Structural power

by Sun Zhonghua on 2012/04/06

I often heard a Taiji teacher saying to a physically strong student, “You are using force, you will need to first get rid of it, then what comes out afterwards will be Taiji energy.” What is Taiji energy? How is it used? Many people have their own opinions. However, most of them are very abstract, and difficult to grasp and understand. The more the students hear, the more confusing it comes. Isn’t that true? If the information provider is unclear himself, how can the listener understand?
A Practical Method teacher will say to the same student, “Your physical strength is good, let’s learn how to use it!” Grandmaster Chen Fake once put a two hundred pound man over his head, this proved that he was strong and knew how to use his strength. It also proves that what the Practical Method teacher said is correct.
A Practical Method teacher will tell a less well built student, “If you diligently practice your martial art, not being physically strong is not an issue.” Grandmaster Hong Junsheng and Master Chen Zhonghua are not tall nor muscular, they often throw a two hundred pound opponent up and around. This also proves that the above statement is indeed possible.
To most people, what a Practical Method teacher teaches is different from others. The difference comes in terms of the usage of power, and the type of power. In Practical Method, structural power is trained and applied.
At this point, you may like to ask, “What is structural power?”
You should gain a better understanding with the examples below.
Let’s use a Taiji basic stance as an example for our discussion on structure. We have seen passthroughs under bridges or arches. We should form an arch in a horse stance. This is the best load bearing structure under the influence of gravity. Since ancient times, regardless of east or west, all architects include the arch (the best load bearing structure) in their designs. Once they consider safety, this is the best choice. The distance between the two feet in a stance is similar to the width of an arch, it is determined by the qualities of the waist and legs. If we take a bow stance, the front leg should be like a bow, the knee needs to be behind the ankle. Otherwise, it will be like a broken bow, except that it’s held together by the thigh muscles. Please refer to the article “Let’s begin with the ‘frame'”.
Whoever fails to follow the above structural requirement and causes the knees to be injured, the dang (the top of the arch) to be collapsed, or the loss of mobility during push hands, it’s all because one doesn’t spend the best effort in imitating the structure of an arch, leading to the failure of the load bearing structure.
Let’s use a move in Yilu to illustrate. “Fist covering hand” uses the right hand to punch, but we don’t really hit with the right hand. In other words, the arm and other parts of the body do not use force (or tense up). We must drop the shoulder, sink the elbow, hollow the chest, and rotate down the rear kua to the point that the right arm is almost straight. At that moment, we push on the right heel, causing the right kua to move to the front left very slightly. The reaction force from the ground through the dropping of the shoulder, the sinking of the elbow, the hollowing of the chest, and the down rotation of the rear kua, is transmitted efficiently to the foremost point of the right fist. At the same time, due to the slight movement of the rear kua, the front of the fist is also moved very slightly. By how much? According to Master Chen Zhonghua, only one centimeter. With that, the reaction force from the ground is further transmitted to the opponent’s body. Please refer to the article “The Magical Line”.
You may have noticed when we push on the heel, the reaction force from the ground is transmitted to the right fist and then to the opponent’s body, and none of the body parts in between issue any power. They are purely a medium for power transmission. This is the true meaning of what the great masters refer to and what every body knows as, “Power originates from the foot, and ends at the finger.”No body part in between generates any power. These body parts are only adjusted to form the most efficient structure for power transmission overall. This kind of transmitted power is “Structural Power”. You should give it a try. This  kind of “Structure Power” is very intense, very concentrated, very crisp, and very penetrating. Your opponent will feel this unfamiliar but yet powerful.
The human body is not ideal for power transmission. It must be adjusted to form the conforming structure. Any extra movement will prevent the power transmission structure to be formed or to function properly, and the reaction force from the ground will then never reach the hand. If any of the hand, finger, wrist, arm, elbow, shoulder, chest, abdomen, or kua generates any power, the reaction force from the ground will also be interrupted and not get to the hand.
The key is “adjustment”, the adjustment of the proper power originating part and the proper power transmitting structure. Further more, the ability to “adjust” is one of the Taiji gong fu as adjustment is performed inside the body or internally. Similar to a gear box, gears of different sizes are working inside in a complex but co-operating manner. The better of a job they do, the structure will become more proper and scientific, the stronger the power, and the opponent will have no chance to counter.
In this perspective, even if most of us look explosive when we issue power, it is actually incorrect.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelvin Ho April 7, 2012 at 6:59 am

Excellent article! If no one has started, I would like to translate this article. Please let me know. Thanks.


Chen Zhonghua April 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Thanks in advance, Kelvin.


Tim Duehring April 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

Thank you for the translation.


Kelvin Ho April 8, 2012 at 7:04 am

Master Sun, hopefully the translation didn’t lose too much of the original meaning of your article. Thanks.


studentofmethod April 7, 2012 at 8:45 am

I would love to read a translation. Thanks Kelvin


Jay Smith April 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm

That would be great for us non-Chinese readers kelvin, much appreciated !


Xavier Santiago April 8, 2012 at 8:02 am

Thank you so much for the translation, Kelvin. To Master Sun for this wonderful article, 多谢多谢


Hugo Ramiro April 8, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Thanks Kelvin!!


enricos April 9, 2012 at 9:43 am

Very interesting and thanks. Tim Duehring how do I get in contact with Erwin ?

Jerry from Chicago


Allan Haddad April 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

Thanks Master Sun and Kelvin.


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