Friday, February 2, 2018

Classic text about practicing with power (Fali Lian)

Here’s an old Taijiquan text about Fali (Releasing the power) and some other things. This is actually probably the easiest translation I’ve ever done because I had the memory of JB quoting it, with Matt translating on the fly. Even though it’s from Taijiquan, older Taijiquan practitioners used to execute a Fali in the same manner that we use, but most of them died without passing the skill down, so even though it’s rare to find it still in Taijiquan, the text is still very relevant to us.

Note— My commentary and clarifications are inside the brackets [ ]
My translations are inside the { }

Also not that the terms ‘Li’ and ‘Jin’ are interchangeable in this context. Jin is just a way to describe a refined strength or power. It’s kind of like a kid who’s in the process of learning how to shoot the basketball into the hoop from the free throw line and we would say that he’s using Li. Versus the professional NBA player who’s using Jin to shoot from the free throws.

十三势行功心解 13 Powers (Shi)

武禹襄 by Wu Yuxiang attributed to Wang Zong-Yue


[Jing is normally below our Shen but through cultivation and practice the Jing can control, or be above our Shen and control it's rising upward without getting away from our control. But really it just means Mental Focus, slightly different than the meaning of our ‘Yi’ (Intent), and like our Yi our Jingshen can be strengthened through martial practice.]

{Jingshen (Mental Drive or Mental Focus) can lift body won't be too slow and heavy, nor too excited. It feel as if the crown of the head is hanging from a string. The 'Yi' and 'Qi' move about quickly. The body will be lively like a bouncing ball [like the ball used in 蹴鞠 cùjū (ancient Chinese kickball/soccer)]. Yet able to change and turn in order to adapt to the true situation [unlike the ball that will just bounce carelessly].}

{Fajin (Issuing Force) must be stable yet moving, pliant yet crisp. It should be focused into a single direction. When standing the body must be kept 'Zhong Zheng' (Focused and Precise) [per all the IMA rules and requirements] in order to stay calm and adaptable [after 'Fa' issuing]. To brace /support outward in all eight directions there must be no place in the body that the Qi cannot reach to. [The giant pearl with nine bends going through the center of the pearl story]}


{Not too much, not too little (Meaning Qi is everywhere in your body). Use your power as if it was steel folded a hundred times. Nothing will be as hard, nothing will break it. Your body should look like a Majestic Bird [Bald Eagle] seizing a rabbit. Your spirit should be like a cat capturing a mouse. Be motionless like a Tall mountain peak [where nothing lives]. Suddenly move with the relentless of power of a large river -like the Yangtze River. Store up power as if you were drawing open a bow. Emit power as if you were releasing the string of the bow. Within the 'Curve" of the bow is where you find the power to send the arrow 'Straight'. Storing then Emitting. Power is emitted by the spine. Changing that power is done through the stepping and rest of the body. But [unlike the bow and arrow that must be redrawn and another arrow notched] This Emission of power is gathering. The ending and beginning are continuously linked. Like a piston in a machine it can repeatedly produce power [storing is emitting, emitting is storing]. Entering and Leaving must use 'Zhuanhuan'. [The waist and torso] Must first be pliant and flexible, and then [after the 'Fa' (emission)] it can be solid and strong. Being able to breathe properly will allow you to be agile and lively 'Linghuo'. Allow the air to breathe out naturally and you will not suffer any harm. But this power should be like a singer singing a song, where you always need to keep air in your lungs so that even after singing your longest note you don't gasp for air. Your mind is the commander, your Qi is signaler, and your Waist [Dantian] is what moves your army [the rest of your body]. First work on expanding [all your movements] outward, and only later start bringing everything back in and seek to find perfection in your movements.}


{It's said that if your opponent is motionless then you remain motionless. When your opponent starts to move, your movement will arrive first. Your attack will appear to be relaxed but it won't be relaxed. It will seem to be overextended but it will not be overextended. The Power may stop but your 'Yi' will continue on. It's said first in the mind then in the body [which has a double meaning for both you and attacking the opponent]. Your guts should be kept relaxed so that your skeleton doesn't start being tense. Your spirit is comforted and your body is calm. This feeling should be ingrained into your mind. Be sure to remember: One part moves, then every part moves, one part stops then every part stops. Lead the movement of going out and coming back by having the Qi follow up and down your back and control it by linking the movement to your backbone. Inside your body your Mental Drive is hard and stern, but outside you only show ease and comfort. Approach the situation like a cat carefully hunting and sneaking up on it's prey. Continuously linking your movements as if you were pulling silk [and not starting and stopping or the thread would break]. Throughout your whole body your 'Yi' should be on your Mental Drive (Shen and Jing), not on your energy [or movement of Qi], as thinking about your Qi then the movement [attack or counterattack] will be too slow and you won't have [the ability to emit] power. And your movement [attack or counterattack] will only be hard as it will be without the natural movement of Qi. The Qi is like the Wheel, you only have to turn it's axle- the waist (Dantian) [and it will naturally follow].}

