The Role of Qi in Generating Power
By Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming
Martial Power, or Jin, can generally be divided into three
categories: Hard Jin, Soft-Hard Jin and Soft Jin. Among these, Hard Jin
uses the most muscular power, followed by Soft-Hard Jin and finally Soft
Jin. But no matter which Jin, in order to manifest maximum power you must
have both the strength of the physical body (Yang) and a sufficient supply
of smoothly circulating Qi (Yin). “Qi”, which is pronounced
Ki in the Japanese arts, is the Chinese word for “energy”,
and pertains to all forms of energy in the universe. In martial arts and
qigong, it specifically refers to human Qi, the bioenergy or lifeforce
within every cell of the human body.
The external physical strength manifested in specific external movements
is called “External Jin”; it is a Yang manifestation of Jin.
The internal Qi’s build up and circulation is called “Internal
Jin”; it is the Yin manifestation of Jin. When this internal and
external coordinate and support each other harmoniously and efficiently,
it is called “the unification of internal and external”.
You should also understand that Jin can be again divided into Yang Jin
(commonly called “Attacking Jin”) which is aggressive and
used for an attack, and Yin Jin (commonly called “Defensive Jin”)
which is defensive. There is another category of Jin, which is neither
for attacking nor defending. No matter which category, when the Qi is
manifested into a physical form, it is called “Emitting Jin”
Let us define what Jin is and how different Jins are classified. Theoretically,
in order to activate the muscles to generate force or power, the mind
must lead the Qi to the area where the muscles should be energized. For
example, when you push a car, you must first generate an idea, and from
this mind, an electromotive force (EMF) is generated. From this EMF the
Qi is led to the muscles for energization. Through the nervous system
(a highly electrically conductive system) the muscles are stimulated and
contract, thereby generating action.
The Chinese dictionary gives two main meanings for “Jin.”
The first is “strong, unyielding, muscular;” this is usually
applied to powerful, inanimate objects. For example, “Jin Feng”
means a strong wind. It can also be applied to more abstract feelings
of strength, as in “Jin Di” which means a strong enemy.
The second dictionary definition of Jin is “Qi-Li” or “Li-Qi”,
which refers to muscles which are supported by Qi. Using only your muscles
is considered Li. However, when you use your concentrated mind to lead
the muscles to do something, Qi will flow to where you are concentrating
and enliven the muscles. This is considered Jin.
There are many types of Jin, but the one thing they all have in common
is that they all deal with the flow of Qi. The most obvious type of Jin
is “manifest Jin”, where you can see something happening,
as when you push someone. Sensing another person’s motion or energy
is also considered a type of Jin. In fact, in the highest levels of “sensing
Jin”, you actually sense the Qi flow of your opponent and thereby
know his intentions. These sensing Jins are enhanced by increasing the
Qi flow to your skin. In general, the higher the level of Jin, the more
Qi and the less muscular strength is used.
In the martial arts, it is said that Jin is not muscular strength alone.
This means that although you must use your muscles every time you move,
Jin is more than just muscular strength and proper alignment. There are
several different kinds of manifest Jin. When you rely primarily on muscular
strength, but also use Qi and your concentrated mind, it is considered
“Hard Jin”. This kind of Jin is usually easily visible as
tensed muscles. When muscle usage is reduced and both Qi and muscles play
equal roles in the Jin, it is called “Soft-Hard Jin.” When
muscle usage is reduced to a minimum and Qi plays the major role, it is
called “Soft Jin.” Soft-Hard Jin and especially Soft Jin,
are usually expressed in a pulse. Soft Jin is often compared to a whip,
which can express a great deal of force in a very short time, concentrated
in a very small area. When you snap a whip, it stays loose as it transmits
a wave or pulse of energy along its length to the tip. Similarly, when
you use Soft Jin your muscles stay relatively relaxed as you transmit
a pulse of energy through your body. This is done with the tendons and
the ends of the muscles, supported by Qi.
