Thoughts on Qi

Discussion on the three big Chinese internals, Yiquan, Bajiquan, Piguazhang and other similar styles.

Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby robert on Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:00 pm

windwalker wrote:
Talks by famous masters, echoing some of the same things in talking about how to "fan song"...

"translation by google" Some parts may not be very clear for some.
https://twgreatdaily.com/o_B43mwBJleJMoPM-jx-.html

That's great. Thanks for that.
The method of practicing this boxing art is nothing more than opening and closing, passive and active. The subtlety of the art is based entirely upon their alternations. Chen Xin
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:02 pm

same experience as charles describes.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Bao on Sat Sep 14, 2019 12:14 pm

Sure, the goal might be an experience. But, what is the "experience" of sunken qi? Is following the direction to "sink" it the only way to have the experience?


I completely agree with WW that it must be felt. That is the very reason to why I don't like speaking too much about this and similar. "Sink the qi" is a useless statement. But you can give people keys on how to arrive to that point so the practitioner can feel it. No, sink is IMO not the best place to start. You cannot sink the qi actively, instead you must learn to let the qi sink by itself. If you don't first learn how to properly stand balanced, relax, and calm the mind, then trying to learn anything about qi is completely meaningless. It's not a technique but a consequence of certain internal conditions.
Last edited by Bao on Sat Sep 14, 2019 12:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Appledog on Sat Sep 14, 2019 9:19 pm

everything wrote:::) ??? :-\ :-[ on qi, culture, blah blah blah.

Getting back to your post, appledog, I think it's interesting what you said, and get that it's just your description of your experience. But then what about sitting or standing qigong when you aren't shifting your weight? How does that relate to your weight shift?



Imagine the pillar I mentioned, and what I said that it was. Then imagine the diagram I showed you of a qi blockage such as A<====B=====C=====>D (where b,c is b,c,...,etc). Sinking the qi means that any qi blockage falls down and through A into the ground. in any case it sinks down. Then there's a sort of void, or ether, which is not the great void (imo) but more of a canvas, from there you can work with qi more. Then in that stage sinking the qi to the dantian means that it revolves to and from the dantian based on your movements. In that stage you can very easily see how peng and lu are in pretty much every movement in Tai Chi. There are stages beyond this but I've only seen them for a moment.. and I just don't have the time to push that stone up the hill one more time right now.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby windwalker on Sun Sep 15, 2019 7:51 am

everything wrote:::) ??? :-\ :-[ on qi, culture, blah blah blah.



You do understand without the context of culture from which the concepts derive from. Anything said can be true for those saying it but have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

It does not negate the validity of results explained by other methods as some have noted. Only pointing out that using terminology based from another culture outside the context is confusion.
Last edited by windwalker on Sun Sep 15, 2019 8:26 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby robert on Sun Sep 15, 2019 12:15 pm

Here are a couple sayings about qi from Chen family taiji. Any error in translation is mine.

心氣下降
Xin qi xia jiang
Intend qi to go down, to descend

意守丹田, 氣沈丹田
Yi shou dantian, qi chen dantian
The intention is to guard/watch/observe the dantian, qi sinks to dantian

氣貫周身
Qi quan zhou shen
The whole body is strung together with qi

意到氣到, 氣到形到
Yi dao qi dao, qi dao xing dao
The intention goes to [a place] and qi goes to [the place], the qi goes to [a place] and the form (body) goes to [the place]


In Chen family taiji there is the idea that qi is directed by the intention/mind. It is said that Chen family taiji is partially based on daoyin (導引) and the literal translation of daoyin is something like guide stretch and the idea is guide the qi and stretch the body. In this context dao means to lead or to guide.

Liang Shouyu writes about some of these concepts as well.

1. Mind Focuses at dantian (Yi Shou dantian)
dantian literally means the "field of elixir". There are three places that are referred to asdantian in the human body. They are located between the eyebrows - the Upper dantian, the solar plexus area - the Middle dantian, and in the cavity within the abdomen - the Lower dantian. It is the Lower dantian that is of primary concern in this discussion. When speaking of the Lower dantian as a specific point in the human body, it refers to the dantian point located a little below the belly button. When speaking of Lower dantian as a "field of elixir" it refers to the area within the abdomen, around the center of gravity, which is capable of storing and generating Qi.

