Martial Arts Applications

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5-1. Introduction

The Chinese have studied and developed the martial arts for more than 4000 years. In the beginning only limited techniques using brute muscle power were available. It was not until about 200 B.C., when the circulation of Chi and the use of acupuncture became well understood, that the martial application of Chi began. The attention devoted to it increased significantly when Da Mo's Wai Dan exercises began to be used at the Shaolin Temple in 536 A.D. Although the Yi Gin Ching exercise was intended to be used only for the improvement of health, the monks found that it greatly increased the strength and efficiency of their muscles. The training also allowed them to direct the Chi to parts of their body to resist blows. It was only natural that they applied this to the martial arts. Learning martial arts was a necessity of the time in order to protect the temple property and for traveling. From that time on the use of Wai Dan to develop Chi and to improve the martial arts has been widely researched and developed.

Once it became know that a balanced, unimpeded flow of Chi was necessary for life and well being, the next step was to find ways to affect the enemy's Chi flow. Martial arts masters found that of the several hundred acupuncture cavities, 108 can be easily affected by striking, pressing, grabbing, or kicking. Hitting cavities to cause death, unconsciousness or paralysis was called "cavity strike" or "cavity press". This technique, together with "sealing the breath or vein" has been considered the highest art in Kung Fu.

Striking the enemy in such a way as to cause either the windpipe to be obstructed or the lungs or diaphragm to be cramped, so the person cannot breathe, is called "sealing the breath]' "Sealing the vein" means to strike or press cavities so that the supply of blood to the brain is obstructed, causing unconsciousness. In order to give the martial artist the strength to penetrate to the cavities, the hands and fingers were conditioned and trained by such methods as "Iron Sand Palm" and "Secret Sword" Penetration power training methods were also created, such as punching a candle flame and slapping a cloth.

Martial artists who had practiced Nei Dan exercises for many years were able to move energy outside their bodies. Using cavities, they were able to put Chi into a person's system or take it out. This meant they could do cavity strikes without toughening their bodies and without using much force—perhaps with only a touch. This art has fallen into disuse over the centuries, and there are few people today with this ability.

As mentioned above, ChiKung was also used by the Shaolin monks to toughen the body to an extent that seems incredible to most Westerners. An adept could withstand strong blows, edged weapons, and even cavity press, but not, of course, bullets. In KungFu this is called "Iron Shirt" (Tiea Bu Shan) or "Golden Bell Cover" (Gin Chung Tsao).

In this chapter we will briefly discuss cavity press, sealing the vein, sealing the breath, and Iron Shirt or Golden Bell Cover. The cycle of Chi and cavity points will also be briefly discussed. Readers who are interested in more information on cavity location, Chi circulation, and cavity press techniques should refer to the author's book Shaolin Chin Na. A detailed description of these techniques will require a separate book to explain the training methods, exact location of cavities, anatomy, theory, attacking methods, etc. The author hopes to publish a book on this in the future.

5-2. Cavity Press

The technique of Cavity Press (Tien Hsueh) is probably the highest accomplishment of Chi Kung in the martial arts. Ever since Chi was understood, martial artists have used various methods to affect an enemy's Chi, either instantly or with a delayed reaction, with the object of causing death, unconsciousness, stupefaction, or numbness of a body area.

In the course of their researches, Chinese martial artists have found 108 cavities which can be attacked. There are 72 which are considered minor cavities because they cannot be used to kill an opponent, and 36 which are vital cavities because it is possible to kill someone by striking one of them at the right time with the correct force. In striking cavities the time of day must be right for the strike to be effective and the exact spot must be struck. The correct hand form must be used; for example, some cavities can be successfully affected by a strike with the knee while others require a strike with one finger. The force used must be sufficient to affect the channel and penetrate to the right depth because while some cavities are very close to the surface, others are deeper within the body. In order to be effective, therefore, the martial artist must first know acupuncture channels, nerves, and anatomy; second, he must know the theory of Chi circulation in relation to time of day; and third he must be trained in hand and leg forms and power development. The martial artist must also know the techniques for curing cavity press attacks. If the enemy is not dead from an attack or if a friend has been attacked, there are techniques for reviving them. In many cases, unconscious people can be revived with just a push, pinch, or massage in the correct spot.

