Yin Yang

Discussion in 'Tai chi' started by steve Rowe, Jun 7, 2006.

  1. steve Rowe

    steve Rowe Valued Member

    As it's a bit quiet I thought i'd post a brief light hearted article 'wot i rote' for a mag on yin yang that might provoke a bit of discussion..

    “There are only 5 hands in taiji, the 2 major ones are yin and yang, the yin is the peng principle and the yang is the aun principle, they manifest themselves in a variety of ways, but the principles are always the same.”

    We were practicing our taiji. These were some of my favourite lessons, karate was exciting, but taiji had that lovely smooth but powerful flow that made me feel invigorated.

    We were working through ‘Part the Wild Horses Mane’ in the third section of the form most commonly known as the Yang Chen Fu 108. It’s an ingeniously crafted vehicle for learning taiji at all levels and provides the perfect daily work out at around twenty minutes to complete. The form has repetitions of the most important techniques carefully placed to make sure you maintain concentration and enter and exit the moves in a variety of ways. It can be practiced in a martial, medical, or concentrating on different skills way on different days. We would also focus on different ‘animals’ to give a shamanistic feel, activating different parts of the brain on different days – sometimes we would practice ‘tiger’, maybe focusing on the head neck and eyes, sometimes ‘snake’, maybe focusing on the relationship of the hips to the floor and sometimes ‘crane’ perhaps focusing on the torso and arms. Sometimes I felt like a kid at school again in ‘music and movement’ classes, pretending to be a tiger, stalking around and making claws with my hands! I loved it!

    ‘Part the Wild Horses Mane’ is a movement like parting a horse’s mane with your hands whilst grooming it, from a ‘holding the ball’ position you step to the side at an angle drawing one hand down and releasing one upwards, this can be used for a variety of strikes, locks, throws, or dislocations.

    “The left hand is yang and the right yin, step drawing the right hand directly down and then rotate the body to bring the right hand up.” Sifu was giving instruction as we moved.

    “Now turn on the heel of the right foot and change the right hand from yin to yang.” We turned the right hand from palm facing inwards to palm facing outwards, softening the elbow downwards.

    “Sifu…. What makes a hand ‘yin’ or ‘yang’?”

    “Yin is palm facing in and yang is palm facing out.”


    Because the ‘gates’ are in the wrists, the internal energy is returning to the internal organs when the hand is yin and being expressed outward from the foot when it’s yang.”

    “How’s that then?”

    “Because the hand and arm give the body shape, when the palm is facing in and the arm and back rounded, you have to hollow the chest and open the back and feeling is that of ‘embracing’ – a yin feeling, coupled with all the other skills like tongue to the top palette and pulling the lower abdomen in it encourages the energy to ‘drain’ to the lower abdomen. When the palm is facing out with the elbow and shoulder softened down, you seek the internal connection to the ‘lao gong’ points in the feet and express the energy outwards.”

    “So how come I can create considerable force with my yin arm?”

    “Of course you can! The yin is on the inside, yin and yang have to be used in context, they’re not absolutes!”

    “Erm… what do you mean by that Sifu?”

    “The bottom half of the body is yang, the top half is yin, like a duck moves easily across the water and it’s legs are paddling like mad underneath, so the top half of our body should move easily whilst the legs are working like mad to enable that to happen with power and control.”


    “But at the same time, the front of the body is yin and the back of the body is yang, the front is hollow and concave, encouraging the energy to drain down and the back of the body is open and convex, to encourage the energy to pump up.”

    “I can’t be doing with all that mystical stuff….”

    “Nothing mystical in it. Even a boxer needs to work from his legs and move fluidly with his upper body and make his front concave back convex, that way he can hit harder and take hits easier.”

    “Then we have hands and sides of the body that either yin or yang, don’t you think that’s confusing?”

    “It’s only because you’re trying to put a mystical connotation to it. If I used different words of opposites like soft and hard, working and relaxed, loaded and unloaded, you would think it quite normal.”

    “So why don’t you?”

    “Because yin and yang represent the opposites in the universe and in martial arts we recognise the balancing of these forces in all their separate ways brings about balance and harmony. It also enables us to create an immense amount of force. If we used all the different terminologies we would miss the essential bonding of all these opposites that creates this power. The ability to recognise yin and yang in our movements and then the ability to make the yin more yin and the yang more yang and the smooth transition from one state to the other is crucial in increasing our health, skill and martial power.

