Yield, for the win.

Posted March 3rd, 2021 in Uncategorized by Phil Vickery

Years before I ever brushed up against the world of Tai Chi, in my youth, I used to study Judo. It was only for about 2 or 3 years and I really enjoyed it even though I was younger, smaller, skinnier a lot more naïve and had no real idea why I was doing it or where I would go with it. My teacher, after the first year, started telling me I ought to get my license because he thought I would do well at competitions and could progress up the belts, but I didn’t and I stayed a lowly white belt until I stopped and gave it up.

I wasn’t very confident about the idea of competitions because I thought in truth I would get hammered by people who weren’t my classmates. The thought of that embarrassed me even though I didn’t turn up to the competitions. However I found certain throws came very naturally to me. I remember a green belt in my class when he watched me spar with someone would always tell my opponents to “watch out for his Uchi Mata”. It is a throw that if you if you get the timing wrong and over commit an opponent will easily monopolise the situation and take you down, and leave you hitting the floor rather ungracefully.

I recall though that I never did it with force. All these years later I feel I had always been successful with it because I sensed a yielding moment that I was able to exploit in a partner. Doing the throw never felt arduous as it always felt light and swift to me.

I recognise the strong possibility that I had subconsciously discovered yielding before I knew what yielding was. Judo, like Tai Chi, is effective if your opponents root is disturbed and then (in Judo) a throw is employed not by force but allowing your opponents inferior attack to meet with your superior yield.

Force against force, in any combat regime, can only ever finish in the obvious result of the stronger person winning, or a dead heat because the opponents are equal. Yielding never initially felt like winning to me when I first started push hands in Tai Chi because my concept of winning was wrong. I still tried to beat an opponent with force. If they used force too we both felt unbalanced and at times when Alan our teacher spotted us, would come over looking at us smiling but bewildered by what we doing and gently comment on what we were doing with “Where’s the Tai Chi”; “Too much force” and “No yielding?”.

Years have passed by and things change, and my push hands did too to the point where my yielding improved. It got to a developed point where I understood how powerful it was even sometimes against opponents when they tried to throw sneaky forceful attacks. I wasn’t always successful but a lot more using yielding than force.

Alan will always be remembered for saying “Make your Tai Chi part of your life and your life part of your Tai Chi”. This can sound simple and even throwaway, however it took me years to understand that it is in fact one of the most powerful lessons I gained from him. Yielding is the best weapon in Tai Chi to use against an opponent, and later on as it improved in my Tai Chi I recognised how it seeped into my non-Tai Chi life too. Conflicts with family and friends’ or disagreements in work. Yielding requires no force just the awareness to allow an opponents attack become inferior because your yield to it is superior. However to avoid falling to the floor ungracefully like my poorly executed Uchi Mata’s in Judo, you must comprehend the force that intends to attack you. It seems like a natural reaction to tense up and meet it with force, but the habit of yielding transforms your concepts of winning a fight, an argument or any obstacle in life that opposes you.

Every time we are meet with something that seems like it is in our way we can get angry or upset about how it opposes us and stops us from whatever kind of success we were aiming for. Success over an opponent, situation or obstacle in life shouldn’t feel like you’ve smashed it to the ground like a Gladiator. This is a very Yang form success and is both tiring and depleting and can be costly too.

Success from yielding feels like untying a knot. Success is found in undoing and releasing of the situation, not adding to it. It feels likes it provides a route to completion that is both effortless and equalising. This is success by Yin.

 Naturally Yin and Yang have a constant relationship with each other, and their opposing qualities are what actually keeps them existing.

So even though we remain within the COVID-19 pandemic with signs and better focus of its decline ahead of us, the toll of pressures in life can present themselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually too as opposing forces. Trust your experiences of yielding and moments when it worked for you in Push Hands and Tai Chi and apply them your opponent in life however they may present themselves. Think as if you were doing push hands: 1) use your awareness and unfiltered sensitivity to reach out and become aware of what comes at you; 2) meet it without resistance but keeping check on its velocity and impact of force; 3) do not resist it but relax (not give up!) and allow it’s force to miss its target as you yield and 4) in this act your Yin increases as the Yang of the attack depletes naturally.

For the win, it’s the yield.