Back Leg Brace versus Peng Jin
One thing I see very commonly in people doing purported “internal” martial arts is that they really don’t have jin, but instead rely on what I call the “Back Leg Brace”. I see it so often that I tend to expect it, and it seems to happen in even the best of families.
Yes, you’re supposed to use the “solidity of the ground” in any good Asian martial-art (internal or external), but a lot of people use the back leg braced at an angle and think it’s the same thing as peng jin.
It’s very, very common for someone doing chi sao, push-hands, spinning hands, rolling hands, etc., to use the forward stability from the back leg to press against the opponent and to think that type of “ground strength” is the same things as jin. In fact, it’s so common, that I’ve gotten tired of doing so-called “push-hands” with people that use the back-leg brace as the source of their push. Long ago I started just begging off as soon as I could saying “I’m tired”, rather than endure this too-predictable alternative to jin.
As soon as they line up on their back leg, you know they’re going to push. It’s embarrassing to watch, particularly in some of the longtime “teachers” because you know at a glance that if that is the way they use power, everything else they do is going to be a parody of the real thing, also. Even though they may talk the talk about being “balanced in 6 directions” or “balanced in 8 directions”, their power is in reality to the front, almost exclusively. A lot of Aikidoists do this same error of fronting their power, also.
And of course it goes without saying that if you really know how to use the dantien to control the arms, etc., it’s very obvious when someone does not, even if they think they’re doing it.... but if they use a back –leg brace, they can’t possibly be using the dantian to control the body, can they? If you think about it, you’ll understand why.
I watched a video a few years ago of a seminar (in Australia) where a visiting Chinese expert Wing Chun player was talking and demonstrating. He easily moved the Australian instructor all around because the expert had real peng jing and the teacher did not. Even though the teacher knew all the forms, applications, chi sao, etc., and I’ll bet he could fight pretty darn well (he was fit lad), he had no real peng jing. To me, it implies that logically if he was missing basic peng jing then everything else he was doing and teaching was also bereft of peng jing... so it was only an external mimicry of the real Wing Chun.
Most of the southern Shaolin styles all use peng jing.... but they’re not full-blown “internal” styles because they don’t use the dantien to control the arms, legs, torso, etc. But there’s one thing I really like about some of the southern Shaolin styles like Wing Chun, Hakka, Southern White Crane, etc.: they do a lot of their close-up practice drills (like chi sao) using parallel feet. The Hao-style Taijiquan does the same thing. By using parallel feet to do chi sao, rolling hands, push hands, etc., you are forced to either go complete muscle and arms (and maybe a slight lean forward) or you begin to learn to use peng jing. Without that back leg to use as a brace, you can develop some pretty darned good skills. In the meantime, start watching how many people are in fact use an angled back leg to brace from: it's interesting to see.