What is Jin?
One of the fundamental building blocks of T’ai Chi Ch’uan is jin, sometimes pronounced jing. It is what people refer to as internal strength. Jin is one of the things that strikes awe in the student if he is exposed to his teacher’s jin.
Jin is not to be confused with physical strength, or external strength. Many people can have external strength develop in a relatively short time by lifting weights, doing hard labor, or doing special exercises.
Some people are just born constitutionally strong. But this kind of strength is often stiff strength and not very flexible. It is usually just local and not connected to the rest of the body. Jin is.
Jin is usually considered to have been developed over many years of internal practice by accumulating qi, or internal energy.
The accumulated energy is forged and tempered into jin by continued, correct practice.
This commonly involves standing practice and/or form movements or silk reeling exercises. It can be cultivated by anyone, man or woman. It can be localized or connected throughout the whole body. When it is used for self-defense or for hard labor, it may be combined with external strength, or li.
Jin is strong and flexible and responsive. It is said to flow through the body like water under pressure through a hose, and to have similar power.
Jin expresses its strength through T’ai Chi’s basic and subtle energies such as peng, lu, ji, and an. Anytime effort is required, it can be used, gently or explosively.
One of the goals of T’ai Chi Ch’uan practice is to cultivate qi and jin and to be able to redistribute them throughout the body at will.
The ability to do this can take many years. Often, when one achieves some measure of it, he or she may not know how it developed because of the many related activities they have been involved in.
For instance, many practitioners who do the form, also do standing. or “zhan zhuang,” postures. These, too, if done correctly and for a long enough duration, will generate internal strength. And it would be hard to say which was the most effective.
Casual practice is not likely to produce more than casual results.
Some martial artists in China are said to only do static standing postures in preparation for push hands or other martial arts activity.
They might do minimal or no forms. When they feel they have results from standing, they will begin push hands.
To have jin does not necessarily mean someone is smart, a superior person, or a genius, but rather he or she was single-minded and practiced long and hard. They may not even have practiced very well.
Sometimes perseverance will produce results as long as there are not grievous errors in practice. If one’s lifestyle dissipates one’s energies regularly, this will make it more difficult to develop.
There can be degrees of jin in terms of its strength and flexibility and how it is used. Some describe this in terms of how Yin or Yang the jin feels. The goal is 50-50, with the feeling of cotton on the outside and steel inside.
Once you have some measure of jin, you can tell by your own feelings what practices amplify it and which ones dissipate it for you.
What is the use of internal strength? It magnifies one’s skills at various applications. It can lend a certain confidence or arrogance to an individual, depending on their personality. It strengthens one’s health, as long as one does not dissipate one’s energy or over-use it.
Naturally, it strengthens your ability to do what you have to do on a daily basis and also when making special efforts physically. It is a valuable tool.
Some people are able to mentally channel the jin and bring it up through their legs, hips, back, and out their arms and up through their neck. It becomes part of the circulation of the qi through the meridians.
Some people refer to jin and qi interchangeably because there is such a close relationship.
There can be numerous difficulties in developing jin and these vary with the individual.
First, there is trying to find out what to do to get it while not even knowing what it really is. What would be best? Standing? Form practice, etc.?
A strong person may have to give up their attachment to external strength, which is sometimes hard to do. But without doing this, it can be hard to open up the joints and promote the flow of qi.
There is a catch-22 for people who try to cultivate it to become strong. Wanting to become strong in the first place is likely to result in focusing too much on becoming strong when jin involves flexibility, too.
It takes time, patience and dedication to one’s art as well as confidence in oneself. You want to sustain a belief that you can achieve this.
Sometimes, there can be physical pain involved, especially in a standing posture held for long periods of time, day after day. Another kind of pain can be the frustration of feeling that there is no progress and maybe never will be, or the pain of thinking you have it when you don’t.
One master said, “First there is heat in the limbs and then there is cold in the limbs and then there is the test of patience.”
While the cultivation of jin is one of the jewels of T’ai Chi Ch’uan practice, it is not the end game.Go to Top of page
It is one part of the process and one still has to work with the qi, the body coordination, the body structure, and classics’ principles. And always, there is the need to cultivate the mind and spirit.•—Marvin Smalheiser