Updated: Dec 6, 2022
In the Taiji classics it is written, “Grasp and hold the dan tian to train internal gongfu. Heng, ha two qi’s are marvelous and infinite.” It is also written, “The Throat is the second master.”
Within the martial community there are many different sounds that are used for practice and fighting. Those of you who train taijiquan have two important sounds that serve several purposes. These sounds are heng (哼) and ha (哈). Use of such sounds will assist you in emitting or withdrawing your jing to a maximum while coordinating your qi with the manifestation of the jing.
Additionally, you will learn to raise your Spirit of Vitality. In the taiji classics it is written, “Grasp and hold the dan tian to train internal gongfu. Heng, ha two qi’s are marvelous and infinite.” It is also written, “The Throat is the second master.” There also are a number of classics written with regard to lifting or suspending the head to raise the spirit.
Keeping the spirit raised and focused will allow you to respond to your opponent’s actions in a light and agile manner. Your qi will flow more naturally and become stronger. The use of these sounds will provide you with the necessary means of condensing and emitting your jing to a maximum. Finally, emitting such a sound will cause alarm to your opponent possibly even causing a major distraction and giving you an advantage while engaging the person.
In the following paragraphs we will describe a few exercises to practice the sounds of heng and ha. After you have completed these exercises you will have a better understanding of this manifestation. You may also begin to utilize these sounds while practicing your pushing hands drills.
Regardless of the sound, the manifestation should be made from deep within the body and not from the mouth. If not done properly, you will find your throat will become dry and sore quickly. To create these sounds, begin by drawing air from deep within the lungs. The sound will be then created in the vocal chords. This area also contains a cavity known to the Chinese as the tiantu (Co-22)(天突) cavity. It is known as the gate of expression, and its energy is balanced with another cavity known as the yintang (M-HN-3)(印堂) cavity. The yintang cavity is where the spirit resides. Furthermore, the tiantu cavity is paired with the dazhui cavity and as such is linked to the emotional mind, providing assistance in raising up the spirit.
A raised spirit will cause the energy manifestation to be strong as well enhance awareness of your surroundings. Each of these sounds will be used in conjunction with reverse abdominal breathing. This type of breathing is related to physical manifestation and emotion. It is assumed that you are familiar with the different stages of breathing exercises. These techniques are common to the internal arts and are necessary for advanced stages of training.
There are two ways of manifesting the heng (哼) sound. The first way is purely yin in nature and is made while inhaling. It is very similar to the sound someone might make when they are suddenly frightened. While making this sound in this way, the abdomen withdraws and the huiyin cavity is held up. This is the key to store your qi and jing.
The second way of making the heng sound is considered partially yang with some yin. It is made while exhaling with the mouth closed and it is used when you are interested in exerting jing but still wish to retain some of the power you are manifesting. The abdomen will be pushed out and the huiyin cavity will also be pushed out. To practice these two methods of producing heng, stand in the ma bu stance with your hands placed over your lower dan tian area. Next, inhale abruptly then allow the exhalation to relax out of the body. For each inhale draw in the abdomen and huiyin cavity while simultaneously making the heng sound.
It is not a loud gasp but a soft heng sound that you will hear when you draw the air deep into the lungs. When exhaling, allow the abdomen and huiyin cavity to relax outward. You may practice this for a few minutes; however, if you feel you are becoming lightheaded you should relax and return to normal breathing. The second way of practicing the heng sound is also done while standing in the ma bu position with the hands placed on the lower dan tian. While inhaling, you will gently withdraw your abdomen and huiyin cavity. Then, exhaling, expand the abdomen and huiyin cavity with a more concentrated effort. Keep your mouth closed and express the heng sound. This should also be done for a few minutes.
The other sound is the ha (哈) sound. It is a pure yang sound and it is made when exhaling, and the abdomen and huiyin cavity are pushed out. This sound assists in the manifestation of the action as well as raises the spirit during the manifestation of jing.
To train the ha sound, stand in the ma bu stance with your right hand placed on your dan tian. Place your left hand over the right hand. Inhale slowly and deeply while withdrawing your abdomen and rolling the hands into the lower dan tian area. Exhale and open your mouth while sounding out a long ha sound. At this point you are not forcefully shouting the sound. It should be a whispering ha sound. The hands will also roll outward with the abdomen expanding on the exhalation. Perform this action for a few repetitions until you are comfortable with the action.
Next, make the sound more pronounced. Resume the ma bu stance with your hands placed on the lower dan tian, Inhale slowly and deeply once again while rolling your hands over the dan tian area and withdrawing the abdomen. Exhale forcefully with your abdomen expanding, hands rolling outward, and a short but loud ha sound. Practice this exercise for a few repetitions. Please note: If at any time you become even slightly nauseous you should immediately stop this exercise and return to normal abdominal breathing to calm the body down.
Tips to Avoid Common Errors
The most common error is making the sound in your throat area. You may feel an irritation of the larynx and find your throat getting sore. To avoid such an irritation, you need to be sure the sound is expressed more from the exhalation through your diaphragm. Additionally, you need to allow the sound to escape out your mouth and be careful not to tense your neck and surrounding too much. Doing so will trap your qi and begin to cause a headache.
The above is an excerpt from Tai Chi Push Hands: The Martial Foundation of Tai Chi Chuan, by David Grantham and Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, Pub Date November 2020, published by YMAA Publication Center, ISBN: 978-1-59439-645-8.