TAIJI SPEAR METHODS ACCORDING TO CHEN YANLIN

太極拳刀劍桿散手合〔卷九〕
PART NINE of Taiji Compiled: The Boxing, Saber, Sword, Pole, and Sparring
陳炎林
by Chen Yanlin
[published June, 1943]

[translation by Paul Brennan, June, 2013]

太極扎桿
TAIJI THRUSTING POLE

太極拳中之扎桿。亦稱沾黏桿。或曰十三勢桿。有十三字訣。開、合、崩、劈、點、扎、撥、撩、纏、帶、滑、截。為太極拳中重要功夫之一。其沾、黏、化、拿、引、發、諸勁。與徒手拳式相同。亦異常奧妙。練法分單人雙人兩種。功至深造時。桿卽如手。週身之勁。可直達桿頭。猶如水銀裝於管中。發可至首。收可至尾。斯種扎桿。練法用法。含有畫戟與大槍二種。近人若以之全為大槍者實誤。蓋其未明太極拳中扎桿之效用耳。楊氏扎桿。甚為著名。而楊露禪以之救火。誠奇聞也。(見卷一楊家小傳章內)其與人對桿時。無論拿人發人。皆如用手。人遇其桿。卽失自主。被擊出一如手發。往往不知其所以然。惜此種深奧功夫。今已失傳。考桿之練習方法。計分單人扎桿法。雙人平圓沾黏扎桿法。雙人立體圓形沾黏扎桿法。及雙人動步刺心、刺腿、刺肩、刺喉、四桿法等數種。茲分述於後。俾大好國術餘粹。得以保存。不致復失傳矣。
桿、一稱蠟桿。係籐類。產於河南山東等地。性韌而堅實。不易斷裂。昔時用作槍戟等之把柄。有青白兩種。以白而有皮者為佳。其中尤以長過丈三外。兩根成對。下部三尺各無節。三尺以上所有苞節。均陰陽相對者為最佳。稱之謂成品。如用藏得法。經年愈久。其色愈鮮紅。愛此者每作為古玩。惜此種成品桿子。今已罕見。
[While in Yang Chengfu’s 1931 manual such exercises are explicitly termed as “spear” (鎗) techniques, the word chosen in this book (桿) instead represents the unbladed spear-shaft, and as it is also a different character from the usual word for “staff” (棍), hence “pole”.]
     Taiji Boxing’s “Thrusting Pole” is also known as “Stick & Adhere Pole”, or “Thirteen Dynamics Pole”, the thirteen being spreading, covering, flicking, chopping, tapping, thrusting, deflecting, raising, coiling, leading, sliding, and severing [although there are only twelve in this list]. As one of the major practices in Taiji Boxing, its energies of sticking, adhering, neutralizing, seizing, drawing in, and issuing are the same as with the bare-handed postures, it is likewise extremely subtle, and the practice method also divides into solo practice and partner practice.
     Once your skill is deep, the pole is just like a hand, and the power of your whole body can reach straight to the tip, just as though mercury is being sent through a tube. When issuing, it reaches the tip, and when withdrawing, it reaches the tail.
     These thrusting pole exercises, in practice and application, contain the methods of both the halberd and long spear. Those who nowadays treat it as though it is entirely based on the long spear are actually incorrect, indicating a lack of understanding as to the effectiveness of Taiji Boxing’s thrusting pole. The Yang family’s thrusting pole is very famous, Yang Luchan having even used it to help put out a fire, which is a truly remarkable thing to hear of. (See Part One, Chapter Two: Brief Yang Family Biographies.)
     When you and an opponent face off with poles, whether seizing him or sending him away, it is all the same as using hands. Once an opponent connects with your pole, he immediately loses his initiative and has been hit just as if you were issuing with your hand, and he will typically not understand how it happened.
     Alas, this depth of skill is already lost these days, but to consider the practice methods, there are several, which divide into the Solo Thrusting Pole Method, Two-Person Level-Circle Stick & Adhere Thrusting Pole Method, Two-Person Vertical-Circle Stick & Adhere Thrusting Pole Method, and the Two-Person Moving-Step Four Stabs to the Solar Plexus, Leg, Shoulder, and Throat. These are each described below so that connoisseurs of martial arts will be able to preserve them, preventing them from being lost all over again.
     It is recommended that you use poles made of waxwood, related to rattan, which are produced in Henan or Shandong. They have a flexible hardness as well as a hardness of substance and are not easy to break.
     They were long ago used as the handles for spears and halberds. They were of two types, a greenish black and a white. The best was the white variety and with its outer skin left on. The highest quality came from choosing from stalks more than thirteen feet high, rooted as a pair, in which the lower three feet was without sections [of slight coloration], and upward from that point were sections evenly spaced. To cut a pole from such a stalk was considered a ready-made pole, and if such a pole was used regularly and stored properly, then after many years, it would redden in color. Adorers of such things often treat them as antiques, for unfortunately these kinds of poles are rarely seen nowadays.

