Sticking Jing is an almost magnetic feeling. That is, your opponent should feel as if you are stuck on them like chewing gum. Once you can stick to someone, you can control their speed, their direction and when the opportunity presents itself, you uproot them and deliver the necessary push to take them off-balance.
Sticking is an interesting concept. Just ask the 3M Company. It has a long list of products devoted to having just the right amount of sticking power. Think of the following sticky things in descending order of stickiness:
Super Glue, which will never unstick. Ever get any on your hands? (Voice of experience)
Duct Tape, which will remove all the hair from your body. (Voice of experience part II)
Adhesive tape (did you want that acid free for archival purposes?)
Blue painter’s tape, which sticks nicely, but won’t pull off the paint off a surface
Post-It Notes that are slightly sticky and can be re-used
3M has stickiness down to a molecular level. Which brings us to geckos. The gecko’s toes are covered with microscopic hairs known as setae. These hairs are so tiny that up to 5,000 could fit on the head of a pin. The end of each setae are even smaller hair-like structures.
These extremely minute hairs let the the gecko cling to surfaces, even what we think of as smooth surfaces like glass or porcelain because of van der Waal forces.
van der Waal Forces work like this:
Piece of cake? Right! Basically this formula says that with increasingly small (is that an oxymoron?) sizes, forces like gravity and wind drag decrease and intermolecular forces increase. When you get very very small, the Van Der Waals forces get very very big.
I’m guessing the gecko doesn’t think about this equation much. Geckos can hang onto glass by one toe. But why aren’t they stuck there forever? It’s the angle of the dangle that does it! The itty bitty hairs on the gecko foot maintain the Van Der Waals force only up to a specific angle. When the angle exceeds a threshold degree, the lizard’s foot immediately lifts off the surface. Viola! An incredibly strong sticking power that can be instantly turned on or off. For those of you who are still skeptical, please refer to the following diagram.
Ain’t physics amazing? By the way, this technique isn’t unique to geckos and skinks. Turns out spiders, flies, an several other insects also have this figured out. One last word about the green- blooded skink. They are not just green blooded, all their innards are green; bones, muscles, everything. They have a super abundance of bile in their systems. Somehow, they are able to live with all this bile coursing throughout their veins. Makes them very poisonous to other critters.
So, back to Sticking Jing. I don’t know if van der Waal forces are the primary force at work here, but in my experience, if there is anything Tai Chi practitioners can bring to bear on an application, they will take advantage of it.
Let’s work with what we do know. If you want to develop your Sticking Jing, you have to first develop your Sensing Jing. We’ve been working in class to develop our sensitivity with the push hands exercise where you and your partner move back and forth keeping the pressure of the touch between you exactly the same throughout the entire push/pull cycle. This means you have to pay special attention to the speed of the other person, if they slow down or pause, you have to do the same, making sure the pressure of your touch doesn’t increase or decrease.
In the book “Tai Ji Jin” by Stuart Alve Olson, Olson tells the story of Yan Luchan who, in front of his students, held a sparrow in his open palm and the sparrow couldn’t fly away. When the sparrow tried to push off, Luchan’s sensitivity was so keen that he could match and absorb the bird’s push so the bird couldn’t take flight. The more sensitive you get, the more you are able to bring your Sticking Jing to bear and neutralize your partner’s intent. It’s also a pretty good party trick, as long as there is a sparrow handy.
So – as a serious Tai Chi student, the first thing to work on is sensitivity, and then you can move on to sticking. And the next time you come across a ginko or a green-blooded tree skink, check out it’s setae.