Peng (3)
The first power

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Open or closed centre?

If you hug a tree and bring your fingers too close together... you will feel immediate tension in the shoulders, chest and back. The arm muscles will also tighten.
The hands need to be in front of the shoulders, otherwise your body will stiffen.

Listening to your body

Finding the correct position for peng is very important. You must listen to your body. Ask another person to apply pressure through the limb and into your centre:

  1. Maintain the position without tensing-up

  2. Feed the incoming power into the ground

  3. Make adjustments to your frame in order to optimise the channelling

  4. Consider: weight distribution, position of the arms, elbows, waist to weighted foot relationship, relaxed sternum/hip kwa

  5. Open or closed centre?

Compensatory tension or crumpling indicate poor awareness. Listen with your body. Listen to your body.

Shoulder joint discomfort

Incorrect peng will cause discomfort in the shoulder joint. If there is a tangible sense of mild pain, it must not be ignored.
Poor bodily awareness and an insensitive nervous system can mean that an inexperienced student may not even feel discomfort initially. Be mindful. Taijiquan practice does not cause pain in the body.
Any indication of pain is caused by a prior health-problem or incorrect body use. Correct your pattern of movement repeatedly until discomfort is removed.

Moving with kwa

Skilled use of kwa will enable you to maintain the 5 bows yet move the limbs in a flexible, coordinated manner.
If the kwa are allowed to open and close of their own accord, they imbue every movement with additional power. Kwa provides the necessary flexibility to reduce the possibility of jarring.
If your joints flex naturally, you find it easier to adapt to physical difficulty and find opportunity for movement. The kwa help you to create space.

Elbow and shoulder kwa

It is necessary to differentiate between substantial and insubstantial when using the arms, and make sure that the arm muscles never stiffen. Locked joints impede movement.
If you meet resistance, stop rather than push. Allow the joints as much movement as possible without losing connection.

Differentiate between 'hip' and 'hip kwa'

The hip joint is not the hip kwa. The hip joint moves far less than the hip kwa does. Our aim is to spiral through the soft tissue of the body, not through the joint.

Higher & lower peng

When the peng needs to be higher, the elbow does not lift. Fingers to the ceiling, elbow to the floor. When the peng needs to be lower, the elbow remains where it is and the fingers go lower.
Maintain open kwa at all times.

Palm-in or palm-out

Peng can be either palm-in or palm-out. When it is palm-in, the hand is closer to the body. The palm rotates up and away from the body. The arm spirals outward.
When it is palm-out, the hand is further away from the body. The palm rotates down and away from the body. The arm spirals outward. Be careful not to lift the elbows or affect the shoulder joint.
Note that in order to maintain open elbow kwa, palm-out is further away from the body than palm-in.

Punching & palming

Contract when you punch, extend when you palm. Contraction and extension are the natural action of your muscles. The action only occurs on contact. Do not exaggerate this or your will tense-up.

Contracting & extending

If you fail to contract/extend, your striking limb will be flaccid and bounce-off. There may be some risk of wrist injury.
If you exaggerate and tense-up, the strike will affect the opponent more but the strike will not penetrate. Much of the force will feed back into you.
Most inexperienced people make a total mess of this and just tense-up. At that point, they are no longer training taijiquan.


There are three main stages of peng development:

  1. Stiff

  2. A drawn bow

  3. A Swiss ball

These correspond to different stages of taijiquan skill; beginner, advanced and expert.
The preliminary level student possesses no peng and is too insensitive to remove their inherent degree of postural tension. Their muscles are chronically over-contracted.
The more accomplished student is like a bow that has been drawn prior to the release of the arrow. Tendons and ligaments are taut. The muscles are relaxed to the highest degree they can manage.
The expert loses the overt bow tension and becomes externally soft. They are more akin to a Swiss ball; yielding and soft outwardly, but with a very firm centre.


Allow the arms to fold but not collapse. Shoulders need to relax, the scapula, collarbones, upper chest and joints must roll. The elbows perform natural arcs as a consequence of the movement.
You are not flaccid or tense and the opening & closing occurs without contrivance.


Groundpath involves putting your bodyweight into someone else. This is not merely a matter of connection, structure and alignment. It also requires yielding.
Your entire framework must be soft and loose, but integrated. Let your weight fall through your body into the other person, without in any way compromising your own balance. You must yield.


Many people translate sung to mean 'relax' but this does not adequately capture the nature of this neigong. Sung feels like the limbs are moving by themselves; all doing is gone.
It is a composite skill which relies strongly upon yielding. Sung requires the body to be naturally sunk at all times and for the joints to open & close without conscious effort.
The groundpath permeates the body at all times, creating elastic bow tension although no conscious will is required to manifest or sustain it.
Resistance to force should now feel anatomically uncomfortable. The waist should return to the centre by itself once rotated and the elbows should be heavy.
Sung is not flaccid or inert - it is a cat-like readiness within the mobile structure.

What is the meaning of wardoff energy?
It is like the water supporting a moving boat.
First sink the qi to the tan tien,
then hold the head as if suspended from above.
The entire body is filled with spring-like energy,
opening and closing in a very quick moment.
Even if the opponent uses a thousand pounds of force,
he can be uprooted and made to float without difficulty.

(Tan Meng-hsien)



Page created 18 April 1995
Last updated 02 September 2021