Conscious Movement

Postby JerryKarin » Thu Jun 29, 2006 9:01 pm

I think there was a tradition in Chinese martial arts of leaving something out of the text which was necessary for understanding and this would be supplied orally by the teacher. In many cases this simply meant that the text was a set of terse and difficult to understand talking points which would be elucidated by the teacher. There is a chengyu (aphorism) which I don't have handy at the moment but the gist of it was that the master always reserves a move or two which he doesn't teach in order to stay
on top.

My personal opinion is that it is a waste of time and energy to look for 'secrets'. Just integrating the 10 essentials into your form and push hands is more work than most of us have time to do. In Yang style the 'secrets' are there in plain sight.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Jun 30, 2006 4:32 pm

Hi Jerry,

Speaking of aphorisms, have you read Michael LaFargue’s essay, “Recovering the Tao-te-ching’s Original Meaning: Some Remarks on the Historical Hermeneutics?” In it, he presents the most brilliant exposition on aphorisms I’ve ever seen. It’s in the volume of essays edited by Kohn and LaFargue, _Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching_ (SUNY, 1998). Highly recommended!

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Sat Jul 01, 2006 10:08 am

Jerry, many thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it. May I ask you a question regarding the essentials? Awhile back we talked about Yang Shouzhong's book (http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/ubb/For ... 00140.html). The third essential in it was translated as

" 3. Keep the energy leisurely down to the navel psychic-centre (3" below the navel) by hollowing the chest and loosening the waist. The navel psychic-centre is the place where the energy is cultivated and reserved. After a long time of practice, the potential energy forms a forceful impetus which, when required, can be sent out to attack and to defend."

Does that assume that Yang style employs the technique of accumulation qi in dantian to use it further, let's say, in the strike, sending it from dantian to the point of the contact?



[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 07-01-2006).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Jul 01, 2006 5:42 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Yuri Snisarenko:
<B>Jerry, many thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it. May I ask you a question regarding the essentials? Awhile back we talked about Yang Shouzhong's book (http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/ubb/For ... 00140.html). The third essential in it was translated as

" 3. Keep the energy leisurely down to the navel psychic-centre (3" below the navel) by hollowing the chest and loosening the waist. The navel psychic-centre is the place where the energy is cultivated and reserved. After a long time of practice, the potential energy forms a forceful impetus which, when required, can be sent out to attack and to defend."

Does that assume that Yang style employs the technique of accumulation qi in dantian to use it further, let's say, in the strike, sending it from dantian to the point of the contact?

[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 07-01-2006).]</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


That's a hard question, Yuri! I cannot answer it definitively. Based on what I have learned from the Yangs over the years as a non-indoor student, I would say that Yang style does employ "the technique of accumulation qi in dantian to use it further, let's say, in the strike, sending it from dantian to the point of the contact" but that this usage is not a conscious matter; it occurs naturally or spontaneously when you practice according to the requirements.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jul 01, 2006 6:43 pm

Greetings Yuri,

That Yang Shouzhong translation is quite an extrapolation, in my opinion, and it also includes commentary that was not in Yang Shouzhong’s father’s version. Yang Chengfu’s introduction in his book, _Taijiquan tiyong quanshu_ listed 13 important points. There, the third list item is simply “sink the qi to the dantian” (qi chen dantian), which is a quote from the “Taijiquan Treatise.”

I agree with Jerry’s take. For example, in Yang Chengfu’s instructions on the opening form movements in his Essence and Applications book, he follows the remark “The qi sinks to the dantian” with the comment, “Allow it to do so spontaneously; you must not force it.” I don’t have access to the Chinese version of Yang Shouzhong’s book, so I can’t assess the received translation. What does “cultivated and reserved” mean, for example? There is a reference to “reserving my qi” in the Squatting Single Whip section of Yang Chengfu’s book: “The right leg works simultaneously with the waist and kua in sitting down, in order to lead the other’s strength while reserving my qi.” It uses the same term for “reserve” appearing in the “Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures,” in the line, “Store energy (xu jin) as though drawing a bow.” As for the remark in the Yang Shouzhong translation, “the potential energy forms a forceful impetus which, when required, can be sent out to attack and to defend,” that sounds like it would refer to jin, and to fajin, but it’s difficult to say. I don’t recall any references in the Yang tradition to “sending qi,” but there are certainly references to fajin.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Jul 01, 2006 6:55 pm

