Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 291
Always Peng
   As we all know, Tai Chi Chuan is based on the Daoist theory of yin and yang. These terms do not describe two different things – just two sides of the same coin. Actions such as gather (yin) and release (yang); inhale (yin) and exhale (yang); sinking (yin) and rising (yang). Also more abstract ideas such as ebb (yin) and flood (yang), tight (yin) and loose (yang), sad (yin) and happy (yang), frown (yin) and smile (yang), save (yin) and spend (yang).
   With this in mind, consider the terms pang (expansion) and lu (contraction). These are two of the most basic and essential energies of the Tai Chi form and martial applications. Tai Chi philosophy describes peng as yang and lu as yin. This confuses beginners. They view pang and lu as two separate things.
   Take for instance a wall. I am in my office. There are four walls surrounding the space. I could say these walls are yin – inside facing. I get up and move through a door. I am now in a hall way. I look at the door I just came through, see a wall, and perceive a different wall than I did when I was inside my office. It is now outward facing. I could say the wall is now yang – outside. It is actually the same wall, only depending upon where I am, the same wall can be thought of as “inside or outside”, yin or yang. If I started this adventure in the hall, the wall would start out being inward facing, and if I then went into my office, the wall would now be outward facing. Every thing is relative.
   The point of this discussion is that every move in Tai Chi, no matter if it is Ward Off, Roll Back, Press, Push, or any other, contains both yin and yang, but in differing amounts. Each expansion contains in it some contraction and vice versa. If you don’t add some Lu (yin) to Ward Off (yang) it is easy to get pulled forward out of your root. Moving backward must contain some forward, moving right needs left, up needs down, etc. When doing Step Back and Repulse Monkey, for instance, you cannot just withdraw the hand and body. One needs to use the forward hand to stick (peng) so as not to separate when following and leading the opponent’s incoming energy.
   I feel that peng is the most essential energy in our form. If not, everything collapses. Think about a balloon or a ball. It needs to be blown up in order to maintain shape and to roll with the incoming energy. Or the fact that the body is mostly space – 99.999999% empty space filled with cosmic energy, or chi. This peng chi gives the body its shape. Without this peng chi we would be flat like a deflated balloon.
   Just as you can blow a balloon up to a larger size, through Tai Chi and qigong practice, you can make your body change shape and add inner strength. Or relax (Lu) a bit and have more flexibility. Get to work.