On the Value of Yi Quan 

By Han Jing Chen

As soon as it emerged Yi Quan rose to fame for its instant and huge explosion of energy in combat. This power is traditionally named as the “Whole Power” or the “Hunyuan Power” – the power of integrating all the elements.

The theories and effectiveness of Yi Quan soon interested the entire circle of martial arts, as a number of people began to study and explore the unique features of Yi Quan. This trend has continued and become even stronger today. There have been many works written about Yi Quan, however most are stuck in the superficial, the partial or even the working of the mind.

There have been no works so far that provide a complete and systematic explanation of Yi Quan. Not surprisingly, Master Wang Xiang Zhai, the founder of Yi Quan, said that “My way will not be truly understood until after 100 years.”

As a late comer, I dare not spare any efforts in learning the art. Despite my shallowness, I would like to present to you all that I have gained from practicing and exploring Yi Quan and what I consider to be the most valuable aspects of it. As the theoretical system of Yi Quan is intimately connected to traditional Chinese culture, I must define a few terms so that they can be better understood later.

Definitions
Nature
1) Pure Nature: It means the objective world that is true with its own laws of evolution. It can otherwise be called Natural Ecology.

2) Habitual Nature: It means self-conscious speeches and behaviors that we human beings develop by regulating, continuously practicing and intensifying such speeches or behaviors using our subjective ideas. The Habitual Nature becomes even more natural over time, as to another who just comes out of the toilet, one may naturally ask ‘Did you eat?’

3) The Applied Nature of Perfect Combination between the Objective Conditions of a Subject and the Objective Needs of an Object:
As the name clearly states it becomes unnecessary for me to explain it any further.

Wholeness
1) Representative Wholeness:
It means the wholeness of the body that is visible as shown by body shapes.

2) Intentional Wholeness:
It means the wholeness of the body that human beings design, create and believe to be whole by using their subjective ideas.

3) Wholeness formed through Organic Integration, with Unison and Harmonization between the Internal Mechanism and the External Mechanism with Clear Purposes.
This is the highest and the best state of wholeness that the Chinese nation values.

Hunyuan-Integration:
It is the idealistic ultimate objective of perfection for human beings.
From Hunyuan things develop their varied natures. If it has to be described in scientific terms, Hunyuan includes any and all crystallizations of the human knowledge. It is also where the saying originates that “To discourse in a way that one deems appropriate” in Buddhism.
For the same sake, it occurs that a given thing has to be explained in overly complicated ways.

The Value of Yi Quan
Huanjin – Jin Transformation
The concept of Huanjin or Jin Transformation has been in the field of traditional martial arts for a long period of time. When and by whom first raised the term cannot be verified. So, the questions have to be left to historians. Hereby I will only talk about what the Jin Transformation really is.

The so-called Jin Transformation means to change the habitual usage of strength or moving mechanism that is formed in the physical labor of human beings (which is known as the “muddy Jin”) into the habitual usage of strength or moving mechanism that is needed by the martial art or any other special sport through special training methods and processes.

In Yi Quan the Jin Transformation is done through posts, which is an extremely important part of the practice. Yi Quan does not stay at such representations as the framework of Kung Fu, stamina or Kung Fu, but goes on to study extensively the essence in depth, intending to perfect both the internal and the external moving mechanisms. Thus, it adds new and more varied contents to the traditional concept of Jin Transformation.

So, on many occasions, I expressly tell everybody that the posts appeared a long time ago and were not unique to Yi Quan. However, it was Master Wang Xiang Zhai who rediscovered the posts and gave new, varied and particular contents. Moreover, it was also he who elevated the posts into the primary place and throughout the entire training process.

The Value of Posts
Body Frame Preparation:
The so-called “Body Frame Preparation” means to develop the optimal structure of the human body according to the modern knowledge system.

In the understanding of the body structure, Yi Quan was the first to establish the three-combination rules
The combination between the physical structure of organs and their physical functions;
The combination between the need to protect our life and the need to advance;
The combination of the structures formed from the above two combinations.

This optimal martial structure is consistent with the physiology of the human beings, which helps improve the health and treat illnesses, and meets the needs for one to protect himself and when necessary attack others. In the field of Yi Quan, this optimal structure is named as Hunyuan Posts that help people to find the Hunyuan Power.

Testing:
In the testing practice of Yi Quan the elementary structure that one obtains is put into one’s own movements or when there is any resistance. After being tested constantly, it is corrected by feedbacks that one receives. As the saying goes, “Find it inside you and then go to rediscover it outside your body.” In this way, the structure is gradually improved to form a good moving mechanism. The process is called Shili – the testing of the power. The power originates from the standing post, is known to you when you test it, and becomes owned by you when you use it.

