By Arnaldo Ty Núñez

In the beginning stages of training, we are ecstatic with whatever our instructor teaches us, because it is totally new and we are fulfilling our desire… learning martial arts! We are typically introduced to the basics, which consist of drills to coordinate and strengthen our bodies. And then we are typically introduced to strikes and, possibly, kicking. We are happy because we are learning. Therefore, the obvious is that: the obvious.  However, we are not aware that obvious is not the obvious. For example, in southern Chinese martial arts, there exists an extremely popular technique, which is commonly referred to as: Butterfly Palm.

Butterfly Dividing to Fly


Interesting name, very vivid. A butterfly flying, which is due to palms forming the wings of a butterfly. This iconic technique has been immortalized with the animation series: Dragon Ball Z, with Goku using a Butterfly Palm to launch a Kamehameha wave.

Goku using Butterflies Palm to launch a Kamehameha wave

We need to take into account that, traditionally, this particular technique is broken into two parts. The first component consists of one hand sweeping across one’s waist, e.g., lower hand, which is referred to as “Drawing Hand,” while the upper hand swings across one’s pectoral muscles, which is referred to as “Swing Palm.”

Returning to the Top-End Butterfly Palm Do Not Delay

Both hands are stationary for a few seconds upon one’s hipbone or beside one’s pectoral muscles before extending one’s arms. Then the arms are extended and the palms part ways; hence, flying away. As mentioned before, this motion is perceived as a push. However, if you look closely it possesses other attributes. For example, various seizing techniques and an intercepting and striking combination.


Seizing techniques are usually perceived as freestanding techniques, when in actuality, they are existing within any motion. However, you need to have a keen eye to notice them. For example, 

Cupping Elbow: The object here is to “Press” the opponent’s elbow and wrist simultaneously.

Winding Wrist: This method consists of an opponent grasping one’s wrist, which we cover with our opposite hand. While softly pressing down on the opponent’s hand and then our other hand executes a Wing Hand onto the opponent’s wrist, quickly torqueing his wrist, which adds pressure to the opponent’s elbow.

Pressing Elbow: Here you use Drawing Hand to torque the opponent’s arm, exposing his elbow, which you then quickly execute an elbow press.

Drawing Hand-Swing Palm: The bottom hand executes a Drawing Hand, while striking with the Swing Palm.


The Butterfly Palm illustrates that methods are not black and white, but, actually, abstraction notions. Therefore, as practitioners, one should break down the motion to see what lies within it. It is easy to accept the “first dimensional” [refer to my prior article: Layman’s Guide to Dimensional Theories in Wǔshù.] application of a posture/movement, but in the process losing the beauty that lies below the surface.

Glossary of Terms

English Mandarin (Pīnyīn) Gwóngdūng wá/Cantonese (Jyutping) Jiǎnhuàzì (Simplified Character)
Basics Jīběn Gei Bun 基本
Strike Daa
Kick Tek
Southern Martial Arts Nánwǔshù Naam Mou Seot 南武术
Butterfly, Butterfly Palm Húdiézhǎng Wu Dip Zoeng 蝴蝶掌
Butterfly, Butterfly Dividing to Fly Húdiéfēnfēi Wu Dip Fan Fei 蝴蝶分飞
Empty Footstep Xūbù Heoi Bou 虚步
Drawing Hand Chōushǒu Cau Sau 抽手
Swing Palm Bǎizhǎng Baai Zoeng 摆掌
Returning to the Top/End Butterfly Palm Do Not Delay Huítóudiézhǎngmòyán​chí Wui Tau Dip Zoeng Mok Jin Ci 囘頭(头)蝶掌莫延迟
Seize Naa
Intercept Jié Zit
Techniques Jìshù Gei Seot 技术
Cupping Elbow Tuōzhǒu Tok Zaau 托肘
Pressing Aat
Winding Wrist Chánwàn Cin Wun 缠腕
Pressing Elbow Yāzhǒu Aat Zaau 压肘
Wing Hand Yìnshǒu Jik Sau 翼手


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