Mind Intention in Taijiquan

Postby Wushuer » Tue Oct 28, 2003 6:53 pm

There was a guy in Detroit who, for a while, claimed he was a T'ai Chi Ch'uan golfing expert.
He even taught classes in T'ai Chi golf.
Several of us attended one of his classes, including my brother who is both a disciple of the Wu family and an avid golfer.
Let's just say we found out that this guy had NO idea what T'ai Chi Ch'uan even was, much less how to apply it to golf.
We did NOT give him any grief, only asked him questions until we were satisfied we would not be gaining any insights into either TCC or golf that day and let it go at that.
I don't know what ever happened to him, but I do know he stopped teaching TCC golf classes not too long after that.
No real point, just what happened.

Now, my brother has integrated TCC into his golf, as he does with all things in his life. He claims he can drive the ball further and more accurately this way.
I don't know, I've never understand the silly game myself, but it looks good when he does it, very much keeping the principals involved, and he has fun with it.
No idea how he does it, nor will I ever as I find golf a very silly game myself. But it does appear to be possible to integrate the two.


[This message has been edited by Wushuer (edited 10-28-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Nov 04, 2003 12:47 am

Greetings Audi,

Your ramblings are great...

You said concerning the meaning of the expression "Fang song" :

<...In my opinion, the Yangs usually refer to something more specific than either of these two meanings basically they want you to continuously extend your limbs, as though you were trying to physically unlock and open your joints. In my opinion, this process takes more energy, rather than less and can be physically demonstrated. When the Yangs do this, they do so from what is basically a static posture. It is not a concept that applies only to movement and is not directly concerned with the level of muscular exertion. The focus is on the joints, tendons and sinews, not muscles, positively or negatively. To get the right feel in your joints, tendons, and sinews, you must use your muscles in a certain way. > Audi

<...This is also one of the reasons why extending the fingers ("shu zhi") is important to the Yang's system. This extension is part of te same feeling of "song" that threads throughout your body. If you merely "relax" your fingers and allow them to go somewhat limp, this will run counter to the feelings the Yang's want you to cultivate. > Audi


So, from what I understand from your posting, "Fang song" is more like STRETCHING than SLOUCHING.

A recent demonstration assisted me in understanding this concept you explained.

I find that the concept of "lowering oneself throughout the form" as I have heard said, raising the back, sinking the chest, and "loosening" or "sitting" at the waist, perhaps lends to the false "impression" of a slouched, traditional, literal type of relaxation...To the untrained observer or student...Whereas other aspects seem to really be more visibly stretching, such as the straightness in the spine and the "head suspended" from above.
Another hint at "The straight within the curved" ?

You also mentioned:
<...If one fixates too much on "waist rotations" one can convert this subtle zigzag feel into an incorrect feeling of "spin right" and "spin left" and lose the feeling of the straightness of the advance and the feel of the opening of the hip sockets to initiate the steps> Audi

Yes, I am beginning to notice coarse and subtle differences between the straight and the curved. I think it is something I must now address and cultivate posture by posture, one by one.


Also,
<...In this posture, the left hand and arm sweep first to the right and then to the left, as in "Brush knee and twist step, Left("Zuo lo xi ao bu"). These sweeps can give the feel of the "merry-go-round"plane of rotation. It is easy to transfer this feeling to the right arm, especially the initially rightward sweep of the left arm, but I believe such a tranfer to be incorrect. The right forearm should instead move in something of a "ferris wheel" plane, with the right elbow drawing back directly to the east, rather than rotating clockwise in a horizontal plane to "match" the rightward movement of the left arm. Basically the right elbow does not rotate in the "merry-go-round" plane at all in this posture.> Audi


I think this also incorporates the "cross- substantial" movement, or that's what I notice...The idea that the right and left upper limbs necessarily move quite independantly(Yin and Yang) ; with separate intent, disposition, purpose, speed etc. in unison with it's opposite sided lower limb, although this is not always apparent or visible(especially to the unrtained eye) .

