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Posts Tagged ‘Qi’

On Yielding

Yielding is one of the most important skills in Tai Chi. However, most people do not yield, they redirect. Worse some people are overly concern themselves with return attack, as they think that one must return the force to win. When you want to win, your mind is in a different space than yielding and your yielding will not succeed.

So what is yielding? First of all, it’s not just neutralizing, and it is not grounding an incoming force. Not that they are ineffective, but they are not yielding.

In Chinese, yielding is 走化 zouhua, literally: zou, to move; hua, to change, transform. The key to understand yielding is the lines in the Tai Chi Classics:

My opponents do not know me.

A fly cannot land (on me).

If you ground a force, then you are giving your opponent a chance to know you. At the highest level, if a person has a high level of Qi, then they can absorb the incoming force with ease without a fixed center. However, very few people are at that level.

Neutralizing is not enough as it only corresponds to the hua aspect. The zou aspect must also present. Therefore, to yield, one must be Song (*) and the timing must be just right. This is called using Ting Jin (“listening” skill). In other words, as the Classics say

Adhere, follow, stick, and link (**)

So how does one avoid “yielding to death?” A common misconception is that one must return the force, or a person would run out of room to yield. However, this is a misconception based on equating yielding with collapsing. Yielding must be done with no-force, but the structure must be maintained (Zhong Ding, central equilibrium in Chinese). This does not mean that you brace or maintain a (rigid) frame, but that your movement and your internal jin (Nei Jin, as in the title of this blog) prevent you from collapsing.

It’s the level beyond Song, it’s becoming Empty. When you are empty, no one can know you and a fly cannot land on you.

(*) The relax yet alert state.

(**) Subject of another post.

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Qi and the Internal Martial Arts

Discussing Internal Martial Arts in the Orient is a very different exercise than in the West. A Chinese sifu would say “the Qi goes here” or “sink Qi to the dantien” all day long and no one would raise an eyebrow. The strict teaching method is that you just do what your teacher asks. You wouldn’t dare to question, at least not interrupting a whole class with your silly questions. Besides, Qi is so central to the Chinese thought that no less than 50 expressions involve the word Qi! In contrast, the western science legacy is based on questioning: what does it do? How does it work? In the West, before the sifu could finish the sentence, inevitably someone would ask “What is Qi?”

Unfortunately, most people who want to discuss Qi and Internal Martial Arts scientifically are asking the wrong questions. Often the first assumption is that if the Chinese cannot describe Qi in western terms (“is it a thing? What kind of thing is it?”) then the Chinese paradigm is either flawed, incomprepensible, or incompatible with western science. So they ask, “if Qi exists, how come we can’t measure it?” or “it must be [fake, bio-electricity, body alignment, … ]”

Lets think about this: the Chinese martial artists have been using Qi to describe, and more importantly, transmit their knowledge for hundreds if not thousands of years. Consider that some of the brightest minds in Chinese history are martial artists, the conclusion must be that the system is fine as it is!

In other words, throw down the preconceived notions on how things *should* work, and accept that it does work, and it may work for you too. While the Flatlanders could not comprehend the 3-D world, nevertheless, the 3-D world does exist. So if a student has problems with the Qi paradigm, then the problem is with the student, and not with the paradigm!

Can we *supplement* the Qi paradigm with more scientific information? Absolutely. Search the web for body alignment, bio-mechanical model, tendon, sinew, fascia, and you would find much information, perhaps more paletable to the western minds.

However, that is still missing the point. For the word Internal in Internal Martial Arts refers to Shen, Qi, and Yi, the internal aspects. To start the journey on training in Internal Martial Arts, one must start there, but that’s for another post. The very first step though, must be that the mind must change to accept the Qi paradigm, and that Internal Martial Arts is different. It’s not just doing thing softly or slowly, or that it’s just whole body power. It’s those, and a lot more, but that’s a topic for another post.

// richard

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