note on song

cheng man ching

(Photo is of Cheng Man Ching.)

In taiji, there is a concept called song: it is an elusive quality of looseness that the practitioner aims to experience and harness so that it is possible to achieve correct form. Without song, gesture becomes either violent or submissive, and incapable of restoring energy.

Song is embodied through a ’roundness’ of movement – through spirals and circles in gesture, and from within the body. These shapes, applied to the body’s movement and the orientation of energy, expresses the processes of reciprocation and transformation, or the notion of a ‘gift’. Song is derived from an appropriate fluidity and elasticity that receives the energy it is given, and returns it as its own force without compromise or self-depletion. This is a creative energy, as it reinterprets the physical conditions that appear to be not ideal, into a gesture that transforms it for one’s own use. No energy is lost, as one’s own internal power is derived from and constantly giving back to the environment.

A text shared by Master Yau-Sun Tong (based in Halifax).

The enlightenments about push hands from learning Taiji with Mr. Li YaXuan
By: Chen Long-Xiang

Let him attack me with as much force as he could

I would simply tug with four ounces of power to take thousand pounds off.

Guide his force into nothing, and close on him and send him out.

Stick/adhere onto him and follow his movement instead of pulling away or crashing in.

With this principle in mind, whatever gesture is made by an ‘attacker’ is understood as a ‘gift’. (This was also reiterated many times in a very different style of self-defense class, which was not based on taiji, and had a much more aggressive nature.)

With a proper attention to song, it wouldn’t matter how large or powerful someone is; every movement they make towards you, every gesture, is giving you something to work with. It’s a constant transformation of that, and a readjustment of one’s self to use what was antagonistic towards you. As a result, the notion of success, or ‘victory’, does not rely as much on who the opponent is, as on optimizing the conditions of the body and mind for working through any material conditions. A person could be physically small and sometimes quite old, and yet easily repel physical attacks and exhaust their opponents without retaliating through a reckless force.