What is yielding?

I had this student John about ten years ago who trained with me for about 3-4 years before he moved to New York. John was a very type A personality always aggressive and forcing things into submission to get what he wanted. Not only was he like this at the academy with martial arts, but in other areas of life as well like work, family, friends, and recreational activities. He was someone who was successful in business but lived with a fairly high level of stress in his life. Usually, when I meet students like John, I know that 8 or 9 times out of ten there are only two ways his training will go. He will either excel dive into it and see some great results or he would move on immediately thinking it was not the right fit for him. There rarely is a middle ground with this type of student. I always try to make observations of new students so I can find areas of the practice that will resonate well with them to help them find success in their training early on.


With most people, if they do not find something that works for them immediately, they are on to the next shiny object. They can’t handle the boredom, which means they can’t stand one thing until they get good at it and they wonder why they are unhappy. Often times people who cling to their delusions finding it difficult, to learn anything worth learning; people under the necessity of creating themselves must examine everything and soak up learning the way the roots of the tree soak up water. With John, I think it was something I said to him in his second or third week of training. We were playing push hands and talking about the importance of yielding. Then John asked me “Why should I be weak and give them what they want I feel like I am losing?” As I listened to his question, I paused for a minute thinking of how I could word the response so he may appreciate the idea of yielding. Then I said; don’t think of it as you are giving them anything. All you are doing is repositioning yourself, so you are in a better position to attack. Then his face lit up and I knew he was intrigued.


This is an example of how we will use yielding in martial arts. If you can only overpower people and butt heads with them the minute you come up against someone who is bigger or stronger than you, you will be in trouble. The concept of yielding in martial arts very powerful because it lets the smaller weaker person have a chance to defeat the stronger opponent.