On the peculiarity of Taichi to refrain from using force
By Wu RH, Compiled and Translated by Alex
The Taichi classics read : “Energy comes from the feet, expands through the legs, is controlled by the waist, and is released through the fingers.” To transmit the ground reaction force through the body from the ground up, movement must be self-restrained so as to not use force. This is because if the arms use force, they will hinder efficient transmission of this ground reaction force, and furthermore, the body will not able to unfold its whole-body energy. Therefore Cheng Man Qing said : “Don’t move your arms in Taichi”. According to the Treatise on Essential Points, the meaning of “Don’t move your arms” is that “movement of the arms is initiated by the waist and the legs, change of the stance is initiated by the body”. It means that the body and the arms only move when they are made to move as a reaction to circumstances, but they don’t forcefully make attacking or defensive movements. This is the fundamental training principle for accomplishing the supple martial arts that is Taichi, where “softness overcomes hardness” and “stillness overcomes motion”.
By keeping the hands passive, the mind remains clear like the mind of a spectator, which is essential to train the skills of listening to the opponent (tingjing (聽勁)) and understanding the opponent (dongjing (懂勁)). It also allows the body and hands to be sensitive and to be linked together as one. “Sensitive” must start from relaxing all the major joints so that they remain fully independent; but the joints must also be able to tighten and support each other in an instant, this is “linked together”. According to the Taichi Classics : “Extreme softness is followed by extreme hardness”. By first being soft and nimble, a strong attack can be neutralized. Right afterwards the whole body links together as one and can transmit a strong counter-attack. “Sensitive” and “linked together” interact mutually like Yin and Yang. Switching between the two is important practice, as it will lead to a deeper understanding of the saying “Yin is never far from Yang, Yang is never far from Yin, alternating between Yin and Yang leads to dongjing (懂勁 - understanding the opponent).”