Front Leg in Bow Stance

Front Leg in Bow Stance

Postby Michael » Sat Nov 29, 2003 12:31 am

Audi mentioned the descriptionin Yang Zhendous book "Yang Style Taijiquan" by Morning Glory.

Looking in the book I found a discrepancy with what Audi said, and the pictures and text in the book. If I remember correctly Audi said that the knee and toes should be in line vertically. Sorry if I got that wrong.

In the text it is stated on page 24, "When you bend your left leg to form the left 'bow step', the knee and the toes of the left foot should be in a perpendicular line as in Fig. 1. .... In Fig 3, the knee is behind the toes of the foot, which makes it impossible for your lower limbs to exert force. In figure 2 it was referring to the knee being past the front toes.

In the photos (page 25), from the side, fig #1 it shows the shin being nearly perpendiculiar to the floor not above the toes as stated in the text. Is there a translation problem here or the wrong photo?

My "opinion" on this, as you well know, is that it is stronger, more stable, to be closer to the vertical than to be over the toes. I am not disagreeing with anything the Yang family teaches, but from this and other sources I have seen some what seems to be a different take on the "Knees must be over the toes" statement.

I have seen Yang Jun from the toes to the vertical. Any help from any of his students or those who work with him esp would be very helpful.

Thank you.
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Nov 29, 2003 12:51 am

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Postby psalchemist » Sat Nov 29, 2003 1:33 am

Greetings Jerry,

Thanks for providing that link. Good article.

That is what Audi was just explaining about the constant dynamic relationship the yin yang share in lower body movement. It is not an alternation between the two, but rather both working in cooperative contradiction.


Which leads to 'Upper and Lower body in concert'

Well labeled as "important", indeed.

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.



[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 11-28-2003).]
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Postby Audi » Sun Nov 30, 2003 2:48 pm

Greetings all,

Jerry, thanks for the link. If I had only read this more thoroughly and more recently, it would have saved me much grief working things out through seminars and through the Yangs’ video. I especially like the phrase “mutually restricting coordination of the entire body.” This was a concept I was unnecessarily slow in accepting, since it seemed to run counter to other teaching I was receiving.

Michael, I am brain dead at the moment and can neither find my previous post nor quite understand the contradictions you explained in your post. In either case, I presume that Jerry’s link has cleared up the issue.

Rather than re-hash Yang Zhenduo’s teaching with my poorer choice of words, let me bring up a couple of collateral issues that might expand the discussion.

For me, one of the major determinants of my ability to resist a pull by my opponent is the amount of Jin in my ankle, foot, and toes. I think that some people teach muscle laxity to such a degree that some people form bow stance without trying to use any muscles in their ankle, feet, and toes, even though they allow muscular exertion around their knees and in their thighs. If one does this and tries to resist a pull, all the Jin will focus on the forward heel and this will come to be the “pivot point of the lever arm.” (My knowledge of physics is questionable, so I would appreciate help if I get the terminology or theory wrong.) Even if one were to straighten the forward knee completely and stand with both legs straight, it would be hard to avoid being pulled forward over this “pivot point.”

If, instead of trying to kill all muscular sensation in the ankle, feet, and toes, one grabs the ground with the toes and presses downward against the Bubbling Spring/Well (Yong3 Quan2) with the muscles controlling the ankle, one can link up all the muscles and tendons in the lower body and extend the “pivot point” out to the ball of the foot. The strength of this structure depends entirely on the ease and intensity with which the Jin of the entire structure can flow. This strength does depend to a degree on the mechanical alignment of the joints, but this is only one determinant. In other words, the issue, in my opinion, is whether the knee can exert force in harmony with the other joints, but not directly on its position in a mechanical structure. If there is no strength, it does not matter where the knee is. If the knee is roughly in place, one can exert the strength appropriate to the structure.

One thing I should make clear is that I am not suggesting that one should resist a pull by beginning to push down with the foot or grip the floor with the toes, but rather that one should be doing this in all cases, whether or not one is being pulled, pushed, or left alone. I think that there should always be a dynamic opposition and engagement of the joints that will vary smoothly according to circumstances and one’s Yi.

One mundane thing I would also like to point out is that clothing often makes it difficult to judge what parts of the body are actually aligning. A person’s shin can incline forward even thought the front of the pant leg can continue to hang vertically. I think the picture on Jerry’s hyperlink is one of the few where Yang Chengfu is wearing shin-hugging pants and where the orientation of his shin is clearer.

