Tai Chi books are mystifying to a beginner with all their esoteric talk of Yin and Yang, iron wrapped in cotton, Qi and Jin. The Tai Chi classics only make sense after many years by which point you don't really need to read them.
I hope to say a few things about Yin and Yang that everyone can understand.
We practice Tai Chi to attain perfect balance as depicted in the Tai Chi symbol. This means we hope to become balanced in every sense of the word.
Every individual is out of balance in many ways and some more obviously than others. You may know someone who is hot blooded and quick to anger, they probably stand quite upright and carry a lot of tension in the chest and shoulders. Someone like this is far too Yang.
You may know other people who are shy, floppy, a bit weak and maybe have low blood pressure. These people are far too Yin.
Of course, it's more complicated than that and most people are too Yang in some areas and too Yin in others.
Now imagine someone with a straight but relaxed posture. They exude a quiet benevolence but you don't want to annoy them. They seem strong but not aggressively so, calm but not weak. This is a balanced person and it's an ideal that we aim for in Tai Chi.
Have you ever noticed that people who constantly apologize make you angry? Their Yin brings out your Yang. What's your reaction to aggressive people? Do you shrink away or become more aggressive? You might find that the more balanced you become the easier your relationships are because you're calmer and stronger. Not angry and not a victim.
When I practice Tai Chi these days I'm more aware of the subtle and not so subtle energies within me. Certain practices fill me with an abundance of Yang energy. I feel like I could wrestle a bear! I notice it's too much by the reactions of other people who either back away or tell me off!
After Master Chen Yingjun's visit this year I definitely absorbed some of his powerful martial emanation and had to practice very softly for a while to calm it down.
A lot of Tai Chi people concentrate only on being soft, their Tai Chi has no substance and is useless from a martial point of view. Watching Master Yingjun you will see him issue incredible power from a place of profound relaxation. He is sublimely soft and extremely hard.
The reason relaxation is emphasised so much in Tai Chi is because most people are far too tense. Sometimes I'll have a student who is relaxed but too weak and in such a case they might benefit from more vigorous martial practices like spear shaking.
As Master Yingjun is fond of saying: 'Tai Chi has one application.....balance!'
Do we expect to become perfectly balanced? I certainly don't but I enjoy becoming more so.