單人扎桿法
SOLO THRUSTING POLE METHOD

太極拳中之單人扎桿。甚為簡單。祗有開、(卽撥)合、(卽逼)發、(卽扎或刺)三字。練時左足向前。右手執桿尾部。左手執桿中央。兩足分開。成為如弓似馬之步法。週身鬆開。虛領頂勁。此為起勢。開式。右手下沉。左手移上。桿頭向上往左。全身重心移於右腿。眼神注視桿頭。(見圖1)
Taiji Boxing’s solo thrusting pole exercise is very simple. There are only three parts to it: spreading aside (or “deflecting”), covering (or “urging away”), and issuing (or “thrusting” / “stabbing”). When practicing with your left foot forward, your right hand holds the tail end of the pole and your left hand holds the middle. Your feet are spread apart, making a posture between a bow stance and a horse-riding stance. Your whole body is relaxed and your headtop is pressing up forcelessly. This is the starting posture.
     Spreading:
     Your right hand sinks down as your left hand shifts up, the pole tip going to the upper left. The weight of your body is shifted to your right leg. Your eyes are looking toward the pole tip. See drawing 1:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 1

用法在敵人武器近身時。以此撥開。合式。雙手靠腰腿向下合。內含有一小圓圈。左手背翻上。右手掌向上。與開式適相反。重心分於兩腿。眼神仍注視桿頭。(見圖2)
Its application is to deflect aside an opponent’s weapon as it approaches your body.
     Covering:
     Both hands, dependent on your waist and thighs, cover downward. This action contains a small circle due to the turning upward of the back of your left hand and your right palm, the reverse of the spreading posture [in which the back of your left hand and your right palm turn downward]. The weight is evenly spread over both legs. Your eyes are looking toward the pole tip. See drawing 2:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 2

用法。在敵人武器近身時。以此逼住。發式。隨上合式。右手隨腰腿向前發桿。右手虎口向上。左手不動。桿在左手掌中滑出。易言之。卽右手發桿。左手祗作托桿之用。重心之大部份。移寄於左腿。但非全部。因恐收勢時變化不便。且有前仆之虞。眼神亦注視桿頭。(見圖3)
Its application is to urge away an opponent’s weapon as it approaches your body.
     Issuing:
     Continuing from the covering posture, your right hand, going along with your waist and thighs, shoots the pole forward. The tiger’s mouth of your right hand is now upward. Your left hand makes no action, the pole sliding out within the palm. In other words, as your right hand issues the pole, your left hand is used only to prop the pole up. Most of the weight is shifted to your left leg, but not all of it, for fear that it will not be easy to switch to withdrawing, and also that you may overcommit forward. Your eyes are looking toward the pole tip. See drawing 3:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 3

