I really embrace the concept of Yin and Yang. Not merely in regards to my martial art training but as a life concept. Even deep within science there are Yin and Yang, positive and negative, matter and antimatter. Balance. Total and complete balance. No matter how hard you try to tip the scale there is a counterweight that levels all things out.
Almost two decades ago I got involved with the martial arts school where I now teach. At the time they were working out of a pair of leased rooms in a small strip mall. The owner, if you could call him that back then, was a martial arts enthusiast. The school was more like his expensive hobby, a place where he could teach people and practice himself. It would be incorrect to call it a business as it cost him more than he took in. That has all changed now.
Regardless, the little place had been hastily put together. Some kicking bags hung from the metal I-beam rafters, a Muk Yan Chong (wooden dummy) roughly installed, some padded floors laid out, and boom, he was done. Let the training begin.
He had only been in this building a few months when my daughter and I joined them. So hasty was the set up that one back wall wasn’t even painted. Bare sheet rock with all its spackling and tape still showing. After a couple of years, I couldn’t take it any more. We needed to be classier and show some pride. So I took it upon myself to paint the wall. Not merely cover it with white, but to make a statement. I decided to paint a huge, four-foot Yin Yang on that barren spot.
The mathematics of a Yin Yang is as simple and elegant as what it represents. Many of you may have tried to draw a Yin Yang at some point while doodling and perhaps got frustrated with trying to get it just right. It is tricky to do free hand. But with some understanding of the symbol itself and simple tools, it is a breeze.
I took a pencil, a string, and a small brad (finish nail). I tapped the brad into the wall where I wanted the center of the Yin Yang and attached the string to it, and the pencil to the string. Using the string as a tether, I drew a big circle. Easy peasy. Now I shortened the string two inches and drew another circle – this was merely to give the Yin Yang a thick, bold outline and not really necessary if you are drawing a Yin Yang on paper.
Now to get those wonderful paisley sort of shapes. It is really all math and very balanced. I drew a straight line bisecting the circle, through the center where the brad was. I took the string and folded it in half. Where it folded, I put a mark on the bisecting line at the top and then again at the bottom. I removed the brad and put it in one of the marks. With the string still folded in half, I drew another circle. I repeated this at the other mark. Two circles, each half of the diameter of the original, each centered one-quarter (or half of a half) from the center.
Cover over part of each of these smaller circles, one on the left side, the other on the right and you have two perfectly symmetrical Yin Yang swirls. Then I took the half length string and folded it in half again and drew another circle inside each small circle.
This is the real beauty of the Yin Yang concept. Sometimes the inner circles are made smaller – half of a half of a half, or one eighth. Sometimes these are left out.
It is really incorrect and improper to leave these smaller circles out. If all you have are the large Yin Yang swirls, all you have is some broad concept that is almost meaningless in real life. You cannot truly define anything as that much in opposition. The tiny inner circles represent Yin within Yang, and Yang within Yin – the ever cascading counterbalances. Like a fractal, in theory, if you looked within those smallest circles, you would see yet another Yin Yang, and yet another within that.
In the darkest dark there is still some spot that is lighter than the area around it. In the lightest light there is still some spot that is shadowed. The sweetest taste still has some hidden bitter. The driest land still has some speck of moisture somewhere.
It is a wonderful concept, so wonderfully balanced, half within a half within a whole. Crafted to show the fluidity of it all, one spiraling toward the other as the other spirals in toward the former, as if runners on a track, neither ever able to catch and consume the other. If one did, neither would exist.
Yin and Yang. Good and evil, with some evil in the good and some good within the evil. The pure and the perverted, inside all of nature, and all of us.