What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

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taiwandeutscher
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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by taiwandeutscher » Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:25 pm

[quote="J HepworthYoung"]
... [quote]And my late teacher, quoted in Yang's work as giving a different arrangement, has strictly adopted theories out of his medical background in a rather academic way, avoiding the stubborn copying of older mistakes?![/quote]
...
this is a good example of this, this teacher thought he could improve upon the information and chose to modify it, believing the old teachings to be mistakes. I find this to be absurd. Personally I do not support this type of revision, to me it is like saying that blue will now be red and red will now be blue, because it makes more sense to me. Maybe I will re-arrange the number system and make 4 mean 3, so it will now go 1,2,4 and one can say now that the order and meaning of the numbers is arbitrary because multiple versions of the number system exist. To me the application and motion aspects of taiji have a direct and logical relationship to the teachings and the two cannot be had without eachother. I do think that there is a lot of Taiji-like martial arts linneages passing along the name of taiji, sort of like how there are a lot of sword like objects for sale online being called swords.
...

So you know it all, do you?
My teacher, a Chinese from Henan, learned, studied and taught TJQ for not less than 80 yrs., coming from two very distinct lineages (Wu and Yang), having studied Chinese Traditional Medicine also for ages, and he didn't just reinterprete according his own gusto, no, he followed the theories of origin. After all, those where adopted by TJ people, not vice versa.

Do you read and speak Chinese? Did you check the available old writings of TJQ and Chinese philosophy and medicine?
Your assumptions on my teacher and my school are totally groundless, before you argue, you need to check the facts. Go check Dr. Yang's writings, where you find a different chart of Master Soong J.J.

And when you really know, why the arrangements of philosophy and medicine differ from Taijiquan, please let me know :lol: .
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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by Michael » Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:05 pm

J HepworthYoung wrote: In nature straight lines do not really exist, when they appear to they are always formed by circles or arcs. About the only exception to this is an object falling towards the attracting body exerting gravity upon it, or an object moving in absence of gravity. A bullet fired in space for example would have a linear pathway.
Your argument was fine for joint physiology, but you need a separate argument for straight lines in nature. You have not provided evidence for it. Objects often move in curves in nature because they are acted upon by multiple forces at once, but that doesn't mean that force vectors aren't straight. For example, launch a cannonball from a cannon and it will describe an arc. However, the force applied to the back of the cannon ball is straight, and gravity is straight as well. The two in combination move in an arc. My teacher would say "forces move in straight lines; manipulated objects move in arcs."

For physiology, your argument is fine because what's important is how the joints function rather than how exactly the force vectors line up. But from a standpoint of classical physics, I believe the above holds true.
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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by J HepworthYoung » Fri Jun 17, 2011 12:33 pm

I've got a copy of Yang Jwing-Mings book right here, I've had it for years.
For those who are interested this book is Advanced Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, Volume One, Tai Chi Theory and Tai Chi Jing by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, YMAA 1987.

do you have any evidence to support your teachers modifications other than you think highly of him?

I note that he changes the names of the trigrams so they do not match the I-ching. did he also re-write the I-ching to correct it? It has been passed down in a particular manner for well over a thousand years before your teacher changed it. The arrangements of Chan San-Feng match the I-ching as it is traditionally presented. Did your teacher feel that all divination using the I-ching in the centuries before he corrected it was mistaken? Surely he knew it all as you imply and as you explain must have been among the most brilliant of people to have ever been born.

To note, the traditional method has Heaven and Earth as a pair, however your teacher uses the name water for the trigram associated in the I-ching with heaven and then for the trigram associated with earth in the I-ching he presents heaven. Instead of heaven and earth as a set of opposite complimentary energies he presents water and heaven. In fact the only pair he keeps is relationship to the traditional pairing is thunder and wind, however he gives the trigram associated with Lake the name thunder and the trigram associated with mountain the name wind.

Alas, i am not Chinese, surely that means i am incapable of understanding the bagua trigrams and what they mean.

Likewise I am just too stupid to understand why your teacher changes the direction attributions, putting forward as fire and backward as water. In the previous arrangement of forward being metal and backward being wood I had understood that metal defeats wood, but in my ignorance I simply fail to understand how fire defeats water, etc. Please forgive me for being so naive that the original arrangement made perfect sense, while in my non-chinese ignorance i cannot understand the changes of your teacher, which seem to my foolish self bewildering and even absurd.

