Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

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Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby marvin8 on Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:10 pm

Published on Jun 22, 2016
Stephen Goodson explains what Ti Fang is and how to train to use it in a mini-workshop at the 20th Anniversary of the Greater Washington Push Hands Get-Together during the 2016 Washington Tai Chi Festival and Forum.

Stephen is a senior student of Mr. Robert W. Smith with more than 35 years experience in Tai Chi Chuan. He is the author of the new book: Concepts for Tai Chi Partner Training - Dalu: The Four-Corner Push-Hands Training Method and a visionary at Fair-Trade Tai Chi:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZifOHyKc2gE

Published on Jul 15, 2016
Ti-fang in the form, Push hands, Dal Lu, and San shou.
http://www.fairtradetaichi.org:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUIKdndtFX0

http://www.fairtradetaichi.org/news/201 ... ed-ti-fang

June 8, 1999
Notes on the Tai Chi Training Method called Ti Fang
By Stephen J. Goodson
1999

Ti Fang (lit: lift/let-go) is the name of a training exercise in Tai Chi. It is used to teach the student how to uproot their opponent without using strength. It is best taught just after the student has learned the choreography of the Push Hands exercise.

To practice Ti Fang you get into the basic push hands set-up with your feet shoulder-width apart, waist facing forward in bow/arrow (a.k.a.: 70/30) posture. Your partner is in a 100% rear weighted posture. As if standing on a railroad track your partner's feet would be on the same 'tracks' as yours. The difference between the Push Hands foot placement and Ti Fangs foot placement is that you are very close to your partner in the Ti Fang set-up. Your front foot is almost touching his rear foot, the same is true for your other foot (being too close is so that you have the advantage and can make less errors during the exercise).

Your partner should be 100% rear weighted and upright (they should be able to hover their front foot one inch above the ground if you asked them to). They should be "holding their posture" with their arms just hanging down. They are just standing there, they should not try to neutralize or yield, or use their arms in anyway. This is an exercise for you to learn Ti Fang, not for your partner to learn neutralizing techniques. Usually your partner's body will be slightly sideways to you, "offering their shoulder" for you to push on. Their arms should naturally hang down touching their body. You can then place both hands on your partner's arm, one on the upper arm and the other wherever comfortable. This is the Ti Fang set-up.

In the Ti Fang exercise, your initial contact with your partner is at 4oz of pressure. You should have a good feel for this amount of pressure from the preliminary learning of the Push Hands choreography. Suffice to say that it's just about 4oz. Once this contact is established you then start to gently push. When the pressure builds to just more than 4oz [say 5oz] they will reflexively raise slightly, you then withdraw to just under 4oz of pressure [say 3oz, but don't disconnect], and then you accelerate them [pushing through their center]. The withdraw "severs the root" of your opponent so that when you accelerate them away you meet little/no resistance. If you get it right both his feet will leave the ground as he hops away.

As you push into your partner the pressure increase above 4oz should be your mark to withdraw -- but never disconnect. Withdraw and push, "Attract to emptiness, and discharge - without resistance and without letting go". The withdraw is very subtle, but without it you do not sever their root and you would have to use brute force to move them. This is not an exercise of "mechanics" so much as an exercise of tapping into their reflexes.

In addition, there is a moment, a feeling, just after you withdraw and just before you accelerate them, where you must 'harmonize' with their body. Since their body is falling towards you, they deliver their "center" into your hands. Yet at the same time their muscles are reflexively pulling away from you, your acceleration meets no resistance. I refer to this moment, this feeling, as "catching" them (the Classics call it 'joining'). The push has been described as being "like pushing a child in a swing."

Give it a try! In the beginning your partner should be 100% rear weighted, upright and holding his position, later they can be in any posture, any position. At first try it with just your arms doing the pushing, once you get the feel of it, then start to add your legs into the acceleration. With a little practice you should be getting distances of twenty or more feet with very little effort. The Tai Chi Classics say "use 4oz to deflect 1000lbs", this is the goal of this exercise. Ti Fang is to be incorporated into the practice of four-posture Push Hands, anytime too much pressure is felt you do a subtle withdraw and push—Ti Fang!
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby GrahamB on Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:30 am

Well it's interesting but how is this "tai chi"? What makes this different to an external art like throw set ups in judo or jiujitsu?

