Yin Rou Jing

This article was originally posted by Steve Klausmeir, but somehow got re-posted under my name when we changed domain names. -R

My previous article referred to the type of fluid, connected movement exemplified by Bagua circle walking forms as yin rou jing.  Tim Cartmell told me that’s what they called it back in the day, and the term stuck with me.  I haven’t seen it used elsewhere, though.  So, I can’t verify the historical accuracy of that claim.  But, I’ve enjoyed considering the significance of those particular Chinese characters and wanted to share my thoughts.

First of all, let me say that nobody who actually fights cares about qi. Tim’s fist Taiji teacher said, “It is a natural occurrence in the body and the more you think about it, or try to control it, the worse off you’ll be.  Thinking about it will only hinder your progess.”  I agree.  Clearly, a kind of energy, or “spark of life,” animates our bodies.  If you want to call it qi, be my guest.  But, the feeling of effortlessness that accompanies a well-executed technique is the result of being properly stacked, not some mystical force.  Because of this, my advice to anyone wanting to develop “internal power” would be to first visit a CES, like Bob.

You might say that the primary goal of Bagua practice is to develop the ability to remain stacked, while constantly in motion.  The thing is, modern sports science methods, like SAQ and power training, are more effective ways to accomplish this than the classical Chinese methods.  The only reason to do Bagua is to preserve a curious aspect of Asian culture, albeit an anachronism.  Reasonable people understand this.  My own Bagua teacher said, “If you came to me and just wanted to learn how to fight, I wouldn’t teach you Bagua.”  Later, he went so far as to say that, knowing what he knows, now, he wouldn’t even have gone to Taiwan.  Instead, he would’ve gone to Brazil and Thailand.

Anyway, I still think it’s pretty cool stuff and like to consider myself a Bagua man.  As such, my goal is to manifest yin rou jing in everything I do.  So, what does that mean to me?  The Chinese character for yin is the same one used to represent the feminine principle of the popular yin/yang concept, which implies receptivity.  I try to either circumvent or redirect, rather than oppose force directly.  Other meanings include; be crafty, secret, and to deceive.  In a fight, my opponent should not be able to tell what I’m trying to do.  If I’m too rigid, he will be able to sense my intentions.

The character for rou, pronounced “ju” in Japanese, is the same one used to write both Judo and Goju.  Usually, translated as soft, or gentle, this character implies non-resistence.  But, for me, it also evokes a feeling of resiliency…like a bamboo stalk that can bend without breaking.

Jing means strength, energy, or spirit.  This term refers to a refined power, as opposed to brute force.  It can be used to describe any movement that has been repetitively trained , becoming highly efficient.  As an example, I always think of a swimmer’s stroke, or an Olympic lifter performing the clean and jerk.

If you want to learn how to strike, you’ve got to really hit things like a heavy bag and focus mitts.  If want to be able to throw someone, you’ve got to spend some time grappling in a standing clinch, AND not be afraid of falling yourself.  To be comfortable fighting on the ground, you have to wrestle.  At some point in your training, it has to become real.  Live sparring, against a resisting opponent, is the only way of developing the skills necessary to make a technique work.

Once you begin fighting against a resisting opponent, you realize the importance of physical conditioning.  You can never have enough of the core attributes, like strength, agility, and quickness.  They are like money in the bank.  If you have it, you can spend it however you want.  If not, you’re just broke…literally!

You cannot learn to fight from practicing solo forms.  But, you can learn how to move, or at least remind yourself.  After working with Bob to correct my compensations, the Bagua circle walking forms have begun to take on a new significance in my training.  The movements seem to be infused with a whole new power.  I think, I’m finally beginning to understand what all the hype was about in 19th century China.


5 responses to “Yin Rou Jing

  1. Steve, you touched on a point that I’ve been thinking about more and more lately: any of the really great martial artists I’ve seen, when in “performance mode” (sparring, randori, etc) have a quality of fluidity and movement that looks nothing like the “martial art” as practiced by most practitioners. The more someone tries to “look” like a particular art, the more their movement suffers and the less fluid, agile and powerful they are.

  2. Marc Denny, the guy who runs the Dog Brothers stickfighting, says that the art and strategies and the drills of traditional Filipino stickfighting can bee seen in the full contact matches that they do- but one has to look closely beyond the external forms.

  3. Randy, I’ve noticed that, too. Everyone ends up looking about the same, because they learn to conserve energy by utilizing momentum and not fighting against the opponent’s force directly. When people fight for real, all style considerations get thrown out. The most useful training seems to be learning to generate whole-body power through the practice of a few generic movements. That’s my interpretaion of the Bagua circle walking forms…they are not supposed to represent specific techniques. But, Bob’s combination of agility ladder training and medicine ball work does the same thing, only better.

    Of course, once we’ve developed the requisite movement attributes, we still have to acquire some fundamental skills in order to make a technique really work…like recognizing angles and levers, while being sensitive to the opponent’s movements.

    Also, let’s not forget the general “toughness” needed in a fight. It’s not possible to train realistically without getting some bumps and bruises. In the long run, the training should have a sort of callousing effect on people. But, if we push that aspect too far, the training will become inaccessible for ordinary folks. At that point, we need to decide whether we’re only interested in training UFC champions, or would rather provide a service to the community.

  4. Pingback: Perfect Timing « Ridiculosity

  5. After reading Adam’s comment, I looked at some Dog Brothers video and another thought occurred to me. Even when martial arts work the way they’re supposed to, it’s still an ugly thing.

    The random, and chaotic, nature of an actual encounter requires a different kind of response than the pre-arranged sequences we often see demonstrated by martial artists. Usually, the use of overt muscular strength is required at some point to exert control over the opponent resulting in a less than elegant technique.

    For example, all the principles of fighting I discuss are contained in the practice of Aikido. But, I’ve never seen it work against someone punching like Chuck Liddell. For me, it represents an unobtainable ideal.

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