I pray that I am reincarnated as a Chinese man in China so that I too may gain the wisdom your teacher undoubtedly possessed. Until then i will just be forced to use the arrangement that makes sense to my ignorant western mind.

Michael, I agree with your last post.
In physics and thus nature forces can indeed act in a linear manner.

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by taiwandeutscher » Sat Jun 18, 2011 12:56 am

Ya, you better pray for more understanding, regarding reading books, be it in English or Chinese, not to talk of trigrams or the 5 phases.
But your teacher will have a hard job, noting your attitude.
Thank you for the time answering anyway!
hongdaozi

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by J HepworthYoung » Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:17 am

Thank you for insulting my intelligence, reading ability, understanding and then my attitude.
My teacher would probably say that you forgot to mention that I am ugly and that I smell funny.

I am deeply interested in any references or examples pertaining to Taoist philosophy that support the changes your teacher made, although I will understand if you choose not to share them. Yang Jwing-Ming does not mention anything about the reasoning behind the alternative arrangement and when he presents the Trigrams (in several books of his) he gives the associations and names found in the I-ching and the San-Feng work.

I'd like to quote some more works on taiji:
(you) don't ever want to give up your throat (voice) question every talented person in heaven and earth
and the 5 keys to diligent study:
1 Study wide and deep.
2 Investigate, ask.
3 Ponder carefully.
4 Clearly descriminate.
5 Work perseveringly.
Why take anything for granted?

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by taiwandeutscher » Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:19 pm

Well, if I did insult you, then I'm sorry.

But in my point of view, it was you who insulted my teacher. J.J. Song did not only have 80 yrs of MA under his belt, but also was a very good acupuncturits (taught at General Veterans Hospital Taibei), but also was an emminent member of the Yijing society in Taibei. He spent his live on studying the 3 fields, and then comes Mr. Young and tells me, his toughts were absurd. Thank you very much!

I myself got a PhD in sinology, you guessed it right, my dissertation was on the Zhouyi, my rigorosum topic was Chinese trad. medicine, and I have lived and studied both, theory and praxis of the fields here in Taiwan for 19 yrs. But I just repeat the unfounded points of my stupid teacher, no?

I'm not in the least interested in convincing you of anything. Just keep in mind that other people also have done their share of research and training, comming to different results. But as you know already the right stuff, you keep to your mentioned points and you will succed.

Best from a very hot Taiwan summer morning, after a sweat quenching training.
hongdaozi

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by J HepworthYoung » Tue Jun 21, 2011 12:02 pm

in my childlike ignorance,
Who you are, who you know, where you were born, what languages you speak, what classes you took etc
None of that has any meaning to me. I simply do not care.
What matters to me is the content and meaning of your words and information.
The same goes for any man, any teacher etc.

What I consider is not you, but the meaning of your words, the content of the information.
The same goes for your teacher, or any person. I'm not concerned with his character or intelligence or education, nor am I questioning any of these or even his persona or honorableness. I can take your word for it that he was intelligent, but his intelligence is not something that matters to me in considering the rational and content related validity of his arrangements in regard to Taiji theory.

For me the teachings of taiji are the same, it is the logic that matters because that informs application in a profound dynamic manner in a way unique among martial arts in my opinion, I do not care about who said it. For example I do not care if San-Feng wrote what is attributed to him, for me the part that matters is the content itself and it's relationship of the martial art as a whole.

Yang Jwing-Ming does not in any book I have, present the reasoning of the arrangements of Soong. As his student it had been my hope that you would be able to share them, my finding of them as bewildering to me is something curable if you choose to educate me as to their meaning.

Presenting credentials of yourself and teacher does not suffice to explain the arrangements to me.

What medical traditions maintain the arrangement?

What philosophical expositions make use of them?

If you give me references I can pursue them in independence of any conversation such as this. To claim they are corrective implies that what was corrected was in error, if the concept of a mistake or a confusion equates to the concept of insulting them perhaps we are both guilty of insult. Considering that I am willing to question your teachers arrangement as much as you are willing to question the arrangements previous to this correction then perhaps we both believe that an error or mistake may have been made in regards to this debate. I do not deign to debate the intelligence of you or your teacher, or myself for that matter. But I will openly debate the arrangements themselves in an effort to learn more.

What you think of me, what you think of your teacher, what you think of yourself; these things mean very little to me.

The golden millet is almost done cooking.

