Understanding Fajin

Postby DPasek » Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:43 pm

Audi,

Thanks for the Yang style staff power training information that you posted. It agrees with what I understand of the three-posture form that I learned. It is very similar to the six directions (my terminology, I don’t know what Chen calls each paired drill) Chen style pole shaking exercises, including the speed changes…

The Chen forward/backward pair would essentially be the same as what you describe for the first movement, followed by reversing it to come back to the starting position. The power is primarily out and back although there is some up/down due to the back hand traveling from near the hip to about chest height for the thrust (and back to the hip in the reversed motion). From my brief introduction to Fu style I suspect that the upward direction when drawing back to the hip could have a greater emphasis in that style. I was taught to let the spear tip droop down slightly after the thrust to the opponent’s torso so that you could snap the spear tip up to cut an opponent’s arm or hand during the retreating motion.

The left/right pair would essentially be the same as going from the ending of what you describe for the second movement, to the third movement as described, then reversing the direction back to the second movement ending posture. This pair would knock an opponent’s staff/spear to the left or the right. The up/down pair would be what you would do to knock an opponent’s staff/spear upward into the air or downward into the ground.

DP
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Mar 09, 2007 8:45 pm

Audi,
Whew!!! That's some in depth instruction on "heel, to ball, to toe".
Much further detail, and more accurately, into the concept than I had gone, that's for sure.
That said, I'm glad to see that my concept of the idea is similar to yours. When I can keep my mind on it, which is not always unfortunately, I find this method works remarkably well.
It's funny how often my current training and your posts seem to come together at the same time. I am currently working on smoothing out my Diagonal Flying posture, these directions should be quite helpful.
I have long recognized that I am having difficulty with Diagonal Flying, not so much with the posture itself but in the transitional step into the posture.
Once I get there, or more accurately IF I get there, I can then execute the form without too many horrible issues. But that step...
Oy.
I found your mention of the differences in approaching the footwork between hand and sword form very illuminating, as it is my usual ease moving into the same footwork in the sword form when I'm woefully unable to very often in the hand form that lead me to try and figure out what the difference was between them.
Other than the obvious, "well, I'm holding a sword in one of them" I hadn't really found a good reason why one step was easier than the other, since they are essentially the same thing.
Your mention of "momentum" now seems glaringly obvious, but I hadn't gotten there on my own.

Bob
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Mar 11, 2007 8:23 pm

Greetings All,

In reading a section on fajin in Gu Liuxin's book, _Taijiquan shu_ (The Art of Taijiquan), I see that he uses the term, baofali, Ãzµo¤O which can be translated as "explosive force," or "eruptive force," in his discussion of fajin drill practices. The term baofali is a modern sports term, not limited to martial arts, that refers to a brief, abrupt production of force such as used in running starts, jumping, throwing, or driving a ball. I'll try to get a translation together of this section. It has some very good information.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 03-11-2007).]
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Postby DPasek » Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:36 pm

Audi,

I realize that the way I included Fu style spear may be misleading, so I am adding more here to clarify.

The Fu style spear movements that I was taught are more like the Yang style than the Chen style in that it links several postures together (in this case it is a five-movement form) rather than three paired drills. The Fu style movements are 1) ward off to the side of the body with the back leg (similar to what you described for the Yang style third movement), 2) Warding to the other side (to the side of the body with the front leg), 3) pressing downward (along the centerline of the body), 4) thrust forward, 5) pull back while snapping upwards (the movement described earlier).

Note: as I understand it, Yang style has all six directions, but in a somewhat combined manner, i.e. the second movement that you described has both the withdrawing motion and the upward motion in addition to warding to the side. Likewise, the third movement that you described also has a downward component to the sideways motion. Is this correct?

DP
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Postby Audi » Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:21 pm

Hi everyone,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The term baofali is a modern sports term, not limited to martial arts, that refers to a brief, abrupt production of force such as used in running starts, jumping, throwing, or driving a ball.</font>


Louis, thanks for the information. I look forward to your translation.

