Internal Arts IA

martial arts , health enrichment, development of consciousness

Torso Connected with Kua Rotation

Posted by Editor on July 30, 2006

There has been a lot of continuing interest in discussion of the kua, over at Neijia Formosa. The writers commenting on Song kua-sink the kua , comments 13-17, have demonstrated a fairly sophisticated understanding of subtle nuances of mechanics of movement. However, I would like to address some points in terms of what I would view as some misunderstanding of Hong’s Practical Method qualities. Tom said “In Hong’s approach, the torso remains more of a connected unit (and the kua is driven in connection with raising/lowering of the knees).” I would take that as a fairly positive evaluation, but Chessman took the baton on that one to query: “I’m wondering just how much the “practical” Chen guys move the torso as a unit. I can see some benefits to that, but also some potential stiffness as far as expressing chansijing.” Then Wujimon expressed his perception of it appearing ” more “external” to me without too much emphasis on what chessman noted about diagonal silk reeling.”

Rather than speaking authoritatively myself as to what I perceive as a misunderstanding of the practice, (I hope to elaborate more on these distinctions in a future post) please consider the words of the founder of the practice, Hong Junsheng:

The torso is responsible for activating the stance and hands to move in response to the opponent’s actions. The rule it adheres to is uprightness in motions. It cannot be static uprightness. The whole body movement of Chen Style Taijiquan is based on spirals, and the torso is not an exception. As long as the eyes are fixed on a target and the torso turns left or right, there will be spiral movements.
……..The torso rotation should be coordinated with the upper and lower body……Of course, with the movement of the stance, the torso will accordingly rotate more.”

(This is quoted from Hong’s “Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method”, Volume One: Theory. This book has just been published, an excellent translation by Chen Zhonghua. I believe it will come to be recognized as a new Taiji Classic.)

So, you can see, there is no instruction of the torso being “one solid unit”, rather it is alive, responsive, and coiling around the upright spinal axis. Thus, it always maintains structural integrity and peng, with the “connected” quality Tom referred to being a good thing, keeping internal power always grounded and lively at the same time. In response to Wujimon, this is an expression of the style being truly “internal”. It means that movement of torso and upper limbs is always originating from the ground, through the actions of kua rotations guiding the waist, to direct the upper body movement. This means the upper body will not be the “originator” of that movement—which would make it more “external”.

The very systematic guidelines of Hong’s method ensure that independent hand and arm movement, or extraneous torso gyrations or “noodling”, which dissipate the energy from ground path into horizontal directions, is not part of the practice. The practice is designed to most quickly and effectively develop the internal capabilities of an integrated physiology.

When Wujimon referred to taiji practitioners tending to “shift side to side”, that is a tendency which is clearly defined as NOT a part of Hong’s method. This means when you see Hong method practitioners of a decent skill level, they will have similar characteristics in common. They will demonstrate kua rotation guiding upper body movement, without “noodling”, or extraneous arm movement, and they will have an upright torso rotating around the spinal axis. This is defined as part of the systematic requirement of the practice. This is unique in my opinion. As one writer mentioned, if you watch some masters of other versions of Chen style, you will see a certain kind of “more overt movement within …. lower torso and dantien.” Then, I would suggest, if you watch other masters of the same system you may observe different qualities of Jin, maybe more “whipping” quality vs. explosive quality, more or less waist movement, etc.

In contrast, it is a primary focus of Hong’s teaching, that he was striving to make his method systematic, scientific, and universally replicable, for his students to apply it successfully against opponents. The structure and mechanics necessary to achieve this capability, are all clearly specified and defined, with objective criteria for students to learn and develop the required foundational skills.

Advertisements

7 Responses to “Torso Connected with Kua Rotation”

  1. wujimon said

    Hi IA.

    I should’ve qualified my statements more. I wasn’t referring to the “whole torso moving as one connected unit” as more external, just the overall flavor of the Hong method via Chen Zhonghua. This deals mostly with some of the moves that have more “fa” to them, however this may not be a bad thing as it’s the goal of the practical method to practice the form as the application is done.

