Heng Chuan
by Jim Dees

This is the final installment of the articles dedicated to documenting the Zhang Yunxian method of Hsing-i Chuan as taught to me by Yan Gaofei. We began this process last year with an examination of the San Ti posture and the 6 requirements: chicken leg, dragon body, bear shoulder, tiger's embrace, eagle claw and thunder sound. Of this series, the first two articles remain the most important. Those which have followed, including this one, serve only to show different variations of the circle as applied with these concepts of structure and alignment. This article shall briefly explain Heng chuan, the crossing fist. It is associated with the element earth. It's practice is said to benefit the spleen and stomach. Without strength in these areas, the other elements are weakened. In the wu xing, heng chuan is created by pao chuan and destroys tsuan chuan.

Let us begin from the san ti posture with the left leg forward. From here, step forward at a slight angle to the left with the lead leg as you begin to save energy (bear) by collapsing inward towards center with your right side. As you step forward, the rear foot pushes from the ground to help you go forward. You continue the strike by extending and rotating the right arm forward so that the palm side of the fist is facing up. It is important to have the rear hand pull back simultaneously to add power and balance to the movement. To continue, save energy by collapsing the left side into center as you bring the rear foot next to the lead foot. Step out and strike as before to the opposite side. heng chuan, in the form, strikes with the opposite hand and foot forward. For example, left foot and right fist forward, right fist and left foot forward. The weight should remain in the rear leg during this fist. The power of the crossing fist comes from a forward movement. That is important....the crossing power comes from a whole body movement forward. To illustrate, lets examine heng chuan with the left foot forward and the right fist forward. The energy against an opponent is lateral and will knock him to the side hence the name crossing fist. But, a common mistake is to wind up the upper body and use your strength to muscle him to the side. The correct way according to the structural requirements is to rely on the forward movement of the body as the chicken leg,dragon body, bear shoulder, and tiger embrace are set. While all are essential, the chicken leg and dragon body are what is most obvious in this movement. When the legs are set and screwing into the ground, the left kua (inner groin) collapses through relaxation. As a result, the body naturally turns in such a way that the right fist goes forward as it rotates. This comes into contact with the opponent. This screwing combined with the forward momentum is what makes the crossing fist.

Now, you can see the basic concepts of the way inwhich power is generated in heng chuan. As in all internal arts, we must examine how the force is followed to attach the energy properly. This is the requirement of eagle claw. Upon contact we must seek to avoid force against force. We shall also seek the opponent's center as the target for our projection. If one feels the force coming directly at our body, it is easy enough to follow his force and attack from the side. If the opponent's force is rising towards us, we should relax into our structure and follow it force and deliver it back into him through the circle. If his force is dropping down, the same principle applies etc. etc..

Clearly, Hsing-i is one of the three main internal arts which come from China. One of the characteristics that makes it an internal art is the circling of force back into the opponent through a reliance on its structure and relaxation. While the circles are not as obvious an they are in Tai chi, they are the none the less. In fact, the five fists I have been writing about for the past year are nothing more than expressions of the structure moving in five different circles. If you can understand that, then your understanding of this art is deeper than many practitioners who train the art in the external way. In closing, I hope that the reader has gained a little insight into this wonderful art. I urge you all to remember that structure and alignment are the key to this and all internal arts. It is only through proper structure and alignment can one learn to truly relax and practice the internal arts as they where meant to be practiced. A goal which I am pursuing myself.



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