Yin and Yang refer to two complementary forces that can be found in all things in the universe. Everything in nature (seasons, night and day, birth and death, etc.) can be understood as Yin and Yang. Chinese philosophy teaches that:
- Yin and Yang cannot exist without each other –you can’t have night without day
- There is some Yin within Yang and vice versa –like clouds on a sunny day, or bright stars in the dark night, Yin and Yang contains pieces of each other
- Yin and Yang are in a state of dynamic balance –change is constant, Yin and Yang are always transforming into each other, just like night turns into day
The philosophy of Yin and Yang is a tool you can use to understand the world around you. It can also be used to understand your martial arts practice.
The Yang elements in your practice are physical, anaerobic, exciting, loud, or practiced in a group. The Yin elements in your practice are spiritual, aerobic, calming, quiet, or practiced alone. Yin and Yang are equally important, so you need to strike a balance in your training. If you are always exercising at your dojo in a noisy group, you can balance it out at home with a quiet meditation or qigong practice.
Inhaling is Yin, and exhaling is Yang. The Wudang martial arts teach that you should breathe in and out through the nose when you are in a relaxed state of rest. This helps you breathe deeper. However, when we are very active and the nose exhale is not fast enough, the mouth will naturally open. At times like that, we breathe out through the mouth. We never hold our breath, and also do not yell or kiai when striking. Extra air leaving the mouth is considered a waste of Qi energy, and can exhaust the body.
There are also Yin and Yang movements:
Yin Movements – withdrawing, slow, moving downward
Yang Movements – attacking, fast, moving upward
The Wudang kungfu forms show the interplay of Yin and Yang, so there are elements that are fast and hard, and elements that are slow and soft. Think about your forms and see if you can pick out the Yin and Yang. You can also coordinate your breathing with your movements, breathing out on Yang movements (like punching) and breathing in on Yin movements (like withdrawing).
If you want to be the best martial artist you can, you should try to shift your perspective. Think about your art on a spiritual level and recognize the Yin and Yang in your practice. This will help you see your martial art in a new way, and help you find balance.