Taiji Quan: What Is Ting Jin? And Why it is Not Intuition?
What is Ting Jin?
Ting Jin, is the ability to sense your opponent’s intent or force, allowing you to understand and redirect it.
It is a quality a skill that is acquired with the development of your peng structure, through training like Zhan Zhuang for example. It is usually translated in English as, “listening energy”.
This sensitivity is easily acquired when one lets go of tension, a prerequisite in developing a good peng structure. It, therefore, involves one to yield, first to one’s own internal tension and therefore to the incoming force or pressure of the opponent.
One of the qualities of a good peng structure is not only the expansive force an adversary would experience when they are uprooted, but simultaneously it is also the ability to absorb and disperse the incoming force. The ability to yield. Both the adhering and yielding cannot be done properly if one has a deficient ting jin. So as your ting jin gets better so does your peng structure and thus your yielding and adhering.
Why is it not intuition?
Intuition is defined as the ability to understand or grasp something instinctively without conscious reasoning. And this term is used to define ting jin, in Western or modern Taiji Quan literature.
It is not necessarily a bad explanation. But, as my Shifu once corrected me, “ting jin is not intuition when you know, you know.” Only a year later from him saying that did that correction start to make sense.
When you see a cat or hear a dog or someone screaming, you know at least with seeing that it is a cat or if you hear a bark, it is a dog. You do not think consciously that you are seeing a dog, you see, and you know it is a dog. This is the same with ting jin.
When your opponent grabs you his force, is a vector, it has direction and magnitude and you can feel it. That is why ting jin is improved with Tuishou or push hands, as you are directly feeling the movements of your training partner.
The letting go of tension or the feeling of tension is also ting jin, some people are not aware that they are holding on to tension. Exercises like Zhang Zhuang reveal that.
So that is your why ting jin can be referred to as “listening energy” because your body can listen to the forces inside of you and the incoming force of the opponents. Or feel it and understand it. And therefore, redirect it.
As you sink and build a peng structure, you also build up on your bodies ability to listen.