Taijiquan Internal Forces
One of the more controversial aspects of Taijiquan is the study and application of internal forces known as ‘Jin’. To issue these forces is known as ‘Fa Jin’. Taijiquan Fa Jin methods are an aspect of the internal arts which many no longer believe in, let alone practice. Sat at the midpoint between a Nei Gong method and a martial tool, Fa Jin teaches a Taijquan practitioner to express their internal power into a partner/opponents structure primarily during the practice of Tui Shou or pushing hands.
Within the practice of internal arts mechanics such as muscular contraction, leverage and percussive force are minimised in favour of learning how to express power as a conductive force through the soft tissues of the body. The basis of the development of this skill is relaxation of the body according to six progressive stages of release along with specific mental awareness qualities. The overriding terms for these qualities are ‘Ting’ and ‘Sung’.
Taijiquan’s martial strategy is to control the opponent upon contact. This means that from the initial connection of arms, the Taijiquan practitioner relates to the opponents force and neutralises it through subtle internal adjustments; this is a skill known as Hua Jin or ‘transformative Jin’. This adheres to the classical Taijiquan tenet of ‘leading an opponents force into emptiness’. Once again, these skills are studied through the platform of Tui Shou and then extrapolated out from the drill into a more martial context. Within Tui Shou they are amplified to the point of clear visual result and then when applying the skills into more martial contexts the skills are more subtle and take place on a deeper level.
These skills are used to control (Na) the opponents structure so that a gap can be found within their defence and a strike applied through the use of short, disruptive type internal strikes. All of this strategy and skill is developed through deep internal work and classical forms practice.
Tui Shou (Pushing Hands)
An important element of Taijiquan practice is Tui Shou or ‘pushing hands’. In modern times Tui Shou is sadly often removed entirely from Taiji training or else turned into a form of low quality wrestling. In actual fact, Tui Shou is a two-person flow drill designed to enable practitioners of the internal arts to study and apply internal forces. In the practice both parties work towards learning how to root and redirect force from the other whilst releasing Jin through their partners body. In this way the passing of Jin through the soft tissues becomes amplified into a more tangible force which can uproot the partner.
These skills are studied within the framework of Tui Shou and then taken out of the drill and applied in a more subtle and martially applicable manner. At this stage the skills of Zhan, Nian, Lian and Sui or ‘stick, adhere, join and follow’ become apparent within the Taiji practitioners contact work.
Peng, Lu, Ji and An
Within Taijiquan training the four key qualities of touch are known as Peng (expansion/uprooting), Lu (sinking/rolling back), Ji (squeezing/pressing) and An (suppressing). Within Tui Shou training we amplify and train these four qualities on an individual basis but in the later stages of training we apply all four qualities simultaneously upon making contact with an opponent. This serves to disrupt the opponents tactile awareness making it difficult for them to read your structure. These four qualities then form the basis for governing the bridge (contact points) within any partner work or conflict.
The development of Peng, Lu, Ji and An has little to do with external structure or technique but rather they are developed through systematically releasing inherent tensions at various levels within the body. The release of tensions generates ‘space’ within the body which is then systematically ‘filled’ with expansion of the springy soft tissues through repeated standing practice commonly known as Zhan Zhuang. In order to maintain and develop the qualities of Peng, Lu, Ji and An within Taijiquan we then study these powers within the classical forms of the style.