Peng – Unifying your physical body

Posted on July 23, 2020Comments Off on Peng – Unifying your physical body

In taichi, the first force you learn is “peng”. Simply, peng is using your entire body in an unified manner, without excluding or over-abusing any part. We will discuss it in depth in this post. It forms the physical foundation in your taichi movement. It’s a concept that we keep and apply to all of our practice.

What is NOT peng?

An example is bench pressing, which is designed to maximize use of your chest muscles. A lot of targeted strength training will tend to be not-peng and we will tend to shy away from this kind of strengthening in favor of whole body movements. No animal in nature “works out” individual muscle groups.

What is peng?

Photo by Amélie Lazar on Unsplash

The word peng is an onomatopoeia, meaning that its meaning is like its sound. Its the sound of an umbrella popping open. An umbrella is expanded, each of the spines and the fabric spanning them working in unison to support the structure. That is peng. Our bones support the muscles, tendons, fasciae that spans between them to create structure. It is simply using all of our body structurally.

When peng is applied, the sense of concentrated tension in our body disappears. You no longer feel it “all in your back” or “all in your shoulders”. The pressure is felt primarily at point of contact and at your feet. Your joints feel expanded rather than compressed.

It doesn’t mean that you have to use your whole body equally. You can arm wrestle and have peng. During that action, your arm and chest will be working harder than your calf and quadriceps. But your calf and quadriceps should ideally be involved, helping to support the whole.

How do we train peng?

In my experience, the easiest way to train peng is to first train the spinal posture from Dai family Xinyi Fist, the squatting monkey. Then, a training partner applies the “shi-li”, testing force, from Yiquan to calibrate the posture and develop its strength.

There are multiple ways of training peng across different schools. We also utilize the mudra of the boar to train the expansive peng of the spine. We will focus on the squatting monkey in this post because in my experience, the success rate of the student is faster with it.

Dai style squatting monkey

It is simply the easiest way to invoke the connection and structural strength of the spine that I’ve ever seen. It’s so approachable that I teach it to my physical therapy patients, individuals with herniated discs, lumbar degeneration, spinal cord injuries, and serious neurological disorders. They’ve all been able to learn it and obtain better postural strength & better use of their body through it.

Yiquan testing power

Yiquan testing power is a process of applying pressure to a learner’s posture. During testing power, you give the learner time and space to adjust the posture so that the pressure is distributed throughout the body. If you feel the tension particularly somewhere, it is not evenly distributed. Practice relaxing and adjusting until the pressure is felt only at the contact point, and then beneath one or both feet. Shili, testing power, is a reliable method of keeping practice realistic while providing guidance on how to improve.

To practice this:

1. Partner A assume the posture or stance that you wish to test power in

2. Partner B applies force to one part of the body, such as the outstretched arm, striking hand, blocking hand, or trunk.

3. Apply just a few pounds of force, slowly, giving the partner A time to let the posture relax and settle.

You aim to let it settle into a form that is not excessively tense in any place. The sense of pressure from the applied force should occur at the point of contact, and then below your feet. If you feel pressure within your body, such as shoulder, back, or knees, you are exerting excessive tension there. Relax, don’t be too dogmatic about how things should look. Let your body’s instinct find the position, even if it’s silly or impractical.

Live your practice

The more you are in a state of peng, the more or your body will learn to prefer it and utilize it throughout your life. In this way, you are living your practice, rather than having to find timme to practice.

Stay tuned for a video tutorial for this in the near future!

Learn in < 10 minutes

I find that combining both methods, I can teach a person, even someone with zero martial art experience to have peng in a matter of minutes. It’s important that a person has a mindset that is not excessively fearful, antagonistic, or obsessed with control, as these traits will interfere. That is why a certain amount of meditation and breathing exercises form the foundation of practice. It’s not surprising too that a lot of the more sophisticated Chinese martial arts developed in temples.

Stay tuned on our youtube channel as I share more tutorials on how to devleop peng. It’s easy to learn. It’s an absolutely crucial foundation of your physical development that is missed far too often.

Give the two exercises a try and share your experience in the comments below!

Comments Off on Peng – Unifying your physical body