You also spoke of:
<It is also easy to mistakenly ram the right arm straight backward as if cocking a gun or chambering the arm, as is done in Karate. Instead the movement of the right fist initially describes some of a ferris wheel circle. It pulls back to the level of the hip socket, not to the level of the ribs, before "reeling" of in a straight line for the punch. > Aodi

Good point,
This reminds me of the "training with circles" discussion, with one ball sitting "consciously" within the crook of the drawn back right arm, one cannot close at the elbow. I find that 'circle system' to be a great way to maintain open spaces and circularity in the overall effect.


<The Yi leads, and the Qi and Jin follow>Audi

Very nice, but I am at a complete loss as to what jin means exactly and what the distinctions between Qi and jin would be.


You also stated:
<All this is, of course, quite easy to say, but not so easy to do. First you do it in one movement of the posture, then you do it in two, then three etc. After a while you begin to see many of the patterns of repetition in the form, and most of the movements begin to feel like minor variations of each other, or rather, different combinations of the same variations. > Audi

Hmmm...I'm not quite there yet...but the form does seem to grow shorter and shorter each time I do it. "Over already"...it used to go on and on and on. It's interesting to go through all these changes in perception, probably useful too Image .

Thanks for all the explanations you have provided!

Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Audi » Fri Nov 07, 2003 2:08 am

Greetings Psalchemist:

You said:

<<I find that the concept of "lowering oneself throughout the form" as I have heard said, raising the back, sinking the chest, and "loosening" or "sitting" at the waist, perhaps lends to the false "impression" of a slouched, traditional, literal type of relaxation...To the untrained observer or student...Whereas other aspects seem to really be more visibly stretching, such as the straightness in the spine and the "head suspended" from above.
Another hint at "The straight within the curved" ?>>

I was really referring to two visions of “fangsong” in Taijiquan that can overlap, but which I believe ultimately to be separate methods. I think that I suffered somewhat during my earlier studies, because I had thought that this concept was viewed the same by all practitioners.

It sounds like you understand what I was trying to convey, although I have some difficulty with using the word “stretching.” I am more comfortable with the concept of “extending.” I would add to this that every extension implies at least two different and quite specific reference points. For example, extending through the fingertips is not the same as extending through the side of the palm. I would also say that each joint must do this with reference to the body, rather than with reference to the floor.

It is said that Peng energy comes from being Song. I have found that to do this consistently and correctly, I need to know something about Jin points to understand how to extend the joints along the proper vectors. If I completely extend front to back that means I cannot fully extend side to side, and vice versa. Opening is closing; closing is opening. In order to know what equilibrium to emphasize, I must know something about Jin points, explicitly or implicitly.

Psalchemist, you also stated the following:

<<This reminds me of the "training with circles" discussion, with one ball sitting "consciously" within the crook of the drawn back right arm, one cannot close at the elbow. I find that 'circle system' to be a great way to maintain open spaces and circularity in the overall effect.>>

I think that there are many practitioners that reason this way, and I cannot say that it is wrong; however, I do not think it is actually applicable to the form that the Yangs teach. There are actually quite a few postures in which the elbows do indeed substantially close (e.g., Push, Apparent Closure, Fair Lady Works the Shuttles, etc.).

I do not fully understand the logic of the form, but I believe the issue is that each movement must flow from what went before and flow into what follows. There is no single “chamber” position that one should adopt in order to prepare for a strike. Since one is trying to apply Jin continuously, one cannot drill an isolated prep position, such as is done in Karate, whether or not such a position is relatively “open” or “closed.”

You also stated:

<<Very nice, but I am at a complete loss as to what jin means exactly and what the distinctions between Qi and jin would be.>>

Can you elaborate on the source of your confusion? We have discussed these words before on this board, and I am sure you will not find complete agreement among all practitioners. Nevertheless, I think the Yangs use these terms in fairly straightforward ways as they apply them to their practice.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby psalchemist » Fri Nov 07, 2003 9:26 pm

Greetings Audi,

Thanks for the comments and explanations.

The distinction you mention of extending vs. stretching the joints is a good one. Stretching does seem to add a little implication towards effort.

