Chen Xiaowang Talk Fa Jin ( release Energy)

Chen Xiaowang
Chen Xiaowang

Chinese martial arts are rich and diverse, each with its own distinctive style and system. However, the concept of “offense and defense” is shared by all. The defensive side often employs softness, while the offensive side relies more on hardness. What is meant by hardness? When issuing force, the internal and external should unite as one, with a vigorous spirit, delivering one’s own power to the point of attack. This is the highest standard of hardness. Chen-style Tai Chi Quan also has its unique aspects when it comes to issuing force. It not only utilizes the fists, elbows, shoulders, feet, knees, and major joints to issue force but also requires that every part of the body is capable of issuing force. The boxing manual states, “Only when the five yin and five yang merge without bias can one possess the marvelous skill. The marvelous skill encompasses the principles of Tai Chi. Tai Chi in motion transforms into nothingness. It hits wherever needed, and I do not even know its profoundness.” Achieving this level of skill is not something that can be accomplished overnight. It can be seen that achieving an advanced level of boxing skill means that force can be issued from every part of the body, and the force naturally flows and transforms from within.

Tai Chi Quan combines both hardness and softness. Issuing force is just one aspect of the hardness in Tai Chi Quan. When Tai Chi Quan is practiced well, force naturally becomes well-issued. Therefore, to develop good force issuance, one must start with practicing the boxing techniques.

The practice of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan can be divided into two stages.

First, using the external form of movements to stimulate internal energy.

Internal energy and movements complement each other and work in harmony. The external form of movements can induce the activity of internal energy, and the activity of internal energy can further drive the external form. In the initial stage of learning, one should strive to meet the specific requirements of the movements, which means following the demands of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan for each part of the body. By understanding the principles of movement and gradually meeting the standards, one can explore and grasp the methods of internal energy circulation. During static postures (such as preparatory postures, single whip, etc.), one should focus on aligning the body parts according to the requirements of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan. Detailed explanations of these aspects can be found in some published Tai Chi Quan books, so they will not be elaborated here. Although the descriptions provided are relatively specific, it can be challenging to grasp the exact scale. For example, how should one relax the shoulders? How much should the chest be concaved? If the chest is too concaved, it affects the lower back. What is the appropriate degree of concavity? It is not like carpentry, where precise measurements can be given. In ancient boxing manuals, it is said, “It can only be understood through divine comprehension, not through verbal transmission.” This indicates that these details cannot be adequately expressed through words and language, but instead require hands-on instruction. However, most Tai Chi Quan enthusiasts do not have ideal conditions for this. Therefore, we need to approach this issue with a dialectical attitude. Why did Chen-style Tai Chi Quan provide specific requirements for each part of the body? The purpose is to descend the heart and qi, and sink the qi to the dantian. With this in mind, during static postures, one can feel whether the heart and qi descend and the qi sinks to the dantian. If one feels the heart and qi descending, and the qi sinking to the dantian, it indicates that the requirements for each part of the body have been met. If one feels an unstable center of gravity

Mastering the requirements of each part of the body in Chen-style Tai Chi Quan during static postures enables the descent of the heart and qi, sinking the qi to the dantian. During movement, following the principles of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan (using the waist as the axis and coordinating the movements of each bone and joint throughout the body) and adhering to the specific requirements of body alignment and the routes of hand and foot movements, one can lead the internal energy to enter and exit the dantian and flow smoothly throughout the body like flowing water, adapting to the specific variations of different movements.

The requirements of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan are quite rigorous, and beginners often focus more on their body posture while neglecting their hands, resulting in uncoordinated movements and a phenomenon of prioritizing one aspect over the other. In Tai Chi Quan terminology, this means that “drops” and “bumps” occur in the movements (bumps occur when there is excess force, and drops occur when there is insufficient force). Chen-style Tai Chi Quan requires adhering to its principles of movement without dropping or bumping, maintaining smooth and continuous circular movements. When drops and bumps occur in the movements, it directly affects the flow of internal energy. Putting in effort means diligently practicing the boxing form, carefully contemplating, comparing, and gradually reducing errors in accordance with the principles. The smaller the movement errors, the greater the flow of internal energy. Additionally, resistance is reduced, movements can be coordinated according to the principles, and internal energy can barely penetrate.

