The Ball

Yang Lu Chan was the creator of the Yang Family branch of Tai Chi. Initially, he brought more fame to this art with his extraordinary skill, than anyone had before him. In essence, his special talents raised a great but little-known style to a very high status.

Though undefeated his entire career, and collaterally famous for defeating his challengers without maiming or killing them, Yang came closest to defeat on one certain occasion.

YangLuchan1It occurred in Beijing, the capital/metropolis, which at that time was a cosmopolitan but also a dangerous place. Passing at night through a notorious section of town, he found himself suddenly confronted by a gang—a large gang—of robbers. He turned to avoid them and found himself ringed in by the rest of the gang.

His first reaction was to just stand there without moving, holding himself in the Wuji, the first position of Tai Chi. One robber lifted off his purse  but Yang stayed his posture without moving. The gang members started mocking their solitary victim. After a few moments their taunts turned to strikes. All around him, blows fell like a wind-driven hailstorm. Rather than trade blows, Yang pulled his coat tightly around his body and, at the same time, dropped to the earth and formed his body into a ball right on the ground. Kicking was added to the punching and the gang kept pummeling the unmoving shape until satisfied. Then, yelling and scuffling, they moved out into the covering night.

yangchenfu_beng1The next day, rumors of the attack had spread through the districts. But they were almost dispelled by the sight of Yang Lu Chan going about his daily concerns with absolutely no hint of the previous night’s inconvenience. As the day and the week progressed though, it was obvious that some members of the gang had somehow sustained injuries while they were attacking Yang. Demonstrating torn muscles, aching backs and sprained feet, some were even unable to get out of bed the next morning. The story of Yang’s skill took him yet another step higher.

Beng, or Ward Off, is the major quality demonstrated by Yang style Tai Chi experts. It is the extension of a Chinese medical concept called Wei Qi or protective qi. When my school practices “spherical energy,” I try to remind my students that a sphere never takes anything personally. If you press on it, it does not press directly back. Rather, it expands outward like a miniature version of the Big Bang (or as a Tai Chi player might say, the Big Beng.) When you feel this kind of energy in Push Hands or any other Kung Fu practice, you will recognize it and find yourself refining it whenever you practice.

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