Audi,

Re: “. . . what is the Chinese for “vital spirit” and what do you think this actually means in the context of Taijiquan? I have been all over the map in my understanding of this phrase. I also am not sure I correctly understand what the possible range of connotations of the term “jing1 shen2/0.” I think I know enough Chinese to be wary of many of the exclusive interpretations that some seem to associate with terms such as “energy,” “mind,” and “spirit”; however, I am not sure I have many of these right.”

The Chinese for what I translated as “vital spirit” in the Hao Yueru quote is indeed “jingshen,” as you deduced. You are astute to be wary of such convenient translations, for words like spirit tend to carry connotative baggage in Western thinking of metaphysics—non-material, paranormal, or non-human phenomena. I really don’t think it carries those meanings in the context of taijiquan, nor in most uses in Chinese thinking. The compound jingshen has been around a long time, so the map you refer to is rather large. It can be found in chapter 11 of the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), for example, the chapter that mentions “daoyin,” one of the earliest terms for physiologically based self-cultivation practices. It’s part of a recurrent cluster of terms, “shen,” “jingshen,” and “shenming” that we often find grouped together in very early texts on self-cultivation as well as in taijiquan texts. Sinologist Harold Roth says of “shen”: “It is another concept that bridges our accustomed notions of mind and body in a way analogous to that in which the term ch’i [qi] bridges our ideas of energy and matter. The Chinese concept includes parts of the ranges of meanings of the English terms commonly used to translate it—spirit, soul, psych, daemon—but none of these fully captures its range of meanings in Chinese.” (Roth, _Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism_, Columbia Univ. Press, 1999, p.43.) Roth notes that the term “jingshen,” as it appears in early texts like the Neiye and the Huainanzi, implies a “physiological substrate.” (ibid.) In my opinion, the uses of these terms in taijiquan probably share the physiological connotations with earlier self-cultivation traditions.

The term jingshen remains in modern speech. The nineteenth century political reformer, Liang Qichao, was probably influenced by his readings of Western thinkers such as Samual Smiles when he contemplated how his countrymen should engage “modernity.” He asserted that modernity had both “form” (xingzhi)—institutions, laws, tools, infrastructure, and “spirit” (jingshen)—the creative dispositions of the people, what he also called the “yuanqi,” a term often found in daoist writings, which he used in a sense of an ingenious or inventive initiative. While Samual Smiles may have subscribed to a notion of Divine Providence as the source of human initiative, I doubt that Liang Qichao did so.

A few years ago, I attended a push hands seminar by Master Sam Tam, and these terms came up in a discussion. Master Tam referred to shen as the highest stage of development in taijiquan, and he explained it as the engaging of a full range of awareness. Intrigued by some of his statements, I asked him if shen included unconscious as well as conscious awareness, he answered without hesitation, “Yes.” He explained “jingshen” as referring to the spirit of a warrior or artist, which manifests as will or determination in one’s actions, and in one’s demeanor, expression of the eyes, etc. Jingshen can also refer to the distinctive imprint in a work of art, which unmistakably identifies it with the artist. This term appears twice in Wu Yuxiang’s “Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures”: “If the spirit of vitality (jingshen) can be raised, then there will be no apprehension of dullness or heaviness. This is what is meant by suspending the crown of the head.” And: “Throughout the whole body, the intent (yi) is on the spirit of vitality (jingshen), not on the qi. If it is on the qi, then there will be stagnation.” Finally, the term “shenming” refers to profound understanding and insight. This term appears in Wang Zongyue’s “Taijiquan Treatise,” in a context that reveals it as a the highest stage of taijiquan development: “From careful investigation and experience, one may gradually realize how to comprehend energy (dongjin). From comprehending energy, you will attain by degrees spiritual illumination (shenming).”

In number eight of his Ten Essentials (one that I find especially interesting in light of recent discussion on this board), Yang Chengfu mentioned jingshen, and he also said, “What one trains in Taijiquan is the spirit (shen), therefore it is said, ‘The spirit is the leader, the body follows its order.’” Here again, I think this reflects what I’ve mentioned before about taijiquan’s appropriation of Sunzi’s notion of military organization into the individual practice of a martial art, the goal being an integration and consolidation of consciousness and body.

I doubt I’ve answered your question. This is a pretty complicated topic, and what “spirit” means depends ultimately on subjective experience more than objective descriptions. I hope, though, that I may have clarified what it is not. I certainly welcome alternative views on the topic.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 09-21-2003).]
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