Tsuann Chuan
by Jim Dees

This shall be the fourth installment in my series of articles which presents the Shang Yun Xiang method of Hsing-i chuan as taught to me by Yan Gaofei. Specifically, I will detail and discuss the drilling fist, or tsuann chuan. Tsuann chuan is linked to the kidney and is associated with the element of water. It is said that water can seek and penetrate the smallest of cracks. This is the way of tsuann chuan. The action of the drilling fist seeks out the tiniest openings and penetrates to the center. During the form and application of tsuann chuan, the kidney is massaged and its health thereby enhanced. This is especially true when the element is performed with great energy. In terms of the wu xing, tsuann chuan creates beng chuan (wood/crushing) and destroys pao chuan (fire/pounding).

To perform the tsuann chuan fist we will begin in the san ti posture with the left foot forward. As you will see, the beginning movements are identical to those of pi chuan. First the body begins to gather energy by closing into itself. The right fist passes up the center while screwing clockwise. The hip also closes in at this point. As you can see in the photo the center is well protected. Step through with the right leg and keep it close to center. Here you are starting to release the energy. The screwing fist follows a circular path up along the center and arcs forward with the highest point in the arc being about face height. As the right fist is rising, the left fist is palm down and going back to a final resting point near the left hip. This action aids greatly by enhancing the balance of the body and the power of the strike. As you step through, keep the eyes focused forward. As the foot lands remember to stay rear weighted. The lead elbow should remain down. As lead fist reaches its maximum distance, the rear hand should be arriving at the rear hip. The timing here is important.

So, now you have a basic guide as to the obvious physical movements but what is there that is not so obvious. To examine this we must discuss the moso jin, or the aspect of touch as it is used in combative application. First and foremost, I must clarify that structure is the most important consideration. In the first article of this series I explained in some detail the concepts of chicken leg, dragon body, tiger's head embrace, and bear shoulder. If any one of these is not in place, the results will be somewhat less than optimal. Secondly, you should remain relaxed. With these key points in mind, once you physically touch the opponent, follow his force and attack his center. For example, when you touch and you feel him trying force your arm up, follow him up as the screwing action of the arm finds the opening to center. This is found through the tension is his body with the aid of your sound structure.

Be careful, however, that you do not try to go deeper into his center by reaching forward and compromising your balance. The proper way to go deeper forward is by stepping deeply into him and by rotating the body (dragon body/chicken leg) so that the fist will move forward. This is a very common mistake. I know because I have made it a lot. The proper way to follow down is by dropping the lead elbow and the body while remaining straight. The proper way to follow left/right can be found in the hips. Another thing I would like to remind you is that when I use the word fist do not take it literally. The fist can be much more than a clenched hand. In Hsing-i the fist refers to the overall striking action of the body. The part of my body that strikes an opponent can be a clenched hand, a forearm, shoulder or my side. There are many variables. What remains constant are the structural requirements and relaxation.

Tsuann chuan is an interesting fist and, like the others, requires much thought and practice to receive its benefits. In practicing this fist and you feel like there is no power look to the ground for the answer. The power of this action should be felt in the rear foot. If there is no connection between the rear foot and the point of impact then you have a serious structural problem. The internal arts generate their awesome power from the lower body and the ground. In the next issue I will present the fourth fist of Hsing-i, pao chuan also known as the pounding fist.

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