The explosive power of being relaxed, flexible, and bouncing is the essence of Chen-style Tai Chi Quan, and it is one of the main differences between Chen-style Tai Chi Quan and other Tai Chi Quan styles. Many Tai Chi enthusiasts admire the ability to emit force, but after years of diligent practice, only a few can fully grasp and freely control it with their intention, Qi, and power in perfect harmony. The reason behind this scarcity is the lack of proper guidance and understanding. However, if one truly comprehends the principles of emitting force in Chen-style Tai Chi Quan, mastering it becomes an achievable task.
The practice of emitting force in Chen-style Tai Chi Quan requires the practitioner to be relaxed and supple, following the basic rule of “power originates from the feet, is guided by the legs, controlled by the waist, and released through the fingertips.” Progress should be orderly, and understanding should be developed through careful contemplation. Once this principle is genuinely mastered, one can effectively issue force from any angle and position, achieving precision and fluidity effortlessly over time.
Relaxation is the foundation of emitting force. Extreme softness is necessary to attain extreme firmness. Only by achieving complete relaxation, eliminating all stiffness throughout the body, can one unleash a fully-integrated, elastic force. Relaxing the joints and muscles and minimizing the use of antagonistic muscles are essential. This allows the force to reach the point of application in an instant, focusing the entire body’s power on that single point of emission. Additionally, the time of muscle tension during the emission of force should be brief, occurring precisely at the moment of force application, followed by rapid relaxation. The shorter the tension period, the faster the force reaches its destination, resulting in greater power. The coordination of intention and Qi is crucial for successful emitting force. Integrating intention and internal energy, guiding the Qi with the mind, and mobilizing the body with Qi are essential aspects. When the intention moves, the whole body follows suit. Under the guidance of the waist, adhering to the principles of emitting force, power is rapidly applied from one joint to another with internal muscle tension, resulting in a spring-like, crisp force.
To practice spiral force, one must use the body’s center as the axis, with the waist as the focal point. During force emission, the body rapidly rotates to one side, generating centrifugal force. According to the principles of mechanics, any point on a circle can serve as a point of attack. The force should be emitted along the tangent of the circle, with careful consideration of coordination in the front, back, left, and right directions. Symmetrical force application is essential to prevent unbalanced force emission and maintain one’s equilibrium. To evaluate a practitioner’s ability to emit force, three aspects must be analyzed: First, it must be observed whether the force originates from the feet. Without the rebounding force from the feet on the ground, there won’t be a continuous driving force to power the movements, resulting in a lack of overall force. Second, the practitioner’s ability to generate the force of waist and crotch bounce and rotation is crucial. Rapidly twisting the waist and snapping the crotch while remaining relaxed creates an integrated force throughout the body. Third, it must be assessed whether the practitioner can emit force at the point of application. If the force is only distributed throughout the body without a specific point of application, lacking penetrating power, it becomes superficial and impressive but lacks practical utility. As the saying goes in martial arts, “Without a root in the body, the force is hollow and impractical. Without reaching the fingertips, the force is real but still hollow.”
Based on the above analysis, we can come to the following conclusion: To master emitting force, three key points must be achieved: the force must originate from the root (feet), there should be rotational bounce force in the waist and crotch, and the force application at the point of emission should be stable, penetrating, and well-targeted. Each of these three aspects is indispensable.
Now, let’s take the example of the “Hidden Hand Elbow Strike” to illustrate the key points of emitting force according to the basic principles. The preparatory posture for emitting force in this movement is to center the weight on the right leg, with the right foot toe pointing inward (facilitating the rebound force during force emission). The hand changes into a fist and is placed on the right side of the ribs, with the left leg in front, and the left palm is positioned to the left front. The eyes gaze naturally straight ahead, and the whole body should be relaxed, naturally containing force, and well-prepared.
As stated in the boxing manual: “The body is like a bowstring, and the hand is like an arrow. Store energy like drawing a bow and emit force like releasing an arrow.” Therefore, during the preparation, the practitioner is required to have a body like a drawn bow, with all parts of the body containing force, all muscles relaxed and sinking down, and the body naturally upright. When emitting force, the center of gravity quickly shifts from the right leg to the left leg, relaxing the left hip while simultaneously using the right foot to push off the ground (utilizing the ground’s reaction force). Simultaneously, the knee is turned, the waist is twisted, the crotch is hooked, and the hip is rotated, followed by the shoulder, to quickly transmit the force to the fist. The entire body rotates to the left, while the left elbow rapidly pulls back at the same time as the right fist is emitted, creating symmetrical force. This ensures that the practitioner maintains body balance and prevents leaning forward during force emission, and in combat, it prevents being pulled off balance by the opponent. It also aids in delivering force through the right fist, as the rapid retraction of the left elbow pushes the right fist forward, thus combining the whole body’s force into one punch. This is the principle of rotational centrifugal force in mechanics. Furthermore, before emitting force, it is essential to remain as relaxed as possible. As the force reaches the point of application, the muscles should tense up for a brief moment, as we mentioned earlier – relaxing the whole body can accelerate the speed of force emission. By tensing at the precise moment of force application, the force can penetrate, and it assists in targeting, thus creating a braking force (stopping power) before rapidly relaxing.
The above example only illustrates one method of emitting force in Chen-style Tai Chi Quan. “There is no fixed method in boxing.” As long as we adhere to the basic principles of emitting force in Chen-style Tai Chi Quan, diligently practice, study, and summarize, we can develop a high-quality, relaxed, flexible, and bouncy force. Eventually, we can reach a level where “the whole body is all fists, capable of striking from any direction and any position,” and the force emitted will be formidable, unstoppable from any angle.