The guideline, Yi Shou dantian, points your mind to a central location in your body- the Lower dantian. The literal meaning of the word "Shou" is to keep or to guard. It implies "guarding" your mind and Qi to maintain their "integrity and unity" in your dantian area. Thus preventing the scattering of your thoughts and Qi, in order to achieve harmony - Mind and Qi Connected (Yi Qi Xianglian).

Yi Shou dantian is also a guideline for building Qi in your dantian. By paYingattention to your dantian, you will also be more aware of your abdominal movements. With practice, you will not only increase the efficiency of your breathing (see Guidelines for Breathing) [add link] you will also be building Qi in your dantian. The expanding and contracting of your abdomen stimulates also the building of Qi in your dantian. The expanding and contracting of your abdomen stimulates your kidneys (residence of your Original Essence) which helps produce Qi to nourish your body.


2. Use Your Mind to Lead the Qi (Yi Yi Ling Qi)
Qi can only be lead, not pushed. It is like a piece of rope that can be used to pull (lead) but not used to push an object. The mechanics of pulling with a rope requires that there is a pulling force, ahead of the object bring pulled. Yi Yi Ling Qi implies that your mind is the activator (force), that leads (pulls) the energy away from the excessive parts and leads it to the deficient parts - achieving a balance. To start this training, the mind focuses on specific points in the body, leading your sensation of Qi towards that point. Another approach to this training is to place your mind on the martial applications of the Taijiquan sequence. Be being aware of the applications of the movements, your mind will be directing your Qi towards your arms and legs - providing redistribution and balancing of Qi. It's not crucial that you are aware of the martial applications, but the imagery elicited from the applications will also help direct the Qi. For example, in a push requires that you be firmly rooted (directing your mind downward) and placing your mind toward moving the car (directing your mind forward). This type of mental exercise leads the energy forward and back; dissipating excess tension and creating a balance.
The method of practicing this boxing art is nothing more than opening and closing, passive and active. The subtlety of the art is based entirely upon their alternations. Chen Xin
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:50 pm

windwalker wrote:
everything wrote:::) ??? :-\ :-[ on qi, culture, blah blah blah.



You do understand without the context of culture from which the concepts derive from. Anything said can be true for those saying it but have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

It does not negate the validity of results explained by other methods as some have noted. Only pointing out that using terminology based from another culture outside the context is confusion.


well said.
amateur practices til gets right pro til can't get wrong
/ better approx answer to right q than exact answer to wrong q which can be made precise /
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:54 pm

subjectively, feeling wise, let qi sink or sink qi seems pretty close to the same thing. to use a bad analogy, it's similar to let yourself poo or pee vs go poo or pee. you can let stuff sink down or you can sink it down or kind of both simultaneously. outside of using too much force. it seems like this to me.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Bao on Sun Sep 15, 2019 11:53 pm

everything wrote:subjectively, feeling wise, let qi sink or sink qi seems pretty close to the same thing.


What you call it is not very important for sure. But the understanding of what people understand and know about things is always reflected in their language, so if you want to be taken seriously by people who understand the same things, it’s wise to be very specific and precise when you verbalize your thoughts and knowledge.

to use a bad analogy, it's similar to let yourself poo or pee vs go poo or pee. you can let stuff sink down or you can sink it down or kind of both simultaneously. outside of using too much force. it seems like this to me.


People use “sink the qi” in a way so it could be understood that they can force their qi in magical ways. Just as if they could force themselves to pee without having the need to pee. And how students understand it is that they should be able to go and pee whenever they want witout having the feeling or need for it. Everyone understand when they need to pee, but the feeling for qi has to be developed to understand. First you must have developed the internal conditions to a point where you can have qi. Then you need to have qi. Then you can teach yourself to let the qi sink. But this is not how it’s taught and it’s certainly not something people demonstrate when they demonstrate their stuff and say: “now I sink the qi” and make a student stumble away.