Like in this kusushi video:

https://youtu.be/ZwnGBLSFg7s

I don't see anything internal in the description...
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby Bao on Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:36 am

GrahamB wrote:I don't see anything internal in the description...


+1 :)
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby SteveBonzak on Sun Sep 04, 2016 4:46 pm

GrahamB wrote:Well it's interesting but how is this "tai chi"? What makes this different to an external art like throw set ups in judo or jiujitsu?

Like in this kusushi video:

https://youtu.be/ZwnGBLSFg7s

I don't see anything internal in the description...


That is just the beginning of what he shows. Here is the internal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6exHDGP8sX8
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby Bao on Mon Sep 05, 2016 2:43 am

If you take the basic stuff that Stephen says and combine with later stuff said in the second vid with the aiki from SteveBonzak, and we'll start to have something interesting.

What happens before you "ti"/"lift"? How's your balance placed? How do you meet with your opponent? How do you adjust your structure to his? What about distance?
Then, how do you "ti"/"lift"? With arms? whole body? Using bows?
How do you let go? Will you just let go of contact or keep contact? How much contact is necessary?
How do you place? With force, whole body, using gravity? Where does "yi" come into place?

.... :-\
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby SJGoodson on Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:02 am

GrahamB wrote:GrahamB: Well it's interesting but how is this "tai chi"? What makes this different to an external art like throw set ups in judo or jiujitsu? .... I don't see anything internal in the description...


Hi Graham,

Thank you for pointing out that I did not stress enough that this is, somewhat, advanced training. I used the line, "It is best taught just after the student has learned the choreography of the Push Hands exercise" as a short-hand way of saying that the student should already have the basics well in hand. The "internal" principals: suspend the head-top, relax, sink, separate the substantial and insubstantial, "mill stone turns...", {for some folks, Fair Ladies Wrist} must be known. Not that the "internals" are needed for this Ti Fang exercise, they are not, but they do help. It's like Aikido's Unbendable Arm; a beginner can be successful at doing Unbendable Arm––but success in the exercise is not mastery.

Again, Graham, I do appreciate your pointing out that I could have stated it clearer that Push Hands is advanced training requiring the student to have gotten the basic "internals" already.

Also, because I think it is a fine question, I wanted to clearly answer your question, "Well it's interesting but how is this 'tai chi'?"

"Use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds." This is all related to the nonuse of force. Not using force means not receiving the force of another's attack. Not receiving force is controlled by me and is the substance of the art. It is easy. "Use four ounces to deflect 1000 pounds" is the function. How can you "use four ounces to deflect 1000 pounds"? It is accomplished by causing the weight at the opponent's center of gravity to be off balance. (13 Treaties, Lo/Inn, p25)

The Classics say, "By alternating the force of pulling and pushing, the root is severed and the object is quickly toppled without a doubt." (13T, p54)

People do not believe that four ounces can deflect a thousand pounds. It means that you can use four ounces to offset a thousand pounds, after which you apply Push. So [offsetting] and pushing are two different things. You are not really using four ounces to push a thousand pounds. (13T, p93.3)

All of that to say, "Attract into emptiness, join and discharge" is a technique. We call it Ti Fang, Tai Chi’s unique four-ounce secret.

Graham, Thank you for your question, I hope you find my responce helpful.

Sincerely,
Stephen : )

[url]FairTradeTaiChi.org[/url]
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby D_Glenn on Mon Sep 19, 2016 8:59 am

The saying of 四两拨千斤 'Four ounces to move a thousand pounds', is actually a shortened reference to an old idiom which comes from an old story, and the idiom is 以四两之绳,牵千斤之牛,左右如意 'Use a four ounce rope [threaded through a ring pierced in the nose] to lead a thousand pound Bull, turning it to the left or right as one desires'.

So it's the four ounce rope ( a string basically) which is not really a connection, but it's attached to a proper place or point (the ring through the bull's nose).

It's not about the amount of pressure or weight applied. You can't push through a string, nor pull hard on a string or it would break, all you can do is Yin (lead/ introduce) and get the bull to sui (follow). "Other martial arts have thousands of techniques, in Taijiquan I only need one technique: to Sui."

Ti Fang is what is done after one has used 四两拨千斤 'Four ounces to move a thousand pounds'.

.
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby D_Glenn on Mon Sep 19, 2016 9:32 am

Lift is not a good translation for Ti.

