Haengma / Discussion

Sub-page of Haengma

Stefan: I start this page as some sort of WikiMasterEdit of a discussion, which unfolded on rec.games.go from mid 2001 onwards, about the Korean concept Haengma. While I reread the discussion, I started to summarise and loosely group some posts. My purpose was to see what practical value or study guidance I could get out of it. As I wrote it anyway, I may as well publish on SL.

Table of contents
Table of diagrams
Connecting Up
Not connecting Up

Definition of haengma - Attempts, comparison to suji, dynamic nature.

1.1. Definition 1 - "Janice Kim"

Volume II of the Learn to Play Go series by Jeong and Kim is titled "The Way of the Moving Horse", which is haengma in Korean. Quoting from page 38, "Stones can't move after they are played, but you can connect your stones together to form chains or groups. As the game progresses and more stones are added, the chains of stones look like they are 'running' or 'moving' across the board. Or so it seemed to ancient Go players; you may prefer to think of haengma as simply a relationship between two of your stones."
(end quote)

This appears to be a low level comment similar to Kageyama's chapter on what happens when "The stones go walking" in Lessons in the fundamentals.

1.2. Definition 2 - "Charles Matthews", including John Fairbairn comments

Charles has told me a short description that I find rather convincing, provided he has grasped the concept correctly: Haengma is the efficient development of stones related to each other so as to maximize the value of their directed (in the Kajiwara sense of direction of play), global, strategic embedding.

In other words, haengma is the good development of shape at both a local and a global scale.
(end quote)

Both he (that is: Charles Matthews) and I have tried unsuccessfully to pin down Koreans on this. The nearest I got, which is similar to what you say above, was to get a 6-dan Korean who knows Japanese to agree it was the same as suji. But he later backtracked a bit and tried to put nuances on it. I thought at the time he was perhaps defending Korea's national honour, but I now have the rather large Korean dictionary of haengma at my bedside, and when I can keep my eyes open long enough to read a bit, I have to admit the Koreans do at least organise the subject rather differently from the Japanese.

One thing is plain (to go back to my old hobby horse): the Korean concept, like suji, is dynamic (haeng means moving) and what I have noticed over the years is that when the related concepts of suji and katachi are discussed, the Orientals emphasise the dynamic (suji) whereas westerners emphasise the static (katachi). I have long wondered whether this is a self-imposed handicap by westerners (allied to the errors of thinking ponnuki means a diamond shape, tesuji a brilliant move, etc) - indeed, is this the single biggest difference between east and west in go?

James Davies recently mentioned to me that he has become increasingly aware of the dynamic nature of the vocabulary of Japanese game commentaries, related often to samurai tales.
(end quote)

1.3. Definition 3 - "Robert Jasiek 1"

I now believe that haengma is "the development of strategic objects (like a group or a moyo) relative to a position's stones".

This means that it is about a process and not about something fixed. It is not the same as "shape". It presumes tactical and - as far as the direction of play might require it - strategic reading, selects the best reading sequences for the further development of a strategic object, considers interactions with the further development of other strategic objects, and finally chooses the best further development. Always the positional environment is considered, too.
(end quote)

1.4. Definition 4 - "Robert Jasiek 2". The suji/haengma debate.

As far as I know, Haengma is a word from China. "haeng" means move and "ma" means stone. So Haengma means "stone's move". Someone likes light and fast move like Cho Hoon-hyun while other's move is slow and solid like Lee Chang-ho. When Lee play one jump to the center Cho goes two to the center. Generally, Cho's moves are known as fastest and the best. It's pretty different from forecast (reading the future moves) the moves. When you decide to play a Haengma, you can't see all variations caused by that Haengma because it's too much. Haengma comes from feelings and experiences. but it's hard to say that Haengma is nothing to do with the "reading moves" though. The most two basic abilities to play baduk well would be reading and Haengma I think. Even someone's reading is so good, he won't have a chance to fight to win if his Haengma is so bad.
Although it's from experiences it is still quite diffirent form intuition. haengma is maybe in between reading and intuition.
How about simply "movement"
We have a book written by Cho Hun-hyeon called "Speed Haengma". It doesn't always show the efficient shape. It will be good to have efficient shape but it doesn't have to be. Well.... I don't know. The dictionary also defines "haengmabup". "bup" means law or certain way to be followed. haengmabup - The basic way of haengma, or principle of it. It is a way to play that fits in with shape and maek. (RJ: I can't explain this either. It's a kind of vital point (maybe: suji) ) It is used through the whole game importantly. I hope this helps you to understand haengma.
As the dictionary said haengma comes from experience: you may strengthen your haengma by practicing. Everyone follows Yi Ch'ang-ho and Cho Hun-hyeon's moves because they win. It may not seem logical - but it's pretty logical. We also check their moves by reviewing. Learn from players of higher level. If you analyze on your own it's pretty good also.
(end quote)

