Posted by: B Gourley | December 31, 2010

Iron in the Cotton

A discussion took place in a recent tai chi chuan class about “intention” and “strength”, in conjunction with qi, as the “iron in the cotton.”  The ostensible idea is that the movements are soft, but their application as a martial art requires strong confident movement to avoid being overpowered. 

This confluence of soft and hard seems a ubiquitous feature in martial arts. In Kukishin-ryu bikenjutsu (the sword techniques of the “9-demons spirit” school) there is a concept called Kasumi no ho (i.e. “the principle of the haze”) that includes the notion of maintaining a relaxed state at all moments except when strength and power are called for during attack and defense.

The reasoning is elementary. Combat is exhausting, and sheer fatigue can destroy an individual who is unable to maintain a relaxed state to the fullest extent possible. Having said that, one’s attacks must be strong and one’s defense unshakable in order to have any hope of survival.  


Watching and waiting

Unmoved by the steel’s glint

Iron in  cotton


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