This ‘formula’ or ‘secret’ is one of a collection of ancient verses from the 形意拳譜 Xing Yi Quan Pu ‘Xing Yi Fist Manual’. Variants are also commonly appropriated by Ba Gua Zhang practitioners as the content can apply equally to both these internal styles. Whilst most of it is straight forward, explanation may be needed on some of the more obscure philosophical/medical points.
The eight words provide the practitioner with images used in aligning the body and utilising strength naturally. Each of the eight words has three important points relating to three places of application on the body as follows:
- DING – The ‘three passes’ are areas where qi flow naturally ‘bottlenecks’. These are the coccyx or tail bone, mid thoracic between the shoulder blades and occiput – base of the skull. 丹田 Dantian ‘Elixir field’ much could be written on this, but put simply it is the lower energy centre of the body, an area roughly three finger widths below the naval that corresponds (from a material perspective) in many ways with the modern concept of ‘core stability’.
- KOU – In some versions the teeth are not mentioned, instead the hands and feet are separated.
- YUAN – 虎口 Hukou ’Tiger’s mouth’ is the Chinese descriptive anatomical name of the area between the thumb and forefinger.
- MIN – 心 Xin ‘Heart’ here refers to the Chinese philosophical notion of the heart as the seat of the consciousness and housing the spirit, therefore the ‘mind’.
- BAO – 心气 Xinqi ’Heart qi’ see note to 4.
- CHUI – 垂 Chui can also mean to ‘hang down’ or ‘drop’.
- QU – 曲挺 Qu and Ting ‘Flexed’ and ‘Thrust out’ or ‘Bending’ and ‘Extending’, often misleadingly translated as ‘Bent’ and ‘Straight’ although in apparent opposition these should not be confused as a paradox, merely the idea of not being overly stiff or too crooked.
- TING – 四梢 Si Shao ‘The ends of the blood, muscles, sinews and bones are called the four tips. Hair is the visible tip of the blood, the tongue is the visible tip of the muscles, the teeth are the visible tips of the bones, and the claws are the visible tips of the sinews. When the four tips use their power, they can change normal behaviour, to enable a person to intimidate others.’ This is from the 四梢說Sìshāo shuō ‘Explanation of the Four Tips’ another verse in the Xingyi Fist Manual.