Yiquan – Power of the Mind

by Karel Koskuba

Most styles of Taijiquan incorporate one or several forms of Zhan Zhuang (Pole Standing) in their training. These standing exercises are often presented as the one most important aspect of the training (to begin with, anyway), yet not always enough information is available to students apart from the usual advice to ‘relax’, ‘keep everything open’ and ‘keep standing’. So why are they so important and how should they be practised? Sometimes they are presented as a form of standing meditation, sometimes as an isometric standing exercise, sometimes even as a character-building exercise! Is there a difference in training for those interested in martial arts and those interested in health only?

In this article I will describe Zhan Zhuang training as it happens in Yiquan (more about Yiquan later). In Yiquan, Zhang Zhuang has been promoted to play a pivotal role from the most basic training all the way through to the most advanced training. Progress through the Zhan Zhuang training steps is methodical and detailed. I hope that by the time you have finished reading the article, all the above questions will be answered.

Before I start describing Zhang Zhuang, I think we should establish some common ground in terms of what is the final result of such training. Let’s say your teacher is a great master of internal martial arts. When you try to push him, he is like a rock – you can’t budge him. When he tries to push you, his body feels like steel – you can’t stop him. At other times his body feels like cotton – and you still can’t stop him! Let’s call these three feats a Rock Body, a Steel Body and a Cotton Body, respectively. In any of these feats it feels as if he is using great strength and yet when you try to imitate what he does, you are told not to use strength. If it is not strength, what does he use? The usual answer of ‘qi’ or ‘jin’ refers to concepts from a different culture. I shall make an attempt at explaining it using more familiar concepts. By the way, your teacher can do other things than the ones I have mentioned but I shall limit my description to those that can be trained using Zhang Zhuang.

Whole-body Strength
The above three feats of Rock Body, Steel Body and Cotton Body are all expression of what is called whole-body strength. To understand what the whole-body strength is, let’s look at body musculature. There are two kinds of skeletal muscles: those that are involved in movement, so called motor muscles or mobilisers, and those that stabilise the body, so called postural muscles or stabilisers. The mobilisers are, on the whole, of the fast-twitch variety; they can contract and relax in a short interval but they get tired quickly. The stabilisers are of the slow-twitch variety; they do not get tired easily but, on the other hand, are quite slow. They are situated deeper in the body than the mobilisers.

The above division into the two kinds of muscles is a somewhat simplified view for the sake of clearer explanation. In reality, there are stabilisers, mobilisers and muscles that act in both roles. We can pretend that any ‘composite’ muscle is split into a stabiliser and a mobiliser by extracting the appropriate type of muscle fibres (slow-twitch and fast-twitch respectively) into each of them. The functionality of the body would remain unchanged.

We have very little, if any, conscious control of the stabilisers. But stabilisers have two properties that are very useful. First, given their position with respect to joints, they can make the body structure really strong. Second, most of them are designed to stabilise/balance our body against outside force (usually the force of gravity). We can use both of these properties to our advantage.

Strong Structure
Let’s look at the first point. When discussing muscle strength, there is a distinction made between a static and a dynamic strength. Static strength, when the muscle is locked in position, is greater than dynamic strength, when the muscle is expanding or contracting. Locking the body in a very strong static position may be interesting but is not very useful. Especially if any push just topples the whole structure over! This is where the second point comes in.

Dynamic Structure
Let’s imagine you are standing on a steep hill, with one foot higher than the other and you are supporting a fairly heavy weight sliding at you from above. Suppose that you support it from underneath, with your arms above your head. You would naturally try to let the weight pass through your body into the rear foot, using the front leg to stabilise yourself against the hill. If the weight were to wobble, you would just adjust your arms and body underneath to keep the weight passing to the rear foot. It would not require any (significant) mental effort and, unless the wobble took the weight too far from your base, not any (significant) extra physical effort. Your stabilisers would perform any adjustments needed automatically, with the mobilisers acting in unison.

Now let’s tilt the hill so that the ground underneath becomes horizontal and the weight you were supporting is now represented by a push from someone in front of you. There will be two likely changes to your behaviour. First, you would have to adjust your posture because gravity now acts in a vertical direction. Second (and here I am asking you to pretend you are a beginner again, before you had all that extensive training), because your stabilisers now act in a different direction from the push, you will use your mobilisers to resist the push. In order to stop the push, you will start pushing back with the same force. If your adversary starts changing the direction of his push, there will be nothing automatic in your response! So if you could somehow get your body to act as if the push was a result of a force of gravity, you could relax and let your automatic responses neutralise the push for you. My first Taijiquan teacher told us once to “make gravity your friend”. Unfortunately, I had no idea what he was talking about at that time!

