Teachings from Laozi’s tenth chapter in relation to Supple Taichi
In the tenth chapter of the Daodejing, Laozi writes : “By focusing one's efforts to attain suppleness, can one become like a baby again?” To become like a baby is to recover a child-like innocence. In this way, people over 50 years old can nurture their health and cultivate their mind, but it is also a training method for supple Taichi and pushing hands. Perhaps by letting go of one’s egotistic attitude and intentions, only then will one recover the innocence of a child? A child still retains his original innocence because he is inexperienced and naïve. He has no knowledge, no skill and no intention. These are not only three psychological qualities, but also philosophies for dealing with worldly affairs. Therefore, the wisdom of Laozi and Zhuangzi reads : no knowledge leads to concentration, no skill leads to flexibility, and no intention leads to detachment.
(1) No knowledge leads to concentration : The problem with “knowledge” is that it dampens one's curiosity. Because of our upbringing, education, past experience, we may believe we already “know” and have no interest to concentrate on new things. It is only by letting go of one's knowledge that one can listen attentively to another voice, and thereby acquire new knowledge and learn about other cultures. While practicing pushing hands with a partner, it is only by abandoning the idea of using force that one can feel and respond appropriately to the intentions of the opponent. Only then can one train tingjing (listening to the opponent) and dongjing (understanding the opponent). Only then can one reveal the skill of “softness overcoming hardness”.
(2) No skill leads to flexibility : To show “no skill” is to forget whatever postures, movements and techniques one has learned in the past. If we have no skill, how do we deal with our pushing hands partner? The only solution is to focus on neutralizing his attacks by making the body light and nimble. All the better, as neutralization is a key skill to practice. It trains the ligaments, tendons and muscles of the body to be very relaxed and supple. It is the philosophy of “losing to gain”.
(3) No intention leads to detachment : When letting go off one's egotistic attitude and not obsessing about an outcome, when facing events with a polite, modest and respectful attitude, then one can start to listen attentively, then one can deeply comprehend the essence of things. By literally doing nothing, anything becomes possible.
By cultivating the wisdom of no knowledge, no skill, and no intention, and thereby recovering the innocence of a child, and while applying it to the Taichi form and pushing hands, be relaxed and be supple!
“Life in a valley doesn’t die, for here is like the womb of a mother. Continuously replenishing itself, never depleting itself.”
A valley can harbour all kinds of plants and animals, as well as chi, because it is empty and silent, welcoming everything that enters and lives in its space. Like for the rest of Mother Earth’s creation, generations follow each other, one generation giving birth to the next.
The neutralization skill of pushing hands in Taichi can be compared to the void of a valley. Body, mind and spirit are relaxed; true capabilities remain hidden. When practicing and unceasingly yielding to our partners’ attacks, over time the range of the neutralization skill broadens, the skill of tingjing (listening to the opponent) becomes more acute. Eventually, even brute force can be rendered void and the art of “softness overcoming hardness” can be reached.