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Soft meeting refers to the way in which we encounter an opposing force. If we stiffen and offer resistance, then the force can enter us.
If we remain relaxed and allow the force to move us, then then it will not find purchase.
Force meeting force is not taijiquan. Force must be met with softness and yielding.
Soft meeting requires a serious degree of physical sensitivity and awareness within your body; the ability to feel the tension within the incoming force and to dissipate your own tension at the same time.
Softness is called sung
When the softness has become natural to you and your body simply remains loose and yielding at all times, it is called 'sung'.
Sung is a highly desirable neigong (whole-body strength) quality because it is very good for both fitness and self defence.
When the attacker comes at you, it is necessary to meet the assault with a calm mind and relaxed emotions. Only then do you possess the wherewithal to use taijiquan correctly. Allow the attack.
Encourage its advance. Do not flinch back or rush.
Embrace the attack
Let the force surge in towards you, volatile and dangerous. Then meet it softly, establish connection, remain sticky and re-direct the incoming power. Without yielding, this cannot be accomplished.
Allow your attacker to go in the direction they want to go. Do not impede them.
Imagine that somebody was attempt to break your arm... Tensing or collapsing the limb would do nothing to prevent this from occurring.
Alternatively, you can tie the body into the mid-back, use your connection and relaxation to strengthen the limb without tensing.
If your connection and groundpath are good, it would be very difficult to bend or break your arm. Yet, your body has not tensed at all.
Yielding may hurt the ego, but the ego has no place in taijiquan.
Rooting is the outcome of yielding to the pull of gravity. You do not tense, fight or clutch the ground. You cooperate with gravity.
Neither flaccid nor resistant, you allow gravity to strengthen your connection with the ground.
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.
Jing can be translated to mean 'power'. Yet it is not power that you own. It is power you can use. There is a difference. This quality of borrowing power is 'te' in Taoism.
By aligning yourself with 'what is' - the moment, the event, the happening - you can make best use of the attacker's strength, balance and intention.
Your power comes not from your own strength or will, but from your ability to find accord with the moment.
If you can flow in harmony with the incoming force, you can skilfully defeat the attack using very little actual strength.
Success in this endeavour demonstrates an understanding of 'mutual arising' (verse 2 of Tao Te Ching). Rather than impose, you allow. This allowing is called yielding.
Softness enables fa jing
The mobility of the joints and the vertebrae provide the looseness required to produce fa jing - the means of expressing force in taijiquan. Without this high degree of softness, fa jing cannot occur.
People are afraid.
Ego-armouring is manifested by the huge 4 x 4 tanks people hide within, the big houses with their gates and fences, the 'power-dressing', identification with a job, an organisation, a guru, an image.
You do not need all of that stuff. It only serves to highlight just how insecure you feel, and how much you depend upon external things for comfort and support.
Fear is OK
It is OK to feel afraid, to doubt, to worry, to be uncertain. Pretending that you are fearless is naive, macho and deceitful. Who are you really fooling? Surely, only yourself?
Yielding is about feeling comfortable being you. Experience the moment. Enjoy it for what it is. Do not seek to interfere, control or fix it. Let-go. When you let-go, you relax.
Your body moves more smoothly. The joints open and close freely. Your mind becomes receptive and aware, adaptive and flexible.
Instead of needing plans and techniques, you flow with what is happening. There is no forecasting, no anticipation, no struggling, no forcing. It just happens, and your taijiquan is part of that happening.
You allow things to go their natural way.
Suppose we estimate the strength of
a man in units of one. Let us say that the strength of this man is 10 units,
whereas my strength, less than his, is 7 units. Then if he pushes me with all
his force, I shall certainly be pushed back or thrown down, even if I use all my
strength against him. This would happen from opposing strength to strength.
But if instead of opposing him, I leave him unresisted, withdrawing my body just as much as he pushes, at the same time keeping my balance, he will naturally lean forward and lose his balance. In this new position, he may become weak (not in actual physical strength, but because of his awkward position) as to reduce his strength for the moment, say to 3 units only instead of 10 units. But meanwhile I, by keeping my balance, retain my full strength, as originally represented by 7 units.
Here then, I am momentarily in a superior position, and I can defeat my opponent by using only half of my strength, or 3 1/2 units against his 3 units. This leaves one-half of my strength available for any other purpose. If I had greater strength than my opponent, I could of course push him back. But even if I wished to and had the power to do so, it would still be better for me first to give way, because by so doing, I should have greatly saved my energy and exhausted my opponent's."
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 02 September 2021