Thanks to Richard Johnson for commenting on my last post, which had a section of the Xing Yi classics (The 10 Thesis of Yue Fei) translated by my teacher. My teacher’s translation definitely differs from others you find online – it includes many more references to weapons that are omitted in other translations I’ve seen, specifically a haft-grip and a bow, in these sections.
It matters, because reading other translations I’ve seen you’d get the impression it was about gripping your opponent, not your spear.
I thought it interesting that Richard called it “quite interpretive rather than a strict translation“:
The first quote is quite interpretive rather than a strict translation. I found it in the manual attributed to Yue Fei. It could also be instructions to curl one’s fist tight with the same energy as gripping a handle.Richard Johnson
I’d agree with him, but, with a rather large caveat: I think all translation is an interpretation.
There is no such thing as a “strict” translation of these Chinese classics into English, because a literal translation of characters often comes off looking like the work of Yoda. Confusing, it is!
To get at the meaning of the text you have to rejig it into English, and here you need to know the context of the work, the time period it was written in and also have some working knowledge of the subject to do it in a meaningful way.
Thanks to Paul Andrews of Xing Yi Academy (they’ve just relaunched with a new subscription service, so check them out) who has done the following literal translation of these sections of the Jianshou Lun (Classic of Fighting), so you can see what I mean:
“I’m looking at my translation of the Jiaoshou Lun now. So the first quote is:
用拳要卷緊 Yòng quán yào juǎn jǐn,
用把把有氣 Yòng bǎ bà yǒu qì.
Literally – Use fist must roll tight. Use grip must have Qi.
So fist could be the fist or it could be “boxing”. There is no mention of a haft here, there is nothing immediately before or after, but a little bit further on we get this:
手以心把 Shǒu yǐ xīn bà,
心以手把 Xin yǐ shǒu bà.
Literally – Hand uses xin to grip. xin uses hand handle (shou ba together means handle/haft).
In my own interpretation Shou (hand) can also mean “a technique”. So my take on this is: The methods use the xin to grasp and the xin transmits through the haft. Given this later reference to a haft/handle it is legitimate to understand that the entire section is talking about weapons so D earlier use of haft is in context.
一握渾身皆握, Yī wò hún shēn jiē wò,
一伸渾身皆伸, Yī shēn hún shēn jiē shēn
伸要伸得進, Shēn yào shēn dé jìn
握要握得根 Wò yào wò dé gēn
如卷炮, Rú juǎn pào
卷得緊, Juǎn dé jǐn
崩得有力, Bēng dé yǒu lì
One grasp mix body (hunshen together means “everything” or whole body) all grasps.
One extends everything all extends
Extending important to extend while entering
Grasping important grasp must root
As reeled (rolled up/coiled) cannon (explosion)
Reel must be tight
Collapse/compress must have power/strength
When grasping [the haft], the whole body grasps [the haft].
When one part extends, the whole body extends.
The key is to extend while entering.
When grasping the grasp comes from the root, as if coiled ready to explode.
The coiling becomes tight, Compressing to store power.
The first two phrases could also be interpreted as: Grasp with the whole body and everything holds. Extend with the whole body and everything extends.The last phrase is tricky. Damon like the alternative 绷 – beng meaning to draw tight. But the character used in the text I have is 崩 – beng same as “Beng quan” meaning to collapse/crush/compress.This phrase could mean that the reel must be tight, like something compressing to store power (or if the alternative beng is used – like a bow at full draw).Or collapsing could refer to releasing the reel, letting go. Meaning that when released the power has to transmit. That phrase isn’t easy it could mean both.”