Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jin, Energy, and other terms

I want to post an interview from back in the 1990's that was done in Germany.  Andreas Graf, who is/was a Taiji practitioner and had definite jin skills, interviewed Chen Jumin, a Chen-style Taijiquan teacher.  So basically, this interview was done by Andreas in Chinese with intermediary terms being in German.  Andreas, who speaks English as well as I do, then translated the German interview into English:
Andreas Graf: Jumin, how would you translate the term Jin? Jin as in Pengjin.

Jumin Chen: Jin is "Kraft" (In the following we decided to translate the German word "Kraft" with strength, because we do not know which of the Englisch terms power, force or strength Jumin would use.)
AG: In German, "Kraft" has various meanings, for example physical power or muscular power. When you feel exhausted, you also say that you have no energy (in German: "kraftlos").

JC: Usually Jin relates to body strength. It's completely clear. There is another character "Li". Li is the physical strength. For example a machine has a lot of Li. Here you can't say that the machine has a lot of Jin. If I push the table and I am not able to move it (He demonstrates it using not enough strength to move the table.), then you could say "shi yi dian jin" which means use a little more of your strength. In general the term Jin is often used in relation to the body.

AG: When you use Jin in Taiji, you don't want to use normal muscular strength, do you?

JC: You always need muscles for movement. But consider the saying of Wang Zongyue: "Yong jin, bu yong li". In Taiji they have differentiated between Li meaning muscular strength and Jin meaning internal strength. The other internal martial arts Xingyi and Bagua do not use this differentiation. Sometimes they say Li, sometimes Jin. The border between Jin and Li is not very distinct. In Bagua and Xingyi you frequently say Fa li. In Taiji very often you say Fa jin instead of Fa li.

When the border between the two terms isn't clear, it seems that the Jin used in Taiji doesn't exist naturally. Has it to be trained?
JC: Right. Jin has to be trained.

AG: The trained Jin is different from the Jin that you used before when pushing the table? With the sentence "use more jin".

JC: Exactly. There are two specific terms: "Ben li" and "Gong li". Ben li means that you have your own strength for pushing or lifting something. E.i. you can lift your luggage. This is called Ben li. It has nothing to do with Gong li. You acquire Gong li by training. Oddly, you do not say "Ben jin" or "Gong jin" - that wouldn't be Chinese.

AG: That means the Jin that you use in Taiji is different from the usual language usage. Did it become a technical term? Can it be described that way?

JC: A technical term, yes. But Jin is colloquial. You use Li in science, for example in the physics of Newton. An object moves at a certain speed (He moves the ashtray with his finger over the table.). This is called "Guan li". Here you have to use Li. You do not say "Guan jin". Or "Lixue" that means mechanics. In China you say Lixue and not Jinxue. For example you ask: "Ni you jin ma?" - Do you have Jin? You can answer: "Wo you jin." - I have Jin. You don't ask: "Ni you li ma?"

AG: I remember that you often say "Taiji-strength" to differentiate it from normal strength when explaining something.

JC: Yes, that's right. Normally in Chinese semantics Li and Jin are identical. No difference. When used as technical terms Jin and Li are different. This came up one or two hundred years ago to avoid that people were using to much strength (He demonstrates strain of his muscles.). The Li used in Xingyi is more a full Li. Like a pipe that is filled. "Li shi". A strike in Xingyi is rather full. In Bagua you say "Li qiao". Li qiao means skillfull. "Li ling" means soft Li.

AG: And this is used in Taiji?

JC: Yes, Taiji - Li ling. The three are different. But all of them are internal. You cannot say that Xingyi or Bagua would use external strength.

AG: And this specific internal strength used in all the three styles is the same. Every style uses the same internal strength?

JC: Yes. But sometimes it's difficult to distingusih between saying how much internal and how much external strength somebody uses, for example within this strike (He demonstrates a strike.): 20% are external. When 80% are internal strength, it's already well developed. A 100% internal strength is supposed to be very difficult. If somebody accomplishes this, he is very very good - maybe Yang Luchan was able to do it or Yang Banhou. Yang Luchan probably had this skill, Yang Banhou had more Li shi.

AG: A lot of people translate Jin also with "energy".

JC: Energy? You cannot say this. It's a strength skill.

Andreas Graf: In the internal martial arts there is the saying "Kong xiong, ba bei". Please, would you explain it?

Jumin Chen: "Kong xiong ba bei" is the same like "Han xiong ba bei". In the internal martial arts there are three "diseases" which should be avoided. The first one is "ting xiong" (Jumin turns out his chest like a soldier standing to attention). This is one disease. Therefore it has been said han xiong. But then people have done it this way: Jumin shows a collapsed chest with shoulders hanging too much forward.

AG: Too much, then?

JC: Too much. So it was said kong xiong. That means keep free here (Jumin brushes his chest with a hand). Ba bei refers to the back. There is a technicall term "Li you ji fa" that means strength comes from the back. The back plays a large role and functions like a spring. If you don't have the spring in the back, you can't properly apply Li. You have to build up the spring with the whole body going up while the coccyx is going down.

AG: Is this like "rising the head" - "di ding"?

JC: Many beginners have a strange head posture, e. i. like this: He stretches his head in the front. When practicing Taiji this is wrong, as well as in Xingyi and Bagua. For combat purposes it's bad, too. In combat it looks like a golden rooster that fights - it stretches the head up. Have you already seen this - in the movies or so?

AG: Cockfights? Yes.

