Penetrating defences

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There are 10 principle '
penetrating defences' entry methods in our syllabus:

  1. Intercept early

  2. Filing

  3. Squeeze

  4. Slipping

  5. Pluck

  6. Step-behind 

  7. Composure

  8. Shen

  9. Slanting peng

  10. Separate foot

These drills train the body to get in close when attacked.
They are not about yielding or withdrawing. They are about advancing.


Thus sages contrive nothing,
and so spoil nothing.
They cling to nothing,
and so lose nothing.

(Lao Tzu)


Having made space, you must incapacitate your attacker. Yielding is only half of the requirement.
Unless you neutralise the attacker, they will continue to assault you.
Advancing can incorporate a number of jing, but the most important one is 'growing'.
Growing is concerned with crowding the attacker, making them feel restricted and awkward, vulnerable and compromised.
It is important not to oppose the incoming path of force. Move around it.

What is the point?

These drills do not initially make sense to a novice student.
However, to an experienced exponent - faced with an armed attacker - they make total sense.
Penetrating defences increases your options whilst simultaneously reducing those of the attacker.

Neutral state

Do not hurry, do not lose your composure.
Glide around the incoming force and assert yourself.
A calm, smooth action is a good demonstration of skill.

Mutual arising

Instead of taking turns, the attack and your counter take place at the same time.
This is advantageous because it saves time and surprises the attacker.


So much of taijiquan appears to be concerned with yielding and letting-go. Yet, if you simply yielded all the time, it would be unbalanced.
Yielding is balanced by penetration.
The training reflects this. It trains you to soften, relax, be sensitive, use your body and escape.
The syllabus teaches you how to close in.
Stepping deep into your opponents centre is a necessary skill and must be performed without hesitation or fear.
If you falter - you will fail.

Stepping closer

You cannot defeat an opponent using taijiquan at a distance.
Even our kicking involves getting closer than most other martial arts care to operate.
Your stepping itself should feel loose and natural.


Step beneath your opponents centre of gravity.
Step through their vertical centre.
Focus your attention on your tan tien in order to intensify the effect.


Penetration needs to be gentle and smooth; dreamy.
Coarse, brutal application of force demonstrates no actual skill and
hurried action shows inexperience.
You must find an opening in your partners defences and gently slide in.
They may not initially be aware of what you are doing, until the groundpath is felt deep within.


The drills teach the student how to step in close and then follow-up in a wide variety of functional ways.
Each individual drill puts the student in a unique position relative to the opponent.
The selection of targets and options are determined by the initial position.
in every case, there is an extremely diverse range logical follow-ups to be explored.
Should any application be thwarted the student can flow between chin na, shuai jiao and form applications with ease.

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Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 15 February 2020