A question out of the blue...
I was wondering about an expression you used awhile ago when we were discussing 'Peng' in the Barehand forum(Yo Ye Ma Feng Zong thread)..."Tiger's mouth"...Could you explain what that is in reference to please?

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby psalchemist » Fri Nov 07, 2003 9:27 pm

Greetings Audi,

Due to a double-posting, not superhuman typing skills, I am back with a second question.

You said in you last post:
<It is said that Peng energy comes from being song. I have found that to do this constantly and correctly I need to know something about jin points to understand how to extend the joints along the proper vectors> Audi

Could you explain please, what precisely one should know about jin points and how one would use this knowledge to accomplish the extension of the joints correctly?

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 11-07-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Nov 08, 2003 11:40 am

Greetings all,

In the "Song of the Thirteen Postures",
It states:

<If there is chi, there is no li>

Would "chi" and "yi"(intent) have correlation in this instance?
OR
Is this two separate means of avoiding the use of "li"(force)?


"Yong yi, bu yong li"
Yong chi, bu yong li?


Do the ch'i and the yi share equivalent meanings in this context?

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Audi » Sat Nov 08, 2003 11:32 pm

Greetings Psalchemist:

You said:

<<The distinction you mention of extending vs. stretching the joints is a good one. Stretching does seem to add a little implication towards effort.>>

Avoiding “effort” is a major element of many people’s Taijiquan, including even of a few persons whose form I try to emulate. Despite this, I feel that this is a concept borrowed from other methods of Taijiquan that is very treacherous to apply to doing the Yangs’ form. I personally find avoidance of “effort” somewhat applicable to understanding Push Hands strategy, but counterproductive in analyzing and understanding form structure.

I do not like “stretching” as a concept, because it conjures up images of what one does to loosen up before engaging in sports. It is internally directed and need not involve the mind. It can also lead one to focus on isolated muscles rather than on systems of tendons. Whether or not my muscles are stretched is a mechanical process. Whether or not I am extending a joint is a fusion of mental purpose acting on physical relationships.

I prefer the concept of “extension” because it immediately begs the questions of where to extend. In order to “extend” a joint, you must also have two reference points in mind. Within this concept is also the dynamic duality of Yin and Yang, empty and full, and open and close. If you extend more front to back (i.e., open), than you must necessarily extend less from side to side (i.e., “close”). (“Opening is closing. Closing is opening.”) You must also choose whether the purpose of your extension is more to extend Jin forward or more to extend it backward. (“Distinguish/distribute empty and full.”)

You also asked about the Tiger’s Mouth (“hu3 kou3”). This term refers to the part of the hand that lies between the thumb and the index finger. It is a particularly important reference for Pluck (“Cai”/”Ts’ai”). Usually, it serves as the “hinge” that allows you to clamp onto the opponent’s energy through his or her forearm or wrist. In certain postures, the position of the hand is determined by the orientation of the Tiger’s Mouth to the Jin point in the other arm (e.g., Ward Off Left).

You also asked:

<<Could you explain please, what precisely one should know about jin points and how one would use this knowledge to accomplish the extension of the joints correctly?>>

First, I would recommend that attend some Yang seminars and listen very carefully. Failing that, I would recommend that you buy Fu Zhongwen’s Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan. Fu Zhongwen has an excellent discussion of the Jin points in the few postures at the beginning of the form. Failing that, let me ask you a series of questions as a thought exercise.

In Single Whip, can you tell me the precise point or points (make it an area of three inches square, or less) on your body that represent the limit of your forward extension? What point or points represent the extent of your extension to the rear? What, if anything, are you extending from side to side? If there are any deliberate “bends” in your body, please explain why you have them and why you do not extend them into non-existence? If you do not extend them into non-existence, please explain why this does not represent imposing an arbitrary rigidity into the energy structure of your body? In other words, if you were to do the same posture at top speed and with maximum power, would you not have to squeeze your muscles into rigidity in order to preserve this bend and avoid overextension?

With regard to your quote about the “Song of the Thirteen Postures,” I would have to repeat some of what I posted on another thread. I think this is actually from a different treatise than the “Song of the Thirteen Postures.” Also, this text seems inexplicably to differ from what I see elsewhere.

