Understanding Fajin

Postby Simon Batten » Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:40 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by chris:
In the end, there must be a difference between talking wushu and speaking Chinese.

-----
Chris
Martial Arts for Personal Development[/B]</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Chris: I hope I dealt with this point in the last sentence of my previous message to you where I said:'The reverse, of course, is true supposedly of the advanced practitioner of Tai Chi, who can 'feel' energy before it is visually manifested, and who uses 'listening energy' to achieve this. I hope I haven't misunderstood your point, though.' Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Audi » Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:38 am

Greetings all,

As far as I am aware, there is no special term for fast "fajin." "Dou gan" refers to the fact that when you execute the drill appropriately, the staff will quiver from the Jin that is issued. It gives you needed feedback.

As I understand it, there are some things that are difficult to do with slow movement and even some postures that are more difficult to do slowly, for instance, Diagonal Flying or Double Peaks/Winds to the Ears. It can also be difficult to feel the correct involvement of the waist and spine that is necessary for Fajin. To learn these things, one can practice them fast.

To learn fajin for martial purposes, you have to do the shaking staff exercise and do individual postures at full speed. This can help you feel what your waist (or rather lower back) has to do. It can also help you feel what is meant by "sticking Qi to the spine." Once you get the knack of it, you can then improve your performance of the slow form, by continuing to reach for these feelings as you do the postures at a slow speed. The difference between people who do this and people who do not is often visible, if you know what to look for.

I have also been taught that Jin can be viewed as having two kinds: Hua Jin and Fa Jin. When you are not using Hua Jin, you are using Fa Jin. I think that "Hua" can be interpreted as "dissolving," "transforming," or perhaps "neutralizing," depending upon your interpretation and understanding of Taijiquan. As Louis has stated, I think that "Fa" can be interpreted as "issue."

By the way, one common term for "using fajin" that has been used at Association seminars is indeed "exploding one's energy." This term, however, referred both to the fast use of power and to the subtle expression of power that should be present in the slow practice of the traditional form.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Simon Batten » Wed Mar 07, 2007 11:54 am

Audi: thanks for these observations. In my own case, I have to say I don't experience the problems you mention in the case of Diagonal Flying, but I do find I experience them in Strike Opponent's Ears with Both Fists (Shuang Feng Kuan Er). I find that after the preceding kick, when the leg is retracted and the hands are held over it, I have a tendency to land very heavily on the leading foot as the arms then sweep down and then back up to execute the double strike to the 'ears'. I find it virtually impossible to land gracefully, and would appreciate any suggestions as to how I might achieve that. Also, I have been taught that the strike is actually to the opponent's temples, not the ears. As the Master from whom I learned the Yang Cheng Fu form is Chinese and speaks Mandarin, however, and uses the Chinese term for the movement, he must know that the term refers to the ears, but he actually teaches the application as a double strike to the temples, as I have mentioned. I daresay that as with many Tai Chi movements, many variant applications are possible. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Mar 07, 2007 2:38 pm

Simon,
On his Hand Form DVD, Master Yang Jun also says to strike to the temples.
I don't know why the move is named for striking the ears. Striking the temples makes better martial sense to me. While striking the ears might be quite painful, striking the temples is gonna cause some serious damage.
Maybe it just depends on what you're trying to do to your opponent?

Bob
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Mar 07, 2007 3:02 pm

Simon,
I almost forgot...
I used to have the exact same problem with that, and every other, foot placement.
Placing the front, in this case right, foot down after the kick became smoother for me when I started thinking, then doing, how Yang Jun on his DVD, and my instructor in our classes, says to do it:
"Heel, to ball, to toe".
First, it helps to think "place the foot" instead of "step with the foot".
Lightly place only your heel on the floor, your weight is still fully on your back leg, then move your center (whole body) foward slightly to shift your weight forward and begin to root, this will drop your front foot to the ball of the foot, then move just slightly more forward and grip the ground lightly with your toes.
Once you are "rooted", there is some weight on it and the front foot is fully placed onto the floor with the toes lightly gripping, then you complete the move forward and execute the strike.
I do this now with every single movement in the form and it's paid off for me big time.

By not thinking of landing my entire foot at once, in this or any other posture, I find I have much more control over my own center and my entire long form is much, much smoother.
My teacher really emphasizes this "movement from the center" as he teaches us our forms. Wish I would have understood him sooner!
He says that if we "have" to put our foot down, which makes it stomp, then we were leaning our upper body to produce the movement and not moving our center.
Give it a try and let me know if it helps.

Bob
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Postby DPasek » Wed Mar 07, 2007 5:42 pm

Audi,

Thanks for the information that you posted. Could you describe the staff power training exercises used in Yang style? Is it the three-posture form referenced below, or is it more like Chen style using six directions (in three pairs) as indicated below?

