08 March 2009

Lucky Find (and Unlucky Breaks)

In IF yesterday, I wandered over to the used bookstore that's more-or-less across the street from Barnes and Noble. I stumbled across an edition of the Tao te Ching that includes the full Chinese character text (or, well, one of them; differing versions exist) as well as lists of meanings for each character. I haven't had much of a chance to play with it yet, but it looks to be a good resource. The reviews at Amazon are mostly favorable, with a few decrying the very idea of providing a list for ignorant fools to create their own translations (at least, that's the impression I got from them). But that's not the point. I think just about anyone interested in the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) has multiple traslations, and a resource for comparing them to see where and, potentially, why they differ is quite useful. I do wish that the transliterations were pinyin rather than Wade Giles, but there is another place that also lists pinyin.

As for the unlucky breaks... shortly before I got to taiji yesterday, Don slipped on some frost or ice and hurt his knee. He decided to go through with lessons, but just watch for the most part (though he did do some of the warm-ups from a bench). It was a good session, not least because I finally remembered to bring him a translation that my Chinese instructor had done of a poem on a taiji camp shirt (I'll probably post the gist of it at some point). We also worked on breathing. In most martial arts, there is a very definite emphasis on exhaling into a punch or a kick, etc. Cheng Man Ch'ing, however, advocated the opposite. For a long time, Don has been teaching the more traditional breathing, but a recent online conversation with Bill Phillips and some playing around we've been doing with the idea of filling with energy has him reconsidering it. So we tried it that way.

One interesting thing. I'd noted last fall that there were places that my breathing seemed to have switched from what I thought it was "supposed" to be. I let it alone and just watched it, because I remembered that there had been confusion about Cheng Man Ch'ing's actual breathing instructions. Turns out that I had naturally swapped over to the "inhale into the push" mode, at least in some places. In other places, I'm having to work at it and concentrate on it, but it feels better that way. Also, Don said that it put a roundness into my form that he'd been trying to figure out how to instill in me.

At Bataan's camp a few summers ago, I remember being confused when he characterized the inhale as "yang". I disagreed, but as I thought about it, I decided that he was referring to the process of the inhale, while I had been thinking about the beginning of the inhale. At the beginning of the inhale, the body is yin (emptied of air), then during the inhale it becomes more yang (filling with air) until it is full yin yang at the end of the inhale and the beginning of the exhale. Then the exhale starts yang but becomes yin as the body empties itself of air. By inhaling into a posture, the body is at its maximum yang point as the push/punch/etc. is completed. Exhaling into the posture empties the body, making it progressively more yin. In more practical terms, by inhaling, the body maintains its roundness and suppleness even as it's expelling energy. Exhaling, though, tends to result in the roundness collapsing, making you more vulnerable.

Don seems to think this applies only to the form and not to push-hands... I'm not so certain yet. However, due to his knee, we didn't get to play at push-hands any yesterday (and I was the only one who made it up to class). I suspect that the knee was worse than he was letting on, as he shooed me away early. I haven't heard yet how bad it was, but he was hoping he hadn't torn a ligament. Watching him yesterday, I concluded that he's at least as stubborn as I am. I wouldn't have been offended if he'd simply apologized and cancelled class to have someone look at his knee, but he struggled through most of it. The fact that he did decide to call it quits early means it has to have been bothering him pretty badly.

AM EDIT: Fixed a rather obvious typo above. Look for the strikeout.

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