Be soft, loose. Almost everyone says that. Newer teachers say it even though they have yet to feel it fully in their own practices. They believe it is correct instruction, though. This is understandable, but the lesson is not always easy to get. It takes time to form understanding. Perhaps you learn it only in stages. I do not know how common the following approach is, or if it is not at all common. If you have it figured out, let the rest of us know.
As a teaching point in a lesson plan, the instruction to be soft is a meaningful hint, a guide pointing out a desirable state. You are always at some point along the learning path; and each person will be unique in how their bodies express soft and loose. Plus, soft can have different meanings to different people depending on where they are in learning. Each person’s experience of it will differ at some stage of development. It can evolve over time and practice, and can apply to other concepts, such as gravity and sink.
However simple or complex the instruction, the learner will practice what they think is soft. Over time they begin to feel more. They become more sensitive to subtle changes in the body’s response to movement, thus allowing relaxation and softness.
So what do the masters mean when they say to be soft and loose? No tensing in muscle for one. No clenching. No working too hard. Not to be too loose to the point of flaccid, nor so loose that you overstretch and strain a joint or tendon/muscle.
It could further mean to move just at the right time when the Qi flows through thus inspiring the body to move in response. “Qi go through” is a concept that can play a role in soft and loose. The idea is to feel something moving separately of the physical body. Master Xu calls it two bodies.
What exercises can you do to help grasp fang song? Basics are good for beginners and probably all levels. Circles of different sorts help me—vertical, horizontal, diagonal and so on.
To keep in mind: Tension redirects Qi and pulls it into hard spots, thus restraining its flow and depriving you of its healing power. However, some parts of the body, such as legs and related muscles, must harden as least momentarily in order to deliver power, to form a foundation for loose and soft—to allow arms and trunk to be loose and free and soft.
The arms are loose because they are not bearing the weight or “carrying it,” as George Xu has said to us. The energy is redistributed to the Zhong Ding and Dantian. The arms are light and the core is leveraging the weight and moderating the Qi. Distribute the weight and balance it with power. There is no over burdening of one part and under utilizing another. Balance and alignment, both in standing and in motion. Zero point, no waste.
—Nov. 28. 2021