The Dan Tian

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Re: The Dan Tian

Postby Patrick on Thu Feb 16, 2017 5:23 am

The "stuff" of the abdomen is connected to other stuff. When the "stuff" of the abdomen is, for example, contracted, it causes other stuff to contract or stretch. As Windwalker pointed out, changing one thing changes other things connected to it. Put another way, the manipulation of the abdomen that you see is the result of more than just the abdomen. This is very clear in the video of Chen Yu's student. The perineum (huiyin) is involved, the anus, the spine, muscles of the back, muscles of the chest and rib cage, the hips, legs ...


But what is important is the mass behind it, no? For example, there are three ways that you can control your postural stability. You "sway" your whole body via the ankles (ankle strategy), you control your mass by folding at the hips (hip strategy) or you take a step. When you use the first strategy, the whole body is involved in controlling your mass. When you fold at the hips, the legs are not activley involved.

When I look at Chen Yu, I can see that his "dan tian" movement entails a compensation movement. He slightly moves into the other direction to wind up. The power is located in the upper body and the legs are mere the basis for his upper body. His "dan tian" movement is simply a method to wind up and thus creating a longer way to accelerate.

I do not critique his movement, but my understanding for "one part moves, all part moves" is more along the line of the ankle strategy. Power is not created by winding something up, but by learning to drop your mass into your opponent and quickly stopping yourself from falling over.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby cloudz on Thu Feb 16, 2017 5:47 am

Patrick wrote:
The "stuff" of the abdomen is connected to other stuff. When the "stuff" of the abdomen is, for example, contracted, it causes other stuff to contract or stretch. As Windwalker pointed out, changing one thing changes other things connected to it. Put another way, the manipulation of the abdomen that you see is the result of more than just the abdomen. This is very clear in the video of Chen Yu's student. The perineum (huiyin) is involved, the anus, the spine, muscles of the back, muscles of the chest and rib cage, the hips, legs ...


But what is important is the mass behind it, no? For example, there are three ways that you can control your postural stability. You "sway" your whole body via the ankles (ankle strategy), you control your mass by folding at the hips (hip strategy) or you take a step. When you use the first strategy, the whole body is involved in controlling your mass. When you fold at the hips, the legs are not activley involved.

When I look at Chen Yu, I can see that his "dan tian" movement entails a compensation movement. He slightly moves into the other direction to wind up. The power is located in the upper body and the legs are mere the basis for his upper body. His "dan tian" movement is simply a method to wind up and thus creating a longer way to accelerate.

I do not critique his movement, but my understanding for "one part moves, all part moves" is more along the line of the ankle strategy. Power is not created by winding something up, but by learning to drop your mass into your opponent and quickly stopping yourself from falling over.


This is quite interesting.. the way I think of/practice what you describe is more to do with the stretch-release mechanism, what you describe as winding I think of and practice as stretch/ release or open/close. The caveat though is that in terms of force/power (force may be more appropriate?) both sides of the equation, so to speak, have it or carry it. What you see as winding up is also - or at least can be in some methods - the release. You may have heard "to release is to store, to store is to release". It can look like you are prepearing for the next move, to release, but actually every movement can be either storing or releasing as one becomes the other whereby 'storing' happens at both ends of movements positional extreme (let's say one opened, one closed or one expanded one contracted position) and release happens in both the middle parts; whether you're going in to out or out to in.

Hopefully that is making some sense.. and you two don't mind me butting in to your conversation with my 2 cents :)
edited for clarity
Last edited by cloudz on Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:04 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby GrahamB on Thu Feb 16, 2017 6:03 am

I agree that being able to move your dantien around on its own isn't that much use - although it probably gives you strong stomach muscles.

For me the whole point of the dantien is understanding how it ties in with the muscle tendon channels on the front and back of the body, and how you can open and close along these to create 'natural' movement in the same way 4 legged animals exhibit it when they run - we have evolved from being on all fours to walking on 2 legs, but our bodies still have the same open and close functionality available. To use this open and close functionality the movement needs to originate from a central point - the dantien.

i.e. the dantien is a hub which the channels pass through and from which they can be manipulated.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby charles on Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:31 am

Patrick wrote:But what is important is the mass behind it, no?


Important to what? What is the context of your statement?

For example, there are three ways that you can control your postural stability.


I'm not sure what the connection is that you are making between the current discussion, "The Dan Tian", and postural stability. Are you talking about in two-person work and fighting, methods of maintaining postural stability when forces are imposed upon you?

Simply, put, an object is stable when its center of mass is directly above its base of support. If it is not, the object will topple. Humans balance by maintaining their center of mass above their area of support. If standing, that is the area defined by their feet.

