General Principles of San Shou Kuai Jiao - Part 2, Coordination of the External

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang and Tai D. Ngo

Coordination of the External

Ben Yang vs Derek Cheng - Parrying a Leaping Kick
Ben Yang vs Derek Cheng - Parrying a Leaping Kick

All proficient Chinese martial artists train the coordination of external physical action (Yang) and internal mental strength and energy (Yin). Through this coordination, the entire body is able to manifest power and execute techniques with maximum strength and efficiency. Therefore, external emphasis is on: hands (Shou), eyes (Yan), body (Shen), techniques (Fa), and stepping (Bu) and internal emphasis is on: essence (Jing), spirit (Shen), internal energy (Qi), muscular strength (Li), and Gongfu or Kung Fu (Gong - time and energy). These ten requirements can be considered the root and foundation of Chinese martial arts practice. When these internal and external elements are united and harmonized, the martial techniques will be alive, fast, and powerful. Naturally, since San Shou Kuai Jiao is a part of Chinese martial arts, these ten requirements are also heavily emphasized and practiced in San Shou Kuai Jiao training. If fact, the effectiveness of San Shou Kuai Jiao techniques depends totally on all ten training requirements.

Externally, your eyes must always be on your target. It is the eyes which first observe and detect an opponent's movement, and then a decision is made by the brain. Once a decision is made, the techniques are executed through the hands and the legs, in coordination with the body. That is why it is said: "The eyes arrive, the hands immediately arrive, and the body and stepping also arrive." (Yan Dao Shou Dao, Shen Bu Ye Dao)

Internally, in order to manifest the external techniques effectively, efficiently, and powerfully, you must learn how to conserve your essence and cultivate and raise your spirit. Then, you can build up abundant Qi (internal energy). When this abundant Qi is directed to the muscles, they manifest strength and power. In addition, once your mind is in a highly alert state, your movements of hands, eyes, body and foot stepping will become agile and will move as one unit. In order to reach this goal of energy manifestation, you must know methods of internal cultivation and how to apply them externally. Without knowing the methods of the training, all of the techniques will be without strong internal support. Consequently, the techniques will be ineffective and weak. Next, let us discuss these ten requirements one by one, beginning with the external.


Hand Drills (Shou Fa)
Shou Fa generally refers to the hand techniques used for attack and defense in martial arts. Different martial styles have their own hand techniques and unique ways to manifest the characteristics of the styles. Naturally, San Shou Kuai Jiao also has many different hand techniques and their usage and application depend on the situation. Common hand techniques used in San Shou Kuai Jiao are: grabbing, pulling, thrusting, blocking, holding, lifting, twisting, and pressing. Most importantly, since hands are the main tools in a fight, in order to execute techniques effectively and powerfully, you must train until your hands are strong and fast. In San Shou Kuai Jiao, in order to execute your defensive and offensive techniques effectively, you must be able to extend and withdraw your hands very fast, and grab strongly and tightly.

Eye Training (Yan Fa)
A pair of clear and sharp eyes will bring your fighting skills to a higher level. In a fight, the eyes make the first contact and observe your opponent's movement and intention, and then the mind makes judgments to adapt to the situation. Having good vision helps to detect every movement of your opponent and reveals mistakes an opponent makes so you can choose the right decision for an offensive or defensive move. In addition, a good stare can put a lot of mental and psychological pressure on your opponent.

When fighting, look into your opponent's eyes to detect his motivation. When your opponent is scared, you can see that his eyes are not focused but scattered. If he is careless and rude, he will stare back at you. If your opponent is the cunning type, his glance will be subtle. Different fighters have different personalities and different levels of skills; therefore, each will have a very different expression in his eyes.

