Vibrating Palm: Q&A

Ok, here is a question for everyone. It is not meant to start a fight so everyone please be kind. But I would like to know different view points on it. What is the difference in fajing and vibration in regards to striking ? Are they the same and if not what separates them ?

This is such a good question I figured I would try to put a little time in to give it some attention as best I can. I think that both of the skills begin referred to here tend to be misunderstood in most cases due to being either kept secret, or not fully taught to students or honestly just referenced and whispered about as mythical skills from other masters or styles.

Fa Jin (sometimes Fa Jing due to pronunciation) is two characters : To Emit or Express and which is a complex character that I prefer to translate as “Whole Body Connected Intrinsic Power”. The misunderstanding comes from the idea that there is only one type of Fa Jin which is considered an explosive type of movement. To express whole body connected force does not mean only one type of force. Jins are like flavours of power, each one distinct and felt through touch differently by the person touching the player. Famously taiji people discuss eight jins in their art peng, lu, ji, an, cai, kao, zhou, lieh but there many many more. Examples include Han (Cold), Xuan (Dark), Pao (Firey, Explosive), Zuan (Driling, Boring) etc etc. Some of these are expressed in an explosive way when used or demonstrated or trained and these are the things people see when they observe say Chen Taiji players training. The thing is however though that this is not demonstrative of every Jin. Look to soft players like high level Yang or Wu stylists or Bagua players. The fact that they do not explode does not mean they are not “epxressing whole body connected power”, it is just simply not the type of Jin you can see.

Now to the question at hand the vibration or shake seen in the body of a player who is “doing fajin” is a result of the body moving quickly into a very solidly connected shape all at once. It is not the Jin itself nor is it representative of how the Jin is flavoured. It is an aftershock, a result of the power flowing through the shapes made by the body. Shapes are not power, power flows through the shapes. So this in reference to the question at hand is not Vibrating Jin.

Vibrating Palm is a famous method in Chinese Martial Arts that has a lot of mystery around it that is probably a result of misunderstanding coupled with secrecy and legendary story telling. Most likely it was founded in Tui Na 推拿(translated as “Push, Lift and Squeeze) which has a technique to release muscular tension through vibration.

Before Chinese Medicine was codified in about the year 1000 it was in separate parts among separate peoples. Their were Acupuncturists, Herbalists, Bone Setters, Tui Na Massage and An Mo Massage people. So of course some times there may be people who knew more than one method of healing but most likely they would be used individually or recommendin patients to one another. You did not go to the Acupuncturist for the shoulder dislocation you got falling down by the river, you went to the local Kung Fu school since they were the ones who dealt with those types of injuries all the time. Tui Na many times was also the realm of the Acupuncturists and / or the Kung Fu players since they had the grip strength to perform the massage methods well. Incidentally An Mo massage which is the pleasant relaxing type of massage as opposed to the therapeutic and awful feeling Tui Na was the realm of the blind, which gave them a way to support themselves after being trained.

There are two types of Vibrating palm trained, internal and external. The external vibrating palm is generally used in tui na for massage and is a result of shaking the arm from the shoulder to create a vibration in the palm which you apply to the area you want to affect. In massage it releases tension and feels great bringing blood and attention (qi) to the area being massaged. I suspect that the internal method came from martial arts players who trained tui na. In the internal method you train to begin the vibration for the palm in the abdomen (dantien) and have it cascade in quick muscular contractions through the torso, shoulder, arm and to the hand. The hand then is vibrating because the torso is transferring force through it, not as a result of shaking your hand. This takes time and effort (kung fu funny enough) in order to get it to start working at all.

So one spends years perhaps training vibrating the torso and carrying it through the hands, setting the palm on tabletops and shaking the table, palms on a wall and shaking the wall or post and so on. Perhaps you may find it from a master in a form you practice. I was lucky to be taught it in the Ma style of ganmaoquan (Sick Fist 感冒) and then find it again in Cao branch Yin Fu Bagua and in Cheng Style Bagua forms. Once the skill is attained and the internal ability to vibrate is gained, what is its purpose?

Striking an opponent in this way, with the vibrating jin is really interesting. My Shifu was ‘kind’ enough to show it to me early on so I would get many chances to train it and of course, like cooking, it’s best to taste the dish and know its flavour before trying to make it yourself. The vibration jin when done powerfully basically shakes the hell out of your structure and will cause it to open or weaken or fall apart at its weakest point. I have experienced and seen it done and have results like a strike to the shoulder buckling the knee, a strike to the chest folding the hips and so on. It also hurts like hell and yes does have implications of striking and affecting organs as well including the brain. In the ma family training we focused on striking at the skull or heart with it for ideally lethal results, but honestly it works great in push hands as pushes and direction changes or in qin na methods as well to shake the structure and cloud the mind of the opponent away from resisting well.

Hopefully this makes some sense, Fa Jin can be expressing different flavours and one of those flavours can be vibrating jin. Hope this helps, always fun to share what I can, when I can.

Neil Ripski

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