Note— My commentary and clarifications are inside the brackets [ ]
My translations are inside the { }

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Two Methods of using the Waist aka Dantian

     The Two Methods of using the Waist aka Dantian to add power into a strike/ attack

     In Yin Style Bagua (ysb) each part of the body has its own methods/ functionality (fa). Hand/arm methods (shou fa), torso methods (shen fa), leg methods (tui fa) and waist methods (yao). When all these different parts of the body are using their distinct functions but in time, or chained together in perfect harmony then it’s called ‘Whole body power’ (Zhengti Li). The most difficult and hard to grasp methods are that of the waist. In Ysb the Martial side (Wu) is closely intertwined with the Meditative side of Chinese study (Wen). It’s classified as an Internal Martial Art or Wenwu (meditative and Martial combined). The waist (Yao) is synonymous with what is called the Elixir Field (Dantian) which is the spherical shaped region of the lower abdomen that holds the intestines and is supported from the bottom by the muscles of pelvic basin, wrapped by the layers of muscles of the abdomen, and contained from above by the diaphragm. However while practicing the Martial side we simply refer to this whole sphere-like region of muscles and flesh as the waist but it is important to not think of the waist as just having a horizontal movement. The waist can twist side to side on its Y axis, rotate up and down on its X axis and tilt side to side on its Z axis. All of those movements are considered to be on function of the waist while the other function is the movement of the whole spherical mass up and down moving along the Y axis. This movement is done by the tailbone/ sacrum (Weilu). When the tailbone tucks under it is moving the waist (aka dantian), upward. When the tailbone is rolled back out then the waist moves down. Tucking the tailbone under cannot be done in any significant manner by simply just moving the tailbone/sacrum in isolation. It needs to be moved with all the vertebrae of the lumbar spine. This should be a smooth undulating movement of the lumbar and sacrum. In the Standing (Zhan) and the Circle Walking/ turning (Zhuan) practices we strive to lift the waist upward by tucking the tailbone (hereto referring to: moving the lumbar and sacrum) and holding that position, throughout the whole practice, to strengthen the muscles that generate that movement. While the other method of the waist is being strengthened by continually lifting the muscles of the pelvic basin, contracting and pulling while twisting to either side, wrapping it tight from the front and back muscles, and continually pressing down with each breath.

     Holding these muscles in an isometric (Baozhang lit. Holding Extending) manner is called building a Dantian. As the muscles of the abdomen are becoming stronger they will also naturally become thicker all the while developing a more spherical shape of the transversalis fascia etc. As these physical developments become more and more distinct the two methods/functions of the waist will have a greater potential to impart a power that has a greater affect on the other parts of the body, transferring power from the legs while also imparting a counterforce back into the legs, coordinating abd/ or being transferred via the movements of the Shen (upper torso- ribs, thoracic vertebrae, shoulder blades and muscles of the chest and upper back), and then reaching the arms and into the (Shou Fa). The arm methods are vast in number and there is no real limitation on the number of them. There are two primary methods in the chest (Ting and Han- Upright and Hollowing/ Expanding) but these can lead to numerous sub methods of upper torso. The leg methods also have two distinct and primary methods (Deng and Beng- Straightening and Bending) but can also have many sub methods. The waist however is said to only have two methods - turning on its axis(’s)/ axes (Heng) or moving the center point of the axis of and down (Zheng).

     The method of turning on its axes is relatively easy to figure out and a more naturally derived function. The second method is considered unnatural and is counterintuitive because in order to be executed in the correct manner the lower half of the spine is moving against the direction that you naturally think the momentum of force is going. This second method needs to be practiced in an extremely abrupt tucking of the tailbone, which drives the Dantian upward. This should be understood to as- a quick and powerful movement of a lot of flesh and fairly significant portion of body mass, driven upwards to start a shockwave like movement of the flesh that travels up the back, through the shoulder and finally down to the arm and reaching the hand or attacking part of the body. Practicing individual or consecutive strikes using this second method ofvthe waist/ dantian is called ‘Fa Li Fali / Practicing with Power(“Practicing with Power”/Emitting or Discharging Power). Practicing this method while moving slowly and without the quickness or abrupt movement of the tailbone but trying to move it smoothly and in coordination with the rest of the body is called ‘Huadao fa’ Huadao / The Learning Speed  (The learning speed/  drawing the path (of power) through the body). In the videos of ysb and various instructive materials this practice has been translated as’the Learning Speed’ which is apt in a certain sense, although it’s through a mixture of practicing the method while moving fast and then refined by the doing it slowly, so that one truly learns the movement. And once the movement to generate the Fa Li’ is understood and can be done fluidly and in harmony with the other body methods, is when you will want to devote even more time to the slow practice as it strengthens the ligaments and connective tissues while strengthening the muscles used to maintain or hold the body in various postures so that the fast movement can function more efficiently.