In the end it’s not about semantics. Instead, IMHO, it’s all about honesty. Honesty to others so you will be respected and understood. Honesty to yourself so that you can continue to develop and learn. Simple really.
Last edited by Bao on Sun Sep 15, 2019 11:56 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby robert on Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:15 am

Bao wrote:People use “sink the qi” in a way so it could be understood that they can force their qi in magical ways.

Some people. People can also use it correctly, but the reader/listener may misunderstand what is being said and I suspect this is quite common. Many people don't seem to want to be bothered with finding good instruction and just pass on what they are told without trying to verify what they have been taught.

Bao wrote:Everyone understand when they need to pee, but the feeling for qi has to be developed to understand.

Yes and this goes back to a point that Charles and WW were making. In CMAs qi is often related to sensations and the teacher has to associate qi sensations to terms/concepts. That is, they have to teach the qi model. I think this is part of the reason CMA is an oral tradition.

Bao wrote:First you must have developed the internal conditions to a point where you can have qi. Then you need to have qi. Then you can teach yourself to let the qi sink.

I agree. At the most basic level fang song is not something you just do. It takes time, training, and practice to become loose and relaxed. You must be fang song in order for the qi to flow in CIMA meaning.

Bao wrote:But this is not how it’s taught and it’s certainly not something people demonstrate when they demonstrate their stuff and say: “now I sink the qi” and make a student stumble away.

True for some people, but not all. There are certainly people from China who teach the qi model correctly.

It comes back to a basic law of thought, the law of identity, A=A. We can distinguish a cell phone from an apple, but we need common experiences in order to communicate. If the qi model is used it needs to be taught and that requires hands on instruction.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby everything on Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:29 pm

Agree with you Bao and Robert.

Just not so interested in absolute beginners since I'm not trying to teach. Just light hobby work, and trying things and reporting back here, and comparing notes.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby LaoDan on Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:59 am

OK, this is a rather lengthy post, so I hope that it communicates clearly my thoughts on this topic. I realize that it is better to feel the following experientially, but words will have to do.

Instructions based on feelings can be inaccurate. We can sense gross muscular actions, but not the fine changes used when maintaining structure. I doubt that anyone is capable of detecting muscle fiber recruitment used during the stretch reflex, for example, where one’s structure (joint angles) is maintained without conscious control (reflex actions bypass brain processing, so it does not even require “intent”). [Note that I would argue that this stretch reflex plays a big part in the pengjin 掤勁 structural integrity and rebounding energy that is used in TJQ.] For someone without modern knowledge of anatomy and physiology (etc.) an explanation using qi may be satisfactory. But when someone FEELS like they are not using muscles, and then states that practitioners should use qi and NOT muscles, then there is misinformation in the way that the directions are being conveyed that is inconsistent with modern knowledge.

Stating that muscles are not being used is simply wrong. Better would be to state that one should move so that muscle use is imperceptible. When one is trying to move in as relaxed a manner as possible, one IS still using muscles, and to state that one is using qi RATHER than muscles is inaccurate.

When one is careful in their usage of traditional terminology, it can be fine, and often even better than when attempting to explain things in modern terms, but one needs to either be careful, or be able to understand modern knowledge enough to be able to explain thing in ways that are not inconsistent with modern knowledge.

As others have mentioned, qi is a broadly applied concept, and is even used in describing the brushwork in calligraphy and paintings. It may be thought of as energy, but I view it more as the animating qualities/influences. Brushwork can be used to render liveliness in paintings, even though the painting itself is without life.

If we look at trees, then the internal animating quality is evident in the growth, leafing, flowering and fruiting phenomena exhibited by the living tree. But one can also describe the movements of the limbs being moved by the wind in terms of qi, in this case the animating force is the wind that acts on the tree (i.e., a force external to the tree itself, even though the effect of the invisible wind is visible on the movement of the tree).

