Sunday, January 15, 2012

How Long Does It Take To Develop Peng-Jing?

When people talk about developing Peng-Jing they often say it takes "a long time", or "many years". Sorry, there is no such thing as "instant" peng-jing. So what exactly is involved in developing peng-jing that takes "a long time" or "many years"?

This article is a follow-up to my article Why My Peng-Jing Is Still Weak where I finished with the question, "How long will it take for me to develop stronger peng-jin?"

The short answer to these questions is: It depends... but it won't happen instantly.

It is easy to find lists or discussions about the qualities of peng-jing, for example, Clear's Tai Chi has a short list of Qualities Necessary for Peng Jing. I would suggest that these qualities are like the branches of a tree. These qualities naturally show up through training that is focused on the trunk of the tree (using this metaphor). From my experience, intellectually knowing the branches did not help me develop the trunk.

Story time...

Somewhere back in 1996-2000 I was invited to a training session with Rick Taracks and Victor Chao. I remember watching them stand facing each other, in a beginning push-hands pose, and then each shared comments about where they could feel the other was holding tension or was stuck or where there was not a clear path to ground and how the micro-postural adjustment either made the groundpath stronger or weaker.

When it came to my turn to "push" with each of these guys, I couldn't even understand intellectually what they were noticing in my body. This is how "dead post" I was at that time.

Victor showed me a training method of standing and pushing on a door which for me elicited and continued the effect in my legs that I experienced "pushing" with him.

I drove home feeling I had a good workout, parked my car, stepped out, and my leg collapsed underneath me. It took several seconds of propping myself up on the car waiting for my legs to get under me. I hobbled into the house, not sore, more like, I was re-learning how to walk.

This was the first time I was shown the door to developing peng-jing and I didn't even know it!

Over the past nine years of training Wujifa Zhan Zhuang, I've been shown that same door many times! In Wujifa zhan zhuang class, my instructor would make a series of postural adjustments to my zhan zhuang alignment and the end result would be my legs collapsing under me and him enthusiastically exclaiming, "There, you had it!"

So how long does it take to develop peng-jin?" From a guy who has a little peng-jing and has felt a lot in a few others, and knows more than he can demonstrate, here's my short list of how long it takes to develop peng-jing.

Developing peng-jing takes as long as it takes for you to:
  1. Clear out muscular tensions and holding patterns. This means working on rudimentary structural issues in zhan zhuang that result in more relax and more leg strength. How quickly this happens depends on how aggressive you are in facing and working through your issues and how quickly your body naturally responds.

  2. Understand what's involved in this practice. Once you begin developing some relax on top and some leg strength on the bottom, and some presence, then "the path" begins to emerge for you. You learn how to train and what you must train. You may grasp this after your first lesson or it may take longer to figure it out.

  3. Commit with all your heart, and summon all your will power to train hard on your own. Finding an equally committed training partner is a bonus. It is relatively easy for a high-level teacher to show you "the door". It's another matter altogether to figure out on your own how to find that door on your own and walk through it on your own.
Hence, this is why very few people develop real peng-jing and for those that do, it takes a "long time" or "many years". But how many years is "many years"? It can be as few as three years with a qualified instructor or it can take as long as you continue resisting doing the serious work you need to do to really develop peng-jing.

That, in a nutshell, is how long it takes to develop peng-jing.


  1. so. how's your peng jing now, 3.5 years later?

  2. It depends on who you talk to. The "either you have it or you don't" people would say I still don't have it. (And I would agree.) The "gradual" people would say I've made great progress, for example, I was at a push-hands meet-up the other day and was told I had "real good structure". My school brother says I'm much stronger than before. My instructor says I'm really close to getting it. With minimal coaching in class, I can find the structure where I can literally "walk through" my opponent's resistance with ease. So, it's showing up from time to time but it's not consistently "there" yet.