Monday, December 10, 2012

Focused Fajin

Fa Jin or fajin is a term that denotes an explosive use of power in an attack and in common usage, "Fa Jin" and "Fa Li" ("Li" meaning just "strength") tend to be used interchangeably.  Not all fajin is done the same way, it should be noted, so seeing someone doing some sort of power-release and calling it fajin doesn't mean that it's using the same body-mechanics as other people do.

Once, while watching a somewhat comedic movie about Fong Sai Yuk, I saw one of the experts do a fajin with his sword that penetrated the armor of one of the bad guys.  That potential usage of fajin piqued my curiosity, so the next time I met with an honestly skilled expert (Chen Xiaowang, in this case) I asked about that particular scene in the movie.  Chen Xiaowang said that it could be done, but the power and the sword had to be in one finely-focused line of application so that the sword did not bend.  And of course, to maximize power in any application this must be true.  Practical fajin is applied in a narrow focus.

Recently, I watched a purported european expert in the Chen-style Taijiquan do a broadsword form and I was interested to see that he used one of those very light-gauge broadswords ("dao") that lets loose a nice rattly noise when you shake and thrust it in a supposed expression of fajin.  If you ever watch a lot of people who do various "forms" for demonstration, you'll see that a lot of them use pretty flexible weapons because those too-flimsy-for-real-usage weapons display so well in forms demonstrations.  If you watch very closely, you'll see that many of the forms demonstrators actually assist the shaking of the weapon with a sort of horizontal shake of the arm as they extend the weapon.

In other words, it's not really fajin, it's play-fajin.  Real fajin that uses the dantien, 'suit', and jin uses very different body mechanics.  The same fajin mechanics that apply to a sword apply to the hand or other parts of the body because a weapon is considered to be only the extension of the hand, in terms of body mechanics, jin, suit-control, and so on.

Hopefully, the next time you view someone performing in a contemporary wushu mode (as opposed to doing a form with the more rigid requirements of traditional wushu) and shaking and rattling to beat the band, you'll have a better idea of what is going on.


  1. Mike, from what little I know, there is an exercise involving using the dantien and groundpath to shake a waxwood pole.

    As you mention, the weapons used in your example above are light-gauge and prone to shaking in a show of "play-fajin". But could the shaking of the blade be useful to a practitioner who isn't actively attempting to delude himself or others? Or should the forms be done with a heavier-gauge weapon? If so, what would the indication to either the practitioner or an observer that the movement is a real display of fajin?

  2. Hi Cheenu:

    Well, with blade-weapon you usually either thrust or cut. If you use a large power-release it needs to be focused behind the cut with the edge or the thrust with the tip. Making a blade shake serves no really useful purpose. If you're going to practice dantian, etc., with a pole-shake, it's more effective.

    In terms of "what display" should you see, you shouldn't see much of one. If I do a fajin thrust with my sword in my right hand, I want to maximize that power out the tip, upon release. If, for instance, you see my head shake as I do it, that's a waste of power that went into the head rather than into the weapon.

  3. Hi Mike:

    That makes sense, thanks. I should note that the little weapons work I've done has been in aikijujutsu, so we're mostly talking sword cuts with a bokken. Because of the pedagogical approach of the instructor, the focus was on "extending ki" through to the sword tip. It was only later that you clued me in on the idea of powering the cut with the back bow; the ideas of conscious store and release were alien to my instructor, as far as I could tell.

    I will say that despite this, he did agree on the lack of shaking: if the ki was properly extended, the sword tip (or jo tip) shouldn't shake in this manner.