If not careful, usage of the qi terminology in TJQ can be confusing. In humans, the animating quality of movement can be attributed to many things like intent, nerve impulses, the ATP energy source, oxygen, food, etc, and the processes that keep us animated include the biological processes that aid us in fighting or recovering from diseases or injuries and promote growth and cell replacement, etc. (all of which, and more, are needed to maintain life or “animation” in human bodies). But for movement, these various qi qualities act through the muscles. As far as I am aware, one cannot move our skeletal structure without activating the musculature (except for the collapse or fall resulting from entirely relaxing the muscles, or by moving the structure through connections to external sources of movement...). Activation of muscles can be attributed to qi, but one cannot totally eliminate muscle activation from the TJQ movements.

In the opening of Yang style forms, teachers often direct students to use intent or to use qi to raise the arms, or they use imagery like being as if one was a puppet with the wrists attached by strings that lift the arms (moving like the tree being moved by an external source like the wind), or letting the arms float up as when one is standing up to shoulder deep in water and the buoyancy lifts the arms (also being moved by an external source). But we do not have strings attached to our wrists like puppets, nor are we buoyed by nonexistent water. We still use muscles to make the desired movement, even though we are using imagery to reduce the PERCEPTIBLE (or excess) muscle usage.

This is why some teachers use terminology like eliminating any UNNECESSARY muscles for the desired actions. But it is incorrect to say “use qi instead of muscles” or anything similar (qi acts through the muscles for activating/moving one’s body). Muscles are still being used as long as we do not have an external source that is moving us (like a training partner lifting our wrists for us). It is insufficient to use traditional teaching language that conflicts with modern knowledge, unless the students are willing to ignore that modern knowledge. Knowledgeable teachers can still use traditional imagery to teach their students, but insisting that traditional ideas are correct, despite modern knowledge that contradicts it, is simply being uninformed or misinformed, and is itself wrong.

Granted, traditional language is genuinely being used in an effort to help the students, but many Western students are unwilling to discount their modern knowledge to ignore any resulting conflicts. I think that modern teaching can still use references to traditional thoughts, but one should be careful to distinguish what one feels or has been told is happening from what modern science indicates is actually happening. When we cannot explain something through modern knowledge, it just indicates that our understanding is not yet complete or that it is not being looked at sufficiently carefully. We are incapable of being aware of every process happening in our bodies (and minds), and so there is a lot that we miss or do not understand.

Returning to the Yang style opening where the arms raise, if we use a partner that provides resistance to the arm raise, most students will attempt to PUSH their arms up against the resistance, and they will find that it is quite difficult to do and requires a lot of strength to be used without much success. This is clearly not what we want for this movement; it is “muscling” the movement and is not very effective. One could then use any of the instructions given previously in order to get the student to abandon the force against force instinctive action and use something else instead.

Alternatively, one could instruct them that the elbow must lead the wrist since the elbow is above the wrist at the start. This produces a PULLING of the wrist up rather than trying to push against the resistance. One is then properly using the flexor muscles to move against resistance rather than using the extensor muscles. It becomes much more effective and is much easier to do, achieving the “effortlessness” that we desire, the moving with relaxation that we desire, the not using force against force butting against the resistance. It is using the muscles that are positioned to efficiently and effectively do the movement against their resistance rather than the ones that we may instinctively try to use. It is approaching the effortlessness that we are striving for – but it is still using muscles!

Teachers do not need to be specialists in modern anatomy and physiology (etc.), but they should not insist on traditional explanations when those explanations contradict modern knowledge. We should avoid the dogmatic usage of the traditional teaching, and we should seek to understand it well enough to explain it using modern information, if possible (especially when teaching Western students). There is not a common model for communication when a teacher relies on traditional models but the students are coming from a modern background. I would rather the teacher communicate in a way that is compatible with modern knowledge rather than forcing the students to abandon their knowledge in order to adapt one that has incompatible information in the dogmatic ways that it is passed on.

It is various physiological and physiological (and mental, etc.) principles that allows one to avoid using oppositional strength and instead utilize the mechanical advantages in order to “use qi” or “use relaxed movements” instead. Trying to dissociate the energetic from the physical seems like it is missing the point. One can learn how these principles aid the energetic, or one can hope to gain the desired qualities through feeling someone who already incorporates them, whether or not they can explain the actual physical details, or one can gain them through trial and error experiences (trying to find ways to move without feeling the use of oppositional strength until it eventually works).

