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Finding Balance

September 22, 2009

This post was written today by our new intern Lizette. She will be contributing posts to the Blue Snake blog throughout the Fall season.


It’s the back to school season! While some are reveling in college-ruled lined paper and others are dreading the classes and homework, September always reminds me of riding the bus to school.  Winding our way through the development, we would pass a man standing by himself on a small hill, moving a sword back and forth methodically. In the suburbs where I lived, this was not an ordinary practice. But as a kid, I never thought much of him. It wasn’t until I saw Zhang Yun’s book that I thought of this man with his sword on the hill again.

Zhang Yun offers us an enlightening and comprehensive look at Taiji Dao in his book, The Complete Taiji Dao: The Art of the Chinese Saber. In it, he walks us through the history and philosophy of the dao (the single-edged curved blade or knife), explaining the basic skills and principles of Taiji Dao to us, and allowing us to visualize all that he has laid out with a thirteen-posture Taiji Dao form.

In order to begin practicing the art of Taiji Dao, we must first understand some of the principles of Taiji Quan. A way to begin thinking about Taiji Quan is to visualize the famous yin yang symbol. Yun tells us that yin “represents qualities such as negativity, femaleness, passivity, subordination, internality, softness, fullness, quietness, substantiality, and darkness” (49). Yang, on the other hand, “represents the opposite qualities of positivity, maleness, initiative, leadership, externality, hardness, emptiness, movement, insubstantiality, and light” (49). Yun goes on to explain that “[a]t a fundamental level, all forms of martial arts focus on the application of force…a yin force for defense and a yang force for attack or counterattack. In Taiji Quan, however, defense and offense are always combined and the yin and the yang forces are always presented simultaneously. As in the taiji principle, yin and yang coexist and each force always contains some of the other. Neither force is ever static…The relationship between yin and yang varies from moment to moment; sometimes the yin component is greater than the yang component, and sometimes the reverse is true. Since they are a part of the same entity, a momentary change in one force automatically implies and causes a simultaneous change in the other. The two forces always complement, replenish, support, and transform each other” (50).

We should remember these words as we begin the transition into our new schedules this fall. Whether you are a parent juggling after-school activities, a student trying to figure out your way through the first day of college, or a recent graduate searching for a path to call your own, remember the yin yang. There is new with the old, light with the dark, joy with the grief, and positive with the negative in everything.

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