Hunyuan Strength

Hun Yuan strength can be demonstrated or tested by "bouncing" several people from many directions at once. This would not be possible if the practitioner was using one-dimensional strength.

Student: What is Hunyuan strength?
Master Fung: Hunyuan strength refers to oneness, whole body strength or six surfaces strength. It is different from regular strength. The easiest way would be to show you, but, since you're writing this down the best we can do is compare it with regular strength. In contrast to Hunyuan strength, regular strength would be called sectional, broken or one-sided strength. It is not to say that regular strength can't be strong and forceful, only that the entire body is not contributing to whatever function the strength is required for. With regular strength the majority of the load is born by the local muscle groups in the limbs. With Hunyuan strength, the majority of the load is carried by the legs, waist and back. Regular strength is delivered directly, like a ram where the force is the inertia of the weight moving forward. Hunyuan strength is delivered indirectly... the inertia of the weight moving away from the target is more than that moving into it. Regular strength dissipates with movement. Hunyuan strength is stored within movement. This stored strength results in torque or martial velocity in each movement. That's why it's called oneness or whole body strength because the entire frame supplies torque to the limbs within each gesture.

Student: So why is Hunyuan strength so important?
Master Fung: The development of Hunyuan strength is the basis for both health cultivation and self defense. You have to understand that health and self-defense are inseparable when it comes to martial arts. A healthy mind-body is the foundation of strength and awareness and therefore of paramount importance in Kung Fu. The exercises we use to discover and develop Hunyuan strength are beneficial to health. Much has been written about this...deeper relaxation, lubricating the joints, stretching the tendons, strengthening the ligaments, massaging the organs, etc. We are holistically exercising the body in a balanced way. Of course Yi Chuan is martial in nature, therefore we emphasize postures and orbits useful for fighting. When deployed with the proper footwork and timing, techniques expressed with Hunyuan strength utilize the capacity of the whole body to absorb, redirect and discharge strength. Powerful techniques can be delivered without much movement but with sudden and overwhelming force. By arranging our training to develop Hunyuan strength, we address the intertwined issues of health and self defense simultaneously.

Master Cheuk Fung talks about Hun Yuan Strength (part 1 of 2 videos)

Student: So if I understand you correctly, it's not the movement or posture that you use that's important but whether or not it uses Hunyuan strength?
Master Fung: Exactly, that was your great grand teacher's point. Various postures and exercises are not the Kung Fu, they are merely an expression of it.

Student: In Yi Chuan then we avoid using any fixed forms or postures in training?
Master Fung: No, that's a misunderstanding. In Yi Chuan we have various postures and routes, many of which can be considered standard practices. We may practice a single technique over and over or string several together into an exercise or form. The difference is we treat these methods as stepping stones in the process of developing skill. At first a particular posture is required establish Hunyuan strength, but as the practice matures the strength can be achieved without strict adherence to that posture's requirements. The goal in Yi Chuan is to be capable of using Hunyuan strength spontaneously - without needing to rely on a form, posture or technique to activate it. This way the strength can be hidden under a non-threatening gesture or movement or manifest suddenly in response to surprise. Freedom from fixed forms and routines does not mean we don't use and appreciate them, just that they take their proper relationship in the art as being the door to formlessness. In Chinese Kung Fu we have a saying, discipline before freedom. We diligently practice and develop Hunyuan strength until it can be freely and spontaneously expressed. This is what makes Yi Chuan an art and not a sport. Like a master painter, each gesture should express the cumulative achievement of the practitioner.

Student: What advantages does Hunyuan strength have in a fight?
Master Fung: Assuming one is trained to the point where they can fight with Hunyuan strength there are many advantages. First, the body structure is supported and balanced which provides a layer of protection against being hurt badly. This is commonly referred to as Iron Shirt or Golden Bell. Second, strength is at the edge, meaning it can be deployed without having to wind up or gather momentum. Third, the center is well established and protected making it easier to disrupt your opponents balance while making it harder for them to disrupt yours. The idea is to reach a point where "your hands are not your hands and your whole body is your hands," meaning your hands have the strength of the whole body while the whole body can be used like the hands to deploy strength. There are many other advantages Hunyuan strength brings to a fight, but those are some of the major ones.

Master Cheuk Fung talks about Hun Yuan Strength (part 2 of 2 videos)

Student: Can you describe how Hunyuan strength is developed?
Master Fung: The Yi Chuan method for developing strength is based on the natural learning process of a human being. Like a child with a toy, the student is given exercises to play with that progressively challenge his capacity and therefore cultivate and develop it. Everything begins with the Jam Jong. Through its practice the student discovers his frame and how to connect it into one unit. Using visualizations to stimulate a desired response in the body the student then begins to search for strength within fundamental movements that make it easier to get the right feeling. When the student begins to properly connect the frame, searching for strength becomes sensing strength where various postures and exercises are used to increase the range of motion and elongate the orbits in which Hunyuan strength can be maintained. Next the student tackles stepping with the proper timing to deliver Hunyuan strength to the target. Push hands and other partner exercises are then used to help the student appreciate the nature and use of Hunyuan strength in various combinations of postures and angles. Sounds or tones are then used to vibrate the body and bring awareness to a deeper level. Finally, actual fighting is used to fine tune the skill and develop confidence in the student.

Student: Are these like levels, where you don't go to the next one until you have completed the one you're on?
Master Fung: No, not at all. The method is circular, meaning each practice helps you to understand and appreciate the others. What is a tiny movement in Jam Jong becomes a large movement in sensing strength only to become a small movement hidden in a large movement when delivering strength and eventually the same strength is there whether the movement is large or small. You go around and around until you eventually realize its all one practice.

Yi Chuan Standing Practice (Jam Jong)

Student: I've noticed you often hold students back from engaging in push hands practice too soon...why is that?
Master Fung: For their own good. Push hands practice too early on usually only reinforces bad habits and prevents the student discovering Hunyuan strength. When you started learning from me you had what, 10 years experience practicing martial arts?

Student: Yes, about that much...and a lot of time practicing sticky hands and other partner exercises...that's why I don't understand why you didn't want me to push?
Master Fung: Because, you had too many bad habits and pushing hands would have just reinforced them. I don't mean bad like they were wrong. You trained for years to develop those habits and you could defend yourself with them, right?

Student: Sure. So what do you mean by 'bad'?
Master Fung: They are not bad in the context of your old training. However, from a Yi Chuan perspective those old methods are not based on Hunyuan strength. So, in push hands your natural competitiveness caused you to constantly regress back to your old training. By focusing you on Jam Jong, sensing strength and the footwork until you had the right feeling of Hunyuan strength I helped you get past your old habits. I saved you a lot of time and effort..., whether you realize it or not.

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