Posts Tagged ‘yielding’

Some people think there are all these big training secrets in these internal martial arts business…. And there are, for some schools. But mostly, you just need to practice correctly. Incorrect practice would not move you closer to the goals, but in fact hurt since they reinforce bad habits. So how we do know a practice is correct? Well, it’s a secret (!) Seriously, the Tai Chi Classics do not lie. People may not understand them, and people may misinterpret them, but no one who has attained the highest level ever says, “gee, those Tai Chi Classics sure are wrong.” So do your practices according to the Principles would be a start. If someone shows you something, ask yourself: is this in accordance with the Principles?

Lets give two concrete examples. First in this clip:

Master Zhu Datong demonstrates Song shoulders. If someone has a stiff or tight shoulder, you can easily move them.

The second example which is on yielding. In this exercise, concentrate on rotating around your center axel: have someone gently push and follow (up to 90 degrees or so, for example) on one side of your body. They can push you anywhere on the shoulder, on the arm, on the side of your body, all the way down to your hip. The push should be even and gentle, to practice the feeling of rotating around your central axis freely and yet just barely maintaining contact with the person pushing. Practice with them pushing randomly on either side, and as you develop your sensitivity or Ting Jin (Listening Jin), the pusher may push at spots closer to the centerline.

My Sifu says, if you truly understand Yielding, that’s like 50% of Tai Chi already. To yield you need to be Song. I hope the above clarifies.

// richard


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Another trap on “not learning the right way to yield” is that once a person has accumulated some skills, the person can see and feel his (*) (usually not as skilled)  opponent’s weakness. So it’s easy for the person to “yield” and immediately gains the upper hand vis-a-vis his opponent. The problem then is that one never really learns to yield properly that way.

Likewise, the danger of learning something fast is that a person may not practice as hard. So while a person may learn 80-90% of a skill immediately, the remaining 10-20% remains out of reach as ever.

Another thing is the blind skeptics: “Clearly this stuff is fake since (I do not see how that person connects with his dantien | that hopping can’t be real | how can anyone can do it like that | …)” While we must be skeptical, we must also have an open mind. Most of these criticism boil down to “I can’t see how I can do something like that,” with the emphasis on the “I” part.If you are truly a truth seeker, keep your mind open, aim high, and keep looking for answers (**). Clearly there are things on the extreme end that are more than likely impossible (e.g. shooting lighting bolts from fingertips), but then again, there is a whole spectrum of internal martial arts skills and feats that are beyond most people’s experience. Out of your knowledge zone does not necessarily mean that it is “out there.”

(*) Usually I would be gender neutral and use “his or her” or even the old style correct “their,” but sadly in these cases, “his” is likely correct most of the times.

(**) Surfing on the Internet or watching youtube videos are probably not the best avenue.

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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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