Internal power is something of which we often speak. Yet few people these days truly achieve it. It is not that the method of achieving internal power is kept secret. In fact, it is well documented, and most teachers speak of it, even if they have not achieved it themselves. The “secret” of internal power is one of the worst kept secrets of martial arts.
Teachers often feel the need to restrain themselves from screaming it at their students.
Every class, it is the same thing,
“Relax a little more.”
“Now, really relax.”
“You say you are relaxed?”
“Well then, relax harder!”
“Would you PLEASE just frickin’ RELAX already!”
“Sorry…….. Please relax.”
“WHAT PART OF “RELAX” DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?”
Then, after a few months or years, the student has an epiphany, and discovers that it is better to relax. That makes them feel like a genius. Then they remember that they heard “relax” every day in class. That makes them feel like an idiot. It is the same with almost every student.
Relaxation is the key to peng jing or “boing power.”
Peng jing is the basis of tai chi internal power. If you understand the principle of peng jing, your tai chi will be effective, not only for health, but also for self defence. If you do not have peng jing, your tai chi will be… substandard.
Peng (倗 [péng]) is Chinese word which is sometimes excluded from dictionaries. It’s use seems to be specific to things like tai chi and bumper cars.
It refers to the body and mind being, in the words of Yang Chengfu, like “water supporting a boat”. The body is relaxed and fluid, with every joint and muscle properly aligned so that the weight of each part is efficiently connected to the ground much in the same way that the weight of an ancient building is supported by archways. There is only minimal lateral tension.
Imagine that the body is “a string of pearls” that balances on end. Even the slightest flaw in the alignment would destroy the structure. Peng jing is what keeps that string of pearls aligned so well that a great weight could be supported by it. And yet, the string of pearls is mobile and can change shape without losing that connection to the ground.
When one has peng jing, the body supports itself without any tension other than the effort of the quadriceps femoris muscles (thigh muscles). This is a great improvement over common posture of untrained people which places restrictive stresses on the the neck, shoulders, back, hips, knees and ankles. Peng jing allows for great mobility, healthier alignment, more efficient breathing, deep relaxation, improved circulation, better digestion, and a clearer mind.
Good peng jing also allows a martial artist to effortlessly redirect any incoming force. It allows for a pressure which is applied directly into the centre to be received and absorbed by the structure of the body itself, requiring not extra effort by the defender other than to maintain peng jing. If the pressure is not on the defender’s centre, it will be deflected by the relaxed mobility that is inherent in any posture that exhibits peng jing. That is to say, if I have peng jing and you push my centre, you will feel like you are pushing the earth. If you are a tiny bit off my centre, you will fall into emptiness.
Tai chi players may be forgiven for thinking of peng as applying only to a specific martial technique, due to its relationship to a movement that makes up part of “grasping the bird’s tail” and to its specific use in push hands practice as one of the basic “four hands” techniques. However, peng is also to be thought of as a method, or principle applying all tai chi techniques.
Peng jing is the essence and foundation of all other tai chi power, including the power to improve health and the power to defeat an opponent.
In combat, if one tries to implement any of the other tai chi methods such as lu(roll), ji(cram), an(push), zai(pluck), lie(rend), zhou(elbow), or kao(shoulder), without having first cultivated peng jing, all efforts to express true internal power will be in vain.
Peng jing is developed through standing meditation or by the very slow practice of the tai chi routines. With a good teacher, and the proper focus on relaxation and internal awareness, persistent practice will develop this marvellous quality.