Yielding basic skills

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Modern society

School children are encouraged to voice their opinions, beliefs, assumptions and point of view from an early age.
Many refer to this as "their own truth" - which in itself is clearly a naive misconception - and nicely highlights the issue.
They are voicing a perspective, not the truth. The truth (reality) is, and is not subject to bias, speculation or opinion.


The drawback with validating opinions is that they are drawn from memories and experiences. In a tai chi class, this is a problem.
A student may feel/think that an exercise or drill should be performed a certain way... so what?
Their opinion is worthless. What matters is the means, the outcome, the actual, the truth.
Doing things your own way can be martially suicidal; for you are drawing upon zero experience and no skill rather than many years of taijiquan practice.

Real life combat

Take a look at MMA people featured on-line. These guys look like extras from a Mad Max movie; brutal, savage, criminal.
Martially, you cannot expect to neutralise them if you use force against their onslaught. On a level playing field they will destroy you. You must learn how to yield...

A challenge

Yielding basic skills challenges the student with 9 drills designed to explore various aspects of yielding.
The challenge is to set aside what you think, what you know, and what you expect.
Embrace the unfamiliar. Nothing you currently know will enable you to perform these drills with skill.
Only by concentrating on the new material and slowly training your body to execute the movements correctly, can progress be made.

We live as if asleep, never waking up to the amazing, awesome one moment in our lives where we stand poised over eternity, aware that it is the only moment we will ever have, and that if we don’t embrace it we have lost everything.

(Wolfe Lowenthal)


Unlike qigong exercises, stretches and form, yielding basic skills aims to teach abilities relative to somebody else. This may sound straightforward. But it isn't.

In practice

When exploring the 9 drills, you address:

What your own body is doing
Feel how your body is responding to what your partner does
• How your actions are affecting your practice partner

Not so easy?

Taijiquan fighting method

Yielding is mentioned frequently throughout The Tai Chi Classics and the Taoist Classics. The methodology of yielding is clearly explained.
But most people don't read the Classics. And if they do, maybe they just don't understand.
It is rare to encounter a taijiquan practitioner who is truly skilled with yielding. At best, they may be good at pushing hands but tense-up in combat.

1. Finding internal space

This initial exercise is about getting rid of the tendency to brace, anticipate or resist contact. Instead of doing anything, simply feel the pressure and let it move you.
Do not consciously, deliberately move out of the way. See the emphasis?  The pusher does the work, not the yielder. The yielder is 90% passive. Yin/yang. Wu wei.


The role of the pusher is also relevant:

  1. Do not use disconnected pushes

  2. Make sure that your body is behind the push

  3. Do not push forcefully/aggressively

  4. Push slowly in order to allow your partner time to relax

  5. Step as you push

  6. Do not reach

  7. Push relative to the degree of resistance encountered (4 ounces)

2. Both moving

This is more difficult than the first exercise because it introduces a whole series of considerations.
Once again, the yielder must give way to a push and step. But only relative to the degree of incoming force. Moving ahead will break the connection.
If the push lacks 'body' then there is no reason to move. The drill is almost a 2 person version of the 'yielding exercise'.


Step, align behind the pushing arm and make sure that your body weight produces the push. If you encounter resistance, do not force the push.
It is quite easy to disconnect and collapse. In time, you will feel whether or not you have 'groundpath'. Remember to turn the waist in the same direction as the push.
Only extend your arm to 70% of reach. Forgetting to step, leaning and failing to yield are all major errors.

3. Both hands

This is a precursor to chin na and shuai jiao. It also trains the student how to get out of a hold or lock with relative ease.
The onus for the yielder is upon feeling and then following the line of force, allowing the muscles to move freely and the body to adjust without interference.
By gently exploring the effect of leverage upon the body and experiencing structural imbalance, the student learns how to respond and how to produce the effect.


The pusher gains skill through the manipulation of the skeleton. An understanding of the joints, balance, centre and 4 ounces will ensue.
If the pusher is forceful or the yielder is awkward, then nobody is learning.

4. Take balance

At first, this appears to be a small circle repeat of the last drill. But that is not the case. This exercise is concerned with balance and centre.
Breaking the root (by causing imperceptible imbalance in the body) offers endless martial potential. Gentleness, presence and awareness are paramount.


The effect must be achieved using the least amount of physical effo
rt. Only a mild shift of weight is necessary. Be subtle.

5. Sticky

It is tempting to charge around the hall but that is not necessary. If your partner runs away, let them. Make contact once more when they are close.
Use one hand or use both hands, but do not hold on.

6. Drawing

The tendency here will be to just pull your arm out of the way. Don't. That is 'disconnected'. Turn the waist first, shift the weight and move the arm as part of your turn.
If your partner succeeds in holding your wrist, that is fine. Your waist turn/weight shift will have taken their balance. Feel and take their centre.

7. Hold

When someone establishes a hold, the habit will be to resist by bracing. This is 'external' and is addressed with Newton's 3rd Law. Instead, follow the pull. Use your mind to feel their centre and take it. 


Only use a 'baby grip'. Anything else is redundant and pointless. Aim to hold the wrist or elbow of either side.
Deliberately employ unpredictability in order to agitate the yielder into becoming tense and fighting.

8. Neck rolls

This is about going with the hold whilst maintaining stickiness and movement. Instead of evading and moving out of reach, stay tight and elusive.
There is only a narrow window in which to roll. If you are tardy, the hold will be established.

9. Both arms held

Students believe they are connected until they are pressure tested. Faced with the simplest of drills, most people immobilise themselves with their own tension.
How come? They are not remotely connected and have mistaken the idea for the actual (see top of page).
Only by re-considering the nature of connection can the student recognise the folly of force.


Only use a 'baby grip'. Anything else is redundant and pointless. Hold both wrists (front or back). Use intention to prevent the yielder from using force.

Crucial skills

Yielding basic skills teach abilities that must be employed throughout the syllabus.
When a student flounders at various stages in the curriculum, it is often because these simplest of yielding concerns are being neglected.

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Page created 16 August 2004
Last updated 17 September 2019