FA JIN (Releasing Power)

Bruce Lee once said that the difference between a Karate punch and a Gongfu punch was that a Karate punch is like being hit with a crowbar, while a Gongfu punch is like being hit by a metal ball on the end of a chain.

This describes how the right amount of relaxation can speed up a punch and make its impact more explosive. The striking arm can also recoil back to a guard position more quickly and is therefore less likely to be grabbed by the defender.

Another consideration as that for a Karate punch the whole body is rigid, which has the effect of making the Karateka fairly easy to topple, rather like a statue. The Gongfu practitioner should have a softer, more adaptable and rooted posture, more like a Willow tree than a mighty Oak. A final point is that by eliminating any unnecessary use of muscular force, the Gongfu fighter also expends less energy thus minimising fatigue.

So how does a Taijiquan fighter access and release this explosive power? If we are to believe practitioners of most of the descendant styles of Taiji (Yang style and its derivatives), we should not release power during practise. From my own training and teaching experience, I firmly believe this to be nonsense. Training at full combat speed and training your body how to brace against impact is essential training for any martial artist.

“Emphasis on slow movements alone leads to slow strikes which an opponent can counter easily. Emphasis on fast moves only makes it difficult to feel the path of your energy and makes it easy to strike along a longer path than necessary. Being fast refers to the speed generated through familiarity of the energy path. It is a speed without loss of quality” – From “Training for Sparring” by Chen Zhaokui

“I am a firm believer in heavy bag and percussion training. I do not like my fighters to train on a bag that weighs less than 80 pounds. The bag should have a firmness consistent with that of softened rock. In other words, whatever the filling, the bag must be quite dense. A fighter must condition his hands, feet, elbows and knees to the shock of impact. Otherwise, all other preparations for combat become useless. When properly conditioned, a fighter has no apprehension about unloading a full-power strike on the opponent. Poor conditioning leads to a fear of injury.” – From “Kuoshu Winning Secrets; Power Training” by Mike Patterson

“No one ever became a champion Olympic sprinter just by practising walking” – Bruce Lee

The following illustrations will attempt to show levels of relative muscular tension during a fa jin strike.fajinfigures

The white portions of the body show only peng or background tension. The power (jin) surges up from the rear heel through each muscle in turn, adding acceleration through each successive joint. The red areas show the body parts where the momentum is currently being accelerated and the orange through to yellow sections show the slight increase of peng strength necessary to brace against the impact. The fighter should not rise up as her power pushes through her body, rather she should sink lower and compress to brace. The whole process should happen in a fraction of a second. Notice how the whole body returns to its”background” peng levels once the power has been released so that she may return to a state whereby she is equally ready to move any portion of her body.


Before her passing, Joanna Zorya, ranked as a Grade A instructor in the UK, was the head teacher of the Martial Tai Chi Association.  Her web site is http://www.martialtaichi.co.uk/contacts.html. Her several series of VCDs and DVDs,are all available through Plum:
Joanna’s Instructional DVDs

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