The Search for Jin

Fa Jin or Issuing Energy is a crucial part of Chinese Martial Arts. But what is Fa Jin, really, and —as far as combat goes— does it actually work? Having spent decades in the martial arts I can testify to having seen impressive demonstrations of Fa Jin, but, like watching a good magician, what is perceived is not always what was done. This article could easily be a chapter in a book on CMA but I just want to interject (as Broadway Danny Rose would say)  a few ideas here. There is much more to be said on this but let’s start here…


The character for Jin is composed of three parts. In this case it is additive. If you start with the character on the right you have Li strength

力 Li

To this you add the “I” shaped character which is meant to represent a tradesman’s measuring tool and you get Gong (yes, like in Gong Fu)…Skill

功 Gong

And finally when the skills moves like water in a refined manner you get Jin, specialialized skill of a high degree like a pianist’s touch… or the light touch of the bricklayer’s trowel that cuts a brick to a perfect line.

Jin is meant to be a highly skilled application of focused power and timing. It is not simply strength or energy. In his classic book “The Fundamentals of Tai Chi Chuan” by Huang Wen-Shan, the author lists dozens of jins. My personal belief is that they are an authentic part of martial training but each of them requires a series of conditions which must be present. Otherwise why issue that particular jin? What I am seeing is a lot of people doing is issuing jin out of context. That vibrating palm stuck in the middle of the form may look good but why is it vibrating right now! Jins should always be associated with contact of some kind. That’s why most people training should stay away from Kong Jin or energy transmitted. Every inch of skin on each person is different, a skill is most perfectly informed when pure flesh meets pure flesh.

Let’s take the case of Tai Chi. Chen style certainly issues, but for every instance I see of this done properly I see at least a hundred that are less appropriate. And look at the Thunder Style, which is in my opinion a more significant step in structure and usage than the “new” roads. Here the issuance is not only defined but exquisitely detailed.

Fa Jin Issuing Energy


Per example, one of our newest DVDs is by a gentleman named Wang Hao Da. If you don’t already know about him, and study Tai Chi, you should. A student of Ma Yueh Liang, he performs a Wu style Tai Chi sprinkled—no, peppered—with Fa Jin. He does it in a smooth and perfectly punctuated way. One sign of his expertise is how many there are and how rapidly and effortlessly he issues. I’m not pointing his work out (we have five or six DVDs of him) as a product but as just one example of this important issue. CMA must be closely examined and verfied to re-take its primary place among martial arts. Often the problem is not that it doesn’t work but that the context has been completely lost.

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