Softness Overcomes Hardness
“When we are practicing Form and we lose our balance, we pushed ourselves over. When we force an idealized conception of choreography pursuing Form over Function, we cause ourselves to tighten, brace, and impinge our articulations.”
Tai Chi Chuan is not a typical conventional martial art*. Before it can be effectively externalized to work defensively** against an outside force supplied by an opponent, a great deal of preliminary work must by done inside the body. We must learn to “yield to ourselves” so to “do no harm” to ourselves. Many forms of exercise are too ballistic and aggressive, causing repetitive syndrome injuries to occur.
To move our body, we must generate a force by pushing into the earth with a rooted foot and consider the ramifications of Newton’s three law of motions from our actions. When we push down, an equal and opposite (upward) force is generated (3rd law). In the case of a bow stance, we don’t want this force to move the upper body upward, possibly uprooting ourselves, but forward or backward. This is the meaning behind “Energy begins in the root, developed by the legs, directed and controlled by the waist, and expressed by the arms and hands.” “Controlled” in this statement means we are clear to the beginning and end of a movement that is used to generate Fa-jin; issuing energy. “Directed” means not only direction, but what one of the eight energies is being generated.
If we don’t maintain our Song; relaxation when we push, we will create an internal tension***, restricting our movement and dissipating (trapping the energy in our body) the power of Fa-jin (1st law), instead of supplying a direct connection from root to hand (See Newton’s cradle). We want to amplify, not waste Qi with full body usage. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Fa-jin is a sequence of internal events.
The Force generated by Fa-jin is expressed by this formula; F = ma / Force equals mass times acceleration (2nd law). If joints are misaligned or undue tension is created, injury can occur. For example; repeatedly lunging with the knees causes hypertension. The mass of the body does not move freely through the knee joint into ground (returning with an upward supportive energy) but becomes trapped in the joint, causing friction in motion and eventually inflammation. A similar situation occurs with an elbow’s hyper-extension (tennis elbow). Bursitis is a painful condition that affects the joints. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as a cushion between bones, tendons, joints, and muscles. When these sacs become inflamed it is called bursitis. If we continuously use a greater force to move through a self-imposed restriction, bursitis can manifest. We must be careful not to extend until our joints lock.
The Tai Chi Chuan Hand form consists of martial art techniques gleaned for Northern Long Fist; Changquan. It was the addition of Dao Yin; an early form of Qigong; that incorporated the study and practice of circulating Qi throughout the whole body with an emphasis on removing internal blockages, that makes Tai Chi Chuan not only a means to improve martial performance, but an excellent form of therapeutic movement. We are attempting to generate greater ranges of movement (large frame) by generating greater ease of movement (use softness; song).
*Most martial arts are offensive, using speed and rapid muscular contraction to generate striking force.
**Yielding to an outside force as a means to use the opponent’s force against them.
***An opposing force in the opposite direction we desire to go.