The Concept of “Song” in Taijiquan

The difficulties start with the translation of the word “Song” (pronounced more like “sung” in English) from Chinese to English. The typical translation for the word Song ( is “relaxation” and this is how it is generally listed in Chinese/English dictionaries. However, as often happens when translating words from one language and culture to another, much is lost in a literal translation.

Relaxation is interpreted to mean many different things depending on your cultural background and what many people call relaxation is quite far from a state of non-tension. In fact, the word Song indicates more of a state of non-tension rather than what we would call relaxation in the West. The word relaxation is often understood as a synonym of relaxing the body structure, even to the point of limpness. However, on a physical level, the word Song indicates a state of non-tension in which the body remains erect with the minimum use of tension at the skeletal and muscular level.

A good example of this was illustrated with humor in the film Shanghai Noon in the scene where the two protagonists, Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan find themselves imprisoned together in a jail cell of the Old West. Owen Wilson flings himself onto his cot, spreading out into a side lying position while Jackie Chan sits down in an erect posture on the edge of his cot. Owen Wilson tells Jackie Chan to relax, to which Jackie Chan responds that he is relaxed and in turn asks Owen Wilson why he is not relaxed! In the Asian concept, letting go structurally corresponds to an apparent state of relaxation, but in reality it is simply a way to second postural defects and bad habits, creating tension in other parts of the body.

Proper alignment of the skeleton, on the other hand, creates a situation where tensions are reduced to a minimum, permitting a true muscular relaxation in general. Furthermore, it stimulates the assumption of a proper posture, slowly correcting the postural defects and bad habits accumulated over the years. In fact, “Song” allows you to maintain proper alignment of the skeleton and the joints with the minimum amount of tension necessary. While the ligaments and tendons around the joints are working (again, with as little tension as possible), you should feel little to no muscular tension. Clearly, if you have a low stance, your thigh muscles will be forced to work, but as your alignment improves, the majority of that work will be transferred inward to the tendons and ligaments.

As you progress, your body will stop fighting itself and you will flow freely from one leg to the other and one position to the other.

Good luck!