Tips for Tai Chi Fa Jin
- Dan Tian Swallowing and Reversal Breathing
Opening and closing refer to Tai Chi, while swallowing and exhaling pertain to internal power. Chen-style Tai Chi Quan primarily focuses on cultivating internal strength. With the exception of the preparatory posture, all movements involve continuous opening and closing. Through these movements, the breathing is adjusted to facilitate the cultivation of internal power, achieving the integration of internal and external aspects and generating internal strength.
Mouth and nose breathing merely serves to connect the internal and external. In Tai Chi Quan, swallowing and exhaling are referred to as “sinking the qi to the Dan Tian,” which means the internal breathing of the Dan Tian. The external breath from the mouth and nose meets the internal breath of the Dan Tian, and the mind’s intention illuminates the Dan Tian.
The Dan Tian is a crucial area for martial artists, and there are two main types: Qi Sinking Dan Tian and Mind Guarding Dan Tian. Only by cultivating strong Dan Tian power can one develop force in their strikes.
The interaction with the original qi in the Dan Tian (heart and kidneys) is channeled throughout the body, flowing smoothly through the limbs. This fulfills the saying in the boxing manual: “Upper and lower connect, internal and external merge as one.” Internal strength in Tai Chi Quan takes the scattered external qi and, following the principles of boxing, coordinates the movements of hands, feet, and body. It smoothly contracts back into the Dan Tian, interacting with the original qi there, gradually accumulating force. This is the concept of internal strength in Tai Chi Quan.
Therefore, the opening and closing of body and hands, combined with Dan Tian swallowing and exhaling, constitute the method of cultivating internal strength. In Chen-style Tai Chi Quan, reverse abdominal breathing is used, connecting with the internal breath of the Dan Tian. This up and down motion stimulates the true qi, achieving the purpose of using internal power to subdue external forces.
- Snorting Breath and “Ha” and “Heh” Sounds
By organically combining reverse abdominal breathing with Dan Tian swallowing and exhaling, one can produce a chilly, bouncy, crisp, and rapid force. Externally, there is only a slight tremor in appearance, while the force has already been emitted. Only when “exerting force unintentionally, and inspiring force unknowingly,” can one freely apply it in combat. At this moment, one can naturally perform techniques like “stick, follow, link, accompany, lift, evade, bend, empty, press, and block” in a completely natural manner.
Internal strength is instantly activated at the right moment and can be utilized during exhalation, inhalation, and breath holding. The strength emitted depends on the length and intensity of the breath.
Generally, snorting breath involves a slight closing of the upper jaw and the tongue, creating a gap. When emitting force, some of the breath can be exhaled from the mouth and nose, resulting in a drop in air pressure, and it interacts with the Dan Tian’s breath. Naturally, a “heh” sound is produced. This leads to a chilly, bouncy, crisp, and rapid force. Purely exhaling through the mouth results in a “ha” sound. Compared to snorting breath, the breath sinks, and the Dan Tian’s force rises with explosive power.
In Tai Chi Quan’s force emission, the clever use of “heh” and “ha” sounds in breathing assists in various force applications. Especially in combat, the vocalization during breathing allows the muscles to contract and relax rapidly, promoting high elasticity in the muscles. It also helps to elongate the body, mobilize the body’s internal intent, and achieve the effect of using breath to boost force and sound to add power.
The relationship between snorting breath, exhaling, and vocalization should be explored and adapted through continuous force emission practice.
- Grounding, Twisting the Crotch, Firming the Four Extremities
The boxing adage says: “The root is in the feet, force comes from the legs, controlled by the waist, and manifests in the fingers. From feet to legs to waist, a complete unity of qi is required.” A unified flow from feet to legs to waist is essential in Tai Chi Quan. It emphasizes seeking lightness without floatiness and sinking without stiffness. Seeking lightness means sinking; it requires rooting the feet, as without roots, there is no source of power.
During force emission, the force is instantly generated by pushing off the ground with the feet. The roots should remain immovable and unbreakable to continuously transfer force to the extremities. The boxing manual states: “To practice Tai Chi Quan, one must first achieve internal and external connectivity. Yin and Yang mutually form the root, all found in the crotch and hips.” Only when the joints of the crotch and hips are relaxed can the waist move freely.
Both hips and knees should expand and round, while also being empty yet connected. Suddenly, the crotch is twisted and locked, and the force is emitted in an instant. The lower abdomen, waist, legs, shoulders, and arms muscles all tighten almost simultaneously. In this rapid tightening, force surges through the extremities, creating a quick, crisp, and cold elastic force, much like applying an emergency brake, generating urgent deceleration. After exerting force, immediately relax and inhale, returning to a natural state.
- Internal Opening and External Closing, Seeking Symmetry
The boxing principle states: “One must use ten-tenths of force, where opening and closing make force emerge from within. The skill lies in the timing of the breath and the urgency of its use. Skill in timing and urgency is all about a single breath.” Cultivating Tai Chi skill means cultivating the internal qi of the Dan Tian. When internal qi is full and abundant, one naturally excels beyond others. As the boxing saying goes, “Train the internal qi, then strengthen the tendons, bones, and skin. Lead the qi with the mind, and qi will exceed three parts of strength.”
In Tai Chi Quan, force should be explosive like lightning and sound like thunder. Using qi to overpower strength, one triggers internal qi’s eruption, aligning the heart with the mind, the breath with the strength, and the intention with the qi. Only in this way can a complete force be emitted.