Yes, it is rather hard to interpret this bit without the original Chinese from Yang Shouzhong's introduction to the book. If anyone has that, please let us know the Chinese text of Yang Shouzhong's comment on the third essential.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jul 01, 2006 7:39 pm

Greetings Jerry,

This is kind of tangential to the original discussion topic, but from the forcefulness of the objections you raised to some of my earlier remarks about ‘texts vs speech’ it seems that it’s something that you feel strongly about. I do too. I’m serious when I say that we’re both probably right, because I know the issues by which you raise your objections, and I accept them. I’m not going down the road of Herrlee Creel or other early Sinologists who imagined a fully “ideographic” or “pictographic” language completely separated from oral speech. If I’ve left that impression, I’ve either done a poor job explaning, or you’re arguing against a position that I didn’t posit.

One thing that may help clarify my approach when differentiating texts from so-called ordinary speech is the notion Noam Chomsky refers to as linguistic competence. As Michael LaFargue puts it in his essay “Recovering the Tao-te-ching’s Original Meaning: Some Remarks on Historical Hermeneutics”:

“Meaning is never something completely objective, completely there in the text or sounds independent of any subjective involvement of a reader or listener. . . .Speech can only communicate meanings in a community of people all of whom associate roughly the same meaning. . . .Shared competence is the necessary mental, subjective component of meaning, necessary in order that the external component—sounds or ink marks—actually convey some definite meaning to some particular community of people.” (LaFargue, in Kohn and LaFargue, Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching, p. 259)

Linguists who advocate for a speech-centered theory of language tend, I think, to emphasize the *agency* of speech, and in so doing fail to understand the situational aspect involving communities of sender-receivers. LaFargue cites other linguists who suggest that the notion of shared competence be extended beyond elements of vocabulary and grammar “to include such things as those shared assumptions operative when we read a poem *as a poem*, or a scientific treatise *as a scientific treatise*.” (ibid.) Different communities of linguistic competence imply different registers of meaning for different kinds of speech and writing. A grocer and a plumber with roughly the same competence in grammar and vocabulary may need to work a little harder at communicating when discussing their respective fields because of differences in register. A constitutional attorney may have trouble reading a brief that includes references to electrical engineering, but it is not because his grammar and vocabulary are different at the level of ordinary speech; it is a matter of register or competence in the way they each use language.

When it comes to texts, even if I were to wholly accept your premise that “At various times what has been written was actually pretty close to everyday language”, I would have to qualify my acceptance, because the process of speaking is different from the process of writing. Children become competent in grammar, syntax, and phonolgy somewhat naturally, with very little formal training. That’s not the case with reading and writing. Those activities involve different processes not so easily learned, requiring specific formal instruction, discipline, and motivation. So, when we deal with texts, we are automatically dealing with a different register of linguistic competence. In addition, when having a conversation, the speech acts take place in a context where there is visual feedback, eye contact, facial expressions, etc. These apply in giving a speech before a group of people, too, but speeches, notably, are often texts before they are speech. Even in phone conversation or listening to the radio, tone of voice and inflection are present that are not present in writing. Disciplined writing usually compensates, consciously or not, for the absence of an immediate listener, and writing is often a reflective and/or a self-editing process in ways that speech may not be (although speech can certainly involve reflection). Writing, in short, proceeds in a different register from speech.

In assessing early taiji texts, one needs to gain a foothold on the linguistic competencies evidenced in the texts. The language used is specific to a certain time and a certain community, and includes aphorisms; technical martial terminology in the tradition of “hanghua,” “qiekou,” “yinyu,” “heihua,” i.e., professional or trade jargon or secretive formulae; metaphors, literary allusions, oral formulae (koujue) mixed with discursive exposition, and so forth. We have to work with our contemporary training in taiji—and thus, from the perspective of our own linguistic competence of that knowledge—in order to try to grasp the registers involved in the texts. All of these qualities make for something somewhat different from ordinary speech. In short, we have no choice but to approach these texts *as* texts.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 07-01-2006).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Jul 01, 2006 8:14 pm