    I still stand behind my notions of it not being so much “diagonal” in silk reeling, but upon further observation, I would now say while it appears more “linear”, I believe there is a “rotational” element to the movements, a kind of “screwing” energy like that found in screw drivers applying force to nails, ie, single whip. Again, I think this is attributed to the “practical” nature of the Hong method.

    However, there is a “diagonal” aspect I find more evident in the hong method and not so evident in other chen flavors that I have trained in. That is, the diagonal connection between the rear leg and the opposite hand, ie in lazy tie coat, the connection between the left rear leg and the front right hand. The biomechanics are done in such away to really show how the rear leg gives power to the forward hand! This is quite enlightening and I have mentioned it before in my exposure to Chen Zhonghua’s videos.

  2. chessman71 said

    Your quote clears it up very nicely. From some of the wording used like “moving the torso as one unit” I got the impression that it could be a bit stiff.

    My mention of “diagonal” chansijing was an attempt to name something I don’t have a more descriptive name for — a combination of vertical jing and hirzontal jing. Hence the diagonal description. Usually “chansijing” just covers it, but I was looking for something more descriptive.

    BTW, any chance of you reviewing the theory book? I would love to read a review. 🙂

  3. wujimon said

    After thinking a bit more on the subject, would the focus on knees going up/down driving the movement be considered diagonal energy? In addition, the connection between rear leg and opposite forward hand?

    I think perhaps I’m locked in the definition I learned via CXW silk reeling in terms of what is horizontal, vertical, and diagonal energy in regards to dantien rotations.

  4. Hi Wujimon,

    I am glad you have worked through some of your own questions, because I am a little at a loss to grasp the distinctions you are attributing to “diagonal” chansijing. But I think you are on the right track in your observation of what you have termed “a “rotational” element to the movements, a kind of “screwing” energy like that found in screw drivers applying force to nails”. Chen Zhonghua frequently uses the image of “gears turning” to depict the interaction of legs driving from ground, creating kua rotation, which then adjusts with dantian rotation to create action of torso and arms and hands—like gears meshing.

    Another quality of Hong’s method which reflects your perception, is the principle of “curve always exists in the straight, and straight always exists in the curve.” The coiling is always active in any movement, and at the same time there is a geometric “path” from ground to point of contact with the opponent. This is precisely the quality you are referring to in your observation:

    “the diagonal connection between the rear leg and the opposite hand, ie in lazy tie coat, the connection between the left rear leg and the front right hand. The biomechanics are done in such away to really show how the rear leg gives power to the forward hand!”

    In Hong’s method, the coiling energy in upper and lower body will always be active in the upright and aligned structure centered in the equillibium of the centered kua. There will be no leaning forward or backwards, and there will be no horizontal movement of knees or kua—the rotation will occur around the upright and centered spinal axis. The path of aligment from ground to point of contact with the opponent will therefor pass through the “center”. That means the Hong practitioner will be centered and balanced, with no loss of structural integrity when force is applied from the opponent. Peng will always be maintained, and it will be easy to adjust the upper and lower body as needed, on the foundation of the stable, centered and correctly aligned structure.

  5. Hi Chessman,

    Thank you for your comment and further description of “diagonal” jing. I am hoping that my comment above, in reply to Wujimon, conveys my understanding on the relationship between vertical and horizontal in Hong’s method.

    Regarding Hong’s book, I would simply write a very glowing report based on my impression of the work as being a landmark work which should soon be recognized as a defintive classic. I may do this soon. But for a detailed analytical review, I feel I will have to read and reread the work, and really study it for awhile. It is just so deep and rich with very specific guidelines for correct mechanics and theory. It is something to be worked through in hands on practice over time. It may be that I consider portions of the work from time to time, for focus of posts on this blog. Hopefully this would spark some interest and further inquiry.

  6. GJM said

    Hello Internalartsia,

    I have found this Blog very helpful and interesting.

