Training Tip #3
Using Peng and Connection with Contradictory Strength
by Mike Sigman
It must be understood that peng jing, the ground-vector strength (see issue #1) and connection, the containing and closing force (see issue #2), are skills which differentiate the internal martial arts from the external styles. There is a saying that "if you can't do it, you don't know it" a caution against assuming too quickly that because you grasp the academic idea you understand everything.
Because they can't do it and don't know it, many people make the assumption that the peng jing is the same as the structure and alignment which is used in the external martial styles.
However, there are differences, and peng and connection are just the basic internal strength building blocks which give entree to the many skills within the internal styles. Using these skills to actually drive all motion is the next step after understanding the basics.
Driving the framework of the body with peng from the legs causes natural windings as the force goes up the body. The very slight connection (Pulling Silk) keeps the body unified, allowing the windings (Reeling Silk) to express themselves to the very tips of the fingers, if no tension interferes.
In standing posture practice, additional support to the structural unity of the body can be added by slightly twisting, in a natural manner, the joints of the arms and legs. Again, some of the external styles make use of similar procedures, but in the case of internal styles, the twisting originates from the legs and torso (not local tension) and the twisting uses the peng strength as the framework around which it is based.
The idea of contradiction comes from the antagonistic relationship between muscular or musculo-skeletal groups. For instance, storing power in the spine refers to an antagonistic relationship deliberately developed in the back. This "storing" of power is similar to the tension buildup in your finger just before you flick something away.
" the ch'i adheres to the back and permeates the spine" is a reference in the T'ai Chi Classics which refers to the storing of power in this manner.
The "storing" can be described as restraining an opening move with a closing move and then releasing it. Hence, the contradictory designation.
Other antagonistic relationships in standing can be: the very slight tension between thumb and index finger (open the "Tiger's Mouth"), the tension between thumb and little finger, the tension relationship from neck to hands.
Bagua circle-walking is a form of standing posture practice, except that it is done with specialized stepping techniques. However, the same peng and connection skills are developed in Bagua as in other internal martial arts. In Bagua, contradictory training methods can be spotted in, for instance, the posture Heavenly Horse Walking in the Sky (in the "original" form).
In Xingyi, the "tearing of cotton" moves during 5-element practice is an example of contradictory power.
Dachengquan uses contradictory relationships in the arms to augment the powers of peng and connection. If these windings are not tied to the ground through the spine and leg with the specialized peng strength, they only become external manifestations of strength.
Unless an adequate time has been spent developing peng and connection skills, it would be very difficult to truly develop these contradictory skills, which involve the whole body and which augment peng and connection.
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Page maintained by Ian Young; last change June 11, 2000.