by Jim Dees

There are many styles of martial arts that have as a part of their system the storing and releasing of energy. What I would like to present here is the requirements for accomplishing this in the internal arts in general, and in Hsing-i chuan in particular. It is interesting to note that the storing and releasing of energy is done simultaneously. The concept of bear and eagle as presented here is not an animal form. It is something that should be incorporated into all movements.

However, prior to this presentation, I want to briefly present and explain, in accordance with my limited ability, some classic writings regarding this topic.

Song of two poles:

A man saw an eagle and a bear displaying their wills. He adapted these to a style. Within this, yin and yang are combined as the hidden essence of Hsing yi. Here yang is considered eagle and yin bear. These are the two poles. In terms of the art, eagle is offensive and bear is defensive. The key lies in how to combine the offense and defense while maintaining the stringent structural requirements of an internal art.

Thesis of the two poles:

The two poles are the eagle and bear. Together, they are the theories of defense, protection, attacking, controlling, advancing and retreating. As men, we have four limbs, and many bones. When the limbs and bones extend, it is said to be yang, or eagle. When they contract, it is said to be bear, or yin. It is said that their method of combining is hidden. An old man from the mountains saw an eagle and bear fighting in the distance and took their methods and created Hsing yi. Defend and protect like a bear. Attack and advance like an eagle. If ones practice strays from these things, it will have lost its essence. It is named Hsing yi, shape and mind, because it is like the shape and mind of the eagle and bear in fighting.

Here we have a bit more detail as to the role of the eagle and bear. Eagle is considered yang and is attacking and advancing. The bear is yin. It is defensive in nature. One could say, in light of Hsing yi fighting theory, that bear is the defense that precedes the offense. It discusses the fact that we, as men, have four limbs and hundreds of bones. The eagle is reflected in the extension, or striking, in a fight or form practice. The bear is found in the collapsing of the body, as one protects himself and gathers power in preparation for the advance and the attack. But, it is much more than mere protection and preparation. It is the required set up for the attack. The ideal bear movement results in the effortless off setting of your opponent's balance as you protect yourself. This is done through correct structure of your body. Internally, one could say that it is accomplished by sinking the chi into the dan tien and compressing it. These are yang and yin in motion as applied in Hsing yi. If one loses sight of the true meaning of eagle and bear, then he will have lost the essence of the art.

Hsing-i chuan, in its barest form, consists of a standing posture known as san ti and five fists. While there are some variations in rounding out the different methods of Hsing-i such as animal forms and a variety of two person sets, the crux of the art remains in the standing and the five fists. However, always keep in mind that the san ti and five fists are nothing more that expressions of the structural requirements. If these requirements are not met, then you have lost the benefit of the art. This art, Hsing-i was derived from Hsin-i. Also an internal art, it consisted of a standing posture and only three and a half movements. Within Hsin-I there is a monkey squatting posture that focuses on dan tien exercises that are crucial to the development of the bear. It is in the classic writings of this art, which filtered into the classics of Hsing-i, that we find reference to the eagle and bear. These references are much more than an allusion to a bear form or an eagle form. They refer to the general principles and concepts of storing power and issuing power as well as defense and offense. In this article, I will limit myself to the discussion of the bear. I will remind the reader again, that this is not a reference to any animal form.

The bear, in terms of Hsing-i, relates to the storage of energy and defense in preparation for the attack and subsequent issuance of power. In terms of the internal arts, in order to store energy, ones meridians should already be open through previous training in standing methods and or a combination of chi kung training. Without this, the chi cannot be sunk and the dan tian will not have accumulated enough chi in storage. Proceeding with the assumption that ones meridians are sufficiently open, the structure and alignment of ones body becomes crucial. Regardless of the specific technique or way in which you move, certain structural requirements must be fulfilled. Many of you have read about the six harmonies, suspending the head, hollowing the chest, rounding the shoulders, sinking the elbows, open the kua, relax the hip, keep the U open, grasp the ground with your toes etc..

In Hsing-I Chuan terminology, we talk about chicken leg, dragon body, bear shoulder, tiger's embrace when we refer to the basic structural requirements of the body. Other requirements such as eagle claw and thunder sound refer to the body in movement and in application. These areas, eagle claw and thunder sound, are beyond the scope of this article. What eludes many, however, is the internal aspect that underlies the aforementioned requirements. That is to say, how do you do those things? In brief summation, you must relax specific acupuncture points on your body, initially through meditation, to allow the meridians to open and the chi to flow. Without this, the chi will be stuck and the whole body will not be united as one. The results of this failure, in terms of martial arts, would be the segmentation of the body and a loss of power as well as an opportunity for your structure to be destroyed if your opponent's body is better connected than yours. To that end, the following points must be relaxed: bai hui (top of head), jian jing (between shoulder and neck), qu chi (near elbow), zhong fu (on chest below clavicle), qi men (on chest below nipple), zhang men (base of ribs), qi chong (by pelvis, each side), qi hai (by dan tian). By relaxing these points, the chi can travel down into the dan tian to be stored and the body becomes connected to from the bai hui to the yong quan (bubbling well of the foot).

In terms of bear the ability to relax the aforementioned points from top to bottom causes the body to collapse into itself and the chi to be gathered in the dan tian. Here the body prepares both internally and externally for defense as a prelude to attack and the issuance of power, which is the eagle.

The application of bear as described results in an almost magical journey for your opponent. Let's illustrate this with a reverse roundhouse punch. My opponent will strike at me to my head with his right hand, from a left foot forward stance. I am also in a left foot forward stance. My arms are relaxed with palms down extended to my front to protect my center. As his punch comes toward me, I compress my dan tien. In order to do this, my upper body must empty itself of tension. This sinks the chi by allowing it to flow. It is very important to understand that this movement is initiated in the ming men area. Any tension stops the flow as if I had bent a hose flowing with water. As our bodies physically touch, in the arms in this scenario, I must sink my chi into the dan tien and not allow any tension at the point of physical contact. I accomplish this by not fighting his force rather by following it. When I do this correctly, he will feel as though he has fallen into a hole. His chi will rise and his body may even physically lift up. It is at this time that he will lose his balance due to his poor structure. His body is now segmented and committed in his movement. What a wonderful time to strike him. His priorities will have now changed from attacking me to trying to find a way to keep his balance and recover. Herein lies the beauty of bear. It is the perfect set up, to a strike. You do not sacrifice your structure or unnecessarily open yourself for an attack. In fact, his strike, or touch, helps stabilize your structure. When you do bear well, it is as if your dan tien area becomes a black hole, a very dense place that draws everything into it. Nothing can escape. This is when you strike.

The concept of bear is relatively easy to grasp, but very hard to do well. Only with the guidance of a qualified Master can you hope to develop the characteristics of the black hole.

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