As to the substance, I would say that the surface meaning of some of the lines seems to contradict what I have read elsewhere. The traditional understanding I have had is that, if you have no Qi/Ch’I, you are dead. As for “Li,” my understanding is that it, and just about everything else, is created by Qi and cannot exist without it. “Li” is a necessary component of the Jin that one uses to fight with an opponent. I, personally, understand the relationship between Qi, Jin, Li, and Yi in a rather different light that cannot be reduced to a goal of eliminating all Qi and all Li from the body.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Audi » Sun Nov 09, 2003 12:01 am

Greetings Wushuer,

In the hyperlink you kindly provided above to Zhang Yun’s explanations of the Eight Methods, he states the following:

<<Thus, they are called Siyu (four diagonal directions). For example, character Zhi expresses the Mingmen point. Character Chou expresses Huantiao point on the hip which one holds the main part of the weight. When these two points (Mingmen and Huantiao) harmonize, Peng will be generated automatically.>>

Can you explain what this has to do with the Siyu, as opposed to the Sizheng? I am confused by the reference to the Mingmen and to Peng in this context. Also, why does the Huantiao point have importance for anything? I do not see it listed as corresponding to any of the eight methods.

If you have time, could you also describe the location of the acupoints associated with the Siyu? I think I can see some of the reasoning behind the associations chosen for the Sizheng and wanted to see if what I imagine applies to the Siyu.

Lastly, when you do the moving step four hand drill that principally practices the Sizheng, are you really moving your mind through all these correspondences? What do you do about applications with mixed energies? For instance, what acupoints do you cycle through in doing a posture like Cloud Hands, which cycles through a range of techniques in one arm, while the other arm may be expressing a different but complementary energy technique?

By the way, the “Yang Forty” does actually refer to the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches; however, it is not clear to me that the references are to be taken as instructions for doing Taijiquan. The length of the discussion implies that what is said is important, but nothing is said about the martial significance of the correspondences.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Anderzander » Sun Nov 09, 2003 5:48 pm

Hello,

If I may offer a few thoughts. I've not posted for a while my taiji has ben in flux - I've had some new tuition and it's turned me on my head Image


<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I personally find avoidance of “effort” somewhat applicable to understanding Push Hands strategy, but counterproductive in analyzing and understanding form structure.</font>


I find, for myself, that taji seems to become more and more of a passive experience. People throwing themselves and movement occurring by itself etc. Becoming a conduit.

Awareness creates relaxation, relaxation creates sinking, sinking creates emptiness and emptiness allows movement.

Sinking creates rooting, rooting causes the emptiness to adjust from the base. (return force)

so that is opening and closing - and then being transparent to the return force (adjustment) allows opening and closing to combine.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I do not like “stretching” as a concept, because it conjures up images of what one does to loosen up before engaging in sports. It is internally directed and need not involve the mind. It can also lead one to focus on isolated muscles rather than on systems of tendons. Whether or not my muscles are stretched is a mechanical process. Whether or not I am extending a joint is a fusion of mental purpose acting on physical relationships.</font>


This is different from how I understand stretching. The stretching I experience isn't limited to the muscle. It occurs from suspending the crown and the body releasing from the foot.

The root draws the body down (movement starting in the feet) which 'stretches' the body open.

The opening creates emptiness for the opponent to fall into.


<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The traditional understanding I have had is that, if you have no Qi/Ch’I, you are dead. As for “Li,” my understanding is that it, and just about everything else, is created by Qi and cannot exist without it. “Li” is a necessary component of the Jin that one uses to fight with an opponent. I, personally, understand the relationship between Qi, Jin, Li, and Yi in a rather different light that cannot be reduced to a goal of eliminating all Qi and all Li from the body.</font>


I agree with what you have wrote - though I think the text is referring to where the attention is placed and how you experience your own taiji.

So to move away from crude use of strength (li) you should focus on the energy. When the energy then responds to your mind (Yi) naturally and easily, the focus should shift to the mind (Yi) - otherwise you become stagnant.

