I'd love to really understand the saying of "To produce real power, the punch must com FROM Dantian". I've heared this many times, read this in many interviews of Taiji masters or in several articles. What is definitely ment here? Is it just the general idea of Taiji to imagine to store power for a punch in Dantian or is it a mechanical thing? I remember the stories of master who propeled nuts that were placed on their belly high in the air. I guess they've had a very elastic abdominal musculature, something that is certainly desireable for everyone. But would they punch "from" Dantian if they'd do the same belly movement during a punch? I'd say they punch with the support of their abdominal musculature. Or formulated easier - how do I really know that I punch "from" Dantian (in the sense of the saying mentioned above)? I'd appreaciate your ideas about it or from anyone else.
Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but we take ideas like using the power of the "dantian" as generating force from the center of the body (the area around the hips). All of the largest muscles in the body have one end attached to the pelvis, so using the power of the center to generate and guide force results in whole body power (which will always be a much greater force than force generated from any one part).
Pressure in the abdomen can also be influenced by the breath in coordination with the movement.
I can propel some nuts by rotating my dantian.
I thought they warned you to leave the other patients alone.
what? I don't get it.
Either that, or Bob #2 stands alone with a painful sadistic grin on his face.
As long as they weren't propelled from his chin.
thanks for your reply. Your words about the muscles that are connected to pelvis are very logical. I've never considered this fact in this way. I can work further with this information. I think, that the power you talk about results from the fact, that these muscles are contracted while punching. I feel, that this gives a high support during a punch, just as if I have a wall at my back which supports me. What's still puzzling here is the fact, that Bagua practioners lift the anus and therefore they contract this muscles. But as far as I know, they do it during inhaling. I think that's the rason for reversed breathing, since this lifting of the anus contracts and flattens the pelvis musculatures. But then I don't know how they coordinate power release with breathing. Do they exhale just at the beginning of power release, which in turn would loosen the precontracted pelvis muscles (although they contract them for supporting the punch)? Or do they hold breath (and contraction of pelvis musculature) for the short moment of punching and relax (and exhale and let belly out)instantly after impact (due to the biophysical fact that greatest power could be delivered while holding breath - although this isn't really healthy)?
I would be very grateful about any further help on my way to see clear in this point.
In regards to your question:
"What's still puzzling here is the fact, that Bagua practioners lift the anus and therefore they contract this muscles. But as far as I know, they do it during inhaling. I think that's the rason for reversed breathing, since this lifting of the anus contracts and flattens the pelvis musculatures. But then I don't know how they coordinate power release with breathing. Do they exhale just at the beginning of power release, which in turn would loosen the precontracted pelvis muscles (although they contract them for supporting the punch)? Or do they hold breath (and contraction of pelvis musculature) for the short moment of punching and relax (and exhale and let belly out)instantly after impact (due to the biophysical fact that greatest power could be delivered while holding breath - although this isn't really healthy)?"
I can't answer because I was never taught to "lift my anus" or punch in this manner. I was taught to generate a wave of force from the center that moves up through the torso and out the arms. If your body is aligned correctly, a small movement in the center will produce a great force at the extremities.
During a fight, I doubt there is much time to go through any preliminary anus lifting, strange breathing exercises or complicated sequences of muscle contractions when you need to strike someone.
Having witnessed what can happen in a real fight a few times over the decades; I would suggest that "lifting the anus" may be one way of making sure that you don't soil your pants from the fear and/or excitement of being faced with real aggression. :-}
As to how usefull it can be in terms of generating extra power ... there are many different opinions.
"Lifting your anus..."
Sounds like you bunch of freakin' nancies should put your fu*7in' heads up there instead. It probably wouldn't hurt any of your abilities to punch.
this follow-up is obviously late however I'll put it in to ad to the whole anus question. I'm not sure of the acupuncture and related theory but I believe there is one. What I know comes from my yi quan teacher, Nu Yu-Ping who also taught me some ba gua and this is related. I have no idea what style of ba gua he taught me; it was very useful to my understanding, but my main interests are yi chuan and Sun active step taiji. Teacher Nu studied yi quan with Yao, the successor to Wang Xiangzhai. He could readily demonstrate his skill and would whenever asked. His teaching was filtered though translators because he spoke only 2 words of English (relax and member) and my mandarin is rudimentary.
