Song of Pi
This article has been expanded upon and included in Mike Patterson's new book...
XINGYI - A Means To An End
Available at left for purchase.
Copyright: Pai Hui Ke Enterprises 1990
The Song of Pi Chuan
By: Shr Fu Mike Patterson
This will be the first in a series of five articles covering the Wu Hsing (five forms / five fists), sometimes called the five elements of Hsing-I practice.
The focus of these short articles will be to offer explanation of the "Songs of the Five Forms." And to demonstrate various applications from the striking, grappling and throwing mediums of each of the respective forms.
The Song Of Pi
From the mouth, come the two fists closely held.
Up to the eyebrow, drills the forefist.
Close behind the forefist, follows the hind fist.
Together with the crossing arms, the heart unites. Chi falls to Tan Tien as body moves, hind foot forward as the arms separate.
In a hemisphere the Tiger's mouth opens while all fingers apart.
Forehand pushes to between eyebrow and heart.
Under the armpit, the hind hand stays.
Hand, nose, and foot form the three point set.
So as Pi Chuan tsuans upward, to the eyebrow, turned up the little finger.
Together sink the feet and hands, upthrust the tongue.
Advancing, changing styles, hind palm sinks downward.
In performance of Pi Chuan, the Splitting posture, there are several key elements that must be harmonized before the posture will feel balanced and powerful. Until these component parts are intuitively understood, the movements will feel only awkward at best. We will address the first two lines of the song first.
Initially, the fists must twist (drill) upward from their palms downward position at the waist, keeping near the torso, so as to almost brush the skin, and then shoot outward from the mouth. This will ensure a circular connected strength in the fist and the twisting will both augment power from central muscle groups and serve to coil the limb for power in the subsequent pulling action.
And now the third line reminds that the hind fist follows at the elbow of the striking fist to protect the ribs from attack and to be closer to the opponent for secondary attack.
As this action is completed, and the thrusting from the rear foot dissipates, bring the rear foot up to light foot (foot level at medial ankle of support foot) position and feel the suspension from the Pai Hui (crown of head) point anchoring your center of balance.
"Together with crossing arms," begins the next line. And as the arms cross in preparation to perform the palm separation, the mind stills and the intention takes shape. This is what is meant by "The Heart Unites." Be sure that the armpits remain open to keep the proper energetic and kinetic linkage.
The next section of the poem is very important in that it tries to impart to the reader the necessary harmony of mind and body as the intention is completed.
As you change styles into the Splitting palm, drop your mind to lower Tan Tien (a spot three fingers below your navel) and settle your Chi as you perform the Tearing Silk action.
The next four lines of the song give details as to positioning of the posture. Tiger's mouth (the space between the thumb and index finger) must be open and stretched as is the whole hand. The attitude should be one of holding a six inch ball lightly. This shape is to aid the energetics of the posture. The forward hand should reside at a height that sits between the eyebrow and heart. "Under the armpit, the hind hand stays." This detail occurs immediately after the arms cross in transition into the Splitting Palm posture. The hind hand must circle through the armpit on its way down to the abdomen. This action creates a double interacting spiral, one vertical and one horizontal, in the torso and waist magnifying kinetic potential. At completion, the lead finger, nose and the lead toe should all be on a single plane, forming the "three point set" of the San Ti (three leg) stance.
The final lines of the song relate to the first fisted posture of Pi Chuan and again reiterate that when you perform this part of the change to tsuan (twist) the striking hand so that the little finger is turned upward in relation to the fist. The tongue should be upthrust to insure the energetic connection of the Du and Ren pulses in practice. And the body and hind palm should sink downward in the "changing styles" of the Splitting palm.
Pi Chuan is often called the soul of Hsing-I practice. What you learn (or don't learn) in your Pi Chuan practice will transfer to every other part of your Hsing-I Chuan.
The essence of Pi Chuan is Rising and Falling energy. When you advance to the light foot position, the whole body must be light and suspended while coiling every muscle fiber for the subsequent strike of the palm. Even the striking palm is brought upward in a coiled position with the pinky turned upward.
When you advance forward, you must do so with solidity. Tan tien motivates the strike and the whole body sinks at the spacial focal point. This is effortless power.
The Palm strike of Pi Chuan is mostly downward. The forward part of the blow is largely a result of the corresponding foot movement. The strike must be performed like an axe stroke. The movement must be natural, allowing the force of gravity to act on the hand, and be coerced, guided and accelerated by the rest of the muscular/skeletal system
The state of mind must be pure and focused on only the movement being performed until completion. If you allow your mind to leap ahead to the next movement in an effort to gain more speed, you shall gain only disharmony and your movements shall lack power as a result of the absence of real intention. The conscious and subconscious mind must be linked together to manifest absolute power. There can be no disparity of command issued to the body.
The strength of Pi Chuan is imparted mainly through the waist and intercostal muscles. The half step of the feet does not vector power in Pi Chuan as it does in some of the other elements. The kinetics are simply not there to apply vectored force. Rather, the half stepping in Pi Chuan should be applied in synchronicity with the arrival of the body's center at it's pre-determined spacial point when the actual blow is delivered, thereby maximizing the body's rooted connection to the ground. More solidity means more potential power.
Lastly, power originates in the waist, is rebounded through the legs, developed through the torso and manifest in the fingers. But Hsing-I has been best likened to a whipping piece of rattan. It moves at once in a brisk wave. When practicing, remember to lead with the hands when performing Pi Chuan and connect them to Tan Tien so that the whole body moves as a unit. If you think of leading with the waist, you will move too sluggishly. The wave will be too big. It is simply not possible to think about the individual parts of the kinetic process and manifest it with any speed. The movement has to be like a pulse. The image of intent is formed and the body and energy obey that intention.
Remember quality over quantity in your practice. The internal arts are unique and they must be practiced in a unique and thoughtful way...
The Important thing to remember in applying the splitting posture is to not be one dimensional in your thinking. Remember that each form of Hsing-I can be applied from all five levels of striking, throwing, chin na, striking the nerves, striking the points, and this can be overlayed with the "Three Basin" theory giving you three different mediums to work from influencing angle and position of attack. It can also be explored from the "Seven Stars" theory, yielding a multitude of additional expressions of "Splitting" in the form of the Head, Shoulder, Elbow, Hip, Knee, Foot and Hand.
My teacher used to say "You know one, you know ten." He was fond of expounding the fact that a change of hand position, angle, or footwork was necessary to adjust the technique to an ever changing situation of fighting. "As long as principle is correct, it's ok." he used to say. I believe very strongly in this. This is what makes Hsing-I such a completely fascinating system.
For further myriad examples of application potential, try viewing the "Five Forces" DVD from my Hsing-I series of Instructional videos. You will find this video DVD and others in the video section of our web page.
If you like to read more about the songs of Xingyi, you may do so by purchasing the Hsing-I Journal CD at left!