打手歌 - 王宗岳
Song of Issuing Hands by Wang Zongyue
Translated by 冷门道士 - Copyright 2015, All rights reserved.
This "Song of Issuing Hands" could also be translated as "Song of the Badass Dude." Da3shou3 (打手) is a bigraph for hired thug or badass guy in general. But "issuing hands" is probably closer to the author's intent. Who the author really was, I couldn't even guess. This version appears to come from that collection by Tang Hao (唐豪) from 1935. It includes the first six lines which appear in all the versions of 打手歌 which I can find. And then it has two final bits that I have only seen here. The first is a two line bit about hitting the opponent first similar to what is in Another View of Taijiquan by Wu Yuxiang and elsewhere. The second is a three line bit which I haven't seen before that seems like some stuff someone stuck on the end.
It would be nice if we could know who wrote what. If I had to say, this is possibly by Wu Yuxiang with the extra bits added on by one or two later people. I personally don't believe in Wang Zongyue. He is supposed to be a student of Zhang Sanfeng, who is himself severely lacking in any reasonable proof of existence. Perhaps this all comes from the Yangs having been more or less illiterate. Yang Chengfu valued books enough to have his students write two or three volumes for him to put his name on. The original Yang, Luchan, could probably read and write a bit from working in shops but was not educated. And there is no evidence I know of that any of his offspring were better educated than he was. My point here is that because none of the Yangs wrote, their students were reluctant to put their own name or the Yang's name on these documents, at least until Zhengfu's time. So all we get for attribution are martial versions of The Yellow Emperor.
I have spared you having to read another rhymed song. I got that out of my system with the Song of the Thirteen Powers and promise not to do it again. Don't hesitate to do your own songsmithing on this piece and share it with us if you do. And don't forget to let us know what tune to sing it to.
Comments and improvements upon the rhythm and rhyme of the verse are welcome and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submitting a comment implies your releasing it under the Creative Commons 3.0 SA License and agreeing to its possible inclusion in future commercial versions of this text.
NOTE: If any of the characters below appear as a big square, that means it is not in the utf-8 font on your device. This can be caused by vendor font choice or by your locale or by the character being so rarely used nowadays as to be found only in utf-16 font sets. If this occurs, you can find the original text on various sites on-line in both simplified and traditional characters. Good luck finding two that match.
An arrow-quiver step which pushes, pressing in, is what I must take to heart.
Bing1 (掤) is a quiver and we have seen this before as a symbol of power held back or in reserve. I take the first person here because of line three below.
By always following, I make it hard for the opponent to get in.
Shang4xia (上下) can be "going up and down" but also "superior and inferior," "above and below," and even "about." I have taken it to imply "always."
I let my opponent come with tremendous force to hit me.
Ju4 (巨) is "tremendous," "huge," "gigantic."
I lead his force by using five ounces to turn aside eleven hundred pounds.
Bo1 (拨) I have previously translated as "uproot." But it is more specifically "to push aside" or "to turn round." Qian1 (牵) is "to lead an animal by a tether or leash."
I draw him into emptiness, join and promptly issue.
Longer and more accurate: From outside (his awareness), I draw him into failure, joining with him and immediately venting (fluid energy).
By adhering to him, no matter what he does, I do not lose my advantage.
Bu4diu1ding3 (不丢顶) can almost be translated "I do not come down from the pinnacle."
Most versions of "Song of Issuing Hands" do not have what follows. They have only the lines above.
The opponent is motionless; so I do not move.
The opponent moves a tiny bit; so I preempt him.
Perhaps intended as: The opponent signals that he is about to move; so I move first. These two lines appear in other taijiquan classics with minor variations.
My manifest energy seems soft but it is not.
Jing4 (劲) is vigor, energy, strength, power. Song1 (松) is loose, slack, soft, untied.
And I am ever on the verge of issuing.
Literally, you will put (fluid energy) into effect but have not yet put it into effect. It is in reserve, in the arrow-quiver but ready to come forth.
Energy can come and go but my consciousness is continuous.
Or, issuing comes and goes; mind remains constant. Yi4 (意) can be purpose, intent, mind, consciousness, expectation and too many more to list. These last three lines of 5, 4, and 5 characters are possibly an afterthought, written in by who knows who.