In the same article Robert concludes:

Here is my summarizing interpretation: The haengma of a stone is the development of meanings for it during the entire game.

So in particular as an example, relation to other stones can be a meaning or part of a meaning. Thus there can be haengma of several stones together.
(end quote)

Why not use the terms derived from "the stones go walking" (i.e. walk, pace, steps, etc.)? It seems to me that this is what, in French, we have always called "la marche des pierres" (stones' way of walking) with all the implications of light vs. heavy, correct rhythm vs. out of step, etc, etc.
(end quote)

Still on [ext] September 5, 2001, Robert expands on where he considers haengma to be different:

haengma is much more general! Furthermore, it is more fundamental because other strategic concepts like "direction of play", "relation", "moyo", "the stones go walking", "shape" can refer to haengma or be imposed on haengma as second order concepts%%% (...)
So far I have thought about meanings of a stone mainly before playing it, and about relations of stones changing mainly due to newly-played stones. I have been far too inflexible in my thinking because I have neglected the great potential that although a stone does not move its meanings can move/change/develop freely.
(end quote)

  • [ext] Later that same day, Denis Feldmann offers a translation of a part of Pierre Aroutcheff's "Perfectionnement au Go: le travail des pierres":

There are two stages in the life of a stone: the moment when it is played, where it makes the whole position work (or not); the later plays, which contribute efficiently (or not) to its work.
The stones can do everything, attack and defense, construction and destruction, etc. They can be sacrificed, but only after their work is done. They are insensible to capture, in fact, but protest noisily to any sabotage of their work.... And, of course, the tools used for analysis of the efficiency of stones are shape, tewari, natural flow, etc.
(end quote)

  • John Fairbairn then further elaborates on why he thinks haengma and suji are one and the same concept (still on [ext] September 5, 2001 - quite a busy day for go students):

I start from the belief that Japanese suji and Korean haengma, for all practical purposes, are the same thing. Haengma is therefore not a new concept. What is different about the Korean version is the way they attempt to codify and teach it. The Japanese approach differs because they have the word tesuji (lacking in Korean) and their codification and method of teaching have focused on tesuji, which is just one aspect of suji/haengma. The Koreans try more to teach the whole concept.

I think there are three aspects to Suji/Haengma, as above.
One thing that underlies all aspects is that there is a dynamic feel. This cannot be stressed enough, because westerners ignore it even when they think they have understood the basic concept. The commonest manifestation of this is believing that tesuji means good move (or brilliant move), whereas it means something more dynamic - a key that unlocks a position.

When used of a player Suji/Haengma means near enough 'style', provided that is understood to mean the flow of the way one plays rather than a predilection for a certain kind of move.
When used of a large position or other broad sense, I'd suggest an effective translation for Suji/Haengma is to say the dynamics of a position.

When used of a micro or local position the meaning is, in Japanese, tesuji. This is where Korean differs because they do not have a precise word for tesuji
(end quote)

Prof. Soo-Hyun Jeong 9 dan has kindly explained me his view on haengma. He likes to see functions and purposes of moves. If we simplify a little and classify all moves into two categories, then they have the following characteristics:

I                                  II
immediately territory-orientated   not immediately territory-orientated
static                             dynamic
peaceful                           fighting
settled                            moving
not haengma                        haengma

When Mr. Jeong asked some Korean amateurs what haengma might be, he did not get any profound or even precise answer. This seems to be caused by the problems resulting from a broad possible range of resolution with that one could distinguish degrees of haengma of stones. One could use haengma with a strict dark versus bright view or with a broad view that permits every intensity.

