Lieh – Split
Lieh is an interesting energy expression. Two forces moving in opposite directions, equally, either away from each other or towards each other. Rip apart or squeeze together. Single Whip, Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane, Slanting Flying are good examples of this energy.
First, let me add something important when reading about the different energies and specific movements. The bottom line is that it is dependent on the application that the instructor assigns. So when I say that Single Whip is a good example, I am thinking about how I do the Single Whip in the first section of the Long Form. There are other applications to other Single Whips in the form that use different energies. Please keep that in mind. This is one good reason why knowing and understanding applications is so important in Tai Chi Chuan.
Let’s examine Lieh. Take a piece of paper and hold it in one hand. Letter size is good. Now rip it in half with the one hand. Doesn’t work, unless you figure out some trick. Now take your two hands, placing them on either side of the top of the paper, and rip the paper in half. Works, right?
You have just demonstrated Lieh, splitting energy or ripping energy. Energy (in this case the two hands) moving in opposite directions with equal force. You could also rip the paper if you held steady with one hand while the other ripped. That would be called Peng. Peng is similar, but the force is not equal. One arm issues more than the other.
Lieh can also bring the energy back together – squeezing both arms towards the center with equal force, like in Raise Hands, Play the Fiddle. This energy is used in applying an arm bar – on the wrist and elbow in opposite directions equally. Lieh can be used in striking, in throwing, in pushing. For instance, when applying Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane, my foot is placed behind the partner, while one arm is placed across his body, the other hand holds his other wrist. You use the arm across the body to expand and at the same time, the holding hand pulls in the other direction. This results in the partner bring thrown over your leg that is behind him. If you didn’t apply the expanding force with the holding the wrist hand, he might be able to just step out of the leg trap.
Another example of Lieh would be pulling a very large rubber band apart. If the hands don’t expand equally, it might not pull apart. Or squeezing a toothpaste tube. Your two fingers both exert force inward and the result is that the toothpaste is extracted. You couldn’t do it with one finger unless the tube was lying on something solid.
It is fun and informative to equate normal, everyday activities with our exploration of Tai Chi principles. Helps to harmonize with our Tai Chi ancestors who used martial arts to explore internal energy. Keep a journal and write down ideas as they occur to you. Ask questions of your instructor, fellow students, and your self. Learning Tai Chi can help you in so many aspects of your life.
Question: Do you practice Tai Chi or do you have a Tai Chi practice? Would you go to someone who is practicing medicine, or one who has a medical practice? Think about it.