Differentiating Yin From Yang in Taijiquan

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Taijiquan (太極拳) practitioners typically view yin (阴) and Yang (阳) as two sides of the identical coin, and this could look like an applicable analogy for yin and yang united as one entire. However an necessary precept in Taijiquan is to obviously differentiate yin from yang. A coin’s head and tail sides do not likely have the flexibility to distinguish yin from yang. One might designate one aspect of a coin as heads and the opposite aspect as tails based mostly on totally different markings, however that coin would behave the identical as a two headed coin would. If a coin is behaving the identical no matter whether or not heads or tails is up (or ahead…), then yin and yang usually are not differentiated.

Slide 1 / 4 and a dime throughout a tabletop in order that they collide, and it could not matter which sides (heads or tails) have been dealing with up. The pressure of the collision merely is dependent upon mass instances acceleration (F=ma), the strange qualities of the cash.

Taijiquan doesn’t rely, or focus its coaching philosophy or strategies, on power or pace. Cash solely have mass (dimension or “power”) and acceleration (pace) after they collide, regardless of having two in another way designated sides (e.g., heads/yang and tails/yin). As a result of cash can’t have their yin and yang sides behave in another way from one another, cash can’t use their totally different faces in a means that differentiates yin from yang.

As an example the separation of yin and yang, a round disk can be utilized, however it’s simpler to make use of a bicycle gear fairly than a coin. The tooth of the bicycle gear engages the chain to transmit the ability from the pedals to the rear wheel. If one solely pushes down on the pedals, then they’re alternating which foot is offering the ability by pushing down on first one pedal after which the opposite. Every foot/leg can be alternating the yang (pushing the pedal down) and yin (enjoyable because the pedal continues up), and this could be differentiating yin from yang.

If, nonetheless, one is sporting toe clips (attaching the footwear to the pedals), then each the down-stroke and the upstroke can be utilized to energy the bicycle. This is able to not solely be differentiating yin from yang, however would additionally characterize yang (onerous) and yin (mushy) mutually serving to one another (刚柔相济 gang rou xiang ji). Due to the character of the round gear, and the cycle that’s produced by its rotation, it’s each able to differentiating yin from yang and having them mutually assist one another. This cyclical expression of energy is fascinating for Taijiquan.

Whereas alternating between yin and yang is important to propel a bicycle, it’s much less clear what’s required when practising Taijiquan. For instance, how does one clearly differentiate yin from yang whereas standing with each toes on the bottom? Can one have yin and yang mutually serving to one another in a single’s legs fairly than simply alternating between yin and yang when one shifts their weight?

Since there are thought of to be 5 bows (五弓 wu gong) within the physique able to producing energy, the 2 legs, the torso/backbone, and the 2 arms, I’ll handle yin and yang clearly differentiating, and mutually serving to one another, in these physique segments individually.

A drawn bow has potential power saved till the string is launched to shoot the arrow. This potential power is obtained considerably in another way than in a single’s physique because the materials on the outer aspect of the bow is stretched, and the internal floor materials is compressed and, when the string is launched, they try and regain their unique (inherent) form. So one aspect of the bow is yang (increasing or pushing) whereas the opposite is yin (contracting or pulling). Within the legs, the extensor (yang) muscle groups are on the entrance of the leg and pull on the bones to increase the leg, whereas the flexor (yin) muscle groups are on the again of the leg and pull on the bones to bend the leg. However we are able to nonetheless have each yin and yang muscle groups primed for motion concurrently however with out isometric rigidity (the place each flexor and extensor muscle groups are tensed, and the joint angle is “locked” into an unchanging angle).

The legs push in opposition to the bottom in an effort to preserve our physique from collapsing in response to the pressure of gravity. That is yang. With a view to keep away from having simply yang within the legs, we’re taught to take care of some bend within the knees and keep away from locking the legs straight. Moreover, the picture of pulling the torso downward, like when reducing oneself right into a chair, aids in establishing the potential for having yin (pulling downward power) within the legs. We wish the legs to have a springiness like we’ve got once we bounce from standing on a chair and touchdown on the ground. Touchdown with the legs simply pushing into the ground makes the touchdown very stiff and will even result in harm. That is touchdown with the legs simply yang. Likewise, we are not looking for our legs to be simply yin since relaxed legs wouldn’t catch us and we’d fall to the ground. The way in which that we naturally be taught to land from a bounce is similar high quality that we need to preserve in our legs whereas standing.

Having each the extensor muscle groups primed for projecting pressure (or pushing), and the flexor muscle groups primed for receiving pressure (or pulling), concurrently, is a situation that we wish each of our legs to take care of in an effort to have each yin and yang concurrently. This may be completed by the character of the stretch reflex. The stretch reflex is an computerized recruitment reflexive motion (with out the necessity for acutely aware instructions) that makes an attempt to take care of joint angles. If the joint angle is immediately modified with out the individual intending to take action, muscle fibers are robotically recruited to counter that unintended change. This response is reflexive and subsequently is extraordinarily quick [this is what is seen when a doctor taps the tendon below the knee when checking a patient’s reflexes, resulting in the foot kicking]. The resilience of muscle groups can be enhanced by their viscoelasticity [viscoelasticity is demonstrated by the classic children’s toy, silly putty, where relatively slow changes allows the material to stretch or act like a “viscous fluid,” whereas sudden changes makes the material bounce or behave like an “elastic solid”].