Louis,

As I understand them, the drills that are shown on Chip Ellis’ site that you linked to are more analogous to push-hands (sticky-hands) except done with a staff/spear. Although it would be possible for practitioners to use fast issuing of fajin in these drills, I think that it would be unlikely unless they were at a fairly advanced level. I also doubt that any instructions for these drills would reference fast, full power fajin. More likely would be references to “diverting, sticking, winding/coiling, and the like” just like instructions for bare-handed push-hands would include.

I have several sources for this same material: the Yearning K. Chen material translated by Stuart Olson (1986) “T’ai Chi Sword, Sabre & Staff” and (1985) “The Wind Sweeps Away the Plum Blossoms” as well as Douglas Hsieh (1986) “Tai Chi Weapons in Action” and a 1988 version in Chinese (ISBN 7-5380-0044-5/G-5). As I am not very proficient at translating Chinese and I only refer to my Chinese version when something seems incorrect in the translations, I would not be able to lend many insights into references to full speed fajin terminology (if there are any in this source material). There are some references to “shaking” and increasing the level of “intrinsic energy.” Hsieh refers to “cane” (staff) “chin” (jin) in the following: “Thus, the Chin (strength) is passed on to the top of the cane with mighty force as if the Chin is concentrated and contracted like mercury,” which Olson renders as “…it [the ‘intrinsic energy’] then goes straight through the staff to the tip, which causes a shaking motion as though mercury were moving along through the center.” The “mighty force” and “shaking” as translated here may indicate use of full speed power in the fajin (issuing) portion of the three-posture solo form described in this source.

Note: While I have learned some Yang style staff and spear (primarily from a student of B.P. Chan rather than directly from the Association), I did not specifically learn the Yang style staff fajin power training. If it is similar to Chen style (which I suspect that it is, and which I have received instruction in) it could use the solo exercise movements which are given in Olson 1986 pp 160-165, Olson 1985 pp xxiv-xxvi, pp xxxi-xxxiii, and pp 42-46, Hsieh pp 47-48, and the 1988 Chinese version pp 217-219. Though I sometimes practice this three-posture form at full speed, my power training with a staff follows the Chen style training which uses three pairs of movements to develop power in the forward/back, left/right, and up/down directions.

I also agree that Olson’s “The Intrinsic Energies of T’ai Chi Ch’uan” section on fajin (issuing energy) contains a lot of interesting and important material. In fact, I would recommend the entire book to those who do not have it.

DP
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Mar 08, 2007 6:10 am

Greetings Simon,

You may want to check out Fu Zhongwen's form instructions for Twin Peaks Strike Ears. I think they address the issue you're having. Here are the Important Points, but I think the whole set of instructions are worth reviewing.

~~~
1. When you step out with the right foot, you must sit solidly on the left leg, draw in the right kua gen, then gradually squat down on the left leg in order to control the step with the right leg. Maintain vertical alignment in the upper body. The cadence of the stepping forward must be even.
2. Following the lowering of the kua, the sinking of the qi, and the loosening of the shoulders, when the two palms pass down on either side of the knee, you must use the two elbows sinking down to lead the movement of the two palms falling down. It cannot merely be the two palms falling; you must use the energy (jin) of the entire body, causing the back of the palms to sink and loosen completely in dropping down.
3. The two fists striking forward and upward must be coordinated as one with the right bow stance.
~~~

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Mar 08, 2007 6:15 am

Greetings DP,

Thanks for bringing up the Chen Yanlin staff material. I do have that in Chinese, and was planning on having a look at it. It's on my things to do list, which is buried under my real work somewhere.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Simon Batten » Thu Mar 08, 2007 1:28 pm

Thanks a lot, Bob and Louis for this invaluable advice. I think, Lewis, I am now definitely going to buy the Fu Zhong Wen book. Also, Bob, thanks for these tips from your classes. Today, and for the next weeks, until it becomes second nature, I shall really focus on all the points that you and Louis have mentioned. In fact, I am going to download a copy of both your messages so I can refer to them as often as I need to without logging on here. Again, many thanks. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu Mar 08, 2007 2:26 pm

Simon,
Let me know if the advice helps. I'm always curious to find out if this type of advice help others as much as it did me.

Bob
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Thu Mar 08, 2007 2:35 pm

Louis,
Fu Zhongwen's advice is always insightful.
I'm going to have to re-read his book, soon.
I like his description of "whole body" integrated movement, especially the bit about the elbows in the second point. It goes right to the heart of what Bill is trying to teach our push hands group about whole arm articulation and making that work as part of whole body integration right now.
For the first time, Fu's advice on these points makes some sense to me.
Very timely, for me, posting. Thanks.