What is Zhan Zhuang
Zhan Zhuang is often translated as Pole Standing. It is a name that refers to a number of stance practices in which the body is kept essentially still and mostly upright, though there are some stances where the spine is not vertical. The purpose of these exercises is to become aware of the stabilisers and then gain some measure of control over them.

The first task is to feel how the body acts against gravity. The best way to do that is to stand and feel (observe), in other words – Zhan Zhuang. There are a number of positions to produce different effects on the body but the most popular one is to stand with arms as if embracing a large ball in front of the chest. To isolate the stabilisers, you must relax the mobilisers. Unfortunately, the mobilisers will interfere, as most people, it seems, from a fairly early age will start (mis)using mobilisers to take on the task of stabilising the body. Because you can’t really feel the stabilisers, you must try to relax all muscles. As far as your perception is concerned, mobilisers are all the muscles you are aware of. That is, by the way, why my teacher (and yours probably, too) used to say “do not use any muscles”. So the first task really is re-educating the body to use the stabilisers. The next one is to try to integrate body’s movement to use stabilisers against any resistance that is encountered, as if acting against gravity. This will give you the basis of whole-body strength. As the Taiji classics say, “essential hardness comes from essential softness”. Eventually, your arms and body will become very heavy to the touch. Further training will be needed to be able to use the body in a natural way and especially to integrate the mobilisers and fascia (connective fibrous tissue) in issuing of strength (fali or fajing) but that is not the role of Zhan Zhuang any more.

Less is More
To set up a regime for Zhan Zhuang practice, I would recommend the following procedure. To start with, no more than five or ten seconds should be spent on the practice; but the practice should be performed every day without fail. There are three reasons for this seemingly ridiculous length of training. One is that it is very difficult, for an untrained person, to keep concentrating for any length of time on something as mundane as standing – and you do not want to stand just for the sake of standing. The second one is that, to start with, the most important goal to achieve is to get into a habit of standing; to achieve the rhythm of daily practice. It is far easier to do that if the practice is short. Lastly, it is quite likely, as I said above, that you may be using the wrong kind of muscles at the beginning. The last thing you want is to train yourself to hold the posture with the mobilisers. You may have heard of people suffering agony in standing practices of this nature who eventually made the breakthrough into a relaxed stance. Well, it is one way to achieve the same goal but it is rather wasteful on resources and quite painful. As I said, mobilisers tire quite quickly, and then they hurt. Getting them out of the way can be done either by just standing until they give up and stabilisers take over or by trying to relax by carefully monitoring the state of the body and inducing relaxation by the use of mental images.

The length of the standing should be governed by your attention span. When the concentration is weakening and other thoughts start to impinge on your mind, make a brief attempt to come back to the practice but if it fails, end the training for the day (or the time being). This way, your concentration will gradually improve with the standing in a natural way. The process is quite simple. As you keep standing, gradually areas of the body that you were not aware of will come within your awareness. As it happens, you will have more of the body to observe, and thus your standing can be longer, without you getting bored. So, if on your first day you exhaust your observation in five seconds, stop after five seconds. After six months you may be occupied with your body even after five or ten minutes. This is the easiest, and I believe the quickest, route to success. Standing in Zhan Zhuang and watching television is better than sitting and watching television – but it shouldn’t be thought of as replacing the standing where you concentrate on the body.

Using the Mind
There are two kinds of mental images that you can employ. The first type is used to create a tranquil state in your mind, which, in turn, will promote relaxation of your body. For example, imagine yourself standing in a beautiful garden. You can see pretty flowers and trees all around you. You can smell the flower’s scent on a soft breeze. You can hear birds singing in the trees. There are few white clouds in the blue sky. Or you may prefer to picture a scene by the sea, with the white surf breaking on the beach. Any image that will make you as peaceful and happy as possible. You owe it to your training!

The second type is used to induce some kinaesthetic feeling to guide the body. Some people get it naturally, others will have to have it explained in some fashion (difficult to generalise in an article) or will have to experiment before they can understand/reproduce it. I will give an example below.

