“The Six Ji Hands of the Wu Bei Zhi”
By Ron Goninan & Bryan R. Schultz
The Six Ji Hands (六機手 ) of the Wu Bei Zhi (武備志) are the subject of much debate. The Wu Bei Zhi, known in Okinawa by the name “Bubishi”, is often referred, mostly by Westerners, as a book of martial arts secrets. There have been a myriad of attempts over the decades to decipher this “holy grail”, some of which refer to some sort of magic bullet explanation. This is simply not the case, as no martial arts master in feudal Asia would have relied on magic to save his life in crucial, life-threatening situation.
Article 20 of the Wu Bei Zhi (WBZ) illustrates and describes 6 Ji hands. Ji ( 機 ) has been misinterpreted many times, even so far as to mean “energy”. This character translates to mean crucial-point, flexible (quick-witted), or intention. There are, of course, many other translations, but in the context of martial arts, these are the most appropriate, with “crucial point” being the most fitting.
This idea of “crucial-point” parallels a word used in Okinawan martial arts, which unfortunately is loosely thrown around in some martial arts discussions: Kyusho (急 ), which means emergency/urgent/vital(time-dependent)/rapid place. Both ideas represent the idea of One-Second Kill, mentioned by Liu Chang I, inheritor and current headmaster of Shihequan, in the January/February 2013 of Kungfu Magazine Some of the ideas in Okinawan Kyusho are derived from Chinese Dian xue (点 脉), but due to cultural differences and beliefs, there are variations in vital knowledge of the 6 Ji Hands and their use within life-protection skills..
These six basic hands are depicted in Wu Bei Zhi to outline the types of kinetic energy that the hands represent. This being said, each hand configuration has many variations. In Baihequan (White Crane Fist), the system that gave rise to the Wu Bei Zhi, there are at least seven variations of the “One Blade of Grass Hand” alone.
In the Zhenlan White Crane Minghe (Calling Crane) Tradition of Lin Yuan Dun, the Ji Hands are expressed through the two main forms of the style; SanZhan and the Founder’s Hands Fang Qiniang Shou. Master Lin was one of the trusted students of the Late Master Ruan Dong who featured in the July/August 2003 issue of Kungfu Magazine.
Master Lin Yuan Dun: Iron Sand Palm and a variation of the One Blade of Grass Hand
Article 20, “The Six Ji Hands”, also states the importance and effectiveness of these hands, after having been delivered, by issuing this medical warning:
“Injuries sustained from these special hand techniques must be treated immediately or else the consequences could be fatal”
Unfortunately, casual readers of the Wu Bei Zhi (Bubishi) overlook the importance of these hands and not-so-obvious details they contain. This is the result of some of the translators having no deep training and understanding in Baihequan. Therefore they can then only arrive at what can only be viewed as a “creative interpretation”. Transmission from a legitimate teacher is all too important.
A common mistake is to impose that the typical shuto-uke or nukite of modern karate are of the same purpose as the Ji hands, and then to overlay modern Karate knowledge and techniques when studying the Wu Bei Zhi.
The descriptions given also hold many clues but one must approach this from the mindset of a Monk / Crane Fist practitioner and also realize that the results are expected to be lethal, or maiming at the least, as would be expected in ancient China. Very little has been written on these actual hand-forms, and their true intention mainly because the devil is in the details of training. Their energetics, and the forms from which they are contained, are essential components of the White Crane Gongfu Arts.
Historically, the ancient martial arts were delivered to family or very close acquaintances and therefore not for public consumption. The Wu Bei Zhi is meant to be a record of training, a memory book if you will, rather than a learning manual. It was intended as a reflection of one’s training and hand-copied after having completed the system. This also suggests that there could be errors in the written material copied by the student. There was no spellcheck in those times. These same ancient arts were based on fewer techniques, those that truly worked and held within the iron-clad principles of making those particular weapons effective.
A myth, purported by individuals attempting to create qualifications for themselves, is that there was excessive hand-conditioning in order to utilize these hand weapons. The weapons, naturally, are suited to their intended targets on the human body, and do not require such conditioning to be used.
Think about it in this way: you would not fire tennis balls at a tank and any conditioning to the tennis balls would not render the tennis balls for real combat. The martial practitioner, instead, would use the proper weapon for the intended target. Due to many misunderstandings because of language barriers, and lofty assumptions, many are sold into this idea of beating and bludgeoning their hands to develop calluses and to deaden nerves. This isn’t recommended or even necessary in Baihequan. The Wu Bei Zhi is more than just a book on fighting, also containing articles on morality and medical skills. Within the fighting skills though, it mentions grappling (Qinna), hand and foot techniques, and the targets to which the aforementioned be delivered. All of this part of original form of Baihequan.