Secondly, internal energy stimulates external form.

With basic coordination of movements and the penetration of internal energy, there is a qualitative change in the practice, transitioning from the stage of using external form to induce internal energy to the stage of using internal energy to stimulate the external form. In ancient boxing manuals, it is said, “Move with the mind, move the qi with the body. When internal energy is still, the external form remains motionless. When internal energy moves, the external form moves with the qi.” Through conscious guidance, the penetration of internal energy allows for a more systematic movement of the limbs. When one part moves, all the body parts follow; when one part is still, the whole body is still. At this stage, some requirements and principles of practicing Chen-style Tai Chi Quan become intuitive, and there should be no obvious prioritization errors or movement mistakes. However, this system is not yet fully adaptable to practical combat situations and is susceptible to external influences, easily becoming disorganized. Therefore, on this foundation, one should continue to put in effort to consolidate the movement system, enabling it to adapt to changes in objective conditions and become a “unified and unbroken” movement system that withstands any disturbances, only then can one “stand undefeated.”

The Relationship Between Internal Energy and Muscles

Internal energy originates from the organs and flows through the meridians, spreading throughout the body. This is a natural physiological phenomenon in the human body. When practicing Chen-style Tai Chi Quan, one must uphold, grasp, and utilize this law. Internal energy itself is very delicate, and when drops and bumps occur in the movements, the internal energy is obstructed. The internal energy is transported to the meridians and then permeates and conducts to the muscles through the meridians. By using the training methods of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan, the muscles can fully utilize the internal energy produced by the organs. Otherwise, if one practices without understanding the principles, fails to overcome the disadvantages of drops and bumps, and relies solely on brute force, it will have negative effects. Lightly, one may feel discomfort during practice, affecting the flow of internal energy, and their level of martial arts will not progress. Heavily, it may cause a reflux of internal energy, burdening the organs and affecting their normal functions. Some people may feel chest tightness and bloating after practicing, which is caused by the reflux of internal energy.

In ancient boxing manuals, it is said, “Intention and energy are the rulers, bones and muscles are the subjects.” The relationship between internal energy and muscles is like that of a detonator and explosive. The detonator itself does not have much explosive force; the main force of the explosion comes from the explosive. However, the explosive cannot function without the detonator to ignite it, and it also cannot fully exert its effects without the proper proportion. When practicing Tai Chi Quan, if there are drops and bumps, contradictions between body parts, mutual cancellation of forces, lack of internal energy flow, and the issuing of strength is fragmented, it is similar to the improper proportion of the detonator and explosive, where the explosive cannot be fully ignited.

How to Release Power (Fa jin)

In ancient boxing manuals, it is said, “The body is like a bowstring, the hand is like an arrow,” and “Power originates from the heel, is directed by the leg, controlled by the waist, and issued through the fingertips” (here, “hand” and “fingertips” are not limited to only the hand and fingertips but refer to striking points, as Tai Chi requires the ability to issue power from various parts of the body). For example, in the movement of “Cover Hand and Punch,” the waist turns to the left, penetrating upward through the back, shoulder, arm, and the right fist follows the rotation of the waist, issuing forward to the right. It then penetrates downward through the hip, leg, and foot, generating a reaction force on the ground. This force is first transmitted from the waist to the foot, then passes through the leg, hip, waist, back, and arm, and finally issued through the right fist. The forward movement of the center of gravity creates inertia and propels the right fist forward. Only with conscious guidance and the flow of internal energy can the power of the whole body converge and be issued through the right fist (when issuing power with the right fist, the left elbow also issues power backward in symmetry, maintaining a well-supported body posture from all sides). If power is issued from the right elbow, the right forearm is flexed, and the right elbow is protruded; if power is issued from the right shoulder, the right arm is lowered, and the right shoulder is protruded; if power is issued from the right chest, the shoulder and arm are relaxed, and the right chest is protruded. Issuing power is the gathering of the power from the whole body and is emphasized at the striking point.

In combat situations, the timing and location of issuing power must never be overlooked. One must adapt to changes in objective conditions, seize opportunities, and issue power at the most appropriate time and to the most crucial part of the opponent.

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