The Use of Sound and Breath Control in Yiquan

by Master Yao ChengRong

Translator: J. P. Lau

In Yiquan, the “use of sound” and breath control are employed together in a practice known as Shi Sheng. This practice functions primarily as a mechanism to augment one’s ability to marshal the entire body into action during a release of power. Sound vibration/enunciation coordinated with the technique of reverse breathing integrates the body, stimulating the musculature of the abdomen, chest, waist, and back into immediate concerted action to promote a sudden, crisp discharge of force. Sound and power should be produced simultaneously. The use of sound can compensate for deficiencies in one’s release of power while also serving to startle, distract, confuse, and/or intimidate your opponent.

Additionally, the practice of Shi Sheng can increase one’s ability to sustain strikes to the abdomen and chest area. In hand-to-hand combat, when you are at your strongest attacking phase, you are also at your weakest defensive phase. During your attack, if your defensive, evasive maneuvers and tactics should fail, and you sustain a strike to your body, the use of sound and breath control can, in the same manner that is used for releasing power, stimulate your musculature into immediate action to produce a resilient, spring-like resistance to the incoming force.

Two sounds, “Yee” and “Yup”, are utilized with inhalation and exhalation of the breath to increase the elastic, spring-like force known as Tan Li that we employ in releasing power and resisting strikes. Practice should proceed with the following three sequential steps:

1) Start with producing the two distinct syllables in the mouth.

2) Then merge the two syllables into one syllable and move the combined sound to the back of the throat.

3) Finally, lower the sound into the chest and sink it into the lower abdomen. Use the internal transformation skill to gradually move the sound from audible to inaudible. The sound/stimulation is transformed internally to energy/power.

Let us describe the use of sound and breath control training method for beginners.

Focus your concentration and enter a mentally and physically tranquil state. Slightly part your mouth; retract your tongue with your teeth lightly touching. Breathe in as you sound off “Yee” for two to three seconds. Hold your stomach in during this inhalation stage. Visualize lifting your breath up to your chest and throat area. Then suddenly and forcefully breathe out, switching to sound off a short “Yup”, while simultaneously directing your mind-intent downwards. Allow your stomach to bulge outwards and visualize your breath sinking towards your navel and lower abdomen. Old Chinese texts describe this as your Qi moving to your Dan Tian. Focus your entire body during this exhalation stage. The “Yup” sound should be very short and explosive, like a rock suddenly landing in a well, splashing the water upwards. The focused/tensed phase of your power release should terminate instantaneously. “Fill” your abdomen only during the focused/tensed phase. The relaxed-tensed-relaxed exchange sequence of a power release must be extremely fast. Practice this 10-20 times daily. Keep relaxed.

When you have mastered the basics of the two distinct syllables, shorten the time interval between “Yee” and “Yup”. Eventually, “Yee” and “Yup” should merge and become one short combined sound.

Gradually work to enter the focused/tensed phase with less sound and finally with no sound and very little exhalation of air. Place your hand a couple of inches in front of your mouth while sounding off a silent “Yup”. You should feel very little air flow when doing this advanced exercise. Your entire body should feel a fullness as you exhale. Also try placing a lighted candle close to your mouth. The flame should not flicker or get blown out when you practice inaudible breath control.

When you have mastered this practice of reverse breathing as an isolated exercise you must combine it with your practice of Fa Li and practical techniques.

Let us reiterate and expound on the important points to remember in the use of sound and breath control training:

1) Select a quiet environment; stand in a relaxed posture and enter a tranquil mental and physical state. Focus your concentration; keep your eyes gazing at a distant object and stay relaxed. Use visualization to guide and perceive your actions. Initially, start by sounding off “Yee” while bringing the breath from your lower abdomen up to your chest and throat area for two to three seconds. The tone should be deep and continuous with a vibration reaching over a long distance; unite the sound with force. Then suddenly switch to sounding off a short “Yup”, momentarily focusing/tensing the musculature of your back, chest, and abdomen while visualizing sinking the breath from your chest to your lower abdomen. The tensing must be very quick, followed immediately by relaxing to a tranquil state. Practice slowly using trial and feel. Do not rush or push yourself beyond your ability.

2) When you have mastered the basics of sounding off the two distinct “Yee” and “Yup” sounds, shorten the time interval between them. Try to merge and combine the sounds into one. Though the two sounds become indistinguishable, you must still retain the ability to lift up your breath during “Yee” and sink it during “Yup”.

3) When you have mastered the combined sound, proceed by internally transforming the sound from audible to inaudible. Maintaining your focus/ concentration, visualize your intended Fa Li action, adjust your body elements into the proper positions then suddenly sink your breath to your lower abdomen and tense your muscles while executing your Fa Li. Immediately relax. Mentally try to figure out your action prior to execution. Do not execute too many tensed Fa Li in sequence as that will lead to stiffness. Do several relaxed (soft) Fa Li then perform a tensed Fa Li. It is sufficient to practice Fa Li with reverse breathing 30 to 40 times daily.

4) You should incorporate the use of sound with the discharging of force in your practical techniques. Strive for the simultaneous expression of sound with a unified explosion of force.

To close, we quote Master Wang XiangZhai’s description of the quality of the sound we are attempting to produce: “The sound is like basic notes of a musical scale reverberating from a deep valley.” May the practitioner grasp the master’s meaning, figure out and succeed in Yiquan’s use of sound and breath control.


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