1. What is Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang is an ancient Chinese
philosophy. It is a study of complementary and opposite forces that exist in the
universe. Everything that exists in the universe can be recognized by divided
into the two categories of Yin and Yang. The sky is yang, the earth is yin. Day
is yang, night is yin, Hot is yang and cold is yin. Male is yang and female is
yin. External is yang and internal is yin. Top is yang and bottom is yin. Back
is yang and front is yin. Advance is yang and retreat is yin. Right is yang and
left is yin. Full is yang and empty is yin. People is yang and the universe is
yin. And on down the line.
A. The root of Complementary
The yin and yang complementary concept
means that when there is no yin, there will be no yang. If there is no yang,
there will be no yin. Yin came from yang and yang came from yin. Yin or yang by
itself cannot survive.
B. The Root of Opposites
The yin and yang opposite concept means
that these two components are opposite of each other to demonstrate their
existence and they will constantly struggle or position themselves to be on the
upper end. This is the basic nature of all things in motion.
C. The Root of Balance
The yin and yang balance concept means that
because the two components are constantly postioning themselves, there will be a
temporary balance. This temporary balance is the result of yin and yang
controlling each other.
2. Tai Chi Symbol
A Tai chi symbol is a circle divided into two
components known as yin and yang. The circle is referred to as Tai Chi or the
universe. The black and white components are the yin and yang components or yin
and yang figures. The black component has a white dot - meaning there is a yang
in the yin. The white component has a black dot - meaning there is a yin in the
yang. This demonstrates that it is the nature of everything that there are
opposites and complementary things. The separation line of the two components is
in the shape of an S. This causes the yin and yang figures to transform from and
into each other.
3. Yin and Yang in Tai Chi Chuan
The Tai Chi Chuan Classics say
that Tai Chi came from Wu Chi. When it is in active form, it is divided into
two. When it is in an inactive form, it comes together. From the Tai Chi symbol,
we see that Tai Chi Chuan is an active form. Therefore, we should expect to see
yin and yang exist everywhere in the solo form. The yin and yang components of
Tai Chi Chuan practice can be interpreted into hard and soft interaction, fast
and slow movement, extension and contraction of the muscles, coordination of top
and bottom, harmony of inside and outside, open and close motion, empty and full
of the body's weight, advance and retreat of the stepping, left and right motion
of the eyes and active and inactive of the mind.
A. Empty and Full
It is very important in Tai Chi Chuan practice to
be able to understand the empty and full concept. Generally, in Tai Chi Chuan
practice, empty refers to the top and full refers to the bottom. Here, top refers
to the upper body. The upper body is very light, as if empty. Bottom refers to
the lower body. When the feet are full, it forms a strong foundation. Therefore,
empty the top means suspend the head from above, relax the shoulders and sink
the elbows, relax the chest and raise the back, loosen the waist and pull the
abdomen inward. Full in the bottom means to pull the buttock inward, open the
groin, bend the knees and point the toes forward.
The bottom has to be full in order to be stable. The top has to be empty so
that it will be easy to move. This empty and full happens everywhere in the
body. After one understands this concept, the body will have a better balance
B. Hard and Soft
Tai Chi Chuan appears to be all soft because one
only sees the softness and not the hardness in the Tai Chi Chuan Solo Form
practice. This leads many people to believe that this is how Tai Chi Chaun works.
In Tai Chi Chuan practice, relax, empty and soft are close relatives. Tension,
full and hard are also close relatives. They are very similar and yet there is
something that keeps them apart. Rleaxation and tension are internal Fundamental
principles. Empty and full function based on this fundamental principle. Hard
and soft is the external expression of relaxation and tension, empty and full.
This hard and soft concept should not be understood as "hardness" like rock and
"softness" like water, rather, one should understand it as the result of
relaxation or one should understand it in relationship to flesh and bone of the
human body. Therefore, one should understand hard as concentrated and stable,
soft as lightness and nimble. It is a result of total body relaxation and
coordination. This is why many instructors ask their students to perform Tai Chi
Chuan in a relaxed, soft and slow way. The truth is that when there is
lightness, there is balance. When there is soft, there is hardness. If there is
no concentration and balance, there cannot be lightness and nimbleness.
C. Fast and Slow
In Tai Chi Chuan, the movements are done slowly
for the following reasons:
Slow is one of Tai Chi Chuan's characteristics;it does not mean the slower, the better.
Speed is based on one's ability to follow the points described above. If one is
in good physical condition, obviously one can do the movements more quickly than
those who are not in the same physical condition.
