(The “eight trigrams palm” art is 八卦掌, Japanese hakkeshou.)
(Nigireba kobushi hirakeba tenohira;
“When clenched, a fist; when opened, a palm”)
A given thing can change dramatically depending on the circumstances or even on how one thinks or feels. The same breath can blow hot or cold; the same hand can be closed into a fist and used to strike, or opened into a more welcoming shape and used to help or comfort.
We begin with the verb 握る (nigiru), “to grip,” in perfective form and taking the conditional suffix ば (ba). Without any mediating particles, this verb phrase points to the noun 拳 (kobushi), “fist.” This is followed by another verb, 開く (hiraku), “to open [something],” also in perfective form and taking the conditional suffix. And again the verb points to a noun, in this case 掌 (tenohira), “the palm of the hand.”
Some uses include a comma between the two parallel phrases, but this is not necessary. This saying doesn’t seem to have any significant variations or known origin.
(Shinnen ni nattara, juuniban no basu no ruuto ga kawatta sei de, tsuukin de katamichi wo sanjuppun hodo mainichi arukanai to ikenakunatte shimatta. Saisho no nikagetsu wa ruuto no henkou wo niramigamashiku omou dake datta keredo, itsu no ma ni ka jibun no karada ga kenkou ni natteiru koto ni ki ga tsuki, kore mo nigireba kobushi, hirakeba tenohira to iu koto nan da to ukeirete, kimochi wo arata ni suru koto ga dekita.)
[After the new year, the Number 12 bus route changed, and as a result he ended up having to walk thirty minutes each way every day during his commute to work. For the first two months he simply resented this. But at some point he noticed that it was improving his health, and accepting that this too was a case in which the thing is what you make of it allowed him to adopt a fresh outlook.]