why not the eight gates and five steps

why not the eight gates and five steps

Postby Robert Coons » Sun Jun 19, 2011 2:20 pm

Notes on push hands and principles:

-when pushing hands with the majority of taijiquan players, I have noted that as a general rule, they will have either very good peng, or very good lu, be able to use ji, and be able to use an as a direct shove (not in its real manifestation as a downward energy).
-in moving step, taiji players tend to favor moving forward, staying centered, and moving backward/retreating (only if the force is too much and they end up running away, instead of strategically retreating).
-taiji players almost never use gaze right and look left (IE: slow and fast footwork to either side).
-not many people have a really good grasp on lu
-fewer people have a really good grasp of transforming from yang to yin or vice versa
-only a couple people I have met have had the ability to do more complicated changes like changing between the eight gates.
-most people who do moving step push hands tend to immediately turn the match into a clinch wrestling game, rather than focusing on tjq principles and energies.
-most people who do fixed step just like to have muscular shoving matches

why is this?

Shouldn't we always be striving to effectively use the thirteen postures, as these are the things that make taijiquan what it is?
Why is it that principles are so totally ignored once people start practicing with real force and intention?
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Re: why not the eight gates and five steps

Postby Audi » Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:15 am

Hi Robert,

I tend not to favor the competitive aspect of Push Hands for many of the reasons you state; however, I think I also tend to train in a way that makes it less likely for me to encounter this time of behavior. Mostly I train various circles, transformation between the circles, applications of the eight energies, counters to the applications, and occasionally counters to the counters. I try to train multiple applications of the same energy and multiple counters, so that I can always feel that there are multiple choices and multiple possibilities. I find this much more fun than simply going for simple pushes or grabs. Since the counters often work on different principles, it also allows me to explore Tai Chi theory in greater depth.

As for moving step, I don't get the chance to train as much as I would like. Most of the time I change direction for variety or to avoid obstacles in the practice area; however, I also do so to aid whatever yielding I may be doing. Just as circling the arms often feels better than simply retreating them, stepping back to the side often feels better than stepping straight back.

-not many people have a really good grasp on lu
-fewer people have a really good grasp of transforming from yang to yin or vice versa


Could you elaborate on your meaning here? I am not sure what phenomena you are referring to.

-only a couple people I have met have had the ability to do more complicated changes like changing between the eight gates.

Again, could you explain? Don't we do this in the circling?

Why is it that principles are so totally ignored once people start practicing with real force and intention?


I think the question is exactly that of intention. If your intention is to further your training, you will likely do what is necessary to do that. If your intention is to win, even if it does not help your training, you will do what is necessary to do that. I think it can also be hard to find a good partner. Some folk are uncomfortable with allowing someone else to win, even if both sides could learn from such an outcome.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: why not the eight gates and five steps

Postby Robert Coons » Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:22 pm

Hi Audi, thanks for the insightful post!

I'll try to answer your two questions, but please know that I'm trying to empty my cup a bit recently, so the answers may seem a bit convoluted in an attempt to try not to assume that I actually know something about this topic :)

In terms of changing from yin to yang, what I meant was that people generally get stuck on one energy and don't change freely enough.
I know I used to always get stuck trying to make pushes/pulls work and only changing directions very choppily and jerkily.
What i found though was that just doing basic changes between peng and lu is a really good expression of yin and yang. I know we all do that in the basic pattern, but in a non rehearsed combative/freestyle environment it can have really miraculous results. That is what I've primarily been interested in over the years, since I like the rough side of martial arts.

As for changing between gates: same kind of thing I think. It is easy to change gates in cooperative exercises, but not so much so in freestyle. My favorite gate changes these days are things like lu-zhou-lie-peng-kao-cai used as an offset (lu), an arm bar (zhou) which leads into a splitting style throw using snake creeps down, transforming into a forward peng energy so that the opponent is sealed. If that fails then I turn the back of my shoulder and use kao and finally, if that doesn't work, I lift up the supporting leg with cai... Those are some pretty groovy changes in terms of being able to make a technique work without forcing it. That is my favorfite part of taiji training!!

I went back and looked at my first post though and it was a bit presumptuous. I only know what some people's practice is like, since I can't possibly see everyone in the community. I just think that the thirteen postures are so neat, since if you get even a basic understanding of how they work, you an do some really profoundly cool things with them :D
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Re: why not the eight gates and five steps

Postby Audi » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:46 am

Hi Robert,

Thanks for you response.

I just think that the thirteen postures are so neat, since if you get even a basic understanding of how they work, you an do some really profoundly cool things with them :D


I agree wholeheartedly. I always wonder why more people don't do push hands, given how much fun it is. I have pushed with people almost twice my age and half my size, and twice my size and half my age, and have had a blast with both genders.

I'll try to answer your two questions, but please know that I'm trying to empty my cup a bit recently, so the answers may seem a bit convoluted in an attempt to try not to assume that I actually know something about this topic :)


As long as there is a modicum of politeness, I prefer straightforward statements. Tai Chi is already so hard to understand that too much hedging and hawing can be counter productive. I can learn better from clear and wrong than from vague, but correct.

In terms of changing from yin to yang, what I meant was that people generally get stuck on one energy and don't change freely enough.
I know I used to always get stuck trying to make pushes/pulls work and only changing directions very choppily and jerkily.


I try to teach the Association's system. We start with eight standard applications, one for each energy, that you are supposed to learn to do smoothly. They involve combining anywhere from one to six uses of energy in order to feature a particular energy. We start the applications from the vertical circle that cycles through the four square energies. Then we learn variations. Starting from the vertical circles forces you to learn how to chain the energies and set up the conditions that create the opportunity for success. I would say that each application always has a Yin and a Yang side.

As for changing between gates: same kind of thing I think. It is easy to change gates in cooperative exercises, but not so much so in freestyle.


I tend to teach in a semi-cooperative way. Once the person learns the mechanics of an application and gets to work with it a bit, I move only if the person makes me move, so that he or she can get a feel for what his or her use of energy actually does. I find that if someone does the applications smoothly, you cannot easily prevent them from "knocking on the door" of the gate" or even sometime from stepping in. After learning and mastering counters, however, you can usually stop them from stepping all they way through the gate.

If the original technique is executed in only a mechanical way, you usually do not need to counter much at all. We also often teach counters to counters, so that you can begin to learn how to move smoothly through multiple exchanges of technique without interrupting the flow of energy. Some counters lend themselves easily to this kind of continuous flow, but some do not. Some involve uses of the eight energies, but many involve other uses of energy I do not really have names for. The counters are also dependent on the relative level of the people involved and will not work on someone whose Tai Chi level is sufficiently higher than you. The more you learn about energy, the more options you have and the more subtle your technique can be. This search is what I find to be the most fun.

I like the rough side of martial arts.


I like this as well, as long as folks play with a gentle heart and respect for differing abilities, goals, and personalities. I like being bounced around and throwing others around; however, most of our techniques can be done in dangerous ways. Of the eight semi-standard techniques we learn first, there is only one that I do without a major concern for safety and that is Press. All the other applications need to be modified for safety in some way (speed, positioning, or power) to ensure that no one is injured and everyone can practice for a long time. Once these rules of caution are respected, you can still bounce each other off both feet and even take each other to the floor on occasion. Or, if you don't like the rough aspect of things, you can still keep things quite gentle and learn a lot that can be helpful for people who do Tai Chi only for health.
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Re: why not the eight gates and five steps

Postby dragon x » Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:01 am

8) 8) 8) 8) 8) :!: :idea: :mrgreen: :D 8) 8) 8)
....The Millstone moves but the mind does not .....
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