For those with no Chinese, I would like to mention that the "fali" of "baofali" is a term that some arts use as a synonym of "fajin." I think Taijiquan is somewhat pioneering in trying to drive a distinction between "li" and "jin" and between "fali" and "fajin," since these terms would not otherwise be very distinct in meaning.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Note: as I understand it, Yang style has all six directions, but in a somewhat combined manner, i.e. the second movement that you described has both the withdrawing motion and the upward motion in addition to warding to the side. Likewise, the third movement that you described also has a downward component to the sideways motion. Is this correct?</font>


DP, thanks for your information. As to your question, I am not sure. The teaching in the Association tends to take place in layers, and I have been taught just the first layer about the staff drill.

What you describe does not seem inconsistent with what I do; however, I think it would be more accurate to describe my movements as somewhat circular, especially the third movement (the "Rollback" conclusion across the body). I can say that this exercise also comes in a two-person version, but then you cannot really do power training.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby DPasek » Wed Mar 14, 2007 2:26 pm

Audi,

A timely film clip of Fu Zhongwen demonstrating (among other things) fast fajin, both without weapons and power training with the staff/spear, can be viewed at: http://union.bokecc.com/flash/player.swf?videoID=13276_170342

If you were taught to have the palm essentially facing up for the forward hand holding the staff for the finish of the second movement, then turning that palm essentially downward when circling to the finish of the third movement, then I think that we are in agreement (palm up giving upward support for the power while palm down gives downward support for the power).

DP
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:32 pm

Greetings Audi,

Re: "thanks for the information. I look forward to your translation."

I'm hoping to complete the Gu Liuxin fajin section soon. I've been unusually busy.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 16, 2007 4:59 am

Greetings,

I’ve worked up a rough translation of Gu Liuxin’s section on fajin and breathing from his book, Taijiquan shu (The Art of Taijiquan). Interestingly, Gu introduces the concept tifang, not often encountered in taiji writings besides Zheng Manqing’s. In the first two lines of the second paragraph, Gu obliquely paraphrases some lines from Li Yiyu’s “Five Key Words.” In Li’s third saying, “Qi condenses,” he states that inhaling is “closing” and “storing,” and exhaling is “opening” and “issuing,” etc. Li also discusses the concept of “lifting” and “releasing” the opponent, but the ti and the fang do not appear as a compound term: tifang.

