Technique and Power

We often hear people say that power is invincible, it can destroy all things and defend against all techniques. We also commonly hear the concept that one ounce can overcome 1000 pounds. These two statements contradict each other and have created confusion and controversy among martial arts practitioners, especially among beginning practitioners. In order to become a better practitioner, it is necessary for one to clarify these two vital yet differing ideas about technique and power in martial arts practice.
  1. What is Power?
    When it is said "Power is invincible, it can destroy all things and defend against all techniques," this refers to when one is in martial confrontation, power plays a very important role in winning. It also refers to the kind of energy behind the work. "Technique" refers to the art of being familiar with and utilizing a physical movement to deliver power onto the opponent's body.

    A martial arts confrontation consists of competition in power, technique and strategy. The outcome of a confrontation will be determined by a number of factors, including: who is stronger, has a more powerful and speedy strike, is more familiar with and able to utilize the techniques correctly, and is more able to seize the opportunity. These are also the things the practitioner should focus on in training. Among these components, power is foundational and the most important element. If there is no power, it does not matter how good the techniques are or how much experience one possesses, it will all be useless because the techniques alone cannot cause enough harm.

    At the same time, in martial arts practice, power or lack of power is not the only issue. The issue is how to apply techniques properly. In other words, one has to apply techniques effectively so the power is behind each technique. Therefore, all martial art practitioners agree that power development or acquisition is the key to martial art's training. Throughout Chinese history, martial arts practitioners have gone to great length to obtain this guarded information and knowledge.

  2. The Types of Power
    Although there are many people who describe all kind of powers, there are actually but two types of power. The first type is what one was born with. It is called "Li" power. It is a localized physiological power. There are many conventional ways one can improve this power. The second type of power is obtained from practical experience. It is called "Jing" power. It is the result of body integration and coordination. This integration takes place when the muscles involved become activated, and the muscles not involved remain relaxed so that all the muscles in the body act together in each movement. Jing power is the advanced stage of li power. All martial arts practitioners begin with li power as the source of power and progress slowly in training towards using jing power. Therefore, it is appropriate to developed li power at the beginning of training. But, li power alone is not a very good power source for the unpredictable situations one encounters in the martial art's for the following reasons:
    1. It does not cause a lot of damage to the opponent
    2. It changes or reacts too slowly
    3. It is not spontaneous
    4. It is exhausted very quickly
    5. It makes it difficult to involve the whole body.
    Therefore, it is necessary for practitioners to develop jing power. In addition, jing power is also divided into "internal" and "external" jing among Chinese martial art practitioners. Although the method and principles of cultivating this jing varies among practitioners and styles, internal jing can often be obtained from static training and external jing from dynamic training. It is only when one combines these two types of jings (and training) that one is able to effectively apply them in martial art application.
  3. Sources of Power
    There are two sources of powers, "pre" and "post-heaven" sources. Pre-Heaven power is explained as coming from the parents. Post-heaven comes from life experience. Among these two, the second source is the most profound, mystical and guarded among martial art practitioners. Although individual practitioners claim their methods are the best to obtain more power, there are actually several elements involved in the amount of power one can discharge:
    1. It is related to the size and mass of muscle.
    2. It is related to the quality of muscle. In other words, it depends on the number of muscle fibers and their elasticity.
    3. It is related to the nervous system and body coordination.
    4. It is related to speed. When the movement is faster, the muscle is able to discharge more power.
  4. What is Technique?
    Generally, "technique" refers to body skill, methods and certain procedures. In martial arts, technique is commonly understood and interpreted as the art of delivering power onto the opponent's body.
    Today, all scientific knowledge and technologies come from practical experience. The same is true of martial arts skill. In order to be skillful as a martial arts practitioner, one must train a lot in practical applications. From this training, a set of movements or experiences is developed called martial techniques.
  5. The Application of Technique
    Technique is the application of physical movements commonly involving seven areas of the body: head, shoulders, legs, elbows, knees, hips and hands. In martial art confrontation people employ all kinds of techniques and strategies. To win any martial confrontation, a practitioner must be familiar with all kind of techniques, able to apply them with speed and power, have a nimble body and mobile step, have a sound strategy and also correct execution. Therefore, when one is engaged in martial art training, one must train the seven areas of the body to strike so that they can all be powerful in execution.
  6. Technique Development
    All things that exist are evolving constantly. All things are changing in relationship and many times these changes are based on the changes in technology and society. It is the same in martial arts. Everyone applies similar techniques to strike. A victor often has new and improved technique. Therefore, one has to constantly improve on techniques and make sure the strike carries enough power so that it can cause serious damage.

    Now, we can see that the relationship between power and technique is very complex. A skillful martial arts practitioner must combine and incorporate the two components together in all responses to be successful. When one has power without any technique, it is equal to no power because one does not know what to do with it. When one has technique but no power, the strike has no effect. It is the same as no technique. When power and technique combine, it is the perfect combination. Therefore, throughout Chinese history, skillful martial art practitioners have recommended that one must combine internal and external aspects in their training and practice. The result is The Six Harmony Theory.

Article By Master Vincent Chu
Copyright © V. Chu. All rights reserved.