Principles of Cavity Press

Cavity Press is a technique in which the practitioner affects the opponent's Chi or blood circulation by striking a cavity with a finger, palm, fist, foot, or elbow, or by grasping. When a cavity is effectively struck, several things can happen:

The strike can affect Chi circulation and can cause the failure of the corresponding internal organ. For example, a strike to the armpit, affecting the heart channel, will shock the heart like a blow to the funny bone affects the arm.

The strike can affect both Chi circulation and blood circulation. When the cavity is struck, the muscles around it cramp and cut off blood flow. If the force is sufficient and affects an artery, the artery can rupture, usually resulting in death. For example, a strike to the temple will both shock the brain and possibly rupture the carotid artery. A weak blow to the temple cavity will cause unconsciousness.

The strike can directly affect an internal organ. This category of striking is sometimes called "Chi Kuann Da" or "Organ Striking". For example, a strike to the solar plexus will shock the heart and can cause death. Another example is a strike to the liver, which can cause the muscles around it to cramp and damage it. Sufficient force will rupture it. The liver and kidneys are especially susceptible to this kind of attack.

For a number of cavities, a strike will not result in any obvious injury. However, the strike in fact causes the Chi to stagnate in that area, and the person will become ill or die at some later time, one or two months or even one year in the future. For example, strikes to spinal cavities will generally not show their effect until much later. From anatomy and acupuncture it is known that the spine is the trunk line for the nervous system and the main conduit for Chi. If cavities located in the spinal area are injured, the flow of Chi to the organ related to that part of the spine will be weakened, and eventually failure of the organ will occur.

There are a number of cavities which can be struck to temporarily disable an enemy. For example, a strike to the Tianzong cavity on the shoulder blade will result in the whole shoulder and arm becoming numb. Another example know to everyone, is the funny bone or Shaohai cavity.

The last kind of cavity strike stuns the enemy, causing him to be disordered or dizzy or "out on his feet".

Cavity Press and Time

In the human body the main flow of Chi and blood changes according to the time of day and the season of the year. Since the body is part of nature, it is natural that it is affected by the forces at work in the environment.

Generally speaking, during the day, the Chi flows most strongly in the front of the body, while at night it flows most strongly in the back. At midnight it is concentrated at the head, then its focus moves down the front of the body. 11 is at the solar plexus at noon and at the perineum at sunset. Then the focus moves up the back and ends at the top of the head again at midnight.

Also, the Chi flow moves from one channel to another every two hours, completing a cycle of the twelve main channels every day. The governing and conception vessels are not involved in this cycle. Their flow is constant. Table 5-1 lists the relationship between Chi and blood flow and the time of day.

It follows, then, that a martial artist who knows how to coordinate his target with the time of day can easily hurt his opponent in ways that seem mysterious



11PM-1 AM

Choou 1AM-3AM

3AM-5AM Mao

5AM-7AM Chen

7AM-9AM Shy

9AM-11AM Wuu




3PM-5PM Yeou

5PM-7PM Shiu

7PM-9PM Hay


Table 5-1


Gall Bladder Foot




Large Intestine Face

Stomach Head

Spleen Hand



Small Intestine Stomach





Biliiang or Meishin


Jiache or Ya Sha


Yingchuang or Gian Tai

Neiquan or Wan Mei

Jiuwei or Hsin Kan

Qihai or Dan Tien

Back (Spleen) Jimen or Bai Hai

Pericardium Neck (Head) Sha Yin

Triple Burner Leg (Ankle) Yongquan to the uninitiated. Because he attacks the most intense energies of the body at that particular time, the injury is immediate and drastic.

