The five elements of each movement are a universal concept and everyone should internalize them. But which elements are exactly meant here and why are they so important?

Our students have heard in our lessons for over 30 years: Sau, Ngaan, San, Faat, Bou! ( 手 眼 身法 步 ). These five characters alone do not make any sense at all, but are just a series of different characters. These five characters are not to be understood as a complete sentence, but are similar to a proverb.

This saying or phrase falls into the same category as, for example, the expression "The four pillars of fighting", which describes the four main elements of fighting and in each effective one Martial arts should be present: kicking, punching, throwing and submitting.

In contrast to the "four pillars of fighting", unfortunately, one rarely hears the phrase about the "five elements of every movement" these days. But what exactly are these five elements and what does it mean?

A universal concept

This sentence describes the "five elements", , which are an essential part of every movement in a martial art. Whether Wushu, Taichi, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Mongolian or Western martial arts, the "five elements" can be applied to both traditional and modern martial arts.

Die „fünf Elemente“ sind:

  • Sau | Arms and hands

  • Ngaan | Eyes and look

  • San | Body movement and body mechanics

  • Faat | Application and technique

  • Bou | Stances and footwork

These "five elements" accompany every single movement. It should be emphasized here that not only “techniques” are meant in a martial art. With the help of the this principle we should be aware at all times that the body should move as a complete unit. Only if all "five elements" are integrated in each movement does this provide the basis for the correct execution of the technique and the right development of strength.

Sau Faat | Arms and hands

The hands are not only an important tool in everyday life, they also play one of the most important roles in any martial art. They serve e.g. for hitting, bumping, gripping, controlling, holding etc. However, the hands cannot fulfill their essential role if the arms do not support them correctly. Arms and hands should be hard and soft at the same time. On the one hand, they should offer the necessary stability and strength for a technique, on the other hand, they should be fast and flexible in order to escape the grip of the opponent.

Ngaan Faat | Eyes and look

The eyes and the look are mostly neglected, overlooked and underestimated. It is often simply said that you should only "look where the attack is going". Although this explanation is true with certain exceptions, there are two additional important reasons.

The eye directs and trains the focus. You always practice getting your concentration to the right place by keeping your eyes on the spot. The inner attitude should also be conveyed to the outside. In martial arts you train, among other things, to strengthen yourself and not show any weakness mentally. The view should not wander from the target and one should not look at the floor with fear. Your own presence, concentration and determination should be recognizable through the eyes.

The look perceives the space around a person. This can be equally important for a show and a fight. In a show, the audience's attention is directed towards the artist's gaze. The look “forms and builds” the stage.

In combat, it does not always make sense to keep an eye on the intended target. This runs the risk of betraying the planned attack. In the event of a deception or trick, it is helpful to get the enemy on the wrong track by looking while the attack is coming from elsewhere. For example, the look can be performed together with a hand technique as a fake, while a kick is used as a primary attack.

San Faat | Body movement and body mechanics

Training in traditional martial arts trains coordination and body control. The result is improved body guidance and a deeper understanding of natural body mechanics.

The training of the "body" can be symbolically classified into the "inner" and "outer" level. With the "inner" training of the body one practices the correct development of strength. Here joints, fasciae and muscles of the entire body are trained as a chain, which should transmit the strength. This means the correct body mechanics. The "external" training includes both the posture of a person and the positioning of the body in the context of an opponent or partner.

Both levels, the "inner" as well as the "outer", go hand in hand and then determine the effectiveness of the technique that a person carries out. Because ideally you don't just want to develop enough strength through the body mechanics, but at the same time you want to lead the body into optimal positions to get the upper hand over the opponent.

Yung Faat | Application and technique

An effective martial art should not only reflect the fight, but also include practical applications. The starting point for this are individual techniques, which are trained in most traditional martial arts in forms (Taolu / Toulou, Kata, Pumsae).

Motobu Choki quote: Nothing is more dangerous for the world than a martial art that is not effective in self-defense.

Quote Wang Xi’an: Another problem with Chinese wushu is that any system that has no principles of attack and defense is just a dance. 

The visualization of the intended applications helps in individual training to carry out the technique correctly. Without the application, a technique cannot be performed correctly and without techniques, the martial art has no application.

Because only if a technique is carried out with the intention of an application, then the correct body mechanics and body guidance be trained.

Bou Faat | Stances and footwork

The "foundation" on which all martial arts practitioners stand is their own two legs. Similar to house building, no house can be built without a solid foundation. In the form of martial arts, the importance of the legs is expressed in the form of stands and footwork.

Stance training is both ideal strength training and endurance training. By holding a static position, you train to lower the inner center of gravity of the body and thus "to be rooted in the ground". The footwork is improved by the various changes of position and dynamic kicks. On one hand, martial artists need the necessary stability, but at the same time they should be light on their feet and able to move quickly. In addition, most of the force is generated from the legs, which is then passed on to the fists via the correct body mechanics.     

The five characters thus summarize five elements that form the basis of every movement in a martial art. In order to ensure correct execution, all martial artists should internalize these five elements and always keep them in mind.

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