To me, it is the movement principles that help practitioners avoid using oppositional strength, and it is the lack of oppositional strength that allows the “qi to flow.” The physical and the energetic are mutually connected, not separate. When someone talks in terms that separate them, then they may have the abilities, but their understanding of one or the other, and their interdependence, appears to be mistaken.

Yang Cheng Fu's 10 Essential Principles describe various physical and energetic qualities, but to me they are all addressing both, just in different ways. They are not separated into those principles that are just energetic (qi related) and others that are just physically related. I do not think that modern practitioners should separate them either. Both physical and energetic principles are addressing the same conditions and qualities that are important in TJQ movement.

To continue with the raising the arms example from the opening of Yang style TJQ, some schools will teach the principles of the relationship between the wrist and the elbow (using appropriate strength to power movements) and therefore help one to avoid using oppositional strength, but they may not realize that this is addressing the same issue as when teachers talk about using qi to raise the arms.

There are numerous other physical/energetic principles (depending on which framework one is using to speak about them; but to me they are both addressing the same qualities) that I could illustrate. For example, the idea that one should go one direction before circling or looping into the opposite direction is a commonly understood physical principle that can also be applied to the opening raising arms movement. Here if one’s opponent or partner applies resistance to your raising movement, they typically align the center of their arms against your wrists in such a way that they land their force squarely towards your arms. The slight extension prior to raising your arms affects the relationship at the contact point such that the opponent/partner now is applying their force at a tangential angle rather than directly square. This reduces their ability to oppose you, and when you do raise your arms there is less oppositional force being used (i.e., it requires less effort to raise your arms).

One should not “reverse” direction to go from extending downward to raising the arms because that would return the resistor to the point where they were square against you. Instead, you should loop or circle which should be able to be used to maintain the resistor at a tangent to your movements, therefore avoiding direct oppositional force and making your movements easier.

This mechanical action can similarly be achieved by instructions to extend qi into the middle finger (extending in the opposite direction to the eventual direction of raising the arms), followed by directing the qi to circle into the laogong acupuncture point in the center of the palm (looping or circling which keeps the resistor on a tangent). But both physical and energetic instructions are addressing the same quality than one wants in this opening movement of raising the arms. The physical and energetic are mutually dependent.

I could continue with other example in this opening raising arms move (like addressing the resistor’s yin or yang body surfaces and how the primary musculature under these surfaces act for flexion and extension), but I have already written about 2000 words for this post. Therefore I will end here and hope that this was sufficient to get my point across. To me, the energetic and the physical (physiological, mental...) are different ways of addressing the same qualities. They are not using one or the other separately. They are united as one. They address the same qualities that are desired in TJQ, just using a different framework (or reference point) and different terminology.

If you have gotten all the way through this, then thank you for taking the time to read my viewpoint.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby charles on Wed Sep 18, 2019 5:45 am

LaoDan wrote:There are numerous other physical/energetic principles (depending on which framework one is using to speak about them; but to me they are both addressing the same qualities) that I could illustrate. For example, the idea that one should go one direction before circling or looping into the opposite direction is a commonly understood physical principle that can also be applied to the opening raising arms movement. Here if one’s opponent or partner applies resistance to your raising movement, they typically align the center of their arms against your wrists in such a way that they land their force squarely towards your arms. The slight extension prior to raising your arms affects the relationship at the contact point such that the opponent/partner now is applying their force at a tangential angle rather than directly square. This reduces their ability to oppose you, and when you do raise your arms there is less oppositional force being used (i.e., it requires less effort to raise your arms).

If you have gotten all the way through this, then thank you for taking the time to read my viewpoint.


A good post, I think.

