One of the key features of Taoist martial arts is chan si jin: a method of coordinating legs, torso, and arms using spiraling movements. Through the use of spirals, the Taoist martial artist can simultaneously deflect blows, generate power for striking and joint-locking, or throw his opponent to the ground. What’s even more impressive is that spirals allow one to do all these things with a minimum of muscular effort.
Spirals play another key role in Taoist martial arts. They allow the practitioner to adjust to forces used against him while maintaining his centeredness: a quality I call “changeability.” Maintaining centeredness, a state of total mental and physical harmonious integration, can be said to be a Taoist’s primary goal. Sophisticated spiral movement allows the Taoist martial artist to do this by simultaneously projecting (yang) and absorbing (yin) force around the “central-lines” of the body. “Central-lines” is a term for the imaginary central-axis of the torso and limbs. By rotating the mass of his torso and limbs while simultaneously drawing in and down or extending up and out, the Taoist martial artist creates spiraling force through his entire body. While spiraling like this, incoming force – say from a push or grab – will be deflected off or pulled down and around the practitioner’s center. By remaining sensitive and responsive to the slightest changes in direction of his opponent’s force, the Taoist will twist and spiral, remaining unaffected, and turning his opponent’s force against him.
Even though he generates great power and moves dynamically to adjust to external forces, his center remains calm, like the eye of a tornado.
As one last image for the effectiveness of spirals, imagine a drill. A drill consists of two spirals: the blade (yang) and the groove (yin). As the blade pushes its way into the intended material, dust moves its way back up the groove. This illustrates how spirals can move opposing forces simultaneously along the same central-line without crashing the forces together.