This is the second Excerpt from the text I Am working on on the principle of Sung (soong) “Using minimal effort”. Again I want to thank everyone for their previous comments, and wanted to encourage anyone who has comments and constructive criticism to leave a comment here or contact me through email email@example.com or my website www.taichiteacher.org.
You may wish to go back and read the previous excerpt prior to continuing if you have not done so. In brief it discussed a static position, this excerpt focuses on Sung as it is applied in defensive or yielding movements, Still to come are excerpts on using the Sung to redirect energy back to the other person and the mental aspects of the Sung principle.
The Active Principle of Sung
When Applying the Principle of “Sung” in movement it is necessary not to confuse the principle with being yin or relaxed. When beginning Tai Chi most people hold on to too much tension so most instructors need to focus on releasing this muscular contraction, unfortunately many students practice “soft and floppy” Tai Chi from then on.
Balanced training requires understanding of how to effectively move and apply biomechanically and martially effective techniques without becoming tense at the same time. Most Tai Chi players who do push hands or sensing hands with someone new of having their partner rather than providing too much resistance completely collapse, and, for both the teacher and student, this is one of the more difficult stages to work through.
Effectively four ounces of pressure, the weight of a good china coffee cup, is what should be applied in cooperative sensing hands exercise. Sung in this case means providing enough “presence” within the arm and body so that the joints do not collapse while moving to a point where your partner’s energy is effectively neutralized.
Sung in Yielding
My favorite game for teaching “Sung” as an active presence is a simple sensing hands game, while it also teaches leading and following a partner, it also teaches maintaining a relaxed but vibrant arm and body. Facing your partner place your palms against your partners, decide who will lead first the leader simple walks forward while the follower tries to maintain the same level of pressure on the palms and proper body alignment and position.
It is a simple game of neither increasing nor decreasing the relative strength of force, which leads to using this “Sung” principle in dealing with “live” weight. “Live” weight comes from a living person and or a tool or weapon that they are wielding. “Live” weight changes directions and shifts and alters with the changes of the other person’s body and center. “Dead” force, in contrast, is what we experience when a runaway car strikes you or when we attempt to lift a chair.
“Live” weight is what we experience in push hands and combat. It is the adjustments to body posture creating “Sung” in this context. The structure of the body should be, as inflatable ball with weighted ball inside, with the central weight remaining the same distance from the force unless acted on by another force.
In this example, we are playing in yielding mode, so when the force stops or no longer connect to the weight (gravitational center) the movement of the ball stops but the ball does not collapse in on itself. If we return to our game if the leader is not pushing the follower does not move.
Up to now we have been talking about a straight-line force, in practice it is almost impossible to produce this kind of force. With off-center force we find another event happening. Pressure towards the body center produces movement directly away from the source of the push plus a movement to the side.
This result is in the central core moving out of the line of force and the force neutralizing. While there may still be contact with the shell of the body (our inflatable ball from earlier) as long as it does not exceed the force needed to maintain proper body alignment, and the inertia of the body.
Dead force will obviously continue in the same direction and end up somewhere behind our ball and the game is over. Live weight, on the other hand, can be redirected so our ball would again need to roll or move from the force being exerted on it. For those who already do push hands this is the redirect. Since the force is once again connected to the body’s center, our ball need to roll again in another direction.