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.
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.
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.”
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)|
|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||Huítóudiézhǎngmòyánchí||Wui Tau Dip Zoeng Mok Jin Ci||囘頭(头)蝶掌莫延迟|
|Cupping Elbow||Tuōzhǒu||Tok Zaau||托肘|
|Winding Wrist||Chánwàn||Cin Wun||缠腕|
|Pressing Elbow||Yāzhǒu||Aat Zaau||压肘|
|Wing Hand||Yìnshǒu||Jik Sau||翼手|