Mr. Matsuda and I were fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Sifu Adam Hsu to discuss Chinese martial arts. Mr. Matsuda visited Taiwan ten years ago and had not met Sifu Hsu for about 3 years. I had not met Sifu Hsu for almost 5 years. The 2-day interview was conducted in a room with Japanese tatami (straw floor mat) at a Chinese teahouse. The atmosphere was cordial and filled with humor. We discussed many topics like how to accumulate power, how to issue power, what is chan si jing, etc. Sifu Hsu demonstrated the movements while explaining them in great detail. His movement was so skillful and elegant!
For this interview, we decided to focus on the basic knowledge of fa jing (power issuing) because Mr. Matsuda wanted to cover the topics easily understood by the younger generation. As our discussion continued, we moved to more specialized subjects that were very beneficial to me as a martial arts practitioner. This article would also be beneficial to other Japanese who are practicing Chinese martial arts.
1. What is Jing?
In Japan, the word jing (power) is rarely used. That is an uncommon word for most people. But Chinese use the word jing quite often. Sometimes, the word jing is treated as a synonym for the word force. For example, we can say, "apply more force" or "apply more jing" interchangeably. Another common use is "with force" and "with jing" in everyday life. However, force and jing are totally different in martial arts terminology. Force is natural as we are born with it; jing is man-made as we get it through learning and training. Force doesn't come from kung fu training; jing must be obtained through kung fu training. Force can be sustained and used continuously for a period of time; jing is instantaneous. Force applies to a larger area; jing is for a smaller area almost like a spot. Force is universal; jing is unique and special. Force's speed is slower; jing's speed is faster. Regarding the destructive capability, force is weaker and jing is stronger. Force is used to hit the opponent or support one's self; jing is used to hit and penetrate through the target.
2. Chan Si Jing (纏絲勁) is the Real Kung Fu Jing!
The previous section explains the differences between force and jing. Since there are several styles of jing, which style should be used by beginners for their martial arts training?
We can use just one statement to answer this question: "Chan si jing is the real kung fu jing." All martial arts practitioners should know: Chan si is the foundation of the jing in kung fu. It is not an overstatement to say that the jing in kung fu is the chan si jing. Chan si jing is the continuous movements of drawing curves and circles. There is no starting point and no end point either. The forward move is the same as the backward move, and vice versa. This is the unique character of chan si jing.
There is an old Chinese saying: "Men farm and women weave." It means that men are responsible for farming the land and women are responsible for weaving the cloth. Everyone knows from childhood about raising silk worms and pulling silk thread from cocoons. These are just ordinary skills in everyday life. Chinese call the movement of winding silk thread "chan si." Therefore, this popular and well-known movement of winding silk thread is used for the jing in kung fu - chan si jing.
Let's talk about the basic principle: When hitting a target with a fist, the longer the distance from the fist to the target is, the more power it can generate. That is due to the longer working distance allowing more acceleration. Secondly, when hitting a target, we can achieve it by using the palm only, upper arm, the shoulder, or the entire upper body above the waist. Which way will generate the most power? Of course, the one with the longest radius will do. In other words, the movement with the longest working distance will issue the maximum jing. If we use our hand as the tool to issue power, the starting point to create the longest working distance should be the leg.
The distance from point C to points A and B are the same, 7.5 in. The shortest distance from point A to point C is the straight line. If we draw a spiral from point B to point C, the distance can be increased to 15 in or longer. Based on this principle, if we use the spiral movement, the working distance is increased and the power is significantly amplified. In other words, the best way to issue power with our body is to move our body by the spiral motion. This is the chan si jing in kung fu.
3. Why is "Chan Si Jing" the Best Jing?
Now let's discuss the reason why chan si jing is the most important and the best jing. Chan si jing has several advantages:
- As mentioned previously, the long working distance enables us to generate more power. It also allows more acceleration for higher speed.
- It is very flexible and can be adjusted for any direction. It can utilize its force and position to control the opponent for its own advantage. Other types of jing tend to dodge or block the attack as their defense. Chan si jing can not only deflect opponent's attack, but continue to fight back as well without stopping the movement or adding any transition step. The power generated won't be reduced and it can be adjusted naturally and easily. Other types of jing with straight motion often find it difficult to adjust the direction. If it is forced to change direction, the power is dramatically reduced and the movements become unnatural and rigid.
- Chan si jing has versatile applications and is for multiple targets. It can be varied extensively too.
- It has huge destructive capability due to the spiral motion that generates strong penetrating power like the bullet of a rifle.
- There are many stages of jing that can be trained step by step.
- It is easy to control and adjust the distance to the object. Fighting with the enemy in combat is completely different from hitting a stationary target in practice. The opponent in combat keeps changing his position. When we find the right distance to attack, the opponent may already shift his position. The opponent may abruptly move closer or farther away. Therefore, chan si jing is very suitable for such a moving target because it is able to make an adjustment right before completing the punch without affecting the continuity of the movement and the punch won't become a useless action.
- Chan si jing can be obtained through training. There is no limitation due to the body build or gender. Anyone can be trained to advance the skill and improve the ability to issue power.
- After achieving a certain level, the skill and ability won't disappear as time goes by. Although it may decay with age, it won’t completely disappear.