Another thing I want to suggest is that since everyone is different and in fact can somewhat vary the relative forces within their bodies’, these factors will result in a different external expression in the limbs. If one compares this particular picture of Yang Chengfu with the one’s of Li Yaxuan on the hyperlink Gu Rou Chen provided on a different thread, I think you see different tradeoffs that would require quite a bit of examination to properly evaluate. Four differences that leap to my mind are differences in the length of stride, the amount of apparent forward force exerted, the amount of apparent backward force exerted, and orientation of the spine. Overall, Yang Chengfu’s stance strikes me as more “aggressive” and Li Yaxuan’s as more “restrained.” I am not sure it is easy to judge on superficial examination which approach represents a “superior” training method. Both postures would seem justifiable to me, depending on the precise situation.

Take care,
Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 11-30-2003).]
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Postby Michael » Mon Dec 01, 2003 7:42 am

Thanks for the replies,

Jerry, Audi, all,

If I read the info on the link you provided correctly--it says that the knee should not go past the toes and that a verticle shin cannot produce force---paraphrase. It seems that within the system, anywhere in between is "acceptable". Now I have seen photos of YCF that show a number of knee locations within that range, not all with the knee over/above the toes.

I think that the difference I find in my bow stance and YCF is height. My set is usually lower. Not as low as Li Yaxuan's however. I would agree that when one is in a higher stance like YCF's it would be hard to get any useful force from a perpendiculiar shin. However in a stance only slightly lower, knee just past the the vertical (which I favor) is very powerful. This may be the difference, and which you (Audi) allude to.

In most cases of actual useage one will most of the time be in a higher stance than what I usually practice. Lower stances are often used to increase strength in the legs. The two different heights have a different theory of useage also. I cannot speak for those in Li Yuxuan's lineage but in the Guang Ping, it has been mentioned that one steps in deep on an opponent in many individual forms, the front knee maybe even like that shown in the photos of Li. This is very effective and powerful when used in the right circumstances. The height YCF shows is more of a "toe to toe" height. Two structures for accomplishing the same things with distances being the main factor in choice and effectiveness.

Audi,
I agree with most of your points. You are indeed correct the that the "orientation of the spine" is closely related. In the deeper stances one must keep a "vertical" spine to express the power. "One can exert the strength appropriate to the structure". That is it exactly. However I would not say that Li's postures are "restrained".

On being pulled.

I have mentioned this a number of times, so I apologize---but a couple students and friends that I have worked with can show you that your pull theory is just a tad bit off the mark. They go into "structural alignment", totally relaxed, almost much as what Cheng Man Ching advocated. Remember that this is a slightly deeper stance. You cannot pull (nor push) them over any "pivot". It is impossible. And they will not resist with any strength other than what is necessary to maintain their structure. When you let go of them, they remain in the same position without any "whiplash". The test for resistance.

As for "No superior training method". You are correct. I think that both together, when one understands the "when", "why" and "how" of application, "upright", "lean" etc.-- both is best. If you play with this in push hands and sparring you will see when things are "appropriate". Sometimes I find that I want to be "high" sometimes "low" (and deep). It is good to be able to function in both circumstances within the proper structures. Training both is helpful.

Thanks all,

Michael


[This message has been edited by Michael (edited 12-01-2003).]
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Tue Dec 02, 2003 6:32 am

Audi:

I haven't met any students of Li Yaxuan, so can't say anything authoratitively about those particular postures you asked about.

My feeling is that these photos of Li Yaxuan are a good example of what 'large frame' practice should emulate. The stances are not necessarily low, but are definitely wide. I think that one goal of this wide stance practice is to make large, strong changes in the waist. The difficulty in taking steps with such a large stance is manifest primarily in the back muscles down to the hip and not in the legs. If you push with one leg to shift to the other leg then you won't get this workout. With a more narrow stance changes in the waist can be done just as large and strong or they can be much smaller, quicker and more subtle.

(changes in the waist; i.e. left/right alternating flexing of lower back muscles)

The large frame is often referred to as the "foundation" and "for health" way to practice the form, whereas the higher stance, smaller frame form is to practice "fighting skill." Of course, the two should not be considered to be mutually exclusive.


Here is a link to a push hands demo by one of Li Yaxuan's students. Sorry don't have the name:

http://www.scjky.com.cn/My%20Webs/dshw.htm
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Postby Audi » Sat Dec 06, 2003 2:20 am

Greetings all,

Jeff, thanks for the link. As usual, it revealed some interesting stuff. I tried to work my way through the Chinese at the bottom and was wondering whether it was supposed to be commentary on the pictures and descriptions of the techniques used. I do not recognize a good many of the push hands descriptions (e.g. “can(?) cha tui shou” and “luan huan tui shou”). Any thoughts?

I was also intrigued by the character used to represent Lieh 4/3, since I have never seen it before. I have always been curious as to what, if any, ordinary meaning the word for this technique has. Do you (or anyone else) know if anyone else uses this particular character as a term of art in Taijiquan? Looking through a few dictionaries, I was able to find this new character only in the compound lie4 qie0, with the combined meaning “stagger; reel.”