    If you look at the yin yang symbol, the circle around the outside represents infinity, the yin and yang forces the polarity, the small circles of the opposite force within each one that nothing can be entirely yin or yang, the flowing line down the middle shows that the symbol is spinning and is in fact a 3 dimensional spiral, the most potent force in this universe, and because it joins infinity (the circle) at the top and bottom it represents our capacity to enter infinity inside of this world of duality by balancing the two forces.”

    “So it is mystical!”

    “Only because you don’t understand it. In fact it’s perfectly logical and easily analysed. I don’t see anything ‘mystical’ in it at all. It is an excellent method of coaching and learning the martial arts, it’s also an excellent way of understanding the world around you in a way that with all the different terminologies you might otherwise miss.

    “So in fact you could call yin yang a coaching method?”

    “Yes – for the Martial Arts and for life.”
  2. middleway

    middleway Valued Member

    interesting Steve, Thankyou.

    I was taught that Peng is a pure Yang Expression and the foundation of all other tai chi energetics and principles. It underlies everything, the body sturated with peng force, even though the opponent may not be aware of it. (soft outside heavy inside)

    I find that yin yang principles are based on viewpoint (as is everything in life) in many respects but its interesting how you clasify peng in Yin Terms. Can you expand on this please?

    Kindest Regards
  3. steve Rowe

    steve Rowe Valued Member

    Hi Chris

    That's what I was trying to get across, it's relative, you have to use the terms in the context of something. In this case it's the meridians and the flow of energy, when you perform peng the 'scooping' motion of the arm and chest encourages the yin flow of chi, you can feel it, when the hand is pulled back you encourage the yang flow, there is a very definite feel to both of these techniques.
  4. middleway

    middleway Valued Member


    The peng motion of old yang and peng jin as i understand it train a very clear power. Of expansion from the centre. The body is expanding from the centre of the bones linked to dan tien out to every surface, a very strong yang feeling throughout the body. This then 'spills over' or transforms to the yin power of drawing and leading that power backing into or around your centre for Lu.

    can you explain a little more about how the meridians link to this yin energetic in the peng posture or in peng?

    thanks for the responces. Its a good topic cause i have never heard of peng being refered too in Yin terms n wanna learn more! I do not really understand what you are talking about to be honest ... but i am a beginner.

    Kindest Regards
  5. steve Rowe

    steve Rowe Valued Member

    Hi Chris

    It's yin because the shaping of the arm and body encourage the draining of chi down the front of the body to the dantien, I'm told that this shaping activates the yin meridians and returns the chi to the internal organs. It's the way I was taught and I get a very clear 'yin' experience when I do it. All our Yang Family chi kung exercises revolve around these transitions in the arms and body to the feet.

    I have a feeling that it's the context that you find confusing. If I showed you how we operate it in the exercises and in movement I think you'd understand it.

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2006
  6. piratebrido

    piratebrido internet tough guy

    Nah, I need to see these things to understand it!
  7. middleway

    middleway Valued Member

    im sure your right. Thankyou for the explanation.

    Kindest Regards
  8. Buddy

    Buddy Valued Member

    Perhaps someone could translate this move from Chinese. I think "Part the wild horse's mane" is a mis-translation.
  9. steve Rowe

    steve Rowe Valued Member

    Mandarin 'Yeh Ma Fun Tsung' Cantonese pronounced See Ma Fum Chong. I think you'll find it's quite accurate.
  10. daftyman

    daftyman A 4oz can of whoop-ass!

    ye3 ma3 fen1 zong1 is the pinyin. pretty literal, but its all about allusions isn't it.

    I mean has anyone actually tried to grasp a sparrows tail?
  11. steve Rowe

    steve Rowe Valued Member

    My understanding is that 'grasp sparrows tail' is a play on the words of 'Lan Chiao Wei' which originally referred to 'lazily ties coat' and the manner in which the first techniques were performed. With the play on the words it can also be 'grasp sparrows tail' and refers to YLC responding to a challenge by softening his palm to prevent a sparrow from being able to push down with it's feet to fly away, thus showing his sensitivity and skill and making the challenger take a 'sharp exit'.
  12. tccstudent

    tccstudent Valued Member

    Hi Steve, just for my own clarification on this subject......

    If you are in a push posture with palms facing outward, and then you turn your palms inward so you can see them and bring the palms towards your face and downward, would you say this is a Yin energy movement?
  13. steve Rowe

    steve Rowe Valued Member

    Yes, although from push posture I would roll the elbows outward, curving the arms, hollwing the chest and turn the palms inward to a 'standing post' like posture to get maximum yin flow.
  14. tccstudent

    tccstudent Valued Member

    yes of course, that's what I meant to say, from a push posture it would be more natural to roll the hands/elbows outward rather than inward. My word-fu is bad lately. Thanks Steve. :)
  15. steve Rowe

    steve Rowe Valued Member

    ...and that is an excellent chi kung exercise for beginners to get a direct experience of yin and yang in their own body and the transitions that they will be seeking in the form.
  16. daftyman

    daftyman A 4oz can of whoop-ass!