However people habitually fail to take care of this yin+yang steadiness. This may be seen in newcomers who alternate between legs when shifting their weight ahead or backward, inflicting them to boost up when straightening (yang) one leg earlier than dropping down when bending (yin) the opposite leg. To counter this tendency, college students are sometimes taught to take care of a continuing top (apart from just a few particular actions) when practising their varieties. Some view the scenario the place the physique is raised as a result of each legs are prolonged as being “double weighted.” Right here the burden can be evenly distributed between the legs, and each are expressing yang (minimal yin) and will accurately be referred to as double weighted. However double weighting will also be seen as a broader idea and will be utilized to what’s occurring in a single leg, no matter one’s weight distribution.

Even skilled practitioners usually fail to take care of the yin+yang high quality of their legs when engaged in push-hands (推手 tui shou) apply. One usually sees them bracing the prolonged again leg in opposition to the bottom and exhibiting the undesirable high quality like butting cows (顶牛 ding niu). The standard like butting cows is yang+yang and is usually seen in animals the place the 2 again legs push forcefully in opposition to the bottom in an effort to propel the physique ahead to butt in opposition to a rival. The again leg(s) then turn into yang fairly than sustaining yang+yin (or yin+yang). If there is no such thing as a high quality of receiving power (or pulling), then there may be minimal yin. Not solely are the animals utilizing yang+yang (or double weighting), they’re additionally utilizing pressure in opposition to pressure, each undesirable qualities in Taijiquan apply.

Within the torso we wish the power of the again to be yang and develop upwards to the crown of the pinnacle. Concurrently, we wish the power of the entrance to sink to the pelvic flooring. This creates a cycle across the physique (matching the “microcosmic orbit” of power). As an example this, one can maintain their fingers with the palms collectively (like praying) and push one hand barely upward to characterize the power of the again rising/increasing (yang) whereas the opposite hand sinks all the way down to characterize the entrance of the physique sinking (yin). The result’s that the “again” lifts concurrently with the “entrance” changing into concave, as directed for in Taijiquan literature. This produces the complementary yin+yang cycle within the torso, and this ought to be maintained in a single’s posture whether or not issuing, or receiving, power/pressure.

We additionally need to preserve a cycle of power round our arms. The outer surfaces, with the extensor muscle groups, are yang whereas the internal surfaces, with the flexor muscle groups, are yin. An analogy that illustrates this cyclical high quality is how the arms are used when hugging somebody. When hugging, one makes use of their arms to increase (challenge/yang) across the companion whereas concurrently drawing them shut (absorbing/yin).

When our arms are maintained in a rounded form (like in embracing a ball), then we are able to preserve a cycle of yin+yang across the arms when interacting with an opponent. A correctly inflated ball has a spherical form that maintains a contact level on its periphery with something that touches it. Moreover, when it rotates in response to the pressure that impacts it, one aspect of the ball turns away from the contact level whereas the alternative aspect concurrently strikes in the direction of it. Due to this fact, on one aspect of the contact level with the ball is yin (turning away) whereas the alternative aspect is yang (rotating in the direction of), and subsequently the ball maintains yin+yang. We attempt to preserve this identical high quality in our rounded arms. If the arms turn into too angular, then we usually free this yin+yang high quality.

The yin+yang high quality within the arms can be facilitated in motion by easily transitioning via arcs (partial circles) fairly than by reversing instructions. Reversals point out abrupt modifications from yin to yang (or yang to yin) and an alternation of the 2 energies fairly than a cycle of the 2 energies serving to one another. Arcs cycle yin and yang energies in a fashion just like pedaling a bicycle whereas utilizing toe clips. The cycle by no means stops and by no means reverses, it simply switches from emphasizing yin to yang to yin to yang… as applicable.

The analogy of the hand stroking a beard addresses this identical precept within the fingers as was simply described for the arms. Distinction this movement with how lobster claws open and shut, which is extra of an alternation of yin and yang fairly than a cycle; claws require a reversal of path to specific totally different energies. Claws are “double weighted” since each side are both yin+yin (opening/releasing) or yang+yang (closing/greedy), and are incapable of getting yin+yang in how they function. Whereas that is differentiating yin from yang, claws are incapable of “stroking the beard” cyclical actions.

All through our physique, we need to have yin and yang clearly differentiated, however it’s even higher once we can have yang (onerous) and yin (mushy) mutually serving to one another as is finished when the energies are maintained cyclically. We search to eradicate abrupt reversals when altering from one expression of power to the opposite. We need to keep away from the duality of “battle or flight” and preserve the potential for each yin and yang repeatedly, whereas nonetheless clearly differentiating yin from yang.