You also mentioned the following in your post:

<<If you push with one leg to shift to the other leg then you won't get this workout.>>

Words are imprecise tools, and so I am not sure of your meaning. Are you saying that you must shift weight without using your leg muscles? If so, how can one do this without a great deal of leaning?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Dec 06, 2003 5:39 pm

Hi Audi,

I guess I'm here to play the Devil's Advocate with you about the "pull test" issue and it's relation to the angle of the front leg. I think "knee over toe" is a metaphor that only properly relates to a static position of the front leg. Almost any movement of the leg will change the relative knee/foot position. For that reason, I'd suggest that the concept --as stated so far-- is only relevant to a certain percentage of the form. (Let me stress that I support the importance of the concept in terms of the positions of "rest." If one is supporting a weight, it is absolutely critical. However, I'd suggest that the "pull test" employs forces that do not translate into a weight-bearing issue.

From the povs of training for application or in applications, I'd also say that it's not easy to imagine a need to resist a pull. I don't mean to be impudent, but isn't the idea of resisting a pull contrary to the ideas of "even a fly sets me in motion" or/and "not resist, not let go"? Anyway, I wouldn't personally argue against the exercise as a specific form of training. But, I think it can also become a bad habit.

regards,
Steve James
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Dec 06, 2003 6:10 pm

One thing that Yang Zhenduo occasionally mentions in re to being pulled is putting your toes down to grab the floor. I have tried this with partners and it works.
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Dec 06, 2003 6:18 pm

Concerning Jerry's post above...

I was wondering if this grip,traction relationship with the toes and the floor(in time of countering a pull, as Jerry mentioned) should be carried over to the form overall?

Is the clawing/gripping action seen in Zhuangzhang(as I've heard)extended into form work and 'Push Hands' practice?

Opinions and views would be welcome and appreciated.

Thank-you,
Best regards,
Psalchemist.
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Postby Michael » Sat Dec 06, 2003 10:00 pm

Steve and all,

I understand what you are saying and you are correct that this effects only a small portion of the set since as it is a matter of constant transition.

When would I want to "resist" a pull? It depends I guess. Here I am not talking about push hands, and only about certain specific types of situations. If my technique fails I may very well find myself in an undesirable position and may not "want" to go into an even worse position. What is meant by "resising"? One certainly should not resist (if one must) with "muscle" but rather with structure, as to do otherwise is certainly "dangerous" and against principles. I may very well be wrong, but I consider "resisting", fighting the others will with pulling (in this case) in the other direction. Using one's structure is not "resisting" so to speak, it just "is" for the lack of a better term. It is essentially, a matter of weight bearing and alignment. And from that position with the knee only an inch or so past the vertical I have more room to shift forward whether stepping or what ever.

I wouldn't say that this is a type of "training". The "pull test" is just that, a test of structure at one point of time...at the moment just prior to, the completion of the technique. Often at the time where the opponent could have completed a counter. If your technique had been successful you may very well continue your weight shift forward adding more energy to the "push", the strike or whatever. I think that this might be a "point in time" difference more than anything.

Any thoughts you or any one else may have would be most welcome.
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Postby tai1chi » Sat Dec 06, 2003 10:34 pm

Hi Michael,

first, let me say that I know that lots of schools use this sort of testing, and that I've done it myself. I guess my main point here is that I don't connect the purpose of the testing with structure, rather I would see/use it as a means of testing sensitivity. Of course, I'm not saying that it can't be or isn't both for some people.

As far as what I mean by "resisting", well, I don't believe it's necessary for my opponent to apply any amount of appreciable --to my taste-- force on any part of my body. Having said that, I understand that I can decide whatever amount he wants to take. Or, you just might not feel like going with it. But, I'm working under the assumption that, at some point, no amount of structure/energy/strength will be able to resist/prevent a pull. So, although I don't think it makes sense to move a battleship to allow a canoe to pass, I tend to think of myself as the canoe.

This is my personal preference, of course.

regards,
Steve James
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Sun Dec 07, 2003 3:10 pm

Hi Audi,

Thanks for the response,

*Shifting weight and taking steps.*

I don't push against the ground when shifting weight or taking steps. There are phrases in the Classics that illustrate this: "walk as if on ice" and "take steps as if approaching the edge of a cliff." It feels like there is a simultaneous pulling down and pulling up at the same time, but no pushing against the ground. I was taught to "walk as if knee deep in mud". It isn't described this way in the classics, but it has worked well for me. Pull up the back foot as if it is stuck in mud. In lieu of a mud pit, using leg weights helps find the feeling. I was trained to do this with wide stances and an upright back. It's a very intense workout if you do it as slow as you can take it and with as wide of a stance as you can handle.