When a Soft Jin is manifested, the emission of Jin is a relatively short,
smooth and relaxed pulse of energy, without any angular changes in direction.
The pulse can be long or short, near the body or at a distance. It can
be a sudden contraction and expansion as you bounce the opponent away,
or an even sharper “spasm” as you strike or break something.
Depth of Jin
This illustration may help you understand the difference
between Jin and muscular strength (Li). In this figure, the vertical coordinate
represents the depth to which power can penetrate and the horizontal coordinate
represents the elapsed time. The areas under the curves represent the
power generated for each curve. We assume that the areas under the curves
are the same, i.e., the power generated for each curve is equal. In curve
1, the power is generated, reaches its maximum, stays at the maximum for
the time and then drops to zero. Without strong Qi support, this is a
typical example of Li; muscular strength predominates and penetration
is limited, as in the average punch. With Qi support, it would be considered
In curve 2, both muscles and Qi are involved and the power is at its maximum
for the shorter time. Since the power generated is the same as with curve
1, the peak has to reach higher, which means there is greater penetration.
In order to do this, the muscles must be relaxed to allow the Qi from
either the local area or the Lower Dan Tian (elixir field) to flow smoothly
to support them. The Lower Dan Tian is located in the center of your abdomen,
and is known to be the center of the body’s energetic circulatory
system. This is the general idea of “Soft-Hard Jin.” In Soft-Hard
Jin, commonly the body is soft and relaxed so the Qi can be led to the
area where the Jin will be manifested. Once the Qi arrives, a slight but
sharp muscular tension is intentionally generated and the power is manifested.
This is the Jin used predominantly for striking in soft-hard martial styles,
such as White Crane Kung Fu.
In curve 3, the time in which the power is generated is even shorter.
The muscles must be extremely relaxed to generate and express this sharply
penetrating power. In order to reach a deep penetrating power, speed is
a crucial key for successful Soft Jin manifestation. Naturally, Qi plays
the predominant role in this “soft” Jin. Curve 3 is typical
of the Jin used for striking in the internal arts, such as Taijiquan (tai
From the point of view of muscle usage, curve 1 is like a wooden staff,
curve 2 is like a rattan staff and curve 3 is like a whip. The wooden
staff is stiff like tensed muscles, the rattan is more flexible, and the
whip is soft; its power sharp and focused. Even curve 3, which is a very
high level of power, is still not the highest power in the martial arts.
The highest level of the Qi manifestation into Jin can be represented
by line 4. In this level, the muscular strength is reduced to minimum
and the Qi plays the major role of the power manifestation. When a martial
artist has reached this level, he can transport his Qi into his enemy’s
body through the acupuncture cavities to shock organs and cause damage
or death instantly. The time used is extremely short and the penetration
is deeper than is possible with Jin or Li. This is known as the skill
of “Pressing Cavity” (Dian Xue ) or “Pressing Primary
Qi Channel” (Dian Mai/Dim Mak ). Detailed understanding of the body’s
Qi circulatory system and which points are vital at which time of day
is necessary for these techniques to be effective.
(Dim Mak is controversial, and is considered mythical in modern times.
Many people do not believe it to be possible, and in fact they do not
believe that Qi or the body’s energetic circulatory system even
exists. However, in traditional Chinese martial arts society, it is well
known and understood. In addition, during World War 2, the Japanese performed
extensive studies on the Qi circulatory system, using Dim Mak techniques
on captured Chinese civilians from the Manchou territory (Northeast of
China). By carefully recording the data resulting from these "experiments",
torturing and killing many people in the process, they verified the accuracy
of their knowledge of the body’s energetic circulatory system and
the effectiveness of the Dim Mak techniques. This information has been
published in other countries, and was made available for publication in
America, but upon reading the details, it was decided to be unethical
and dangerous to publish the information.)