After about 2 months of learning walking steps (incedentally to learning yi quan) he started showing myself and Pat and Ruth, a young couple who always attended together the circular breathing method. We started with the small circle and when we mastered it we were to link it to the opening forms of the Chen style. At this time we were to concentrate on circulating the qi in the abdominal area (as you are no doubt aware, Tim, the Chinese view that whole area of the body differently than westerners, so I will refrain from using ideas like dan tien because I'm never sure exactly what they are talking about.) However Teacher Nu made plain by demonstrating hands-on that the breathe was moving circularly up the front to the navel and back to the ming men or gate of life and down into the legs and then drawn up the legs in an endless circle. This breathing really brought the chen style to life.
Later he taught the large circulation that was to encompass the whole body. If any one thing embodied master nu's martial style it was total body involvement. Every fibre of your being was to be put into "fa li" the yi quan term for fa jin or explosive energy. the breathing is a vital ingredient in the mix. Now, this large circulation required that the breath be split at the ming men and circulated both down and into the legs and up the back around the front of the head and down to the upper palate where the tongue was to serve as a bridge to cirlulate it on the downward part of the cycle. When we were moving the qi (breath, energy ?) up we were to raise the anus. when on the down cycle we were to push the tongue up and let the anus relax this gives you a feeling of sinking the chi into the legs.
When this technique was mastered we were to co-ordinate the breathing with our circle walking
In this way a bagua stylist will coordinate the walking with the breathing and of course ad that in yi quan there is a certain manner of breathing that is used to focus your striking energy. I know that this is also true of chen taiji. The whole point of the techniques is to immediately focus total body power on your point of attack. The power has to be generated from the ground so you must also root your energy. coordinating all the factors involved requires a unifying force your breath. the lifting of the anus and the tongue are tools to help you achieve this. They also help protect you from attack in that you are "binding the crotch when you lift the anus and when the tongue on the palate is combined with the clenching of the teeth that is also required in baqua and xing yi, you have some protection from getting your teeth broken or biting your own tongue.
Hope this is informing and not too boring.
Dear John Shane,
also very late I found your post. Yes it's very informing and by no means boring. I'd like to make sure that I understand this method just as you mean it, so could you make four points clearer:
1. You wrote ..."that the breath was moving circularly up the front to the navel and back to the mingmen"...
Does this mean in this theory the breath makes a circle from the soles of the feet up to the navel and then inside the body to the mingmen and down to the feet? I understood that the breath doesn't makie a circle over the head.
2. Do I assume correctly, when I guess the anus is lifted during inhalation, while the breath goes from the feet up to the navel? I guess that during this phrase the tongue is pressed against the upper palate. Right?
3. I guess this complete breathing circle results in reverse abdominal breathing.
4. What do you mean with "binding the crotch while lifting the anus"? Is this omething deep inside? I've learned to lift the anus, but you cannot see it from the outside that I do it.
I'd appreciate very much to hear from you again.
Another famous classic says that (I'm paraphrasing) "if you focus on the breath and the qi too much, how can you avoid confusion".
Particularly when it comes to martial functions like punching, it is usually counter-productive to use a lot of complicated visualizaions to improve the punching process.
Fine for qigong if not overdone, usually counter-productive for learning functional skills.
#1 describes the small circle as I was taught, this was the first stage in the training, however the breath does make a circle over the head in the full circls.
(I must add that one of my fellow students who was very good at generating power was comp[etely against trying to visualize qi and told me he knew someone who went mad trying to direct qi improperly)
#2 at this stage of breathing the tongue was not mentioned. I find that I tend to push it up on exhaling while I'm relaxed on the inhale.
#4 See the wu/hao writings on the torso methods. Among other things the so-called taiji classics come from the wu/hao style and their torso methods are more detailed (at least in writing) than the other styles.
I must stress that it was quite awhile before I was shown this exercise. I had already demonstrated a willingness to regularly practice zhan zuang and we were taught vocalizations to help with the breathing. Also Nu laoshi showed me how it worked by having me feel his body when he performed the exercise.
I think it could be dangerous to concentrate on the whole circle especially if you don't have a qualified teacher, and it is basically a visualization. Yi quan is full of visualizations to transmit physical feelings. Once you get the feeling the visualization is to be let go. I see no harm in pressing the tongue on the uppper palate as you relax the anus
This system is built on using sounds to train the breathing in movement. This same use of sounds is present in taiji, and other martial arts as remote as karate (yang luchan spies on chen students using special sounds in the tales of him learning taiji) It's also a matter not on focusing on breath and qi but making all movements unified in this way. This is not a complicated visualization it is quite simple actually.
What's complicated is trying to communicate it in writing. In practice, the more you sync this kind of breathing with your form the more it become unconscious. The functional skill that must be learned to have a complete internal martial art ability is the total unification of power, If you don't have this unification, your taiji will not have the power that is needed to shock your oponent. I don't say that this exercise is necessary. I found it interesting and helpful, though I don't claim to have mastered it by any means.
