The pivot

Postby Bob Ashmore » Mon Nov 05, 2007 7:26 pm

Louis,
So what is the reasoning? I've never seen an English translation of his book, since we all know how much Chinese I understand...
And now you've got me curious.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Nov 05, 2007 7:39 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bob Ashmore:
<B>Louis,
So what is the reasoning? I've never seen an English translation of his book, since we all know how much Chinese I understand...
And now you've got me curious.</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Bob,

I included some of Yang Zhenji's commentary about Ward Off Left in the Grasp Sparrow's Tail section of my translation of Yang Chengfu's _Essence and Applications_. Also, for the discussion about the sinking of the torso in the beginning posture, check the "Serious Push Hands Question" thread in the Push Hands forum.

Take care,
Louis



[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 11-05-2007).]
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Postby Steveg219 » Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:27 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B>Greetings Steve,

Thank you for sharing that clip. That's really splendid! I've seen footage of Yang Zhenji......Notice how he sinks his weight and bends his knees prior to the first weight shift and turn....</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I think this method of weight shift is why I thought this clip was a good illustration of the core principle in discusion but I didn't consciously notice that point. It gives a visual reference to the idea, i.e. you can see him sink and move from the bottom before his hands manifest their motion!

It is so fascinating to see different interpretations and I really appreciate your positive attitudes and responses on this forum.

Regards,

Steve
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Nov 06, 2007 2:31 am

Great clip! I notice that his primary hand in moves like brush knee go somewhat higher than Yang Zhenduo, somewhat more like the school of thought which passes the hand by the ear... maybe not quite that high... The geometry of the forward bow looks exactly like YZD and Yang Jun.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Tue Nov 06, 2007 2:35 pm

Louis,
I will reread those threads.
Thanks.

Jerry,
I really like how he does his transition to White Crane Spreads Wings.
I've seen other Yang forms that do this, the Yang Sau Chung form comes to mind. I've seen Fu Zhongwen videos where he and his students does this too.
Do you know when this change was made? And by whom?
It's not so different as to be foreign, but it sure emphasizes different aspects of the transition.
I like how he is sinking into the turn into Left Ward Off as well. I tend to do a bit more sinking than I believe is taught in our form there myself, vestiges of a different style I once practiced, so I was glad to see I'm not alone.
Also, the transition to Single Whip is slightly different. We seperate our arms quite a bit on the turn, where Yang Zhen Ji and Fu Zhongwen videos I've seen show them maintaining their arms in the same orientation as at the end of Push.
Any comments on these differences?
As you know, I find the origins of these changes fascinating. I don't believe one is "better" than another, I just like to know when, and if possible why, such things have evolved in different directions.

This is an excellent clip. I only wish it were longer and showed his entire form.

Bob

Bob
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Postby Steveg219 » Thu Nov 08, 2007 4:20 am

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Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu Nov 08, 2007 9:05 pm

Steve,
I've seen both of these clips before. But thanks for refreshing my memory on them.
I really like how he does his transition to White Crane.
I like how he does his saber form with an ox-tailed dao instead of a willow-tailed dao.
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Postby Audi » Sun Nov 25, 2007 5:27 pm

Greetings Bob,

I must say that I have always been uncomfortable with the quote you originally posted.

Taken with no other context, it appears that the reader is confronted with the same situation that Master Wang warns against. He speaks of long practice and self discovery, and yet the quote seems to describe a secret concept that we can simply understand by reading and study.

Another aspect that troubles me is that the quote seems to tempt me to practice in a way that conflicts with what I currently understand. For instance, the quote seems to advise concentrating on the breath and coordinating it in a way different from what I understand.

As for opening and closing, I have a few thoughts I could share.

First, I think that the English words "open" and "close" match pretty closingly the common uses of the Chinese equivalents: "he" (pronounced roughly like the "-he-" in the English word "her") and "kai" (pronounced like the "-ki-" in the English word "kite"). However, I think that the core meanings are somewhat different and this can complicate how you understand these concepts.

In English, and in all the European languages I have studied, the words "open" and "close" bring up images of obstruction or free movement. In Chinese, the core meaning of "he" seems to be "joining" and "combining," and the core meaning of "kai" seems to be "separation" and "being apart."

"He" is used in the commmon Chinese word "lianhe." "Lian" by itself can mean "linking" or "connected" and is used to refer to one of the four primary Push Hands skills. Used together with "he" to get "lianhe," we get the meaning "united," i.e., "linked and combined."

"He" is also used in the meaning "combine" in one of the Ten Essentials: "Combine inner and outer."

We also meet "kai" in our Tai Chi practice in the expression "fangkai," which means to "set free." In our specific practice, I interpret it as meaning as to "pull the joints apart."

In this sense, "kai" and "he" mean nothing more than to "combine" and "separate," to "bring together" and "bring apart." One basic part of Tai Chi theory is that in order to do one thing, you need to begin by doing the opposite. This procedure harnesses the power of the circle. In other words, open and close support and create each other.

