Facing South

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

Facing South

Postby oragami_itto on Fri Aug 02, 2019 8:26 am

I hung some little posters on the walls of the taiji studio with directions, energies, trigrams, etc.

I put south on the wall behind where I stand and arranged the rest around that.

When the students came in they were confused, because the directions didn't match the compass directions. I explained what I'd learned, that students of CMA usually start their forms facing the South because that's "the direction that blessings flow from", and that when looking at the bagua the top of the figure was South. Which is backwards for how most Westerners think, with North always on top. Since the layout of the room suggested I stand in a certain place, that place becomes what I call "your kung fu South". The directions then become reference points for directing motion and attention and can serve as mnemonics.

Several of the students said they were taught to face North, or East. One of them then said that "orient" meant South, if that tells you the accuracy of the information here.

So I'm wondering, what direction did you learn to face, if any, and why?

Do all Taijiquan styles face the same direction?
Do other arts face other directions?
Is it convention for the sake of consistency and mnemonics, or is there an actual qigong/energetic component that the directions may affect?
Last edited by oragami_itto on Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Bao on Fri Aug 02, 2019 8:40 am

It’s really simple. North, south, west, East just mean forward, back, Right, left. You start facing forward, turn to you right or left or turn 180 degrees. That’s everything the directions mean, not the real geographical directions. In Chinese traditional thought more or less everything is subjective. People usually don’t get this.
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Re: Facing South

Postby LaoDan on Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:19 am

I doubt that the universe cares which direction one faces. Despite our huge egos, we are really just a tiny speck on the tiny speck we call Earth, in the tiny speck we call the solar system, in the tiny speck that we call our galaxy...

If you are feeling hot, then face away from the sun, if you are cold then face into the sun, but if the brightness bothers your eyes, then face away...

The meanings and symbolism associated with directions are created by humans, but Chinese culture did have symbolism attached to the directions, so if one wants to explore the cultural connections, then have fun doing so. Rituals can be useful in social circumstances or for individuals who put importance on them for the comfort that rituals provide..., but I doubt that it really matters.
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Re: Facing South

Postby robert on Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:16 am

Here's a paragraph from Chen Xin's book.

During Taijiquan practice there is usually no need to orient one’s initial
position strictly to the cardinal directions. However, since the Big Dipper
is placed north, the practitioner should respectfully face in this direction,
since it is the source of inherent energy in the human body, known as
Zhong-qi or Centralized Intrinsic Energy. Hence all diagrams presented in
this book faces north, with the back to the south, the east at the right and
west at the left.


When I practice I consider the space and don't pay attention to the cardinal direction. If applicable I tend to face toward an open space and have my back toward a wall.
The method of practicing this boxing art is nothing more than opening and closing, passive and active. The subtlety of the art is based entirely upon their alternations. Chen Xin
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Re: Facing South

Postby windwalker on Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:38 am

:-\
Last edited by windwalker on Fri Aug 02, 2019 9:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Facing South

Postby LaoDan on Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:53 am

From Earth it appears like the stars that form the Big Dipper have a distinct relationship to each other that remains constant every year. But move to another solar system and the relationship would no longer be detectable. So how can the Big Dipper really be “the source of inherent energy in the human body” as written by Chen Xin?

I also just consider the practice space without paying attention to the actual compass directions. However, there is a real magnetic field radiating around the Earth in a specific orientation, so north and south could potentially have some slight influence on a human’s body, as could minerals in the earth, currents in the air, etc.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:51 am

Well, fwiw, the first Chinese compasses used a "floating" lodestone --which always points South (on western compasses). True, it's irrelevant afa the Earth is concerned, but it's clearly useful afa navigation.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Subitai on Fri Aug 02, 2019 2:05 pm

LaoDan wrote:I doubt that the universe cares which direction one faces. Despite our huge egos, we are really just a tiny speck on the tiny speck we call Earth, in the tiny speck we call the solar system, in the tiny speck that we call our galaxy...

If you are feeling hot, then face away from the sun, if you are cold then face into the sun, but if the brightness bothers your eyes, then face away...

The meanings and symbolism associated with directions are created by humans, but Chinese culture did have symbolism attached to the directions, so if one wants to explore the cultural connections, then have fun doing so. Rituals can be useful in social circumstances or for individuals who put importance on them for the comfort that rituals provide..., but I doubt that it really matters.



