In one of Carlos Castenada's books, Don Juan is holding forth on being a warrior when Carlos asks how would a warrior deal with an assassin. How could you defend yourself against an assassin waiting for you with a high powered rifle and a telescopic sight?
"I wouldn't be there," Don Juan answers.
Don Juan is operating in a pretty rarified dimension, even by the standards of the miraculous, but the principle is real. "Not being there" is at the heart of our study. When Cheng Man-ching says, "Let the very cells in the body relax," he's referring to the same idea.
Hardness blocks energy, whether it's the energy within us, or the energy of another. Hardness or resistance gives force a place to land. Non-resistance is a most difficult but crucial idea in the application of Taichichuan. "Take a piece of cloth," said Professor. "You can beat it, but you can't harm it. The cloth is soft, it doesn't resist you. So if you are soft as cloth, you won't be harmed."
In the address, the initial positioning for push hands or da lu, we stand so that our front foot aims at our partner's rear heel, and vice versa. Essentially, this means--as the street saying goes--we are not "in their face." The position sets us up so that in yielding, sitting back on the rear leg, we are at an angle to the opponent and can allow them to thrust or fall past us.
This is the very basic level of an attitude that should reach to the cellular level. We do not seek to be in confrontation, in opposition.
If we examine how self defense is viewed generally, most of us see it as necessarily confrontational, even if we are not the aggressor. We think, "I must defend myself," and in that idea we first place ourselves in a hard place energetically--we confront the attacker, so that we can "defend." Even running away--which is not the idea I'm postulating--usually begins with confrontation, if only on the level of energy and the mind.
To be truly soft we need to change the idea, the essential outlook. We do not place ourselves in opposition; not physically, not psychologically, not spiritually. We have nothing to defend, because we are not there. The space where the "defender" must be--in the attacker's face--is vacant, empty. Then the attacker will have no purchase, no place to land.
We are led to a corollary to Cheng Man-ching's "Investing in Loss." "Lose until you have nothing left to lose"--then if you are attacked, you will not be there.