It was found that there are twelve major cavities which are particularly sensitive to attack at specific times. These cavities and their striking times are also listed in Table 5-1, and their locations are illustrated in Figs. 5-1 through 5-7. Furthermore, it was discovered that the Chi flow was more predominant in various parts of the body throughout the day. Table 5-1 lists the parts of the body and their times of greatest Chi flow.

Charakter Gesicht
Fig. 5-3. Cavity Press Cavity on the Crown
Gin Chung TsaoInternal Rotation FeetPie Sus Partes Externas
Fig. 5-7. Cavity Press Cavity on the Bottom of the Foot

5-3. Sealing the Vein and Sealing the Breath

Sealing the Vein (Duan Mie)

Strictly speaking, sealing the vein can also be classified as a cavity press because the vein is sealed by striking a cavity. It is considered separately from cavity press by Chinese martial artists because the injury principle is different. In sealing the vein, the main principle is to cause unconsciousness or even death by stopping the flow of blood to the head, cutting off the oxygen supply to the brain. Therefore, it is easy to understand that the cavities that are used for sealing the vein are mainly located in the neck.

There are two principal ways to seal the vein: striking and compression. When certain cavities on the neck near the carotid artery are struck, it will affect the Chi circulation in that area and shock the nerves around the cavity. This will in turn cause the muscle to spasm, blocking the artery and completely or partially sealing the blood supply to the brain. When a person does not receive oxygen to the brain for 5-10 seconds, he will lose consciousness. Another way of sealing the vein is to compress the side of the neck by choking to seal the artery and stop the oxygen supply.

The person whose vein has been sealed can be revived within a few minutes without damage to the brain. Usually, a palm strike to a certain spot on the spine will release the muscle tension in the neck and allow the blood to flow freely again. After the person is revived, a soft massage of the neck muscles will expedite the recovery.

Sealing the Breath (Bi Chi)

Sealing the breath is a technique which causes a person to lose consciousness by restricting the supply of air to the lungs so that the person cannot breathe. There are two main categories of sealing the breath. In one, the wind pipe is sealed by being grasped and compressed, which completely stops the air from being taken into the lungs, thus causing unconsciousness or even death. In the other, the channels around the lungs or the channels which are associated with the lungs are struck. The lungs are protected by the ribs, which are covered with layers of muscles inside and outside. In an ordinary strike, only the muscles on the outside of the ribs are affected. However, if the appropriate cavity on the chest or back is struck, the muscles inside the ribs will also be shocked. They will tighten up and prevent the lungs from expanding and taking in air. Usually this type of sealing the breath will cause only a partial sealing of the lungs. Most of the time the person will lose consciousness because of lack of oxygen but will not die. If an injured person is not revived for a long time, death might result. But generally the person will recover by himself. To speed recovery, apply pressure with the palm to the side of the chest that is not in spasm. This will balance the pressure and help to release the spasm. The person can also be revived by throwing water on him.

Sealing the breath can be effected by striking the cavities just above and below the nipple, the solar plexus, the stomach muscles, or any of several cavities on the back.

5-4. Golden Bell Cover or Iron Shirt

Chinese martial artists often demonstrate their prowess by bending an iron bar pressed into their throats. They do this by concentrating Chi at the spot the bar is pressing. This is a spectacular way of demonstrating the results of a martial Chi Kung training system called "Iron Shirt" (Tiea Bu Shan) or "Golden Bell Cover" (Gin Chung Tsao). The reason for these names is that the training will enable a person to resist a blow or punch without injury or pain, as though he were wearing an iron shirt or were protected by a golden bell.

