Well the blog is back. Updated our theme and it works again! Awesome.
So recently I had a short exchange with a guy on facebook who said “Pi Jin is an energy” and I said “No it’s a force”. This kind of highlighted to me that many martial artists use general terminology when discussing things especially online. Often when you are talking with someone who is with you then you can add in gestures or demonstrations that help explain even when the terminology or language doesn’t explain fully.
So, as some of my explanations, blogs, social media posts and emails will be text based I thought it might be a good idea to start with a few bits of terminology.
This is going to be a bit of a science class and it maybe be a bit too pragmatic for the unicorn riding rainbow fairy types that want to be Jedi like Keanu Reeves (Some guy actually asked my teacher one time if he could teach him to be a Jedi liek Keanu Reeves and it kinda stuck as a metaphor for those martial arts people that are completely disconnected from reality, there are more out there than you might think!)
So let’s begin with energy.
The scientific term energy means the capacity to do work. So this is the intrinsic quality that allows you to do something, for intention to be made reality. So when I talk ab out energy I’m talking about this ability to do work, to create force, to act on something. The work, force or action is something else, it’s not energy, it’s the thing energy is doing.
You might think of it in this way, energy must be “released” in order for something to happen. Energy makes stuff happen. If I want to lift my hand then I need energy, this “internal energy” or energy from within me essentially comes from my respiration (oxygen, glucose etc. it’s really too complicated to get into the real biology of this stuff). Simply put the release of this energy is Qi (or Chi). Releasing the chemical energy within the body (Qi) allows the body to do lots of things, like stay warm, fire neurons, build new cells, make muscle fibres contract, many of these are automatic and we are not aware of making them happen they simply work when we want them to work (autonomic nervous system). Let’s not get too hung up on Qi it’s suffice to understand that Qi is energy that you produce in your body and it lets your body do stuff – in fact all the stuff it does.
Once something is moving it also contains a form of intrinsic energy – kinetic energy. Movement or kinetic energy is important for us because without movement we can’t really act on other things or other people. So I need to release internally stored or produced energy (Qi) to get my body to move. Once it is moving the movement itself is a kind of energy we can use.
Remember that energy is the quality or capacity to do stuff. So something that is moving can do stuff to other things. Pick something up, push something, pull something, smash the teeth through the back of the head of something and so on. Movement is energy, what that energy does to something else is a type of work or force.
You may have heard the word Jin. Jin in Chinese can be broken down into two parts, the first is Jing and means “an underground river” and the second part is Li and means “strength”. I’ve seen that Jing simply gives the sound to the word but an underground river is quite close to the traditional Chinese model of qi moving through the body. (Note I said model, I’m not going to say that meridians and qi flowing through the body is “correct” but it’s a way of understanding something really complex in a way that kind of makes sense, enough that it generally works out right).
So Jin is strength from inside. And we can understand this as a kind of force, I like the term combative force. Because a gentle push is a kind of force but it has little combative use in most situations, but a fast flying jab definitely has some combative force and hence has Jin.
So lets back up a moment. Force in scientific or mechanical terms is a result of work. Work is what energy allows us (or something else to do). Specifically the force applied is equal to the mass of the object applying the force multiplied by the acceleration of the object. Acceleration is the change in velocity (but lets just say speed to make things simple).
So basically to create a big force you either need a big mass. Or you need to change the speed of the object quickly. The average force applied over time is the impulse, but we’re getting a bit deep into the physics now so lets leave it as simply “Force”.
So in order to create effective Jin (combative force). You need to change the kinetic energy, the movement, the flow of energy. To change or transform is Hua in Chinese. So to create force by changing the flow of energy can sometimes be called Hua Jin. Also to transfer force into something or someone else is sometimes called Fa Jin (releasing force). Usually fa jin is associated with a bright snappy whip like action (low mass lots of change in speed therefore a lot of force) in our style of Xing Yi we call this Ming Jin (Bright Force) because the application of the force is like a bright explosion and feel sharp and stingy and hot. Example – being shot by a sniper rifle bullet. But fa jin can also be heavy and penetrating and crushing in nature (lot of mass, less change in speed applied over a longer time) this we call An Jing (Dark force) and it is like being skewered by a heavy spear going all the way through you or being hit by a vehicle. Example – being hit by a cannonball.