BaBei - Pulling up the "spring in the back"
JC: Yes, cockfight. That's typical for internal martial arts. In Taiji you say "Tou xuan ding" - push the head up. Then it is more powerful. If you do it this way (He puts the head out of the posture), it is less powerful. The meaning of ba bei is how you can develop power.

AG: What is the "dictionary meaning" of ba?

JC: Pulling.

AG: Do I understand you correctly when saying that you do not actively pull, but that you are relaxed?

JC: Like a spring.

AG: In case you translate ba with pulling, in which direction does this happen?

JC: Upwards.

AG: When you directly translate this with "pulling the back up", one might think that the back moves backwards (points from the back backwards).

JC: Ah. No, this is completely different.

AG: Often it's roughly translated, but it's difficult to understand.

JC: Yes. Some have translated it directly. Some know Chinese, but don't have a martial arts background or only external martial art skills like Wushu. Then you cannot comprehend such things. Han xiong ba bei derives from an early Qigong exercise. There are meditation exercises from the Tang dynasty which use han xiong ba bei. There exists an inscription on the grave of Wang Chengnan. From it comes the term internal boxing and the saying han xiong ba bei. So that the Qi can flow better and you don't block yourself.

Andreas Graf: Do you want to talk about this standing exercise a little bit?

Standing exercise for Pengjin
Jumin Chen: This standing exercise is for "Pengjin". Peng is an elastic strength. It is important, for example, if a push comes from the front, we shouldn't react in this direction (He points in the opposite direction of the push.), but receive it (German: "aufnehmen"). In the back of the body the coccyx sinks and in the front [strength] rises.

AG: Once you have said that the strength sinks from the coccyx downwards along the leg, rises from there to the waist and from there to the arm.

JC: Yes.
AG: You practice it with intent. What do you imagine?

JC: In the beginning two directions. Downwards and upwards (He slowly moves the arm up and down. Note: While practicing you don't move your arm, but think in the two directions.). You imagine that something heavy rests on your arm, there think upwards.

AG: But you don't lift the arm, do you?

JC: We think of the arm, but [the strength] comes from below. It's easier to work directly than to think of body.

AG: Do you think directly beginning from the foot?

JC: Directly you think of the arm.

AG: And you imagine that it is heavy?

JC: Yes, for example you think to carry 500 kilograms (He laughs.) on your arm. How are you able to carry it?

AG: Do you have to be relaxed in the back?

JC: Caused by relaxation a thing can rise.

AG: What is the meaning of Peng for Taiji?

JC: The so called Hunyuan-strength is important. This is the so called "six-directions"-strength. In the martial arts you cannot predict what will happen. For example if we push and pull one by one - this doesn't work. We have to push and pull at the same time - plus opening and closing. These are four directions. And then rising and sinking with the arm - in total six directions. (...) Within Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua it is important to use the whole body. It is only one part to train the technique: How can one method work against another? You can demonstrate a technique. But it doesn't always work. Why? Because it's a technique. It's not the whole Hunyuan-strength. If you use a technique, most of the time it doesn't work - sometimes it does. But that's not the meaning. It's the whole body! This is very very important.

AG: When somebody in push hands pushes into your Peng-position, you perform Lu. Once you have said that within Lu there is always Peng?

JC: Yes, correct.

AG: Can you tell us about this a little bit?

JC: The Hunyuan-strength contains Peng and Lu. Lu is performed to yield. Peng is necessary that it is elastic. When there is a change, immediately there is Lu-strength. Example: When you push me, I have Peng. Push me! Ah! Lu and then return with Peng. This is Peng and Lu changed. At the moment it's Peng, then Lu and then again Peng.

AG: That means at every point of time you can say "now I do Lu, now I do Peng"?

JC: Yes. The quicker the change the better.

AG: Where do you perform Peng? Is it at the point where I push you?

JC: Yes. The contact point is important. With this point you can train a lot. In principle you have the Hunyuan-strength on the whole body, the internal strength in all directions. That's why Feng Zhiqiang called his Taiji "Hunyuan Taiji Quan" - he is the first generation. (He laughs.) Usually a style starts with the second generation.

AG: Once, you have told me that you change the end point of the strength?

To explain Zheng Mian, Jumin had me push a pen in a 90 degree angle at a book that he holds upright in this hands
JC: This is part of the theory. "Zheng Mian" and "Xie Mian" are typical for Taiji. We have a contact - because of this we have a point and a line. Zheng Mian points vertically on the strength, Xie Mian at an angle. Now both points are equal , now I change the point ( he points next to the contact point) - this is Xie Mian. Xie Mian means "slanting". Due to this some masters are able to throw the opponent when they are attacked. They don't use it directly, but at first Xie Mian and then Zheng Mian. This is a left/right-Xie Mian. There is also top/down-Xie Mian.

He shows Xie Mian turning the book and holding it at a smaller angle: the pen slips away.
AG: When you practice stances, do you imagine that the weight lies on your entire arm, or sometimes here, sometimes there?

JC: In principle on the whole arm. If there is contact, it's a little different. When you practice alone, on the whole arm.

Michael Schmidt: Should you do pre-exercises?

JC: No, I practice stances without pre-exercise. Let's say, I have ten minutes time - then I stand for ten minutes.

MS:/b> Alone?

JC: That doesn't matter. It's sometimes easier in a group - I like it better within a group. For me standing is lots of fun.

AG: Jumin, thank you very much for the interview.

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