He continues to compare Korean and Japanese go by attributing a higher degree of haengma and flexible functions to the former and of shape and acknowledged technique to the latter.
(end quote)

In contrast, from what I understand about your description, suji is about the current flexible meanings of a stone or stones. Even if the current meanings are assumed many moves later, the finally realized meanings would be constantly among the same as given in the presence. In contrast, haengma refers to the future. Expand the dimension of time for suji so that not only the move numbers proceeds but so that also the meanings around suji become functions depending on time and you get haengma. With proceeding time suji has a static environment of meanings while haengma has a dynamic enviroment of meanings. Consider the move number sequence of a game. For each number in it you can postulate suji for a stone or stones. You get suji-1, suji-2, ..., suji-n for a stone or stones and all this together can be the haengma at the moment of move number 1 of the stone or stones in question.

This is still too simplifying. Suji, if I understand you correctly, is a shape concept, a concept that gathers shape meanings. On the other hand, haengma is a collective concept gathering shape meanings, strategic meanings, fighting meanings, etc. So to describe all the haengma potential of a stone or stones one must reconsider it after 1, 2, ..., n further moves in a game and include all gained insight. You may say that I over-interpret the concept once more. In practice you might be right because simply no player is able to predict sufficiently profoundly 1, 2, ..., n further moves. However, in theory I think I am right that the intention of haengma goes in that direction and that only practical shortcomings of a player's abilities create restrictions. Hence I repeat that your haengma understanding is a matter of your ability to associate future potential with a stone or stones. As a term haengma is the proclaimed desire to describe such potential as extensively as possible.
(end quote)

  • Later that day, John Fairbairn posts an [ext] article which tries to unify :

Despite this, I think Robert is moving close to the truth. As I understand it, both suji and haengma imply a process. Both are dynamic concepts. But the difference comes when that process is evaluated. It seems to me that the Japanese (even pros) evaluate a process statically (using good shape, tewari etc). The Koreans (lacking a proper word for good shape as far as I can see) evaluate it more dynamically, and in particular by assessing its potential for future development.

This is not to say the Japanese do not assess future developments, but they seem to do this more by applying different filters such as aji and miai, and in effect apply two or more processes where the Koreans apply only one.
(end quote)

As you say Japanese go students are taught shapes that are good. Buried within that is the reason that they are good, which is because they are secure and/or allow scope for development.

The kosumi is a good example. We already have had on RGG (from China via S. Africa) the concept of compromised kosumi. The idea that a kosumi is bad shape, if the opponent has already got a stone on one of the diagonal points nearby. This means that the kosumi would have less potential development.

Beginners like to play kosumi because it cannot be cut and it makes them feel safe. Stronger players avoid it because it feels too slow. Very strong players play it when they can see the development potential of it.
(end quote)

1.5. Definition 5 - "Benny S. Chi"

Haeng-Ma has no special meaning other than describing the progression of the stone placement. So, any kind of movement or stone addition is simply called Haeng-Ma. Adjectives that maybe used to describe one's Haeng-Ma could be "Good H-M" or "Bad H-M" or "Fast H-M" or "Slow H-M". For example, beginners often extend a stone to form an empty triangle and one may refer to this action as a "Bad H-M" <- I'm using H-M in place of Haeng-Ma. Another example is that when your opponent attaches to your stone you should Hane or Wrap around your opponent. This practice can be called "H-M technique". And when you have been cross-cut you extend. This practice may also called "H-M technique". I hope one can start to see that H-M merely refers to any related stone addtion. For example, one space jump is H-M technique. Following a joseki sequence maybe called "proper H-M".
(end quote)

I am reading "Master of Haengma", and this does appear to be the authors' working definition. Generally extending from one or more stones. However, dynamics seem to be strongly related to the subject as haengma that produce active groups with opportunities for further extensions are generally seen as good haengma, in sort of a recursive sense. --Smooth

1.6. Suji-related remarks

In a [ext] September 5, 2002 article, John Fairbairn adds further comments about the concept of suji:

But to help you, it may be worth reminding you of the base meanings of suji. It refers to flowing lines such as veins on the hand or in jade, or sinews, and from this come derived meanings such as texture, or the plot or thread of a story. There is nothing inherently good or bad in it, and if you want to say good suji you normally have to specify it, e.g. suji ga ii. Zokusuji and sujichigai? are bad versions.