Lets recap a moment without defying the laws of physics as science defines them to our current knowledge, in order to create a large force you need to have either a large mass, or create a significant change in energy flow (movement). So this is why creating effective heavy strikes from short range is difficult because most people can’t create the required change in energy flow over such a short distance and often can’t coordinate their whole body mass into the strike either, so often this ends in a bit of a push.
Let me tell you a little thing here though. The change in energy flow doesn’t have to be completely in you or your hand/strike. Yeah, you don’t necessarily have to have your hand moving really fast on impact. What else can change speed? The body or thing you are connecting with can change speed. If you can transfer your movement of energy and speed up the body of your target (or the insides of their body) then they will feel a force (they’ll get hurt). The extent to which this is effective depends on your ability to release your energy flow freely into the target.
So lets just stop a moment. If you hit someone with impact and hurt them it doesn’t matter if you did that with a stiff arm or tense muscles, soft and relaxed arms, flowing snappy strike or deep heavy body mass strike, you used Jin. So don’t think that Jin is something reserved to Xing Yi or the internal arts or even to martial artists, the guy on the street with zero time training martial arts can probably create at least some kind of Jin just by swinging for you and hoping to connect (so probably best not to let him connect hey?). Don’t think Xing Yi or internal martial arts, or gong fu or whatever is going to make you invulnerable or a super hero. It can help you understand how to hit harder by training your Jin, making the most effective use of your energy, but it’s not magic!
So what about the original statement. “Pi Jin is an energy”. Well by, hopefully, now you should understand that Jin is the application of energy so Jin is a force not an energy. Energy (Qi) is what creates Jin.
Pi refers to the descriptive quality or type of force – in this case it’s splitting. But zuan jin is a spiral or drilling force. Beng is a crushing force. Fan is an overturning force. And so on. In our style there are eight main descriptive forces plus the general descriptions of Ming (Bright) and An (Dark). So you could have a Bright Beng Jin or a Dark Zuan Jin. But these are just the ways in which the people before us in our school decided they were going to describe these things. You could have other descriptive terms Pushing, Lifting, Wrapping, Rolling, Spinning, Dropping, Coming together, Tearing, Pinching and as many more as you might be able to think of.
But our example is Pi Jin, which is a force that splits or cuts through something. This can be achieved in different ways (so the way in which you create the type of force can be different) and Pi is just a term to describe what’s happening, it helps us understand what we are doing. For example I could lift my arm using my shoulder muscles and then with the muscles of the shoulder only involved bring the arm down again quickly creating one kind of Pi Jin. Or I could make a wave through my body sending the body mass forward and up and dropping down into my arm as my wave pulls back bringing the arm down and in to create a different kind of Pi Jin, but still splitting, still Pi. We might if we were so inclined want to describe in a lot of detail the first might be a bright light arm powered Pi Jin and the second a dark heavy body powered Pi Jin. But in general we simply describe them both as Pi and use what is best for the situation that presents itself.
In general the force (Pi Jin) in a standard Pi Quan (Spliting strike) is generated through a cycling of energy/movement. In standard Pi quan this cycle is a vertical circle with movement sinking, rising and sinking. The movement itself comes first through the body, extends into the arms (which are raised by the movement) and then released (fa jin) with acceleration (change in the energy flow) as the hands sink again.
The movement is directed by the flow of energy, which is directed by the intention (Yi).
As you progress in training the names of techniques, applications and forces will mean less to you. It will be enough to understand that you are aware of how to create movement and how to position yourself so that you can release the force of the movement into the target. It sounds simple but often is made harder by the fact your target also understands movement, doesn’t want you to apply your force into them so will actively try to get out of the way and, oh yeah, will be trying to apply their own force into you!
Energy – capacity to do work or create a force. Qi is the energy inside us (don’t get hung up on what it is exactly it’s just a model).
Force – the application of energy. Jin is combative force a type of impulse which is created through applying mass and movement especially when changing the speed of movement of mass.
Hua Jin – to change an energy flow
Fa Jin – to release force into someone or something
Ming Jin – a bright force, often applied as a quick snappy strike
An Jin – a dark force, often applied as a long strike using a lot of body mass
These are terms we use in my branch of Xing Yi. As usual we’re a little bit unorthodox so other schools might not use the same explanations or terminology in the same way. However, it seems to be logical and work for us and I’m all about using what works so please use this terminology too if it helps. If it doesn’t then don’t stick to it but remember that these are terms I’m likely to use if you ever train with me in person and maybe sometimes on video. For beginners I will usually make sure they understand through lots of demonstrations but as people progress I expect them to understand the terminology without going over it again and again. A lot of this is fairly simple physics anyway and applies to any martial art.
