In the Push Hands thread Mario mentioned taiji not being soft.
We are all familier with the story of Yang Lu Chan admonishing Ban Hou for using too much force after seeing his sleeve ripped after a match. But what kind of "force" was he talking about? Many questions arise for me from this statement.
It is said that one should use never use force against force, that you do not use muscle only "soft" yielding.
Others say that one should use only the amount of force as is necessary.
These statements are at the core of what most of us have been taught. But masters also talk about the use of hardness also. Kuo Lien Ying (to mention just one) speaks about this in the Tai Chi Boxing Chronicles. It has to exist in some form in our art as how can there be yin without yang.
Is a palm strike delivered by a "loose" upper body and propelled and driven by the tensioning of the largest muscle groups of the body--the legs, be considered "soft"?
Can what is called "softness" often be more of a matter of timing than actually the non use of muscle?
Can "hardness" be something different than than arm wrestling?
I have heard a number of ideas describing what is described by "iron (or steel) wrapped in cotton."
It is said that an art like Shaolin becomes "soft" as the practioner reaches the advanced stages and that the taiji practioner becomes "harder".
Now are "softness" and "hardness" concepts that have different meanings depending on how they are applied and when (offense, defense etc)? Is the act of breaking an arm considered a "soft" technique or a "hard" one? Some would say that it is not muscle that accomplishes the act but velocity and angles coupled with....
Just like in the discussion of "song" is the term better described as "loose" than relaxed? What is "hardness" and "softness"? When does one become the other? I think these terms can be looked at from different angles and still be entirely in agreement as stated by the principles.
These are just a few questions. I am certain more will surface. I look forward to your ideas.