When creating images or concentrating on the body, there should be no mental ‘effort’. The feeling created should be more like observing something rather than striving for something.

Embracing Posture
As an example a health stance, I will describe Cheng Bao Zhan Zhuang. The purpose of the images used here is still only to promote relaxation – thus any similar images will do.

Stand in a comfortable stance with your feet about shoulder-width. Keep your body upright by imagining that you head is suspended from above. Relax your spine by slightly bending the knees and feel as if you are lowering yourself onto a high stool. Keep you whole body soft. Create an image of a garden or other peaceful image as described above. Try to express the tranquil feeling in your face and body. Eyes can be open, half-open or closed. Breathing is soft, quiet, and preferably through the nose. Slowly lift your arms in front of you in a position of embracing a ball, hands at about shoulder-height and shoulder-width apart. Keep you fingers slightly bent and the palms slightly stretched.

Feel you whole body supported: you are sitting on a balloon; there is another balloon between your knees; your elbows are resting on soft pillows; your head is suspended by a thread; there are cotton pads between your fingers; etc.

With practice, you will be able to achieve a very relaxed feeling. When that happens, you can move on to the next step, creating kinaesthetic images.

Up to now, your elbows were resting on soft pillows, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Now imagine that your elbows are touching balloons floating on water. Your task is to keep the balloons under your elbows. If you lift your elbows, the balloons will be free to float away. If you press a little more, they will be pressed into the water and pop out to float away again. The big ball you are embracing is very fragile and filled with helium – if you press a little more, it will burst, if you press a little less, it will float away. The feeling created is that of sticking very lightly to a ball but making sure not to let it slip from your embrace. You must not get into an anxious state – you know these are just images. The purpose of this type of images is not to become skilful in creating them but in exploring how the body feeling changes and thus gradually becoming aware of the inside body structure (stabilisers) and body’s unity. You can start slowly swaying forward and back. Keep your body balanced and experience the movement as a passive movement; for example as if standing in a slowly flowing river that keeps changing its direction.

‘Primordial Void’ Posture
As an example of a combat stance, I will describe Hun Yuan Zhang Zhuang. The previous Zhang Zhuang training was designed to increase awareness of the stabilisers. The purpose of these are more advanced exercises is to get the stabilisers under control. This is done by very small and careful movements so that we do not ‘wake up’ our mobilisers. In Wang Xiangzhai’s (founder of Yiquan) words: “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”. Again, mental images are used to help the body do “the right thing”. Beginning of this training is done still in Zhan Zhuang, the rest in later training.

Starting from the Embracing Posture described above, transfer the weight onto your right leg and shift the left foot forward, lifting the heel off the ground. Put about a quarter to a third of your weight onto the front foot. Move your left hand a bit up and forward. Create the ‘garden’ (or similar) image as in the previous posture. Keep a very soft and relaxed body structure and create a kinaesthetic image of exerting a great deal of strength. For example, imagine that you are embracing a tree and try to pull it up. After a little while, try pushing it down. Try to uproot it by pushing with the whole body forwards, then by pulling with the whole body backwards. Do not imagine that you are actually succeeding in any of these tasks. The tree is big and just won’t budge. During your practice, you stay relaxed and nearly still with perhaps just very small movement. Little by little you will get a feeling of control.

Weight Training
So how about strengthening one’s body using weight training? As I said above, the only muscles that we are normally aware of are the mobilisers. When we decide to move, we immediately use the mobilisers. In fact, as was noted, we often use the mobilisers instead of stabilisers. So what muscles are we likely to strengthen and build up when we lift weights? Working on strengthening mobilisers when you try to use stabilisers is not going to help with your progress. It is usually the strongest looking person who starts to shake first when attempting Zhan Zhuang for the first time. Having big and strong muscles is not bad in itself, even in Internal Martial Arts. The problem is that normally weight training reinforces the habit of using mobilisers. This is contrary to what we try to achieve with the Zhan Zhuang training. So your first priority should be to establish control over stabilisers. After such control is established, you can start using weights, if you so desire. But you should be careful to use mobilisers for movement and stabilisers for handling the weights.

