Monday, January 14, 2013

Yin And Yang In Taichi

Here's a comment (the only comment :( lol ) I got in the last post:
"I have a tai chi topic to discuss. Maybe you could talk about the concept of clear separation of yin and yang as it relates to tai chi and or life."
I like this topic. Gives me a lot of wiggle room to discuss pretty much anything. I'm not exactly sure what's being asked of me, but I'll start here.

Hard and Soft, Fast and Slow

Lots of people seem convinced that taichi is "slow and soft." An art they would can "internal." I completely agree with them, while also completely disagreeing with them. Why? Simple. To me, taichi is suppose to be the physical expression of Daoist philosophy. Daoist philosophy, as far as my limited understanding of it goes, somehow embraces the hard and soft, the fast and slow, the yin and yang and fuses it into one. Seeing beyond the dualism present in day to day life (or martial arts).

This, to me, says taichi should be seen as an internal AND external art. A soft AND hard art. A slow AND fast art. This may seem to go against everything that practically everyone says in the West (and perhaps the East too), but... it doesn't. How?

Becoming ONE With Taichi

When we hear "taichi" (or taiji) our minds conjure up images of people in silk suits doing forms, old masters, push hands, Chinese characters, etc. We may have concepts of what the "right" or "wrong" way to practice the taichi form or do push hands is. All of these things are relevant when thinking about or discussing Taichichuan the martial art (or Qigong, if that's more your speed). I tend to let my mind drift beyond such limiting concepts. I'm in search of that which is beyond hard and soft, fast and slow, right and wrong... Before I get too unstructured, lets start with some structure.

Start Hard (external, yang). I'm far from a martial historian but as far as I know there have been no accomplished taichi practitioners that did not first start with a hard martial art or approach taichi in a more martial fashion. When I say accomplished, I mean martially accomplished.

Go soft (internal, yin). What masters of old have found, and people are presently discovering, is the power of sensitivity/softness. As your sensitivity increases, the need to rely on strength decreases to the point of it looking quite strange.

It's my belief that taichi focuses on being soft (yin) only because so many other arts are focused on being hard (yang). That said, both yin and yang are equally important and required elements for someone who would like to "master" the martial aspects of taichi.

Seeing Taichi In All Arts

Now, if we can get a little unstructured for a second, I like to see the taichi in all martial arts. More than that, I like to see it in all aspects of life. Interactions of groups, discussions between people. It's all over the place. I was going to leave you with a martial arts video outside the world of taichi to chomp on while thinking about all  this but I have something better. Something you've probably seen before, but perhaps didn't look at in the "light" of taichi.

Taichi is just another way (dao) to practice getting closer to the "Dao." Which can, in laymen's terms, be described as effortlessly doing what's "natural." Being hard, when it's "right" to be hard. Soft when it's "right" to be soft. But, because what you're doing is natural and effortless, there is no hard and soft...

Soft at the right time, hard at the right time, spontaneous, effortless, natural...

You practice taichi to increase your awareness, connect to the source and do a better job of avoiding packs of lions... lol


  1. Great post! I love the battle of the lions.

    How does taichi chuan help to connect to the source?

    What is the key to relaxation while doing taichi?

    1. Surprisingly enough I have an answer to the question to how taichi helps connect to the source that's more than just me "winging it." I'll be sure to add a good amount of winging it to the answer though. ;)

    2. For me, in my limited understanding of Tai Chi at the moment, I don't think there's necessarily a 'key' to relaxing in Tai Chi as it is a constant process - forgive me if I'm mis-reading the question.

      While doing my form I am always trying to relax/soften by keeping in mind my muscle/joint (and mind for that matter) positioning and state - always trying to relax more and more. But then at the same time, to maybe tie into the heart of this post, I am also keeping mind of my structure/center which still takes various muscles to engage at the point I'm at. This could be considered the 'hard'. I'm also keeping my mind more single mindedly and focused on the actually practice which could be considered a 'hard' aspect of the mind too - if that makes sense :)

    3. Casey, I didn't really expect an answer to the Source question, I was just giving you a hard time. I've missed your physical and virtual presence since you've been in Iowa, so I wanted to welcome you back, Welcome Back!

      But since you have an answer, I would love to experience it!