    Has anyone read "How to grasp the birds tail if you don't speak chinese"? Quite interesting in that it looks at the chinese characters and how they are made as a way to illuminate what the postures mean.

    The grasp sparrows tail to me seems to be about trying to grasp the infinitely small, the principle of the postures. The little gem that lies at the heart of it. You are trying to grasp the tail of the smallest of birds (ok David Attenborough may disagree, but the idea is there). Trying to grasp this elusive thing, not an easy thing to get, maybe impossible to some, but worth striving for all the same.
  17. Taiji Butterfly

    Taiji Butterfly Banned Banned

    Nice article Steve.
    I can see it from both your viewpoint and Middleway's tbh - no wonder I'm so confused... ;)
    Lots of metephors and allegory in Taiji, Vampyrerat. I learnt that way for the first 14 years or so and still emphasise it in most classes.
    That aspect is often missed these days when we become over-focussed on the martial aspect (runs to the controversy bunker :eek: ) we all need a balance of philosophy/meditation etc with butt-kicking/self-protection skills in our taiji imho. (No butt-kicking is equally bad imo btw but not as damaging to the psyche long-term ime. Just a bit of a waste of time and a short change on the wonders of Taiji... :) )

    On the subject of Yin Yang polarity stuff btw...
    Question: Since Yin Yang was first devised (anywhere from two to five thousand years plus ago depending on which history books you read :) ) to our present times of computers and internet forums, how far have we actually advanced?
    Answer: Yin Yang (in one context) refers to somethingness and nothingness or solidness and emptiness in Taijiquan terms.
    How does your computer work at its most basic level?
    On/off, open/closed, zeroes and ones.
    Yup - modern technology runs on yin and yang folks!! :D
    Interesting that, innit? ;)
    PS Also on the subject of Yin Yang in Taiji.....
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2006
  18. lieqi fan

    lieqi fan Valued Member

    Very interesting explanation of Yin Yang theory - thankyou

    ‘Part the Wild Horses Mane’ is a movement like parting a horse’s mane with your hands whilst grooming it, from a ‘holding the ball’ position you step to the side at an angle drawing one hand down and releasing one upwards..

    The way we practice this posture, there is a definite downward intent at the end with the back of the hand that is parting the mane. The imagery we were given is to imagine folding a section of the horse's mane from one side of its neck to the other.
  19. piratebrido

    piratebrido internet tough guy

    It's a series of differing voltages, but digically it is ones and zeros aye.

    It's probs one of the oldest philosophies out there, the opposites one. To have good, or at least to have a perception of what good is, must we have evil? To experience pleasure must we know pain? To know joy must we have despair?

    Some say one can’t exist without the other, others that they exist but the more you delve into one the more you can appreciate (or fear) the other.

    Then you have the science approach, where there isn’t an actual opposite at all, its all the same thing to varying degrees. There is no such substantial thing as darkness, it is only an absence of light. Cold is just a lack of heat and silence is just the omission of noise.

    Can we take this understanding and apply it to yin and yang? Yin is no more than an absence of Yang? Perhaps this is how we have developed? We see the world differently and with more understanding these days. If you put it to a scale the more Yang we apply the less yin is present, the less Yang we use then the more Yin is present. Makes sense in light of Tai Chi Chuan.

    Then again perhaps not, perhaps it is indeed like male and female. Female having two X chromosomes and make having an X & Y chromosome – two opposite (well almost, to be truly opposite males would require two Y chromosomes), yet unique entities.
  20. James R

    James R New Member

    With regard to the question of whether peng is purely yang, seems to me a question of whether the valley is deep or the mountain is high.

    For my understanding, to execute peng you need to be equally mindful of both your centre and the space that you occupy - the space that you expand into. The key is in the relationship between the two, between the yin and the yang.

    My expierience of peng is that it is both expansive and neutralising, so in testing it should feel as though the testers strength is being taken from them and simultaniously fed back out.

    If peng is the fundamental jin of taijiquan, one would kind of expect it to exist in a yin yang relationship, rather than be an expression of one over the other.

    All this said, we are really just discussing maps here rather than the terrain they cover - so I guess i'm just showing you the map that I use for this.

    I'm going now before I get sucked fully into the void..... :Alien:


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