Pao Chuan
by Jim Dees

In this article I shall examine the fourth fist of Hsing-i chuan. Pao chuan, fire, is said to be the pounding fist. It is associated with the heart. It is the opening and closing of the chi. In the wu xing, pao chuan creates heng chuan and is destroyed by tsuann chuan. If one performs this fist properly in the form, the heart will benefit. When done improperly, the body will lose its co-ordination and the structure will be lost. It is said that the pao chuan, when used combatively, is like a cannon ball being fired.

To execute the form, we shall begin in the san ti posture with the left side forward. The hands draw back at the same time palm down to the center as the lead foot comes back to brush the other. The palms rotate up and fists are made. The left hand begins to drill upward along the center line and rotates. This movement, of course, comes from the tan dien. As the drilling fist of the left hand reaches head height, the right fist is preparing a screwing strike as in beng chuan. The right leg starts to propel the body on a 45 degree angle to the left. The left arm continues to rotate up and then outward. The fist ends up facing with the palm away and the elbow approximately even with the level of the shoulder. As the left arm reaches its final resting place, the right fist strikes exactly as is beng chuan. By that I mean it is a screwing punch that clears/travels along the center. Repeat this on the opposite side. To do this the arms lower together with the palms facing down. As they fall to the tan dien level the hands make fists and the right screws up along the center as did the left a moment ago. The fist on the right side is identicle to the fist as it is performed on the left side.

The key points of pao chuan are identicle to those of the other fists. To maintain the proper structure, chicken leg, dragon body, bear shoulder, tiger's head embrace and relaxation are essential to maximize the power of this strike. Where this fist is set apart from the others is in the moso jing. I find this fist particularly interesting in the way that it follows the force of the opponent. The striking fist which attacks the mid-section is identicle to beng chuan. To follow the force of a rising opponent, simple keep the structure and slightly tilt the fist up as you sink lower in your posture. This will immediately cut his root and send him upward. To follow a sinking opponent do the same thing and sink with him as the fist tilts slightly downward. When he tries to evade to either side you need only adjust the angle of your projection by following with the relaxed hip and feel his weight center. Always keep the elbow down. Of course, there are countless variation. What remains constant, however, is the structure, relaxation, the following of the center and the reading of the weight center. Once those are in place, it is merely a matter of projection to cut his root.

But what about the other arm? For example, let's examine pao chuan with the left arm being the one that is raised and the right as the "beng chuan" striking fist. Many people mistake the raised arm as nothing more than a karate like block. But, if you could feel what is happening when the left arm intercepts a punch to the head you would immediately understand. Yes, it is blocking but so much more as well. There is moso jing there. As the incoming punch is contacted, the screwing arm immediately begins to follow the force. This following is initiated from the tan dien area and carries with it the power of the body. This "block" actally serves to uproot the opponent. Wow, you get the opponent both coming and going. You have the moso jing of the "blocking" arm combined with the moso jing of the strike; a double wammy. When I first felt this I was very excited. I hope that you will take the time to do more than just read this article. Get a partner and experiment. Try to get this feeling. It is really wonderful. Have your partner throw a hooking punch at your head with his right hand. Of course, start slowly first and increase gradually for safety. Time the interception of the punch so that you contact it as the forearm is rotating away from you for the maximum following. As you feel the pressure of his blow, relax the hip and emphasize the chicken leg/dragon body so your torso will turn and literally lift him off his feet. This lifting forces him to lose his balance and over extend as the beng chuan strikes with its own moso jing. A winning recipe to be sure. This fist is not as famous as beng chuan or pi chuan, but it is well worth studying for its unique combative benefits.

For those of you who try to learn from articles such as this I would offer this advise. Focus on relaxation and structure. These are the key points which help to develop a strong chi circulation which has tremendous health benefits. Also, this will help your martial art skill by building a strong foundation.

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