Walking, for example, is a series of controlled falls. We swing our center of mass beyond (in front of) our supporting foot and, before our face hits the floor, we swing the other foot out and land on it, creating a new support and stopping us from falling. In an adversarial situation, one strategy is, as the opponent is stepping, to sweep the foot he is about to land on. Since he has moved his center of mass beyond his base and you just prevented him from creating a new base of support under his mass, he falls.

You "sway" your whole body via the ankles (ankle strategy), you control your mass by folding at the hips (hip strategy) or you take a step. When you use the first strategy, the whole body is involved in controlling your mass. When you fold at the hips, the legs are not activley involved.


I'm assuming this is in the context of someone applying a force to you that will cause you to fall unless you respond ("change"). A section of my video is dedicated to exactly this subject. There are two primary strategies for keeping your center of mass over your base of support . The first has to do with the length of your base of support. If your base of support is very short in the direction of the applied force, you are easily toppled: a small displacement of your center of mass will make you unstable/fall. If you stand in a bow stance, for example, your stance is long, but narrow. If someone pushed in the direction of the length of your stance, you have a lot of "length" to work with. If someone pushed in the direction of the width of your stance, you have much less "length" to work with and are much more easily toppled. One option is to redirect the incoming force so that it more fully aligns with the long direction of your stance. This can be done is a variety of ways, including rotation of all or some of the body. Another option is to move your center of mass by shifting weight (center of mass) within your base of support.

The second strategy has to do with either changing the location or shape of your base of support. Typically, this is done by stepping or moving the feet.

When you fold at the hips, the legs absolutely are involved. The legs are connected to the pelvis by muscles and connective tissues: twist one end of those, at the pelvis, and it twists the whole thing.

When I look at Chen Yu, I can see that his "dan tian" movement entails a compensation movement. He slightly moves into the other direction to wind up. The power is located in the upper body and the legs are mere the basis for his upper body. His "dan tian" movement is simply a method to wind up and thus creating a longer way to accelerate.


You misunderstand the mechanisms involved. The power is not "located" in the upper body nor are the legs passively supporting his upper body.

In the context of what we are talking about, the use of the body can be crudely modeled as a series of springs. A spring is a mechanical device that stores mechanical energy when it is deformed by the application of a force and releases that mechanical energy when the applied force is removed. There are three primary types of springs: axial (tension/compression), leaf and torsion.

An axial spring is, for example, a typical coiled spring. If you squeeze the length of the spring, the applied force shortens the spring, storing mechanical energy. When you stop applying the force, the spring returns to its original length, releasing the stored mechanical energy. This is like stretching a rubber band and then letting it go. The elasticity of the muscles and connective tissues of the body can be stretched and released. In doing so, they store and release mechanical energy.

A leaf spring is, for example, like the bow of an archery bow. Mechanical energy is stored when forces are applied that bend the spring. When the forces are removed, the spring straightens to its original shape and releases the stored mechanical energy. Traditional Taijiquan refers to five major bows: the two arms, the two legs and the spine. These are bent (or bowed) to store mechanical energy and straightened to release stored mechanical energy. The spinal "bow" is the most important.

A typical torsional spring is a clock spring. It stores mechanical energy by an applied force twisting the spring. It releases mechanical energy when the applied force is removed and the spring untwists back to its original shape. "Silk reeling" is the twisting and untwisting of the elastic parts of the body.

In many cases, movement, in Taijiquan, anyway, involves all three simultaneously and is what you are seeing in Chen Yu's student: twisting, stretching/contraction and bending.

I do not critique his movement, but my understanding for "one part moves, all part moves" is more along the line of the ankle strategy.


In my opinion, that is a misunderstanding.


Power is not created by winding something up, but by learning to drop your mass into your opponent and quickly stopping yourself from falling over.


As a kid, did you ever have a rubber-band-powered balsa wood airplane, the kind where you wind up a rubber band and let it go and it drives the propellor?

Dropping one's mass is one mechanism of creating force in martial arts. There are others.
Last edited by charles on Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:41 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby charles on Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:51 am

Bao wrote:So called Dantian exercises are interesting and most of them probably great practice. Though as clips above and these below, I still see very little connection to internal Dantian development. I can't really understand why people call something they externalise "internal practice". Most of it is more or less like yoga practice. Nothing wrong with that.

Internal Dantian practice is things like wuji standing, practicing how to breath naturally and relax.
What's important in IMA is internal movement, internal strength, and not external. All of the clips shown here in this thread though belong to "waidan", not "Neidan". By this waidan kind of practice, you'll develop Houtian Qi (post-natal). Not Xiantian (pre-natal) Qi that masters like Sun Lutang wrote about and claimed is the goal for all IMA and neidan practice. SO what is the goal for YOUR practice? External strength or building internal health? Maybe both?


Seems reasonable.

