Do you ever look at the world and wonder why we are always pushing against things. People do it when they demand their opinion be more valuable or true than yours. Groups do it when they pick a cause to fight against and then protest. Nations do it when they march their armies into someone else’s territory. All of that pushing against only makes what you are pushing against stronger or more prominent. It does nothing to lessen the conflict or move the other person, group or nation to step down. Force always increases the tension until it finally quashes it all together.
The Chinese have it right in their practice of Tai Chi.
The concept of the Taiji (“supreme ultimate”) appears in both Taoist and Confucian
Chinese philosophy, where it represents the fusion or mother of Yin and Yang into a single Ultimate, represented by the Taijitu symbol. Thus, tai chi theory and practice evolved in agreement with many Chinese philosophical principles, including those of Taoism and Confucianism. (source: Wikipedia).
There are many exercises in the martial arts. One exercise, known as “pushing hands”, is particularly useful.
Pushing hands is said to be the gateway for students to understand experientially the martial aspects of the Internal martial arts (?? nèi ji?); leverage, reflex, sensitivity, timing, coordination and positioning. Pushing hands works to undo a person’s natural instinct to resist force with force, teaching the body to yield to force and redirect it. Health oriented tai chi schools may teach push hands to complement the physical conditioning available from performing solo form routines. Push hands allows students to learn how to respond to external stimuli using techniques from their forms practice. Among other things, training with a partner allows a student to develop ting jing (listening power), the sensitivity to feel the direction and strength of a partner’s intention. In that sense pushing hands is a contract between students to train in the defensive and offensive movement principles of their martial art; learning to generate, coordinate and deliver power to another and also how to effectively neutralize incoming forces in a safe environment. (source: Wikipedia)
This past weekend I had the opportunity to try this with a group of men who get together twice a year to support one another in life and reinforce what it means to be a man. We performed this exercise round robin with 12 men. What happens is one man tries to force the other to lift a foot first and thereby be disqualified. Most of the time what has a man lose is his opponent stops resisting and the attacker loses his balance. Most of the rounds went pretty quickly, except for me.
For some reason I just did not resist and to my surprise I was able to outlast a man almost twice my weight and several inches taller. He was even getting frustrated as I would just let his hands push mine without resisting at all. At one point I almost got him to lose his balance and the only reason I finally lost was that someone suggested setting a time limit on the competition and I got more aggressive. I am not sure what got into me that day. For some reason I was perfectly at peace with complete release. In the process I was surprised to feel the sense of power I felt in totally being with the other person. There was also energy as a result of the frustration on my opponent’s face in not being able to move me. I dare say that I was much more comfortable with the whole exercise than my opponents were.
I am aware that by not losing, I also could not win but for me that was less important than just being with the other person and trying to feel the force approach me without any resistance. What would our homes, offices, churches, legislatures, nations and peoples look like if the force of Yin Yang was observed? If every force were met with an equal and opposite force all conflict would melt into peace. (I had to have a little utopia in here)
Unfortunately, I am not sure I could honor the true calling of Tai Chi as I have not had much experience with generating, coordinating and delivering power. My symbol is not complete; my life is not yet balanced.
I saw in this exercise how I have always lived my life. I have always found it useful to give no resistance. I have even used it as a young man to avoid a fight with a young hoodlum in a pizza parlor in the small town of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. It is a strategy that has served me well in those kinds of situations throughout my life. At this weekend though, I discovered that I need to find the other half of the Taijitu symbol, the Yin to my Yang. This was something that I had not seen before or at least had not recognized as another source of power. A source I have not fully developed.
What could I achieve if I were able to seize this power? What do I need to do to fully absorb the energy on this side of the Tai Chi? In seeing this lack I am now aware that it is something I want.. no.. need, something that will allow me to complete my journey.
So here the journey begins, here it commences. I am not sure how the first step is taken to generate this attitude within myself. I know that it will be a process, a course of action. Not one that I need to take alone though. I am not worried because I have these men around me. I know who they are and they know who I am. I know I can trust the men because this is a skill that is native to men and yet, somehow it skipped me. I look forward to what lies ahead.
Thanks to the men and thanks for the exercise.