Hen and Ha – The Secret Sounds of Tai Chi

Hen and Ha are sounds that you sometimes hear mentioned as being the secret sounds of Tai Chi.

Sometimes the sounds are written as Heng and Hung. Normally Hen is an in breath and ha is an out breath. It is claimed that Yang Chen Fu issued the Ha sound when punched in the belly and the puncher was thrown well over 15 feet away. Knowing the sound I can see how this is easily possible and if the puncher did not have very good structure I can see them getting a broken arm or shoulder equally as easily. The reason that the puncher was thrown from a belly hit is because the sound is generated by breathing into and out of the deeper parts of the belly and lower dan tien area.

The Hen and Ha sounds properly vocalized have some very specific and quite neat characteristics. If used for fighting or a high energy activity such as running the sounds can be used to regulate breathing. This is very beneficial so that an individual can keep their system oxygenated to the point that they do not get winded, lose control of their breath and uncontrollably gasp and fight for air as most folks tend to do when over exerted in an activity such as running or fighting.

Another benefit of Hen and Ha breathing is that it affords the body a lot of natural protection and additional power and speed that is not normally present with other types of breathing methods. A basic test to see how much power and protection is to have person A stand in a braced football type pose and have person B use a fair amount of physical force minus the sound to try and push them then do the test again but the second time person B breathes in with the Hen sound and pushes while breathing out and making the Ha sound.

Another test is the same as above except have person A make the sound as they are about to be pushed and look at the extra power they have just because they are making the sound.

The Hen is almost always an in breath and the Ha is an out breath. The sounds should be made by breathing into the lower diaphragm area (belly breathing). If you need more oxygen for power or sustaining an oxygen consuming activity such as running then make sure to breath in with the Hen breath a bit more. If you have to much oxygen in then you may begin to feel light headed. The simple solution is to breath out more and take in a lot less for a moment. You can also yell repeatedly while purposely not taking in much oxygen in order to make sure that you are not hyper oxygenated.

Properly learning and practicing the Hen and Ha will eventually impart the ability for the practitioner to strike the opponents nervous system with this sound. Nervous system strikes tend to be one of the more specific targets for Fa Jing and this kind of breath directed strike can easily add a lot of juice to any Fa Jing practice. The normal effect is that the recipient will freeze for a second or two and will definitely feel and be affected by the sound. The first trick to learning how to do this is to make sure that the sound is practiced correctly so that the volume is quite loud and generated from the entire body core. The second required skill in order to have the impressive result is to practice so that you can direct the sound. Begin by practicing to make the sound of your yell spread out and also to narrow the sound of your yell so that it hits someone standing at 12 -15 feet with a spread that is no larger than the size of your facial area. This will take practice but is very achievable. When you can tighten your focus to a diameter of less than 8 inches across on a target person who is standing at 20 feet then you should be starting to get some impressive results with the sound hit that can be produced with the Hen and Ha.

The sounds are originally from Tibet and have spread all over the Far East and down into Indonesia and Malaysia. In my own research on the matter I have found that the only place where the sounds can be commonly found in the martial arts today are in Indonesia and Malaysia.

I believe that part of the reason that the fighting version of these sounds can still be found in the island chain is that there are a number of animals including monkeys and tropical birds native to the area that naturally produce sounds similar to or even the same as the Hen and Ha so that the sounds are much more easily learned and much more easily remembered due to the natural surroundings. If you have been near a tropical bird such as an African Grey when it squawks and felt the sound cut through you and strike your nervous system then you are familiar with how the fighting version of this should sound.

Tai Chi practitioners can also do a health oriented version of the hen and ha breathing method. In a very relaxed, non-forced and easy but deep internal version of this work your Tai Chi set with the sound. Let the sound vibrate your entire body while working the set. Make sure to cool down afterwards and to perform extra Grand Tai Chi and Carry the Cauldron Movements for balancing the residual energy.

Comments

  1. Dan Eidson, DCH, LMT says:

    Fantastic article Sifu. I have been around an African Gray parrot and the birds shrill penetrates right through you.
    In Hawaiian energy work a Ha sound is a fire breath. A rapid explusion of air can be used to break a board. It will also build up the energy in the body if you are tired and in need of re-energizing. One pre-caution I have been told by teachers is that if you do the Ha breath often, lets say for 20 or 30 minutes it will use up your blood sugar. If you have problems with blood sugar be aware of this. Sifu,if you have a remedy for solving rapid blood sugar usage while doing lots of Ha sounds it would be great if you could shared it with us.

    Will the Hen and Ha sound still work if you do it in silence?
    Is this something to the effect of an Internal Iron sound strike?
    Are you vibrating whole body breathing using Hen and Ha sounds in self healing or striking long distances?
    Many questions for a fascinating subject..

    • Sigung Clear says:

      Thanks Dan,
      I have found that explosively and repeatedly yelling the combat version of the ha sound is tough on all of the endocrine system and it is the response to this that can cause the problems both in terms of high and low blood sugar. That is why care needs to be taken and practices such as this one should always be done under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher.

      The Hen and Ha sound breathing method still works even when the sounds themselves are kept silent. Of course you will need to master them correctly with volume first.
      Definitely, this sound properly applied adds a lot of power to your strikes and movement. We will be putting out a video teaching and demonstrating this. We actually filmed it last night so it will be a couple of months before editing etc is finished.
      Vibration certainly can be and is used with this and other sounds and methods. Again, I caution please only practice this under the guidance of a teacher skilled with this method.
      Thank you for all of the questions.
      Best Regards.
      Sifu

  2. Sifu Clear, excellent to know others practice this as well. In addition to the above commentary, practicing the sounds are an effective way to learn/practice reverse breathing.

    • Yes, We use hen and ha in a number of different ways (including reverse breathing) for various purposes.

      What is it that you like about combining Hen and Ha with reverse breathing?

      Do you have any specific applications that you particularly like?

  3. Qigong8 says:

    In China this is associated with Heng-Ha breathing exercises in the practice of…martial arts. There the statues are called the Heng Ha Er Jiang (哼哈二将, the two generals Heng and Ha).

  4. How does one produce hen during inhale?

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