Chapter 13: Oral Secrets, #9

9th saying: Skill of Fa Jin

Jin and Li are different
Jin results from the tendons,
Li results from the bones.

Consequently, jin is soft, lively, and resilient.
Li is hard, dead, and without resiliency.

What does fa jin mean?

(It is like) releasing an arrow.

Releasing an arrow
depends on the elasticity of the bowstring
and the power of the bow supporting the bowstring.
that is, (it) is soft, lively, and resilient.

Jin and li are not the same,
(using) jin (you) can fa, (using) li (you) cannot fa.
This can be observed.

this is just the classic-theory (lun) of the nature of fa jin.
the above has not yet thoroughly detailed the function.

To bring more clarity, my teacher would, on typical days,
often explain the essential points of the fa jin method.
(I) attach the following record of the method.

Saying: Essential to catch the opportunity and achieve the advantage. (de ji de shi)
Saying: Essential that the foot, leg, and yao, must always be integrated by one qi.

It is said that Venerable Master Jianhou
delighted in reciting these two formula.

Nevertheless, the formula “de ji de shi” (catch the opportunity, gain the advantage)
is most difficult to get the taste of (appreciate/understand).

The function is described exactly (hit in the center) by the (metaphor of) the pull-saw action
At the time of (doing this action), you accumulate opportunities to exactly catch the pivot point (ji) and achieve the strategic advantage (shi).

According with (the method of) “if the other wants to come forward or wants to move back,
I am aware of it first”
is the correct way to de ji (catch the opportunity or pivot point)

“the other, coming forward or moving back,
is controlled by me”
is the right way to de shi. (achieve the strategic advantage)

(let me) now detail one aspect
of “foot, leg, yao must have one integrated qi
(so that you) may know it.

One rule is that
correctly gathering power (li),
(you) can deliver it a long way

One rule is that
body not disordered,
(you) can squarely “hit the target”

(let this) encourage students to
exert themselves to the utmost to attain
the marvelous use of fa jin !



  • Jin is soft, lively and resilient; Li is hard, dead, and without resiliency”:  柔/rou is soft, supple, and flexible.  Rou is contrasted to 剛 / gang: hard, firm, strong, unchanging. 活 / hou is alive, lively, and dynamic. Hou is part of the yang family 8 secret words (yuan hou: rounded and lively). Hou is contrasted to 死 / : dead, fixed, and rigid.  彈性 / tanxing is elasticity, resilience, springy, flexible. Jin “has tanxing”; Li is “without tanxing”.

  • “releasing an arrow”: release is 放 / fang. Fang means release, let go, loose. It appears in the compound fangsong (loose, completely relaxed); ti-fang (the “lift-release” discharge technique) and the formula “ting, wen, na, fang” (listen, ask/probe, catch/grasp, release).

  • Jin and li are not the same, (using) jin (you) can fa, (using) li (you) cannot fa.” Literally the chinese characters here say: “jin li not same; can fa not can fa”. The parallel construction implies that with one can fa with jin and not with li.

  • “fajin method”:  Method is  法 / fa: same character used for law or dharma in buddhism. Also implies a teaching or instruction method.

  • “Essential to catch the opportunity and achieve the advantage. (de ji de shi) :  De ji de shi is a phrase from the Zhang Sanfeng taichi classic (as is the second quoted saying in the text). The full passage is:
    “The foot, leg, and yao must always be integrated by one qi
    Then stepping forward or back you catch the opportunity and gain the advantage (de ji de shi)
    Failing to catch the opportunity and gain the advantage, the body becomes scattered and disordered (sanluan)
    Seek the error in the yao and legs. “
    The verb de appears many times in the classics and oral teaching. It means “achieve, obtain, gain” and carries considerable weight and stress: deing is not a simple task.
    Ji is an important daoist concept. It carries meanings of the pivot point, turning point and trigger. Being aware of the pivot point is critical to seeing opportunities.
    De shi means to “achieve the strategic advantage”. It appears multiple times in the Sunzi, in particular in the description of a warrior: “His strategic advantage (shi) is like a drawn crossbow and his timing is like releasing the trigger (fa ji --same fa as in fa jin and ji  trigger/opportunity)".

  • “Essential that the foot, leg, and yao, must always be integrated by one qi. “: as discussed above, this is a quote from the Zhang Sanfeng classic. Integrated is 完整 / wánzhěng  meaning complete, unified, integrated, intact. “one qi” (yiqi) can be read as a compound meaning “at one go”, “without a break”, and “coherent whole”. Here, I’ve chosen to translate it as two separate characters (one qi).

  • “Venerable Master Jianhou”: Yang Jianhou was Yang Chengfu’s father. Venerable Master is 老先生 / lǎo xiānshēng: old/venerable teacher/master

  • “if the other wants to come forward or wants to move back, I am aware of it first”. “Aware first” is 先知 / xian zhi: first/ahead know. Xianzhi is also a compound for a prophet or someone with foreknowledge. So, there’s a sense of foreseeing the (immediate) future or possibilities implied by the other’s intention.

  • “body not disordered, (you) can squarely “hit the target”: “body not disordered” is a quoted phrase from the Zhang Sanfeng classic (see above). 散亂 / sànluàn is disordered -- a compound made of scatter/disperse + confusion/disorder. “Hit the target” is literally 命中 / mìngzhòng: life/fate + center, with the meaning “hit the target” or “hit the bullseye”.

  • “marvelous use of fa jin: marvelous use is 妙用 / miàoyòng marvelous/excellent/wonderful + use. It also means “magical effect”. So, the magical uses of fajin.

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Translation Copyright (c) 2013 by Lee Fife
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Zheng-zi 13 Chapters, Translation by Lee Fife is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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