Fajing (Faijn or Fa Ching in W.G.) is something, a term or concept, that most of Tai Chi artists know about. At least most of the practitioners who study the art as a martial art, for combat or for self defense. If I say that it’s widely misunderstood, you might take this statement lightly if you wish. In Tai Chi, as well in many other Chinese disciplines and art forms, a word can mean different things in different contexts or for different people. Thus, I would rather hear or read people say: “This is how we understand Fajing in our school/branch/lineage”, instead of: “This is what is called Fajing in Tai Chi”. So I will here let you understand what I call Fajing and why I think everyone else is wrong (this is said with humor and a smile. Just letting you people know who have no humor.).
First, what Fajing or fajin is not. Faijing is not:
- about wildly shaking the body.
- about suddenly stopping the movement of the body.
- about letting the feet move up from the ground.
- about adding any kind of muscular strength or effort upon contact.
- about sending another away without touching him
Fa means “release” or “let go”. Jing or Jin means strength or energy. It can be used for many different kinds of strengths, abilities or “qualities”. So Fajing means letting go or releasing strength or energy. It is said in the Tai Chi Classics that “Faijing is like releasing the arrow from a bow.” To “release” something, you need to first store something. What do you store? Movement or kinetic energy of course. So how do you store it? In Tai Chi it’s also said that if you move in one direction you must first consider to move in the opposite direction. It’s mostly understood in martial application as “if you pull, you can first push, if you push, you can first pull.” But this statement goes well hand in hand with “storing and releasing.” When you strike or push, you should first move your body, twisting it, winding it up, or move the arms closer to the body to compress it or add a sense of tension in the opposite direction to the direction you want to strike or push. The opposite action of movement goes for the opposite application, as a pull or a drag.
As for punching, releasing means releasing the stored movement or kinetic energy into your opponent. That is why you don’t want to feel any kind of tension. You want power to be an expression your opponent feels, but not something that feels strong inside your own body but have no destructive power outwards. That is why many tai chi practitioners share the same experience, they say that the less they feel, the stronger power the opponent or training partner will experience. And that the less tension you can hold in your body, except for the movement/kinetic energy that you have stored, the more powerful your “releasing” will be. Release means just to relax, then the stored energy will be released. But release it by relaxing into your opponent through movement and add speed through fast acceleration. If you strike, relax and keep relaxing into your opponent, don’t tense up or add any tension. People from other styles don’t understand this and you need to have the first hand experience to really understand.
Now, if you can at logically accept or at least try to grasp what I mean, I think you can understand why I believe Fajing is not the things added in the list above. If you like the Chen stylists “shake” the body vigorously, you can shake without actually storing any movement. This kind of practice can lead to some power and it is mostly a good coordination practice that is said can strengthen the body internally. But it’s seldom something that can be called “Fajing-practice”, at least not as something close to the original meaning of the term. But now there is also something else, a sudden stop of the whole body. As this is understood in Xingyiquan: “When one part of the body stops, the whole body stop [together].” In xingy, there’s a whole body stopping movement. Can this be called Fajing? No, at least not the stopping action. This kind of movement is a consequence of relaxing in solo practice. If you strike with a completely relaxed arm, by adding a very fast, sharp acceleration, the arm would be hurt if you didn’t stop it. If you want to develop speed and acceleration when you practice by yourself, I personally prefer to hit a bag or similar. If you practice without anything to strike against, you need this kind of stopping power. First you release, then you stop the movement to not hurt yourself and for learning whole body coordination. So the stopping movement is not “Fajing”, the releasing happened before that is.
So learn how to store movement, but more important: relax and learn how to stay relaxed. Practice to not tense up. When you strike or push, sink down the strength, deep down into your legs and feet. Always practice to stay relaxed in your fingers, arms, head, jaws and chest. And don’t forget to breath. One small tension and your stored energy will be stuck inside your own body and the best of your power will be lost.