Tuesday, April 1, 2014


      The little voice in my head wouldn't calm down. “You need to write about the coiling power”, it said. “For future generations, you must write it down.” The nagging was constant but I was hesitant; no one had attempted to write a book about this subject. I had seen it mentioned in a small handful of Chinese martial arts books but the information they provided was insufficient and in many cases, it was just plain wrong. Writing a book on this subject and presenting the information that had been passed down to me by my teacher, Master W. C. Chen, certainly wouldn't make a lot of people happy.
      Sure, I'd seen several videos on the subject that had featured highly-respected and world famous “masters” performing various and sundry training exercises. Some of them had a notion of how this enigmatic power could be developed but their demonstrations were woefully inadequate. The more I watched, the more convinced I became that they honestly didn't know much about the subject.
      I asked my two most senior students what they thought. They told me that they felt that the information needed to be preserved in writing. They were very excited about the project... but I wondered. After all, this is an aspect of training (in the neijia) that really requires a “hands on” approach and a book can't possibly provide that. In days long past, teachers of this arcane art would instruct only a small handful of students at a time. It is my belief that the main reason this special skill has all but disappeared is because the real masters of it became very popular and were eventually swamped with many new students. It simply isn't possible to teach the finer aspects of coiling power to large groups of people. Like I said, it requires a “hands on” approach.
      At the same time, I felt that my students were right. The information did need to be preserved. However, it would likely ruffle more than a few feathers. Some very well-known teachers of the neijia were making truckloads of money through their seminars on coiling power and what they were demonstrating was little more than a vague shadow of the real thing. The real coiling power is very subtle and difficult for the uninitiated to see; these contemporary “masters” made large, overt movements that looked very flowery and beautiful. But they lacked substance; they were all but completely devoid of real power. Their fanciful demonstrations quickly attracted many Western students who were impressed with their “smoke and mirrors” exhibitions. It was, and still is, shameful.
      One of my teacher's best-known classmates was a gentleman known as Wang Shujin. My teacher described him as “very tall and very fat.” Sifu Chen didn't pull punches when it came to descriptions. His classmate was, in fact, over six feet tall (which was very tall for a Chinese person in those days), and weighed more than 300 lbs. Wang eventually taught in Japan where he gathered a very large following. In the main, he taught taijiquan but he also taught a few groups xingyiquan and baguazhang. Several Japanese martial arts enthusiasts didn't appreciate Wang's efforts to introduce neijia to the Japanese; after all, this occurred in the 1950's and memories of WWII were still pretty raw.
     Wang was challenged numerous times by teachers and students of karate and jujutsu but his skill never left him. He remained undefeated. On one occasion, Wang was challenged by two high-ranking jujutsu practitioners. As usual, he readily accepted their offer to “cross hands.” The first man quickly grabbed Wang's arm and was rendered unconscious almost instantly when Wang caressed him with his fist. The other aggressor though he could do better and grasped Wang in a hug from the rear. It is said that Wang, whose arms were pinned to his sides, shook his body as a dog shakes off water. His opponent collapsed on the spot and was rushed to a hospital, suffering from a couple of broken ribs and internal bleeding!
      What Wang had done was to use the coiling power and emit it through his whole upper body. I suppose his foe would have felt as though he'd latched onto a huge blender! Truly, Wang was a master of this art. Such skill is not seen today. The hucksters would tell similar stories but they couldn't possibly demonstrate it. Those of you who know me will chuckle when I say that I decided not only to ruffle their feathers; I'd pluck them! And so I started to work.
I regarded this project to be of the utmost importance. I know this statement isn't going to help me win the “Most Popular Kung-Fu Teacher of the Year” award, but let me say that if any of the neijia – taijiquan, xingyiquan, or baguazhang – aren't practiced with the (genuine) coiling power, they are NOT really neijia and they're no different than any other percussive martial art. And the painful truth is that the vast majority of neijia enthusiasts in the world (including China) - teachers and students alike - have no clue about developing or applying this special power.
      There were many times that I wondered if I'd bitten off more than I could chew. This subject is more than a little difficult to put into writing. To make things even more complicated, I moved to southern China! The photos were done by students and friends in the U.S. and I thought they did a magnificent job. It made me wonder if it was because I wasn't there (as I had been in previous projects) to whine and complain! Adjusting to life in China made things even more difficult and I honestly wondered if this book would ever be completed.
      In the end, I was very pleased with the book. It was the very best that I could do, the best instruction that I could provide without actually being physically present. I'm anxious to see how this book will be accepted by the neijia community.


  1. And I'm very excited to read the book. I've pre-ordered a copy. In fact, I have all your books sifu Starr.

    1. Thanks you! If you purchased it through, perhaps you could leave a review. I hope you like it! Thanks so much for your support!

  2. On, "Developing Jin" by Phillip Starr

    Your book is nearly perfect at responding to my questions regarding internal power. Thank you for your writing and publishing this jewel!

    My martial arts began in 1956, under my father, in Judo. He showed me Qi, “engagement”, and Yi and other concepts, but did not name them. I also did: wrestling, GoJuRyu, TKD, Kenpo, Shotokan. I searched for explanations of power. Searching, I did some Tai Chi, Aikido, others. Russian Systema has a huge internal aspect. Very little is written in English on the internal aspects of Russian Systema, so I turned to the Chinese internal arts for intellectual understanding.

    Your book just “blew me away”. You have helped me a great deal in validation of what it is I do, in my understanding, and ability to explain and teach. I thank you again for your great effort to write and publish this jewel!

    I now teach primarily Russian Systema, and self defense in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I can be reached through my web sites by searching for Systema Colorado Springs or Borrelli Self Defense Colorado Springs, Colorado.