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Neutralising an opponent is not the same as incapacitating them. Incapacitation is about putting someone out of action. This is fine, but not always necessary.
When somebody seeks to apply force on a taijiquan student, they should respond by neutralising it. What is neutralising? How is it accomplished?
What is neutralising?
Neutralising is about using the attacker's own impetus and force to draw them off balance and into a bad position relative to your centre.
Instead of being in control, the opponent is caught mid-attack and softly re-directed. The attacker cannot kick, strike or grab you successfully.
Any movement on their part will cause them to lose balance, weaken their structure or create an opening.
Empty the left wherever a pressure appears, and similarly the right. (Wang Tsung-yueh)
How is it accomplished?
Firstly, you must blend with the incoming attack. This means no blocking and no tension. Having gained contact, you use connection and intention to destabilise the opponent.
Use groundpath to feel where the balance resides.
Sinking to one side allows movement to flow; being double-weighted is sluggish. (Wang Tsung-yueh)
Neutralising is about manifesting yin/yang in functional practice. Continually change and adapt to whatever the attacker is doing. If they are firm, be soft and yield. If they collapse, step firmly forward.
Do not break contact.
A feather cannot be placed, and a fly cannot alight on any part of the body. The opponent does not know me; I alone know him. (Wang Tsung-yueh)
This is not a blunt, crude, forceful skill. It requires patience and sensitivity; 4 ounces of pressure You must 'listen' to what is taking place. Listen with your body for changes in weight and motion.
If the opponent's movement is quick, then quickly respond; if his movement is slow, then follow slowly. (Wang Tsung-yueh)
Without concentration, you cannot just neutralise somebody. It requires presence, awareness and a good sense of your own body. If you 'space out', you cannot neutralise.
The form is like that of a falcon about to seize a rabbit, and the shen is like that of a cat about to catch a rat. (Wu Yu-hsiang)
The advantage of following the line of force is that you are not interfering with it. This does not warn your opponent's nervous system. It buys you time.
The attacker's own body does not consider you to be a threat.
This is akin to freezing the attacker. Sever your opponent’s connection with the ground, but avoid exaggerating this or it becomes 'external'.
Make them feel as though you are keeping them at the brink of falling over.
Meet the attack, adhere, neutralise. Move as they move. Do not act after the event. Be part of what is taking place.
Catch the opponent before the expression is manifest. Act at the earliest possible moment... but without anticipating.
It is said; “If the opponent does not move, then I do not move. At the opponent's slightest move, I move first." (Wu Yu-hsiang)
Aim to unconsciously interpret the information. Respond, rather than anticipate. Smother without holding.
Fundamentally, it is giving up yourself to follow others. (Wang Tsung-yueh)
Stick and adhere. Connect and remain. In other words - make contact and stay stuck. Be mindful of how much pressure is required; adjust continually to maintain advantage.
When I follow the opponent and he becomes backed up, it is called adhering. (Wang Tsung-yueh)
It is common for a neutralised attacker to yield, withdraw and make space. Expect this. Remain connected, keep them off balance and follow them closely.
If the opponent backs up, follow them until their limb becomes weak. Seal the shoulder and elbow joint. Prevent the attacker from regaining strength.
It will take time for neutralising to become comfortable. When it does, your circle will become smaller. You come to realise that the attack can be stopped using very little actual movement.
created 18 February 1994
Last updated 07 November 2018