I confess there were moments back there when it sounded like you were channeling Herrlee Creel and I'm glad to hear it's not so! I agree that both texts and speech have to be taken in their linguistic (cultural, etc) context. That is why I object to using Shuowen Jiezi in our interpretation of taiji texts compiled in the 19th century. The context is incorrect and interpretation turns into divination rather than understanding. Another objection I have is the application of a 'poetic' approach to the understanding of taiji lit. A teacher I had long ago once said something to the effect that in reading poetry, anything you can get out of it is valid. I think what he meant is that poetry is meant to have meanings on different levels, and that it is an art of lighting up associations and stimulating memory and experience. This is all very well for poetry and indeed a lot of taiji lit is verse. Still, I don't think the poetic is the main thing in these texts and I am concerned sometimes when I hear you in effect championing the ambiguity of texts or rhetorically wondering if we can ever know what it means, attitudes which work well with poetry as art but considerably less well with taiji texts. In looking at these texts I always start out with the assumption that there is a definite meaning there - means this and not that - and that when I don't understand the text, it's a result of my lack of knowledge or experience, not the absence of of a discrete meaning. Sure there are metaphors and similes in there but we must be vigilant about making sense in our interpretations. In other words if my translation takes every word of the source into account but makes no sense in the target language, then I have failed in my translation. How do I decide what it means? By grammar, by the meanings of words in context, by the overall context of the quote. I consider these criteria to be 'ordinary language' considerations, and in this regard, texts are little more than a constrained subset of speech.
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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Sat Jul 01, 2006 8:23 pm

Jerry, Louis
thank you very much for answering my question.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> this usage is not a conscious matter; it occurs naturally or spontaneously when you practice according to the requirements </font>


This is close to what I held regarding this matter. I don’t chase this stuff and consider it as advanced matters. My teacher didn't emphasize that point as well; however he was quite good at some internal stuff, particularly in rooting. I asked the question because of interest, since in the web articles and books about internal martial arts I somtimes meet related notions with more accent on their mechanism.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jul 01, 2006 9:35 pm

Greetings Jerry,

Re: “I consider these criteria to be 'ordinary language' considerations, and in this regard, texts are little more than a constrained subset of speech.”

That’s interesting. Did you ever have to read Derrida? He said exactly the opposite—that text is primary: “There is nothing outside the text.” He makes the assertion aphoristically in order to challenge assumptions. Reading him gave me a headache, but I have to say he digs deep. Do you have a copy of A.C. Graham’s book, _Disputers of the Tao_? Graham notes Derrida’s challenge to the current Western “logocentric, ultimately phonocentric orientation.” (See Disputers, p. 227 ff.) Graham notices some parallels in aphoristic devices in the Daodejing with devices used by Derrida (others have noticed similar parallels between Derrida and Zhuangzi). One area shared by Derrida and some early Chinese thinkers is a disinclination to see things in terms of dichotomy or opposition (there’s a good Wikipedia page on Derrida that addresses this), but rather in terms of polarity. (One of the oppositions Graham notes is the opposition logic/poetry!) As Graham writes, “One of Derrida’s methods of deconstructing the oppositions is to reverse them, for example elevating writing above speech—writing is not a reprsentation of speech, speech is writing which lasts only long enough to read by the ear; language is not living speech in contrast with dead marks on paper, it is what has meaning even if speaker or writer is dead.”

Uh oh. I better stop. Here comes that deconstruction headache.

Happy Independence Day. I’ll be celebrating the Declaration of Independence AND the Constitution. Here’s to an elevated level of national competence vis-à-vis the Constitution! We sure need it.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 07-01-2006).]
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Re: Conscious Movement

Postby dragon x » Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:00 pm

Wow !!!! i know i am late reading this post and that it is old. But WOW !!! :P
Conscious Movement. I understand and yet i do not understand. And Yet i will strive to understand

1) can anione tell me how i can obtain a copy of the Yang Forty (so many books to buy , things to study, yet i must)
so i can learn more about TaijiQuan

2) There is a sayin i came across in Douglas Wile, Taiji touchstones: Yang family secret transmissons"
' the millstone turns but the mind does not' ......is this related to conscious movement ?
3) TaijiQuan just gets deeper and deeper and just when you think you understand, it just gets deeper.

4) Mr Louis Swaim once again you have opened up my head, and caused me to grow Thanx !

i've neva realli thought about Conscious Movement but when i'm practicing slowness/softness i am unconsciously studying
Conscious Movement. for by moving slowly and softly i am aware of every muscle and tendon and can break down each move into the smallest of parts analizing just what it means to move or just how each movement is done. could slowness be an aspect of Conscious Movement ?

It has been a pleasure to read this post and i will reread it again as the knowledge here will take sum time to digest 8)
....The Millstone moves but the mind does not .....
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