The breathing Gu details is reverse breathing, which I don’t incorporate in my practice. To me it just feels unnatural. As I mentioned, he uses a modern sports term for “explosive force,” but I think the further you read in his discussion the more apparent it is that fajin is a multi-faceted and subtle concept. I especially like his descriptions of Yang Chengfu and Chen Fake.

~~~
Fajin and Breathing

In push hands, you must first learn soft yielding, and later seek to learn fajin. At the stage of training fajin, one should research the methods of combining tifang (lift/release) with breathing, enabling sufficient storing at inhalation, and thorough issue upon exhalation. Sufficient inhalation in order to perceive its skill (qiao); thorough issue in order to perceive its wonder (miao). Only with the ability to store skillfully can there be the ability to issue ingeniously.

Inhaling means lifting (ti), closing (he), empty (xu), and storing (xu), with the gathering in of the lower abdomen, the diaphragm naturally rising, and the enlargement of the lungs’ capacity. Exhaling means opening (kai), full (shi); issuing (fa), with the protruding of the lower abdomen, the diaphragm naturally descends, and the chest widens to its original shape. Ordinarily you should train in solo and paired tifang methods. The solo method involves taking several individual forms, and specifically practicing successive rounds of reserving and issuing. The hands, elbows, shoulders, chest, back, spine, and knees, in their various positions should have a vibrant elasticity (zhen tanli) so that the solo practice is so skillful that it is always immediately available. Proceeding in this fashion will lead to clarification of the martial applications for the principal and variant postures. This yields benefit in the ability to “accord with the enemy’s changes and demonstrate wonders” (yindi bianhua shi shenqi). It also enables your explosive force (baofali), so that the more you train, the more composed, swift, and powerful you will become. Fajin is a kind of explosive force (baofali)—the faster the rate of speed, the smaller the displacement (weiyi), and the greater the force of its impact. Because of this, the training of fajin still requires loosening and softness (song rou); those places where one should not use force should all be loosened, and in the twinkling of an eye the entire body’s force is suddenly focused and issues forth. After issuing, immediately loosen so as to carry out the principle of letting the strength flow out, then concentrating it.

Paired training of storing and issuing jin can initially adopt the “feeding” method (weifa—literally, “nursing method”). This involves two people repeatedly “feeding” one another, and mutually correcting one another’s movements—“From careful investigation and experience, one may gradually realize how to comprehend energy (dong jin).”—this enables them to reach precise and well-honed techniques.

If fajin can be concentrated and fiercely penetrating, composed and swift, it will then cut through keenly. The movement penetrates briefly, the intention penetrates far, and the jin penetrates long. If the jin force is focused and concentrated in one direction, then the strength penetrates; if swift as electricity, then you can take advantage of the situation, and not risk losing the opportunity of the moment. When you want to release it, just release it—don’t commit the error of hesitation—in this way, the opponent will not easily be able to change and adapt. When well composed (chenzhuo), then you will be able to control the opponent’s strength, causing him to feel constrained. Short movement means as soon as you touch, you issue (yichu jifa—the compound chufa means “to touch off,” as a trigger), then the opponent will be too late to neutralize, and will tumble away. When the intent is far and the jin is long, then one can send your opponent rather far.

Those whose gongfu is pure are extremely minute in their movements, can lead [the opponent] extremely long, and send him out very suddenly. With an inhale you can lift up the opponent’s root, engage his reaction force, and move his center of gravity. With an exhale you can sink deeply, and send the opponent out cleanly.

Modern taijiquan master-hands such as Yang Chengfu (1883-1936) and Chen Fake (1887-1957), and others, were light, soft, and rounded in their transformations. With barely an exchange of force they could cause an opponent to lose his equilibrium, and experience a sensation of being weightless or airborn (lingkong shizhong). When they did fajin, because the velocity was swift, the placement was accurate (luodian zhun), and the neijin sufficient, they would issue jin suddenly at the sticky points (nianzhuo dian), and before the opponent even sensed what was happening, or have a way to move or neutralize, he would already be sent soaring away. This is to achieve the pinnacle of storing/issuing technique.
—Gu Liuxin, Taijiquan shu, pp. 305-306, Hong Kong ed., 1985

Let me know what you think. Questions and critiques welcome.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 03-16-2007).]
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Postby Audi » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:03 pm

Greetings everyone,

Simon, I forgot to thank you for your description of Diagonal Flying. It is always interesting, and sometimes even illuminating, to compare differences.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 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.[</font>


Your mention of a “ball hold” position caught my eye. The form of Taijiquan I first learned had such a position, and I have since encountered related types of Yang Style that seem to emphasize the various properties of this position, from several angles.

The Association’s Taijiquan does not really teach such a concept as “holding the ball.” The analogous position we have is where the arms are both circling and they reach their maximum position of relative closure. The top wrist is seated; and the arms are not parallel, but do have a similar curvature that is concave towards the top and toward the body. Perhaps, a ball could nestle between your arms and your body, but it definitely could not fit between your arms.

The position the Association uses is not held at all and is probably most useful as a guideline for when to contact the ground with the front heel. It also serves a useful marker to make sure that you are circling correctly, since the limb relationships are better defined than in some other parts of transition movements. Does your “ball hold” have any particular properties or uses?

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 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.</font>


