Firmness & Relaxation
…… I understand the utility of redirecting incoming force, but when blocking, how is it that the arm remains soft and subtle (in order that we may listen), and not rigid as in external martial arts?
"Follow the opponent's motion until it dissolves into my own. Only when I can unite with the opponent to become "ONE", then I may prevail.". From an older article which may shed some additional light on what Master Hwa speaks about and demonstrates in this very recent video. I would encourage everyone to read J.T's quandary, try the "experiment" Master Hwa speaks about at the end of this article.
Master Stephen Hwa's response: In short, the rigidity in an external martial art is indiscriminate with every muscle in the arm stiffened up to the maximum. In tai chi, only the necessary energizing is employed. In addition, your blocking of the opponent’s arm should use a force just enough to ward off his arm. If you use too much force then it's no longer redirect, but push back, and you lost the advantage of redirect. Therefore your ward-off move is very fluid and delicate. This can only be achieved when you are not stiff or rigid. I have an experiment I want you to try: Try to press the back of your hand against say a door frame, just like you are blocking an opponent's incoming arm. Do you find that one side of your forearm muscle is energized while the other side, the muscle is relaxed? Let me know your results.