"Shen" is another energy; it is our spirit. If our spirit is strong our vitality is strong and life is interesting and full.
The energy I would like to focus on is "Jin"(Chin). What is a general definition of Jin? Before we can understand Jin, we must understand "Li". Li is defined as muscle strength and is usually visible as big muscles. It is considered as "post-birth" energy because it goes through a cycle of increasing as we mature, and decreasing as we grow older. It can be long and slow and used to move heavy objects, and when in use the muscles are stiff and tense.
Jin as defined in the Chinese dictionary gives two meanings. One is "strong and unyielding" and can apply to powerful, inanimate objects like "Jin Gong" which means a strong bow or "Jin Fong" meaning a strong wind. Li is more external, and Jin, internal. The second is "Chi-Li" which refers to muscle supported by Chi. When you use your mind ("Yi") to lead your muscles to do something, Chi will flow to where you are concentrating and enliven the muscles.
There are many types of Jin energy, and much to learn. For instance, there are three types of "Sensing Jin" (Jywe Jin), sixteen types of "Manifested Jin" (Hsing Jin) comprising active and offensive, nineteen ‘Passive Jin" (Yin, Shoou, Huah Jin), four "Neutral Jin" (Fei Gong Fei Shoou Jin) and eleven "Leg Jin" (Twe Jin). Out of all these, I would like to focus on just three, "Tien Jin" or Listening Jin, "Ding Jin" or Upright Jin and "Peng Jin" Warding Off Jin". first is Sensing; the second is Neutral, and the third Manifested.
Let’s take "Tien Jin" as the first Jin to understand. "Tien Jin" or Listening Jin is not done with the ears, but rather with the body. From the martial aspect, we listen with the skin so as to detect what an opponent might be doing from moment we make contact, usually with the forearm, palm or foot. When playing our solo form we can do the same thing, except internally, by listening to the way our body moves from one movement to the next, finding our balance, and being aware that our base is strong. We need also to be aware of the way the muscles, tendons and joints move. We need to be aware that the mind is leading the Chi to lead the Jin - "Yi leads Chi leads Jin" - and not to push our form, for to do so will cause the body to be scattered and the movements unco-coordinated.
"Ding Jin" is used throughout your Tai Chi form to hold your body upright and centred, and at the same time to lift or raise your spirit of vitality. The Chi is sunk to the Tan Tien, making it substantial, and an insubstantial energy leads the upper body and head upward. This is an example of "substantial and insubstantial" in the body. As the Chi sinks, there is a corresponding rise of energy lifting the head from inside. You have heard saying to "suspend your head from above like you are hanging on a string from the centre on top of the head", Yang’s first point. When your head is balanced up and down, your body will be in balance and upright, your spirit raised and your base strong. This is a total use of mind and will. Do not apply force, for to do so will cause tension in muscles, especially in the neck and stagnation of the "Chi".
"Peng (Pung) Jin" is a Yang Jin meaning to "Ward off" and is strong when used offensively, even in defense. One way of understanding this Jin is to push a large rubber ball into water and then let it go. While the pressure of pushing the ball is maintained, a resistance is felt, and when we release that pressure the ball is repelled back out of the water. From the martial aspect this Jin absorbs the opponents attack and then bounces him away. In other words, you absorb some of the opponent’s attacking force, either at the start or towards the end, and give the force back to him.
When playing the solo form we need to express "Peng Jin", which is not that easy to do, for it must not be forced. Most players of Tai Chi today just do the structured form but forget about this internal aspect. Their Tai Chi may look nice but lacks substance and understanding. How do we come to express "Peng Jin"? First we must loosen the body and then expand across each joint. If you listen to the movement and co-ordinate your breath, plus visualise the application of the movement, you should feel the body slightly expand in all directions, opening the joints especially those of shoulder, elbow and wrist of the ward off arm or hand. The best way to really experience this energy is through doing push hands. That way you learn to receive your partner’s energy at the point of contact and to redirect it to your base, then release it back to them.
I remember an explanation of "Peng Jin" by Master Peter Wu from Chen Style Tai Chi Chuan Academy in Melbourne. He explains it this way. "Let us think of Peng force as a multi story building, ‘loosening’ is the name of the street and ‘stretching’ is the number. When you find the street, but don’t have the number, you can’t find the building. Once you have the street and number, you can find the building. But remember, this building has many stories, so you have to practice to get to the different levels. If you know how to stretch out the joints but don’t know how to loosen, then you only know number of the building. And if you don’t know the street, and don’t know how to loosen then of course you can’t find the building i.e. the Peng Jin".
Master Peter Wu was a student of the late Grand Master Hong Jun-sheng, who was one of the main disciples of the great Chen Fake, a direct descendent of the founder of Chen style Tai Chi.
I feel if a student can study these three "Jin" energies and apply them correctly within their form, no matter what form that is, then they are well on their way to accomplishing one of the most difficult aspects of Tai Chi Form, the flow, often referred to as "The Ten Year Technique".
Dennis Watts Master/Founder Gold Coast Tai Chi Academy, Two times Grand Champion "Peaceful Challenge", President of Tai Chi Association Of Australia (Qld & N.T.), AKWF Wu-shu Development Officer Qld.