用法乃刺敵人心窩、或喉、或肩。發時須頂懸身正。含胸拔背。沉肩垂肘。坐腰鬆胯。尾閭中正。氣沉丹田。全以腰腿之勁。而非手也。(若僅藉之以手。則桿不能有抖動之狀。)務使週身之勁。由脚、而腿、而腰、而脊、而肩、而手。以達桿頭。發出之勁。桿身自尾部起。直抖動至桿頭。其中猶如貫以水銀。發後復收囘為開。歸還原狀。開後復為合。故此三式。可循環練習。此種單式扎桿。最易長進內勁。雖不如少林派之花式衆多。然欲練至純熟。亦非易事。學者切勿漠視之。右足上步。以左手扎桿。與左足上步。以右手發者同。惟左右手相換可也。左右兩面均須練習。否則左手無勁。不能圓滿矣。學者須知拳術中。徒手練習。足以長肌肉。器械練習。足以健筋骨。故習太極拳者。徒手練習至相當程度後。則器械練習。(如刀、劍、桿子等。)不可不學也。
Its application is to stab to an opponent’s solar plexus, throat, or shoulder.
     When issuing, your headtop must be suspended and your body must be upright, your chest must be contained and your back must be plucked up, your shoulders must sink and your elbows must hang, your waist must lower and your hips must loosen, your tailbone must be centered, and energy must sink to your elixir field.
     It is entirely a matter using the power of your waist and thighs rather than your hands. (If you only use your hands, the pole will not be able to exhibit any shaking.) Make sure to use the power of your whole body, from foot, to leg, to waist, to spine, to shoulder, to hand, all the way to the pole tip. When issuing power, it starts from the tail end of the pole and shakes straight to the tip, as though there is quicksilver coursing through it.
     After issuing, withdraw to again be spreading, thereby returning to your original condition, then after spreading, again cover. These three postures can therefore be practiced in a cycle.
     This type of solo thrusting pole exercise is the easiest way to develop internal power. While it is nothing like the endless flourishing postures of Shaolin, it is nevertheless not an easy task to become skillful at it, and so you must be sure not to look upon it lightly.
     When your right foot is forward, use your left hand to thrust the pole, just as when your left foot is forward it is your right hand that does the issuing. It is good for your hands to be alternated with each other. Both sides must be practiced, otherwise your left hand will have no power and you will be unable to have a rounded fullness.
     You must understand that within the art it is the bare-handed practice that will develop the musculature while it is the weapons training that will strengthen the sinews and bones. Therefore in the practice of Taiji Boxing, once you have reached a competent level in the bare-handed training, the weapons training (such as the saber, sword, pole, etc.) then has to be learned.
(註)圖中所繪之桿。因篇幅關係。故較細短。
Note: Due to the space on the page, the pole in the drawings is shorter than it would actually be.

雙人平圓沾黏扎桿法
TWO-PERSON LEVEL-CIRCLE STICK & ADHERE THRUSTING POLE METHOD

此法乃練習沾黏勁。為雙人扎桿之基本功夫。含有開、合、發、三勁。用處甚大。且可補助人身命門火之發育。與推手中平圓沾黏推手法效力相同。練法分刺肩。刺喉、刺心、刺腿、四式。刺肩式。兩人對立。(甲著灰衣。乙著白衣。)各執一桿。各出左步。均以右手發桿。甲以桿刺乙左肩。乙乘其來勢。將桿上撥。撥至甲勁將盡時。而變為合。(見圖1)
This exercise trains sticking and adhering, as well as the fundamental skill of thrusting, and contains the three energies of spreading, covering, and issuing. Its practical functions are vast, and it can assist the development of power in the lower back, having the same effects as in the level-circle stick & adhere pushing hands exercise. The techniques divide into four postures: stabbing to the shoulder, to the throat, to the solar plexus, and to the leg.
     The shoulder-stabbing posture:
     Two people stand facing each other (A, dressed in grey, and B, dressed in white),
each holding a pole, each stepping out with his left foot, each using his right hand to send out the pole.
     A uses his pole to stab to B’s left shoulder. B goes along with the incoming momentum, sends his pole upward to deflect until A’s power has been spent, then changes to covering. See drawing 1:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 4