Take care,
Stephen
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Nov 10, 2003 12:18 am

Greetings All,

Psalchemist posted: ‘In the "Song of the Thirteen Postures", It states:
<If there is chi, there is no li>

As I think has already been pointed out, this doesn’t appear in the ‘Song of the Thirteen Postures,’ but in the ‘Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures.’ These are completely different texts, not different recensions of the same text. More importantly, the quote as stated is, in my opinion, a flawed translation. I don’t know where you quoted this from, but I have seen other translations that showed a similar misunderstanding, and I’ve long been puzzled by the resulting nonsensical renderings. The words, if read in isolation, could be translated in something like this fashion, but with literary Chinese, it’s not always useful to read phrases in isolation. Classical commentators, in explaining a phrase, will often point out that it “rides” (cheng) on the preceding phrase or group of phrases. In this case, there is a subject that reveals itself only if one follows the thread back to the antecedent phrases. It is, in fact, the “yi” several phrases back:

“Throughout the whole body, the intent (yi) is on the spirit of vitality (jingshen), not on the qi (bu zai qi).”

Then the text states what happens if the intent is on the qi:

“If it is on the qi, then there will be stagnation (zai qi, ze zhi).”

The next two phrases are more difficult to interpret, but if the reader continues to follow the thread back through the preceding phrases, there is a consistency of meaning. Each of the next two phrases contains the particle, “zhe,” which in classical usage pronominalizes the preceding noun phrase to give a meaning of “that which,” “in cases where,” “one who,” “those who,” etc. The phrases are:

You qi zhe wu li.
Wu qi zhe chun gang.

The problem lies in determining exactly what is being pronominalized in the two phrases. So, the “you qi zhe” could mean, “a case in which there is qi,” and the “wu qi zhe” could mean, “a case in which there is no qi.” In my reading of the text, there is an implied subject in each of these lines which has to do still with the way in which the intent is engaged. So in my rendering, I’ve intrepreted the subject as the practitioner, and the manner in which he or she focuses the intent:

“One who has it on the qi will have no strength.
One who does not have it on the qi will attain pure hardness.”

One of the reasons that this passage is variantly interpreted may have to do with what I think is a bugaboo among some taiji enthusiasts that taboos any reference to strength. In this case, however, I don’t think that strength (li) is being proscribed outright. Rather, the practitioner is being warned that concentration on qi will cause stagnation, and the stagnation will result in weakness. In like manner, the “pure hardness” is not being proscribed here, but is a desirable quality. After all, within the same document the practitioner is told to “Mobilize jin that is like well-tempered steel.”

My interpretation may itself be flawed, but to me it resolves some points of ambiguity by finding a thread of continuity running through the text.

Take care,
Louis

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 11-10-2003).]
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Postby Anderzander » Mon Nov 10, 2003 1:54 am

Sounds like we are in agreement Louis

Image

With me predominately working from my experience and you predominately working from the text

gives a very strong case for the meaning

Stephen
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Nov 10, 2003 6:16 am

Greetings Stephen,

Yes. I think, though, that I'm primarily drawing on experience as well, since my taijiquan experience commenced well before I began to play with texts.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby psalchemist » Mon Nov 10, 2003 11:59 pm

Greetings Audi,

Thanks for the reply, I found that series of rhetorical, thought provoking questions interesting...am I to assume that the 'limit points' of the joint extensions you refer to as primarily or possibly (in part) jin points in themselves?

Beyond that, I will try to locate a Fu Zhong wen "Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan" book,
as you suggest. I appreciate the reference.

Also, you responded with some details to my inquiry on the subject of the 'Tiger's mouth'(hu3kou3).

Could you please enter into more detail, if possible lacking demonstration, concerning the orientation of the hand, or more precisely the Tiger's mouth, towards the jin points?

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.