Ti is grabbing hold or getting a hold of something, or describing something you grab like a handle of a pot; you grasp the handle of a pot and can control what's in the pot, like flipping pancakes, or flipping an omelet is the Fang (release).

So you find the opponent's handle, so to speak, or the place where the ring is pierced through, and then you can send them away (Fang).

.

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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodso

Postby Bao on Mon Sep 19, 2016 2:06 pm

Chinese is language of context. In tai chi, terms are tai chi specific, not general. General meanings of words or characters are pointless and often won't make much sense in the specific context.

Ti means lift, raise, make higher. In tai chi, ti in Tifang can be compared to the ti in tigao 提高, meaning raise high or lift up. Ti in ti fang means lift up in order to place, let go. You don't lift, grab or get hold of anything else than the opponents balance. Ti means to lift up his root, making him "float". Then you can easily place him somewhere else.

SJGoodson wrote:Not that the "internals" are needed for this Ti Fang exercise, they are not, but they do help. It's like Aikido's Unbendable Arm; a beginner can be successful at doing Unbendable Arm––but success in the exercise is not mastery.


Aikido version is a most one dimensional trick. Hit the elbow and the arm will bend ... or rather break....

The Classics say, "By alternating the force of pulling and pushing, the root is severed and the object is quickly toppled without a doubt." (13T, p54)
...
All of that to say, "Attract into emptiness, join and discharge" is a technique. We call it Ti Fang, Tai Chi’s unique four-ounce secret.


Alternating pull and push is also a very simple trick, not a secret. And not what I personally would call ti fang as a skill.
Feeling a person's balance though, understanding how to follow a body's movement and instaneously unbalance it at any time demands a little bit more skill.

Btw, thank you for joining the crew. Please share some from your years of experience. :)
Last edited by Bao on Mon Sep 19, 2016 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby GrahamB on Mon Sep 19, 2016 4:07 pm

SJGoodson wrote:
GrahamB wrote:GrahamB: Well it's interesting but how is this "tai chi"? What makes this different to an external art like throw set ups in judo or jiujitsu? .... I don't see anything internal in the description...


Hi Graham,

Thank you for pointing out that I did not stress enough that this is, somewhat, advanced training. I used the line, "It is best taught just after the student has learned the choreography of the Push Hands exercise" as a short-hand way of saying that the student should already have the basics well in hand. The "internal" principals: suspend the head-top, relax, sink, separate the substantial and insubstantial, "mill stone turns...", {for some folks, Fair Ladies Wrist} must be known. Not that the "internals" are needed for this Ti Fang exercise, they are not, but they do help. It's like Aikido's Unbendable Arm; a beginner can be successful at doing Unbendable Arm––but success in the exercise is not mastery.


Hi Stephen!

Thanks for replying directly, and so politely to my somewhat brusk comments. You have me at a disadvantage. I have to admit that it was so long ago I posted that that I had to go and rematch your videos so I could remind myself what it was that was being discussed. Anyway, I've just given myself a brief refresher.

You say:

"The "internal" principals: suspend the head-top, relax, sink, separate the substantial and insubstantial, "mill stone turns...", {for some folks, Fair Ladies Wrist} must be known."

You see, I'm not sure those are the internal principles. I think you'd find that list in good karate too. Or Wing Chun, or Kickboxing, or whatever martial art you care to mention.

To me the real 'internal' principles are on the inside - so things like winding of the muscle tendon channels, development of a dantien, use of the dantien to control movement, Jin - using the solidity of the ground to power movement, the mind, the breath - those sorts of things.

In a nutshell that's what I thought was lacking from something that was described as "Tai Chi's secret" - i.e. The Tai Chi!

I think the real 'secret' is those internal things. What you're doing - displacing, then yielding so they react and lean on you, then pushing, while all good, I'd say was a leverage 'trick'. None of it requires a particular way to move the body or anything 'internal' - that's why I posted the link to the Aikido video where a guy was doing a similar thing. I'd call this whole topic "external uprooting". Good judo and BJJ people can do it too.

So, yes, what you're doing is interesting and has a practical use - I can see that. I'd just personally parcel it up with many other useful martial 'tricks' out there that one can know. For example, I know how to punch in a non-telegraphic way that doesn't give the person a clue that the punch is coming, and I'd say hits them 9.9/10 times. It's a trick I learned, but it's a useful trick. I wouldn't call it 'internal' or 'tai chi' though.