Bob
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Postby Audi » Thu Mar 08, 2007 11:29 pm

Hi everyone,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Could you describe the staff power training exercises used in Yang style? Is it the three-posture form referenced below, or is it more like Chen style using six directions (in three pairs) as indicated below? </font>


I am not familiar with the Chen Style six-direction training and cannot follow it from your description; however, the Yang Style power training exercise (good wording, by the way) is as follows:

Using a waxwood staff that is perhaps about 14 feet long (more than 4 meters?), you begin in a back-weighted bow stance with the back hand just about at the end of the staff and the other hand holding the staff further up. You shift the weight forward, turn your waist, and thrust the staff forward, sliding it through the grip of the front hand to maximize your reach. The Fajin will end with the hands in adjacent grips and the arms and staff in a straight line more or less at shoulder height. At this point, the shaft should quiver with the force that you have brought up from the ground, through your legs and into the staff.

For the second “movement” of the exercise, you continue by shifting your weight backward, using your back hand to pull/slide the staff through the grip of your front hand, and shift the tip of the staff to the side where your front leg is. The position feels somewhat like the preparation for Rollback. For the third “movement,” you circle the tip of the staff to your other side as you rotate both palms. This motion is for controlling the opponent’s weapon. Repeat a couple of hundred times to each side, and then your done.

By the way, it is extremely easy to throw at your back doing this exercise. Anyone that does not have experience with it, should be careful doing even as few as three or four repetitions with any power. You have to work up to a decent number of repetitions and learn to relax.

My experience with this exercise is fairly limited, and so please take make my description with a heavy dose of salt. It is my impression that the Fajin should be done with a great deal of expressed power; however the overall motion is not done with an even speed. In other words, you do not hold back on the speed of the Fajin and can call this “full power,” but you do not race from position to position. I think you are supposed to “stop, but not stop” at the climax of each position to make sure to express the full power Jin, but not break the flow. Overall, I would not expect that the tempo or level of power expressed to be different from what Chen Style normally exhibits.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> "Heel, to ball, to toe"</font>


I think this is one of the absolute most important aspects of the form. It is the root of a number of principles. Without understanding this, it is hard to understand the basis for “full and empty,” “power generation,” “coordinating upper and lower,” “keeping the Jin continuous,” etc.

I support the earlier posts, but would like to add a few.

When the heel first touches, touch so lightly that if there were a piece of paper under it, someone could pull it out without disturbing the foot’s position. The same holds for just before you lift your foot from the ground (usually by the toes).

When you “roll” to the ball of your foot (really the “bubbling well or bubbling spring,” make sure that you actually push the weight over and do not simply lean. Some teachers of other traditions stress cultivating a feeling of muscle laxity and ease as their definition of being “song” or “loose and relaxed.” This approach can incorrectly encourage you to avoid muscular exertion that is critical to make good progress in other traditions.

When you “roll” to the ball of your foot, you actually should be thrusting with your back leg. The term in Chinese is “Deng/Teng,” which is also the term for the thrust kicks performed with the heel in the form. As weight shifts to the front foot, this foot must begin to support the thrusting of the back leg and so it must push backwards. How hard you push is ultimately not important, since that would vary in actual live application; however, it is vitally important that you push hard enough to make the relationship between the two legs clear. Only at this point can you truly root properly. It is not really a question of imagining root tendrils connecting your feet to the ground.

While you are flattening the foot and engaging the ball, your knee should not be stiff and should bend slightly; however, you should basically reserve your real knee bend for when you begin to grip with your toes. The feeling of gripping and the feeling of bending the knee should have a direct relationship. Again, use enough force to make the relationship clear. If you do it right, your back leg will lose its ability to push just as the front knee gets into its final position. It is this force relationship that should prevent the knee from going beyond the toes. If your back leg has nothing to push against, then your front knee may be in danger.

Another aspect of this approach is that it must be coordinated with the hand movements. There are many postures where these three phases of the footwork correspond to three different phases of arm movements.

In Twin Peaks Pierce the Ears, I understand the coordination as follows. The right heel should touch as the curved arms are reaching their lowest position (but not the lowest position of the hands). As you flatten the foot, engage the ball of the foot, and root. At the same time, straighten your elbows and drop and rotate your hands into fists in order to initiate the bottom of an arm circle that will end the posture. When the foot finishes flattening, the fists will have finished seating and will be ready for the upward striking motion. As the knee bends, the fists rise and strike to the temples in a curve that was begun by the motion of seating the fists.

One difficulty of this motion is figuring out how to rotate the hands into the seating position. It is usually easier to figure this out at speed than to do it slowly. If you do it fast, however, it becomes hard to “coordinate upper and lower.”

As for Diagonal Flying, the main difficulty comes from the very three phases of “heel to ball to toe.” At speed, one may use momentum to achieve the final position. Done slowly, the posture is extremely demanding. Below is my understanding.

