Tai Chi Principle: Comply with Yin and Yang

tai chi philosophy originated from “Change has Tai Chi which produces two elements,” the two elements are Yin and Yang. ‘ZhouYi’ summarized it as “one Yin and one Yang are called Tao.” Chen Xin, the man who first summarized and systematized Chen style Tai Chi technique and theory, put forward that “one Yin and one Yang are called (Quan).” In The Influence of Tai Chi Thinking on Wushu, I have mentioned that as early as in the Spring and Autumn Period and the War Period, to move in “conformity with Yin and Yang” had become the basic principle of Wushu. Based on that, the application of this principle in Tai Chi exercise becomes more delicate. “The principle of complying with Yin and Yang” in Tai Chi concept requires that one should make sense of various kinds of corresponding relation in Tai Chi exercise, then put the law of Yin-Yang transformation into practice.

a. Distinguishing Yin and Yang Are the Basis of Complying with Them

To comply with Yin and Yang, one must distinguish them first of all. In classic literature of Tai Chi, the first chapters usually describe Yin and Yang first. Wu Yuxiang said he transcribed down Theory on Tai Chi by Wang Zongxue in 1852. The first chapter of this book wrote, “Tai Chi, the mother of Yin and Yang, is born of no extreme. It divides while moving, unifies while being serene. There is nowhere without it, and it bends or expands according to the situation. The situation in which others are tough while I soft is called smooth; the situation in which I am in favor while others in trouble is called stagnancy. Swift movement should be reacted by promptness; sluggish movement should be followed by slowness. Although it is full of capricious change, the principle going through it is only one.” The first chapter of Chen Xin’s Chen’s Explanation of Tai Chi in Illustration•Tai Chi Manuel also says “Tai Chi has two extremes which are Yin and Yang, whose analogy are closure and retreat(?), moving and serene, gentle and tough, bend and straighten, forward and backward, survive and die, divide and unify, change and stability. Emptiness and fullness arrive at the same time; show for a while and hide for a while; half toughen and half submit; lure and attack in careful scheme; either concentrate or expand; sudden loosen and suddenly tighten, loosen up before restrain, all these are in rapid change.”

Apart from the examples above, there are still many Yin-Yang correspondence. If only those phenomena are corresponding or in opposites, they can draw analogy to Yin and yang.

b. Complying with Yin and Yang is the basic way to exercise the boxing. 

An old instruction about Tai Chi summed up: “Yin and Yang (the two opposing elements in nature, the former feminine and negative, the latter masculine and positive) is very important: Stillness is just motion, motion is just stillness; Yin can’t be without Yang, Yang can’t be without Yin, and the combination of both means power.”(Lianrangtang Tai Chi Table/ Wang Zhong Tai Chi Theory), which indicated the basic way to master the harmony of Yin and Yang .In this way, in case of a combat situation, it’s well advised of the interdependency of attack and defense, that is to say, attack bearing defense, and defense hiding attack.  Take the attack movement of “brushing knees and pushing palms”for example; we have to push arms with shoulders and elbows stretching in order to make our palms reach further. However, the philosophy of Tai Chi emphasizes “Yin hidden in Yang” and “ Attack contained in Defense”.

Therefore, according to the rules of “ Yin hidden in Yang ” and “Curve in straight”, two arms form an approximate circle with shoulder sinking and elbows relaxing. So, while the possibilities of attack decrease, it, however, can prevent your elbow joint from stretching too much to be captured by your opponent. Take “hands brandishing lute” for another example.

When you face attack from your opponent, you try to move back for defense in the traditional manner, however, Tai Chi teaches us to “ move back your body without withdrawing your hands”, as well as “ hiding Yang in Yin”, and  “Defense with sudden attack ready”. The points to remember about this movement are to sit legs with body sinking slightly, still keep two arms stretching forward, and break the elbow movement from the opponent, thus completing the defense movement through the art of  “ defense by attacking”.

Furthermore, “ Strength bearing the gentle” , “gentleness hiding the strong” and “ unifying the strength and gentleness”  are  emphasized  when we handle  strong attacking forces.  “Openness bearing closeness”,”closeness hiding openness” and “ alternate with the open and the close” are utilized when we handle the openness and closeness of the pose. All these theories are identical to the general way of boxing such as “moving Complying with Yin and Yang”, i.e., to explain and define theory of boxing technique by using the principles of Yin and Yang. Acting as “Yin and Yang Adaptation principles” of Tai Chi Movement philosophy, it not only focuses on the adoption of Yin and Yang interdependency principle and Yin and Yang migration principle mentioned above, but pays the same attention on the “adaptation”. Adapting the natural rule of Yin and Yang migration to realize a homeostasis-specific “neutralization” and “coordination”, instead of using the principle of Yin and Yang to show out the opposite of the Yin and Yang, strengthen it.    

In general, the first step of adopting “the Yin and Yang adaptation principle” is to be full aware of the corresponding or oppose relationships between various technical elements.  You won’t adapt to Yin and Yang without its awareness.

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