    As I understand the Hong method, the moves in the Practical form are applications that use either
    positive or negative circles. These circles have specific rules that are listed in Hong’s new book (translated into English by Chen Zhonghua) that you have mentioned earlier. These circles are discussed in terms of kua, knee, and torso movement, as well as other details. Becoming skilled at using the kua to generate circles seems to be the key to reaping the long term benefits of the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method.

    I have a VCD by Chen Zhonghua titled ” Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method Yilu … Detailed Instructions One”. Very near the end of this excellent video (after a Canon Fist Demo segment) is Chen Zhonghua doing a solo demonstration of a right-handed positive circle, which made me think of the comment I read from “wujimon”, where he talks about the ‘Diagonal Aspect’ (in the last (3rd) quoted paragraph, directly below).

    wujimon Says:
    July 31st, 2006 at 1:15 am

    Hi IA.

    I should’ve qualified my statements more. I wasn’t referring to the “whole torso moving as one connected unit” as more external, just the overall flavor of the Hong method via Chen Zhonghua. This deals mostly with some of the moves that have more “fa” to them, however this may not be a bad thing as it’s the goal of the practical method to practice the form as the application is done.

    I still stand behind my notions of it not being so much “diagonal” in silk reeling, but upon further observation, I would now say while it appears more “linear”, I believe there is a “rotational” element to the movements, a kind of “screwing” energy like that found in screw drivers applying force to nails, ie, single whip. Again, I think this is attributed to the “practical” nature of the Hong method.

    However, there is a “diagonal” aspect I find more evident in the hong method and not so evident in other chen flavors that I have trained in. That is, the diagonal connection between the rear leg and the opposite hand, ie in lazy tie coat, the connection between the left rear leg and the front right hand. The biomechanics are done in such away to really show how the rear leg gives power to the forward hand!

    So in regard to this diagonal aspect that wujimon refers to and the VCD Demo of the circle (on about minute 39:00 of the VCD), I observe that Chen Zhonghua ‘s whole torso not only rotates about his spine, but the whole unit (spine & torso) move both horizontally and vertically, driven by the leg power through the knees, into the kua, causing rotation. I put the mouse pointer (as a point of reference) on Chen Zhonghua’s head, kua, waist and knees and observed that they all appear to move both horizontally and vertically, several inches, as he goes through the circle. When the right hand is outstretched and blocking, it looks to me like the rear (left) leg is somewhat straightened out (in a diagonal orientation,) and powering the outstretched right hand, through the kua & torso. (This sounds like what wujimon is referring to.)

    For me, this is the best demonstration of how to use the kua for practicing the circles that I have found. If you are familiar with this video, are there other things in this demonstration that you would point out for a student to pay special attention to?

    Thanks,

    GJM

  7. i GJM,

    I heartily agree with your very astute observation:

    As I understand the Hong method, the moves in the Practical form are applications that use either
    positive or negative circles. These circles have specific rules that are listed in Hong’s new book (translated into English by Chen Zhonghua) that you have mentioned earlier. These circles are discussed in terms of kua, knee, and torso movement, as well as other details. Becoming skilled at using the kua to generate circles seems to be the key to reaping the long term benefits of the Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method.

    The study of circles is absolutely crucial to development of skill with this style. Practice will cultivate the proper structure and coordination to apply the techniques. As you mention, the specific rules are clearly laid out, facilitating understanding of the requirements to strive for.

    Regarding your observation of the vcd, I would caution against being too conclusive about perceptions from a video. My opinion is you may be getting an impression from the limitations of the two dimensional medium. The video can be extremely helpful as a study aid, but sometimes, especially in earlier stages of practice, perception can lead to interpretations of angles, trajectories, and structures, which might be very different form observations of the real person or teacher, in real time.

    In Hong’s method the standard is for no movement in a “horizontal” direction, i.e., from side to side. Now, of course, looking at a TV screen, as Chen Zhonghua rotates his torso around the spinal axis, his torso will be moving “horizontally” on the screen. But the movement should be occurring as if in the space of a vertical “cylinder”, vertically confining the torso, in which the torso is rotating, but not moving outside the “cylinder”.

    Regarding your observation of the back foot powering the front hand, that understanding is consistent with Hong’s guidelines.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: