Yiquan Sanshou with Li Quanyou
If you look carefully at the point where the pillars of a bridge bear the structure’s enormous weight, you will often find a small cylinder. This astonishing feature is known as a “bridge bearing.” The purpose of the bearing is to take the weight while giving the entire structure maximum flexibility.
Bridge bearings transfer loads and movements from the deck of the bridge down to the substructure and foundations. They make it possible for the structure to withstand the vibrations of traffic and the expansion and contraction caused by temperature variations. It is also thanks to these bearings that bridges are able to withstand severe winds, tremors and earthquakes.
The bearings are designed to redirect the forces that move over, through and around the structure. Engineers study the “downward forces” that pass through the center of the bearing, the “transverse forces” that move horizontally through the bridge or alongside it, the “uplift forces” that enter the structure from the earth and “rotational forces” that can twist in any direction.
Our feet have a natural bridge-like structure, arching between the ball and heel. They, too, have the capacity to absorb and redirect forces moving in all directions. Training to use the “red triangle” (pages 84–85) takes advantage of this natural structure and greatly increases your ability to react to and redirect forces all around you.
To begin this stage of your training, stand in Wu Chi for five minutes with your weight spread evenly over your feet. Then, shift your weight slightly forwards. Let your heels come up just enough to slide a sheet of paper under them. Focus your weight: it should rest on the red triangle shown on page 84. Include this new development in your daily training, so that you are able to remain balanced and stable without any weight on your heels. Progress to the point where you can maintain all the Zhan Zhuang postures, including those on one leg, using only the “red triangles” of your feet.
As you stand in this advanced position, you will naturally engage your large calf muscles. The next stage of this practice is to focus your attention on those muscles, particularly the large gastrocnemius muscle in the bulge of your calf. Try to identify it so you are able to contract it for several seconds without engaging the muscle of your ankle, thigh or buttock and while keeping your body completely relaxed.
Once you have trained your nerves to contract and relax the muscles in both calves, include this in your daily training. Contract and relax the muscles in your left calf up to 30 times, then do the same for your right calf. Then try contracting and relaxing both calves together. Avoid tensing any other muscles: focus your training on the nerves that control the muscles of your calves.
This training develops your internal sensitivity, exercises your nerves and sharpens the ability of your central nervous system to control subtle movements within your body. There is a similar practice for your hands. When you stand in the Zhan Zhuang posture, Holding the Ball (page 13), tighten your left hand into a fist. Squeeze it tightly for about five seconds. Then release the fist and open your hand fully. Stretch your fingers as wide apart as possible. Hold for about five seconds. Then repeat up to 30 times. Do the same with your other hand. When you practice closing and opening each hand, pay particular attention to your upper arms, shoulders and chest: these should remain completely relaxed. If you notice muscles in your upper body tensing, direct your attention to them and relax them.
These two mind-training exercises can become part of your daily practice. Gradually increase the length of time you spend standing with your weight on the “red triangles” of your feet. The the untrained observer, your feet appear flat on the ground, but, as in this photograph of the young Professor Yu, you develop the pump that will transform your practice.
A deep connection with the heart is essential for your health and your martial arts power. You develop this connection through your Zhan Zhuang training and the advanced work on the “red triangle” of your foot (pages 84–89). To go further, you need to use the power of your imagination to draw more deeply on the energy of the earth. Clearly visualize the basic triangle from the tip of your head to the base of your feet. Imagine that your feet go straight down into the earth. As your practice deepens, you will feel a second, inverted triangle extending downwards and holding you to the earth.
You can use this deep strength in the martial arts to take the incoming force of an attack into your body and direct it down through your rear leg. If you are learning for the first time, hold a Zhan Zhuang posture to one side and ask a friend to lean on your arms. Keep them in place without tension, directing the pressure down through your back foot.
Through your Zhan Zhuang training, the energetic structure of your body becomes increasingly stronger. Keeping this clearly in mind is vital to the power of Da Cheng Chuan. It is the secret of relaxed strength of advanced practitioners, such as the two masters in this photograph: facing Master Lam is Master Guo Gui Zhi, three times national martial arts champion of China.
When the arms are held in the fundamental Zhan Zhuang position, Holding the Ball (page 13), three principal triangles are involved. Two are formed by the shoulder, elbow and wrist of each arm. The third runs from shoulder to shoulder and connects to the first thoracic vertebra of the spine. These three triangles, combining structural and energetic geometry, remain intact under all pressures, but move flexibly without tension.
The Way of Power: Reaching Full Strength in Body and Mind
by Lam Kam Chuen
p. 86 – 91
I was born in Longtouye House, Chaolang Village, Chashan Town, Dongquan County, Guangdong Province, China in 1930, on 17th June of the Lunar calendar. I had a craving for martial arts since I was young. Though I had learned Chinese martial art of Northern and Southern style, martial art was something beyond touch to me in those days.
In the 50’s, I came across a book named Secrets of Internal and External Martial Arts in a bookstall that sold second-hand books. The book was published by the Hong Kong Martial Arts Research Society in 1928, and contained two volumes. The first volume titled The Way of Yiquan was written by the late Grandmaster Wang Xiangzhai. As the book revealed so many insights into martial arts, it was indeed an invaluable treasure. I longed for the art of Yiquan and hoped that I could learn it some day. But the problem was: Did anyone know this art in Hong Kong? In the following ten years, I earnestly looked for a Yiquan master, but to no avail.
One day, I suddenly thought of Mr Yau, an old friend of mine who worked in a Shanghai style barbershop. As he had met so many people from Northern China, he might have good news for me. I visted Mr Yau and was much delighted. He told me he knew a man from Northern China who was a disciple of Wang Xiangzhai. This man could send a person flying off the ground effortlessly and every time the person would land on a designated barber chair. Mr Yau was a renowned master of Fengyang style martial art and a friend whom I had known for over 10 years. What he witnessed must be true! Guess who that man was? He was Master Han Xingyuan, who later became my teacher.
After being referred by three people and visited Master Han for three times, I was finally accepted by Master Han who later passed the essence of Yiquan on me. At that time, Master Han taught at Grace Church, 2/F., 33 Un Chau Street, Kowloon (the church no longer exists now). It was in the early 60s.
On 4th December 1966, Master Han opened a new school at 3/F., 24 Kimberly Road, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon. I followed him to the new training place. At that time, I was lucky enough to be chosen by Master Han who began to give private lessons to me.
The days I cherished most were those when Master Han still lived by himself. The trainings were so tough, but the benefits were so immense. Master Han gave me a key of his flat and asked me to wake him up every morning (he was usually still sleeping when I arrived). Then, we would go upstairs and practise on the rooftop. Afterwards, we would go to Jade Garden Restaurant at Dong Ying Building to have dim sum for breakfast. After that, Master Han would go to Fei Ngo Hill to treat his patients, while I would deal with my own business. After one o’clock in the afternoon, I would go to the new school and practise by myself. When Master Han came back from Fei Ngo Hill, he would guide me with my practice again. Day after day, I sweated head over heels and even wetted the floor in mid summertime. The pain was on my body, but the gain was on my skill!
Master Han taught me at several places other than the school, including the park on old Chatham Road, Kowloon Park and 2/F., 116 Portland Street, Yaumatei.
Master Han also enjoyed discussing martial arts with me. With the book of The Way of Yiquan and Attainment of Yiquan in my hands, Master Han would explain and demonstrate to me the true meanings of Yiquan. He always taught me with a tireless heart and a pleasant smile.
When I had time in the evening, I loved going to the school to just ‘watch’. I intended to train my power of observation and see if I could observe the rights or wrongs of other students’ practice. I also liked to observe Master Han’s movements and listen to his words when he gave lessons. All these nourished my Yiquan skills because ‘Lookers-on see most of the game’. Thus, less than ten students of Master Han had seen me practise in the school.
In the early 70’s, Master Han urged me several times to open a school to teach Yiquan. However, I could not do so because I was too busy. Some time later, a few juniors of mine like Tong Hoi Tai, Cheng Cheuk Hing, Nip Wah Chi, etc. found that the schedule of Master Han’s school did not fit their spare times and proposed to be trained by me at my home instead. Thus, with permission from Master Han, I taught them on behalf of my master.
In 1977, Master Han went to the United States to teach Yiquan for the second time (He went for half a year this time). He lived at Li Cheuk’s home in San Francisco. Li was a leader of the local Chinese citizens and had a nephew who took Master Han as his Godfather. At that time, Li’s nephew was going to get married in Hong Kong, and planned to stay in Hong Kong for several months. Before Li’s nephew left the States, Master Han told him to learn from me. Half a month later, Master Han called me and asked whether his godson had come to see me. I said ‘not yet’. Master Han then told me the room number of a hotel where his godson stayed and asked me to find him. Later, I gave the godson of Master Han a call, and invited him to meet me at the car park of Grantham Institute of Education at 9:00 a.m. the next day, where I practised everyday. When he came the next day, my Junior, Cheung Chi Wan and Keung Sang, whom I taught on behalf of Master Han, were also present. After chatting for a while, I knew he had learned two schools of Kungfu and Qigong, and was learning from a renowned martial artist in Hong Kong. He asked how long I had practised Yiquan. I replied ‘not long’. He then asked for a bout. I said ‘okay’. So we got into contact and … he just exclaimed, ‘Very Wonderful! Very Wonderful!’ (no need to repeat what happened because it was just another old Yiquan story). After the trial, he at once wanted to learn from me and quit all other schools of martial art. I consoled him and said, ‘the style that you are learning was well known. I don’t mind if you keep on learning it. But if you really want to learn from me, I am glad to teach you.’ Finally, he quitted what he was learning and started learning Yiquan from me. I was happy that I had not disappointed Master Han and fulfilled the task he assigned to me.
One day in the afternoon, when I was practicing with my junior Or Kwang Sing, Master Han came over and said, “Should someone ask what you are learning, tell him it is ‘The Way of Yiquan’ ”. What he meant was the right path of Yiquan.
On 18th January 1983, Master Han passed away. At his last moment, his wife, Or Kwang Sing and I were by his side. We saw him off for his last journey!
In early 1985, Master Han’s elder brother, Han Xingqiao opened the ‘Yiquan Training Centre’ in the ‘ Zhu Hai Government Officials Rehabilitation Centre’. I attended the training class there and hoped to absorb more valuable knowledge of Yiquan. I was trained under Master Han Xingqiao for more than two years and greatly benefited from his concept of ‘take what you need’. It was a pity that because of full occupant of my work, I subsequently stopped learning from Master Han Xingqiao.
In July 1987, the Hong Kong Yiquan Society was founded. I was one of the founders and a supervisor of the society’s affairs. Starting from the second session, I have been the vice-chairman, while Fok Zan Wan (also a student of Master Han, my junior) has been the Chairman.
In 1991, I became a director of the ‘Hong Kong Jing Wu Athletic Association’ and opened a Yiquan Class to teach people who love the art. My class has a large number of students since its commencement. This shows that many people like Yiquan in Hong Kong.
I am not trying to say that I have made contribution in promoting Yiquan (Dachengquan), but I deeply feel that I have the responsibility to do so. Now, in my old age, I determined to contribute my remaining days for the promotion of Yiquan!
“All sorts of strengths originate in the void and nothingness, which can only be felt gradually by the tiny edges and corners of the body”.
We must, first and foremost, avoid the use of clumsy force, in body and in mind. Using this force makes the qi stagnant. When the qi is stagnant, the yi stops; when the yi stops, the spirit is broken.
A small movement is better than a big movement,
No movement is better than a small movement,
Stillness is the mother of all movements.
In quietude you are like a maiden
In motion you are like a dragon.
The mountains seem to fly when you apply your mind,
The seas overflow when you apply your power.
One should know that if one can take the time to practice martial arts, do it without any method, freely and slowly perceiving by intuition, the results will be great.
To sum up, what cannot lead to comfort, happiness, and gaining strength does not deserve to be called martial art.
In movement, slow excels over quick, be relaxed rather than impatient, the movement should be slight and the spirit full. When one wants to move one will stop, when one wants to stop one will move, furthermore, when moving one cannot help but stop, when stopped, one cannot help but move.
Why move? Why be still?
What are the results?
What is the phenomenon in the middle of the process?
Thus perceive by intuition, and you will be approaching the truth!
Wang Xiangzhai Discusses the Essence of Combat Science
An Interview with Mr. Wang Xiangzhai
The founding master of ‘Dachengquan, Wang Xiangzhai, who is famous in the North and South, and praised by the martial arts circles of the whole country, has recently moved to Beijing. For the exchange of knowledge and opinions among the practitioners of different martial arts, he has arranged a meeting time every Sunday afternoon from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm, at Dayangyibin Alley, where he acts as the host, and exchanges opinions with other famous experts of boxing, carrying forward and promoting the martial spirit of our nation as his sincere wish. A reporter interviewed Mr. Wang yesterday, having the following discussion with him.
 Interviewer: I have always admired and respected your superb boxing skills, may I ask what is your aspiration with regard to the combat science?
Wang Xiangzhai: Being praised as the representative of ‘Dachengquan’ by my friends really makes me embarrassed. I left my teacher in the 33rd year of the Reign of Guang Xu of the Qing Dynasty (1907), and since then, I have traveled all around the country, and thus I have seen much and learned much about life, left my footprints on uncountable places, both north and south of the Yangtze River, met many famous masters and veteran boxers, and experienced untold hardships. My biggest gain during these more than thirty years has been meeting many good teachers and helpful friends to compare skills and knowledge with, thus I am confident that I, as a veteran boxer, am on the right path of combat science.
A few days ago, Mr. Zhang Yuheng repeatedly made some comments in newspapers. Fearing that people of different circles have not clearly understood his meaning, and thus have had some misunderstandings, I wholeheartedly want to let people know what I have in mind. My remaining years are gradually waning away, life itself is enough, there is no room for fame and gain to occupy my mind, thus I am so anxious to, while this body of mine has not yet decayed, join forces with prominent compatriots to advocate the full development of natural instincts and martial virtue, and get rid of heresies. I do not want to be praised in vain, like those deceiving the public in order to gain fame.
 Interviewer: What is the basis of combat science?
Wang Xiangzhai: What is, after all, the basic principle of combat science? Different people have different answers to this question, but studying boxing routines, forms of movements, fixed techniques, and training hits and beats, all fall into the category of superficial, and although the boxing routines and forms of movements have been popular already for a long time, they are, indeed, extremely harmful to the people.
 Interviewer: ‘Xingyi’, ‘Taiji’, ‘Bagua’, and ‘Tongbei’ are considered to be schools of internal boxing, what are the differences of all these branches?
Wang Xiangzhai: People often say that ‘Xingyi’, ‘Taiji’, ‘Bagua’ and ‘Tongbei’ are internal styles, I do not know how the names of internal and external came about, so I cannot comment on that. By observing the past famous masters, one can see a part of it though.
The original ‘Xingyi’, and the ‘Xinyiba’ and ‘Liuhebu’ of Henan province, are of the same school. When tracing the lineage of Mr. Li Daidong (who was known as Old Dai) of Henan, you can find out that he is Mr. Li Zhihe’s great-grandson, Mr. Li Zhihe was the teacher of the old gentleman Dai Longbang. The Yuan family of Jiyuan in fact followed the school of Mr. Li , although they named the art differently. Mr. Dai, although he changed the name ‘Xinyi’ into ‘Xingyi’, was not in contrary with the original meaning, and in that boxing the word ‘boxing’ carried the meaning of most faithfully adhering to it.
One should know that the original ‘Xingyi’ completely lacked the training method of the twelve forms, but the whole body was meant to express the essence of all these twelve forms. It did not have the theory of the mutual promotion and restraint of the five elements, there were just the five elements representing five kinds of forces. It did not have any fixed techniques, boxing routines or forms of movements either. I remember well the words of my late teacher about the five elements: Metal means the strength contained in the bones and the muscles, the mind being firm like iron or stone, being able to cut gold and steel. Wood has the meaning of the bending but rooted posture of a tree. Water means force like the waves of the vast sea, lively like a dragon or a snake, when used, it is able to pervade everything. Fire means strength being like gunpowder, fists being like bullets shot out, having the strength to burn the opponent’s body by the first touch. Earth means exerting strength heavy, deep, solid, and perfectly round, the qi being strong, having the force of oneness with heaven and earth. This is the syncretism of the five elements. It has nothing to do with one technique overcoming another technique as the modern people claim. If one first sees with the eyes, then thinks of it again in the mind, and then launches the counter-attack towards the enemy, it is very seldom that one will not get beaten up.
‘Bagua’ was originally known as ‘Chuanzhang’. In my childhood I met Mr. Cheng Tinghua, I remember he seemed to be like a divine dragon roaming in the sky, changing infinitely, it is hardly possible for the modern person to reach such skill and strength. I distantly remember Mr. Dong Haichuan, it is even harder to understand how profound was his insight into the Sea of Law and attainment of the Tao. Mr. Liu Fengchun is a friend of mine, his skills are really profound, but his attainments are slightly inferior, but still those studying the sixty-four palms and seventy-two steps cannot compare with him.
I wish that the people practising ‘Bagua’ would concentrate on the double and single ‘chuanzhang’, paying special attention to intuitively perceiving every movement, doing their best to take a more advanced course of training, and earnestly enter into the theory, putting it all into practise for a long time, then they could get close to approaching its essence.
As masters of the original ‘Taijiquan’, I should recommend the Yang brothers Shaohou and Chengfu. They are also old friends of mine, thus I know that this boxing really has some knowledge of mechanics, but out of one hundred persons not even one gains its essence, and even if one can gain it, it is still one-sided, because the basic skills of intuitive perception already died out a long time ago, thus their lower bodies have no real strength to speak of. Originally this boxing consisted of three fists, also called the “old three cuts”, Mr. Wang Zongyue changed it into “thirteen postures”, and it was later changed into as much as one hundred and forty or fifty postures, this is the major reason for the distortion.
For health preservation, it restrains the spirit and mettle, and brings discomfort to the practitioner. For combat, it harms the practitioner’s limbs and trunk, and causes the useful body to become a mechanical and stiff thing, it also disturbs the student’s nerves, and is nothing more than wasting one’s time. As for its method of training, a punch with a fist here, a slap with the palm there, a kick to the left, and another one to the right, that is pitiful and laughable.
As for dealing with an enemy in a fight, against a master-hand, please do not even consider it, if the adversary is not stiff and sluggish, even the famous masters of this boxing have no chance to apply their skills. These abuses are so big that ‘Taijiquan’ might soon become just a mere form comparable to a chess manual. For the last twenty years, most people who have studied this boxing have not been able to differentiate right and wrong, even if someone has been able to differentiate them, he has not been capable of putting it into practice. As for common students, most of them use their ears instead of their eyes.
So ruined is this boxing that it has become useless, this is really deplorable. I wish that the powerful members of this school would promptly and strictly clean it up, and attempt to develop it in the future. When the day of success comes, they will be held as the bosom friends of all the boxing fans. I dare to say that I understand ‘Taijiquan’ deeply, those who do not agree, can notify me or lay the blame on me, only the wise ones might understand. At the same time, I suppose those who have really gained something in their study of ‘Taijiquan’, when they read this, they will nod in agreement and cannot help laughing.
‘Tongbeiquan’ is popular in northern China , especially in Beijing . The practitioners I have met were mostly out of shape, however, some were also holding a theory that was close to being right, but when checking their skills, they were very far from it. Most probably their predecessors were not like that, but the later generations have lost the essence. Although occasionally there were some who had deep and great skills in some one-sided parts of it, eventually they will have no hope of walking down the right path of combat science.
‘Meihuaquan’, which is also known as ‘Wushizhuang’, has a direct lineage that has been passed down generation by generation, especially in Henan and Sichuan provinces. Their way is different in approach but equally satisfactory in results with that of the practitioners of ‘Wujisanshou’ of Fuzhou , Xinghua, Quanzhou, Shantou , and other places. They also have their special and profound strong points for dealing with the enemy, but unfortunately most of them are one-sided and only very few are complete.
‘Bafan’, ‘Mianzhang’, ‘Pigua’, ‘Baji’, ‘Dagongli’, ‘Sanhuangpao’, ‘Niantui’, and ‘Lianquan’, all have their strong and weak points, most are one-sidedly inclined to hardness and a few to softness, they lack the internal skill of gathering the spirit. As for ‘Dahongquan’, ‘Xiaohongquan’, ‘Tantui’, ‘Chuojiao’, long boxing, short boxing, and the other various schools, I would rather not discuss them.
 Interviewer: What is your opinion on preserving the national arts?
Wang Xiangzhai: The boxing arts of our nation are in a chaotic state, thus the people cannot know what course to take. Summed up, they have abandoned the quintessence and kept only the scum, nothing more. Although the martial arts of Japan and the boxing of Western Europe are one-sided, they all have their original points. In comparison to an ordinary boxer of our nation, they are countless miles ahead. The people should be very ashamed of this. So we should clean up and carry forward the old knowledge. Except for us, who else is there left to do it? Despite my meagerness, I call for action to advocate it, only for this purpose.
 Interviewer: Sir, you have fixed a time to play host to the martial artists of various circles, this has proved that you are very modest and enthusiastic for the martial way, but why do you do all this?
Wang Xiangzhai: The way of learning builds up from comparison, this applies to boxing as well. When comparing skills, there is victory or defeat, but one’s personality is not harmed by it, on the contrary, it may improve one’s personality and increase one’s morals. If everyone could inspect and learn from each other’s experiences, the dispute between different schools could be avoided, and furthermore, it could stop the irresponsible talking. I wish that those who pursue the same things as I, will not take these words as empty talk, and if the prominent personage and the wise hermits of this country will be willing to make a journey to grant me instruction, they are very welcome. If you do not wish to come to visit me, please just send me a note and I will surely and wholeheartedly pay you a visit and respectfully listen to all you have to say. To sum up, I only seek to improve the boxing art, I do not bother about anything else.
 Interviewer: Sir, you are the founding master of ‘Dachengquan’, you must have some judicious views about this school, would you please tell us some details about it.
Wang Xiangzhai: The way of combat science is extremely complicated and difficult to unravel. Extremely complicated and difficult, yet it is extremely simple when its gist has been grasped. Thus when we study boxing, we should first know what we study it for. When we know that, we can surely gain something. Most people study boxing mainly for health, and then secondly for self-defence. Good health is the basis of all the human activities, so the ways of health preservation and protecting one’s body really cannot be neglected.
If one learns the method of exercise properly, then the benefits will be great, but learning it improperly can even lead to death. Only very few of the sportsmen doing strenuous exercise can enjoy longevity. The boxers who have lost their lives or injured their bodies because of improper exercise are uncountable. That kind of boxing is indeed pitiful and also laughable. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of studying boxing, one should experience and observe the states of movement and stillness with special care while exercising, not only the external movement of the body, but also the moving state of the spirit.
One should use the spirit and mind to observe the whole body inside and outside, and whether every action is in accord with the requirements of health preservation and self-defence or not. Why move? Why be still? What are the results? What is the phenomenon in the middle of the process? Thus perceive by intuition, and you will be approaching the truth! As for the profound and subtle essence of the Tao, one can only keep on studying and searching, otherwise it is not easily gained. Now here is a brief summation of the be-all and end-all of ‘Dachengquan’ to be questioned by the various fellow martial artists, so that an open discussion on combat science can be started.
First I shall talk about the stages in the study of boxing. As I said before, health preservation and self-defence are inseparable from each other, if one is lost, then abuses are created and one will enter the wrong path. First of all, one should train and foster the spirit, the temperament, and the natural instincts, and only after that start talking about bringing the fine instinctive strength of the nerves, the limbs, and the trunk into play. The first step in studying boxing is exercising the nerves as the basic training method, and intuitively perceiving the peristalsis of the whole body. The second step is training the trial of strength (shili) and the trial of voice (shisheng). The third step is self-defence. They are separately narrated below:
Basic training: in daily life, in order to gain results from training all the time, while walking, standing, sitting, and reclining, one must start the training from the pile standing (zhanzhuang) method. Arrange the posture of the whole body properly, keep the body upright, have no thoughts, strengthen the nerves in stillness, adjust the breath, warm up and nourish the muscles, let every cell activate naturally. The strength comes from the inside and reaches the outside smoothly in the whole body. Thus, one does not train the bones and the muscles, yet they get trained by themselves, one does not nourish the nerves but they get nourished by themselves, one should especially experience and observe their barely perceptible movement and activity. When one has done it for long enough time, one will know that standing brings many inexhaustible wonders. One who wants to achieve wonders in his boxing skills, should first dedicate his time to pile standing.
Trial of strength and trial of voice: after having the basic training in boxing, one’s natural instincts have been strengthened. In applying them one must take strict precautions against the predominance of human desire, or else the misapplication of the illusory will arise. Sometimes, because of the predominance of desire, the natural instinctive strength becomes something that has nothing to do with exercising the natural instincts.
Therefore the scholars of the past told us not to try helping the shoots grow faster by pulling them up. The way of applying the natural instincts can be suited to personal needs, but first, one must understand the moving state of strength, only then can one continue to the second phase. Trial of strength is the most important thing in learning the basis of boxing skills, with trial of strength, one gains strength. The strength is gained and realised by trying it, and one will realise how to use the strength too.
First one must make the strength equal all over the body, the muscles agile, and the bones supporting the frame of the body, so that the muscles can contract, stretch, relax, and tense in harmony. Strength should come from inside and be issued outside. In movement, slow excels over quick, be relaxed rather than impatient, the movement should be slight and the spirit full. When one wants to move one will stop, when one wants to stop one will move, furthermore, when moving one cannot help but stop, when stopped, one cannot help but move.
In trial of strength, one should not have unilateral strength, furthermore, one should not have sheer strength. First of all, one should perceive by intuition whether the strength of the whole body is all-pervading or not, whether the strength can be issued out at any moment or not, and whether one can react to the atmosphere or not, furthermore, one must not let the mind break and the spirit disperse. Have light and heavy forces ready to be issued out, when one part of the body moves, the whole body moves. The strength is consistent, resulting in nimble and heavy insubstantiality, and round and whole substantiality. Up and down, left and right, front and back, do not forget them. To sum up, what cannot lead to comfort, happiness, and gaining strength does not deserve to be called boxing.
The trial of voice is a supplement for the insufficiencies of trial of strength. All people have physiological differences due to the congenital, so everyone’s body has parts difficult to connect, thus trial of voice is namely complementary internal breath work. It is also called inner breath, or brain [abdomen]-back breathe.
Self-defence: namely combat. One should know that a big movement is not as good as a small movement, a small movement is not as good as stillness, one must know that only stillness is the endless movement. If the body moves, that is just an expression of immobility and lack of strength, what is called movement in stillness, is moving as if one was not moving, the movement and stillness are the basis of each other, and the wonders of their application mostly depend on the nervous system being connected, the mind leading, the big and small joints and ligaments extending and contracting mutually, the fulcrum being firm like iron, having twisting and opposite strengths, rotating around the pivot point, moving the centre in a balanced way, and issuing the explosive power together with the breath. If one can exert it properly, one has the basis of combat.
What was said above was mostly abstract, but much of its meaning cannot be described in words. If one can keep practising unceasingly, then it is naturally not difficult to realise. What is the distinction between the so called big movement and small movement, in fact, depends on individual basic skills, and whether all kinds of strengths are being gained by the body and understood by the mind or not. If one can raise the hands and move the feet with the whole body having mechanical skills everywhere, then a big movement is fine, a small movement is fine as well, and a movement that is neither big nor small is also equally fine.
If one does not have the basic mechanical ability, then no matter what the movement is like, it is all wrong. The same applies to using strength and not using strength. The movements of an ordinary person cannot have strength without constant unilateral tension that disturbs the blood circulation. Every kind of strength based on constant unilateral tension is stiff and inharmonious, and besides that, harmful to health. Having strength without constant unilateral tension is namely having strength without using strength, and when using it, one gains strength.
That is what the natural instinctive strength is like. It is like seeking all kinds of real things from the unreal, which is hardly possible to express in words. Anyway, ‘Dachengquan’ is beyond the external form of being good or bad, it actually depends on dealing with the mind. In a nutshell, having a fixed form and fixed techniques are all false, skills reaching the level of no-mind are getting very rare, this is what the above means.
 Interviewer: I think there must have been many visitors calling on you since the last time your views appeared in a newspaper. Were there any brilliant persons of unusual ability?
Wang Xiangzhai: I’m very gratified that you care and introduce me to the readers. Among the martial artists of Beijing , there still was not a single person willing to come and grant me instruction. But the numerous letters coming from all quarters of the country expressed that there are many people who hold me in favour and esteem. Moreover, there were some people from some places who came here to bargain, wishing to be appointed to the position of an instructor. Furthermore there was an incident that I can tell you about. Recently, there were very many people who were seriously researching combat science and seeking for advice. Most came to ask for instruction by their own initiative and there were also those who were introduced by someone else. That is the only reason I advocate combat science.
I have no intention of contending with others, moreover, I scorn contention. I wish to help all the countrymen who are interested in combat science to understand it, and also hope that the combat science legislation will be reformed completely. Victory or defeat should not be taken as honour or disgrace. I wish that other boxers would not consider themselves to always be right just by studying blindly and practising recklessly. I especially hope that all boxers will become healthy pugilists. I do not wish them to become martial artists wandering from place to place making a living with their tricks. But nowadays, out of one hundred boxers, not even one has anything right at all.
Looking at them, I mostly get the feeling that it is all completely wrong. As for the boxers who rely on boxing to make their living, they just should not feel ashamed of studying again from others after they have started teaching. They should not be hard on themselves in spirit, but try hard to follow those who excel over them. They must keep in mind that they should not mislead and harm their students. Nowadays, boxers do not know where the spirit of combat science is. While they have no alternative but to make their living with it, surely they should not instruct people with mystery and violence. That way they might not commit the great error of going as far from the truth as the heaven is from the deep sea.
But then again, the weaknesses of these men are too numerous and they cannot be easily influenced over a short period of time. I only hope that they will become conscious of the truth and start to self-examine themselves bit by bit, nothing more.
 Interviewer: Since the martial way arose, many schools have been born, each advocating its own way so that eventually the students end up with a feeling of ignorance. What is legitimate after all?
Wang Xiangzhai: All learning in the world depends on comparison, only that way can good and bad be distinguished, otherwise every school will claim to be right, and the laymen will have difficulties distinguishing right and wrong. The correctness of boxing cannot be judged merely by the criterion of victory or defeat, it must be judged by whether it is reasonable and suitable to the human needs or not. What is reasonable is achieving comfort, gaining strength, and getting zest into one’s life. If one does not achieve comfort, gain strength, and if the study does not bring zest into one’s life, then it cannot be called boxing.
Whether one knows of the history of boxing or not does not matter at all, one should only see whether there is any value in regard to learning and whether it accords with the requirements of life. But speaking of the combat science of our nation, it has a centuries-old history. It began revealing its brilliance in the Warring States Period (403 BC – 221 BC), and gradually advanced and evolved. During the times of the Tang and Song dynasties, boxing started to turn into technical skills and different styles started to evolve. During the Yuan, Ming, and early Qing dynasties, the different schools were most popular.
There were very many practitioners, and only because their strength, skill, and attainments were different and some being wise and others stupid, boxing broke into different schools, each claiming its teachings as correct. Those schools are namely what are now called the various styles. During the reigns of Kangxi and Yongzheng of the Qing dynasty (1662 – 1735), firearms were not yet prevalent. The emperors feared that the martial arts would be used against the government, therefore they wanted to destroy them for good and so that they could never recover.
Therefore they started to influence the people to think highly of the civil arts and look down upon everything martial. On one hand they advocated flying immortal swordsmen and taught the mystical on purpose, on the other hand they praised the boxing forms and fixed techniques in order to lead the martial arts astray. The middle road and the great Tao could not be asked about, and they used opera and storybooks to serve as their tools of propaganda. Furthermore they made the people who practised martial arts to be despised by the scholar-bureaucrats, so the situation went from bad to even worse. All kinds of ugly performances emerged, what a great pity and tragedy.
Luckily our combat science predecessors secretly had successors, and they succeeded in having a gleam of light survive. Although training halls were set up all over the country to advocate the martial arts during the last twenty years, the more they were advocated, the sooner they would be lost, never being able to return to the right path of combat science. In fact, learning boxing is not difficult, but because the brains of the ordinary people are tormented by the storybooks, and furthermore, because the boxers of modern times mostly do it for living, the combat science is completely at loss. Even if some people are conscious of that, they are still too ashamed to study from others, and thus have no way out.
During the last half of the year, the other boxers have come to me to compare their skills in combat. I will not point out who they were, in order to let them keep their ways of making a living. Now they mostly understand that they were wrong, but why do they not agree to come and discuss the martial arts openly, and furthermore, why are they not willing to compare their skills in combat, in order to improve their learning? On the contrary, they go against their conscience and claim others to be wrong. They do nothing but secretly create absurd tales, and still they pretend being ignorant of those tales. What do they do that for? As for the non-professional martial artists, they want to become mysterious boxers by creating these tales, being like theatregoers not well versed in drama, they are not able to do anything but throw punches at random to show off their skills.
That is really something to be despised. In case my words are considered erroneous, can the non-professional boxing students agree to grant me instruction? Furthermore, I wish to have small friendly tests of skills in combat, and even if the people who come to me have no martial skills at all, I will not insult them, and I will not tell about them to other people in order not to harm their business. If one cannot come to visit me to grant me instruction, then please tell me the place and the time, and I will come to pay my respects on time. If one has even a tiny strong point, I will do my utmost to give him publicity, and if one has no strong points at all, I will keep my mouth shut. If one always considers oneself as a top boxer behind closed doors, that is not worth a penny.
 Interviewer: I have heard your discussion pointing out the right path of our national arts. You have introduced something new, and a fresh approach in seeking the good of everyone pursuing the same things, but I think you went a bit too far in some of your critique towards ‘Taijiquan’.
Wang Xiangzhai: My understanding of the Tao is still shallow, I do not dare to say that I have introduced something new, I just follow and spread the tradition of the predecessors, nothing more. There are many more things, but I feel embarrassed to say them because I have many good friends practising ‘Taiji’. Also, this boxing is less abused than most of the others, and has more sensible practitioners, thus I freely criticise it. I would have already stopped discussing about it a long time ago otherwise.
Talking of criticism, I am afraid that among the ‘Taiji’ practitioners, those who will never understand combat science are fearfully many, and those who are far from being learned masters are even more numerous. In my childhood I heard of the fame of the Taoist Zhang Sanfeng. Having grown up, I travelled all around the country, so I know that among all the schools of boxing, ‘Taiji’ has the biggest amount of practitioners. I had already been doubtful of this boxing for a long time. I heard this boxing was handed down from Mr. Zhang Sanfeng, thus I had despised Sanfeng for a long time. Later I read the collected edition of Mr. Sanfeng’s teachings, and began to realise that he had advanced all along the great Tao.
He had already gone deep into the Sea of Law and profoundly realised absolute truth. However, I even more deeply believe that such boxing was not handed down from him. Actually, if it was or was not does not matter at all, because, even if one was the descendant of Sanfeng, one is not worthy to talk about his art if one has not gained its essence. I do not know who were the successors of Mr. Sanfeng, but I suppose they were inferior to Sanfeng. If they had been capable, why would they have misled others? Whether the teachings gained by the students are true or false is the key.
Moreover, nowadays the practitioners of this boxing are different from each other and the theories vary. It is all random and false! I remember that Mr. Sanfeng said: Leaving one’s own body is wrong, but clinging to one’s own body is much worse. ‘Taijiquan’ has one hundred and forty or fifty postures, is there any posture or method that is not being clung to? What are these postures for? Moreover, the spirit is firmly bound and cannot be liberated. It is indeed harmful to the freedom of the nerves, the limbs, and the trunk. Remembering how wise Mr. Sanfeng was, he should not have gone so far as to hand down ‘Taijiquan’ that is so improper.
Discussing the wordy content of the ‘Theory of Taijiquan’, the single and double weighting and even weighting, and all such profound things are also nothing more than a part of the rudiments of combat science. May I ask the famous ‘Taiji’ masters to examine their conscience, whether there can be even a single posture or method in accord with the theories of this boxing guide? Since they claim it to be supreme combat science, why does it not produce any results in practice? Furthermore, the practitioners of this boxing believe that they can gain good boxing skills with superstitious practises. This is even more absurd.
Even if all the methods of this boxing would excel over the others, and the skills would tower above the ordinary, there is no doubt that it would still be wrong on the spiritual side, and besides, that is not the case. Although ‘Taijiquan’ is practised by a huge amount of people, which has given it much publicity, the sensible people have long known that it has collapsed of itself. Perhaps there was something improper in my words, I really hope that the other martial artists will question me without any hesitation, if there is someone who can instruct me, I will sweep the pathway to welcome him.
 Interviewer: Sir, you criticised the shortcomings of ‘Taijiquan’, I certainly have to admit, but I also have many friends who have gained good health by practising this boxing, I am afraid that your critique is somewhat inappropriate.
Wang Xiangzhai: The value of combat science is not only in relaxation and other trifling achievements. One must know that combat science is persistent learning, which is a human need and one cannot learn it thoroughly in a very short time. Therefore Zhuangzi said: Martial arts do indeed enter the Tao. They are the basis of culture and arts, they are the lifeblood of Zen and philosophy. If just a tiny result could represent boxing, then there would be no need to observe and study combat science. If one sticks to the practice of boxing in the way you said, it will produce some results. Furthermore, one should know that if one can take the time to practise boxing, do it without any method, freely and slowly perceiving by intuition, then the results will be great. I dare to say they will be much more than what you mentioned .
 Interviewer: The different schools of boxing are extremely numerous and their theories differ. Among my good friends there are many who practise boxing. Some of them practise according to books, but none of them has gained any results. What kind of a book should they adopt?
Wang Xiangzhai: Combat science cannot be divided into schools, and the boxing theory does not have the distinction of Chinese or foreign, and new or old. Do nothing but examine whether it is right or wrong, and suitable or unsuitable, that is enough. At large, the numerous schools of our society, generally take the approach of forms and techniques to learn boxing. One must know that this kind practice is just forgery conducted by the later generations, it is not the original essence of combat science. Even though a few people by chance realise some side-mechanics and one-sided techniques, they have not, however, left the methods and forms after all, so it is without avail in the end.
As for the writers of the martial arts guide books, they cannot exceed this boundary either. Although this doctrine is very easy to study, it is still not as simple as following others like sheep. Sometimes those who are taught by a famous master who passed the knowledge orally and from the heart, still cannot differentiate between right and wrong after dozens of years. How could these writings then be of any use? In any kind of learning, one should first understand the fundamental principle, and bit by bit intuitively perceive the skills, starting from the basics. In addition to that, one should ponder carefully, making a clear distinction between right and wrong, and proving one’s perceptions by experimenting in many ways. Only then can one move on to study those technical skills.
One should avoid training in front of a mirror, because this way one can easily become similar in form but untrue in spirit. Those training according to books are really the blind being led by the blind. Then again, by reading a book one can collect the crystallization of all sorts of theories, not paying any attention to the postures and form. According to the survey of my thirty years of teaching, this branch of learning is extremely difficult yet also extremely easy. A gifted student, in less than one hundred days of exercise, has the hope to become a great learned master, but among one hundred students there is not even one or two of them, and in most cases the talented sagacious people lack honesty and tolerance, some of them are even shams and cheaters.
Therefore most are abandoned halfway by their teachers, this is also a pity! As for the common students of our society, their difficulties are really lamentable. Most people always believe their ears instead of their eyes. The two words, fame and fact, cannot be mentioned in the same sentence. Even though the amount of boxers in the world is uncountable, those who have gained the essence are rare like a unicorn’s horn. All of those who have gained the essence are very different from the ordinary people in character. They cannot be enticed by fame or attracted by benefit, and they would never associate with the hypocrites! Finding a master is very difficult indeed.
Even if you meet a wise master how can you differentiate whether he is wise or not, and then he is not necessarily willing to teach you. Even if he agrees to teach you, he does not necessarily have a good method of teaching. Be it that he has a good teaching method, it is still not certain that one can realise the essence of his teachings. There exist a variety of difficulties that an inexperienced person cannot know. Then again, nowadays it is easier to study than before, because the science is flourishing. It helps very much in understanding the principles of combat science, but still, combat science cannot be limited to this.
If it is explained with the hierarchy of science and local anatomy, then it should be the one and the only way and phase of studying. But there are still many principles in our combat science that cannot be explained, but after some years they might be proved by science. Learning knows no limits, perhaps there are no means to ever explain it, this cannot be known. Summed up, if discussed under the conditions and knowledge of today, one should add a scientific method to the spirit of combat science, then it will not be difficult to solve the problems in combat science.
 Interviewer: Repeatedly in their comments, the readers did not deny your theory, but they felt uneasy studying without forms and routines, especially the beginners!
Wang Xiangzhai: The human body has all kinds of functions; no wise man can exhaust them all even if practising all his life. What is the reason to abandon the essence and study the scum? The more one studies the methods of forms and routines the farther one will be from the truth. That is like binding the feet of the women, the more profound one’s skill is, the more difficult it is to extend the feet, therefore the beginners advance much faster than the veterans. This argument has been proved by many irrefutable examples. The theory created by the later generations where a certain posture breeds a certain strength, and a certain method overcomes a certain boxing skill is real magniloquence resulting in deceiving the people. I am afraid that the one who claims such things has no understanding of boxing at all.
 Interviewer: What you said, Sir, is very right, and the martial arts are indeed at a loss. Would you teach everybody a simple and convenient way to succeed, that people could easily produce results with?
Wang Xiangzhai: A general idea of health preservation was already outlined above. If one is willing to do as advised, then one has already advanced halfway on the path of health preservation. If one wants to study the profound skills of combat, then one must also go through that, but if one is not an extremely foolish person or great sage, one will not be willing to do so. If one is a genius or has a character close to that of the sages, then there is no need to study all those methods. Also the methods of combat have pile standing (zhanzhuang) and trial of strength (shili) as the basis. I already narrated their general ideas above. The methods of trial of strength are too numerous, and besides, after all kinds of strengths are gained by the body, one should not think that the way of combat has been completed.
At that point one has just begun to have the possibility of studying combat. For example, how to gain the mastery of “interaction of relaxation and tension never not being correct, and the interaction of void and solid coming to equilibrium” is another problem. Anyway, after finding a teacher, the profundity or shallowness of one’s attainments indeed depend on one’s individual talent, strength, and skill, and whether one can grasp the right timing to be able to launch an attack at any moment, but without much experience in actual combat, it is hardly possible to gain it.
 Interviewer: I have heard many martial artists saying: “If you do not use strength, how can you increase it? None of the ancient and modern masters neglected the enriching of the dantian qi, and only because of that, could they be successful.”
Wang Xiangzhai: The theory of using strength is the talk of laymen. There are also those who speciously support the theory of not using strength, but do not know what it means after all. One must know that not to use strength is correct, but not to use the mind is incorrect. If one uses strength then the internal organs die, the body becomes ineffective, stiff, stupid, and easy to be taken advantage of by others. In other words, it is just a disguised form of passive resistance. The idea of resisting is produced by the fear of being hit by the adversary, but in this way one is completely ignorant of the fact that the spirit has already accepted to be hit. How could one then not get hit by the adversary?
Therefore, using strength is a great taboo in combat science. As for the theory of the dantian qi, from the theoretical point of view, field tests, and my own perception from experience and observation, this theory does not seem proper. Within the abdomen there are the intestines, the stomach, and the liver, there is no place to fill with the qi. As for the functions of force, they are all effects of the opposite power, the explosive power, and the power of the universe combined, and exerted together with breath that makes the body bulge and undulate, open and close, and the body and spirit being integrated with the atmosphere in one’s mind.
That has nothing to do with what the people call the qi of qigong. They always take a potbelly as dantian qi, that is just extremely wrong. One must know that when exerted, the strength must be issued evenly and completely. In order to be entirely free from worry and to gain strength, one should also be at leisure and natural, that is just being reasonable. The students of modern times do not understand this truth, they spend dozens of years working hard, and instead of gaining lively bodies and minds from the training, they become machines. Is that not a great pity!
 Interviewer: Although your critique is appropriate, it is still always the same combat arena, and if you, in the long run, accidentally misstep in one of the challenge fights, then what?
Wang Xiangzhai: How would I dare to give an open challenge, I do not even dare to act as the ringleader for challenge. I just wish that my fellow boxers would be willing to advocate, discuss, and investigate combat science like this, then it would not be difficult to carry it forward in the future. However, if nobody does this, I wish to start from myself, with nothing else other than advising the others with earnest words and good intentions, and often injecting cardiotonic shots into the arms of the other boxers of our country in order to little by little cure their illness of paralysis, I offer a few commonplace remarks by way of introduction so that others may come up with valuable opinions. Even if my body be full of cuts and bruises, my utmost wish will come true if combat science can be promoted.
 Interviewer: People generally accepted your talks, but there were still some who were liberal in their condemnation of you.
Wang Xiangzhai: Those who understand me are wise people, those who condemn me should sit alone in the still of night to listen to their hearts. Anyhow, let them laugh who will, I will not mind. If the true essence of combat science will prosper again, how could personal praise or blame make any difference?
 Interviewer: How can the ordinary people dare to disagree with your knowledge and virtue?
Wang Xiangzhai: What you said is right, I am very ashamed, but our countrymen have already become socially reserved. Honesty and prudence are really the basis of the self-cultivation of learning and morals, in other words: being solid inside and void outside, or firm outside and nimble inside. That is just the same principle as that of Laozi, “The desireless one can see the essence, while the desiring one only sees its manifestation.“ But somehow it is made use of by the people. It has already become the talisman of those who make their living by deceiving others. Lies in the society are also created by such people.
I have traveled all around the country for almost forty years, often feeling that there is only the art of “opera acting“ that does not put up with the society. Opera does not allow the laymen to assume positions in it either, but there are many styles of opera which all differ, I do not know all of them. As for what is called honesty and prudence toward others, I think one should act according to the other party, there should not be any unreasonable politeness. Like the sages of the past, respectfully serve others and be honest and sincere, overcome your desires and show love to others.
I am very glad to comply with that as the teachings of the books of good intercourse and treating each other with respect cannot be seen nowadays. I do not deserve praise for my learning and morals. In studying morals I only put myself under the patronage of the important people. What is called Tao is the truth that is all pervading and complex, and the only proper course to take. In other words, is it reasonable or unreasonable? Reasonable is namely the Tao and unreasonable is not the Tao.
It is not a mystical and strange thing, it is not the poor superstitious chapters and verses of the vulgar and pedantic literati either. It has especially nothing to do with the eccentric people, who pretend insaneness, calling that the doctrine of Buddhism and Taoism in order to look different, they cannot even dream about the gate to the great Tao. If one does not understand the society, I have no choice but to retain talking about other things with him.
 Interviewer: You said that there are still many places in opera where the essence has not been lost, which are far ahead of the average schools of boxing. I do not understand on what ground you can say that, I feel that this comment is rather improper.
Wang Xiangzhai: Opera was originally meant to subsidy the shortcomings of education, all of its martial performances originated from the way of boxing. In boxing there was originally the qiba (pulling the body) exercise, which is one of the skills of shili (trial of strength). Qiba is seeking the pivoting strength of the barycenters of the vertex and the two feet, making the whole body extend equally and completely, becoming one with the universe, therefore named qiba exercise.
In opera it is mistakenly called “rising of the domination”, but watching their postures and the meaning of their theories, although they are not proper, they are not far from that either, thus we know that it has some essence. As for all kinds of postures which try to please the eye and win people’s adoration, they are all forged. Of the postures of today’s boxers I have not seen a single one that would have gained equilibrium, even the old veterans and young Elites turn into imitating the untruthful and childish ones, and some of them cannot even succeed in that, how could they ever see the profundity of the martial way?
 Interviewer: I suppose that recently there was no lack of people asking for advice. What is your sentiment, Sir?
Wang Xiangzhai: Although there were many people from all circles who came to see me these days, they were all just curious people and what they talked about was not related to combat science. As for the visitor pursuing the same way, none of them was the kind of person I expected.
 Interviewer: What did you expect then?
Wang Xiangzhai: Although I am incompetent, I really expected the visitors to test me with difficult questions to the best of their abilities. To discuss what is reasonable in combat science and its important connection with life, and to pay attention to seeking the true spirit of the martial way. Although combat is just a trifling skill, without it the results cannot be proved, therefore I am also ready to have friendly comparisons of skills in combat. These days there were many small things, thus I could not personally meet all the visitors one by one. I am ashamed of that, and thus from now on, I plan to also fix reception times for Wednesdays and Fridays, from three o’clock to six o’clock .
 Interviewer: What do your fellow boxers think of that?
Wang Xiangzhai: In order to research the true essence of combat science in its entirety, I already cling to disregarding derision and taunts, and will never promote the supernatural. I always support altruism, I do not worry about there being no one coming to grant me instruction or asking for advice. What I worry about is that the famous masters do not inspect and learn from each other and discuss the problems. I fear it is hardly possible to gain the hope of combat science succeeding. Anyway, I hope that combat science will advance, polish up the goal of the martial way of our society, and wash off the deep rooted bad habits. I am not concerned about other things.
 Interviewer: The conversation with you that was published in a newspaper last time has caused quite a stir. I suppose that there was no lack of visitors. Were there any pursuing the same way as you?
Wang Xiangzhai: I was granted the favour of not being abandoned by the society, there was indeed no lack of visitors, but most of them came to learn from me, there were only two gentlemen pursuing the same way, Lu Zhijie and Shao Zefen from Fengtai, who wanted to do push-hands (tuishou), which is nothing more than what the experts call “listening to strength”. There were no others, furthermore no one agreed to enter into combat. The method of push-hands is only a one-sided part of the way of boxing, it is not what I welcome.
As for the famous masters in Beijing , there was not a single person willing to come to instruct me, that is really not what I expected. I do not understand why the other boxers do not want to contact me. What I have always respected are the martial morals, therefore courtesy must come first, so there are also some limits, namely, the old people I modestly decline, the modest and gentle people I modestly decline, the incompetent people I modestly decline.
If you do not believe in my words, please ask those who came to visit me and you will know. When Mr. Lu visited me for the first time, we did a little push-hands and he took my skill only as such, and thus was not convinced. Later he started to visit frequently and started to realise that there was a huge difference between our skills, and now he has become a faithful disciple of mine.
 Interviewer: How many people are there among our martial arts predecessors that you admire?
Wang Xiangzhai: Examining the boxing predecessors of the last one hundred years, besides Dong Haichuan, Che Yizhai, and Guo Yunshen, these three masters, all the others are of minor importance, but our country is huge and has a big population, there are still many people pursuing the martial way who I have not met. I do not dare to make comments at random.
 Interviewer: The people often mention Yang Luchan, how was his learning?
Wang Xiangzhai: Mr. Luchan was a combat science predecessor as well, he was skilled in ‘Taiji’, and now most people follow his lineage. What I talk about has to be observed from every aspect, Luchan only achieved a part of the Tao, even Mr. Wang Zongyue of the Ming dynasty was not a complete expert. Mr. Zongyue obtained the one-sided part of push-hands with both hands, originating from General Yue Fei, changed the three fists into thirteen postures, and named it ‘Taiji’.
There is no way to do textual research on what was handed down from Zhang Sanfeng and the people would just draw wrong conclusions from it. As for the one hundred and forty or fifty postures, I have no idea where they originated from. But talking of the practice of this boxing, it does not only abuse the limbs and the trunk, but also does infinite harm to the spirit, it is still very far from the art of actual combat, they have nothing in common with each other.
 Interviewer: You have frequently published commentary on boxing in the newspapers, how have others pursuing the same path reacted to that? Have you ever heard?
Wang Xiangzhai: The sensible people pursuing the same path accepted it without an exception. As for the conservative people who cannot differentiate between right and wrong, I have no choice but to let them have their own way. Even if one can understand, it is still not easy to put it into practice, and it is even more difficult for those who cannot differentiate between right or wrong at all. However, the ordinary boxers still take exercising the body as the catchword and stop talking about combat. Watching that, one can also know that the way of combat, compared to health preservation, is a very trifling thing.
The way of health preservation relies on concentrating one’s spirit and nourishing one’s nature. The mind becomes empty and unified; that is called the art of one’s body and mind, life and nature. With this movement and that posture, springing forward and jumping backward, it is really difficult to even dream about entering the gate of health preservation. In fact health preservation is simple and easy.
True human nature loves naturalness and unrestricted free movement, the whole offshoot of the natural instincts are the basis of that. Every morning in the fresh air, without any method, just let the joints of the whole body be slightly bent, consider the sky, move slowly and freely, experience and observe the intestinal qi and the flow of blood. At the same time, intuitively perceive the external void and nimble opposing strength. This is called the spirit resembles as if it was swimming.
The spirit and the body are comfortable and natural, not only free and unrestricted, but also gradually realising the echo of nature. After a long time of training, the instincts unveil and the rays of the spirit will shine, one will have gained the basis of combat even without having sought them. If one always sticks to mechanical movement, plays around with a staff and performs with a spear seeking beauty, taking that as the glory of being good in martial arts, then one does not know that if a man of insight sees that, he will feel sick for ten days. That is terrible, such a person cannot comprehend boxing for life.
 Interviewer: Your purpose is studying truth and developing the martial arts, why were there so few visitors? Can you think of a reason?
Wang Xiangzhai: It is very difficult to find an answer for this. According to my conjecture, in the martial arts circles of our country there are no doubt many wise ones, but the unworthy ones are especially numerous. Everyone studying a certain style of martial arts, assiduously practises for many years and flatters oneself by claiming that one alone has accomplished the profound skills, and then calls oneself the successor of that school. This way one will even be respected by the society, so one can solve the problem of making a living at the same time. Once such people are told to abandon all their learning and start studying from the beginning, it is really intolerable for them.
Perhaps their way of making a living would also be affected by that, thus they consider their personal advantages and disadvantages, and notice that the disadvantages would be huge, therefore it is no wonder that the visitors were so sparse. The most unfortunate thing in the end is that there are some ignorant people, who do not dare to measure or discuss right and wrong, and thus just make gossip at random, making irresponsible remarks in order to hide their weak points. The people in our society trust them and the people who have been deceived by them are really numerous, this is a great pity. If we do not wipe out this obstacle, the martial arts of our country will hardly have any hope of a quiet and great progress.
 Interviewer: Sir, you are the forerunner in the martial arts, and you are holding the decision in your hands. Furthermore, I hope you will keep on working with perseverance, then the martial arts will surely have no difficulties in seeing the days of glory and progress.
Wang Xiangzhai: Your words touch me deeply, naturally I shall do my utmost. Success or failure, praise or blame, I do not dare to care for them. There is only one goal, namely to solve the question of how combat science can advance. Therefore I tell other boxers here: originally combat was just a minor skill, but the ordinary people mostly judge one’s boxing skills by the relative superiority or inferiority in combat, therefore there are two research methods.
If one is willing to research the suitability of each action, then I immensely welcome him. If one wants to enter into combat or do push-hands, they are both fine as well. The scope of researching combat science is extensive. If the amount of visitors will increase, then there will be no dilemma. If the visitor has even tiny strong points, I will certainly do my utmost to blazon forth and praise him. If he has no strong points at all, I will certainly say nothing, because even talking cannot make him understand. I really hope that the visitors will test me with difficult questions to the best of their abilities, in order to compare experiences with each other, aiming at the progress of combat science, everyone pursuing the same way with me, all should shoulder the duty to develop combat science.
This important prospect should definitely not be weakened because of personal reasons, if it can really benefit the general interest. Even if one has to suffer any personal sacrifices, one should still give up something small to achieve something great. I maintain this determination, if combat science can thereby progress, it would not only be an individual gain, but also the whole world and our descendants would benefit greatly.
The reporter and Mr. Wang finished their conversation, and because it was already late, they bid farewell to each other and left.
In the 1940’s ‘Yiquan’ was known as ‘Dachengquan’. Later Mr. Wang Xiangzhai dropped the name ‘Dachengquan’ and asked his students to return to the old name as well. All of Mr. Wang’s top students did that, but some people still kept using the name ‘Dachengquan’. Thus ‘Yiquan’ and ‘Dachengquan’ are just two names for one art.
by Wang Xuanjie
Hai Feng Publishing Co. May 1988
This introduction to Yi-Chuan was written by Wang Yu-Fong, daughter of the founder, Wang Xiang-Zhai
Frequently in this modem era, filled as it is with technologies like computers and space-age travel, we make the mistake of perceiving martial arts in simple “what you see is what you get” terms. In other words, the practice and study of martial arts is often reduced to its most basic form: the development of external strength. Unfortunately, this preoccupation with external strength and techniques becomes the final goal of students who have not been exposed to higher levels of martial training. At the same time, some martial arts instructors in an attempt to upgrade their own lack of advanced expertise, have labelled masters of internal arts as frauds.
Wang Xiang-Zhai and Yi-Chuan
My late father, Wang Xiang-Zhai, studied Xingyi (“mind and intention style”) from Grandmaster Kuo Yun-Shen in Hopei Province. Later he travelled throughout China to research the essentials of different systems and then established a new training method of martial arts. He was the founder of Yi-Chuan theory (“internal and external are one”, “intention and thought are one.”)
Over several decades of experience, my father spent time greatly expanding and developing the theory and application of Yi-Chuan. Yi-Chuan aims mainly at the intention and spirit. The training uses a standing meditation method. It has no sets, sequences, or forms. No matter if in action or if silent, the method is controlled by thought and intention. The main principle of Yi-Chuan is to aim for health and self-defence. Two kinds of standing method, one for health and one for martial arts, are the basis of Yi-Chuan. In the martial art aspect, the main goal is to look for a complete changing of one’s actions, and at the same time to be able to prevent sickness and disease while improving one’s general health. For training in the martial arts, good health is a basic qualification.
The health method of standing meditation is good for chronic disease (high blood pressure, for example) and is a beneficial type of therapy. Both types of standing meditation have the same result – if sickness exists, they will cure it; if there is no sickness, even better health will result. These exercises combine both physical (martial) training and relaxation. Today the health method is popular, with students aiming for good health and the healing of disease.
My father had many disciples who completed his teachings: Yao Zhong-Xun in Beijing; Professor Yu Ping-Si in Shanghai; and Chao Dao-Xin in Tianjing, Dou Yi-Luan in Hangzhou, all outstanding representatives. Dr. Peng developed kong-jing (“empty force” – a method of using qi to strike people from a distance without using contact) from the foundation of Yi-Chuan. Chao Dao-Xin, after learming Yi-Chuan, combined his previous training in Xingyi and Bagua to develop Xin-Hui Zhang (an open hand internal style). As for Yao Zhong-Xun, his expertise and research into fighting theories is so well known that nothing else need be said.
With the standing meditation that was developed mainly for healing purposes, my late father had students such as Pu Yu-Kwen and Mi Ching-Ke who continued his teachings. Their method uses complete Yi-Chuan training for complete physical healing. If there is any local sickness, this method is also good. Since 1980, the leadership of the Beijing qigong Research Institute has promoted qigong, meeting the requests made by many people from different provinces for qigong teachers. Now there are over 100,000 qigong students in China. They have a very high success rate in healing.
Standing Meditation’s Effect on the Blood
Yu Yong-Nian, formerly the director of the dentistry department of Teh Lu Hospital, studied the Yi-Chuan standing meditation form of qigong from my father. He later used scientific instruments to measure the blood counts of the practitioner both before and after practicing standing meditation. The results showed a marked difference in blood counts after performing one hour of standing meditation: the red blood cell count was increased by approximately 15,200,000 cells; the white blood cell count was increased by approximately 3,650 cells. The protein within red blood cells was increased by approximately 3.2 grams. The protein of the red blood cell is produced by oxygen within the body. When red cells flow through the lungs, the blood can absorb 96 percent of the lung’s oxygen and then release carbon dioxide. Then red cell protein travels to different organs, quickly releasing oxygen to each part of the body.
Standing meditation, by increasing the protein of red blood cells, provides an increased flow of oxygen to different organs. Therefore the whole body feels very relaxed and comfortable. This meditation also provides good stimulation to the dividers of the large brain, creating a positive sensation of stimulation and producing energy that heals sickness. The standing meditation combines action and silence (outside action-internal silence or inside action-outside silence). My father maintained, “Big action is not as good as small action, small action is not as good as non-action. Non-action is the real action. Therefore, 100 acts are not as good as one silence, 100 exercises are not as good as one standing meditation exercise. With the standing meditation, it seems as if nothing is moving, but actually inside the body the muscles and tissues are really moving (exercising).
Human Life Energy
This kind of exercise can increase human life energy. The human being has a natural balancing mechanism. If the balance is destroyed or broken, the person loses this balancing mechanism and sickness is produced. The standing meditation training of Yi-Chuan can adjust for any person’s lack of balance and restore that balance once again. The standing method is very simple and easy. It doesn’t require deep concentration and uses only natural breathing. The size of the room it’s performed in doesn’t matter and the time spent in practice is very flexible. One doesn’t have to worry about special breathing techniques. The postures produce harmony for both empty and full. The whole body is loose and relaxed and releases all mental worry, reaching total silence of the mind. Strength flows through the entire body. Therefore, the internal energy does not show externally and the external does not disturb the internal. At last, you reach the stage where, if someone walks past you, you are aware of them, but do not hear them. The practitioner has to carefully strive to understand these concepts and then it won’t be difficult to reach the point where something wonderful happens within oneself.
Wang Yu Fang Shili neigong.net
Yiquan master Yao Chengguang in Moscow youtube.com
Author: Master Yao ChengRong
Translator: J. P. Lau
Translator’s Note: In English, “Yi” means mind or intent, “Quan” means fist or martial art, “Ru” means enter or cross and “Men” means door or threshold. The literal meaning of the phrase “Yiquan Rumen” is “the learning of the rudiments of Yiquan”.
A lot of Yiquan enthusiasts know that Yiquan training involves several categories including Relaxed Standing (Zhan Zhuang), Trial & Feel (Shi Li), Footwork (Jou Bu), Release of Power (Fa Li), Push Hands (Tui Shou), Sparring (San Shou) and Breath Control (Shi Sheng).
However, some are still “wandering outside looking for the door”.
What are the theory and basic principles of Yiquan?
In the mid 1920s, with Xing Yi Quan as foundation and incorporating the essence of numerous other styles into the grand synthesis, martial arts expert Master Wang XiangZhai created Yiquan (a.k.a. Da Cheng Quan).
He rejected the traditional obsessions with intricate forms of pattern and sequences of movement as training method and emphasized the simplicity of essence.
By elevating “Yi” to a central position in martial arts training, he emphasized the supreme importance of the intentional component of the mind.
Master Yao ZhongXun, designated successor of Master Wang XiangZhai, further explained that training of the mind alone is not Yiquan as is not physical practice alone.
The two must be combined.
The essence can only be cultivated by integration of the mind and body.
Visualization or mental imagery must be employed in relaxed standing (Zhan Zhuang) to direct an integrated neuromuscular coordination that results in a whole-body response.
Kinesthetic perception of the internal/external opposing force pairs (Zheng Li) and internal isometrics is developed to seek, sense, experience, cultivate, understand and master the whole-body balanced force (Hun Yuan Li).
This balanced force is always in perfect harmony, having no absolute direction but having the potential to release power explosively in any direction.
It can be cultivated by using mental imagery to direct your neuromuscular coordination practice, seeking movement in stillness and power from not using brute force.
With proper mental visualization, relaxed standing exercises integrates your mind and body into a well-coordinated springy whole-body and allows you to rediscover your innate ability for natural movement.
In any athletic event, speed and force are primary qualities.
These are controlled by your muscular relaxation/tension exchange.
Since muscular activity is controlled by the mind, Yiquan emphasizes that the proper use of relaxation (Song) and tension (Jin) must be both physical and mental.
Only a well-coordinated whole-body can enhance your capacity to react spontaneously and appropriately to any situation.
2. How to use directed mental imagery (visualization) to guide training?
Prior to Zhan Zhuang, relax mentally and physically; enter into a tranquil state with the conscious mind holding no deliberate thought.
Stand erect; feet shoulder width apart; outside edges of feet approximately parallel.
Keep your spine erect and imagine a string pulling the top of your head upwards, tuck-in the chin slightly as if holding a small balloon between it and the neck.
The head and neck should be held erect.
Relax the facial muscles; almost smile.
Direct your eyes to a distant object; imagine looking through a light fog. Lightly touch the teeth together.
Part the mouth slightly.
Allow the tongue to lie naturally; do not be concerned with it touching any particular place in the mouth.
Bend the knees slightly; visualize holding a balloon between your knees.
Imagine applying inward pressure below your knees and outward pressure above your knees.
Relax the lower back filling out the small of the back as if you are sitting on a high stool.
Lift hands up to shoulder level with your hands separated by a distance of two to three fists and about a foot from your chest.
Form a circle with your arms; hands higher than your elbows; palms facing your face.
Prop your elbows out to your sides slightly below the level of the shoulders as if holding balloons in your armpits.
Keep your fingers slightly bent and separated; imagine holding cotton balls between your fingers.
It is important to keep the shoulders down and relaxed.
Imagine holding small fragile balloons in the armpits; lowering your upper arms will crush them; lifting your upper arms will drop them.
This is the basic health posture; adjust your posture whenever necessary until you are absolutely comfortable.
Next, use directed mental imagery to guide your training to “feel for the balanced force” (Mo Jin) while maintaining this posture.
Visualize imaginary springs connecting your fingers from one hand to the other and connecting your wrists to your neck.
Imagine holding a lightweight fragile paper balloon between your arms and chest.
Applying too much force will crush this balloon; not enough force will result in dropping it.
Direct your primary intent to hugging (slightly more closing intent, 70% than spreading open intent, 30%).
Direct these actions with your mind-intent; do not use any brute strength.
Alternatively, you may visualize imaginary supports at your elbows; imagine transferring your weight to these supports without changing your posture.
Now, remove the imaginary supports but maintain your posture without using any unnecessary force.
Keep all joints in a state between total relaxation and tension that allows for gentle and supple movement.
It is a state with alertness and readiness for action without being physically lax, physically collapse or diminished in consciousness.
Visualize standing in waist deep water; imagine the water flows towards you from the front, shift your weight forward to meet the resistance.
But imagine the water immediately pushes from your back; you must immediately shift your weight backwards to meet the resistance.
Alternatively, imagine trapping an ant under each foot.
As the ants attempts to escape towards your toes, gently shift your weight forward to trap them.
Then as they attempt to escape towards your heels, gently shift your weight backwards to trap them.
Thus, you repeat this forward/backward shift to meet resistance and seek movement in stillness to cultivate whole-body force.
Always maintain perfect balance.
Use visualization to induce whole-body movement.
Next, use inherent opposites (Mao Dun) to cultivate opposite force pairs (Zheng Li).
Visualize holding a balloon between your knees, apply inward pressure below your knees and outward pressure above your knees.
Visualize imaginary springs connecting your fingers from one hand to the other and connecting your wrists to your neck.
As you shift your weight backwards, simultaneously pull your knees apart slightly, pull your hands backwards, outwards and upwards slightly; as you shift your weight forwards, simultaneously squeeze your knees together slightly, press your hands forward, downwards and inwards slightly.
Remember always to maintain the vertical opposing force pair between your head and your feet mildly stretching your spine.
Do this “motionless movement” with mental intent with small or no physical movement.
Use directed mental imagery to guide your whole-body neuromuscular coordination, as one part of your body moves, your whole-body must move in unison.
3. Some frequently asked questions?
How to relax in Zhan Zhuang?
Relaxation in Zhan Zhuang is not total and/or pure relaxation.
Strength/force is used to maintain your posture and to cultivate your balanced force through mental visualization induced motionless movement.
Relaxation is emphasized to avoid stiffness in using strength, to achieve a relaxation/tension state that allows for gentle and supple movement with alertness and readiness for action.
Pure relaxation leading to physical laxness and diminished consciousness is to be avoided.
How big or small should the motionless movement be?
During Zhan Zhuang, the magnitude of your body movement must be small enough for you to maintain perfect balance. Absolute stillness will induce stiffness and tenseness; big motion will disturb your balance.
Feel free to adjust your posture whenever necessary to be absolutely comfortable.
Visualization induced small whole-body motion keep your standing “alive”.
How long should I stand; is the longer the better?
There are two goals in Zhang Zhuang: improving health and cultivate the balanced force.
you turn Zhan Zhuang into an endurance practice by seeking only to lengthen your standing time, then you have missed the real meaning; you are doing “dead” standing.
You must use visualization to direct your whole-body neuromuscular coordination to seek movement in stillness, to cultivate the internal opposing force pairs and to master your balanced force.
Always practice with focused concentration and comfortable natural ease.
Breathe naturally; specifically do not pay attention to breathing; do not hold your breath.
Match your physical and mental condition to the length of your training time; do not overstress your abilities.
How do I know if I have “crossed the threshold” (Rumen)?
When you can use visualization to:
direct your neuromuscular coordination practice,
use kinesthetic perception to seek/sense the balance
by Master Yao ChengRong
Translator: J. P. Lau
In Yiquan, the “use of sound” and breath control are employed together in a practice known as Shi Sheng. This practice functions primarily as a mechanism to augment one’s ability to marshal the entire body into action during a release of power. Sound vibration/enunciation coordinated with the technique of reverse breathing integrates the body, stimulating the musculature of the abdomen, chest, waist, and back into immediate concerted action to promote a sudden, crisp discharge of force. Sound and power should be produced simultaneously. The use of sound can compensate for deficiencies in one’s release of power while also serving to startle, distract, confuse, and/or intimidate your opponent.
Additionally, the practice of Shi Sheng can increase one’s ability to sustain strikes to the abdomen and chest area. In hand-to-hand combat, when you are at your strongest attacking phase, you are also at your weakest defensive phase. During your attack, if your defensive, evasive maneuvers and tactics should fail, and you sustain a strike to your body, the use of sound and breath control can, in the same manner that is used for releasing power, stimulate your musculature into immediate action to produce a resilient, spring-like resistance to the incoming force.
Two sounds, “Yee” and “Yup”, are utilized with inhalation and exhalation of the breath to increase the elastic, spring-like force known as Tan Li that we employ in releasing power and resisting strikes. Practice should proceed with the following three sequential steps:
1) Start with producing the two distinct syllables in the mouth.
2) Then merge the two syllables into one syllable and move the combined sound to the back of the throat.
3) Finally, lower the sound into the chest and sink it into the lower abdomen. Use the internal transformation skill to gradually move the sound from audible to inaudible. The sound/stimulation is transformed internally to energy/power.
Let us describe the use of sound and breath control training method for beginners.
Focus your concentration and enter a mentally and physically tranquil state. Slightly part your mouth; retract your tongue with your teeth lightly touching. Breathe in as you sound off “Yee” for two to three seconds. Hold your stomach in during this inhalation stage. Visualize lifting your breath up to your chest and throat area. Then suddenly and forcefully breathe out, switching to sound off a short “Yup”, while simultaneously directing your mind-intent downwards. Allow your stomach to bulge outwards and visualize your breath sinking towards your navel and lower abdomen. Old Chinese texts describe this as your Qi moving to your Dan Tian. Focus your entire body during this exhalation stage. The “Yup” sound should be very short and explosive, like a rock suddenly landing in a well, splashing the water upwards. The focused/tensed phase of your power release should terminate instantaneously. “Fill” your abdomen only during the focused/tensed phase. The relaxed-tensed-relaxed exchange sequence of a power release must be extremely fast. Practice this 10-20 times daily. Keep relaxed.
When you have mastered the basics of the two distinct syllables, shorten the time interval between “Yee” and “Yup”. Eventually, “Yee” and “Yup” should merge and become one short combined sound.
Gradually work to enter the focused/tensed phase with less sound and finally with no sound and very little exhalation of air. Place your hand a couple of inches in front of your mouth while sounding off a silent “Yup”. You should feel very little air flow when doing this advanced exercise. Your entire body should feel a fullness as you exhale. Also try placing a lighted candle close to your mouth. The flame should not flicker or get blown out when you practice inaudible breath control.
When you have mastered this practice of reverse breathing as an isolated exercise you must combine it with your practice of Fa Li and practical techniques.
Let us reiterate and expound on the important points to remember in the use of sound and breath control training:
1) Select a quiet environment; stand in a relaxed posture and enter a tranquil mental and physical state. Focus your concentration; keep your eyes gazing at a distant object and stay relaxed. Use visualization to guide and perceive your actions. Initially, start by sounding off “Yee” while bringing the breath from your lower abdomen up to your chest and throat area for two to three seconds. The tone should be deep and continuous with a vibration reaching over a long distance; unite the sound with force. Then suddenly switch to sounding off a short “Yup”, momentarily focusing/tensing the musculature of your back, chest, and abdomen while visualizing sinking the breath from your chest to your lower abdomen. The tensing must be very quick, followed immediately by relaxing to a tranquil state. Practice slowly using trial and feel. Do not rush or push yourself beyond your ability.
2) When you have mastered the basics of sounding off the two distinct “Yee” and “Yup” sounds, shorten the time interval between them. Try to merge and combine the sounds into one. Though the two sounds become indistinguishable, you must still retain the ability to lift up your breath during “Yee” and sink it during “Yup”.
3) When you have mastered the combined sound, proceed by internally transforming the sound from audible to inaudible. Maintaining your focus/ concentration, visualize your intended Fa Li action, adjust your body elements into the proper positions then suddenly sink your breath to your lower abdomen and tense your muscles while executing your Fa Li. Immediately relax. Mentally try to figure out your action prior to execution. Do not execute too many tensed Fa Li in sequence as that will lead to stiffness. Do several relaxed (soft) Fa Li then perform a tensed Fa Li. It is sufficient to practice Fa Li with reverse breathing 30 to 40 times daily.
4) You should incorporate the use of sound with the discharging of force in your practical techniques. Strive for the simultaneous expression of sound with a unified explosion of force.
To close, we quote Master Wang XiangZhai’s description of the quality of the sound we are attempting to produce: “The sound is like basic notes of a musical scale reverberating from a deep valley.” May the practitioner grasp the master’s meaning, figure out and succeed in Yiquan’s use of sound and breath control.
Author: Master Yao ChengRong
Translator: J. P. Lau
Translator’s Note: This article has been edited for English readers.
You must learn to effectively deliver the straight punch from your ready stance, from any hand position. There should be no wasted motion and no give-away movement preceding the punch. Upon completing the punch you must immediately reset into your ready stance. The basic ready fighting stance is achieved by a simple, effective mental and physical organization of the whole-body that maintains comfortable, natural relaxation and perfect balance. This allows for quick reaction and smooth coordinated movement.
1. Lead Hand Straight Punch
Stand in left lead Ding Ba Bu with your weight distributed 30% on your front leg and 70% on your rear leg. The size of the step should be comfortable such that you can easily lift your front foot, advancing or retreating with power provided only from your rear leg. Too large a step sacrifices mobility and too small a step sacrifices stability; choose a comfortable neutral step size.
Modify the Hun Yuan Zhuang posture by closing your hands loosely as if holding eggs; do not tense or use any strength. Keep your hands separated approximately three fists width apart, about a foot from your torso. Your lead hand is slightly higher than your shoulder but do not extend it beyond your lead foot. Your rear hand is at shoulder level, protecting your throat, chin and chest. Visualize imaginary springs between your wrists and connecting your wrists to your neck. Visualize sitting on a high stool with a string pulling the top of your head upward. Tuck in your chin as if holding a small balloon between the chin and the neck. Visualize directing a small force in your front knee forward and upward and a small force in your rear hip backward and downward; the forces below the knees push slightly inwards and above the knees push slightly outwards. With your palms facing inwards, your lead left hand is over your left foot, slightly higher than shoulder level and your guarding right hand is at shoulder level. Visualize holding a large balloon between your chest and arms. Prop your elbows outwards, round your back and hollow your chest to maintain “fullness” in your “frame” while relaxing your shoulders and elbows. Establish proper internal isometrics by visualizing these opposing force pairs (Zheng Li) between different elements in your body. Maintain optimal body alignment, connectedness, whole-body integration, perfect balance and a relaxation/tension state that allows for gentle and supple movement with alertness and readiness for action.
From the left lead, visualize your whole body as a hammer and your left forearm as a nail. Completely relax your shoulder and upper arm. Push off with your right leg; shift your body weight forward onto your left leg. Push off on the ball of your left foot, turn your left heel out, torque your torso a quarter turn to the right, thrust your left shoulder forward, shooting your left forearm loosely and easily forward, upward and inward. Note: a full body pivot on an axis from your rear foot to your head, the shifting weight from one leg to the other and the opening of your joints (ankle, knee, waist & back, shoulder and elbow) are used to power this punch. The lead side of the body anchors the pivot point (visualize stretching the imaginary spring from you lead foot to your head).
Simultaneously, as you shoot out your left arm, rotate your left forearm to palm facing down; pull your right hand backward, upward and outward as if breaking a string between your wrists, keep your rear guard hand up. “When punching with the lead hand, concentrate and focus on the rear hand.” Coordinate your body to move as an integrated whole-body; push your front knee forward and your rear hip slightly backward; push your forehead slightly forward and upward; look at your intended target; keep your chin tucked. The head, the left fist and the left foot must arrive simultaneously.
Do not tighten your fists when initiating/delivering your punch; tensed stiff muscles prevent the proper release of power. When you punch, visualize holding an egg in each hand, do not crush it or let it drop. On contact, instantaneously tense and focus your entire body. Tighten your fist (visualize crushing the egg in your hands; your fingernails piercing your palm), twist and snap your wrist downward slightly (the back of your hand and forearm should be straight) hitting with the knuckles of your index and middle fingers with palm facing downward. Proper delivery of your punch is important in preventing injuries to your hands and fingers. The punch accelerates from the instant of contact until the ceasing of contact, driving clear through the target. After contact, immediately relax and withdraw your left hand along the same path of your delivery. Bring your hand back as fast as you thrust it out, like you have touched a red-hot iron plate. Keep your left arm well up while withdrawing for any possible counter. Push off with your front leg and bounce back to your small step posture; shifting your weight back to 30% front 70% back. You should be relaxed almost all the time, tensing only momentarily as you thrust through your target. Carry the shoulder and arm relaxed and ready at all times for follow-up punches.
Use your entire reach to punch through your target. The fist comes straight from the center with the full power of the leg behind it.
“Deliver your balanced force from curved form.” To reduce injuries to your elbow and prevent your opponent from countering, do not lock your elbows when executing the straight punch. Thus, the straight punch is often referred to as the “not-so-straight” straight punch.
2. Rear Hand Straight Punch
To punch with your rear hand the body must follow the punch. Add force by pivoting your body to a position over the lead foot. When using a body pivot, turn on the balls of both feet while punching. “Waist pivots like a wheel; legs twist like drills.”
From the left lead, drill down with the ball of your right foot, turn your right knee slightly inwards, torque your torso a quarter turn to your left to drive your right shoulder forward to propel your right forearm and fist. Your weight begins on the ball of your rear foot. Twist your forearm as your rear fist travels. You twist at the waist and your weight is shifted forward into the punch and to your lead foot before connecting. Make sure your rear heel and rear shoulder turn in one piece on an axis from your rear foot to your head. Like the lead hand straight punch, your proper body alignment supports your body weight, freeing the entire body to propel the rear fist. The shifting of your center of gravity is a major contributor of power in your punch. Shift your body weight to your left foot as you punch with your right hand, hinging the left side of the body and freeing the opposite side for an explosive pivot. Shoot out your punch loosely and easily; do not tighten up until your punch connects. As you shoot out your right rear fist, pull your left lead hand backward, upward and outward, keep your left hand well up in the guard position. As you connect, twist your right forearm inwards, snap your right wrist slightly downward, tighten your fist, focus and tense your entire body on impact. Drive through your target. Immediately relax and withdraw you right hand along the same path.
Whether punching with your lead hand or rear hand, you should use your body to drive your hands. For fast follow-up or sequential punches, the proper body mechanics demand that the body should move more than the hands. “The entire body must pivot to initiate every move/punch.” Maintain correct internal isometrics, body alignment, connectedness, perfect balance and a relaxation/tension state at all times to be able to deliver follow-up punches after your straight punch. Start the punch from wherever your hands are with no added motions and finish in your on-guard position.
1. When learning these punches, a beginner should start with slow relaxed “trial & feel” motions to learn the whole-body neuromuscular coordination; do not use any brute strength but avoid physical laxness and diminished consciousness. Pay attention to perceiving internal opposing force pairs, relaxation/tension exchange, and the transmission of forces from the ground through the body to the hands. When you have proper body mechanics, then increase the power and speed of your delivery.
2. The time of tensed focusing should be instantaneous. Release your power at the instant of contact accelerating your punch through your target until the cease of contact. Immediately relax and return to your ready stance whether your hit is effective or not. You can deliver an explosive discharge only from a proper mental and physical relaxed/tranquil state. Relaxation and tension are intrinsic opposites that you use appropriately to release your balanced force.