There are a few ways that you can detect your opponent's intention when you watch his body movements, his facial expressions, and his eyes. When an opponent stares to your left, be wary of an attack to your left side. When an opponent looks down, watch out for his legs. When an opponent attacks with his mouth open, more than likely he will not have much power in his punch or kick. When an opponent attacks with his mouth closed, the power will be strong. Observing shoulder movements is also very important. When the opponent's left shoulder is sinking, very likely he will kick with his right leg. When the opponent's right shoulder moves backward, very likely he will strike with his left hand. Although it will be more complicated in a real fight, body movements generally follow a predictable pattern.

An experienced fighter always watches and uses body movements and eye and facial expressions as a fighting strategy to confuse his opponent, force him to make a wrong decision, and then take advantage of the mistake. In general, eye training is much harder to master than physical techniques and other skills, but it is an invaluable element of martial success.

Body Movements (Shen Fa)
Shen Fa generally refers to the body movement which governs the action of a technique. In order to manifest strong power in the technique executed, you must know how to use your spine and chest to generate the power. The spine and the chest (i.e., torso) are considered to be two big bows which generate power, while the waist acts like a steering wheel which directs the power to the four limbs.

The movements of the torso are divided into four different categories: 1). Changing the chest's direction. 2). Bending and extending the torso forward or backward. 3). Waist rotation and twisting. 4). Using the torso for attacking and defending.

Because all four limbs and the head connect to the body (torso), the movement of the body can lead or control the movement of the head and limbs. The turning and twisting of the body can cause the arms to strike horizontally. When the body is extending forward or withdrawing backward, you can increase the distance for striking or avoiding an opponent's attack. From a power manifestation point of view, the opening and closing of the chest or turning and twisting of the waist helps to store or emit Jin (power).

Besides assisting the movement of the four limbs, the torso can be used for attack and defense. For example, you can use your back or shoulder to press and strike an opponent, or turn and twist the torso to evade an opponent's attack.

Body movements in the martial arts should be lively and should emphasize the use of the waist. Also, body movements must be quick. Even if your limbs are fast, if your body does not have speed, the techniques will not be fast and effective. Therefore, the body is the foundation of the hands and legs. The hands and legs can move fast only when the body can move fast. You should always avoid bodily stiffness. A relaxed body is the key to agility and swiftness.

Strategy and Techniques (Fa/Ji Fa)
Fa means the method or technique. In a martial context, it means fighting techniques and strategies. Good fighting techniques act as a channel for speed and power, to direct the speed and power efficiently and effectively. If you have speed and power but no techniques, you will be a less effective fighter. Conversely, if you know many techniques but lack speed and power, your techniques will be of little use.

Good techniques must be learned from experienced masters. A master is just like a coach in sports-without a good experienced coach, even if you have good players, your team may not win.

When you learn techniques from a master, you will also learn the fighting strategies. Generally, fighting strategies are obtained from experience. The more experience a master has, the more he knows how to handle different situations. Not only that, he will know how to set up an opponent and create opportunities to make every technique effective, efficient, and powerful.

Stepping (Bu Fa)
Bu Fa generally refers to the stepping techniques or footwork used to move and change direction. Bu Fa has the purpose of moving the body forward and backward, dodging left and right, and increasing the ability to extend, twist, and turn the body. Foot stability is the foundation of balanced movement. The quickness of the footwork will increase the technique's speed and power. Skillful stepping is the foundation of agility.

Chinese martial arts demonstrate a variety of Bu Fa. Aside from common stepping methods, many styles have unique footwork that reflects the principles behind those styles. For example: Taijiquan's Taiji Bu (Taiji Stepping); Baguazhang's Tang Ni Bu (Muddy Stepping) Xingyiquan's Cun Bu (Inch stepping), Ji Bu (Urgent stepping, and Zuan Bu (Drill stepping), etc.

In a fight, your footwork is constantly changing to adjust to the situation. Proper positioning and speed can put you in the most advantageous position to execute your techniques. When you can move fast and occupy the most advantageous position, you will put your opponent in an urgent, defensive position.

Adapt Strategy Wisely.