Developing Understanding of Energy
“When standing in yin, look to yang.” - Yang Jun Laoshi
The art of taijiquan uses taiji theory as its foundation. Taiji theory is based on how two counterparts, yin and yang, balance each other. Taiji is one thing made of two parts; one equals two and two equal one.
The three basic rules of the theory are 1) yin and yang are never separated, 2) yin and yang oppose each other and 3) when yin reaches its maximum, it becomes yang (and vice versa).
When discussing yin and yang it is important to compare like things, like hot and cold. It would be confusing if you try to compare unrelated aspects. For example, you cannot compare posture with energy because they are different taijis.
We practice the taijiquan hand form to learn about how yin and yang balance within ourselves. We learn push hands to see how yin and yang balance as we interact with a partner.
Push hands is the method used in taijiquan that trains us to listen and eventually understand incoming energy. When we talk about “listening” in push hands, we mean feeling the contact point(s) between you and your partner. Listening energy is crucial to discover our opponent’s balance of empty and full (yin and yang). When you make contact with your partner, the connection may feel heavy or light. This feeling is based on the ability and foundation of both yourself and your partner. To understand energy, focus on developing four essential push hands skills: sticking, adhering, connecting, and following. Doing this will avoid disconnecting, resisting, or sliding, which are three major push hands pitfalls.
The primary way to develop flexibility in changing energy from yin to yang and yang to yin is through push hands and applications. As familiarity develops, technique evolves into strategy. Finally, you must forget yourself to truly join with your partner.
In addition to taiji theory, taijiquan also applies wuxing and bagua theory, in order of influence. These theories can be used to describe footwork, the four square energies, and the four diagonal energies. They all seek unity, balance and harmony in varying degrees of complexity (2 for taiji, 5 for wuxing, 8 for bagua).
“Unified energy is our priority, not form.” -Yang Jun Laoshi
In taijiquan we use whole-body, unified energy. This unified energy requires coordination from the root to the leg, waist and hands. The energy coming up from the root is coordinated by the waist. The waist is in charge of the external movement and the mind controls the energy. Led by the mind, qi flows naturally when the breath is calm and the body is relaxed.
Relaxation of the body and mind is the key to training energy. Breath and balance can be negatively affected by over-thinking, emotions, body shape, position, energy, or weight placement.
Focus your mind and intent on relaxation, not on force.