At a certain point in one’s training the ability to ‘let go’ becomes paramount. The idea of letting go functions on multiple levels – physical, mental and ‘psychic.’ So what does it actually mean to ‘let go?’ On the most basic physical level this refers to the ability to relax and release our muscles and sinews which creates a more ideal alignment of the bones. This is absolutely necessary for deep rooting, both in Zhan Zhuang and Taijiquan.
Therefore, ‘letting go’ allows for the possibility of better integration and whole-body unification, the combination of which leads to improved ‘circulation’ of blood, fluids and vital energy, and this in turn leads to better overall health.
On Taijiquan’s martial side, the ability to ‘let go’ is a basic requirement for accepting, diverting and rooting the opponent’s force at contact. This speaks of the inherent ‘AN’ or sinking energy implicit in Taiji’s premiere movement – Liu or Rollback.
In order to truly ‘let go,’ the physical, emotional and mental aspects must function simultaneously and in concert. So, physically we learn to relax and release our muscles, tendons and ligaments. When the sinews (tendons & ligaments) become involved, this leads to the deepening of one’s root and the ability to ground a powerful incoming force. In terms of meditation his means relaxing as much as possible and ‘trusting’ the Earth to hold us up. For martial arts this refers to the ability to let go of our Yang or outer frame and trust the integrity of our inner or Yin frame. This Yin frame is first experienced during Zhan Zhuang training and later in the Taijiquan form and finally during application.
The emotional and mental aspects of ‘letting go’ are interlinked, meaning, emotions can trigger thought patterns and certain thought patterns can definitely trigger emotions. What we’re looking for in terms of the emotions is an evenness and balance, a non-reactive state rather than an absence of emotion per se. Instead we seek emotional neutrality, like when a placid lake appears like a mirror. While within this emotionally neutral state, it becomes possible to read a person’s or an opponent’s true emotional intention like an open book.
For the mind, what we want at first is a gentle calmness and a slowing of thought, but eventually this becomes what has been termed ‘mind of no mind.’ This ‘mind of no mind’ is actually an optimal state for both the meditative aspect as well as the martial. For meditation we can perceive and become aware of things without the mind’s judgement. And in regards to Taiji martial arts, this ‘mind of no mind’ state is optimal for success in combat. When centered in this state we are able to act or react instantly at a speed that can actually be faster than the speed of thought.
In order to achieve this state our ‘letting go’ must also involve what some call the ‘psychic’ element. The psychic aspect actually encompasses and eventually governs all the other aspects. In terms of the meditative element, it begins with the willingness to accept ourselves exactly as we are, right where we are, with no judgements or preconceived notions. Heaven is above, the Earth below and we, man or woman are in between. For the martial element, we must go even further. Instead of fearing an opponent’s attack, we must instead learn to ‘welcome’ it. This is all a matter of tension, or in this case, the lack of it. Therefore the stronger the Yang energy of an attack, the more Yin we must initially become to deal with it. This method is grounded in the Taoist principle that states, “The Yang energy is finite, while the Yin energy is infinite.”
Now you might ask, how does all this become possible? The answer lies primarily in the transformation of the nerves and the human nervous system which generally results from extensive Zhan Zhuang training and also after a decade or more of dedicated Taijiquan practice. Once this is accomplished we no longer react to circumstances like average people do. Instead we find ourselves centered and alert – ready to deal with a situation without having our natural adrenal reaction get in the way. This is not only supremely useful in combat but also in our daily life.
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