合後還刺甲之左肩。甲被刺變開。(卽撥)變合。復變為發。(卽刺)兩人開合發。彼此變換。循環不絕。如右步上前。左手發桿亦同。惟所刺則為右肩。刺喉、刺心式。亦可仿此。但刺時雙手之上下正徧。略有分別耳。至刺腿式。可分為定步、動步、二種。定步練法。兩人對立。各出左步。甲以桿刺乙左膝。乙乘其來勢將桿往左側下撥。同時斜提左足。避甲刺鋒。至甲勁將盡時。還刺甲之左膝。(見圖2)
After covering, he returns a stab to A’s left shoulder. A, now being stabbed, changes to spreading outward (i.e. deflecting), then changes to covering, then changes again to issuing (i.e. stabbing).
     Both people spread, cover, and issue, alternating back and forth, recycling the exercise indefinitely. It is the same if the right foot is forward and the left hand is sending out the pole, except the stab will then be to the right shoulder.
     The throat-stabbing posture or plexus-stabbing posture can also be done like this, except the hands will have to deal with the whole square, and so it is slightly different. [To clarify, when dealing with a stab to a shoulder, it needs only be deflected to the upper left or upper right, but in the case of the throat or solar plexus, being more central targets and of slightly differing heights, more attention must be given to all quadrants: upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right.]
     As for the leg-stabbing posture, it can be separated into fixed-step and moving-step.
     The fixed-step method:
     Both people stand facing each other, each stepping out with his left foot. A uses his pole to stab to B’s left knee. B goes along with the incoming momentum and sends his pole to the lower left to deflect. At the same time, he lifts his left foot at an angle [i.e. to the upper right] to evade A’s stabbing tip. Once A’s power has been spent, B returns a stab to A’s left knee. See drawing 2:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 5

甲被刺亦將桿往左側下撥。同時斜提左足。避乙刺鋒。兩人撥、刺。刺、撥。互相對練。動步練法。依照上法。乙在被刺撥桿時。斜提左足。向右側橫邁半步。同時右足隨上半步。刺甲膝部。甲被刺撥桿時。亦斜提左足。向右側橫邁半步。同時右足隨上半步。刺乙膝部。兩人轉成圓圈。隨轉隨撥。隨撥隨刺。循環不絕。如左步上前。左手刺發者亦同。惟兩桿相繞之圓圈。及二人旋轉之圓圈適相反。此種刺肩刺腿功夫。能練習愈深。則兩桿相遇圓圈愈小。而兩桿接觸。毫無聲息。反之功夫愈淺。圓圈愈大。且起有稜角。以致兩桿時相敲擊。聲不絕耳。
A, now being stabbed, sends his pole to the lower left to deflect. At the same time, he lifts his left foot at an angle to evade B’s stabbing tip. Both people practice deflecting and stabbing to each other, stabbing and deflecting.
     The moving-step method accords with the above. When B, being stabbed, deflects with his pole and lifts his left foot at an angle, he then takes a half step across to the right side. At the same time, he advances a half step with his right foot and stabs to A’s knee.
     Then A, now being stabbed, deflects with his pole, also lifting his left foot at an angle, and then takes a half step across to the right side. At the same time, he advances a half step with his right foot and stabs to B’s knee.
     Both people are rotating in a circle. They turn and deflect, deflect and stab, recycling indefinitely. It is the same with the left foot forward and the left hand sending out the stab.
     While the poles are winding in a circle around each other, so too are both people spinning around each other on opposite sides of a circle. When these exercises of stabbing to the shoulder or to the leg are able to be done with increasing depth of training, then the circling [of the poles] can shrink and the poles can touch without making a sound. Otherwise the skill will become shallower, their circle will become larger and start to develop corners, resulting in the poles constantly smacking into each other noisily.