Li can be considered closer to Hard Jin in which muscular strength plays
the major role in power manifestation. It is said that Li or Hard Jin
is derived from the bones and muscles. The Qi is supported from the local
area. Soft-Hard Jin and Soft Jin originate from the tendons and are supported
strongly by Qi, which is generated in the Lower Dan Tian. Since the tendons
are emphasized in the Soft-Hard Jin and Soft Jin, the muscle fibers can
be relaxed, allowing the Qi to flow through them and support them. If
your force is derived from the bones, there is a strong tendency for you
to resist and meet your opponent’s force directly. When your force
is derived from the tendons it is easier to be flexible and elusive, to
disappear in front of the opponent’s attack and to appear at his
In order to have stronger Qi, you need a meditative mind, which can generate
a stronger EMF. Through this concentration, your spirit can be raised
to a highly focused stage from which you can govern your entire being
more efficiently. When this happens, you will be able to manifest your
physical power to its maximum.
About The Author:
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming started his Gongfu (Kung Fu) training at the age
of fifteen under the Shaolin White Crane (Bai He) Master Cheng, Gin Gsao.
In thirteen years of study (1961-1974) under Master Cheng, Dr. Yang became
an expert in the White Crane style of Chinese martial arts, which includes
both the use of bare hands and of various weapons such as saber, staff,
spear, trident, two short rods, and many others. With the same master
he also studied White Crane Chin Na, Tui Na and Dian Xue massages, and
At the age of sixteen, Dr. Yang began the study of Taijiquan (Yang Style)
under Master Gao, Tao. After learning from Master Gao, Dr. Yang continued
his study and research of Taijiquan with several masters and senior practitioners
such as Master Li, Mao-Ching and Mr. Wilson Chen in Taipei. Master Li
learned his Taijiquan from the well-known Master Han, Ching-Tang, and
Mr. Chen learned his Taijiquan from Master Chang, Xiang-San. Dr. Yang
has mastered the Taiji barehand sequence, pushing hands, the two-man fighting
sequence, Taiji sword, Taiji saber, and Taiji Qigong.
At 18, he entered Tamkang College in Taipei Xian to study Physics and
also began the study of traditional Shaolin Long Fist (Changquan) with
Master Li, Mao-Ching at the Tamkang College Guoshu Club (1964-1968). He
eventually became an assistant instructor under Master Li. In 1971 he
completed his M.S. degree in Physics at the National Taiwan University
and then served in the Chinese Air Force from 1971 to 1972. In the service,
Dr. Yang taught Physics at the Junior Academy of the Chinese Air Force
while also teaching Wushu. After being honorably discharged in 1972, he
returned to Tamkang College to teach Physics and resumed study under Master
Li, Mao-Ching. From Master Li, Dr. Yang learned Northern style Gongfu,
which includes both barehand techniques, especially kicking, and numerous
In 1974, Dr. Yang came to the United States to study Mechanical Engineering
at Purdue University. At the request of a few students, Dr. Yang began
to teach, which resulted in the foundation of the Purdue University Chinese
Kung Fu Research Club in the spring of 1975. While at Purdue, Dr. Yang
also taught college-credited courses in Taijiquan. In May, 1978 he was
awarded a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering by Purdue.
Yang's Martial Arts Association was established in Boston, MA in 1982.
Currently, YMAA is an international organization, including 56 schools
in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Holland, Hungary, Iran,
Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom,
and the United States. In 1984, Dr. Yang retired from his engineering
career, to focus his energy on teaching and researching the Chinese arts,
and introducing them to the West through many books, videos and DVDs.
Visit http://www.ymaa.com for current information.
Dr. Yang has nearly 40 years of instructional experience: seven years
in Taiwan, five years at Purdue University, two years in Houston, TX,
and 25 years in Boston, MA. On November 29, 2005, Dr. Yang conferred the
title of Taiji Master to one of his senior students, which by definition
bestows the honorable title of Grandmaster upon Dr. Yang.
Dr. Yang is also the founder of the YMAA Retreat Center in Humbolt County,
CA, where he will spend ten years training a select group of students,
starting in August 2008. http://www.ymaa-retreatcenter.org