This training may have started in the sixth century when Da Mo's Yi Gin Ching began to be used for training. One of the main efforts of Yi Gin Ching training is to concentrate the Chi in a specific area, which will not only increase the muscle power, which is supported by Chi, but will also increase the ability to resist blows, reducing injury to a minimum. This kind of training has continued to be researched and practiced until the present. Because the training of the body's resistance comes from repeated beating, it is also called "Beating Endurance" (Ai Da) training. Another name of this training is "Bunch Beating" (Pie Da) because the first few stages of training consist of using bunches of bamboo, wood, and iron wire to hit the body.

The principle of the training is very simple. The reader probably has had the experience before, that if the appropriate muscle is tightened when some part of the body is hit, the pain and injury will be reduced. That is the beginning of Iron Shirt training. The reason for this phenomenon is that when muscles are tight, the Chi flow is slowed down so that the nerve sensation is slow and dull. This will stop the pain message from passing to the brain. Additionally, when the muscles are tensed up, the power of a blow or punch will be mostly stopped by the tensed muscle, so the main Chi channels under the muscles won't be disturbed. Consequently the injury will be confined to the muscle itself, not to the organs related to the Chi channel.

In order to prevent injury the practitioner must be conditioned gradually, first his skin and then his muscles. Then in advanced "Iron Shirt" the Chi must be trained to concentrate in the punched area to repulse the punch. With the Chi supporting the muscle, the Chi channel won't be injured, and so the body can eventually resist even a cavity press. Therefore, in order to complete the advanced training, the Chi Kung Wai Dan training from Chapter 2 is extremely important. Also, in order to keep the Chi circulation smooth and complete, Nei Dan should also be practiced. Without Wai Dan and Nei Dan training the "Iron Shirt" will be only on the surface of the body. The body can still be injured when attacked by penetrating power.

There is a martial proverb: "Train the muscles and skin externally, and train Chi internally". This implies that Chi Kung is the foundation of the training. Chi training can make the internal organs strong and healthy. When Chi is concentrated by the mind, it can be expanded to the entire body (see Chapter 3) or focused in a small area to rebound a blow.

In Iron Shirt training, the first step is to beat the skin with minor power with bamboo or rattan strips about one and a half feet long, bound at one end. This striking will stimulate mainly the skin and surface muscles. Because no deep injury can occur, the entire body can be trained in this way. However, for the very beginner, only areas which have a thick layer of muscle to support the blows, the shoulders, stomach, chest, back, thighs, arms, and calves, should be struck. With each strike, the muscle being struck should be tightened and the mind should be concentrated at that spot. This will train the Chi concentration and the natural resistant reaction. Only after the above areas can take the strike without feeling pain can other areas such as the shins, knees, head, elbows, etc., be trained. This training should be continued until the practitioner does not feel pain.

This skin and shallow muscle stimulation will let the nerve system get acclimated to being struck. If a ticklish person were tickled constantly, pretty soon his nerve system would no longer feel ticklish. This training works the same way.

The next step is to use striking power which can penetrate deeper. For this training, a bunch of iron wire, bound at one end is used. Follow the same routine with Chi concentration and muscle tension until the deep muscles can resist the external blows. For this step, since the blow will be stronger and more penetrating, the practitioner must have strong Chi to avoid disturbing the Chi flow. Also, herbs should be used to cure the bruises, so that Chi will hot become stagnant anywhere.

It is important to note here that all these training methods should be done only with a qualified master who knows how to control the penetration power of the blows, and who also knows how to treat injuries.

Only after the less dangerous areas have been trained, and the practitioner has gained enough skill with Chi transport, can other vital areas such as the head, throat, kidneys and liver be trained. Also at this point, the master will start to stimulate the vital cavities such as the temples, throat, armpits, solar plexus, etc. to train the student to protect these areas. Later, these vital cavities will be struck at their most vulnerable times of day. When a practitioner can resist a cavity press to a vital area without pain and injury, then he has completed his training.

There are two vital places, the eyes and the groin where Chi cannot be directed. Therefore, they remain vulnerable even for someone who has completed the above training. However, there are some practitioners who are able to pull their testicles up into the abdomen, leaving only their eyes vulnerable.

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