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by Dan Pasek » Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:16 pm

To me, both arrangements make sense, and if one looks at the transformations between the five phases rather than the absolute correspondences between them and the ‘steps’ in Taijquan, then it perhaps does not matter which is used.

The only reason that I tend to favor the advance (forward) = ‘metal’ over it being = ‘fire’ is that this is what I learned from my teacher (without explanation for why these correspondences were considered correct for my lineage).

I am not an expert on the wuxing, so corrections from either of you would be welcome.

Both have ‘earth’ at the center so I do not think that I need to explain this one.

The arrangement with ‘metal’ forward makes sense to me because both ‘water’ and ‘fire’ have the directionality changing qualities that one may expect for Taijiquan’s changes in direction (i.e. ‘right’ and ‘left’), and ‘wood’ and ‘metal’ (and ‘earth’) are more stationary (less likely to turn) as well as being more penetrating/cutting which may be more appropriately thought of for head to head (face to face) interactions with an opponent.

On the other hand, ‘fire’ is the most yang phase (great yang when associated with the two yao/lines) with ‘water’ being the most yin (great yin with the two yao/lines), which would make it reasonable to me to have them the most forward (advance) and backward (retreat) respectively. Likewise, both ‘metal’ and ‘wood’ are composed of one yin and one yang yao/line and indicate transition between yin and yang, making them seem reasonable for phases on the sides (Taijiquan’s ‘right’ & ‘left’).

Even though some teachers define Taijiquan as the five phases (wuxing) in the ‘feet’ and the eight energies (jin, the bagua) in the ‘hands’, I have never been clear about the reasoning behind the assigning of the Taijiquan 13 with the specific philosophical correspondences.

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by Michael » Wed Jun 22, 2011 1:14 am

Dan Pasek wrote:I have never been clear about the reasoning behind the assigning of the Taijiquan 13 with the specific philosophical correspondences.
To be honest, I think that the premodern mentality was a lot more comfortable with arbitrariness in matters like this. I'm still not convinced that these relationships aren't arbitrary.
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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by Marko Kohv » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:17 pm

that sort of discussions are indeed very distinctive to taiji quan...

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by J HepworthYoung » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:19 am

I believe the 13 postures to be mathematically assembled in relation to the energies and postures of the martial art, making it specific and intrepid. The 8 energies are used together in a flowing manner using the 5 directions in a sort of paper rock scissors way to neutralize and respond to the duifang.
The association of the trigrams seems to have been used as a tool in a non-arbitrary manner to some extent, for example the void and full trigrams correspond to void and full energies and the other energies are a combination of this binary duality
there are four reciprocal pairs of these 8 energies,
they can be used with any weapon, or the body in a comprehensive and flowing responsive manner and are somewhat specific in this assembly.
The motion technology that it represents is remarkable.

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by Roland Tepp » Tue Jul 12, 2011 3:19 am

Marko Kohv wrote:that sort of discussions are indeed very distinctive to taiji quan...
I am afraid, your irony has been lost on these two...

To the point of the subject of this topic though, I should like to offer my personal view on what makes Taijiquan distinctive.

I strongly believe that the matter of distinction of a particular martial art from others is a matter of personal belief and point of view more than anything else.

One might always cite "classical" points of distinction like using softness to counter force and use of duifang's energy against themselves, but it is my experience that no martial artist worth his salt has ever claimed the opposite of his art. In fact, it has always cropped up in this kind of discussions that whenever I mention using opponents force, no matter how hard the style, they always say "well, but it's the same with us."

Maybe the most profound distinction of taijiquan when compared to other so called hard style martial arts (at least for me and at this particular state of my development) is the focus on the external perception of softness while keeping the core structure of the body firm and strong (but not hard). The perception of softness is is in fact so strong that many practitioners themselves (even some of the advanced students of the art) have a tendancy to overlook the importance of the proper body mechanics supporting that perception, only focusing their5 attention on the softness...

Another thing that is different when learning taijiquan is the sheer amount of seemingly unintuitive and difficult to accept things one must learn in order to advance. The principles behind the taijiquan are easy enough and quite logical once you understand them, but the way you learn those principles, the practices and drills are sometimes surprisingly difficult to perform properly, because learning the principles in this way, one must literally let go of all the life's experience and do things in a radically different and seemingly unintuitive way.

Take a push for example. Everyone kind of knows how to push. Sort of at least...
When you learn to push in taijiquan the first unintuitive piece of instruction you'll have to puzzle though is that to push, you should not use your muscles (not those of your arms at least).

