A Simple Analogy Explaining Peng Paths in Taijiquan

(and other internal martial arts: xingyiquan, baguazhang, liuhebafa, aikido, etc)

  A string of beads can resist longitudinal force (force along the
  string) in two ways.  Let's have the string of beads vertical, so
  as to demonstrate how they can resist gravity...  Without either
  method, the string of beads will fall over once let go at the top.
  Not something our tai chi mastering beads would wish to do...  ;-)

  First, the "external" method: draw the string that holds the
  beads together taught against the ground, so as to hold the beads 
  tight against one another with tension.  Now the top can be let go 
  of, and the beads will stand up, due to friction and tension.  Simple,
  but wastes energy.  Additionally, the ground is not in perfect 
  contact, necessarily, and if one were to add to the force of gravity 
  by pressing down at the top, eventually the friction and tension would
  be overcome and the structure would slip (a little or a lot) and
  the ground resistance/power/inertia would not be transferred to
  the top bead.

  Second, the "internal" method: from the vertical position, take
  care to balance each bead on top of the next.  If done correctly,
  the string is not used, and the beads will stand upright once the
  last bead is in place.  Simple, but takes lots of skill.  Once
  mastered, the beads stand upright with no effort and resist the
  force (gravity in this case) simply due to the alignment and structure
  of their parts.  Thus, the ground is in perfect contact, and all
  resistance/power/inertia of the ground transfers completely through
  the structure to the point of contact (top of the bead tower in
  this case).  [at least until one of the beads crushes under the
  pressure...  ;-) ]

  If the beads are smart and skillful, then one can apply force from
  all sorts of directions and the beads can "re-balance" and set up
  another effortless ground power transfer.  Additionally, if the beads
  had some muscle, then they could store and release power along
  this path and effortlessly resist the equal-and-opposite-reaction
  effect, effectively doubling the power and keeping their stability.
  And this is exactly what one does with an internal martial arts
  strike, via store-and-release.

  Sound reasonable?  What I like to tell people real fast is that
  setting up the peng path is kind of like balancing two staffs
  end-to-end in the palm of your hand - once you get it right, you can
  feel it, and any pressure applied to the top of the top staff gets
  transferred perfectly down to your hand.  Then I show them how to
  do it.  Structure, dynamics, and intent.  Or so it seems to me.

Copyright 1996-2017 Tye W. Botting

since Apr 13, 1999
Tye's Kung Fu
Last Updated: Saturday, 04-Feb-2017 22:42:33 EST, by Tye W. Botting