     The movement of the lumbar and tailbone to drive the dantian upward begins to feel like a powerful mechanism when the vertebrae and sacrum begins to become a single unified action. This abrupt powerful movement is given the analogy of being like a bow ‘gong’ (as in bow and arrow) and it begins to feel like the lumbar is the bow but the string is also constantly pulled/drawn, or rather that the bow is drawn and when the action of the tailbone tucking is done, the bowstring is ‘Released/ the arrow(power) is emitted’ (Fa). Coordinating and harmonizing the Yao with the Shen (upper torso, which is also likened to be its own bow) is called ‘unifying the two bows into one’ (er gong yi gong he (grm?)). Which is another major achievement on one’s path of learning. Getting back to the difficulty and unnaturalness of learning this is described in a classical Internal Martial art saying- “The new student is to be kept locked inside the school for two years.” Which is the roughly two to three years of practice required to fully harmonize all these individual methods of the body into a single method  (Zhengti fa), and that until this method of using the tailbone is understood it will have no use to you when getting into a fight and trying to use it in a fight before it’s fully realized will likely cause you to lose said fight. It’s like baking a bread where it has to be properly mixed, kneaded, leavened and then  baked in the oven and dried  before it could be
be used as an improvised weapon to hit someone over the head with.

     So after one has a really excellent grasp of this movement and can employ the ‘Fa’/ Release the string' in a few movements then they can practice in the manner where the Release is held back meaning the sacrum is maintained in its neutral position throughout the execution of the whole martial movement/ technique, and continued to be held back whike smoothly flowing into the next technique and so on, all the while feeling the tension on the back bow building up greater and greater with each consecutive technique. This is ‘Hunyuan Lian’ (Flowing practice) and is where solo is at its closest approximation of an actual fight while using the whole body method of Bagua as an Internal Martial art. In an actual fight while using Bagua/ Ysb it would be an interplay of Smooth flowing movements and intermittent Releases of power, and any myriad variations of something inbetween. One strike using a Release could end the fight right away or dozens of flowing movements and never needing to release could be enough to finish the fight. In the practice however, you will feel a strong urge to release the power at several times during the striking drills or form but in the spirit of this practice method you should try to refrain from releasing and absorb or contain the power within your own body as another meaning of Hunyuan is the last final touches of perfection being put into your practice, or the ultimate level of refinement.

     So to briefly touch on the reason why this is developed and how it would be applicable in a martial art there is a saying that 'Power (Jin) travels close to the bones'. So imagine that when a bone, like the bones of the forearm, moves quickly to punch the hand out, all the flesh that surrounds and is attached to the bone is left behind due to inertia. The strike is hitting only with the bones of the arm while the mass of flesh that is attached to the bones is still catching up. But by properly using the Fa Li/ Jin (Jin is refined or trained power, while Li denotes raw power), to move first, yet only fractions of a second, before the arm moves, the flesh is motivated to be moving in time with the bones, hence 'Jin travels close to the bone'. This is a tangible feeling and the bread and butter of practicing to FaLi / Fajin. And a major portion of one's time is spent on the finding the timing to get  the wave to properly make it all the way out to the hand. Often times it fades off in the back, shoulders or elbow, but with practice one can eventually succeed in getting the wave to arrive with the hitting of the striking hand/ arm. In standing in place striking this can be relatively easy, so the next obstacle to overcome is during the moving-stepping strike drilling practices, where the  key is getting the moving foot to be landing on the ground, just as the wave is arriving at the striking hand. If the foot lands first the power will still arrive at the hand but it's not an effective technique as it's a one two, instead of both the upper and lower body hitting to cause a scissor effect (one one 1:1) and the power will be half drained into the leg. If the foot lands after the hand arrives then the power is not considered complete for the technique. Roughly 98% of the striking techniques in Ysb require this, what is called 'Waist, Hand, and Foot Harmony' or Waist, hand and foot arrive at the same time. The other 2% is more advanced striking techniques where the foot intentionally arrives after the hand and waist because the opponent's body is being used to act like your other foot and the strike will ground out through the opponent.

