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"Yin and Yang: Manifestations of Chi Within Wing Chun Kung Fu"

By Si-Fu Scott Baker, Ph.D.

 

Both Yin and Yang energy is used in Wing Chun. There really arenít two different types of energy, but rather different manifestations of the same energy. Within the body half of the meridians, or energy channels, are considered yin meridians, and half are yang. The front of the body, inside of the arms and legs are all yin, while the back and outside are yang. In reality the same energy cycles through all the meridians, just like the same blood flows through all your arteries and veins. The energy just has a different manifestation when it is in a yang state than a yin state. For example the thrusting palm is more of a yang manifestation, it is strong, and blows right through the target, whereas the soft, or sinking, palm is more yin in its manifestation; it sinks inside the target and move things around. Both palm strikes hurt, but in a different way. Generally yin is considered softer, gentler, feminine, more passive in its energy manifestation while yang is direct, aggressive, masculine, a harsher energy manifestation. It is not really possible to divide the two; every yin type manifestation has some yang aspects within it and vice versa. Hence the yin/yang symbol. Neither the yin or yang manifestation is stronger or preferred over the other. A balance is the strongest, where both manifest aspects of energy work in combination with each other.

The position (technique), or shape of the hand, does have an influence upon the yin or yang nature of the motion, as does the intent, body condition (tense or relaxed), and skill level of the practitioner. All of these factors have a big effect upon the yin or yang manifestation of any given technique or situation. Often, pressing or pushing motions, are more yin type attacks, while a punch is more yang. All of the motions in Wing Chun, all of the techniques in the forms have both a yin and yang application. It may take many years before a skillful practitioner of Wing Chun understands both the yin and yang applications for every technique and movement within the systemís forms. It is a most worthwhile endeavor to examine each technique in the Sil-Num-Tao form in an effort to understand both a yin and a yang type of application for that technique. This can also be carried through to the Chum Ku and Biu Tze boxing forms, the dummy set, and the weapons sets of the system to give a much deeper comprehension of the duality that exists in the application of the principles and motions of Wing Chun. For example, within the single chi sau exchange we have a top and a bottom position, each employing 3 distinct techniques. The bottom position uses the tan sau, thrusting palm (see Cung Zoeng), and bong sau techniques. The top position utilizes the fook sau, jum sau, and sun punch (see Zoeng Ceoi) techniques. Each of these techniques can be executed with both a yin and a yang energy manifestation. The jum sau technique is one of the most obvious. In the single chi sau exchange, the jum sau is used to respond to the thrusting palm of your partner. If you jum by sinking forward, toward your partner, you will cut off the thrusting palm attack and stop his technique. This is a yang manifestation of the jum sau technique. However, if you sink the jum sau back, toward yourself, riding on the thrusting motion and then sinking down on his arm towards the end of his thrust, you will use his motion and draw his energy up, causing his shoulders to move forward slightly. This is a yin manifestation of the jum sau technique. Both are correct uses of the jum sau, depending upon what you are wanting to do within the exchange. Because the thrusting palm is a yang type technique, it is often preferred to use the yin jum sau to respond to the palm within the single chi sau exchange. In this way, the student learns how to balance the yin and yang within an exchange, how to use softness to counter hardness, and how to use his partnerís motion rather than stopping that motion. Essentially, a yang jum sau on a yang thrusting palm is a clashing type exchange, and is not properly balanced. If your partner is more skilled and executes a thrusting palm, and then feels or reads your yang jum sau response, he may change the yang palm strike to a yin palm so as not to clash with your yang energy manifestation. He would do this simply by changing to a yin intent in offering the thrusting palm. This is done by presenting the thrusting palm with a passive, yielding yin energy rather than a forceful, yang energy.

In Chi Sau practice, there is an emphasis upon the listening chi kung skills which are a typical yin manifestation of chi. The power or striking skills are typically a yang manifestation, so within chi sau both are employed equally. One uses the yin listening skills to follow and read his partners motions within the conversation of techniques that make up the exchange. Then, upon reading an opening, or invitation, one would apply some type of attack or strike by utilizing the yang skills which manifest power in the blows. Wing Chunís characteristic short, seemingly ineffective, striking techniques are in reality devastating, so long as the practitioner has learned to release energy through the techniques. Learning to use your partners motion is also a manifestation of yin type energy skills. It requires a softness, while maintaining the necessary sticking skills to move with his motion, without resisting, yet turn that motion to your advantage. These are subtle skills that give a smaller person a great advantage over a larger, stronger person. Such yin manifestations of chi kung skills are developed over years of practicing and refining the more subtle feeling senses. To develop them deeply one must "inherit" them from his teacher by practicing with that teacher and learning the "feel" of the yin energy. The yang energy skills also require patient practice to develop. However, a dedicated student can develop these abilities with minimal guidance or instruction. Working persistently on the wall bag will bring good results in yang energy manifestations through the short Wing Chun punch and the damaging thrusting palm strikes. The kicking techniques also are developed in this same way. All of the yang energy manifestations within the striking techniques of Wing Chun can be developed with solo practice so long as the keys of correct positioning, relaxation, and mental focus or intent are maintained during practice. However, the development of the yin manifest skills requires long hours of practice with a skilled teacher. The Yang skills can be acquired through solo practice, while the yin skills must be passed from teacher to student.

About the Author:

Dr. Scott Baker earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from Brigham Young University in 1995. Born and raised in New Zealand, he began his training in Wing Chun there in 1972 under the direction of Master Tam Hung Fun. He is now a member of the Yuen Kay San line under Zopa Gyatso. Si-Fu Baker resides in New Zealand.

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