Timing, Placement and Power

by Sifu Adam Mizner

When I am teaching classes or workshops on taijiquan I always emphasize the three principles of timingplacement and power.

These three skills are not only fundamental to acquiring real world taijiquan skills but are fundamental to the successful application of any martial arts technique.

TIMING

Timing Placement PowerBruce Lee and other famous martial artists often talk about speed as one of the most important attributes of a successful martial artist.  This is not untrue, though I would say that timing is more important than mere speed. It is certainly possible to miss the mark because one arrives too early or is too fast.

Understanding this we should strive to master timing rather than just speed. When we arrive “on time” in this way, our opponent is where we perceived him to be and our technique is neither early nor late.  In tai chi chuan this ‘correct time’ is when the opponent has “fallen to emptiness”, he is off balance and frozen or double heavy.  This is the right time to attack and finish the confrontation. Many attacks delivered with the wrong timing are not as effective as one that is delivered on time, whether it be delivered fast or slow.

PLACEMENT

The skill that is most often overlooked in modern martial arts training is the skill of being in the right place at the right time, not just applying the technique at the right time.  This is referring to the footwork, angle of attack, distance and also the impact area. The training to develop this skill of placement is honed and refined in tai chi chuan within the arena of push hands practice. It is here within pushing hands that we can investigate and ingrain all the different body positions and their advantages and disadvantages.

Push hands allows one to train this in a safe way and to get familiar with the up close and personal fighting range of tai chi chuan, a range that is shared by very few styles, somewhere between the clinch range and the striking range. This taiji range gives us the advantage of being able to strike or throw without changing range and keeps us in a range that most opponents simply are not familiar with.

When you placement is correct you naturally exploit the weakness in your opponent’s structure while capitalizing on the strength of your own.   The application of Da or Fa will leave you in a perfect structure, neither confined nor over extended and the placement and angle of the body and arms should make you as safe as possible, whilst still being able to apply your technique on the opponent.

POWER

It is said in Chinese martial arts that Gong Li or power is the most important skill a martial artist can possess.  I consider this to be absolutely true and in my teaching and training I place a great deal of effort into the development of power.

Just imagine fighting with a small child who has many techniques, has good timing and good placement but lacks power. The child would be unable to finish the fight and we, as grown adults could easily defeat the child simply with power, even with little technique.  This illustrates the importance of Gong Li or power in martial arts.

Waijia cultivates Gong Li with many methods, including various kinds of weight lighting and resistance training, striking bags to develop powerful full body coordination and conditioning of the body to make the body hard and resistant to impact.  Within the Neijia schools the development of Gong li is equally important, however the method to attaining it and the kind of force we generate is very different.  This is where the differentiation between Jin and Li becomes important.  While Li is generated by the contraction of muscle and the acceleration of mass, Jin is generated by the release of tension and the propagation of waves of force through the body.  This topic is beyond the scope of this short article, we can look at it in a future blog.

For practical purposes, in taiji quan the jin is cultivated through the practice of standing pole, form practice and sometimes heavy weapons.  Although the jin is cultivated in such solo trainings it is in the partner practice of pushing hands and fajin that we learn to refine this power and how to apply it with timing and placement. When these three skills of timing, placement and power come together, we have the almost magical looking effortless power that tai chi chuan is famous for.

In the below video you can see a demonstration of timing, placement and power.

Sifu Adam Mizner teaches Yang Style Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), in the tradition of Huang Sheng Shyan and Yang Shao HouWith his Discover Taiji online training programme you will find one of the most complete and powerful traditional Tai Chi Chuan systems available today.  The programme openly provides all of the tools, methods and training secrets his personal students at the Heaven Man Earth Taiji school have been enjoying.

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Yang Family Fajin

by Sifu Adam Mizner

The idea of fajin is highly debated in Taijiquan circles, where some consider it the be all and end all of taiji quan skill, while others who have never experienced it, consider it a fallacy. In truth, fajin is a fundamental method of taijiquan.

No matter what one might think or argue, the fact remains that fajin is a standard part of the tai chi chuan skill set and has been practiced and developed by tai chi masters since the founding of the art until present day.

Below are excerpts from an article by Li Ya Xuan, one of the top students of Yang Jien Hou and Yang Chen Fu, on Yang family fajin.