I think I have seen this turn performed in this way, probably on line somewhere. I am somewhat surprised to hear that you pivot on a leg as weight is shifted onto it, since I would have difficulty doing that at speed or with a “fierce” transfer of energy. Do you happen to know if there are other places in the form where you do this? For instance, during Fair Lady Works the Shuttles between corners 1 and 2 and between 3 and 4?

We have the same movement used in Diagonal Flying in the Sword Form. It occurs as the transition into Roc Extends its Wings. (This is the move before Fishing for the Moon at the Sea Bottom.) Do you happen to know if you do the same transition in the Sword Form? I am asking, because we do the Sword Form at a somewhat faster speed and use some momentum. More speed and momentum make the transition fairly easy for everyone, at least on the surface.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If you were taught to have the palm essentially facing up for the forward hand holding the staff for the finish of the second movement, then turning that palm essentially downward when circling to the finish of the third movement, then I think that we are in agreement (palm up giving upward support for the power while palm down gives downward support for the power).</font>


DP, I think we are indeed in agreement. By the way, the overall quality of Fu Zhongwen’s movements is what I have been taught, but the individual staff movements are somewhat different. If my right leg is forward, the first position begins with the staff tip on my left side at about knee height with my right palm down. The thrust is shoulder height straight forward with the palms facing each other or perhaps angled slightly upward. The third position has the staff tip angled to the right side at about shoulder height, but the left hand is about at the left hip. The right hand is palm up. As you then go back to the first position, you rotate both palms to circle the staff tip from high to low, and then push the staff tip down on the left side at about knee height. By the way, as far as I know, we just call this practicing fajin, rather than “fast fajin.”

Louis, thank you for the translation. There is some interesting stuff that comes from quite a different angle than I would have expected.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The breathing Gu details is reverse breathing, which I don’t incorporate in my practice. To me it just feels unnatural.</font>


When you issue, what is the subjective feel of your abdomen? I do not consciously practice reverse breathing, but when I do fajin I feel something drop to create fullness in my abdomen.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> When they did fajin, because the velocity was swift, the placement was accurate (luodian zhun), and the neijin sufficient, they would issue jin suddenly at the sticky points (nianzhuo dian), and before the opponent even sensed what was happening, or have a way to move or neutralize, he would already be sent soaring away. This is to achieve the pinnacle of storing/issuing technique.</font>


I find it interesting that Gu talks about issuing at “sticky points.” When most students talk about fajin, the emphasis is on giving power to strikes. I have seen many impressive examples of this; however, I find even more interesting the type of issuing that Gu describes. I also find quite intriguing, and usually terrifying, the type of skill that makes it feel as if jin is about to gush into your body at a place where you are least able to receive it. I guess it is the difference between short and long jin.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:21 pm

Greetings,

I also reviewed Gu Liuxin’s Introduction to Fu Zhongwen’s book (it’s very similar to the one he wrote to Yang Zhenduo’s Yang Style Taijiquan book that was translated into English), and I think it’s worth pointing out a couple of things he wrote there with regard to fajin. Gu Liuxin, we should recall, studied with Yang Chengfu and his brother Yang Shaohou, as well as with Chen Fake later on, so he was very familiar with these masters, and knew what he was talking about. He described Yang Shouhou’s fajin technique as “hard and crisp” (gang cui). He never states that Yang Chengfu “removed” fajin from taijiquan. He wrote that Yang’s earlier form performances included rapid kicks with an audible “sound of the wind” (you feng sheng de kuai su). “Later, however, he changed to slow, gradual kicks, with the placement of fajin (issuing energy) in the kicks being concealed within (yin yu neide).”

Most important (detractors take note) are these remarks Gu wrote about Yang Chengfu: “His adroitness in push hands was exquisite; his skill at neutralizing and in fajin was unrivaled in his time. When he put out his hand it had the softness of cotton but seemed to contain a bar of steel. It moved very slightly, reached exceedingly far, and released energy with extreme swiftness; yet whenever there was a case of receiving his issuing, before one could even feel him move, one was sent soaring and tumbling into the air.”

Hmmm. Unrivaled in his time. Yes, and this was written by someone who actually knew who and what he was talking about.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:45 pm

Greetings All,

Gu Liuxin’s command of modern physical education terminology in his martial arts writings always impresses me. Observe, for example, his reference to the term “displacement” in his fajin essay. “Fajin is a kind of explosive force (baofali)—the faster the rate of speed, the smaller the displacement (weiyi), and the greater the force of its impact.” According to a reference work I have on exercise physiology, the term displacement takes into account the starting and ending point of movement, and is “the length of the straight-line path between the starting and ending points of the exerciser.”

What do you suppose Gu was getting at when he wrote “the faster the rate of speed, the smaller the displacement (weiyi), and the greater the force of its impact.”

Any physicists out there who can elaborate on his meaning?

Take care,
Louis

Note: Here's the Wikipedia Chinese page on weiyi, which comports with the definition I gave above.
http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%BD%8D%E7%A7%BB




[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 03-21-2007).]
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Postby Audi » Thu Mar 22, 2007 12:31 am

Hi Louis,

I don't have time at the moment to set forth my reasoning, but I took Gu's statement as a description of the difference between using long energy to displace the opponent and short energy to leave the energy in the opponent's body. The former takes time and distance to execute, whereas the latter takes minimial time and distance.

The formula F=mA (Force equals mass times acceleration) implies elements of speed, displacement, time, and force. As you play with different variables, you get different amounts of force.

Take care,
Audi
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