What would "internal" martial arts look like if one removed all of the waidan kind of practice? Would we not be left with a truly "internal" martial art? What would that art entail? What skills and abilities would it have in the context of fighting/martial arts?

People have spent a lot of time and energy trying to define Internal Strength. Most definitions that I've seen are, as you've described, really about specific ways of using the physical body (i.e. waidan). What is Internal Strength in the context you've proposed? Is it just another term for "internal health"? Is an "internal" martial are one in which "internal health" is the core and then one adds physical abilities (i.e. waidan) on top of that?
Last edited by charles on Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby charles on Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:55 am

cloudz wrote:Hopefully that is making some sense.. and you two don't mind me butting in to your conversation with my 2 cents :)


Makes sense to me.

I don't mind your "butting in" at all. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby cloudz on Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:13 am

charles wrote:
cloudz wrote:Hopefully that is making some sense.. and you two don't mind me butting in to your conversation with my 2 cents :)


Makes sense to me.

I don't mind your "butting in" at all. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.


no worries, I edited a bit for my own mental clarity lol..
Great post in reply from your good self to Patrick, just spot on really for me.. good job.
Last edited by cloudz on Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby robert on Thu Feb 16, 2017 10:53 am

windwalker wrote:I would say the use of the "jin luo" as "the" connection is not quite true if you think about it
the body is already connected through muscle/tendons, what would be the point of restating the obvious?
It's not the right "stuff" ;)

While it is true that when one part moves all parts move, one should ask themselves whether they all move at the same rate or not,
if not why? whats the point of the body moving at the same time?


As a general rule people don't make use of the fact that they are globally connected. When this connection is used it's both fairly local and used in an external manner. The stretch-shorten cycle is used to jump or throw something a long distance, and so on. When I was a kid and my father taught me to use a shovel he taught me how to put my back into it. That uses connection, but it was an external usage. Learning to take an external movement and internalize it takes a lot of practice.

In this thread there is a video of a xingyi guy telling his students to use their waist and not their shoulders. The shoulder correction is pretty common on videos, so even though people are connected, they aren't using those connections. We all have brains, but that doesn't mean everyone is logical ;) Unfortunately it devolves to semantics - if someone does not make use of global connections are they connected?

That's my opinion, but since you disagree, what is the right stuff?
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby charles on Thu Feb 16, 2017 11:36 am

windwalker wrote:While it is true that when one part moves all parts move, one should ask themselves whether they all move at the same rate or not,
if not why? whats the point of the body moving at the same time?


An insightful point.

I'd add, "Should all of the parts of the body be moving in the same direction?"
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby Bao on Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:16 pm

windwalker wrote:While it is true that when one part moves all parts move, one should ask themselves whether they all move at the same rate or not,...


Think about a spinning disc. Do the inner rings spin faster than the outer rings?

A small movement can drive a big movement. A connected body is like a set of bigger and smaller cogs turning together.

Even if the cogs move with different speed, every one of them start and stop together.

Should Dantian be like the smallest cog that drives the other ones? But then it's in movement. Or should Dan Tian be the stable part that the smallest cog turns around?

charles wrote:I'd add, "Should all of the parts of the body be moving in the same direction?"


They can not. If the waist turns to the right, it also turns to the left. If the body moves forward, it's only because the body create a force backwards.

And also... Then they don't act as cogs.
Last edited by Bao on Thu Feb 16, 2017 2:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby I-mon on Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:24 pm

Not sure how straightforward my answer will be, but I have some thoughts.

Firstly, with regards to their being no anatomically defined Dantian, in some of my earlier anatomy studies I got to spend a year studying human corpses once a week, and there was a huge amount of variation in muscle bulk amongst the different "specimens" in the lab, and also a huge amount of variation in the development of connective tissue in different parts of the bodies. So in the areas with thickened fascia, like you can see behind the neck, shoulder blades, lower back etc in these pictures (the white bits sitting on top of the muscles):

Image

Some of the bodies had really powerfully developed connective tissue in sheets and lines in ways that the others didn't. So you'd look at one shoulder and wonder "was this person a tennis player?" or another body and think "clearly a sedentary old lady", or another one, with a particularly striking torso shape and wonder "gymnast?"

To my knowledge, we never got to see the muscular and fascial development of an experienced Chinese martial arts practitioner, or a competitive wrestler, or a rodeo rider. They'd all have madly different bodies.