Again, Graham, I do appreciate your pointing out that I could have stated it clearer that Push Hands is advanced training requiring the student to have gotten the basic "internals" already.

Also, because I think it is a fine question, I wanted to clearly answer your question, "Well it's interesting but how is this 'tai chi'?"

"Use four ounces to deflect a thousand pounds." This is all related to the nonuse of force. Not using force means not receiving the force of another's attack. Not receiving force is controlled by me and is the substance of the art. It is easy. "Use four ounces to deflect 1000 pounds" is the function. How can you "use four ounces to deflect 1000 pounds"? It is accomplished by causing the weight at the opponent's center of gravity to be off balance. (13 Treaties, Lo/Inn, p25)



Well, as D_Glenn has already said (above) the phrase 'use 4 oz to deflect 1,000 pounds' is not really unique to Tai Chi - it's actually an old phrase. In fact, most of the phrase in the Tai Chi classics can be found, word for word, or very similar, in other older Chinese writing. Have a look at Chang Nai Chou (various spellings) for example. (Douglas Wile 'Lost Tai Chi Classics' has a good comparison table showing how many phrases crop up between that and the 'Tai Chi classics')

But that's just the wording we're talking about. The phrase. What the phrase means is open to interpretation, but again, I'd say that the idea of deflecting large force with a small one is used in countless martial arts - Wing Chun is a perfect example, but so are almost all Chinese Kung Fu styles.

I'd also question the wisdom of trying to fight without using force. Personally, from observation and experience I'd say that it's impossible to stop somebody from trying to seriously hurt you without using some force. The closest I've seen to this is BJJ - getting a takedown, holding mount position and just keeping them there until cops arrive, or choking them out. But you still can't do a rear naked choke without using some force. You can't hold somebody down without using force. To me it's more about the appropriate or skillful use of force. But anyway, this is going off topic...




The Classics say, "By alternating the force of pulling and pushing, the root is severed and the object is quickly toppled without a doubt." (13T, p54)

People do not believe that four ounces can deflect a thousand pounds. It means that you can use four ounces to offset a thousand pounds, after which you apply Push. So [offsetting] and pushing are two different things. You are not really using four ounces to push a thousand pounds. (13T, p93.3)

All of that to say, "Attract into emptiness, join and discharge" is a technique. We call it Ti Fang, Tai Chi’s unique four-ounce secret.

Graham, Thank you for your question, I hope you find my responce helpful.

Sincerely,
Stephen : )

[url]FairTradeTaiChi.org[/url]


Yes, I did Stephen - thanks for responding. I think you explained your view very nicely, and I hope I explained mine with equal skill. I'm happy not agreeing. It's all good. ;D

Thanks again,
Graham
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby SJGoodson on Tue Sep 20, 2016 6:36 am

D_Glenn wrote:The saying of 四两拨千斤 'Four ounces to move a thousand pounds', is actually a shortened reference to an old idiom which comes from an old story, and the idiom is 以四两之绳,牵千斤之牛,左右如意 'Use a four ounce rope [threaded through a ring pierced in the nose] to lead a thousand pound Bull, turning it to the left or right as one desires'.

===== Hi D_Glenn, I'll let you take up this with Professor Cheng himself, he tells the story that you refer to above and comments on it. See 13 Treatises, Lo/Inn, Pg93.


Ti Fang is what is done after one has used 四两拨千斤 'Four ounces to move a thousand pounds'.

==== And with this one I'll point you to Li Yiyu's Five Character Secret: Inhaling is contracting and storing. Exhaling is expanding and releasing. Since with inhaling there is a natural rising 提, take the opponent up. Since with exhaling there is a natural sinking, send the opponent away 發.

.
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby D_Glenn on Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:16 am

SJGoodson wrote:
D_Glenn wrote:The saying of 四两拨千斤 'Four ounces to move a thousand pounds', is actually a shortened reference to an old idiom which comes from an old story, and the idiom is 以四两之绳,牵千斤之牛,左右如意 'Use a four ounce rope [threaded through a ring pierced in the nose] to lead a thousand pound Bull, turning it to the left or right as one desires'.

===== Hi D_Glenn, I'll let you take up this with Professor Cheng himself, he tells the story that you refer to above and comments on it. See 13 Treatises, Lo/Inn, Pg93.


Ti Fang is what is done after one has used 四两拨千斤 'Four ounces to move a thousand pounds'.

