The straight punch, known as “Chyuhn Kyuhn” (穿拳) or the “penetrating punch”, is one of the most fundamental strikes in the late Chan Tai-San’s method. In fact, the very first time I ever saw Chan Tai-San fight, it was the only strike he used! We were in the Chan Family Association on Bayard Street one night when someone came in to challenge Chan Tai-San. With a single “Chyuhn Kyuhn” aimed at the solar plexus, the matter was resolved in Chan Tai-San’s favor.
In the late Chan Tai-San’s method, all the basic techniques were initially learned from a side stance (横弓步) using the “wheel body” (車身). This method teaches the student how to use the hips and shoulders to generate power, teaching the proper coordination and integration of the entire body.
The straight punch, extended from the side stance, is also perhaps the most easily recognizable manifestation of the strategic concept of “stretch the arms out while keeping the body away” (手去身離). That is, the preferred strategy is to strike from a position where it is difficult for my opponent to counter strike.
For some beginning students, the side stance can be confusing; they throw their punches from the hip and not directly. It is important to learn that even from the side stance, the strike travels on the center line. In fact, it DOMINATES THE CENTER LINE. Chan Tai-San taught to use the punch to “cut the bridge” and “intercept” as a counter strike.
To learn how to use the center line and control it, we say that for punches to the face you begin your strike in front of your nose and for strikes to the body you begin your strike in front of your own solar plexus.
The straight punch from the side stance can also be used to “slip” or evade and counter punch.
We were also taught three essential ideas to keep in mind when using the straight punch. First, you must concentrate your intent (yi) upon the fist and the selected target. The nose, the throat, the solar plexus, the liver and the spleen are all potential targets.
Second, you must focus upon the connection of the entire body, that is total body integration. The line “backward” from the fist, to the elbow, to the shoulder, to the hip, to the knee to the ankle and then to the ground.
The third consideration, directly related to the second, is how the power travels through this connection; from the floor, to the ankle, to the knee, to the hip, to the shoulder, through the elbow and into the strike.