Your description of the opening raise arms movement reminds me of an experience I had. At a gathering of fellow students, pairs of students were attempting to do what you describe: one holds the other's arms while the other attempts the raise arms movement at the beginning of the form. After a few minutes of watching pairs of students attempt this, and be unable to make it work, I interjected. In Feng's forms, the opening, raise hands, movement is more complex than usually seen in other variations. It starts with opening the torso and drawing the hands to the rear, before closing and bowing the spine and then opening and straightening the spine, which raises the arms. When my fellow students were attempting to make this work, they were leaving out the beginning part, the withdrawing of the hands/arms slightly. That is what makes it work, at least in this context: it draws the opponent inward and changes the direction of their applied force. To make a long story short, when I suggested that they do that - exactly as it is practiced solo - they could then make it work. Not sure why they left it out, when that is how it is practiced as a solo exercise. I guess they didn't understand its significance.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby LaoDan on Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:19 pm

charles wrote:Not sure why they left it out, when that is how it is practiced as a solo exercise. I guess they didn't understand its significance.

It may be because in solo form it is just another individually controlled movement. But, even if that movement becomes habitual when not in contact with someone else, the movement is contrary to our instinctual movement when someone touches us.

Our minds have two frontal lobes which operate best when facing either-or choices. Gradations or alternatives become difficult to entertain when the mind is already occupied with the fight-or-flight choices. It is not surprising that politics is so polarized when our natural thought processes operate in the dualistic manner that it is designed to operate with. It is the same when someone contacts us. Should we yield to their touch or should we resist it? Do we let them control us or do we try to control them? An alternative is what we practice in TJQ – controlling through yielding. This is not normal – it is not natural.

When the partner holds our wrist in the opening, they are typically aligning themselves advantageously (even if not always optimally), but one’s response typically reverts to the instinctual fight-or-flight approach towards the partner’s hold. Even in a seemingly non-threatening situation like this partner training, the instinctual response of opposing force with direct oppositional force is typically reverted to, unless consciously trained to do something differently. Because the dualistic fight-or-flight is the instinctual response to being touched, it is very difficult for most people to respond differently.

In the context of actual physical contact, instinct usually trumps even habits formed in the out of context situation of one’s solo form (i.e., without physical contact). Despite knowing that our position with the arms hanging at our sides is not physically strong, our instinct is still to push directly against the opposition (but force against force will not work in this situation unless the person raising their arms is significantly stronger than the one holding the wrists). We need to be vigilant and aware in order to overcome the instinctive dualistic response.

There are so many directions that can be used to attempt to address this, but collectively they often still do not seem to be enough. One can learn specific actions for specific moves (which I cannot easily address since I am not aware of all the numerous details that different schools may use for specific movements in their versions of the forms), or one can learn general principles that can be applied to this issue: using qi; relaxing; abandoning one’s own plans and following the opponent instead; using intent; practicing interactive work as if training solo; not thinking about the opponent but concentrating beyond the opponent; pointing the direction one wants the opponent to go; avoid using force against force; keep the opponent’s force on a tangent; use circles and arcs or s-curves; start the movements with a different/opposite direction than the one that will be used at the finish of the move; express complementary energy to the opposite direction of the application; use the opponent’s strength against them; act like a wheel or scale or a ball floating on water; do not resist; yield; maintain a calm mind; get comfortable; breath; be like water; unite yin with yang (or yin and yang complementing and supporting one another); etc.

I am certain that there are numerous other approaches that can be used to attempt to counter the inherent fight-or-flight response where we instinctively oppose force directly, but the training seems typically to be insufficient. Note that while the above instructions may not be intended to specifically address the fight-or-flight duality, they do address the duality of yin and yang and how they interact. Since yin and yang can be applied to nearly everything, I tend to see the possibility of almost all sayings to be related, and can see how all of the above could apply to the situation encountered in this opening movement of raising the arms.

Taijiquan is not natural; this is why it is so difficult to get good at it. We need to overcome our instinctive tendencies.
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Re: Thoughts on Qi

Postby Steve James on Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:41 pm

I am certain that there are numerous other approaches that can be used to attempt to counter the inherent fight-or-flight response where we instinctively oppose force directly


Imo, flight is not the tcc response. The difference is in the fight response. Not opposing (offensive) force directly isn't particularly unique to tcc. However, I'd argue that in addition to flight or fight, there is also join.
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