I do think that you need a teacher to teach you this hands-on and in stages, Peter. Especially, because we're dealing with breathing. I think this is the area where we are warned that improper practice can be dangerous. Above all do not be forcing your breath and strive for the natural. That's the best I can say.
Hi John Shane,
thanks very much for the claryfications. I'm very interrested in the concepts of breathing methods, although I've had and have - imho - good teachers. This is because I've learned so much different breathing concepts. So thanks again for sharing your knowledge.
I think Michael is completely right. Breathing exercises belong more to Qigong. As far as I'm concerned, I find that with time I've used more and more the qigong breathing method more or less unconsciously during form practice as well as to a certain degree in sparring. Due to my own personal observations I think that particularly the reverse abdominal breathing has many effects on deep inner fears or feelings of weakness even in real confrontations. Since these feelings imho plays a greater role in real fighting than techniques or skills, breathing should be trained. I think the model of John Shane's teacher is very useful for this aspect. Since I've came in contact with different breathing models and - what's at last is more important - different ways to explain why to breath so or so,
most of them had in common not to focus on a breathing circle over the head as in qigong exercises. The model I use focuses just on the mingmen point during inhalation and on the navel during exhalation. I was told to use this during all kind of Taiji exercises, since while focusing on mingmen "peng-energy" would be produced automatically (?). Don't know if this is true, but it's good to handle during form as well as sparring. I've been told not to press tongue at upper palate during exhalation while fajin. The reason for this is, that during fajin I should breath out through the mouth. It's difficult to breath out with a sound through mouth while the tongue presses at upper palate - at least for me.
Here is how I think of it. In a way it is identical to all Tai Chi applications. Think of your body as three zones: 1) legs & hips, 2) torso, 3) shoulders and arms. The basic purpose is to act like an intelligent compressible ball. This is accomplished as follows:
1) Compress your legs into the ground (making further downward movement impossible and storing energy)
2) "Inflate" your arm to touch your opponent with some gentle "positive pressurization".
3) Use the large and powerful muscles in the center of your body to direct and modulate the pressure. If you imagine your center as a ball, you can expand/contract, and roll it in pretty much any direction.
If you choose to expand this ball by stretching ("peng" or "ward off" energy), you will simultaneously push down into your legs, and up through your properly aligned and relaxed arm into your opponent. Since your legs are already fully compressed, the energy that you send downward will instantly rebound from the ground and follow the only alternative path available. In other words, it will join the upward energy travelling up your arm. In this way you make use of both directions of your center expanding at the same time. If your legs were not fully rooted and compressed, some of the original downward energy would be wasted in pushing the legs to their fully compressed position.
I recently took a workshop from Peter Ralston (http//ChengHsin.com). One of the days was spent on the basics of boxing. One of the things that Peter demonstrated was "the effortless punch". It was a very relaxed whole-body punch that threw the target person abruptly several feet backward. It originated from the center similarly to my explanation below, but added the element of whole body momentum.
This involved 5 stages that layer on top of one another. You practice each stage for a very long time to make sure that each skill becomes automatic, and then add the next part of the progression. The work is done with a boxing heavy bag. The explanation is my own (Peter - please forgive my ommissions or misinterpretations).
Start with a typical slightly forward weighted boxing stance:
1) Use your torso only (rotating and stretching through your back and shoulder) to throw your completely relaxed arm until it is fully straight and barely reaches the bag. You should not be trying to "hit" the bag, just stretch out towards it until your knuckles barely reach the surface for a moment of gentle compression. After that your relaxed arm should run out of forward momentum and fall back to your side with gravity.
2) Do #1 and add a little power from your shoulder/upper-back to test the structural alignment of your arm. Pay particular attention to your wrist being inline with your forearm. Any misalignments will diminish your power and hurt your arm.
3) Do #2 and add some core body expansion from your leading side. This puts more energy into the punch.
4) Do #3 and compress down into the front foot. You have now established the compression path from your foot and into the hand. You also have no no horizontal momentum since your weight is going straight down into your forward foot.
5) Do #4 and pull up your rear foot towards the heel of your front foot. This adds the energy of your whole body weight moving horizontally through 1-1.5 feet of space.
Peter used a hypodermic needle analogy. He referred to #1-4 as "setting the needle" or preparation for #5 ("pushing the plunger and injecting").
As you can see the main points are similar to my original explanation: Establish a compression path from your incompressible legs to your opponent through your relaxed arms. Then add energy through your big core. Since the energy can't go down, all of it has to go into the opponent.