Throughout all of our lives we've learned to rely more or less on our muscles (such as they may be) and read the bitter-sweet feedback of the muscle tention to equate that to the amount of work we've done. But when you push the way you should in taijiquan, the way you use your body as one unit, should feel like you actually didn't do any work at all...

The first time I got my more or less proper "taijiquan push", I did feel almost like cheating. The push was so effortless I had my doubts i had done anything at all, but the effect of the push was almost unbelievably strong...

If anything I would call that a distinctive feature of the taijiquan, whatever that is.

PS! I personally think that the whole quest of "why is your art different than mine" is futile if the purpose of the excercise could be re-phrased as "why should I learn your art". Nobody but you can answer this question. If you feel that you have not found your thing, just keep looking and trying. Once you find what suits you, you'll know it and all the questions and other arts become ... less important
Roland

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by Michael » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:19 am

Roland, thank you for getting this thread back on track.
Roland Tepp wrote: PS! I personally think that the whole quest of "why is your art different than mine" is futile if the purpose of the excercise could be re-phrased as "why should I learn your art". Nobody but you can answer this question. If you feel that you have not found your thing, just keep looking and trying. Once you find what suits you, you'll know it and all the questions and other arts become ... less important
Well I ask for a couple of reasons. I have found that, after studying a martial art, my ideas about its distinctive traits tends to change drastically. Most people here have more Taiji experience than me, so I assume that you all are in a position to offer some insight. But I'm not asking from a position of complete ignorance. I also think that it's important for people to understand why(or whether) their art is special. Some people don't seriously consider any alternatives, so they never ask the important questions.

I could be considered a prospective student, but I'm not looking for people to sell me on Taijiquan. I like to know about a wide range of martial arts regardless of whether I intend to study them. Any serious martial artist should learn about the other martial arts out there.
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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by J HepworthYoung » Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:31 am

Taiji is ironically full of people who politely refuse to comment, but nonetheless hold beliefs, likewise many just do not question things.

I appreciate the questions you are asking Michael, like your blog it is stimulating.

I've trained in several martial arts and with several martial artists and find Taiji extremely distinctive in several ways, which i have mentioned already.

I find it less counter-intuitive than any other art I have worked with or on.
Any serious martial artist should learn about the other martial arts out there.
Seriously. This is one of the reasons I love working with others and take an active interesting in multiple martial arts.

But one could consider what taiji is historically, at least recently it has become synonymous with the martial art said to be a creation of Yang Luchan, who studied several martial arts and did not just focus on one. Then one might consider it as a mixed martial art or MMA form based on several martial arts put together in a systematic way. This is also true for the Chen Village martial art, which it itself an amalgamation. One could consider this important as that it is revision based, meaning that the material found in the art is there for a pragmatic and practical reason, as opposed to traditionalism, which tends to conserve things based on cultural reasons and not pragmatic reasons. In several ways this makes taiji unique, for few other martial arts are so refined and revised. This is at least one way to look at it, despite not being my opinion it is something I consider.

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Re: What is distinctive about Taijiquan?

Post by Michael » Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:59 pm

J HepworthYoung wrote: I appreciate the questions you are asking Michael, like your blog it is stimulating.
Thanks! Feel free to add your comments. Eventually I want to get some good debates going over there, but it's still new.
J HepworthYoung wrote: But one could consider what taiji is historically, at least recently it has become synonymous with the martial art said to be a creation of Yang Luchan, who studied several One could consider this important as that it is revision based, meaning that the material found in the art is there for a pragmatic and practical reason, as opposed to traditionalism, which tends to conserve things based on cultural reasons and not pragmatic reasons. In several ways this makes taiji unique, for few other martial arts are so refined and revised. This is at least one way to look at it, despite not being my opinion it is something I consider.
I realize this is not your opinion, but it does raise a few questions. Refinement means change. Change and tradition are always at odds with one another, because each one undermines the other. To be traditional is to preserve the contributions of the past. To be progressive is to improve them. However, imagine if you tried to improve Taijiquan today. Many people would assume that your change is probably detrimental, and destructive to its traditional elements. The point is that traditionalism is not all occified ritual. It is also about preserving the methods and ideas of previous generations in their entirety, rather than piecemeal. Everyone agrees that progress is good, but not everyone agrees that change is progress.

For the record, I have no dog in this fight. I see it as an incredibly difficult problem precisely because both sides are compelling.
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