The Essential Energies: Momentum

In Saturday morning’s class my teacher briefly discussed the idea of momentum. My school publishes a weekly video series and accompanying article about a “word of the week,” with topics that relate to both martial arts practice and real life. Momentum was last week’s word; to hear some other ideas about using momentum, see this video or read the writeup on the school’s blog here.

Momentum is an integral part of correct taiji movement. A form may be composed of many separate motions, and yet the whole needs to be one movement — one connected whole, from beginning to end, with no interruptions in the flow of energy. Each movement needs to be both fluid and smooth in itself, and also to lead to the next movement — every movement contains within it the beginning of the next, because the energy simply continues from one to the other, with no break.

So momentum is a key idea. Newton’s law of inertia applies here as well as to any other physical body: an object in motion will stay in motion, an object at rest will stay at rest, unless force is applied to change either state. So once energy is applied to begin the motion of a form, the most efficient way to continue is not to break the flow of energy. Don’t stop and start, relax and let the movement carry you along.

There are two halves of the law, though, two possible states. Motion and rest. Every taiji form begins in wuji, the state of “no extremes.” Standing still and straight, with relaxed posture, arms at the sides, feet either together or naturally separated. Standing at rest. Wuji is stored potential. Out of the stillness of wuji movement can arise, movement that is not influenced by any prior energy or motion. Wuji gives one a fresh start.

A couple of weeks ago I was starting to form plans and goals, starting to gain momentum in my writing and in other areas of life. And then came a busy period of travel and frantic house-cleaning and a special guest arriving and vacation and more travel and visiting family and spending time with people, and in the process of it all I lost the momentum I had gained in my personal goals. At the end of it I found myself feeling turned-around, lost and distracted, uncertain where to pick up and start again. I loved the time that I got to spend with friends and family, but resented what felt like lost time in chasing my own goals.

In thinking further about momentum, though, I find myself looking at things differently. I lost my momentum, yes, but instead I have arrived back at a point of wuji — a place of stillness, a place where old motion has been let go of, a place of potential. I will have to build my momentum up again, yes, but now I have a chance to adjust my course and my goals, to refocus my intentions and energy in the direction that I want. Everything is possible, and it’s up to me to choose where to look next, how to start to move again. I’m not stalled, I am poised. I’m ready to begin something new.

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1 comment so far

  1. John Goddard on

    I love this! You could see wuji as our natural state. Thanks for this insight! Poised.. Love that :)


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