Blending

Through most of my journey in the martial arts, I have been trying to embody a quality of action and being, encapsulated in the term changeability.  In essence, changeability is the capacity and tendency to harmonize yourself with external forces.  This is the essence of Taoist martial arts, such as Tai chi and Bagua.  The theory of this approach is that, by harmonizing with external forces, you can redirect them to your benefit, with the primary goal of maintaining your centeredness (a term referring mainly to your mental and physical balance and integration).

For a long time, I believed that embodying the quality of changeability was accomplished by conditioning yourself to yield to force, rather than resist it.  By yielding, you become like a ghost, untouchable to your opponent’s force.  As he attempts to strike, push, pull or grab you, you seem to disappear and cause him to miss, stumble, and lose balance.  This seemed to be in alignment with the principle of wu wei, a Chinese term which approximately translates to mean “without doing” or “without effort.”  It took me years to realize that this idea of yielding was only half the equation – the yin half.

Taoist martial arts is based upon the recognition that the yin principle (softness, receptivity) must exist in harmonious relationship with the yang principle (hardness, expression).  Blending is the approach to energetic and spacial relationship with another person that balances yin (soft) and yang (hard) elements to accomplish totally harmonious interaction, and from that harmony an experience of freedom, of effortless action – wu wei.  It is the total harmonization of your force and motion with your opponent’s force and motion in such a way that you become the center and the guiding will for both of your bodies.  This allows you to so deftly alter the direction of forces at work through your opponent’s body structure, that he never realizes what’s changed until it’s too late and you’ve taken control of his motion and balance.

Blending is more than just a physical approach to dealing with force, however.  It is the expression of a philosophical understanding of relationships and change.  In order to acquire and apply the skill of blending in a combative situation, we must shift our perceptions of personal combat.

The first step is to realize that fighting is just a descriptive term for the state of a relationship between two or more people.  In essence, the word “fight” implies two wills in opposition to each other, trying to force the other to change according to their aims.  However, a combative relationship need not include an element of fighting.

When the approach of blending is used, there is no fight, because you never oppose the will, motion, or force of your attacker.  If there is no opposition, there’s no opponent – no opponent, no fighting.  This must be understood: there is no “me vs. you.”  If you don’t enter into a contest, you can’t lose.  Instead, we approach combative relationship with an attitude of “me and you” – “us.”  So the question isn’t who wins, it’s who gets to be “us.”

This change in perception alters your focus from overcoming your opponent, to maintaining your center as you enter into a relationship with your attacker – more like a dance than a fight.  You move along with him, making your two motions one, adding your force in the wake of his, and subtly altering the direction of forces at work through his body, so that his own action causes his structure to crumble and lose balance.  So blended are your two motions that the attacker never realizes anything has changed until it’s too late.  The instantaneous, effortless effectiveness of this approach is due to the fact that you didn’t oppose him.  His body feels like it’s moving in the direction it intended to.  It meets no resistance and so has no reason to adjust.  By the time he realizes he’s lost control, he will be under yours.  At the highest level, in the moment of “blending” there is no difference between you and your attacker.  Then, in the next instance, you are free of him.