To understand why Ward Off might be considered "opening," notice how we must close our arms first. To understand why Push might be considered as "closing," notice how we begin by opening our arms even further after Press. From this, you might have enough to work on.

Take care,
Audi

[This message has been edited by Audi (edited 11-26-2007).]
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Mon Nov 26, 2007 8:02 pm

Audi,
Ahhhhh!
This is very, very good information. I've never had opening and closing explained to me like this before.
My concept previously has always been a more traditional, western take on "closing and opening", much as you describe it.
I actually read your posting this morning, then I practically ran out to my practicing spot and worked on the concept of "opening and closing" but instead thought of them as "combining and seperating" as you've so clearly described.
I had some very good, immediate insights with this. It makes infinitely more sense to me in this way.
I can clearly feel this as combining and seperating, I can feel it as clearly as I've ever felt anything and suddenly the concept doesn't seem anywhere near as confusing.
With this new thought process in mind, I had an immediate connection with the concept in a way I've never understood before.
This makes SO much more sense.
I am going to pass this information on to my partners in crime...
I mean my training partners! ;-)
And together hopefully we can begin to work on "combining and seperating" more correctly and see where it leads us.

As always Audi, you have given me an amazing amount to work on with just a few words. Clearing up these issues of translation seems to be one of the best ways to get me moving in the right direction.
Thanks.
If I had any head for languages at all, I'd try to learn Chinese. However my experience with trying to learn French (three years in High School, four years in college and all I can do is ask where the bathroom and the beer are...) has me a bit skeptical of my chances of learning anything usefull.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Nov 27, 2007 5:05 am

Greetings Audi,

I would just like to add a bit to your insights on opening/closing (kai/he). I don’t disagree greatly with your “core meaning” explanations of kai and he, but I suspect that the taiji usage of the correlative compound kai-he derives from its usage in other traditions, and therefore brings with it certain technical entailments. Also, it’s important to note that the earlier compound for kai-he used a different “he” graph that makes it easier to understand its “closing” entailment. For example, traditional Chinese medicine described “opening functions” and “closing functions” of the organ systems using these graphs. In his book, Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Manfred Porkert writes, “The rendering ‘closed’ for the rare technical term 'he' also requires an explanation. In the Shuo-wen . . . this graph is explained by ‘wings of a door.’” (p. 36) Porkert then explains extended meanings: “The wings of a door standing between the inside and the outside shut off the interior against the exterior > (1) ‘to close’; the wings of a door mediate between the interior and the exterior > (2) ‘to mediate.’” Porkert notes the appearance of the compound with the rarer “he” graph in the Daodejing, in the line in Chapter 10 about the opening and closing of the gates of the heavens (tian men kai he).

The Hanyu da cidian cites the Daodejing line as its first gloss for the kai-he compound, followed by a number of others from the Huainanzi, the Guanzi, etc., including its use in the Sunzi, in the “Nine Kinds of Terrain” chapter: “When the enemy gives you the opening [diren kai-he], you must rush in on him. Go first for something that he cannot afford to lose, and do not let him know the timing of your attack. Revise your strategy according to the changing posture of the enemy to determine the course and outcome of the battle.” (Ames, p. 162)

It’s unclear how the opening/closing idea came to be part of taiji theory, but there are clearly antecedent traditions that were drawn upon. Sun Lutang probably used the opening/closing idea more extensively than anyone. Tim Cartmell translates Sun’s definition neatly:

“The internal and external are united in a single qi. It flows ceaselessly without a break. The opening and closing, movement and stillness of martial forms have this qi as their root. The mystery of the various extensions and contractions springs forth from this qi. To open is to extend and to move. To close is to contract and to be still. Opening is yang and closing is yin. To issue, extend, or move is yang. To withdraw, contract, or become still is yin. Opening and closing is like the one qi moving through the cycles of yin and yang.” (Cartmell, trans., A Study of Taijiquan, by Sun Lutang, p. 57)

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 11-27-2007).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Nov 27, 2007 6:10 am

Here is the variant kai-he compound in Big5 coding:

¶}Âó

--Louis
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Nov 30, 2007 7:08 pm

Further thoughts. . . .

By the way, Porkert’s elaboration on the concept of “closing” as mediation between inner and outer is something I find very appealing strategically and philosophically. I think ordinarily we think of closing a door as shutting out or blocking. Given the interactive principle of taijiquan—of yielding to the initiative of the other (she ji cong ren), “closing” as a mediation—or a negotiation, if you will—makes a great deal of sense. Consider Roll Back, for example, as an instance of closing. It is not a shutting out, closing off, or blocking of the other’s advance, but rather it mediates between the other’s action and your center.

--Louis
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Postby Audi » Sun Dec 16, 2007 4:34 am

Greetings Bob and Louis,

Bob, I am glad my previous post was useful. Good luck with your explorations.