4. Why Shouldn't Chan Si Jing be Mixed With Other Jing Together?
Let's discuss the code of conduct and the basic principles while learning chan si jing. First, we are born with many natural movements and then acquire other movements through learning. Examples of the former are crying, waving, kicking, laughing, yelling, etc. All these are natural behaviors of an infant. Then what are learned movements?
Examples from everyday life are eating, brushing your teeth, and washing your face. There are examples from sports such as throwing balls and swinging a bat. Examples from jobs are driving, typing, and the barber's skill of using his scissors to cut hair. Playing guitar and piano are examples from performing arts. Of course, there are examples from martial arts such as the movements of traditional wushu. Natural movements tailored through the learning process can be called pre-set movements. In other words, these are habitual. We don't really need such pre-set movements for martial arts practice because they can only bring in bad influences without any benefit to practitioners.
Therefore, when we learn chan si jing, we should go back to the stage of a newborn infant in order to re-learn to move in the pure kung fu way. Pure kung fu movements are only acquired without the presence of any other influences. However, when we start learning kung fu, can we forget and shed those movements we are already familiar with? This is actually the biggest problem.
If we can forget, learning kung fu would be a simple and straightforward task. The movement we learn will be the purest. If we cannot forget pre-set movements, what we learn will only be impure and incomplete. If we really can go back to the stage of an infant to learn kung fu, there are still some questions.
"Why does the power decrease gradually?" "After 3-4 months of kung fu training, why does my power decrease although my punch was strong before?" We should be aware that we are at the stage of shedding our old movements to learn new ones; it is called "huan jing" (change power). The old is gone but the new is not well trained yet. That's why you feel weak and powerless. If you persist in such training, you will be able to issue power and have excellent results in the future.
To make a comparison with other martial arts styles, we can use the example of two young men, A and B, who have the same body build and physical strength. A has learned another martial art since he was 18 years old. B has been learning kung fu. Within half a year, A can issue strong power, kick high, and punch forcefully. It is strange that B's strength decreases instead. The reason is explained in 1) already. Another fact to point out is that it is too premature to make such judgments when both A and B are still young. When reaching 30-40 years old, A's strength will decrease with age and he will encounter his body's limit for kicking and punching. On the other hand, B will improve his kung fu skill over time with fewer adverse impacts from age.
This question, related to both 1) and 2), has to do with time. We need to spend double or triple time, compared to other martial arts styles, to advance kung fu skill to the best quality. This is because we need to go back to the stage of an infant to re-learn all the movements from the beginning. There is no fast lane for kung fu practice.
5. The Situation and Shortcomings of Not Returning to the Stage of An Infant!
Below are three situations and shortcomings that follow, if you cannot return to the stage of an infant:
You have learned a certain martial arts style and advanced to a high level so you cannot shed these previously learned skills and techniques. Then you will not be able to perform the pure kung fu jing – chan si jing. It will be impossible to reach the pure form of chan si jing if you want to use your old martial arts technique as the foundation. You will encounter barriers when practicing more advanced movements and the level you can reach will be limited.
You cannot shed your habitual movements and tend to apply them to your kung fu practice. For example, my kung fu school used to have a student who was a professional carpenter. He had the habitual tendency to apply strong downward force. When practicing the "jump step fist" (蹦步拳) in praying mantis, he could do the movements accurately if he did not apply any force. As soon as he applied force, all his movements were directed downward. When he was corrected to the right angle, he could not apply his force effectively. This is an example of a kung fu practitioner who cannot make progress because he cannot shed his habitual movements for his kung fu training.
Bad combination with other martial arts styles. China has numerous kung fu styles and each one has its unique characteristics. It would be good if the practitioner learns one style well before starting another. However, if he changes styles half way through or adds another style before completing one, it would definitely affect his progress. For example, the movements, usage, power issuing and style are all very different between taiji quan and praying mantis.
Therefore, if we learn two styles at the same time, they would interfere with each other and we will end up with impure kung fu. As a kung fu practitioner, we should try to identify our problems and go back to the stage of an infant to practice properly. Only this can bring really good progress and achievement from our practice. This is the valuable experience obtained by our ancestors through several thousand years of practice. I want to emphasize the importance of going back to the stage of an infant to learn kung fu. We also need to use one method to learn the jing: it is the chan si jing. This is like the white board in the classroom. If the words and drawings on the board from the previous class are not erased completely, we will not be able to see clearly what are written on the board in the current class.
Will we learn the real kung fu if we combine natural movements with the proper kung fu training? The answer is yes. Why? Let me explain: Natural movements require the entire body to move together. There is a Chinese kung fu saying: "One part moves and all parts move." It means that as long as one part of the body starts to move, the entire body will move together. On the contrary, the movements by training (pre-set movements) use each part of the body independently. One movement only requires one part of the body to move. When an infant waves his arm happily, he moves his entire body along with his waving arm. When a kid eats, he moves his entire body to the food to eat. Adults behave differently. Adults only use fingers to hold the chopsticks. He can manage to eat with his arms above the shoulder only. Therefore, the infant style of moving the entire body is very beneficial for learning chan si jing. The question is how to shed the already learned habit of moving each part of the body separately.