6. If You Don't Learn Chan Si Jing, You Don't Learn Chinese Kung Fu!
There are two important topics in learning kung fu: one is the method of power issuing (fa jing) and the other one is the technique of attack and defense. These two topics are not independent, but intertwined together and cannot be separated. If we can issue power with strong force but don't know the techniques to attack and defend, we can never defeat the opponent no matter how strong the power we can issue. On the contrary, if we only know the techniques of attack and defense but do not know the method of power issuing, we cannot defeat the opponent either no matter now many times we are able to hit the opponent. These two techniques are complementary and should be learned simultaneously. The fact that Chinese kung fu has many curved and circular movements is due to the influence of the fa jing method and also the chan si jing. It can be demonstrated by taiji quan and bagua zhang.
We can use spear to explain further. Many countries in the world have various types of spears. The Masai tribe in Africa throws their spears to attack the target. Both Europe and Japan have spears for poking and thrusting. From the traditional Chinese kung fu point of view, these weapons are not real spears. Their usages indeed are closer to staff based on the techniques and the methods of power issuing. If the usage of a weapon does not have the curved and circular movements, i.e., chan si jing, it is not really a spear technique per Chinese kung fu standards.
Why do we say, "Spear is the king of all weapons," in Chinese martial arts? This is due to the spiral movements – chan si jing. Other Chinese weapons have the spiral movement too, but they don't emphasize it as much as in spear. Therefore we can say that it is not traditional Chinese kung fu if there is no chan si jing in the movements. This is the soul of Chinese kung fu.
7. The Types and Methods of Fa Jing
I cannot give a complete list of all jing from all kung fu styles. In short, every kung fu style has its own character, focus, and strength. We cannot really judge if any one is better than others. The common methods of "jing" are as follows:
- "Thrust jing" (衝勁) is the straight thrusting and punching movement.
- "Down jing" (揣勁) is the pushing down movement.
- "Up jing" (攢勁) is the upward striking movement.
- "Spring jing" (彈勁) is the curving, springing movement.
- "Throw jing" (甩勁) is the sweeping and throwing out movement.
- "Shake jing" (抖勁) is the shaking up movement.
- "Split jing" (劈勁) is the cutting and chopping movement.
These are the methods of jing with noticeable power issuing movements. In addition, there are many methods of jing that don't have very noticeable movements, such as the "expanding jing" (掤勁) in taiji quan and "suck jing" (吸勁) in Chinese wrestling. It is very hard to tell with the eyes, but it can be identified easily through touch.
8. The Categories of Fa Jing Based on Direction and Distance
Now let's discuss the categories of jing based on direction and distance. Per direction there are "straight jing," "horizontal jing," and "diagonal jing." (直勁, 橫勁, 斜勁) Per distance there are "long jing," "middle jing," and "short jing." The "thrust jing" is an example of "straight jing" because the word "thrust" is the action of pushing straight ahead like the "blocking hand fist" (掩手捶) in taiji quan. The "horizontal jing" means pushing sideway like the "under elbow fist" (肘底捶) in taiji quan. The "diagonal jing" is for the direction between the front and the side, i.e., 45 degree angle, like the "groin pointing fist" (指擋捶) in taiji quan. These are the three basic types of jing in terms of direction although there are other jing for different directions and angles too. In addition, I want to point out that changing direction of the jing is comparatively easy to achieve.
The next category is differences in distance: In real combat, we should hit the target when issuing power no matter what the distance from the target is. Otherwise, it becomes useless. Therefore, we want to be able to issue power and complete the mission of the movement for targets at any distance. Of course, it becomes more difficult to issue power as the distance becomes shorter. That's why it is very important to know the proper way to practice.
We can take "lift palm" (托掌) in "xiao baji" as an example: It is a "middle jing" and it's very hard to do. It will take a long time - a year or longer - and tremendous effort and suffering to master it if we practice it as a "middle jing" from the beginning. We can practice it as a "long jing" at the beginning and continue for 3 months to really grasp the details of this movement. We then shorten the distance and continue the practice for another 3 months. By this approach, we will eventually be able to shorten the distance and valuable time to meet the requirements of the "middle jing" much easier.
It should be noted that fa jing is a basic training and the practice should start from "long jing." It is also important to remember: "long jing" indeed has all the key components of the advanced movement - "short jing." Training should be conducted step by step without skipping any steps in between.
9. Degree of Jing: Visible, Hidden, and Melt
Let's move on to discuss the meaning of "visible," "hidden," and "melt" in jing, i.e., the three stages "visible jing," "hidden jing," and "melt jing." The "visible jing" can be seen easily and everyone can identify all movements in the power issuing process. The existence of jing in "hidden jing" cannot be identified clearly and not everyone can see and understand the movements well. The "melt jing" cannot be recognized at all. The "visible jing" is described with four traditional characters that mean "with shape and expression;" the "hidden jing" is "with ambiguous and almost non-existing shape and expression;" and the "melt jing" is "without shape and expression."
Then what is "shape?" And what is "expression?" There are the two steps in the power issuing process: preparation and utilization. In other words, the former is accumulating power and the latter is issuing power.
When one can advance his skill gradually from visible to hidden, and then from hidden to melt to accumulate and issue power, his movements become invisible to most people. Accumulating power is the preparation step that is like "pulling the bow." Issuing power is the utilization step that is like "releasing the arrow."
We can use "stealing heart palm" (偷心掌) in "da baji" as an example. I would show all the movements clearly if I demonstrate it. However, if my teacher, Sifu Liu Yun-Chiao, were to demonstrate it, you would be totally confused because you won't be able see all movements clearly. The layman may say, "Sifu Hsu, your baji is better than your teacher's!" This is due to the fact that I must try my best to intentionally show all the power issuing movements clearly so that people can see each step. Sifu Liu’s demonstration would not show the movements of accumulating and issuing power clearly because he used the "melt jing" all the time! As a martial arts practitioner, we should pay attention: The differences lie in each one's skill and achievement.
Last but not least: what is the mental aspect of jing? Here is the conclusion of this article.
Jing is not force; it is more advanced and refined than force. Jing is not a posture; it is a movement--postures are the preparatory and ending positions, while movement is the transition between postures. Jing is not spirit, expression, or "beauty" although jing can be expressed beautifully. Jing is not qi but it requires qi. Jing is not a physical body but it requires a physical body to carry it out. Jing is not a thought and not a mindset either, but it requires your mind to lead and focus it.
Then what's the use of mental training in kung fu? It is important to remember this: Chan si jing is endless and flexible. It is full of varieties and possibilities. It is not monotonous at all. It waits for the best opportunity to emerge calmly and quietly with no haste. It does not insist on subjective opinion and determination. It takes advantage of any opportunity without reservation and hesitation. When it identifies the target, it persists and does not give up easily. Therefore, it affects the practitioner's character, interpersonal and social skills, and attitude towards life. The characteristics of chan si jing are exactly the typical characteristics of Chinese people. That's why Chinese invented the kung fu. They invented chan si jing due to these special ethnic characteristics. The same can be said of other areas outside of martial arts, such as philosophy, arts, and literature.
Chinese individuals can take the full advantage of chan si jing due to their personalities and mental characteristics. Therefore I have the following advice for all practitioners of kung fu, especially non-Chinese practitioners who are reading this article: In addition to kung fu practice, you should study and come to understand the Chinese people, their culture and characteristics. This includes the study and experience of disciplines such as philosophy, history, the arts, cuisine, and even the language. This is the best way to help you to master kung fu and, at the same time, make this art, which is so deeply connected to its ethnic roots, into a genuine Global Chinese kung fu!