Louis, thanks you for your information about the alternate graph for "he2." Although I read the Daodejing some time ago, I do not recall the more complicated "he2" character from there. I think I recall it only from reading the phrase zong4heng2bai3he2 (×ݺáÞããØ) in discussions of the Warring States period. I am not sure about the origin of this phrase, but Wenlin software translates it as: "maneuver among various political groupings." From this, I presumed it related to he2zong4lian2heng2 (ºÏ×ÝÁ¬ºá), and thus referred to the various "vertical" and "horizontal" coalitions in the Warring States period. Although different characters are used for "he2," the meanings and context seem similar.

In "zhonghengbaihe," "bai" and "he" appear to be opposites, meaning "separating" and "uniting." This recalls for me the English phrase "divide and conquer." In "hezhonglianheng," "he" and "lian" appear to be complementary, implying "uniting into a greater whole" versus "linking up" with the dominant power.

For those unfamiliar with some of the details of the Warring States period, I should say that during this period, various states in China were fighting for supremacy and beginning to gobble each other up. As the state of Qin began to become dominant, the other six or so remaining powerful states were faced with the choice of allying with each other in face of the common threat or siding with Qin to enjoy the benefits of its victories. Various military experts (like the Sunzi that wrote the Art of Warwent from state to state advocating different approaches. Eventually Qin did win under China's first emperor.

Louis, you make allusions to earlier uses of kai/he, but only elaborate on the "he" element. Do you have more information about what the compound as a whole might have referred to?

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">traditional Chinese medicine described ¡°opening functions¡± and ¡°closing functions¡± of the organ systems using these graphs</font>
Do you have more information about these functions? I presume somthing like the image of the contractions of the heart, but am not sure if this is what is meant. I did some google searches, but came up with sites with so much jargon that my poor Chinese skills could not figure out what was what.

The "kaihe" reference in both the Daodejing and the Art of War both seem to mean "opening the door," without any reference to "closing." How should we relate this to the yin-yang polarity of Tai Chi's use of "kai" and "he" as correlative pairs? Would you really see this as one of the sources of Tai Chi's use of "kaihe"?

If "kaihe" in the Daodejing" means "opening the door," then the text leads us to associate this with "being female" (perhaps as a reference to the birth canal?) and with the Yin aspect of things. But this seems to contradict Sun Lutang's view of opening as Yang. Do you have any information on what is meant by "heaven's gate" to help judge what the phrase means and whether it means "opening and closing" or just "opening"?

The "kaihe" of the Art of War seems to refer to a tactical mistake, i.e., giving the enemy an opening. I find this hard to relate to what Sun Lutang refers to, which is again a polarity that is inherently neutral. Any ideas on how to do this?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Dec 16, 2007 6:05 pm

Greetings Audi,

Porkert explains the kai-he compound in a general discussion of the phases of yin and yang in early Chinese medical theory. In that context, yes, kai-he is very much a term having to do with correlative relationships and polarity.

My reading of the term in the Daodejing and Sunzi passages is that it refers neither to opening or closing, but to the enabling function that allows opening and closing—picture a hinge, a pivot (back to our original subject!), or a turning point in time. It may be helpful to see the kaihe compound as falling into a category of antonymic compounds like the more modern terms gaodi (high/low = “height,” “pitch”), kaiguan (open/close = “switch”), or “changduan” (long/short = “length”).

That’s all I have time for at the moment, but I will try to provide examples later.

Take care,
Louis



[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 12-17-2007).]
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Postby shugdenla » Mon Dec 17, 2007 2:23 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"><B>Do you have more information about these functions? I presume somthing like the image of the contractions of the heart, but am not sure if this is what is meant.

The "kaihe" reference in both the Daodejing and the Art of War both seem to mean "opening the door," without any reference to "closing." How should we relate this to the yin-yang polarity of Tai Chi's use of "kai" and "he" as correlative pairs? Would you really see this as one of the sources of Tai Chi's use of "kaihe"?

If "kaihe" in the Daodejing" means "opening the door," then the text leads us to associate this with "being female" (perhaps as a reference to the birth canal?) and with the Yin aspect of things. But this seems to contradict Sun Lutang's view of opening as Yang. Do you have any information on what is meant by "heaven's gate" to help judge what the phrase means and whether it means "opening and closing" or just "opening"?

The "kaihe" of the Art of War seems to refer to a tactical mistake, i.e., giving the enemy an opening. I find this hard to relate to what Sun Lutang refers to, which is again a polarity that is inherently neutral. Any ideas on how to do this?
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

'kaihe' for the uninitiated may well be a tactical mistake but depending on the wisdom and awareness (strategy and warfare) of the other, it can be a trojan horse for they who know how to use it for their own means. From my perspective, it may be a strategy of drawing the other into emptinesss!



[This message has been edited by shugdenla (edited 12-17-2007).]
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