InYo: Journal of Alternative Perspectives Jan 2002
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The Seven Stars, Weapons of a Martial Artist

By Fabien Sena

In the traditional Chinese martial terminology, the 'seven stars' refer to the natural weapons of a human body. A person's higher stars include the shoulders, the elbows, and the hands. The lower stars are the person's waist, their knees, and their feet. A person's head (tou) is the central star. The use of each of the seven stars is described below...

1. The Hand (Shou): For our purpose the hand is the part of the body between the elbow and the fingertips. As a person's 'general-purpose' weapons, the hands can take many forms to apply power (Jing). The most common martial hand forms are the horizontal closed fist, the vertical closed fist, the knife hand (positive or negative), the varieties of clawed hands, varieties of finger spade, and the palm. The hands and head are undoubtedly the most delicate stars and, therefore, the hardest to strengthen. Traditionally, to strengthen hand strikes one strikes bags filled with hard corn or small round stones under the supervision of a qualified teacher.

2. The Elbow (Zhou): Elbows are also a potent weapon. Short, but more powerful than the hands, the elbow is capable of a large variety of strikes. As weapons elbows have the advantage of striking with force in front of as well as behind so they can be used on the upswing and downswing of a strike. The two principal zones of contact are the front of the elbow and the back of the elbow. The front of the elbow is used for striking objects in front of you and the back of the elbow is used for striking backward or techniques using a downswing. The elbows can be also used to apply powerful dislocations (Qinna) and chokeholds.

3. The Shoulder (Jian): Although seldom used in combat, shoulders are an extremely powerful weapon when reinforced by the entire weight of the body or the torso. The primary shoulder technique consists of striking with the point of the deltoid and keeping the shoulders aligned. This technique is present in all the traditional styles, and requires a good comprehension of the principles of torsion and Jing to reach its full potential.

4. Waist (Yao): Although under-utilized in many modern styles, the waist is very significant because of the exceptional amount of power it can generate. Although the waist is rarely used for direct striking it is essential for transmitting the power of the legs into strikes made with the upper body. This ability to transmit power makes the waist of paramount importance when projecting energy. By practicing the specific exercises to strengthen the waist, a martial artist will increase their stability and power.

5. Knees (Xi): Like the elbows, the knees are a weapon of average and short range. Unlike elbows, however, knees can only be used to strike a target in front of a person. A bent knee can deliver powerful strikes. Its striking surfaces are usually the surface directly above the bended knee or the kneecap. Knees are very useful to control an opponent on the ground, for instance, the knee on the shoulder, the chin or the solar plexus.

6. Feet (Tui): Almost as flexible as the hands, the feet have multiple uses. Striking surfaces of the foot include: the heel, the 'ball of the foot' (below the raised toes), the external and interior sides, and the point of the toes. This variety of surfaces makes many techniques possible. However to be most effective, this weapon needs to be well delivered. Although its power is relatively limited, it is the weapon with the longest range, and it can deliver lot of power within that range. In some circles, the feet are defined more broadly as the area between the knee and the end of the toes, so techniques involving the tibia are also included in this category.

7. Head (Tou): The head is regarded as the most significant weapon, of equal importance to the arms, but only because it is essential. The head must be used with caution. The striking surfaces on a person's head include the forehead (well-known to soccer players), the back of the cranium, and the prominent sides of the cranium. Certain very short techniques can also be used with the point of the chin and the teeth. To learn to control this weapon, it is necessary to spend a great deal of time developing the musculature of the neck and the trapezoids. However, remember that each blow with the head or to the head destroys brain cells (the famous grey cells). Once a brain cell is destroyed it can never be replaced. Thus these techniques must be applied with prudence.

Competent martial artists must learn at least three techniques with each of the seven stars. However, prudence must be exercised. Respect for the body and good judgment are advised. Just as a blacksmith can work an iron bar to make it a sword, a martial artist can make these natural weapons very effective. But, when a blacksmith makes an error and breaks the blade during its forging, he can always start again with new materials. This is not the case with your natural weapons. Usually we are only able to make two errors, then it is up to the wonders of Surgery.

InYo Jan 2002