Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hard vs Soft

I was watching a video on Chen style fajing training. It introduced 42 methods of training fajing, which can be stringed together to become a continuous training routine. Below is an example taken from here.

The video I watched showed applications as well (I couldn't find it on YouTube, so you will have to make do with the example above), but watching the video, I started thinking about how the applications seem to stress the hard part of application, without touching on the soft part of application.

I think taiji movements can be applied in two ways, hard and soft. By hard, it means striking. Basically, like a punch, you start without contacting your opponent, and suddenly make contact. The force is usually more explosive. Much like what you will see in Chen style second routine.

By soft, you are already in contact with your opponent, then you listen to his force and redirect it to use against him. The movements are more fluid and is what you will find familiar in Chen style first routine.

For example, the double peng can be used to strike away an opponent's arm when he tried to use both hands to push you. That is the hard method of applying it. It can also be used to turn and lift up his arms, and his whole body with it, when he similarly tries to push you with two hands. That is the soft method of using it.

The hard method requires power, which can be developed via constant practice. What you need to remember is that the movement must be smooth and relaxed. Power comes naturally when your body moves as a whole. There is no need to specifically exert force.

The soft method requires the ability to listen for and redirect your opponent's force. This is achieved through pushing hands training. This may be the harder method to train, since it requires that you have a partner available to train with.

So while it may seem more interesting to train in the hard method of application (after all, the explosive nature of the force exerted makes it look more impressive and more "useable"), let's not forget the soft method of application, which is what allows one to use "four ounces of strength to move a thousand catties" (四两拨千斤).

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