Creating Power with Size and Restriction

by Brian Chung on 2020/09/22

In learning Taiji, Master Chen would often say that we create power with size and restriction. He would also say that we must develop the ability to separate every single part of our body. This includes left and right, top and bottom, front and back, and inside and outside.

It is visually apparent when we see clearly separate movements of the left and right, and the top and bottom. This is because they involve body parts that are clearly distinct from one another.

But what about the inside and outside? What is the inside and outside? How do you separate them? And how does this create power?

In this article we will use the example of a bullet cartridge to illustrate the production of power with inside and outside separation.


A modern bullet cartridge consists of the following:

  1. Bullet. This is the projectile.
  2. Metallic case. This holds all parts together.
  3. Propellant, or gunpowder.
  4. Rim. This provides the extractor on the firearm a place to grip the case to remove it from the chamber once fired.
  5. Primer. This ignites the gunpowder.


Two Examples of Power

  1. Place a single bullet cartridge on the table. Take the head off and empty out the gunpowder on the table. Light up the gunpowder. In this mini explosion a certain volume of gas is produced. There is little result. This is called to be dispersed.
  2. The bullet remains encapsulated inside the cartridge. The casing is locked into the gun barrel. It does not move. The primer is struck and the gunpowder is lit. In this mini explosion the same volume of gas is produced as in (1). Due to the physical restrictions of the casing and the gun barrel, the bullet is forced down the gun barrel at high speed. The result is that the bullet travels very far. The same amount of energy with physical restrictions produce a trajectory. This is called to be focused.


Relation to our Body Parts

How does this relate to our body parts?

There are three aspects.

  1. Gunpowder explosion / increase in size
  2. Casing & gun barrel / restriction
  3. Bullet / something that comes out


The Method to Create Power

When we practice our movements we must keep in mind that the desired goal is to create power.

  1. To create power first there must be an increase in size. We increase the size of our movements until it reaches it’s largest. This means what we exaggerate the size of the movement. The assumption is that our body has never performed these movements before. The movements come from the inside. The inside is our joints. It is the middle of any configuration.  [See Diagram A below]
  2. Once the increase in size has been firmly established, the method to produce power is to place a restriction on movements. In the case of the bullet, a casing and gun barrel is required. With our bodies, the outside cannot move. The outside is the two ends of any configuration. [See Diagram B below]
  3. When (1) and (2) have been achieved according to the specific rules, then power is automatically produced. For example, if we assume there is an increase in size from 1 unit to 3 units, there is a net increase of 2 units. A restriction limiting the size to 1 unit will force a conversion into the production of something.

Diagram A – Showing the Increase in Size


Diagram B – Showing the Restriction


This is an example of fix the two ends, move the middle.

“The idea is that you always do the full version. Your movements must be that big. Once you get a hold of that feeling, then you lock it up so it cannot come out. Inside it must be the same size. All our power is based on this.”

“Everything has to be fully burnt. Movements must be full. Then trap the outside, let the inside do the job. Then you create power. This called inside and outside separation.”

So to come back to reality, to start with we must increase our size. To increase our size we have to work on our joints.

Isn’t this what we were told the very first lesson? The key to progression is to follow instructions and to persist. Keep on training!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelvin Ho September 22, 2020 at 7:13 am

Nice article!


Tinh Thai September 22, 2020 at 2:55 pm

Thank you very much for recording Master Chen’s words and producing this article.

Please excuse me while I make my moves big and not necessarily correct during training. Actually, I need to excuse myself. The reason is the conditioning I’ve had to get things “right the first time” throughout childhood and even in the workplace. Mistakes were punished. Testing of ideas was not allowed (considered a waste of time and money). So, even though I know in my mind that testing is required in the training for PM, it’s not what I am actually doing.

Am I making excuses? Yes. Now it’s time for me to constantly remind myself everyday that I am allowed to test, I am allowed to make the moves incorrectly, but for a reason. That reason is to feel the full extent of each move and each position.

While I set the goal of practicing going big, may I please ask, am I able to incorporate building up hardness described above as a quality of the “metallic shell” too? I am asking this because Master Chen has noted that I am “flexible” and that I create “indent” (quotes representing Master Chen’s words). I have had very little hard training (almost none when compared to our taiji brothers and sisters) and lack that quality. Or, is the hardness something I train after I have understood the full extent of the moves and positions?


Brian Chung September 24, 2020 at 5:36 pm

Tinh, the hardness you describe is a relative term to your touch. The specific quality of the metal shell is that the material does not move beyond a threshold.
To recalibrate our body to this quality we need to touch a physical object that has this quality. For example, a solid wall.
Changing the quality of our body is the result of a long process of following a procedure.

More on changing the quality of our bodies:


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