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Maintaining contact

Tai chi requires you to locate the opponent and make physical contact. This contact has to be maintained. They move, you move.
When you both move as one, they cannot strike you. As soon as the contact is broken, they are free to attack again.


Being sticky

If you are sticky, you have the ability to retain contact with ease. Any form of stiffness or bodily tension will impede your ability to feel. Stickiness is a sensitivity skill, it requires softness.
If you are tense or apply too much pressure, you will be unable to 'listen' to their movements using your body.

Being soft

'4 ounces of pressure' cannot be repeated frequently enough in tai chi. Once you exceed this amount, you are using force and wasting energy.
People naturally want to tense-up but this is a reaction that we must overcome. Stiffness blocks movement. Resistance and fighting back are the opposite of softness; they prevent feeling.
The solution is to loosen-up and relax. Softness starts in the mind - it is a condition of receptivity and openness.
Your ears hear without effort, your heart beats unaided.
Let your nervous system feel without impediment, let it join with another and move as they move, sensitive the slightest stiffening and preparation.

Yin skill

Stickiness is a yin skill - a soft, feeling quality. If you approach it in a macho manner, it will not work. Be comfortable with yourself and relax. Allow your body to explore the sensations it receives.
Once you are adept at being sticky, it will feel to happen all by itself.

In times of war be guided by these principles:
Cunning is better than force;
Attacking is better than being attacked;
Strategic retreats are favoured above costly advances.

In the art of war cultivate these tactics:
Move forward without appearing to advance, without revealing either strength or weakness;
Engage the enemy without confronting them, without meeting them in open battle.

The greatest mistake is underestimating the enemy.
The greatest misfortune is forgetting the gravity of war.

(Lao Tzu)

Yang weakness

Feel for any points of tension in your own body or that of your opponent. Ultimately, you will be capable of exploiting tension, of using it to destabilise the other person.
Firmness and fixity are signs of tension. You must learn to yield in response to force, to meet tension with softness.

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023