Is Zhan Zhuang Training Necessary?
Not really. Some people can achieve all of the feats attributed to your imaginary teacher above without any standing practice. What they probably do is to train a lot of slow moving exercises (either forms or silk-reeling type drills). The key to their practice is again to relax all the mobilisers (which, as far as they are concerned, are all the muscles) and to imagine they are moving against some slight resistance (for example as if moving in water). Little by little the stabilisers will start being involved in a similar manner as I discussed above. Sometimes they can ‘cheat’ by practising the form as a series of static postures. The idea is the same as Zhan Zhuang but they are training the stabilisers in the postures used in the form.

Your Zhan Zhuang (or other standing exercises) may be different in some aspects. As I said at the beginning, what I have described is a Yiquan system of Zhan Zhuang exercises and I hope that it will give you some ideas that will help to improve your Zhan Zhuang practice. Let’s have a brief look at Yiquan to see how the Zhan Zhuang training progresses further.

What is Yiquan
Yiquan (pronounced ee-chwen), sometimes called Dachengquan (see later about that), is a fairly new martial art – it was created in the 1920s by Wang Xiangzhai (1885-1963). Wang Xiangzhai sought out the best martial artists of his time on his quest to discover the ‘essence of boxing’. He then created his new art by dropping, over a period of time, anything that he came to consider as non-essential or that could be replaced by something that gave better or quicker results. Gradually, the mental aspects came to dominate all parts of the training. To emphasise the importance of mind, both in training and its use, he decided to call his art Yiquan – ‘Yi’ means ‘mind’ or ‘intent’ and ‘quan’ means ‘fist’ or ‘boxing’. The name was probably arrived at by dropping ‘Xing’ (form or shape) from ‘Xingyiquan’, probably the most influential of the arts that went into creating Yiquan (though Baguazhang, with its footwork and Taijiquan with its neutralising and pushing hands are not far behind). Eventually, he came to see Yiquan not as a martial art or a system of health exercises but as a “path to the truth” and a way to gain “absolute freedom”. On the way, however, he had plenty of opportunities to test its value as a martial art. He considered all schools of martial arts to be defective and “taking the students further away from the goal”. He made no attempt to keep his views to himself and when he moved to Beijing, in the late 1930s, Wang Xiangzhai issued a public challenge to his fellows martial artists to “exchange ideas and learn from each other”. In view of his public comments, there was no shortage of challengers. Any challenger had to defeat one of Wang Xiangzhai’s top four students first but none succeeded. The four students were Han Xingqiao, Hong Lianshun, Yao Zongxun (Wang Xiangzhai’s eventual successor) and Zhou Ziyan. Yiquan quickly gained a reputation for its combat effectiveness (and later on for its health benefits).

At this time, Wang Xiangzhai abandoned the name Yiquan as he felt that having a name bound the art to its image. His students and the public, in view of its successes, started to call the art Dachengquan (Great Achievement Boxing) and Wang Xiangzhai, after some initial resistance, accepted the name. However, he later reverted to using the name Yiquan again, as he felt that it fitted the art better.

Yiquan Training

The complete training consists of seven steps:

Zhan Zhuang (Pole Standing) – described above.

Shi Li (Testing of Strength) – simple exercises for learning how to keep the whole-body connection and whole-body strength whilst moving (this stage is equivalent to practising forms in other Internal Martial Arts) – in other words, learning how to integrate mobilisers and stabilisers in movement.

Mo Ca Bu (Friction Step) – learning how to keep the whole-body connection and whole-body strength whilst stepping.

Fa Li (Release of Power) – learning how to ‘release’ power (fa-jin training). How to release in any direction and with any part of the body.

Tui Shou (Pushing Hands) – this stage is similar to Taijiquan’s Pushing Hands. Also can be viewed as the previous three stages with a partner. Also called Dance of Death ( – just a joke!).

Shi Sheng (Testing of Voice) – learning to augment power and integrate the centre of the body in a more natural way using breathing musculature.

Ji Ji Fa (Combat Practice) – fixed and free sparring drills and sparring.

At all stages of training, students must try to follow the most important principle – Use mind, not strength (yong yi bu yong li). This principle was clearly seen in the description of the various stages of Zhan Zhuang training above.

