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The Forgotten Principle of Softness | What Tai Chi Got Right and Judo Wrong

The forgotten principle of softness is that one must not rely on brute force when it comes to martial arts. After all, when an opponent is equal in strength or stronger brute force will have its limits.

Softness refers to being supple, like a toddler is. The joints, ligaments, tendons, and fascia are more elastic than contracted and tight.

“The lower controls the upper” – this quote refers to how the legs are the source of power and are the parts that should be supple first. This will then allow the upper limbs to follow suit.

Tai Chi puts an emphasis on this softness, of releasing excess tension in the body. This creates an environment for more effective release of power. But also, the ability to redirect incoming force or absorb it and release it into the ground.

The concept of jū” 柔 in jujutsu or judo refers to this “softness”. It could also mean the way of softness.

Judo is classically known to have the concept of using the opponent’s momentum against themselves through leverage. This is similar with martial arts like aikido. The problem with judo, especially in the Olympic level. You see the judokas using brute force, even the training is more built upon building the muscles and the external tools.

Although they still get the job done, they have drifted away from the concept of  柔.

In Tai Chi this softness is the concept of “fasong”– the release of excess tension in the body. And there is no Tai Chi without it. And the classics speak about using the mind and not “li”- which is a reference to the use of brute force.

Against somebody of competence, using brute force will highly lead to your defeat.



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