+ 1 what LaoDan said above... :)

Also... From a traditional standpoint (formwise) I think it's more important that most old school type forms begin and end in the same place. I was taught that it shows your spacial awareness and control of the room (space) that your in.
Last edited by Subitai on Fri Aug 02, 2019 2:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Facing South

Postby taiwandeutscher on Fri Aug 02, 2019 6:16 pm

I also first look at the available space, how to fit in my training of the day in the best manner. Luckily, at home, inside and outside, I can face North (1st teacher said that from that direction, there would be less disturbing influences, but also changing in different regions). Neigong/Qigong, practiced in the morning, I do face East, to the rising sun; also in Xiongmen, we are advised to start forms facing East, but easily change according training space!
And yes, the Chinese compass is differently organized, not only North/South upside down, but also dividing directions in 15° areas, not a single point, like in the Western Compass with NNW etc.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Brinkman on Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:35 am

Facing south is an astrological reference point which coincides with the human body in relation to Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches.
It would be difficult to explain the theory in a short paragraph but it is based on an astro-cartography model used in fortune telling, fengshui,
Chinese medicine etc. In facing south, the body is seen to absorb solar energy through the ventral surfaces, while the energy circulating
in the back of the body expands, thus warding off the cold northern influences emanating from the north. Apparently the forbidden city was designed with this
geomantic principle is mind wherein the emperor sits, facing south with his back to the north. The "Great Wall" protects China from the pernicious( evil) cold influences
from the North. The back of the body (dorsal surfaces) thus protects the body in a similar fashion. The front of the body is therefore perceived to
contract the solar energy inward (closing) while the energy of the back is expanding (opening). The sides of the body (align with the east west axis) are then
perceived to pivot between the ventral closing and dorsal opening energetics. The body's meridian system is based on this 24 hour energy trine which is seen to open
(8 hours) pivot (8 hours) and close (8 hours) and is the basis for the body's12 part meridian structure or rather it energy circulation dynamics. The body in very simple terms
reflects this open, pivot and close energy dynamic according to its ventral, side and dorsal physical structure and to a greater degree its physiological functions.
Last edited by Brinkman on Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:40 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Appledog on Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:19 am

LaoDan wrote:From Earth it appears like the stars that form the Big Dipper have a distinct relationship to each other that remains constant every year. But move to another solar system and the relationship would no longer be detectable. So how can the Big Dipper really be “the source of inherent energy in the human body” as written by Chen Xin?

I also just consider the practice space without paying attention to the actual compass directions. However, there is a real magnetic field radiating around the Earth in a specific orientation, so north and south could potentially have some slight influence on a human’s body, as could minerals in the earth, currents in the air, etc.



If you hear a noise behind you and turn around and see a cat, and you have never seen a cat or heard such a noise before you might be excused for thinking the noise came from a cat. What is probably being described here is Chen Xin writing something down that he didn't fully understand, but wanted to leave some sort of clue for the future or for someone who could figure it out.

What he is saying if you break it down is that if you face in certain directions there will be some sort of energy that you will be more (or less) in tune with, and as a result of being aware of that energy, you would want to face that special direction in order to reap some sort of benefit. There's a benefit, if you are aware of it I suppose, and it is very difficult for me to say that if you're not aware of it or if you can't feel it you shouldn't worry about it. I think it's more important to be aware of the principle of what is going on here. At least in part it relates to ideas differentiating internal and external martial arts; so unfortunately it falls under a BTDT topic, but if I tried to delineate it in a different way I would go back to the professional/amateur idea, or draw some sort of analogy with meditating in an cleansed taoist temple vs. meditating in your living room. I'll try to give you an example.

One prominent spokesperson of the tai chi/internal strength world advocates testing your frame by having someone pull down on your shoulder, for example, or for example pushing a heavy bag. This is completely wrong because it advocates reaching for the far and ignoring the near. To put it another way, it puts the cart before the horse. To put it another way it means you are creating a top-heavy structure which then leads back towards the dantian. The big problem here is if you load it at the front and there is a blockage somewhere down the line, you are going to have a very bad day when the SHTF. On the contrary, when you remove the front-load and push from behind, i.e. when your zhong qi comes up out (which refers to qi coming out of the dantian along two very specific channels) if it hits a break the correct thing to do is relax the front-load even more--in such a case, adding to the load will cause you to hurt yourself. Imagine having someone apply a qin na technique to your wrist and moving into the lock (causing yourself pain) versus relaxing out of the lock (moving out of the blockage by opening up the joint, for example). This is always done by moving out of the blockage from behind the blockage. It is like jenga -- if you affect some part of the top, it rests upon the foundation. If you affect the balance of the top from a point along the middle, the support from the base does not change and it is this midway source-point which itself becomes the blockage when the load goes forwards or backwards through the body (and as a result through that point of intention).