     With practice you will also begin to learn how relaxation and tension in the body can direct and change the nature of the power, which is a major part of distinguishing the 8 attacking methods from one another, aside from the obvious differences in hand shapes and or hitting parts of the arm being used. The 3 basic strikes (Also known as the Lao San Zhang 'Old Three Palms')  from each striking method are very basic or fundamental movements where one can focus solely on developing the power of waist. Try to learn how to 'FaLi' in the 3 strikes before moving onto the other strikes inside the method as they will then be easier to learn.

I hope this helps out. Use this post in combination with my other posts on using the spine and dantian to add FaLi to the striking technique (Either Bolangjin (Crashing Wave Power) or Zhedie Jin (folding power)), but ultimately find the analogy that works for you.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dantian (Yao), Spinal Power, etc.

{Chen style taijiquan - the method of 'Folding the waist and chest' (xiong yao zhedie)
{'Folding the waist and chest' (xiong yao zhedie) is one of the most important points of Chen style TJQ's practice. The important thing is that everything depends upon the Dantian to be the hub of all movement of the body, and everything else around it is moved by/ because of it...

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bolang Jin 波浪劲

或问曰:心意拳和形意拳,都强调攻防较技之施招用手、施手用招的“波浪劲”和“翻浪劲”的用法。但是,什么是“波浪劲”、“翻浪劲”的法式呢?在攻防较技 中施手用招、施招用手中“波浪劲”和“翻浪劲”确实有什么优势吗?这是为什么?“波浪劲”和“翻浪劲”功夫容易修炼成功吗?这些问题敬请您老不吝赐教!
{Understanding the Underlying Methods and the Required Training Practices of Bolang Jin (Crashing Wave Power) & Fanlang Jin (Returning Wave Power)
By: Ma Guoxing
Some questions people might ask: Xin-Yi Quan and Xingyiquan both emphasize the skills of attack and defense using the arms and hands. In order to have skill in the arms it requires the use of "Bolang Jin" (BLJ) & "Fanlang Jin" (FLJ). But what is BLJ, FLJ and how do they work? Inside attacking and defending is the usage of the hands and arms. Inside the usage of the hands and arms is BLJ and FLJ. So what is the advantage and why are they used? Do BLJ and FLJ require Daoist Cultivation practices to be good?
Answer: Yes!}

Friday, November 28, 2014

BGZ Circle Walking & XYQ Pan Gen Part Three

See: Part One and Part Two

...It's important to look at the characters and word of 盤(simp.盘)根 Pan Gen (Coiling Roots) as it symbolizes what Baguazhang and Circle Walking strives to bring about in the practitioners body and one of the skills that is primary to Baguazhang's fighting strategy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

BGZ's Circle Walking & XYQ's Pan Gen (Coiling Root)/ Na Gua (Incorporating the Trigrams) Part Two

READ Bagua circle walking PART ONE here

A famous practitioner of 形意拳 Xingyiquan and student of 李洛能 Li Luoneng aka 李能然 Li Nengran was 宋世荣 Song Shirong (1849 - 1927), and having had seen the benefits of Baguazhang's Circle Walking firsthand he then had incorporated the Circle Walking into Xingyiquan and called it 宋氏形意拳纳卦 Song Style Xingyiquan 'Nagua' (Incorporating the Trigrams) or 盘根 'Pan Gen' (Coiling Root) as it's more commonly known...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Baguazhang Circle Walking & Xingyiquan Pan Gen (Coiling Root) Part One

Circle Walking/ Turning a Circle, when done as a solo practice with the intent of just walking in one direction for as long as you can, then quickly changing directions, and again walking in the opposite direction, is an internal practice that adheres to the theories of 易筋 'Yi Jin' (Changing the Tendons) and 洗髓 'Xi Sui' (Washing the Bone Marrow). It's a practice that merges the building up of the internal functioning of the body with building up of the strengths and flexibility required when using martial skills/ fighting.

It's called 行桩 'Xing Zhuang' (Moving Standing) practice method it takes the 站桩'Zhan Zhuang' (Static Standing) practices to another level of development as it moves more energy and blood around the body and accomplishes the more refined levels of mental and physical development in a more timely manner, and without other extracurricular Qigong practices.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Five Shens - Hun and Po...

The Five Shens...

In the 文始真經 'Wen Shi Zhen Jing' aka the "關尹子" "Guan Yin Zi", written in nine chapters; ~ Chinese text- &
"The Wenshi zhenjing does not appear until the Yuan dynasty, when it is mentioned in Chen Zhensun's Zhizhai shuluyjieti , dated to 1240. It was probably compiled by the Quanzhen patriarch Yin Zhiping (1169-1251), an alleged descendant of Guan Yin. Before that time, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, remnants of an older text are mentioned in various Song bibliographies, but they have not survived."