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The essence of fluidity can best be demonstrated by water. Water flows. It does not struggle or force anything. It simply flows. Water can be found in three states: solid, liquid and gas.
As a liquid it can be still or moving. Water is supremely soft, yet has the potential for great power. The key is momentum.
In our classes we seek to acquire the power of water by relaxing our bodies fully and allowing gravity to give us strength.
A balanced relationship with gravity enables you to deliver your mass effectively into another person without much effort.
Still & moving
A taijiquan student must shift from still to moving instantly, without becoming entangled in muscular or mental tension. Physical stiffness hampers your ability to move spontaneously.
Anticipation, doubt or scattered thoughts makes your mind sluggish.
We need to maintain the quality of stillness even whilst moving. This means a variety of things: Your groundpath must be constant, whether moving or stationary.
An unbroken connection must thread each part of your body together at all times. You need to be physically and emotionally balanced as well; stable and composed, unmoved by a change in circumstance.
Being relaxed and moving slowly helps to develop your relationship with gravity. Your limbs will begin to let-go of unwanted contraction and work more effectively.
To another person, your body will feel heavy and rooted. Even a small, lithe person can be powerful when they let-go.
The trouble with wielding a sword with both hands is that it is no good on horseback, no good when running hurriedly, no good on marshy ground, muddy fields, stony plains, steep roads, or crowded places.
Every taijiquan movement should be rounded and smooth in shape. The actual physical structure of your body must be devoid of sharp angles.
Curving, arcing, spiralling, flowing, waving, corkscrew - these are the words that your taijiquan practice should reflect.
Circular motion is more economical than linear action because it contains the quality of returning. The energy that leaves your body also comes back. Imagine a whip...
The force is delivered when the hand returns, rather than the outward stroke.
The reason why taijiquan combat appears to be fluid is because it does not allow any impediment to motion. Your body must feel the movement itself and simply use the body to transmit the energy.
If you try to strike with your limb, this will not work. You must feel the wave rising up from the ground and through to the extremities. To develop this skill, simply do everything slowly and smoothly.
When you were a child and played 'tig', your arm was not impeded by dreams of strength and power. You simply moved the limb without a care and it was fast.
Our taijiquan system requires that same effortless motion to return, generated this time by the centrifugal turning of the vertical centre rather than the arm itself.
Arms, legs and torso all become one in the turning of the centre and the shifting of the weight.
One strike must flow seamlessly into the next one in an endless wave of delivery.
When your body emulates water you can sustain pressure with the opponent, releasing multiple strikes without the need for recoil. This skill is called 'folding'.
The secret of flowing movement lies with sensitivity. If you can gauge the weight, strength and balance if your opponent correctly, you can shape your body around those factors.
One advantage of flowing movement is that it is very difficult to counter because it can always branch off when faced with a new obstacle. This cannot occur if you are thinking.
Only feeling can offer this ability.
The significance of flowing lies in the fact that you use less energy. By essentially cutting the circle with every delivery; you only use a slight amount of power. Most of it is returned as the wave occurs.
This is like water tossing a boulder, to paraphrase The Art of War.
Fluidity is not achieved through willpower or force. You must simply do the form and combat training slowly and sensitively, feeling for opportunities, maintaining a soft connection throughout your frame.
Ultimately, you realise that yielding is the virtue of water.
Page created 31 July 1994
Last updated 07 January 2020