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Thread: Metaphors, Qi and the martial arts

  1. #1

    Metaphors, Qi and the martial arts

    Hello! I think this is my first post here (about a year ago I was lurking around, especially interested in a conversation about fencing vs. tai chi sword form).

    Anyway, I was really interested in this article over on the e-magazine about qi as a metaphor. I have a few questions about it, some of which I suppose I should ask in the taiqiquan forum.

    But mainly, I was interested in the idea of useful metaphors in martial arts practice. I'm a lousy martial artist, but I write for a living, so the idea of stories as tools was one that clicked for me. I also have had similar thoughts about qi during particularly useful taiqi classes (I was studying under Weilun Huang in Miami, but parenthood has kind of thrown the brakes on that for now).

    Anyway, I'm curious – the guy who wrote the article mentioned that there were a few other useful metaphors, stories that help guide practice, or make certain things make sense.

    Do you guys know of any? What kinds of stories or images have you found useful? I can think of a crane cooling its wings, hands waving like clouds… but it seems like there are more of them than that, and especially ones that aren't specifically about a single move, but about martial arts practice in general.

    Got any good metaphors to share?

  2. #2
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    Yeah, kungfu practice can be like the story of sisyphus.

    Take a big rock at the bottom of a hill and start to roll it to the top.

    see what happens if you are not mindful of the rock you are taking up the hill with you.

    lol.
    Kung Fu is good for you.

  3. #3
    Oooh, yes. I know a lot of these. I don't know how useful they will be to any given person, I guess one has to just experiment and find the ones that click for them.

    Some of the meditations I've been taught are simple. Take any given form you know and do the whole thing while thinking about your feet. Just concentrate on the feeling of your feet touching the floor. Then do the whole form again focused on the idea that you are being suspended from a string (like a marionette). The string is pulling you up away from the earth. If you concentrate well on these two very different mental pictures, your form will feel ENTIRELY DIFFERENT each time.


    A more specific application would be thinking of your lower dan dian (?sp) as a fire hydrant. The area is about 3.5 inches below your naval and inwards (centered). Western thinkers call it your "center of gravity." Anyway, think of it as a fire hydrant or a keg or what have you--it fills with water and gets heavier. Every time you breathe in, concentrate on the heavy-->heavier-->even heavier feeling growing in your core. Then when you get ready to throw a punch (or kick) imagine that you have hoses attached to the hydrant and the water is going to shoot out from your center. Concentrate on this feeling when you throw the punch. Water flowing from your dan dian out through your fist at great speed. This practice will help you in putting power behind the punch, as the power does not come from the arm, but from the body.


    Then there's the classic mental image of roots extending down from your feet into the ground for stance work.


    To make Gene happy, I'll even add that the latest issue of KungFuMagazine has an article on this very thing--how what you are thinking will influence how your body performs a given task. I think it's the article called "Quantum Kung Fu" if I'm remembering correctly.


    http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/maga...hp?article=646

  4. #4
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    It's all about metaphor

    That's a pretty open question, grant. Chinese is an idiomatic language to begin with - it relies heavily on what is called chengyu - these are sets of four characters that have no literal meaning but evoke some occurence that defines the situation. They are intrinsically metaphoric, and that language, like all of Chinese culture, bleeds over into kung fu like hoisan sauce mixes with white rice. Ok, ok, that's a crappy metaphor, but you can't fault me for trying.

    Beyond idioms, many of the concepts of martial arts are difficult to define in words. I could write for days on the dynamics of horse stance alone, but even that wouldn't communicate as much as if I just stood next to you and coached your practice. That being said, metaphor arises when simile fails - since it's hard to say what it is exactly, it's often more efficacious to say what it's like. The notion of qi as metaphor is not novel - I think any westerner that researches the field will stumble across this solution at some point. It's a very elegant solution for westerners to the age old question "what is qi?" I'm pleased that John Greenhow's article got you thinking about it this way.

    Props to NeuroGrrrl for being on top of the Quantum article. That *did* make me happy, almost as much as when you popped out of the cake for my b-day party.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  5. #5
    While working on the illustrations for Dr. Weng's Tai CHi Monkey this sort of thing came up; more wit-in a visual context than anything else...

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Design Sifu
    While working on the illustrations for Dr. Weng's Tai CHi Monkey this sort of thing came up; more wit-in a visual context than anything else...
    Wow, that poster looks pretty cool, actually, but it's a little hard to make out. What's being depicted on there?


    Oh, and I'm also really, really interested in the idea of chengyu -- are these like aphorisms or something? Can you give me an example of how one of those would work? I've heard that familiar proverbs are really important in spoken Mandarin (uh, you can kind of tell where I'm coming from there -- a whole lot of book larnin' and not much actual speechifying), kind of quoted selectively and everyone will know what's being referred to, but I don't know any of the actual idioms. If these are the same thing as those.