雙人立體圓形沾黏扎桿法
TWO-PERSON VERTICAL-CIRCLE STICK & ADHERE THRUSTING POLE METHOD

此法乃補平圓沾黏扎桿法之不足。因祗能平圓而不能立體。則有時不敷所用。易為敵所乘。練法。兩人對立。各出左步。甲以桿用右手刺乙左膝。乙乘其來勢。提起左足。將桿向下往左側撥開。(見圖1)
This exercise compensates for the insufficiencies of the level-circle method, which can only make a horizontal circle and not a vertical one, and is thus sometimes not adequately applicable and may be easy for an opponent to take advantage of.
     Practice method:
     Both people stand facing each other, each stepping out with his left foot. A uses his spear to stab, right-handed, to B’s left knee. B goes along with the incoming momentum, lifting his left foot and sending his pole to the lower left to deflect. See drawing 1:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 6

俟甲勁將盡時。將桿上繞成為合勢。(見圖2)
B waits for A’s power to be spent, then sends his pole coiling upward [and over] to make the covering posture. See drawing 2:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 7

甲被合乘勢將桿收囘。繞一圓圈。復刺乙左膝。乙被刺。提左足。再左撥上繞。復成為合。總之。甲乙兩人。甲專刺發。乙專化合。如甲欲化合。可乘乙合勁將盡時。將桿向上翻繞。合乙桿。乙被合。隨以桿刺甲左膝。此時甲卽成為化合。乙卽成為刺發。如右足上前。左手刺發亦同。惟刺為右膝。兩人繞圈方向相反耳。此種扎桿。藝高者在一繞一合之際。能使敵連桿帶人向後離地騰出。與推手時發截勁者。有同一之妙用也。
Upon being covered, A takes advantage of the momentum and withdraws his pole, coils a circle, then stabs again to B’s knee. B, again being stabbed, lifts his left foot, again deflecting to the left and coiling upward, and again covers downward.
     To sum up both roles, A focuses on stabbing or issuing, while B focuses on neutralizing and covering. If A wants to neutralize and cover, he can take advantage of the finishing of B’s covering energy by sending his pole upward and coiling it around to cover B’s pole. B, now being covered, accordingly uses his pole to stab to A’s left knee. Now A is in the role of neutralizing and covering, while B is in the role of issuing with the stab.
     If the right foot is forward, the left hand will stab in the same manner, except the stab will be to the right knee, and both people will do the coiling in the reverse direction.
     One who has reached a high level in this thrusting pole exercise can, in the moment of coiling and covering, cause the opponent to be guided rearward by his connection to his own pole, leaving the ground and soaring away. It is the same trick as issuing with severing energy in the pushing hands.

雙人動步刺心刺腿刺肩刺喉四桿法
TWO-PERSON MOVING-STEP FOUR STABS TO THE SOLAR PLEXUS, LEG, SHOULDER, AND THROAT

此四桿與活步推手意義相同。亦求上下週身化發動作合一。於手法、身法、步法。頗為重要。故欲練之純熟。亦非易事。然學者欲求扎桿深奧功夫。則此四法。非深切研究不可。練法。兩人對立。各出左步。甲將左步復踏出半步。右步隨上。以桿刺乙心窩。乙同時右足復往後退半步。左足收進半步。以桿合逼甲桿。(見圖1)
These four pole techniques share the same aim as the moving-step pushing hands, that your upper body and lower, while neutralizing or issuing, are to move as a single unit. Since the hand methods, body methods, and stepping methods are all crucial, to train to the point of skillfulness is not an easy task. Yet if you do wish for depth of skill in the thrusting pole techniques, it cannot be attained without deeply studying this four-part exercise.
     Practice method:
     Both people stand facing each other, each stepping out with his left foot. A sends his left foot out another half step, his right foot following forward, as he uses his pole to stab to B’s solar plexus.
     B at the same time retreats his right foot a half step, his left foot also withdrawing a half step, as he uses his pole to cover and urge away A’s pole. See drawing 1:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 8