P.S. I have heard this span in between thumb and forefinger referred to as the " angle of generosity" in studies relating to hand structure. Do you know of any similar context in the utility of Tiger's mouth or any deeper or varying Chinese expressions for this angle...Just for fun Image
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Nov 11, 2003 12:16 am

Greetings Stephen,

Nice of you to drop in for a spot Image

I am intrigued by this 'list' you provided, let me run through it one by one...
You said:
<Awareness creates relaxation...right.
<Relaxation creates sinking...right.
<Sinking creates emptiness and emptiness allows movement...right.
<Rooting causes the emptiness to adjust from the base (return force)...hmm...right...I think...actually, could you explain more fully that final portion of the yin yang "loop" you provide for opening and closing please?..."adjust from the base" and "return force" ?

Also,I note the distinction you made between "sinking" and "rooting"...This clarifies for me somewhat Image

Lastly I find great resonance in the thought you expressed:
<To move away from crude strength (li) you should focus on the energy. When the energy then responds to your mind (yi) naturally and easily, the focus should shift to the mind(yi)-otherwise you become stagnant> Stephen

Good, clear summary there. That is where I am 'at' presently in my thoughts on the subject as well.

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Nov 11, 2003 2:34 pm

Hello Louis,

You wrote:
<As I think has already been pointed out, this doesn't appear in "The Song of the Thirteen Postures", but in "The Mental Elucidations of the Thirteen Postures" > Louis

<These are completely different texts, not different recesions of the same text. More importantly, the quote as stated is , in my opinion a flawed translation. I don't know where you quoted this from, but I have seen other translations that showed a similar misunderstanding, and I've long been puzzled by the resulting nonsensical renderings> Louis

Thanks for clarifying that misquotation. I should have been more direct and provided exact references...I will in future.

I quoted this from a website I chose at random from the multitudes of choices available on the internet.
It is Titled: "Tai Chi Combat and Health": Expositions and Insights into the practice of the Thirteen Postures, by Wu Yuhsiang(1812-1880) .

Sorry for the mix-up. Image

I appreciated the 'crash course' in reading, interpreting and translating Taijiquan texts. It was useful.

I returned to the same text I had employed(Insights) with those tips in mind as well as your interpretations and explanations of the original text(Elucidations) for comparison...It's always easier with explanations and hindsight Image

--------------------------------------------
Elucidations:
-------------
< Throughout the whole body, the intent(yi) is on the spirit of vitality(jingshen), not on the qi (bu zai qi) >

I think the first line of the Insights perhaps conveys this...but I am really not sure.

Insights:
---------
< The hsin(mind and heart) mobilizes the ch'i(vital life energy) >
---------------------------------------------
Elucidations:
-------------
< If it is on the qi, then there will be stagnation (zai qi, ze zhi) >

Insights:
---------
< Throughout the body the I relies on the shen, not on the ch'i. >
< If it relied on the ch'i, it would become stagnant. >
---------------------------------------------
Elucidations:
-------------
You qi zhe wu li.
Wu qi zhe chun gang.

Your translation:
-----------------
"One who has it on the qi will have no strength."
"One who does not have it on the qi will attain pure hardness." Louis

Insights:
---------
< If there is Ch'i, there is no li(external strength) >
< If there is no Ch'i, there is pure steel. >
---------------------------------------------
Your explanation:
----------------
"I don't think that strength(li) is being proscribed outright. Rather the practitioner is being warned that concentration on the qi will cause stagnation, and the stagnation will result in weakness. " Louis

I find this helps to put the issues into proper context...(li is not being proscribed outright).

"In like manner, the "pure hardness" is not being proscribed here, but is a desirable quality. After all within the same document the practitioner is told to:

Elucidations:
-------------
< Mobilize jin that is like well tempered steel. >

Insights:
---------
< The mobilization of the chin(jin) is like refining steel a hundred times over. >
< There is nothing hard it cannot destroy. >
---------------------------------------------


As you suggest, there is a clarity in the "Mental Elucidations of the Thirteen postures", which is less evident in the "Expositions and Insights into the Thirteen postures".

I cannot lay full blame on the clarity of the text, however. Being quite deficient in understanding of the expressions and knowledge of Taijiquan in general...my inability to interpret the texts correctly is a primary factor as well.


Your explanations were very helpful and enlightening.

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image



[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 11-11-2003).]
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