Bengquan (Wood) Collapsing Fist;
**Please consult your Physician before starting any exercise. The medical theories presented in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical diseases. They are presented to the public for general knowledge of Chinese Medicine and to elucidate the practices and knowledge of past Masters.**
Spring has sprung and therefore we go into the Elemental Season of Wood. Wood represents birth, growth and renewal, it is the Shao Yang (Lesser Yang) as Yang is just beginning to rise from the extreme Yin of Winter. So in regards to the Taiji symbol we are just coming up and out of the extreme aspect of the Black colored part of the Fish to the first smallest thread of White colored part of the Fish.
This is when all the animals are rising from their hibernation, the trees and plants begin to bud and slowly blossom, hence the time of growth and renewal.
Spring time Chart
Organs: Liver and Gallbladder
Day time: Morning
Trigram associations; Thunder/Zhen/Chen, and/or Penetrating/Wind/Xun
Hsing Yi Fist: Bengquan
Emotions: Anger, irritation, when in balance; Kindness
Sensory organ; Eye
Body Part: Tendons and muscles
Life Cycle, early childhood/newborn
The organs associated in Chinese Medicine are Liver, Gallbladder. Liver is the Yin aspect of Wood and Gallbladder is the Yang aspect, so the Liver is the nourishing organ and the Gallbladder is the Functional aspect of the Wood. In nature the Yin and Liver would be the Phloem/leaves of the plant as these parts provides nourishment to the plant. The Xylem is akin to the Gallbladder as it’s function is to move nutrients and water from the roots to the stems and leaves. Thus completing the Yin/Yang cycles.
This is similar to how the body operates, the Gallbladder provides an important functional aspect to the body in producing bile that allows the breakdown of Fats. The Liver in turn cleanses and purifies the blood, produces the bile the Gallbladder uses, produces cholesterol that helps carry fats and helps resist infections in the body, among several other vital functions. In TCM the liver provides much of the nourishment to the Tendons, muscles and eyes, it is also known as the General and is a significant part of production of Wei Qi (or immune system defenses).
While every element tends to have some Yin and Yang for balance, the Wood element tends towards more of Yang aspect, it is expansive, opening, moving and to an extent rising (though not as much rising as Fire). By comparison the Element that controls Wood, Metal, is contracting, descending (though not as much as water), and contains.
On aspect of training in Neijiaquan was to “Flow with Tao,” or simply flow with the Life. With the aforementioned forms and functions coming into play in the Spring, with Neijiaquan we have several different options. If you are a Bagua Practitioner; as you can see from the chart above this would be a time to practice the Trigrams of Chen/Thunder/Arousal, or Xun/Wind/Penetrating, in the Sun School we can do this through Dragon, or Phoenix.
Dragon exhibits the coiling aspects that Wood does, no other element coils like Wood, the vines of plants, grass spreading its roots, etc. All these exhibit Coiling aspects and like a Dragon soaring in the Heavens we weave and coil and circle, gently stretching and opening the Tendons, Ligaments and sinews of the body. This gives the Liver and Wood element it’s much desired Space to expand and open during the Spring time when it is trying to Grow. The Phoenix is the Rebirth and Renewal aspect of the Wood element and after “Death” of the Winter, all the Qi and Energy is renewed yet again after extreme hibernation and turning to Ash like the Phoenix rising again.
For Xing Yi, we use Bengquan/Collapsing fist, like a large log going down stream and going over waves smashing and collapsing into everything it hits. Like a Battering Ram, or an Arrow, Xing Yi’s Bengquan contains a piercing aspect, though not like Piquan/Metal (Metals pierce is more akin to Splitting apart or a separation). It contains a Piercing element based on the straightness, like an arrow or bullet in flight, the straighter these travel the more accurate and piercing the projectile. The same can be said for Bengquan, any deviation in the movement and the movement is no longer Collapsing.
This of what a large gate will do if it is hit with a Battering Ram, it collapses around the Battering Ram, same with whatever a arrow or bullet hits, there is an initial collapsing of the material around the projectile before it pierces through. This is Bengquan. This is achieved by getting correct alignment, even though Wood in its most natural state will Coil, it will also grow Straight allowing great support of weight. In Bengquan we must seek similar alignment from the feet, to the knees, the hips, shoulders, elbows, wrist and fist.
Once this alignment is achieved it allows the Tendons, Muscles and Sinews to open freely and expand (or contract) as needed and thus we are able to make the body “bows” and “loose our arrow.” Part of this alignment that helps with the health of Wood is the gentle rubbing done along the rib sides. This allows us to keep our elbows in and protecting the ribs, allows proper alignment with the shoulders and hips and also provides gentle massage along the rib cage. It is along this region that the Liver, Gallbladder, Spleen, Pancreas and to some extent the Stomach all reside. Thus balancing Wood and Earth.
For Taiji, we can use movements as well, for example from Chen School we could use Lazily tying the Robe, as with all Chen school you want to emphasize the Silk Reeling (Chan Ssu Chin), but during Lazily Tying the Robe, most schools of Chen rub across the abdomen just below the rib cage, stimulating this area like Bengquan above. Thus giving a massage to the organs while at the same time Opening and uncoiling allowing the Wood to expand. In Yang School or most Schools this would also include Movements such as Hands Like Clouds, due to the waist turns you are working the abdominal organs mentioned above, or even Hidden hand punch as most schools follow a similar idea as Bengquan stated above.
While practice can occur at anytime of the day, the optimal way to balance Wood this time of year will be to practice at Sunrise, facing East. Now you will have Time (AM) and Space/Direction (East) that are akin to the Spring time while performing physical movements that balance the Wood.
However, a word of caution here, when dealing with the Yang aspects of these Arts (in the context of Wood/Spring, Summer/Fire), Yang is very easy to get “excited” and to “move vigorously.” So if you start noticing an increase in anger, irritation, burning eyes, or potentially high blood pressure, headaches, etc. Then it may be better to practice from 11pm-3am, this is the Water time, but also a time when when the Wood can be easily nourished, rather than moved.
Happy Spring Practice all.