Original Chinese Language Author Zheng Wu Ji (鄭無極)
(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
When learning Taijiquan (太極拳), it is common amongst practitioners to hear much discussion concerning the subject of refined internal ‘power emission’ (發勁 – Fa Jin). Although fa jin may be a common practice – the mastery of this skill is not an easy matter. In fact, it is much more beneficial to develop the intention of concentrating the mind on the mastery of basic fa jin, than spending time on perfecting the postures (and technical execution) of the physical form, or in participating in competitive ‘push-hands’ (推手 – tui-shou), etc. Generally speaking, basic fa jin can be mastered in three years, (or if progress is slow – three to five years), this is how the skill of fa jin is developed. An interesting question is how the refined internal ‘emitting energy’ (發勁 – fa jin) of Taijiquan, differs from that of the ‘emitting force’ (發力 – Fa Ji) associated with other forms of martial arts? Simply stated, ordinary martial arts (武術 – Wu Shu), focuses on the use of the whole external body to generate force, (in other words, this power is reliant upon muscle contraction, and when emitting force [fa ji], muscle and tendon definition can be clearly seen). On the other hand, when a Taijiquan practitioner emits refined internal power (fa jin), the musculature remains primarily relaxed. Only at the precise moment of exact contact between the limb (or body-part) and the target – does the muscles and tendons suddenly, and temporarily contract. As soon as contact is made, and internal force has been transmitted – the contraction immediately drops away. However, even in the midst of fa jin emission, flexibility is never lost. This type of fa jin contraction is subtle and not related to the full-force (and relatively ‘rigid’) muscle contraction associated with the external arts. Knowing this, what are the principles that underlie authentic fa jin training? What are the best training methods available to acquire the fa jin ability? I have written extensively on this subject, and have published a number of papers, the fundamentals of which I would like to share with you, for your reference.
1) The Principle of Developing Power and Strength
Within Taijiquan, the generation of power and strength is a continuous process that originates through ‘looseness’ (鬆 – Song) in the body. This is achieved through a gradual training that relaxes the tension of the body out of the musculature, whilst simultaneously cultivating internal energy (氣 – Qi), which gradually drops the bodyweight (through gravity) down to the centre of the soles of the feet. When the qi-energy is cultivated in the body – this too sinks to the centre of the soles of the feet and combines with the ground. When qi combines with the ground, ‘rooting’ (根 – Gen) occurs and ‘power’ (勁 – Jin) raises up from the ground and travels continuously throughout the body. What is this continuous power? The soles of the feet become full of qi, and this fundamentally transforms the strength and function of the ‘Bubbling Springs (湧泉 – Yong Quan) pressure point situated at the top and centre of each sole. This process makes the footwork ‘solid’ (實 – Shi) and strengthens the power (jin), which then travels up through the entire body. This power then penetrates through to the centre of the bones, throughout the entirety of the musculature, and into the deep connective tissue of the body. This is why ‘both feet must be trained correctly’, so that qi can travel unhindered through a ‘loosened’ and ‘relaxed’ musculature. The strengthening of the ‘bone-marrow density’ assists in the efficient and enhanced generation of force, coupled with a relaxed speed, power and manoeuvrability. For a Taijiquan practitioner to achieve all these things, the bone-marrow density must be highly developed. The uncanny speed of a Taijiquan practitioner is premised entirely upon the attainment of a relaxed musculature. This is how a Taijiquan practitioner becomes strong – which cannot be attained through a non-developed bone-marrow.
2) What are the Basic Requirements for Developing Fa Jin?
a) When training in external martial arts, try gradually to relax the musculature when practicing the movements, and let ‘soft’ (軟 – Ruan) power come into play. This process tends to happen as external martial arts practice matures over the years. Quite gradually, the practitioner comes to realise the state that aligns the waist, thighs, and pelvic girdle, with the four limbs so that they all move in a co-ordinated fashion. The arms hang loosely from the shoulder girdle, as the dropped centre of gravity becomes inherently linked to both feet. This allows for the pelvic girdle to rotate freely around the spinal column – swinging from one side to the other. This is how ‘both feet are trained correctly’. These instructions should be applied strictly, but success should not be rushed. It is enough to generate the right intention and then move steadily in that right direction.
b) When seeking fa jin skill it is important that the mind is not excited by the rigours of seeking victory in ‘Push-Hands’ competitions. When practitioners strive too eagerly for competitive success, their use of qi becomes unsophisticated and difficult to refine, and cannot drop into the heels. No power will rise up the body. To keep the qi calm and refined, do not pursue competitive exercises.
c) When focusing upon fa jin training, try to avoid heavyweight lifting that tenses the entire body and locks the bones and joints. The reason for this is that such exercises do not allow for the refinement of qi in the soles of the feet, or for the musculature to develop ‘looseness’. This type of weightlifting should be avoided because it is an external practice.
d) A note regarding the ‘keeping of general health’. This advice should become part of one’s normal daily routine. Maintain a balanced diet. (Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption). With regard to sexual relations – temperance is advised.
3) How to Emit Energy (Fa Jin)
a) Pre-requisites: A practitioner who has attained fa jin exhibits 1) Qi rising from the soles of the feet through a strengthened bone-marrow density. 2) The pressure of the qi [and bodyweight] dropping into the floor is keenly sensed and manifested in any part of the body instantly – through rising energy. 3) The unified and aligned body can assume any movement and perform any technique that is instantly empowered by internal energy generated from the soles of the feet, and does not make use of brute force.
b) Individual Energy Emission: The ‘intention’ (意 – Yi) guides the energy through a loose waist, so that the centre of gravity sinks down into the feet area and builds strength (to release energy focus on the soles of the feet). Gather qi (and bodyweight) in the foot of the rear leg, and release it up into the body by placing the intention on the centre of the foot of the forward leg. This involves the deliberate but controlled movement of qi (and bodyweight) from one sole of the foot to the other, so that the generated rising force travels through an aligned posture. All this is dependent upon the correct use of ‘intention’. Intention, or ‘awareness’ unites all body movement. Refined energy travels through the body and emits through either hand evenly, whilst avoiding imbalance and clumsiness, and transitioning posture at will. Bodyweight and qi drop into the feet and form a permanent and unbroken connection.
c) Fa Jin in the Body: Strong Fa Jin in the body is seen in Taijiquan practitioners when an outside force is applied to their posture – and without any noticeable effort on their part, the posture cannot be broken or moved out of position. Those who do not practice Taijiquan do not possess this ability – when they are pushed, their feet leave the ground.
Fa Jin cultivation is an important aspect of Taijiquan, and forms part of the training requirements for formally entering Taijiquan training, as it is important that a Taijiquan student does not go astray in his or her training. From this entry, understanding and awareness will develop through receiving the correct training and applying the right discipline. It is important to cultivate a quiet (and calm) mind, (which includes cultivating standing like a stake skill [樁功 – Zhuang Gong], and sitting in meditation), by studying religious teachings and texts from the Humanities, as well as other books that emphasis the development of kindness to others. Slowly but surely, good deeds have a transformative power all of their own. By looking into the mind through meditation, old and destructive habits can be reformed or eradicated. Such a process of purification prevents the future generation of negative habits. Evil actions do not arise, and everything is done for the betterment of society. Self-purification and an enhanced spirituality can help the individual toward the attainment of new heights. This all combines to assist the development of ever new and greater heights in the development of advanced Taijiquan cultivation.
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2014.
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