Continuing Exploration

Names

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The moves have names. Some of them are pretty and poetic like ‘Wave hands like clouds’ or ‘Grasp the bird’s tail’. Some of them are blunt ‘brush knee and push’ or ‘deflect downward, parry and punch’. And some are just strange ‘single whip’ or ‘separation of right foot’. No matter if they are coherent or not, all the names have meaning. They are part of the instruction. The name points the way to the fullest expression of the movement. Some of the names are literal. They are bald faced directions. But others are elusive. The poetic names and the strange ones are also directions, they just require some seeking. Some of the difficulty is that there is a lot of translation going on. There is the translation of a physical art into language which lacks the ability to truly transfer the concept. Language can point the way but the art requires practice and sensitivity. Feeling is necessary. But beyond the difference between physical practice and cognitive understanding is the translation from Chinese to English. The two languages do not come from cultures with a similar world view, so some concepts which the Chinese might take for granted as being an obvious thing are lost on the English speaker. This leads to things like words which have no real translation in English. But beyond this, there is the issue of the translator. Some of the translation has come from people who had only a little of one of the languages. And so we wind up with things like ‘single whip’ or my personal favorite ‘lean on the horse to acquire the way’. It often becomes necessary to translate the translation. And it is this which brings the truth of the name. in this process we must open our minds and relinquish preconceived notions of what the movement is. And we must do the same with the language. Rather than discard the name as weird or irrelevant or useless we begin to see it with new eyes. And perhaps the names become different, as they might when we begin to understand and embody the energy and spirit of the movement. Or maybe they’re just so we can remember them.

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