From the final Repulse Monkey, the arms will circle into a “closed position” at the left side of the body. Some traditions talk of “holding the ball,” but this description does not apply to what we do anywhere in the form. In the “closed hands position” the bottom palm is approximately under the elbow of the top arm. The top arm occupies approximately the same space that it would in a Ward Off position, except that the palm is seated and inverted, facing the ground with a slight upward angle. The arms are not symmetrical. This position is not held, but you do have to circle through it.

I begin the transition by beginning to shift the weight to the rear and beginning to rotate my waist to the right, this lifts the right toes and sends the right arm circling to the right and the left arm circling to the left. I then bring in my rotating right arm and right leg together. As my right arm crosses my midline and it extends to the left, I stretch out my right leg to the right. The right heel touches lightly just as the arms close on the left to counterweight the right leg. Take care that the right hip opens far enough.

Imagine that the heels at the final posture will be on two parallel railroad tracks that are a shoulder width apart and in line with the toes of the right foot. This means that during the transition, when the arms close on the left, your right heel should first touch in line with where the right railroad track will be. This makes the angle of the feet really more than 180 degree. At this point, the left leg has 99.9% of the weight. As you continue turning the waist to the right and begin to circle your right arm to the right and your left arm to the left, you thrust with your left leg to shift weight to the right leg and “roll” to the ball of the foot. Don’t bend your knee very much yet. After the foot flattens, you then bend the knee and finish shifting the weight (about 60%) to the right foot and finish opening your arms.

Most people doing this posture in this way have difficulty keeping full and empty clear (i.e., the distinct phases of weight shifting). What they (and I) often do incorrectly is plop the right heel down with weight. Another difficulty is in getting the right toes to end up pointing all the way into the correct corner. Let’s not even talk about balance issues.

This same footwork exists in the Sword form, but no one has outward trouble with it there, because you can use momentum to reach the final posture. The problem with practicing this way all the time is that you can fail to keep full and empty clear in your mind and appear to get a way with it.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Simon Batten » Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:13 pm

Thanks, Audi, for this further perspective, which I have found very illuminating. On the subject of Diagonal Flying, for comparison purposes, here's how I've been taught it (obviously there will always be variations between the way the great Masters teach individual movements in terms of emphasis and detail):

Assuming you are beginning in the 'ball hold' (Pao Chong in Chinese, I believe), or whatever you like to call it or substitute it with. The weight is now entirely on the left foot, and the right foot has come to toes just to side of the toes of the left foot. From here, take a large step backwards with the right foot at a 45 degree angle backwards, i.e. at 135 degrees to the left foot. The toes come down first, then the ball of the foot, as in Tao Nien Hou, and then finally the entire sole of the foot. The right foot is now pointing in the same direction as the left foot, i.e. if the left foot is pointing northwest, the right foot is now behind it, the rightleg is pointing southeast and the right foot is pointing northwest). The weight is still (just!) on the left foot but the mind is already focussed on the transfer of weight to the right. Immediately, the left foot now begins to turn on its heel, through 90 degrees (assuming it started pointing northwest ), co-ordinated by the waist, and the weight begins to transfer to the right foot. As the turn is made, with the waist always acting as the axle, the arms spread apart, the left arm to rear and the right upwards to the right, the right palm revolving upwards smoothly and continuously throughout the turn. The hands 'brush' past one another about half way through the turn, the palms facing one another. Finally, the right foot, as the weight is further transferred to it, turns on its heel through a further 90 degrees, and the final, classic posture is achieved as the weight comes to rest entirely upon it. The left foot is now pointing northeast, and the right foot is now pointing southeast. The same sequence with the feet also occurs often during backward turns in the sword form. I hope this information about how I have been taught the movement is useful or interesting for comparison purposes. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Simon Batten » Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:17 pm

Audi, I think I haven't described the opening sequence entirely correctly. It's difficult to put into words, and hard to correct on-screen in the message box. But now I've read my last message, I would like to substitute the following:

'The weight is now entirely on the left foot, and the right foot has come to toes just to side of the toes of the left foot. From here, take a large step backwards with the right foot at a 45 degree angle backwards, i.e. at 135 degrees to the left foot.'

Instead of this, what I meant was that assuming the left foot is pointing northwest at the start, the right leg steps back to southeast, which of course 180 degrees to the left foot, not 135 as I originally said. Sorry to confuse matters. Kind regards, Simon.
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Postby Simon Batten » Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:19 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bob Ashmore:
<B>Simon,
Let me know if the advice helps. I'm always curious to find out if this type of advice help others as much as it did me.

Bob
</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Bob: I'll certainly get back to you on this, but please allow me a few days to experiment and acclimatise to the new adjustments. I'll then 'report back'! Kind regards, Simon.
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