I repeat, my suggested *translated* meanings which come from the one meaning but three usages of the Japanese are:

1. Dynamic(s), when referring to a global or generalised concept
2. Style, when referring to a player
3. Tesuji for a localised case
(end quote)

but to me suji certainly seems to be a well-targeted term. For that matter, I cannot believe that John would ever say that suji is not (a well-targeted term). (I don't mean that you wrote he said so)

The meaning of suji applied to a move in the game of go describes the ability of given move to make itself useful with regard to neighboring stones in move 2 of a sequence which might follow, or move 20. In many situations there is more than one suji move which might mystify the issue a bit but actually does not; the purpose of suji move A can be different from suji move B which is located just one space to the right/left.
(end quote)

What to make of all this? Food for thought.

Even if we don't seem to have a conclusive definition, we can isolate a number of characteristics attributed to or associated with haengma:

  • it refers to the development of stones
  • it has a dynamic nature or is a process
  • it has a notion of quality, i.e. can be good or bad
  • it can operate on the level of a local position, on the level of the whole board position, and on the level of the evolution of the whole board position over time (cf. style, flow)

If there is one thing permeating the discussion, it is the notion that what happens on the go board is a function of time. The one key word is in any case "development". As a concept this is not entirely new to me - the board changes, right? However I have never spent time thinking about how this works, how profound it is and how you build it into the selection of your next move.

Until now my thought process in front of the goban has been something like this.

  • I've made up my mind about the strategy that I'm following, and I need to decide on my next move.
  • I decide what area of the board is most important (some would say: hottest) and start looking for the best move.
  • In doing so, I take into account the whole board (which for this discussion I'll call "context").
  • Practically speaking this translates into establishing a shopping list" (Matthew Macfadyen analogy) of additional purposes for my move (e.g. preserve aji on the left, prepare an attack on the right, keep sente, etc.), and I arrive at a preferred multi-purpose move.
  • Finally I check whether there is any preparation moves or kikashi I want to insert before playing my move.

The one thing I'll now try to add to the evaluation process is precisely this notion of time and development, both locally and in context. In other words: if the old thinking was: "How will the local move influence the context, and how does the context influence the local move?", the new thinking also asks: "How will the local move interact with future contexts, and how will future contexts make the local move look?"

The influence bit is bidirectional. It is pretty obvious that it is a good thing if the move you play now will work hard in a future whole board position. However less obvious to me is that you also don't want the future whole board positions to make your current local move look bad, oddly placed or inconsistent. It is a form of inefficiency, pros avoid it (to the point of preferring tenuki over such a bad move) and it is the assumption behind tewari analysis.

This reminds me of the "virtual groups" thinking, in which you add the interaction of your local move with possible future groups in the area (e.g. nearby standard invasions) to your shopping list considerations. The difference here is that you now also work with "virtual contexts": entire whole board strategic landscapes that may emerge in the future development of the game.

This is clearly not an easy thing to do. Personally I already struggle very hard with the relatively simple virtual group concept, but virtual contexts are a couple of orders of magnitude more complex. Also, at this point in time I can't recall having seen any examples or exercises of this type of evaluation and consideration. That is not so surprising, as I've never before looked at the game in this way. It would be great if some fellow deshi could provide some pointers.


This is Sensei's Library, right? Fire away!

'The way of food' might be Cooking. If you ask a non-cook or inexperienced cook about cooking, you get answers in terms of ingredients, recipes and (yes) shopping lists. The experienced cook thinks in terms of a meal as a unit, the process of cooking constrained by time considerations, looks around the kitchen for raw materials and starts various preparation processes ...

Here 'technique' means the real stuff of cooking, from the boiled egg to the souffle. But it's not just anything. Everything good comes from faith to and knowledge of the raw materials.

So it looks to be that way about haengma, if you can actually play ...

Charles Matthews

Dieter: A promising analogy, Charles, but I'm not sure if I'm going to get what you mean after the three times I am about to read it.

Stefan: Same here. There is a real risk I start to read all kinds of mysterious advice in your metaphor, and build all kinds of imaginary concepts upon it. :-)

Sean: It's a subtle thing, the difference between haengma and suji but perhaps this example will help.

