Power discharge in yiquan

By Yao Cheng-rong

Translated by Tu-Ky Lam

An overview of power discharge

People who practice martial arts must have heard of the term “jing” which means strength, or power. When we hit an opponent or throw him away with force, we discharge our power, which is called “Fa li” in Chinese. If we want to release power, we must make sure that we have already had the power at our disposal. In order to build up our power, we must train hard on zhan-zhuang (standing practice), shi li (testing of strength), and zou bu (stepping). Only after we have developed strong internal strength through doing the three stages of Yiquan training can we start to learn how to discharge power because power discharge is an explosive expression of the three.

It is not easy to discharge power. You need to work hard on the basics first. In the above-mentioned foundation training, zhan-zhuang helps to develop “Hun yuan li” which is whole body force. Shi li intensifies the strength developed from zhan-zhuang. It is a means to test our strength to see if it is still strong when we do a move. Shi li is, in effect, a bigger movement of zhan-zhuang. Zou bu, which means stepping, helps us make our whole body – arms, torso and legs – move in unison when we step forwards or backwards, and is very useful in fighting. After we have spent considerable time in the basics, we can start to learn power discharge.

Power discharge and opposite tension

When we practice power discharge, we must know how to gather our strength first. To gather strength is to adjust our body so that our energy can gather together ready to be discharged. To achieve this, we should have total concentration during standing practice, all our joints should remain bent all the time, and our energy should go inwards. When stepping forwards or backwards, we have to pay attention to these points as well. Also, our mind should be in control of the whole body, our posture should not collapse, and the force of the whole body should be united so that it is ready to be used. Our mind and body should make us ready for defense or attack at any time.

Power discharge is very important in all martial arts systems. We should be able to discharge power with our hands or any weapons. Power discharge requires that we should be able to release explosive force from small movements. Our power should be released as though dynamite explodes. This force is called explosive force.

When we practice power discharge, our whole body is under the guidance of our mind, which helps our body to produce more force with visualization. When our mind wants to release power, our bones, our tendons and our muscles will move with our mind to discharge strong force. Power discharge should be relaxed and natural so that power can be sent out of our body on to our opponent.

Before we release power, we should use our mind to make our force move to opposite direction first. This is called “Zhen-li” meaning opposite tension. For example, if we want to release power to the front, we should move one part of our body slightly backwards first, and vice versa. If we want to discharge power upwards (or downwards), we move one part of our body slightly downwards (upwards) first. The same principle applies to discharging power to the left and the right. When parts of our body go in opposite directions, they create tension/strength, which will help us generate the force of the whole body moving towards our opponent. The opposite tension stretches our joints and tendons, and can make us feel that we have a lot of strength. All our strength should come out from our center. We strike hard only at the point of contact. After power discharge, we move back to our normal posture again.

Power discharge exercise

You start from “Hun yuan zhuang” or the “Embrace-a-Tree” standing posture, with your fingers clenched to make fists. Your palms still face your body, and your “tiger’s mouths” face up. When discharging power, imagine that your opponent is striking fast and hard at your front forearm, you counteract by making your front forearm moving slightly downwards and then forwards with the back forearm moving in accordance. The distance between your fists is about two-fist’s length. When your fists move to almost above your front toes, and your palms are facing the ground. Now imagine that your fingertips have touched your opponent’s chest or your target position. Also imagine that your torso is like a slash hammer, your forearms (from hands to elbow) are like big nails, but your upper arms and shoulders do not exist. Your torso (like a hammer) moves slightly backwards and then quickly forward to strike at your elbows (like nails). At this moment, you release your fists and your fingers tips are pointing upwards. Imagine that your strength is going through your opponent’s back and afar. Once you have released power, you have to move back quickly, just like you have touched a piece of burning iron. You move not only your hands back, not also your internal energy. When practicing power discharge, you need to concentrate, and mobilize the force of your whole body, and you feel your fingers are like ten upright spears.

Things to remember

1. When discharging power, your head moves quickly forwards and upwards. You imagine that you are holding a thin metal plate between your teeth, and you want to bite the plate into pieces. (But do not bite too hard.) Your tongue moves slightly back.

2. Your shoulders and elbows should extend left and right and your chest slightly draws in. Use “shi sheng” or yelling technique and quickly eject a small sound to make qi sink to your lower abdomen.

3. Before discharging power, the palm of your front foot should be slightly empty or relaxed. When releasing power, the palm of your front foot has to push hard into the ground and at the same time your back leg pushes forwards. Discharging power is like suddenly braking your car. Your head strikes forwards, your legs push hard and your hands release power. You release power at the point of contact and then stop immediately. When you move back to your starting position, your knees move outwards and your back hip sits slightly back.


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