I hope this blog has been helpful to understand my way of thinking in terms of this kind of stuff. If you have any questions email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to help if I can.
Until next time.
By the way, if you were wondering, the picture on the blog is a necklace made to represent the molecule ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) this molecule is the chemical store of energy in the body. The complex processes in the body break the molecule down and release energy which is used for all our body stuff.
I have nothing but good things to say about all of your videos. I’ve been doing xing yi for a few years now but only forms practice so MOST of what you are teaching is mind blowing and I recognize the value of what you are saying. This entry on energy is especially enlightening and I will have to go back and read it a few times.
I do have one caveat and question though. Once while practicing I hurt my back and my teacher told me to sit down. He placed his hand over my back and vibrated it. A tremendous amount of heat entered my back, crawled all the way up my pine and filled my head. My ears started ringing just like church bells it was so loud and then my back pain was gone.
Even though my teacher is not big an talking about “energies” a lot in the mystical sense he says there is an element of power that comes through meditation practice that doesn’t come another way.
I appreciate your thoughts on kinetic energy that is generated by the body for punching power but do you or can you address this kind of energy also? This was definitely not an energy generated by body mechanics or explainable by current scientific understanding.
Hi Clinton, thanks for the response. The term “energy” can cover many things and experiences can be wide ranging in many practices as to what energy might mean or result in. I don’t want to take anything away from anyone’s experience or say whether something was or was not “real” or “authentic” or whatever. What you felt is what you felt and if it helped you then I can’t take anything away from that.
What I will say is that there are a whole lot of experiences that can be manufactured, by ourselves and through the actions of others. Things like the power of suggestion, placebo effect, hypnosis, optical illusions etc. There are many people out there who are great at this stuff and can make money from it either through legitimate means through things like entertainment (magic, illusion, hypnosis, hypnotherapy, NLP, EFT, etc.) and others that could take advantage of others too.
So a lot of what I practice involves a lot of scrutiny as to whether something was or was not real and if it was real how did it work. I’ve been subject to what some may call “energy healing” before and I had similar experiences of warmth or vibration and an easing of pain. We could explain this in some ways such as the other person directs some kind of intention into a point and we pick up on that and our intention leads energy to that point (whatever you might want to call energy, it could be blood flow – which increases heat, it could be nerve impulses which could vibrate the muscle), that “energy” could release something at that point either temporarily or longer lasting.
The thing with a lot of this stuff is that it’s usually only going to help for superficial injury. You can’t “Qi heal” a spiral fracture of the ulnar, or vibrate away a collapsed lung. They are more for maintaining overall good health or tweaking minor health issues.
Is there any merit in health based practices, traditional medicines etc. I think so, but it’s not something I’m focused on personally. The meditative practices are another area fraught with delusional practices, and again some might be very useful (depending on what you are looking for) but others can be misleading or even in some cases potentially dangerous to you mental health.
Whatever you practice always do so from a place of objectivity, and if it’s enhancing your life and helping you then it can’t be so bad.
Thank you for the response.
I would like to ask you one more question along the same lines historically. Is it your opinion that the originators of Xing Yi also did not try to cultivate this kind of energy? or did they? If they did, do you just see that type of practice as some type of superstition or spiritual belief that just went with the territory back then in that culture or are you of the mind that no one from the history of Xing Yi really believed in those kinds of energies anyway?
I am asking because I have had certain experiences while practicing that are quite intense and nearly always have a general sense of flows of energy and heightened consciousness while practicing (nothing to be mistaken with the good feelings exercise produces naturally) — but also and more importantly because I have heard of schools of thought (my teacher does not do this) that purposefully delve into some kind of metaphysical energies associated with the elements and with the animals also. I have heard of quite elaborate meditation techniques and such meant to harness these energies for health reasons, related to organs and meridians and such but also for martial reasons.
Does your system of instruction not delve into any of this at all? If not Is that particular to you or was/were your teacher or teachers also of the same mind? How far back does that thinking go?
I am sure my line of questioning is a bit off the beaten path and I appreciate any time you take to answer me. If there is literature that alludes to or instructs in the development of these more exotic energies I would be very interested in that, not in order to practice that way as I am happy with my teachers approach, but out of a deep curiosity I have for this type of thing and the historical aspect of it too.
Thank you again for the replies.