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What Tai Chi Isn't....

What Do They Mean By "Energies?"

tai chi class with ken gullette
Practicing Tai Chi with Kevin Smith, Chad Steinke, Marilyn Hackett, and Nancy Gullette.

You read and hear about different types of "energies" or "jin" in the internal arts. I read an interesting interpretation of this the other day. Something was apparently lost in the translation from Mandarin. When we talk about energies such as peng energy, we aren't talking about a "real" energy circulating through the body.

Instead, it's a cultivated energy or skill. I like to think of a baseball player who has spent many years practicing. He can swing a bat and hit a baseball out of the park, while I'd be lucky to even connect enough to hit a foul. His use of the bat represents a particular strength, or energy. Another example could be that of a carpenter. He can drive a nail with expertise, while I might hit my thumb with the hammer.

Americans, however, don't refer to the baseball player as having great "bat jin," or the carpenter as having great "hammer jin." It isn't part of our culture. When the heavyweight champion of the world knocks out an opponent, we don't say he has tremendous "punch jin." We recognize, however, that each of these people demonstrate great skill and strength in their own way.

So the various "energies" of tai chi, such as peng, liu, an, gi, tsai, etc. are "methods" of dealing with an opponent's force. A baseball player does not use the same "energy" to swing a bat that he uses to catch a ground ball. He uses different methods of generating power, different body mechanics, for each particular challenge he faces in a game.

Players who have practiced a lot and have developed their skills make it look easy, just like talented martial artists do.

Cultivating the skills of the internal arts takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. You can't become a major league ballplayer after playing for three or four years. You also can't expect to develop great Tai Chi, Xingyi or Bagua skill by practicing a few years.


Don't miss my book on Internal Body Mechanics for Tai Chi, Bagua and Xingyi -- it will explain a lot and it is available on Amazon and on this blog for U.S. customers. International customers outside of the U.S. should use Amazon or you can order it through bookstores.


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