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Fa jing is the main method of striking in
tai chi: fuelling punches,
palms, elbows, kicks and chin na.
It is the medium by which kinetic energy is transmitted from one body to
However, fa jing is not the energy itself. It is the means by which the energy is delivered: the body mechanics which produce this outcome.
In a 2008 Stanford University experiment tai chi expert Chen Xiang generated a force 14 times his body weight when striking. 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds.
Types of jing
It is necessary to differentiate clearly between the types of jing at your disposal. Without such knowledge, how are you going to fa jing? Energy release without focus is random and clumsy.
There is a distinct difference between each jing. You must be conscious of the quality/nature/essence of the jing you intend to utilise. Movement begins with intention.
Where does the power come from?
A practitioner learns how to generate an undulation wave. This is passed throughout your entire structure, storing and releasing kinetic energy.
We develop this wave by learning whole-body movement. Every strike involves every body part moving as one. The skill cannot be attained by tensing the muscles or trying hard.
Only when the body has augmented itself with neigong will fa jing emerge without effort. You need to be soft and relaxed. You need to let go of your tension.
When we attack with the internal energy,
we are not attacking with the left or right hand,
but with a line of energy that originates in the foot,
is channelled through the legs, waist and back,
and only emerges from the hand.
Opening & closing
The fa jing release of energy is akin to a sneeze; the entire body opening and closing in an instant. In combat practice, we cannot use fa jing on one another with full power.
The outcome is too unpredictable. Gentle release is fine for demonstrations, but not too often. Typically, we use soft target pads and sticks for fa jing practice.
If you regard your body as being a channel for the transmission of kinetic energy, you can start to understand what tai chi striking involves. You do not punch or kick using local muscle groups.
The energy is transferred from the ground, passing through your frame and out into the opponent. Your limb is simply the part that makes contact with the opponent.
Wrong means = wrong end
The body, freed of tension, should reach a condition where the joints move freely. Only then is the body loose enough for fa jing.
You must be sufficiently attuned to your own movements to feel when and how fa jing can be generated.
Some students are not patient enough and use force
A common mistake is to use the pelvis and hips rather than the combined muscles of the entire body. People become adept at rapid pelvic turns or abrupt shunts of force.
These are quite strong but they are not fa jing. They tend to create a residual pattern of tension within the body.
Fa jing is like a wave, rippling up from the ground, through your hand and into the opponent.
Instead of using the hips and pelvis, you should use the spiralling of the legs, the opening and closing of the spine and the movement of the centre.
There is nothing mystical or unscientific about fa jing. Despite the exotic Chinese name, it is simply a question of body mechanics, gravity, distance and timing.
It will not develop overnight but the seeds should emerge as the student becomes increasingly adept.
He taught me to vibrate the
breath and body rather fiercely and loudly like a growling lion, stretch the
tendons, turn the waist like the motions of a food mixer, hit my own body
and then flap my arms in the air.
I started accruing some fa jing, although of a more shocking nature, rather than the smooth kind that can come from tai chi.
The drawback is that it made my energy jumpy.
Fa jing is not hard, it is soft. The effect is hard, not the means itself. No more than 4 ounces of pressure is applied and the moment of delivery is a split-second. You do not have time to tense the hand.
The hand (and body) must close by itself on impact, then instantly re-open again. Conscious strength ruins any chance you have at using fa jing, so just relax. Be patient.
When you deliver fa jing into a focus mitt or target pad it will pass through the body and into the ground. It may cause the floorboards to resonate.
Students often make the same mistakes when attempting fa jing:
Pushing upon impact
- this approach is external in nature - the classic 'punch through the opponent' strategy
- it is not tai chi
'Cocking' the pelvis and/or shoulder
An obvious build-up
- your step should occur because of the release, rather than to cause the release
Tension in the striking tool
Overall tension in the body
Emotional tension: anger, aggression
Fa jing is altogether different to these approaches.
If I concentrate while he divides, I can use my entire strength to attack a fraction of his.
There must be no anticipation, no telegraphing, no movement at all. One moment you are standing still, the next you have struck.
The spiralling kinetic energy wave passes through your body without fanfare, and into the opponent. This is known as 'cold jing'.
To achieve cold jing, you must be completely in the moment, alert and physically relaxed.
Increased effectiveness is produced by gravity and heaviness in the striking limb, rather than pushing harder or striking faster. Spontaneity is the key to fa jing.
A tense body - with habitual holding patterns - will not provide an adequate conduit for kinetic energy to pass through.
If you can feel your own body moving, you are too tense. You should feel only the movement itself. A free body is capable of striking instantly and spontaneously.
Fa jing looks fast but it is not a matter of speed. It is loose and sudden. By relaxing the muscles and joints fully, the body is capable of spontaneous movement.
This is what makes fa jing seem fast - no preparation, no tensing-up beforehand. Instant energy release.
Large sweeping or jabbing movements cannot be applied using fa jing. Fa jing is small by its very nature. A bigger movement takes too much time.
To use fa jing, you must get your body close to the opponent - then apply fa jing as the sting.
How do you learn fa jing?
Beginners start by studying a set of moving qigong exercises designed to loosen the body and expel kinetic energy.
Some of these exercises are partnered in order to experience the effect of an energetic release in contrast with conventional striking methods.
At this stage, jing is unrefined but the ability to release exists.
Experienced students learn 13 methods and multiple jing combinations. Once the 13 methods and jing are understood, the form must be explored anew.
The body mechanics of each pattern need to be reconsidered in the context of energy release.
Students are initially taught a crude level of fa jing as a precursor to the more complex variations offered later in the syllabus.
Page created 2 March 1995
Last updated 16 June 2023