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'Innate' means the essential character/nature of something. It is a quality that exists at all times. It is not added. You do not need to 'do' anything. Activity is not required.
Neigong/whole-body strength is innate. It is there all the time.
The Emperor's New Clothes
Unfortunately, this is a little bit like The Emperor's New Clothes, in that the student cannot feel their own strength.
If you feel anything, you are feeling your tension, not your strength. In order to accept the presence of whole-body strength, it must be pressure-tested.
You determine the presence of whole-body strength by its effect. We call this jing.
When a beginner starts class, we offer various exercises designed to explore the nature of whole-body strength. Students consider connection, sinking and rooting, along with the other qualities.
One of the exercises involves testing the innate stability of their posture.
Inevitably, the student does not really 'get it'. When their posture is tested, they tense-up, they claw their toes, they fight back, they adjust. This defeats the point of the exercise.
We are testing 'innate' strength, not how well a person can react, adjust, retaliate...
The form comes from the
physical properties of the materials used.
Pressure can be applied to any
part of your body and you should feel substantial.
This substance is tangible but not rigid in any way. You should feel
springy. Pliable. Like rubber.
You must always yield when pushed and never resist the incoming force.
The connection must exist without conscious effort. If you need to employ effort, then the strength is not inherent and will not be there in every movement.
Remember that this quality is passive.
If you want to test a posture, you need to establish the posture and then do nothing when your partner tests it. If you do anything, you are not testing the innate strength.
This is not so complicated, but people really struggle to understand.
Any action on your part whilst your partner is testing your posture renders the exercise pointless. Innate strength is not applied strength.
The muscles are not engaged in the application/use of strength. You need to remain passive.
Beginners may be very good at showing connection, balance and strength under controlled circumstances. However, self defence will not give you time to prepare.
It will just happen. You may well be caught by surprise. If your whole-body strength is not present at all times, your taijiquan will not work.
Posture testing is concerned with passive stability. Innate connection. Root. Central equilibrium. Simplistic themes.
The exercises are not testing whole-body strength per se.
If you are not rooted, in a strong, balanced, flexible posture, you cannot apply taijiquan. Unless you have a firm, stable base, any application of strength will fail.
That is why innate stability is essential.
But this firm base cannot be accomplished through any form of doing. Doing costs energy. Low, extended postures are not energy efficient. You are wasting energy before you even commence combat.
Innate strength needs to be increasingly subtle. Work at yielding to even the slightest degree of force. Let your body soften, relax and find internal space.
The greater the yielding, the more scope you have for application. Seek to sustain central equilibrium without any use of force.
Dwell not on the faults and shortcomings of others; instead, seek clarity about your own.
We have listed five example exercises that test innate stability and strength. In each example it is imperative that you establish the posture and then do nothing.
If you 'do' at all, you are not testing the innate quality of your taijiquan. Just stand there, relax, and see what happens.
Compare and contrast the different outcomes. Experiment with variations. We will not tell you what should happen or what the differences are.
Find out for yourself.
Adopt a small, high, bow stance. Ask your partner to kneel and slowly pull your lead ankle towards them.
Adopt a deep stance. Ask your partner to kneel and slowly pull your lead ankle towards them.
Adopt a very long, deep stance. Ask your partner to kneel and slowly pull your lead ankle towards them.
Stand in a cat-stance, with your weight in the rear leg. Your front heel is not placed. Square your pelvis to the front, in-line with the lead toes. Ask your partner to gently push your abdomen.
Now turn your pelvis to the side, in-line with the rear toes. Ask your partner to push your abdomen again. Feel the difference?
Adopt a bow stance. Hold your arm stretched away from the body. Ask your partner to gently, slowly pull the arm. Now bring the arm closer to the body and ask them to pull again. Explore the stability to range ratio.
18 April 1995
Last updated 29 September 2019