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All of those countless qigong exercises, form movements and neigong qualities function to create a framework of strength. This network of connected body parts exists at all times. It is inherent.
You do not to tense-up or apply contracted muscle power. All you need to do is trust that this framework exists.
Until you understand (and can employ) peng, you cannot use your taijiquan properly. You will continue to assert forcefully and this is incorrect.
Seeking to demonstrate your strength indicates fear and poor skill. You must know that peng exists in order to use it. To do this, you must first relax and let-go.
Playing patter-cake with your attacker is bad practice. It indicates a lack of groundpath. You must always affect the assailant.
Tapping the outside of their body will not harm them in any way or deter their attack. If anything it will do the opposite because you will have shown the ineffectual nature of your counter.
Brutal and clumsy
'A bull in a china shop' mentality is incongruent with taijiquan. It shows poor control and limited ability. It is the physical equivalent of becoming angry or aggressive.
You do not need to really hurt anyone. It is enough to incapacitate the attacker. Harming other people reflects badly upon your character. It shows insecurity and fear.
Martial arts are dangerous
The British Medical Association Guide To Sports Injuries states:
Combat sports such as boxing, judo, karate or kung fu make tough demands on the body; training is intense, and participation requires all-round fitness. Regardless of the fitness of the participants, however, the aggressive blows traded between opponents means that these sports always carry a serious risk of injury.
Taijiquan uses no more than 4 ounces of pressure. This will never change, no matter how experienced you become. In fact, as you progress, you should use less and less power.
Your aim is to decrease effort whilst increasing power. The first step is to become as soft as you can be yet still pull off the counter.
It is easy to forget that taijiquan is all about energy, not strength. If you are struggling with the attacker or using way too much force, you have forgotten this basic fact. Stop being 'strong' and relax.
Your aim is to use just enough power to pull off the application. Make contact, feel the bite and then come off immediately. Do not wait around to see what happens. But avoid hurrying/rushing.
The exact same mentality applies to performing a fall or a throw. Ignore what you think is needed. What you think is irrelevant.
Ask yourself: is the effect the consequence of using the least amount of effort?
Less is better than more. A correct strike looks like absolutely nothing but penetrates deeply. The impact may not even feel hard. It is unimpressive in appearance but powerful in effect.
Similarly, a fall or throw should feel to have just happened all by itself... Unless you reduce your commitment and rely upon jing and groundpath, you will drown in shallow water.
If you are not in control of your taijiquan, who is in control? You cannot treat the art like a runaway car. Be responsible. Only you can make the power manifest. So take responsibility.
Learn how to control it.
Rushing is another sign of fear. You must come to terms with your fear, and relax. If you get hit, you get hit. Accept this. When you flinch, anticipate or tense-up, you have lost control completely.
A more skilled opponent will defeat you instantly. Yield, make space. Take your time. Rushing is a timing fault. Your awareness is askew. You are not present in the moment.
Listening to your body
Listening work entails a significant change of focus. You learn to listen to what your body is doing, rather than what you think it is doing. Your stances increase in size and you become more mobile.
The work involves much more peng emphasis and groundpath cultivation. Remember to temper this with sensitivity and skill. There is no excuse for clumsiness and brutality.
Take control of your own body.
Luke Skywalker: I do not believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.
(The Empire Strikes Back)
18 April 1995
Last updated 19 April 2021