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1. “Yang Lu Chan’s fajin was empty, leaving the opponent not knowing what happened or how the jin was released. His jin was so perfected as to be called mysterious.”

2. “Yang Ban Hou’s fajin was SUDDEN, like lightning without rain, emerging from nowhere with the sounds of «Pa!». One fajin would send the opponent out many zhang ( 1 zhang = 3.3 meters). His jin would leave people in pain and injured.”1. Yang Luchan 2. Yang Ban Hou 3. Yang Jian Hou 4. Yang Shou Hou 5. Yang Cheng Fu

3. “Yang Jien Hou would use the lightest of touch, his sticking energy was so high that people could not disconnect, then they would be suddenly released like an arrow from a bow.”

4. “Yang Shao Hou’s jin was ever spontaneous and song to the extreme, fast beyond compare. His body skills were mysterious and treacherous like a ghost appearing and reappearing, fooling his opponents so they would have no idea what was happening or how to defend themselves until they had fallen to his jin before even knowing it.”

5. “Yang Chen Fu’s fajin was powerful with great sudden dantien force. Before he would fa there was a deep intention; when he would fa it was like Guang Gong taking off a head with a single stroke…”

6. “Wu Hui Chuan used song elastic energy preferring to use just a little jin to send his opponents out, he did not lose face as a student of the Yang family. His students could produce long jin, both song and sunk, not bad.”

7. “Cui Yi Shi was skilled in fajin both song and sunk. Before he would fa he would inhale one time and use the elastic jin. His jin was song and springy, propelling his opponent away. On release the jin would cause the opponent to release a sound from the mouth as the wind was knocked from them. This is the kung fu of the qi striking the qi.”6. Wu Hui Chuan 7. Cui Yi Shi 8. Li Xiang Yan 9. Dong Ying Jie 10. Zheng Man Qing 11. Tian Zhao Lin 12. Li Ya Xuan

8. “Li Xiang Yan in his youth studied and trained deeply in long fist, after which he followed Yang Feng Hou taijiquan and achieved great gong li. He was dedicated to study and practice and achieved jin that was full and hard, penetrating deep inside the opponent. Later he bowed to Yang Chen Fu as his teacher.”

9. “Dong Ying Jie liked to use Rou Cou Jin, pressuring his opponent from side to side, forward and back until they fell defeated.”

10. “Zheng Man Qing would use light touch and clean sticking energy, entering close with his body before firing the opponent out with jin. He was small but had kung fu and courage and was skilled at penetrating the defense of his opponents.”

11. “Tian Zhao Lin’s kung fu was soft and penetrating, breaking his opponents as they were knocked down, amongst other skills.”

12. “I myself Li Ya Xuan use many strange changes, making it difficult to follow. The jin is fast like lighting. I don’t like to just play sticking and circling.”

As a picture is worth a thousand words and a video worth a thousand pictures, here are some videos of past taiji masters demonstrating fajin,

Wang Yong Quan – student of Yang Jien Hou, Yang Shao Hou and Yang Chen Fu:

Dong Hu Ling – son of Dong Ying Jie:


Ma Yue Liang
 – Student and step son of Wu Jian Quan:


Fang Ning
 – student of Cui Yi Shi:


Yang Jien Hou
 said:

When you hit people with Fa Jin it must cause both your opponents feet to leave the ground and jump back. They should feel pain on both feet (because of jumping) but not on the contact point, they just feel it as soft and fast. This is correct!! “

We can see examples of this correct fajin in the videos above as well as demonstrated by some present day teachers. Real taijiquan fajin is not lost.

Translation: Adam Mizner, from Thai, with assistance from 梁德华, the original translator from Chinese original article from 杨氏太极拳诠真 by 陈龙骧

Works cited: Chen, Long Xian. Yang Family Tai Ji True Transmission. Beijing: Beijing Physical Education University, 2008. Print. 陈, 龙骧. 杨氏太极拳诠真. 北京: 北京体育大学, 2008. 打印

This article was written by Sifu Adam Mizner. 

Sifu Adam Mizner teaches Yang Style Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan), in the tradition of Huang Sheng Shyan and Yang Shao HouWith his Discover Taiji online training programme you will find one of the most complete and powerful traditional Tai Chi Chuan systems available today.  The programme openly provides all of the tools, methods and training secrets his personal students at the Heaven Man Earth Taiji school have been enjoying.