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Analysis of Strength & Force in Playing Shao Lin Barehanded Quan PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 12 June 2007
Analysis of Strength & Force in Playing Shao Lin Barehanded Quan
    Under the instruction of my teacher, Master Zhu Tianxi, in practicing martial arts for many years, I have developed some personal comprehensions in managing strength and forces in playing Shao Lin Barehanded Quan as well.
    Shao Lin Barehanded Quan includes any or all free attacking movements being simple and applicable to actual combat either in attacking or defending. You should practice them as Quan Da Yi Tiao Xian (hitting in a straight line) since the shortest and faster way for hitting your rival violently to win him should be a beeline in an actual combat.
     Practicing the Quan, I was taught usually in comparing the Quan moving in a circle for defending by Hua Jin (melding or neutralizing the hitting sent by my rival) and a straight line for counterattacking (a swift hitting). These two are the essentials of Shao Lin Quan indeed. Many people may mistake it only as a kind of Wai Jia Quan (external forms of martial arts). That is not quite tree in fact Practicing and playing Shao Lin Quan, you are required to move swiftly and to hit violently but still put much emphasis on your internal aspects in combining your motions with stillness, your hardness with softness, and, slowness with swiftness. You could hit either hardly as striking a bronze bell or softly as puffing some cotton, either swiftly as storming a tempest or slowly as an old monk dragging with his crutch. In actual fighting, you should hit in hardness before your rival is attacking but in softness after he is sending his force with your strength and force sent out and thrown back flexibly. Your arms should be bent and rolled inward and outward freely but neither absolutely bent nor absolutely straight. "Your body and arms should be moved both in rolling" without any clumsy stiffness. Your fist can be moved in rolling like a spiraling aiguille to attack your rival more powerfully, and your body moving so could neutralize the coming attacking as a rolling ball does.
     There is a most important but controversial saying in the scripture of Shao Lin Quan that the Quan movements should be "neither absolutely bent nor absolutely straight". Most people have commonly misunderstood the saying as to attack with your arms bent fixedly throughout the Quan practice. However, there is another saying, "an inch longer, the more powerful, and an inch closer, the more dangerous". As my teacher explained it to the point, "neither absolutely bent" means being probably straight, and "nor absolutely straight", nearly bent. The two aspects reveal the main essence of Chinese traditional Kung-fu, in that one's internal strength is displayed in practice and actual combat by stretching, closing, seizing, and relieving. This is indeed a flexible process in which one's internal strength could be delivered with his muscles stretching or withdrawing with intent. I have a deep comprehension in feeling the so-called integral energy sent by Master Zhu in combat. Training us for ages, Master Zhu usually explained and demonstrated the main application of every Quan movement or posture. Once when he explained the application of Lun Pi Kao Shan (split with firmness) in playing Shao Lin Barehanded Boxing, he split together with wrapping and locking in a momentum followed by his delivering of internal strength like an intangible iron wall rushing head-on being so powerful that it could horizontally hurl away anyone running into it. Such is the application of his integral strength as well. It is supposed to be a clear goal that many Kung-fu practitioners have striven so hard to achieve. In fact it needs a lot of power training and close coordination between each movement and each part of your body. As that strength is rooted from your feet stuck onto the ground, the practice of your footwork is of great importance. In the Shao Lin boxing formula, it reads that "your strength is sent by forcing the ground with your feet with your body shivering in a flash." It mirrors Master Zhu's internal strength in playing Kao Shan as mentioned above.
     As implied in a humorous saying that "footwork had better not be taught in Quan or the teacher would get defeated", the importance of footwork could be seen in the application of one's strength in playing Kung-fu while every Quan master emphasizes the training of footwork in his own way. In playing Shao Lin Quan, you are required to learn twenty four sets of spring kicking techniques, each of them contains certain linking or transitional movements, such as holding up or shoveling, twisting or turning, wrapping or coiling. All the movements are closely linked, coordinating delicately with different part of your body in deliberate striking methods. In actual combating, your footwork should be kept agile and steady. You should keep the centre of your gravity stable in attacking. Discharge inner strength with your body uptight, press down with your foot to strengthen the attacking power. Have your Quan movements agile and flexible in defending. You can roll your body to neutralize the attacking sent by your rival then counterattack him swiftly. When you have to with-draw in lowering your body, you should turn sideward to him, so as to reduce the possible attacked area and to get better defend or attack. Though your movements are normally varied in various practicing ways, the main principle would be the same.
     The Quan scripture emphasizes the following elements in Kung-fu: strength, agility, looseness, integrality, firmness, softness, restraint, effect and spirit. To master these techniques and to send your internal strength freely with intent, you have to achieve the three harmonies of internal and external parts while three external harmonies refer to "your shoulders should be coordinating with your hips, your elbows, with your knees and your hands, with your feet". As your intent is usually connected to your heart in Shao Lin Quan scripture, the words usually read "your courage comes from the beats of the heart", "when your heart is beating, your breath will flow to the four sensational ends, and your internal strength will be sent out then" and "your body moves with your heart". Therefore, the three internal harmonies actually refer to "your heart should be harmonizing with your intention, your intention, with your Qi or your vital energy, and your Qi, with your strength". The Quan scripture says that "the boxing methods are carded out to your fists while your strength, to breathing. In breathing training, you should exhale to deliver your breath and inhale to receive it. Your breathing would be delivered slowly and applied swiftly. Exercise your breathing before you send out your strength." Actually it stresses the integration of your intention and your movements in combating and routine training.
     Based on actual combat, all the movements of Shan Lin Quan are simple and natural without any extra adorned postures attached, and each movement could be applied directly to actual combat. It is also profound in its connotation with its simplicity and practicalness. Its uniqueness is rooted from the long-term survival struggle and actual practices by our predecessors as well as the Chinese traditional culture. Indeed Shao Lin Barehanded Quan for combating could be praised as an exquisite miracle in the Kung-fu circle.

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