==== And with this one I'll point you to Li Yiyu's Five Character Secret: Inhaling is contracting and storing. Exhaling is expanding and releasing. Since with inhaling there is a natural rising 提, take the opponent up. Since with exhaling there is a natural sinking, send the opponent away 發.

.

Ahh
That explains a lot - you are one of those people who erroneously thinks 發 Fa is the same thing as 放 Fang.

But that classic by Li Yu does address the part of 提 Ti that I was getting at, but it's something a person has to feel from a person who's done a ton of cultivation practices, it's not grabbing with a hand but using only forearm against forearm they can grab your spirit on inhalation, which in turn brings your body along, not lifting up but drawn out sideways.

.
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby LaoDan on Tue Sep 20, 2016 8:29 am

Lee Fife provides a translation of Zheng here:
http://www.rockymountaintaichi.com/zmq-13-13-12/

He footnotes this:
“discharge (fa-fang)” : As a compound, 發放 fa-fang means provide, grant, or extend (as in loans, charitable goods, etc.) Here, these words are tai chi jargon. Fa means issue or discharge as in fa jin. And fang means release or let-go as in ti-fang (uproot and release) or fangsong (relaxed, loosened).
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby SJGoodson on Tue Sep 20, 2016 2:44 pm

D_Glenn wrote:Ahh
That explains a lot - you are one of those people who erroneously thinks 發 Fa is the same thing as 放 Fang.


Hi D_Glenn!

Again, your argument is with a Tai Chi player greater than myself: "This response is what the Classics refer to as t'i-fang. Fang means to release. I then become a circle again. The opponent will be at a loss as to what he can do and is thrown out a great distance. This fa-chin (releasing strength) is a unique characteristic of T'ai Chi Ch'uan." (13 Treatises, Lo/Inn, p48.1) [My emphasis with the underline.] Tai Chi's unique Fa-chin is Ti Fang. And although I agree with that statement, and demonstrate that skill in the videos above, your argument is not with me but with Professor Cheng Man-Ching on this point.

D_Glenn wrote:But that classic by Li Yu does address the part of 提 Ti that I was getting at, but it's something a person has to feel from a person who's done a ton of cultivation practices, it's not grabbing with a hand but using only forearm against forearm they can grab your spirit on inhalation, which in turn brings your body along, not lifting up but drawn out sideways.


D_Glenn, putting aside the magical sounding "spirit grabbing" (which I will hope is a metaphor for something else), I do agree with you that 提 Ti is not "grabbing". And I say so 25 seconds into the first video posted above. Ti is 'to carry', 'to lift' http://humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/Lindict/. But again, your argument is not with me; it is with the dictionary.

D_Glenn, I hope these references help clarify my points. Although it is difficult to understand what a Tai Chi person might feel like via writing or videos, I think we can agree on the definitions that we know are wrong. And that brings us closer.

Be well,
Stephen : )
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Re: Tai Chi's Secret: Ti Fang — Stephen J. Goodson

Postby SJGoodson on Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:33 pm

GrahamB wrote:I'd also question the wisdom of trying to fight without using force.


Hi GrahamB,

I think this sums up our polar perspectives perfectly. Nicely done!

But, for some, the attraction to Tai Chi is the promise of a martial art that uses "no speed" and "no strength" while using a technique of "alternating pushing and pulling to sever their root so they can be thrown out decisively"—because "four ounces can deflect 1000lbs". Or, as Professor Cheng wrote, "There has never been a person who has studied the martial arts who did not first desire to win and gain the advantage. Now when I say, 'Learn to invest in loss,' who is willing to do this? To invest in loss is to permit others to use force to attack while you don't use even the slightest force to defend yourself. On the contrary, you lead an opponent's force away so that it is useless. Then when you counter, any opponent will be thrown out a great distance." (13 Treatises, Lo/Inn, p 22.1)


GrahamB wrote: I think you explained your view very nicely, and I hope I explained mine with equal skill. I'm happy not agreeing. It's all good. ;D

Thanks again,
Graham


You are most welcome! My hope, my desire, is to see if I can make just a little space in others' minds, for a strange thought, that maybe, that the Tai Chi Classics are literally correct, and that, maybe, there might just be a counter-intuitive technique where the soft actually does overcome the hard.

I am in the Washington DC area, if you are ever in the vicinity please look me up; we can Lift and Release a couple of chilled stouts!

Sincerely,
Stephen : )
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