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Maintaining Balance within Constant Change

When we talk about balance, we think of Yin and Yang. The principle seems very simple and easy: You have two energies you want to balance. However, the reality is not that simple. Everything is in a state of constant change and that makes us constantly have to adjust our balance.

When shooting a bow and arrow, we understand that two energies need to be drawn away from each other to create a new energy. When it actually comes to shooting, we must also consider how much physical strength we have in order to pull the bow apart. The strength of the pull will determine how far the arrow can shoot. If a person can only draw 20 pounds, then they can shoot 20 pounds worth of distance. But if they can draw 50 pounds, they will be able to shoot that much further. Is your body a 20-pound bow or are you a 50-pound bow? What can your body do right now? That’s the physical condition that needs to be balanced. Other conditions will also affect the results: How strong is the wind? How far is the target? What are the angle and the elevation of your aim? The arrow’s energy moves in a curved arc, so we have to think about elevation in order to hit the target. There are a lot of varying conditions that we have to consider.

Playing golf is another example. Every time we put our feet on the ground, the grass gives us a different condition. The angle of the swing gives us a different result. The wind affects where the ball goes. The distance of the green affects how we are going to swing. All these are different changing conditions.

We understand that we need to balance the Yin and Yang in our Taiji practice, but every time our frame changes, our condition changes. We have to constantly adjust. We cannot just say “I will balance”. What happens if we only balance individual parts of our bodies? Again, golf is a good metaphor. If I pick up the club and I swing it and I don’t think about where my foot is, how my body is torqued, etc., my shot will not be very successful. Every time we move, our whole body changes. We have to think about where our power is going to come from. Does our power come from the hands or does it come from the center of the body? We say that energy is wave-like because it is always moving from the power source and extends out to the next point and then to the next point. In Chen-style Taiji we call this moving one link at a time.

As soon as one part of the body feels dislocated, then the whole body’s power is affected. If you are about to shoot your bow and someone just flicks you on the elbow, even just a little bit, then your whole body will be affected and you will not hit the target. Focusing does not have a narrow goal. Focusing for us is to become sensitive to every part of the body as it is changing and to maintain that balance.

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