甲被合。向右側上右步。隨上左步。成為側形。(卽甲偏於乙之左邊)將桿收囘繞圈。刺乙腿部。乙同時退右步。收進左步。以桿向下往右撩開甲桿。(見圖2)
A, now being covered, steps his right foot forward to the right side, his left foot then stepping forward, making a side-angled posture (i.e. A inclined toward B’s left side), while withdrawing his pole, coiling it around, and stabbing to B’s [left] leg.
     B at the same time retreats his right foot, withdrawing his left foot, as he sends his pole to the lower right to lift away A’s pole. See drawing 2:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 9

甲被撩。復上左步。隨上右步。與乙相對。將桿向左往上繞圈。刺乙肩部。乙在將被刺到時。退右步。收進左步。以桿向上繞圈。合逼甲桿。(見圖3)
A, now being lifted, steps his left foot forward, his right foot following, to be directly facing B, while sending his pole coiling to the upper left and stabbing to B’s [left] shoulder.
     When B is about to be stabbed, he retreats his right foot, his left foot withdrawing, while sending his pole coiling upward to cover and urge away A’s pole. See drawing 3:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 10

甲被合。再上左步。隨上右步。以桿向右往後繞圈。化開乙桿。復刺其喉。乙在將被刺到時。退右步。收進左步。以桿繞圈合逼甲桿。(見圖4)
A, now being covered, again steps his left foot forward, his right foot following, while coiling his pole to the right rear to neutralize and spread away B’s pole, then stabs to his throat.
     When B is about to be stabbed, he retreats his right foot, his left foot withdrawing, while coiling his pole to cover and urge away A’s pole. See drawing 4:

太極扎桿 - 陳炎林 (1943) - drawing 11

如是甲進步四桿已畢。以後改為退步。乙則改為進步。乙在化甲刺喉後。上左步。隨上右步。以桿往上繞圈刺甲心窩。甲同時退右步。收進左步。將桿向上繞圈。合逼乙桿。餘勢同上。卽甲改為乙。乙改為甲可也。俟乙四桿刺畢。復改為化退。甲又改為進刺。兩人四桿進退。循環練習。須練至腰腿、手足、進退、攻化、一致。而兩桿相遇。毫無聲息者為佳。練時必須注意內勁不斷。精神煥發。動作靈敏。無獃滯狀態。至於身體中正。含胸拔背。虛領頂勁。氣之升降。有時貼於脊背。有時沉於丹田。亦為主要條件。此乃初步四桿之練習方法。若至功深時。則不分次序。或心、或腿、或肩、或喉。可隨意刺發。化者亦可隨化隨刺。總之。或攻、或化、或進、或退。可無一定之規則也。
When A completes his four stabs, he then switches to retreating and B switches to advancing. After B has neutralized A’s stab to the throat, he steps his left foot forward, his right foot following, while coiling his pole upward and stabbing to A’s solar plexus.
     A at the same time retreats his right foot, his left foot withdrawing, while sending his pole coiling upward to cover and urge away B’s pole. The rest of the postures are the same as above, except A is to be read as B, and B to be read as A. Once B has completed his four stabs, he then switches to again be neutralizing and retreating, and A switches to again be advancing and stabbing. Both people do their four actions, advancing and retreating, recycling the exercise over and over.
     It must be drilled until waist and thigh, hand and foot, advance and retreat, and attack and neutralize are unified. And when both poles are making contact without the slightest sound or pause, that is best. When practicing, you must pay attention that your internal power does not get interrupted, your spirit expresses with potency, your movement is nimble, and your posture is without any awkward sluggishness. Your body is to be balanced upright, your chest contained and back plucked up, and your headtop pressing up forcelessly. Energy ascends and descends, one moment sticking to your spine, one moment sinking to your elixir field. These are the crucial factors.
     This is the beginning method of practicing these four techniques. When skill has deepened, then you no longer need to be particular about the sequence. Whether to the solar plexus, leg, shoulder, or throat, the stab can be issued to wherever you please, and the one who is neutralizing can do so according to the stab. Ultimately, whether attacking or neutralizing, advancing or retreating, all can be done without a set pattern.

[continue to Part Ten: two-person set]

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