Connecting Up  

Move 9 will fill where W2 was. Someone might say that white has good shape. Black will live small. Your stones could be called thick, or that they have outside influence.

But all of this ignores the contribution of W2, which is now off the board and gone. You might as well say, "I can still see the footprints of little stone 2 and where he walked." The stone, although gone, still walked on the board and made its contribution. His friends, W4, W6, and W8 have not forgotten his sacrifice for their sake.

Bill: Let's not forget the contribution of B7.

Not connecting Up  

Sean: Well, here's it's easier to say in Japanese. The situation has shaped up the way it has because of the aji of the marked black stone. In the first example it's hard to talk about the aji of a stone that's no longer on the board.

BobMcGuigan: I'm a newcomer to the haengma discussion, but I wonder if there is any relation between the Korean term haengma and the Japanese term uchimawashi?

Charles Matthews Uchimawashi is a new term to me. A quick web search suggests it is used in martial arts. Could Bob expand on what he means?

Bob: I've run across the term in Japanese game commentaries. I think it comes from a combination of "uchi", a noun form of the verb utsu (to play in the go sense), and the noun form "mawashi" of the verb mawasu (to turn, whirl, or spin). Judging from usage in context it seems to refer to moving around the board, playing in different places without settling the shape, i.e. switching from place to place.

Bill: Maybe uchimawashi is a kind of haengma. It sounds like a desultory form of haengma, though. ;-)

Bob: I guess you could describe it as jumping around, Bill :-) The pro commentator usually refers to it positively as a factor contributing to the winner's success. From what I understand of haengma uchimawashi would only qualify if the practitioner somehow made all the different plays work together. By the way, I remember reading someplace that Iwamoto's go was described as "bean scattering" go. How about that?

John Fairbairn The base meaning of uchimawasu is to hit repeatedly, hit a lot, but there is a connotation of doing it skilfully (i.e. while moving round the target). Sometimes you can use a phrase like "leading by the nose". It's not quite as strong as "outplay" but that's sometimes possible. Sometimes "like wrapping someone round your little finger" will do, and that captures some of the flavour of mawasu. Maybe "always being one step ahead". It's not really a technical term, I'd say, as there is no special go meaning attached, though it does occur quite a bit in go. I can't detect any connection with haengma. I wouldn't take the popular bean scattering comments about Iwamoto too seriously - it was also a joke about his time as a coffee farmer.

Bob: Thanks, John. I think "one step ahead" might best capture the meaning of the example I saw. It would fit with moving around the board skilfully, getting places ahead of the opponent.

Bill: Tenuki is always an option. :-)

Exswoo: I recently bought a Korean Go(Baduk) book called "Haengma Master" written by Korean Pro Suh Bong Su (Seo Pong-su) and edited by Park Jae Ouk. Park's preface to the book goes like this... (I'll change the terminology to Japanese ones since that's what most people here are familiar with)

"Haengma refers to how the Go(Baduk) stones move. Yet this doesn't mean that stones in Go move like pieces in a game like chess. Haengma refers to the idea that the current stones on the board will dictate the flow of all the future stones that will be played.

Thus what is important to realize about Haengma movements is that the goal of Haengma is to maintain a superior position to your opponent by utilizing the stones are that already in place.

The most common Haengma moves used in Go are the attachment, diagonal attachment, single space jump, double space jump, the knight's move and the large knight's move. There also exists other moves, such as a three-space jump, but it's fair to say that these six are the main ones.

It is essential that you realize that Haengma applies in all stages of the game, whether it be the Fuseki, Joseki, the Mid-game, or the End-game. Go may be made up of multiple stages, but in the end you can see them as all a part of Haengma."

Sazn: Does "桂馬" have to do with part of this discussion? 桂馬 is used by Japanese to describe certain jumps

SAS: Is this really what haengma means? I was under the impression that it means roughly the same as Japanese suji, which is much more general than what is listed above.

Ironblayde: As far as I know, yes. The books in the Learn to Play Go series by Janice Kim, for example, use the word haengma in the same sense that's described above.

--- Archaic 2d kgs: please refer to The Fixed Nature Of Go Vs The Moving Nature Of Go ---

Haengma / Discussion last edited by on April 20, 2014 - 17:26
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