- To obtain total body relaxation and proper muscle contraction
- To master the circular motion
- To concentrate on all the yin and yang elements
- Self-examination of all the movements
- To develop coninuity
- To maintain normal breathing pattern
- To maintain internal communication:
- Proper functioning
- Harmonize the nervous system
- Acknowledge the Chi and blood Circulations
- Eliminate waste of excess energy
- Emphasize the importance of body movements over four limbs
D. Open and Close
In Tai Chi Chuan, every movement has an open and
close motions. Open is expanding from inside to outside. Close is contracting
from outside to inside. Therefore, open and close is also known as extension and
contraction. Tai Chi Chuan practice is the motion of opening and closing and
vice versa. When it is open, it is large and expansive and there is no more
space outside. When it is close, it is so compact and tight there is no more
space inside. For a beginner, the open motion should be bigger so that there is
more stretching on the muscles, ligament and tendons. For an experienced
practitioner, the open motion should be smaller and among each open and close
motion, there is a subdivision into smaller open and close motions.
This is what Yang Cheng Fu meant when he said that first one should practice
extension form and later compact form.
E. Top and Bottom, Left and Right, Front and Back
These three --
top and bottom, left and right, front and back -- are very common. Each movement
must take care of the opposite side. When one is doing the left side, one must
be aware of the right side. When one is doing the top, one must be aware of the
bottom. When one is doing the front, one must be aware of the back. There should
be a coordination of the opposites so that the body will move as a unit, the
parts should respond to each other and the body parts should communicate with
F. Relaxation and Tension
Relaxation is the most basic of Tai Chi
Chuan practice. It requires the whole body to relax during activity. From the
brain, the nervouss system, muscle groups, ligaments,tendons,joints, conneective
tissues and organs. When the body is relaxed, the mind is calm, clear and
focused. The yin and yang theory explains that one cannot survive without the
opposite. Although the Tai Chi Chuan practitioner does nt talk about tension as
we know it, tension in Tai Chi Chuan is defined as twisting and stretching of
the body, arms and legs. From this tension and relaxtion or twisting and
stretching, extra exercise goes to the body's joints, muscles, the nervous
system and internal organs as suggested in yin and yang. Relaxation and tension
support each other. The more one can relax, the more one is able to twist and
stretch. The more one is able to stretch and twist, the more one can relax. This
why the body is nimble and the mind is clear calm and concentrated. Throughout
the Tai Chi Chuan Solo Form, we see the upper body is relaxed and the lower body
is full of tension. When one performs the kicking, the standing leg does not
relax. When the hands close into a fist, the muscles, the shoulder and elbows
relax. Most people who practice Tai Chi Chuan emphasize more on relaxation than
tension because tension occurs more in life. When we are excited about something
or when we step into a new environment, our body automatically tenses.
Practicing Tai Chi Chuan regularly can remove this tension. This is why Tai Chi
Chuan is so popular today as a form of stress management technique, a perfect
medicine for today's stressful society.
G. Active and Inactive
In Tai Chi Chuan, tranquility comes from the
active. The Tai Chi Chuan Classics say to look for tranquility in action or
tranquility during activity. Seeking tranquility from activity is a yin and yang
concept of excitation and depression. We know that absolute depression and
absolute tranquility do not exist.
Applying the consciousness to quiet the excitation is a very difficult task,
especially since we are living in a society where temptations exist everywhere.
This is why in ancient China, Taoists lived in isolation to remove themselves
from temptations. The more one removes from these temptations, the more they
appear. Tai Chi Chuan practices is but one of many techniques to achieve the
internal condition of tranquility as the result of external behavior. This is
achieved for the practitioner by focusing on one behavior or stimulant and
screen out all others. Therefore, in order to develop a mental tranquility by
practice the physical Tai Chi Chuan's movement, the movement should be light,
relaxed and smooth.
H. Inside and Outside
The Tai Chi Chuan Solo Form is the physical
interpretation of Tai Chi philosophy. It is governed by the external three
harmony. When the body relaxes, it will be calm and tune the nervous system.
When the nervous system is relaxed, it will better regulate and communicate with
the body's organs and functions so that the whole body can be relaxed and in a
better health. This is what Yang Cheng-Fu meant when he said that inside must be
coordinated with outside in order to advance in Tai Chi Chuan skill.
Now, we see that Yin and Yang does not refer to one thing. It simply refers
to things that exists in duality, although in our society yin and yang are
recognized as opposite of each other. This is but a tool to distinguish one's
existence. We must recognize the complementary concept. From this Yin and Yang
interaction, many things can and will happen. In order for one to advance in Tai
Chi Chuan skills, one must understand Yin and Yang definitions as described
above and apply them to Tai Chi Chuan practice accordingly. This is why the Tai
Chi chuan Classics say that Yin and Yang interaction is ther criterion for
determining one's skills. Today many people practice the Tai Chi Chuan Solo Form
from either too hard or too soft.
Article by Vincent Chu