by John Morton
An is like the force of the river water.
Gently the water flows,
Yet how great is the strength concealed within?
The furious current is difficult to stop.
It envelopes the high rocks with a wave,
and downwards it drives to fill the hollow caverns.
Water overcomes all!
-Zhang Sanfeng, Theory of Taijiquan
Genghis Khan’s armies were feared for their ability to feign retreat, drawing the enemy out into a chase and then ambushing them when their forces were overextended. As I mentioned last week, meeting force with force will only result in the stronger of the two forces winning. One of the secrets to Genghis Khan’s victories throughout Asia was his ability to draw out armies, to feign retreat and then sweep in. I’m not suggested that anyone go out and organize a Mongol horde here in Inwood, as much as it might help with the rent increases; I’m just making a point.
One of the 8 basic movements of Taijiquan is Push or An. Push sounds like a concept completely unlike Taijiquan. However the idea behind push is not to meet force directly with force. Push accepts force and allows it to go past its comfortable range, and only then does it return the energy. The idea behind push is to be receptive, to feel when someone or something has overextended itself or is presenting any weaknesses that can be exploited. Only once you’ve found where you are able to flow do you respond.
Every day, we’re met with experiences where we have the opportunity to push back against someone or something. Often, it’s our first instinct to force our way through. If we’re dealing with an uncooperative person, we find ourselves beginning to push back, get angry, and meet their force head-on. Anyone who’s had a bad customer service call knows this feeling. Next time you find yourself in these situations, rather than meeting force with force, start by accepting the energy. Don’t be aggressive or rude; remember that everyone you deal with is a person just like you, and more often than not they’re having a worse day than you. Start by accepting the energy and becoming receptive. Then flow in. Find the places that you can advance and start from there. If you’re dealing with a rough situation and you don’t know how you’ll continue forward, then stop fighting it and think about what you can do rather than what your doing. Obviously pushing back hasn’t been working for you, so it’s time to start flowing around those problems. Being stiff and unyielding works right up until something more unyielding than you comes along. The energy of push flows like a river, taking the path of least resistance to its final goal.