Connective tissue is fibrous, and the fibres organise themselves over time in the directions of the lines of force applied to them by the activities of each person's life. The movements of the internal martial arts all generally involve alternating stretch and contraction of "halves" of the body: the flexors and extensors, abductors and adductors and lateral flexors of the left and right sides of the body, and the rotators. Practicing a movement which stretches all of the tissues across the body in a linked chain - from the toes and foot through the ankle, knee, thigh, groin, pelvis, abdomen and lumbar spine, ribcage, shoulder blade, rotator cuff through the elbow all the way to the wrist and fingers - and then contracts all of the tissues under stretch as a single unit or a wave, will over time create thicker sheets and ropes of connective tissue with their fibres all coherently organised along those lines of force, making them better able to stretch and contract as a unit in the future as the muscles pull on the better organised and increasingly thick connective tissue. The same patterns also gradually "chunk" together in the brain and motor system where complex patterns involving multiple body parts gradually become represented as single movements.

So: the "tendon channels" all exist in everyone, but those channels are developed differently in different people, in a very real physical sense, depending upon what they do with their bodies over the course of their lives. Sure, people are "already connected", but those connections can be physically weaker or stronger, and are usually (in the case of "regular people" in the modern world) not associated with clear, coherent and coordinated whole-body motor patterns in the nervous system.

So I'd say that "silk reeling" exercises are designed to stimulate the development of those whole-body connective tissue sheets and ropes, little by little connecting the links through more and more of the body, and "chunking" those small movements together in the motor maps of the brain into coherent and coordinated whole-body movements that can be "fired" instantly, alternated back and forth across the body, and (at higher levels) fluidly redirected through the different joints at different angles.

Then back to the dantian - all of those whole body patterns involve stretch and contraction through the whole body from feet to fingertips and tailbone to the base of the skull, which means they all pass through the pelvis, abdomen and lower back, and because that area is not supported by the bony structures of the ribcage, it has to deal with forces passing through it by thickening the sheets and ropes of muscle and connective tissue. The very thickest bits of this connective tissue are wrapping the muscular walls of the abdomen, the base of the pelvic floor, the diaphragm and the base of the ribcage, the thoraco-lumbar fascia on the lower back, and the extraperitoneal fascia inside the walls of muscle, surrounding the organs:

Image

Interestingly enough, the sheets of connective tissue of the deepest layers of the abdomen roll up down at the bottom of the pelvis and spiral through the deep hip rotators to connect to the femurs (thigh bones) via the adductors. "Dantian", "kua", spirals etc.

The bottom line then is that the better the muscle-tendon channels get developed (connected) through systematic practice, the more dense the connections will become through the whole abdominal area, and the more one can control and direct connected whole-body power from the centre of the body.

Sorry if that was a bit rambling, but I'm pretty sure some of that stuff hadn't been mentioned yet in this thread.

charles wrote:
what i am talking about are powered helix. which means that the coils are created by dantain rotation.


So, here's the question for y'all. How do you go about explaining/teaching this stuff to beginners in such a way that they actually develop skills in finite time.

For example, In concrete terms and language - for beginners and with absolute clarity,

1. What is "silk reeling" (chan si jin)?
2. What is its purpose - why bother with it or studying it?
3. what is "the dan tian"?
4. what has the dan tian have to do with silk reeling?
5. What is the oft-mentioned "dan tian rotation" - what physically is one doing and what is one "rotating"?
6. Are the dan tian and the waist the same thing? If not, what's the difference?
7. Do we even need to mention the "dan tian" - is development of "the dan tian" a requirement for developing skill in Taijiquan?
8. Do we even need to mention "qi" - is "qi development" an essential requirement for developing skill in Taijiquan?
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby windwalker on Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:51 pm

edited: ;)

Sorry if that was a bit rambling, but I'm pretty sure some of that stuff hadn't been mentioned yet in this thread.


It was and has been mentioned indirectly. I feel it's better to let people work it out for themselves
you've provided some good insight helping them to do so.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby cloudz on Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:06 am

great post Imon, thanks.
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby RobP3 on Fri Feb 17, 2017 2:14 am

cloudz wrote:great post Imon, thanks.



+1
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Re: The Dan Tian

Postby Bao on Fri Feb 17, 2017 3:09 am

So I'd say that "silk reeling" exercises are designed to stimulate the development of those whole-body connective tissue sheets and ropes, little by little connecting the links through more and more of the body, and "chunking" those small movements together in the motor maps of the brain into coherent and coordinated whole-body movements that can be "fired" instantly, alternated back and forth across the body, and (at higher levels) fluidly redirected through the different joints at different angles.


Interesting thoughts... Though I don't understand why a physical development and connection from specific exercises should be necessary for brain mapping. Maybe it would help. But internal awareness should be enough.

Dmitri's post was, IMHO, quite on the spot. No particular dantian exercise is necessary, though personally I can appreciate any exercise that isolate a certain area of the body and it might work as a shortcut. IMHO, it will help developing better body awareness of that area and that's the important part of any isolation practice. Dantian, jaws, neck, lower back or toe or whatever part of the body.
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