We are shown six hand-forms which are used to maim or kill an attacker. Each hand, with its specific energy (light & fast, heavy (sticking), snapping, etc.), is designed to crush nerves, burst blood vessels, or break bone. These six hand weapons are imperative to the Baihequan. They have been looked at and largely translated by Karate stylists offering incorrect, and sometimes lofty, information on the legitimate application and original intention.
Each unique hand-form contains the application of specific kinetics to strike and affect the various nerve, vascular, and neuro-vascular targets. To the uninitiated, the outer component, visually, is difficult to grasp these energetic specifics without formal training. Following the Baihequan tradition, these details were withheld from those foreign to the system. Once again White Crane practitioners embrace the effective methods of their ancient kung fu family so that it is not lost to time or by the rule of man.
The Expressions of Power:
Each target has its own particular, and sometimes subtle, method of “activation”. The Jī hands teach the differing methods of expressing power (fajin) that can then be used with almost any hand form, providing the target, be it neural, vascular, neuro-vascular or otherwise, be kept in mind.
As an example of one of these types of fajin: strike with the hands and adhere to the enemy, and allow the kinetic energy of your hits to penetrate deeply into the target. You will develop a better feel for the transference of energy in the initial stages this way once you master this aspect the timing or amount of time spent applying energetics into the target will improve and you will come to learn which targets require this “Sticking” or “Heavy Hand” Pan Shou (See Illustration) approach and which target require a more explosive energy expression.
Delving into Baihequan energy transfer:
Baihequan striking is done without tension. There is no last minute clenching to harden your weapon into the target. This is pure Yi or Intention. The body, in totality, must be in alignment to deliver the blow.
Imagine shooting a bent/kinked arrow from a bow… when the arrow finds its target, the forward energy will be dispersed along the kinks in all directions but the one intended. With this being said, accuracy is a critical component of proper weapon delivery. A missile without a target is useless.
In addition to the first point of no-tension, breathing must be natural. If our breathing is held, or forced, our mind and body will respond with equal tension, keeping expressed power (fajin) inside the practitioner’s body. With breathing comes intent, and without intent, the integrity of the weapon will be compromised, and ultimately manifest in a mis-aligned weapon and strange breathing. In Calling Crane, this special breathing and use of Sound-Breath-Intention is high-level skill contained within the system. This is remarkably different from other systems, which incorporate odd breathing practice, or strange alignments, sometimes due to only practicing striking in the air, or by striking heavily padded bags much the same as a Western boxer would. Excessively hard practice on makiwara, made popular through Okinawan fighting methods, is also detrimental.
Vital aspects of Baiheqan & the use of the Jī hands:
• Physical Attributes: Tension destroys the transfer of kinetic energy into the target. Song is required for real energetic transfer.
• Spontaneity: Baihe practitioners train to be willing to change targets if one disappears and another appears. This stems from sensitivity training.
• Delivery Modalities: This is the 6 Jī hands themselves, proper weapon for each target.
• Applicability: Baihequan guides the practitioner to learn which weapons work best for them in each situation. Every scenario is filled with many variables, adaptation is key.
• The use of Shen-Fa or Body-Energy-Feel and Yi (Intention) is paramount.
Bryan Schultz demonstrates the Feeding Crane Metal Hands
Now the task is to train the correct weapons, to deliver and enhance this energetic expression. The Six Jī Hands were rarely documented, but were trained ardently even in other ancient systems. Luckily, the Wu Bei Zhi has withstood the test of time and any attempts to suppress this valuable information. Baihequan, and all of its inner systems, is a wonderful art form, designed to protect one’s life, and increase longevity. The skills can be lethal, but also permeate into life, enhancing its quality. This is the intention of Fang Qiniang’s Baihequan.
About The Authors:
Bryan R. Schultz is the chief instructor of the Schultz Martial Arts, based in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Drawing from his vast knowledge, he offers to the public, including law enforcement and military, skills to protect one’s life through martial arts and qigong. He is a practitioner of Feeding Crane Gongfu under Master Liu Chang I, as well as holding Master’s level rank in other disciplines. Bryan’s Martial Arts web site is at http://schultzmartialarts.com and he can be contacted contact@SchultzMartialARTS.com.
Ron Goninan is the only Westerner to instruct the China Fuzhou Zhenlan Crane Bozing Tao of Master Lin Yuan Dun and the Jinfeng YongChun White Crane of Master YiJun Zheng. He heads up the International White Crane Gongfu Association (IWCA) based in Australia. With an involvement in the Martial Arts spanning 43 years, Ron is acknowledged as one of the leading instructors of White Crane Boxing worldwide. The IWCA Web Site is at http://www.whitecranegongfu.info and he can be contacted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org