Peng: The First Movement of Taijiquan (Continued)

Zhang SanfengThe key Taijiquan term peng has generally been translated 'ward-off.' I think that was a good start, after all, in Chinese it is only one word, but it has a really specific meaning so I'm going to try to render it into English.

But before I do that let me say something about the various ways peng is taught. Often a teacher will push on a student and say, 'buhao'--no good-- until the student by luck or accident, responds in almost the right way. Then the teacher says 'hao.' (Or perhaps they yawn and look up at the sky as if to say, "What have the heavens brought me?") Then the teacher has you push on them and you try to feel how they respond to your push. (Actually the word is not feel in Chinese, it is tingjin, which means: try to sense the inner processes you feel and translate those feelings into your own body, as if you are listening to a piece of music and wish to grasp the sentiment behind it.)
Peng is primarily taught, not by words, but by feeling, it is transmitted through touch from generation to generation. In taijiquan lingo--it is a qi transmission.

If you have older siblings, who were in the habit of poking you in the stomach, you probably already have some 'peng' skills.

When an older sibling pokes you, several responses become available: 1. Run to mommy. 2. Try to hurt them back. 3. With a smile, and with speed, nudge their hand away from your centerline before it hurts you, being careful not to provoke them further. Obviously number 1 is ineffective in the long run. Number 2 means getting beat up. So we get good at number 3.
Peng is an aggressive act, but it is a mild aggressive act. We could say it is a small beginning that hopes not to grow into a full possession.

When we are possessed by desire, we see only the desired manifest. Daodejing

To correctly practice peng, is also, fundamentally, to admit that we do not have control over the future.

Here goes:

Stand upright, slightly bend your knees, relax all of your joints and lengthen the top ofChen Manching doing one hand peng, (so it looks different than the description your head upwards and your tail bone downwards. Relax your abdominal muscles so that your breathing no longer moves your ribs, but instead moves your lower-back region (mingmen).
Simultaniously do all of the following:

1. Gently begin closing all of your joints, drawing your limbs inward towards the center of your body, like an amoeba shrinking. The distance between each of your bones should shrink as the sinovial fluid sack in each joint changes shape.

2. Gently wist all the tissue on your limbs in an outward direction, moving the bones as little as possible so as not to change the alignment of the knees or elbows.

3. Gently wrap the tissue of your torso, internal organs, and generally anything you can feel, in an outward direction. Be particularly carefully not to arch your spine or collapse your chest.

4. Using the least possible effort move your writs (upward and forward) at a perfect 45 degree angle.

5. Shift your weight very slightly forwards from the center of your feet, so that if someone were pushing you from the front while you are shrinking, you would move almost imperceptibly underneath them.

OK that's the underlying structure: the jing component. Here are the qi and shen components.

Update 7/29/07

1.  If your alignment is correct you will feel something rising from the ball of the foot, bubbling well point, which travels up your legs, then up your back, through your arms and then out the wrists.

2.  Fill your whole body with the feeling of steam, so that circulation to every part of your body is robust.

3.  Feel clouds circling around the surface of your body in the direction of the twisting and wrapping.

4.  Draw up a thick heavy black goop from the earth.  (This one is not universal, there are versions of it that use water or sand.  Others connect to heavenly bodies, or spontaneously plan routes out into the distance.  This is known as the jingshen component and can be invented.)
5.  Sense outward in all directions.
Is this what you do?

By the way the picture is of Chen Manching doing one handed peng, so it is a little different than the description, but internally the same.