In the West we hardly describe fighting sports as ‘soft’. Wrestling dudes aren’t seen as ‘tender’ and boxers don’t get in the ring with the aim to ‘gently’ bash their opponent.
Yet this idea of ‘soft’ is firmly established in East Asian martial arts. I guess it comes from the concept of ‘yin’ and ‘yang’. If there’s ‘darkness’ and ‘light’, ‘male’ and ‘female’ with their intertwining relationships, I guess the idea of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ has it’s place.
This is evident, for example, in Jujitsu -柔術, which literally means ‘soft skill’. In a recent post we looked at ‘skill’, so now we look at ‘柔’, which is ju in Japanese (among other sounds), rou in mandarin and yu in Korean. And if you think about it, the Jujitsu guys, who wait for their opponents to strike first and take them down, it’s a counter intuitive, defensive or ‘soft’ way to fight.
I studied Taichi in Taiwan for several years, and of course, ‘softness’ is an essential concept. My teacher constantly reminded me to relax as I practiced the form. When you’re relaxed, both in mind and muscle, you’re faster, smoother and your breathing is even. If you tense up, accuracy and speed go out the window. Furthermore, the concept of softness is also evident in yielding to the opponent, using the opponents strength against ’em.
So, there it is. If you’re in a fight, don’t be afraid to be a big softy! You might have the advantage.