THE EIGHT ENERGIES OF MARTIAL ARTS
These energies were taught to me as The Eight Energies Of Wing Chun. However, I've come to realize that they are universal to all martial arts. Understanding these energies will vastly improve your knowledge of the martial arts and how to use the various attacks and defenses. Here they are.
1. LISTENING ENERGY - This is also known as sensitivity and is an integral part of all martial arts. Once there is contact between you and your opponent, a bridge has been created. You can feel your opponent and your opponent can feel you. Listening energy is what will allow you to feel this and it's also what will alow you to capitalize on it. This becomes much more evident at close range in a tussle or in a grappling situation. Anyone who's ever practiced Wrestling knows the feeling when someone is pushing in a certain direction and you "help him on his way". In Wing Chun we have an exercise called Chi Sao (also referred to as Sticky Hands) which can help develop this. However many practitioners don't understand it and use excess tension approaching it like a fight rather than as an sensitivity building exercise. With tension, listening and sensitivity are impossible. One must have relaxed energy in order to feel.
2. DRILLING ENERGY - Just like a drill or a corkscrew, this refers to rotation or torque. It can refer to the fist, foot, or any other part of the body. Probably the most obvious expression of drilling energy is the Straight Rear or Cross in Boxing. The entire body rotates starting at the foot, going up to the hip, the upper torso, the shoulder, and finally the fist. A very powerful energy indeed and it is present in many techniques. Even if you look at a vertical palm strike, it often begins with the palm facing up somewhat. Then it rotates as you do your strike. There is also the Oblique Kick (toe out) where the foot rotates. Elbow strikes are another one with tremendous drilling and rotational energy.
3. STRAIGHT ENERGY - The quickest path from Point A to B is a straight line. Therefore straight line attacks are very important. However this energy does not just refer to direction of an attack. It also refers to efficiency by using the nearest weapon to the target. People will often parry or block with one hand and then strike with the other. However the parrying hand is often closer to the target than the other hand. It would make more sense to just immediately strike with that hand. Even more efficient is to parry and strike simultaneously. And the most efficient is to use one motion, the strike, as both a parry and a punch. This would then be an interception and is the backbone of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do or "Way Of The Intercepting Fist".
4. INDIRECT ENERGY - This can refer to angled attacks such as Hooks and Roundhouse Kicks, but it can also refer to feints and misdirection. Feinting is often used in Boxing and Fencing where a fake attack is used to trigger a response before launching the real attack. Another method is to actually strike to get the opponent to raise his hands to protect. Then you can punch at the exposed low target which was the intended target all along.
5. REDIRECTING ENERGY - Closely related to the Listening Energy, this is how we "help him on his way". If someone is applying pressure, rather than just pushing back (rather foolish since it's just mindless force against force) we yield and help him on his way.
6. FLOWING ENERGY - One of the key elements to any martial art is the ability to flow from one technique to another. In Wing Chun we have various flow drills which are developed from shifting and stepping with various techniques. In Boxing there are various punch combos combined with pivots, steps, and head movement. In any case, you must be able to continue the movement and flow. A common mistake among lower level practitioners is that they simply freeze after they've thrown a technique. Even if it's only for second, that second is all your opponent needs to hit you!
7. AGGRESSIVE ENERGY - Think HIT! One major mistake people often make is they don't see attack and defense as one concept. when in fact that's very much what it is. You must always think hit. Even parries are hits! Above all, you must remember that your goal is to attack. Defense should be though of as a method to assist your attack, not a passive technique. If you think this way, it will be much easier for you to be successful in a combative situation.
8. INCH ENERGY - Lastly we have Inch Energy. Many of you have seen Bruce Lee's famous One Inch Punch which he learned from his Wing Chun training. Short energy is present in other arts as well. In Boxing we use the Shovel Hook where we get the entire body behind a short body shot. Believe me, if you know how to use the entire body it is a devastating punch! There is a misunderstanding, particularly in the Wing Chun community that this is dependent on having wrist movement. The true power comes from understanding how to use the entire body. Relying on wrist movement to try and generate snap is like using a fancy arrow tip, but having a lousy bow.
So there you have it! Eight Energies Of Martial Arts. I don't believe a martial arts practitioner is complete without all of these. As I said earlier, although these were specifically taught to me as the Eight Energies Of Wing Chun, they are present in all arts. Understanding them thoroughly will greatly enhance your skills.
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