Yao and Gong – Soft and Hard



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Yao and Gong are terms that express a quality of energy. Yao is translated as softness while Gong is translated as hardness. Soft is typically associated with Yin while hard is viewed as being Yang. Without hardness there can be no softness.

Without softness there can be no hardness. Just as Yin and Yang are continually interacting and changing, so hard and soft blend together. When this interchange of opposites occurs, it gives rise to the spiral. When interactions reach this stage of evolution the dualistic traits become indistinguishable as the components of the interaction merge in to a new, unified entity.

Smoothness of motion is characteristic when yao and gong are properly combined. Naturally there are appropriate times for predominantly hard motions and there are appropriate times for predominantly soft motions. Excessive use of “hardness” leads to a rigidity of the body coupled with a loss of sensitivity, mobility and power.

Excessive use of “softness” causes strikes to be ineffectual, lacking penetration. Hardness and softness, yao and gong, must be evenly balanced, mutually supporting each other. Hard and soft must also be balanced in the heart, balancing ferocity with gentleness, immovability and rigidity with pliability, adaptability. The soft (yao) is the conduit for the hard (gong). Arrive with the soft first then follow up with, and bring the hard (gong) out through the soft (yao).

The principle of yao and gong, hard and soft are also found in the practice of balancing movement with stillness, tension with relaxation. The mind is cultivated by using both stationary and moving meditation while the body is transformed by alternating tension and relaxation within given postures and movements.

This alternating of tension with relaxation produces improved flexibility through the muscles tendons and ligaments making the body extremely supple yet strong while generating abundant internal energy.

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