The Understanding of Strength
Yi Quan develops such views about strength as “You are wrong as soon as you try to use any strength” or “You are powerful when you feel comfortable with yourself,” which run counter to the preexisting ideas of practitioners. These views are unimaginable or unacceptable to common people, not to mention martial art practitioners. So, there are people who raise quite objective oppositions – “How can I beat without any strength” or “You do not have the power if you feel comfortable, and you have the power only when you feel uncomfortable.”

The non-use of strength view of Yi Quan has been put forward to oppose to the power that one produces by tensioning or loosening his muscles, to people who always play the tensioning or loosening game, and to the “muddy Jin” as mentioned above.

On the basis of the traditional view that “Those who have longer sinews are more powerful,” Yi Quan goes deeper and develops understandings or methods that are more effective in a shorter period of time. It expressly raised the pithy guiding principle that the “The power exists in the sinews and the spirit in the bones.” Compared with the power from the tensioning or loosening of the muscles, the power of Yi Quan is more penetrating, more destructive and more consistent with the moving needs of the human body. The saying that “You are powerful when you feel comfortable with yourself” means to establish a good and smooth moving mechanism that provides no obstructions to the whole and complete release of the power, so that the hitting force is effectively improved.

The Holistic View:
It is known by all that wholeness is of the utmost importance in Yi Quan. Common people usually tend to replace the Wholeness with the Power of Wholeness. They cannot be more mistaken.

The Power of Wholeness is nothing more than an external representation that Yi Quan appears to one in an instant. In fact, the Wholeness of Yi Quan means the holistic view – the overarching principle or measurement for one’s judgments and practicing – which is the essence of the Chinese national culture. It runs through one’s understanding and practicing processes, meaning to never let go any detail however minute it may be. It extends the connotation of Body Realization. It is the one and the only way to the upper level that “The spirit becomes more complete when the movement is more minute”, or “Respond to it at the time you feel it.”

The Connection Between Theory and Practice:
In studying the activities of ideas and the body, Yi Quan follows the traditional doctrine that “Knowledge and action are one.”

It raised a pragmatic rule – “Whether or not you get the feel about abstract theories in your body.” It opposes empty talks, or any fantastic exaggeration of the role of the mind, or any training methods that try to force any ideas on one’s body. As far as I can see it, one who practices such methods may feel quite good during exercise, but will loose all of them in a true fight. Moreover, the blind practice should be opposed to. The blindness means that if he fails to achieve the expected result, one often blames himself for not working hard enough, other than reconsidering if there is any problem in what he has practiced. There are also many other phenomenon that seem reasonable but are wrong, which I will not discuss at this time.

The Unity of Opposites:
In Yi Quan the traditional Yi Yang view is adopted in the study of the opposite elements, commonly known as contradictions in the martial movement. In the traditional culture, the relationships between the opposite elements are classified into: the unity of opposites; the mutual rooting and dependence; and the waxing/waning and conversion between yin and yang.

It inspires Yi Quan to start with the particularity and the generality of things, proceed to study the organic connections between opposite elements, and finally find solutions to solve the contradictions. It makes it a truly feasible process or a natural result for one to feel no resistance and beat the opponent in the combat, as is always dreamed about by martial art practitioners. In this way, one enters the supreme realm where he expresses himself fully and independently and fills his movements with rich contents.

As Master Wang Xiang Zhai said, “The basic and fixed rules are that the internal should flexible and agile, the external should be tall and straight, and you are powerful when you feel comfortable with yourself. The references should also be found in such pairs as the firm and the soft, the void and the solid, the active and the inactive, the tense and the loose.”

The Entry into the Realm of Necessity:
In the true Yi Quan combat it often ends with just one punch. This spectacular phenomenon is understood by many as “a strike with all one’s might” or “a desperate strike” or even “the mad dog’s move.” How ignorant they are!

The occurrence is because Yi Quan has moved from the realm of judgments and contingencies to the realm of perfection and necessity. As Master Wang Xiang Zhai said, “You feel like a great furnace that melts whatever that comes to you. You have the endless power of the universe. You feel like walking on the water and move like the mountain moving.” In this, he has passed the stage that “Bodhisattvas Fear Causes, Sentient Beings Fear Effects.”

Conclusion
Generally speaking, Yi Quan builds on the traditional Chinese culture and studies the martial practice. It inherits the traditional martial arts, as well as introduces new human knowledge. After being rediscovered, re-practiced and re-verified repeatedly in a complete and profound way, it has established its own principles and rules to guide one’s martial behaviors. It comes to be an independent system that covers brand-new theories and unique training programs centered on practice. Here ends this article, which I have written with whatever comes to my mind. I will go on to discuss further details in another article.

By Han Jing Chen in my apartment in Zhuhai, deep into the night of September 2, 1998

Reference: History of Yiquan and the han family Facebook