|by Jim Dees|
|This is the third in a series of articles detailing the fundamental principles of the Shang Yun Xiang/Hebei method af Hsing-i chuan. Specifically, we shall examine beng chuan also known as the crushing or smashing fist. This fist is associated with the element wood. In the wu xing it is said to create fire and destroy earth. Beng chuan is the expansion and contaction of chi and is associated with the health of the liver and nourishment of the brain.
In form practice, we begin in the san ti posture with the left leg forward. I begin by saving energy as the right side of the body folds into the center. The right hands screws inward so that the palm side faces up as the right hip moves in towards the center. The lead hand draws back and in towards center slightly with the fist facing palm up. The elbows are down. The body is propelled forward by a strong, screwing push from the rear leg as the fists pass along center, palm side up. The left foot shall remain the lead foot. The right fist actually screws as it passes over the left fist and finishes with the thumb side up. The left fist rotates palm side down by the left hip and counterbalances the action of the right hand. It should be note that some methods show the left hand at this point with the palm facing up. I prefer palm down as this is more useful in a combative sense. As the feet land, the body assumes the postural requirements of chicken leg, dragon body, bear shoulder, and tiger embrace. To continue the form, merely repeat the above movements on the opposite side. This fist is executed, in the form, with the left leg forward the entire time. In application either leg can be forward.
There are several key points to the application of beng chuan that must be emphasized and pointed out for the reader to gain an appreciation for this fist. Several Hsing-i Masters have gained great reputations simply by their ability to execute this fist. One of the most famous was Guo Yun Shen also known as "the divine crushing fist". First I would like to address the action of the lead hand, whichever it may be. I previously stated that I prefer the palm side down for form practice for combat. This is because the lead hand, as it is drawn back, should be grabbing the opponent and pulling him toward you and helping to break his balance. Let me explain what I mean by pull. I do NOT mean to just grab and make a committed, unchangeable attempt to out muscle the opponent and jerk him off his feet. What I mean is that it is likely, considering the distance between you and your opponent, that your lead hand may be blocking or otherwise in physical contact with the opponent. By hooking his arm/hand, for example, and directing his momentum slightly to the side you can help offset his balance and increase the force of the blow that you deliver by pulling yourself into him. This, in conjunction with a strong push from the ground, is a lot of centered energy for the opponent to deal with. If there is nothing there for the hand to grab, for whatever reason, simply pull it back anyway to aid in the counterbalancing of the dragon body.
One cannot discuss the combative aspect of a fist without examining coverage upon entry. As I have explained in the previous article in this series, the concept of bear and eagle is the saving of energy and is defensive in nature (bear) while the releasing of the energy is offensive (eagle). In beng chuan, the collapsing of the body into its center is bear. As you can see in the photos, the center is protected as one would enter the critical distance of the opponent. Critical distance being the distance where he could strike you before you could react. As you step deeply into him, the posture opens and he his struck in his center. Now, imagine that all is going well. You attack and have hooked his right forearm with your lead hand (left). Your are entering protected and it is looking good. Then, in a fraction of a second, you feel a tremendous surge of power as he tries to pull back his right arm. Do you let it go? Do you pull harder to the side? Obviously there is no time to think at this point. Your instinctive reaction will have to do. But, what is the best course of action to train for situations like this when things do not go as one would like. The answer is Moso Jing. It is Hsing-i's equivilant to Chen Tai chi's silk reeling or "touch" as it is generally refered to in the Chinese internal martial arts. In this case, do not resist the force. Merely follow his energy with your left arm. He wants to pull back forcefully so let him. He is excpecting resistance. When he finds none and you help direct him off balance with his own energy, his structure and root will start to collapse. But, what of the other hand? Well, as this was going on on the left side, the right fist has begun to screw into the solar plexus of the opponent. You can now feel through the right fist that the opponent's center is going a bit to his right as a result of his attempted recovery of his right arm and the following action taken by your left arm. To follow his center you must adjust by slightly redirectly your right fist to the left and orienting your body to the left by rotating the tan dien to that direction. If the opponent's center goes way to your left, it may become necessary to move the toe of your left foot outward to facilitate the attack on his center without crossing yourself thereby sacrificing your unitary body. That is an example of how to follow to the opponent's right. Of course you may need to follow in any direction. Allow me to briefly state that Moso jing can help follow in any direction. Basically, one must not resist and follow the force while maintaining the structural requirements. The application of Moso jing in Hsing-i is refered to as eagle claw. I have just given an example of how to change if he goes to his right. If he rises up then you can follow upward. I have found that by increasing the screwing action of the rear leg and slightly tilting the striking fist up to follow can send the opponent off the ground. If you feel the opponent's center go down then you follow down, not by pointing the fist down and gaining leverage by raising the shoulder to punch down, but by dropping the elbow and sinking the body while staying verticle. This is a very important point that many will miss if you do not practice with a partner. Now, if the opponent shifts his center to his left you must sense if his shift will be small or great. A small shift can be followed by a slight rotation of the tan dien and fist. However, a great shift my endanger your wrist by cocking it too far to the side. If that is the case, one should consider Heng chuan or crossing fist to follow his center.
When fighting it is not wise to rely on a single strike to end a fight. A characteristic of beng chuan is the constant expansion and contraction of chi. In application, the Hsing-i practicioner who attacks, or defends, with beng chuan is like a machine gun. As one fist fires it reloads the other as you advance into the opponent's center. The firing never stops.
Like any internal art, you must feel these things. The subtleties are too fine to capture in words or pictures. That is why I have not included photos of application here. It is impossible to see and appreciate them in photo. It must be felt.
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