Magic finger … empty force

In Taiji Quan, people sometimes talk about empty force: throwing an opponent without touching. Technically then, to qualify as such you cannot touch the opponent physically with any part of your body. A lot of times we see masters (famous ones too) claiming what they’re doing in a demonstration is empty force, when in fact it was a bit of showmanship used to impress novices/outsiders, like a magician distracting the audience from what is really going on.

The term Taiji means coexistence of yin and yang at the same moment in time. So for a skill to be called Taiji attack and defense has to be done at the same time. Of course if you already have control of the opponent, you can choose not to deliver the final blow. So in these demonstrations, the master will ask someone to attack him, then he would merely point with his free hand and say “look, all I have to do is raise this one finger, point up here, and all the problems are solved. And this finger is not even touching you! It’s an example of empty force.” Distracted, what the student doesn’t see is that the real work is done by the other arm and rest of the body.

In Taiji Quan the body is one giant circle/ball that deflects/redirects the incoming force, to help with that, a beginner usually do something with the free hand (point in the correct direction) to complete the circle he’s attempting. At advanced levels you can do this with just your mind. Once you have someone’s center, you can further embellish this by shaking your finger (actually your who body is shaking/bouncing, but the movement is very small), each time causing the opponent to move.

There are other variations of this. My teacher used to kid with us: when we push him he would cause us to lean over, getting uprooted in the process. And with one free hand at his side, palms facing up, he would wave upward and say “look, I’m lifting you up with this hand, not even touching you!”

One application where this is easy to understand is when you try to reach your opponent with one arm, he touches it on the inside with arm on the same side (for example your right and his left), and in one unified movement, rotate his torso to his left with a spiral arm circle in the left arm, unbalancing you outward and downward to his left, at the same time his other arm chopping down on your neck as part of same circle. You can go down before his chopping hand reaches you. By definition, yang is where his mind is. So when you attack and he feels the pressure on his left, he just put his mind on attacking with his right. Since he has six integration, this automatically causes the left side to follow and redirect as part of same overall motion. But to the outside observer, not feeling what you’re feeling, seeing the focus of his eyes and the attacking hand, would thinks that’s what’s causing you to go down. To him it looks like empty force. But you know it’s actually internal force – his arm that’s touching you is not moving much, but it’s transmitting a controlling force.


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