When you have mastered the straight punch from the fixed step, you should combine it with stepping e.g.: shuffle step lunge punch, one step three punches, three steps three punches, free stepping etc. Then add variety by executing circle step straight punches on a sandbag as well as using it in sparring. If you deliver your straight punch but open your hand at the instance before connecting and strike with the palm of your hand, this is the forward palm heel strike. Whether you are punching with the lead or rear hand, always use whole-body movement to drive your punches.
By Yao Cheng-rong
Translated by Tu-Ky Lam
An overview of power discharge
People who practice martial arts must have heard of the term “jing” which means strength, or power. When we hit an opponent or throw him away with force, we discharge our power, which is called “Fa li” in Chinese. If we want to release power, we must make sure that we have already had the power at our disposal. In order to build up our power, we must train hard on zhan-zhuang (standing practice), shi li (testing of strength), and zou bu (stepping). Only after we have developed strong internal strength through doing the three stages of Yiquan training can we start to learn how to discharge power because power discharge is an explosive expression of the three.
It is not easy to discharge power. You need to work hard on the basics first. In the above-mentioned foundation training, zhan-zhuang helps to develop “Hun yuan li” which is whole body force. Shi li intensifies the strength developed from zhan-zhuang. It is a means to test our strength to see if it is still strong when we do a move. Shi li is, in effect, a bigger movement of zhan-zhuang. Zou bu, which means stepping, helps us make our whole body – arms, torso and legs – move in unison when we step forwards or backwards, and is very useful in fighting. After we have spent considerable time in the basics, we can start to learn power discharge.
Power discharge and opposite tension
When we practice power discharge, we must know how to gather our strength first. To gather strength is to adjust our body so that our energy can gather together ready to be discharged. To achieve this, we should have total concentration during standing practice, all our joints should remain bent all the time, and our energy should go inwards. When stepping forwards or backwards, we have to pay attention to these points as well. Also, our mind should be in control of the whole body, our posture should not collapse, and the force of the whole body should be united so that it is ready to be used. Our mind and body should make us ready for defense or attack at any time.
Power discharge is very important in all martial arts systems. We should be able to discharge power with our hands or any weapons. Power discharge requires that we should be able to release explosive force from small movements. Our power should be released as though dynamite explodes. This force is called explosive force.
When we practice power discharge, our whole body is under the guidance of our mind, which helps our body to produce more force with visualization. When our mind wants to release power, our bones, our tendons and our muscles will move with our mind to discharge strong force. Power discharge should be relaxed and natural so that power can be sent out of our body on to our opponent.
Before we release power, we should use our mind to make our force move to opposite direction first. This is called “Zhen-li” meaning opposite tension. For example, if we want to release power to the front, we should move one part of our body slightly backwards first, and vice versa. If we want to discharge power upwards (or downwards), we move one part of our body slightly downwards (upwards) first. The same principle applies to discharging power to the left and the right. When parts of our body go in opposite directions, they create tension/strength, which will help us generate the force of the whole body moving towards our opponent. The opposite tension stretches our joints and tendons, and can make us feel that we have a lot of strength. All our strength should come out from our center. We strike hard only at the point of contact. After power discharge, we move back to our normal posture again.
Power discharge exercise
You start from “Hun yuan zhuang” or the “Embrace-a-Tree” standing posture, with your fingers clenched to make fists. Your palms still face your body, and your “tiger’s mouths” face up. When discharging power, imagine that your opponent is striking fast and hard at your front forearm, you counteract by making your front forearm moving slightly downwards and then forwards with the back forearm moving in accordance. The distance between your fists is about two-fist’s length. When your fists move to almost above your front toes, and your palms are facing the ground. Now imagine that your fingertips have touched your opponent’s chest or your target position. Also imagine that your torso is like a slash hammer, your forearms (from hands to elbow) are like big nails, but your upper arms and shoulders do not exist. Your torso (like a hammer) moves slightly backwards and then quickly forward to strike at your elbows (like nails). At this moment, you release your fists and your fingers tips are pointing upwards. Imagine that your strength is going through your opponent’s back and afar. Once you have released power, you have to move back quickly, just like you have touched a piece of burning iron. You move not only your hands back, not also your internal energy. When practicing power discharge, you need to concentrate, and mobilize the force of your whole body, and you feel your fingers are like ten upright spears.
Things to remember
1. When discharging power, your head moves quickly forwards and upwards. You imagine that you are holding a thin metal plate between your teeth, and you want to bite the plate into pieces. (But do not bite too hard.) Your tongue moves slightly back.
2. Your shoulders and elbows should extend left and right and your chest slightly draws in. Use “shi sheng” or yelling technique and quickly eject a small sound to make qi sink to your lower abdomen.
3. Before discharging power, the palm of your front foot should be slightly empty or relaxed. When releasing power, the palm of your front foot has to push hard into the ground and at the same time your back leg pushes forwards. Discharging power is like suddenly braking your car. Your head strikes forwards, your legs push hard and your hands release power. You release power at the point of contact and then stop immediately. When you move back to your starting position, your knees move outwards and your back hip sits slightly back.
By Yao Cheng-rong
Translated by Tu-Ky Lam
Push-hands, which is a combined application of zhan-zhuang (standing practice), shi-li (testing of energy) zou-bu (stepping) and fa-li (power discharge), is an important part of Yiquan training, aiming to improve the martial arts skill of practitioners and students. Push-hands supplements free sparring very well as it can help practitioners and students to improve their fighting skill and reduce the chances of getting injured to a minimum.
There are two kinds of push-hands: single push-hands (left and right) and double push-hands.
If you want to improve your push-hands skills, you must frequently take part in push-hands practice. During your practice, you must pay attention to the following:
Spend a lot of time doing zhan-zhuang and shi-li so that you can have some foundation skill to rely on.
Avoid turning circles without any purposes. Make sure that there is “yi” (mind/intent) in every one of your moves. You need to stand up and face your opponents and should not run away from them.
When doing double push-hands, you should use “Hun-yuan-zhuang” (Embrace a tree) posture, with 30% or 40% of your body weight on your front foot and 70% or 60% of your body weight on your back foot. Both of your arms should be kept round, like embracing a big balloon. Your feet should be kept at a comfortable distance from each other. Then move your front foot to the center line between your opponent’s feet (your back foot has to follow), and make your front forearm come in contact with that of your opponent, with your front forearm pointing to the center of your opponent’s chest. Your back forearm should be raised and kept round and in contact with your opponent’s other forearm. (Your opponent will do the same as you.)
The point of contact between your arms and those of your opponent is the focus of the push-hands battle. Through the spiral and circular movements of our arms we know, from the point of contact, the energy of our opponent and volume of his strength. Through our forearms, we use the strength of our whole body to threaten our opponent’s center-line (chest), trying to unbalance him. Throughout the push-hands practice or contest, our wrist, forearms and upper arms should have spiral force. In other words, the spiral force comes not only from our arms but also from our whole body. It is the result of our whole body working together as a unit. The sayings such as “Moving your hands out like using a steel file, and moving it back like withdrawing a fishing rod” and “your waist should turn like a wheel and your legs like a drill” are examples of spiral force.
During push-hands practice, do not use too much force on your arms otherwise you will not be able to know the substantial and insubstantial changes of your opponent. During push-hands, you need to find out for yourself how much force to use, how fast to move, and where to move. Once an opportunity arrives, you should mobilize the strength of your whole body and release it. If you use a lot of force once your arms contact your opponent’s, you will be top heavy and your strength can easily be used by your opponent. Your strength can also be stiff and cannot change. Even if you have an opportunity, your strength cannot reach your hands and so your power cannot be discharged.
Of course, if you use too little strength, you will not be able to ward off your opponent. How much strength to use all depends on the strength of your opponent. If your strength can be used by your opponent in a contest, you have made a mistake. If you can use your opponent’s force and control him, you have got it right. Generally speaking, just use medium strength when your arms get in touch with those of your opponent. Your strength is between substantial and insubstantial and can change easily.
In push-hands, people often talk about listening skill. In my opinion, listening skill means the skill or ability to control our opponent. If we do not know the changes of our opponent’s strength, we cannot control him. And we often hear people say relaxation and not using force are very important so they dare not use force during push-hands. When we ask them why, they say if you use force your whole body will be stiff. I think relaxation does not mean not using force. If we do not use force, we will not be able to contest with our opponent.
Relaxation does not mean not to use force, but reduce the degree of force that we use. Relaxation and tension should interchange. We use more force when we need to, and relax when we do not need to use so much force. Then we should go further to make sure that in tension there is relaxation and in relaxation there is tension. If we relax properly, we can produce strong force when we tense up.
Push-hands is a test of our training on zhan-zhuang, shi-li, zou-bu and fa-li. The purpose of doing zhan-zhuang is to develop “hun yuan li” or whole body force. Shi-li is an exercise by which we try to test the internal strength developed through doing zhan-zhuang. When we do any movement, we have to make sure that our yi (mind/intent) and li (strength) are always present and not broken. Zou-bu or stepping mainly prepares us for fighting. If we are good at stepping, we can move fast and can create opportunities for us to discharge power. During stepping training, we must remember that when our legs move, our upper body and arms will have to follow and vice versa. We must try to keep our whole body well coordinated so that we can feel strong and comfortable when we move forwards, backwards, left, right, or up and down.
Push-hands practice or contest is closely related to Yiquan’s basic training. The reason why beginners do not know how to use what they learn from the basics (zhan-zhuang, shi-li, zou-bu and fa li) is that firstly, they do not understand the purpose of push-hands, secondly, they care too much about winning and so forget the principles, thirdly, they try to look good and lack the power to threaten or destroy their opponents, and fourthly, they have not spent a lot of time doing shi-li and so they lack the ability to control the opponent.
All push-hands techniques are based on Yiquan’s basic training. If you want to be good at push-hands, you need to spend a lot of time practicing shi-li, such as “hook and Hang” shi li, spinning shi-li, throw a ball shi-lli and “the holy turtle moves out of the water” shi-li. You need to spend time doing zhan-zhuang and doing zou bu shi-li which is shi-li while stepping. Without training hard on the basics, it is very hard to improve your push-hands skills.
During push-hands, you must not be nervous and should not care about winning or losing. You must try to feel how your opponent’s force is changing and try to control your opponent. You should also pay attention to the movements of your opponent, while maintaining the good coordination of your body. Only when you know yourself and your opponent well, can you achieve what you want.
The speed of push-hands varies. Sometimes it is fast, at other times it is slow. When it moves very fast, it is very hard to apply our techniques. In this case you need to stick to Yiquan training principles, later on the good result will show up. During push-hands, you should be very alert so that you can deal with the intention of your opponent. When you have good concentration, you will know what is happening and can utilize the hidden potential in your body. Do not treat push-hands lightly, thinking it involves only turning circles, some pushes and power discharge. We should treat it like fighting an enemy who is trying to kill us. Once we get in contact with his arms we should be able to control him, and we should not be controlled by him.
All the techniques in push-hands are executed through using our internal strength. We should also learn how to use our shoulders, elbows, knees hips, head, palms and fists so that they can be useful to us. We must be careful and try to avoid injury.
When facing our enemy during push-hands or sparring, we should adhere to these principles: do not attack if we cannot hit our target, do not attack if our strike is not heavy enough, and do not attack if we cannot put our opponent out of action completely. We must be so highly alert that our opponent feels intimidated. Every one of our movements should be so powerful that it will destroy our opponent, otherwise we cannot defeat our opponent.
‘In the fully energized state, “every hair is fully alert.” The state of relaxed arousal is what is meant by the chinese term “sung.” This is not the drowsy torpor before sleep. It is the release of tension that saps our strength – so that we become alert, clearheaded and full of vigor. Your head is uplifted and your eyes open, while letting go of physical tension in your muscles and organs.’
The Way of Power: Reaching Full Strength in Body and Mind
by Master Lam Kam Chuen