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    I should make you subscribe first...

    We occassionally run martial chengyu in our concluding feature of Kung Fu Tai Chi called 'Kung Fu Wisdom'. We did a classic one in our Jan Feb 2006 - Zi Xiang Mao Dun with calligraphy by none other than Iron Crotch Grandmaster Tu Jin-Sheng. We get masters and grandmasters who also study calligraphy for these features. Here's the text of that one:
    Zi (fourth tone) means oneself or one’s own. Xiang (first tone) means mutually or each other. Mao (second tone) is an old word for spear. Dun (fourth tone) means shield. This idiom comes from an old tale of a man who was selling a spear and a shield. He claimed that his spear was so mighty that it could penetrate any armor and his shield was so strong that it could retard any attack. When the people heard this, they all laughed and said “What happens when your spear attacks your shield?” The weapon seller was humiliated. This idiom is said of anyone that contradicts themselves or can’t justify themselves in their words or action, usually politicians. Mao Dun alone means contradiction.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  8. #8
    Oh, that's great!

    I guess (venturing out on a limb) that the political criticism would get a little zing from xiang, which sounds like a pun for the xiangqi piece. (I've just started teaching myself the game and can feel it growing into my brain.)

  9. #9
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    Hmmm

    No way is the Dan Tien 3.5 inches below the navel, you've got your measurements wrong there honey.

    Dan Tien is more accurately 3 finger-widths below the Navel about 2.5 cun.
    " Don't confuse yourself with someone who has something to say " - The Fall

    " I do not like your tone/ It has ephemeral whingeing aspects " - The Fall

    " There are twelve people in the world/ The rest are paste " - Mark E Smith

  10. #10
    repulsive monkey,
    Actually the lower dantien is located slightly lower in females than males. While 3.5 is inaccurate as she said.
    It is more like 2.7 and 2.0 in males
    Last edited by EarthDragon; 03-17-2006 at 07:30 AM.
    KUNG FU USA
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    Teacher always told his students, "You need to have Wude, patient, tolerance, humble, ..." When he died, his last words to his students was, "Remember that the true meaning of TCMA is fierce, poison, and kill."

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by EarthDragon
    repulsive monkey,
    Actually the lower dantien is located slightly lower in females than males. While 3.5 is inaccurate as she said.
    It is more like 2.7 and 2.0 in males
    everything is scaled according to the scale of your own body.

    so measuring using standard measure only gives you an average and not the reality.

    dan tien is related to a couple of things besides being denoted as an energy well.

    It is located in more or less the same place as where your femoral arteries split and run down your legs.

    so it is below your belly button, but it is also inside of you and it's core is not on the surface. so it is inaccurate to just say it is below because it is also inside for a given measure of space.

    it is also your lowe centre of gravity na dcan be adjusted in relation to your own forces with widening of stance, lowering of the body etc.

    It is intrisicaly connect with your physicality...like anything else really.

    Without body, there is no mind, without mind there is no conciousness, without conciousness, there is no being.
    Kung Fu is good for you.

  12. #12
    david J
    so measuring using standard measure only gives you an average and not the reality.agreed.

    dan tien is related to a couple of things besides being denoted as an energy well.
    agreed depending on what apsect and what dantien

    It is located in more or less the same place as where your femoral arteries split and run down your legs.
    Do not agree the femoral artery junction is lower in the body than the dantien

    so it is below your belly button, but it is also inside of you and it's core is not on the surface. so it is inaccurate to just say it is below because it is also inside for a given measure of space.[/B]

    also agreed. It does obviously run under the surface but not quite to the core as say the line that connects the ba wei, fu zong shin and the hu yin. But I was speaking in layman's terms and very generally for most to understand. I studied oriental medicine for 9 years form my shrfu who is a OMD and you must learn the medical side of our art to further yourself but most choose just to concentrate on the martial. But to pin point exactly where the point is renders impossibility however it is lower in females than in males. yes the taller and shorter you are matter some, but it is not 3.5 inches down as repulsive monkey stated but I do agree with your post.....
    Last edited by EarthDragon; 03-17-2006 at 03:28 PM.
    KUNG FU USA
    www.eightstepkungfu.com
    Teaching traditional Ba Bu Tang Lang (Eight Step Praying Mantis)
    Jin Gon Tzu Li Gung (Medical) Qigong
    Wu style Taiji Chuan



    Teacher always told his students, "You need to have Wude, patient, tolerance, humble, ..." When he died, his last words to his students was, "Remember that the true meaning of TCMA is fierce, poison, and kill."

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