*Pressure on soles of feet*

Related to the above is the issue of "pressure on the soles of the feet." I have not tried this with any quantitative measuring devices, so all I can offer is impressionistic descriptions of experience. When being pushed I no longer feel increased pressure on the soles of my feet. I think that the feeling of increased pressure on the soles of the feet indicates that you still need to relax. It should be the same for being pushed and being pulled. Again, with a lack of measuring devices I can't be sure of the exact mechanism for this, but one explanation that I find attractive is that of the dissipation of energy within a system.

Here is a translation of an excerpt from Wu Tunan and Yu Zhijun, Yangshi Taijiquan -- xiaojia ji qi jiji yingyong, page 93:

"Biological transmission of force (li4) differs from a mechanical system where force at one end must result in an equal force being applied on the opposite end.
The human body is different. It is possible for the opposing force created by the push of the feet against the ground to be completely absorbed (or used up), due to the complex transmission system of the tendons, bones and joints. This force thus disappears without a trace."

I am surprised that he doesn't include 'muscles' in his list of items in the system absorbing the force. My personal impression is that muscles do most if not all of the absorbing. Anyone have access to a biomechanics lab?


Re Michael's comment:

'When would I want to "resist" a pull?'

For your reference, I practice as if I could be pushed -or- pulled at any instant; I try to tread the line between "over extended" and "under extended" (wu2guo4 bu4ji2) at all times. This helps develop 'stillness' and 'relaxed readiness' to go in any direction. I train to be ready to pull when pushing and vice versa. By practicing this way you develop that line into a "buffer zone" in which you have freedom of movement when being pushed or pulled. This zone becomes larger and larger with practice.

*Toe grip*

"Gripping with the toes" has come up several times on the board. Below is what Wang Yongquan says about this:

Wang Yongquan, Yangshi Taijiquan Shuzhen, page 5

"The ankles are the foundation of the body as they support the entire weight of the body. The old Classics use the phrase, 'ten toes grab the ground' to describe a state when practicing. This refers however, to a state that exists only for a brief instant when one is issuing energy. Normally, when practicing you should stand firm and concentrate on making your 'bubbling spring' (yong3quan2) point on both feet connect closely with the ground. The heel and ball of the foot should connect naturally with the ground. If you use force to grip the ground when you are doing the form or pushing hands this will result in a tight ankle."


Audi:

The characters appearing on that page: For "lie4" I have usually seen it written with a hand radical. "luan4huan2" 'chaotic circles' is the name of a Taijiquan formulaic verse.
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Postby Michael » Sun Dec 07, 2003 5:06 pm

Gu Rou Chen,

I practice as if I could be pushed -or- pulled at any instant; I try to tread the line between "over extended" and "under extended" (wu2guo4 bu4ji2) at all times. This helps develop 'stillness' and 'relaxed readiness' to go in any direction. I train to be ready to pull when pushing and vice versa. By practicing this way you develop that line into a "buffer zone" in which you have freedom of movement when being pushed or pulled. This zone becomes larger and larger with practice.


You have expressed in words exactly what one of my teachers had repeatedly tried to point out in physical ways. I tend to "think" more physically As he taught, using physical action not words. I appreciate your words.

Steve,

And that is good "preference". I guess I could fall into the catagory of "both".

Resist/prevent a pull". In the perfect world, this is a momentary situation. If the opponent continues to pull after his initial attempt, he now falls into your hands, and that is most welcomed as you well know. So as far as "at some point, no amount..." goes, in useage it is momentry as it would be in practice or in "testing". Now I have been pulled, sliding on my feet 40 ft without breaking my structure or resisting with "muscle". He could have pulled me as long and as far as he had the strength, we ran out of floor. But that is just "show" for emphasis.

In the opposite direction, I have had a 250lb. man (my teacher)hurl himself through the air at my stomach, when in bow stance with an upright spine. Here the front knee is not as crucial. He bounced off and I did not move, and I really did not even really feel any efects in my body from the blow. I would liked to have seen the results if he had come from an angle and I could have used a waist turn. Structure is an amazing thing.

Ancora Imparo!

Michael
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Postby tai1chi » Sun Dec 07, 2003 6:17 pm

Ciao Michael,

Re: "a bit of both."

One of my instructors once put it like this: if you have 10,000 lbs and your opponent has 10 ozs, then you should use what you have. If you have 10 ozs and your opponent has 10,000 lbs, then you have to do tcc."

I also agree with you that, in practice, one doesn't want to be controlled in any direction. And, that it's always necessary to feel the amount of push/pull the opponent is offering. Of course, one never wants to be off-balance to the point that a pull, however slight, will upset one.

At the same time, are we talking about two tcc people facing each other? or a 300lb gorilla tugging at a tcc players arm? Well, let's say that a good tcc "jerk" or "pull" implies that it is done at the proper time, and when done so is hard to resist.

But, hey, I'm just playing Devil's Advocate.

cheers,
Steve James
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