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February 2007
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April 2007

The Most Important Concept in Tai Chi

The most important "jin" (strength or force) in tai chi is peng jin. Chen Xiaowang has described peng jin as "chi flowing, everything full, nothing broken."

Peng jin is an expansive feeling directed outward from the body--beginning with the ground, transmitted by the legs, directed by the dan t'ien and manifest through the hands and fingers. It must be delivered without "local" muscular tension--in other words, you use your entire body as your fist, you don't strike with primarily your arm and shoulder muscles.

Peng jin feels a bit like the same type of force that exists when you push a beach ball beneath the water. The potential force is ready to be released when you let go of the ball.

Every movement in tai chi is intended to maintain and manipulate peng jin. Without peng jin, there is no tai chi. And there are a LOT of tai chi people practicing without a clue about peng jin. If your teacher has never discussed and shown you peng jin, you're probably not really practicing tai chi.

Peng (pronounced "pung") has sometimes been called "concealed strength."

Once, I was in class as a student, and my teacher at the time was standing quite a ways away from me. I began a movement and he called out, "Ken, you just lost it." I wondered how he could tell from way over there. :)  Now, it's obvious when I watch myself in a mirror or when I watch my students and others. I can see the peng vanish when they do some movements, or I can see that it was never there to begin with.

It takes a lot of practice, thought, and study to begin to understand, and to begin working on the concept of maintaining peng throughout every movement. It's part of the fun, and the depth, of tai chi.