Chinese Martial Power

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang, Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang, and Master Wen-Ching Wu

Tjong Tjhie vs Mo Fong Hui Sanshou Sparring
Tjong Tjhie vs Mo Fong Hui Sanshou Sparring

Jin training is a very important part of the Chinese martial arts, but there is almost nothing written on the subject in English, and very little even in Chinese. Many instructors once viewed the higher levels of Jin as a secret which should only be passed down to a few trusted students. Unfortunately, it is also true that many instructors don't understand Jin very well themselves. It is a difficult subject to explain, and even harder to express in English.

Many current martial artists do not understand what Jin is, or they think that it is trained only in a few particular styles. In fact, almost all Oriental martial styles train Jin. The differences lie only in the depth to which Jin is understood, the different kinds of Jin trained, and the range and characteristics of the Jins emphasized. For example, Tiger Claw style emphasizes hard and strong Jin, imitating the tiger's muscular strength; muscles predominate in most of the techniques. White Crane, Xingyi, and Bagua are softer styles, and the muscles are used relatively less. In Taijiquan, the softest style, soft Jin is especially emphasized and muscle usage is cut down to a minimum.

The application of Jin brings us to a major difference between the Oriental martial arts and those of the West. In China, martial styles and martial artists are judged by their Jin. How deeply is Jin understood and how well is it manifested? How strong and effective is it, and how is it coordinated with martial techniques? When a martial artist performs his art without Jin it is called Hua Quan Xiu Tui, which means "Flower fist and brocade leg."

This is to scoff at the martial artist without Jin, who is weak like a flower and soft like brocade. Like dancing, his art is beautiful but not useful. It is also said: "Lian Quan Bu Lian Gong, Dao Lao K Chang Kong," which means "Train Quan and not Gong, when you get old, all emptiness".' This means that if a martial artist emphasizes only the beauty and smoothness of his forms and doesn't train his Gong, then when he gets old, he will have nothing. The "Gong" here means "Qigong," and refers to the cultivation of Qi and its coordination with Jin to develop the latter to its maximum, and to make the techniques effective and alive. Therefore, if a martial artist learns his art without training his Qigong and Jin Gong, once he gets old the techniques he has learned will be useless, because he will have lost his muscular strength.

Chinese martial artists say: "Wai Lian Jin Gu Pi, Nei Lion K Kou Qi", which means "Externally, train tendons, bones, and skin; and internally train one mouthful of Qi." This means that it does not matter whether you are studying an external or an internal style, if you want to manifest the maximum amount of Jin, you have to train both externally and internally. Externally means the physical body, and internally means the Qi circulation, which is related to the breathing.

Traditionally, Jin was considered a secret transmission in Chinese martial arts society. This is so not only because it was not revealed to most students, but also because it cannot be passed down with words alone. Jin must be experienced. It is said that the master "passes down Jin." Once you feel Jin done by your master, you know what is meant and are able to work on it by yourself. Without an experienced master it is more difficult, but not impossible, to learn about Jin. There are general principles and training methods which an experienced martial artist can use to grasp the keys of this practice. If you are interested in a more detailed exploration of about this subject, you may refer to: Advanced Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, Vol. 1 by Dr. Yang JwingMing.