Sonntag, 26. Januar 2014

Article: Kao - "to lean" or "to strike with the body"?

Prompted by the article (here) about kao there ensued a lively discussion on the internet as to whether kao should be translated as "to lean" or "to strike with the body". I want to summarize the discussion (in the hope that I represent the opinions of others to their satisfaction).

It all started with the note that kao should be translated correctly with "to lean".


The dictionaries

In the New Chinese German Dictionary one finds about kao:

to ... lean, to lean on something, to approach, to come closer, to rely on

In the Great Chinese Dictionary (Zhongwen da cidian) Vol. 9, entry 43559, pp. 1616, one finds the following (thanks to Hermann Bohn):

There are three pronunciations: kao (4), ku (4) and gu (4)

to act against each other, to be based on each other, to make trouble - equivalent to gao (3)

In Mathews' Chinese English Dictionary:

To depend on, to trust to, to lean on, near to

Result: "To lean" can be found in dictionaries, but not "to strike with the body".


Is kao perhaps a technical term of Tai Chi Chuan?

In the Tai Chi Chuan of my teacher kao is clearly a strike with the body. It is an active strike with the shoulder, back or hip. It was confirmed to me, that this is also practiced by other teachers and in other styles as well. In the Classics kao is also described as a fast movement which can even be quiet violent. One can assume therefore, that kao is in this form a Tai Chi technical term.




However, other Tai Chi-players learned kao in a different way. Here I (the Tai Chi-player) "lean" on the vector of the incoming force, done fast or slow, high or low. This "leaning" can then be followed by a strike with the body.

Or I create/exploit the situation in which the opponent needs "to lean" on me - that is, that the opponent needs my shoulder/torso to support himself. If he depends now on this support and I take it away suddenly and use his static collapse for following techniques such as bringing him to the ground. In this case, kao is a special application of “let him fall into the emptiness.”

Kao was also described as the principle of leaning which has the strike with the body as an application. Here the 13 basic movements are generally understood as principles that manifest themselves in diverse techniques.


What is kao now? "To lean" or "to strike"?

I think, like so many other Tai Chi technical terms any translation is only a help. To keep kao simply untranslated would be best. But if it is translated, it has to match to the style and teacher. But looking outside the box, as here, can deepen one's knowledge tremendously.

As far as the discussion goes, I think it was very exciting and instructive: How the translation of a certain technical term can you make think about the contents of Tai Chi Chuan. I would like to thank all those involved.

Samstag, 25. Januar 2014

Article: Kao - to strike with the body

By Martin Boedicker


Kao is a technique in which the body is used to strike against the opponent. The Tai Chi-Classic the Song of the Eight Methods (Bafa miyue) explains:

"How to explain kao?
The method uses the shoulder and the back.
The movement Diagonal Flying (xiefeishi) uses the shoulder.
But between the shoulders is also the back.
When gaining the opportunity and the strategic advantage,
it then crashes like pounding with a pestle.
Be careful to keep your centre.
If you lose it, all effort was in vain."

Ma Yueliang comments:

"Kao is an obvious strength. It is the use of the shoulder or the back to strike against the empty (xu) points of the opponent. It is to borrow force and to use force. It is an often used technique, when you can not neutralize the attack of the other in time with the hands. Kao is like the expansion of gas - suddenly it breaks out. The other can be greatly shaken."
(Ma, Xu, S. 11)


Kao is therefore a very explosive technique. However, Ma Yueliang emphasizes that kao is only effective when it is used in the right situation. This situation is known in Chinese as jishi (the opportunity and strategic advantage). In the Tai Chi Chuan Treatise (Taijiquan lun) it is stated:

"In advancing forward and retreating backward, one can gain the opportunity and the strategic advantage. If you do not gain the opportunity and the strategic advantage, your body will be disorganized and confused."

So if one evaluates the situation incorrectly, the use of kao is very risky. The opponent could get the opportunity to neutralize the incoming force and may even borrow it. So one will certainly lose ones centre. In the worst case, the attack will not only fail, but you can also be defeated yourself. So you should always be careful and attack only the empty points of the opponent.

If kao is done optimally in pushhands, you should follow the advice of Ma Jiangbao to use kao quite gently, in order not to hurt the partner. Otherwise, it may lead to the situation that is described in the Song of the 13 Basic Movements (Shisanshi gejue) of Li Yiyu :

"When I want to use kao, I am looking first for the first triangle.
I place myself in front of his abdomen - looking down sideways.
Waist and body rotate together and so I send the opponent to the king of hell."

Ma Yueliang, Xu Wen, Wushi Taijiquan Tuishou, Xianggang Shanghai Shuju Chuban, Hongkong 1986

Montag, 6. Januar 2014

Film: Lin Fei - A Tai Chi-Master in Rome


A short movie about a day in the life of a chinese Taiji master in Rome.

Lin Fei from Alessandro Trapani on Vimeo.