So this energy affects you, at least theoretically, exposing (against your will and without your knowledge) all of the qi blockages of your body. Any front-load you place against this force will magnify the effect. The only way to get rid of this kind of problem is to relax and consider the small, if the wind is blowing only against your center you can easily counter it, since qi which flows outward by definition counters this force in order to move out. Going the other direction is like a building collapsing because one of it's supports was a popsicle stick. It doesn't matter how strong the supports above it are. If this happens inside your body you are going to have a very bad day.

To get to the level where you can notice such a force you would have to be at a very high level working solely from the internal mechanics described above, or you would never even feel it.

On the way there one of the principles is that you can start to be affected by things you can not directly feel. These kinds of effects are like half the body going numb, incredible pain or discomfort as your internals shift, or alternately intense feelings of relaxation or healing taking place in the body. This is the body being moved into position subconsciously and/or by forces outside of the direct control of the mind-body relationship. This is why it is important to develop a listening skill when considering the small, even if only to try and recognize the level of detail of these things which affect you. When you can recognize those levels of detail you can (almost) automatically control them and it becomes a matter of intention. But it can never be a matter of physical exertion, physical exertion is almost always going to "front-load" this structure. Only the intention of doing it can create the right setting for success.

So tl;dr if you don't understand why you have to face in a certain direction, don't worry about it. "My master told me to face (x)" is not sufficient because in different parts of the world and for different reasons people face in certain directions. Only when you become aware of this kind of internal mechanic can you pay attention to it. Before then it is almost better that you stand in the wrong direction so you can feel the difference.
Last edited by Appledog on Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Facing South

Postby yeniseri on Sat Aug 03, 2019 11:52 am

When I would teach taijiquan or qigong, I would rarely mention a specific direction that one should face.
I tend to rely on the individual's 'sensing' of where 's/he feel comfortable in conjunction of where the fitness center space requirements are and call it George ;D

One one occasion, we we all facing the schools toilets and many people were kind of 'odd' with the placement so we just turned around and faced the opposite direction.
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Re: Facing South

Postby everything on Sat Aug 03, 2019 8:27 pm

what about facing where the sunshine comes from (mostly south if in northern hemisphere)? or in the direction of the moonlight?
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Re: Facing South

Postby Steve James on Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:31 pm

I think it comes down to what the Chinese meant by "south." Westerners call that direction "south," and make it the opposite of "north." The magnetic poles don't care about names. Earth's magnetism may have different effects on the human body based on how near or far it is from one pole or the other. The southern pole might have some differences to the northern one, but I tend to agree with the poster who wrote that "south" basically meant "to the front" when used in a diagram. In terms of a form, the front is the direction that one faces when one starts.

Is it important to face south when doing the form? Yeah, one will face the sun most of the day, if one faces south. But, that'll be true for the entire hemisphere, and the magnetic effects will differ in different locations --or not. Anyway, I like to do morning exercises facing the sun, and I tend to do the tcc form based on how the area is shaped.
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Re: Facing South

Postby Appledog on Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:28 pm

everything wrote:what about facing where the sunshine comes from (mostly south if in northern hemisphere)? or in the direction of the moonlight?


Steve James wrote:I think it comes down to what the Chinese meant by "south." Westerners call that direction "south," and make it the opposite of "north." The magnetic poles don't care about names. Earth's magnetism may have different effects on the human body based on how near or far it is from one pole or the other. The southern pole might have some differences to the northern one, but I tend to agree with the poster who wrote that "south" basically meant "to the front" when used in a diagram. In terms of a form, the front is the direction that one faces when one starts.

Is it important to face south when doing the form? Yeah, one will face the sun most of the day, if one faces south. But, that'll be true for the entire hemisphere, and the magnetic effects will differ in different locations --or not. Anyway, I like to do morning exercises facing the sun, and I tend to do the tcc form based on how the area is shaped.


I didn't say so in my post because I do not know but I suspect it would have to be the earth's magnetic field. I have read that 30% of humans can detect magnetic north with some training but i think the number would really be much lower.
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