Yiquan for health
Most posture and musculo-skeletal problems seem to be caused by the misuse of mobilisers that are usurping the role of stabilisers. Due to their low endurance characteristics, they cannot do the job adequately. Thus it is no use to tell people who slump to ‘straighten up’. They will naturally use their mobilisers to lift their posture with the inevitable result that the muscles will get tired and hurt and so they will slump again. To do any kind of conscious movement, it is only natural to use mobilisers. This is where Zhan Zhuang training of Yiquan can help. It is ideally suited for correcting all kinds of problems stemming from the imbalance between stabilisers and mobilisers. And I think the training gives quicker results when compared to other therapies, like the Alexander technique and the Feldenkreis method (and is probably less expensive, too).

There are other benefits stemming from the emphasis on tranquillity and very slow and careful movements. It obviously helps with any stress-related problems, and problems with co-ordination and balance. It is an excellent method of regulating one’s metabolism and sleep pattern. The list could go on but the space is limited!

After the Shi Li training, students are taught (if that is the right word in this context) Health Dance in which they link different exercises in a spontaneous manner.

The Traditional View
I’ll try to translate the vocabulary used in this article to a more traditional one often used in Taijiquan and other Internal Martial Arts so that you can cross-check the ideas presented here with your own training.

What I have been describing is how to gain control over muscles that we are not even aware of. Clearly, any movement using stabilisers must seem powered by something else than muscles. In Chinese culture, qi is a cause of movement so it is not surprising that the kind of movement I’ve been describing would be attributed to qi. We have seen how this ‘qi’ is trained by the mind (awareness) and activated by the mind. Sometimes ‘bone breathing’ or ‘bone squeezing’ methods are used to ‘congeal qi into bones’. This is just another way of gaining awareness of the deep muscular structures. Awareness of the stabilisers is felt like a tightness round the bones. Due to the structure of slow-twitch fibres, deliberate use of stabilisers produces more heat than is usual. This can be felt and it is different from a similar, but smaller, effect in the skin brought about by relaxation. Both of these effects, but especially the heat produced deeper in the body, are often taken as a sign of increased ‘qi’ flow.

Conclusion
Zhan Zhuang is the first step in acquiring Internal Power. The emphasis should be on relaxing all muscles and feeling how the body balances against gravity. Slow, very subtle movements can be felt under the guide of kinaesthetic visualisation (movement in stillness). Later on, when learning to move, the body’s structure should always be supported by stabilisers, producing the feeling of standing at any point in the movement (stillness in movement).

Whilst I have supported my ideas with quotes, I would like to say that as far as I know, the people I have quoted did not use any explanation referring to stabilisers and mobilisers. That part is my own explanation and should not be treated as the ‘official’ view.

This is a slightly modified version of an article that first appeared in the US T’ai Chi magazine, Vol 25 No. 3.

Reference: www.yiquan.org.uk

Santi Shi or Trinity Pile Standing

by Zhang Yun courtesy of ycgf.org

Santi Shi or Trinity pile standing is the most important and fundamental training in Xingyi Quan practice. It is said that “Santi Shi is the source of all skills.” In traditional training, beginners need to learn Santi Shi and practice it for a long time before they can be taught other skills. Practicing Santi Shi can help practitioners improve their movements and the integration of internal and external components. Stability and rooting can also be increased by this practice, as can relaxation and the control and use of shen, yi, qi and jin. Santi Shi training is emphasized in every Xingyi Quan group and will be presented here as a foundation training for martial arts fighting skills.

Santi Shi practice includes several steps. First, you need to study the Santi Shi movements and stance carefully. Correct movement will facilitate the development of correct feelings, for example feelings of qi flow, at all key acupuncture points throughout your body. It is important to maintain relaxation during Santi Shi training, especially for beginners. Secondly, you should learn to generate jin – trained force and fully express it in your physical movements. As in all internal martial arts training, your practice should be led by your mind. Adherence to the Twenty-Four Key Points (will describe later) will further enhance your training.

At different stages of your training, your mind should be used in different ways. Because the training process takes a long time, you should practice daily and have patience. Beginners may be able to maintain the correct posture for only three to five minutes. When you can stand correctly for about thirty minutes, you will have developed a strong foundation for further progress in your practice. Some ancient masters were known to have required that their students practice Santi Shi for at least one to two hours everyday. Without this discipline and the strength that such practice engendered, it was considered pointless to teach other skills.

Basic Principle
The inspiration for Santi Shi comes from the Daoist principle that describes the creation of the universe. It states: “Dao generates One, One generates Two, Two generates Three and Three generates all the things of the world.” The Dao originates from xuwu or wuji, the undifferentiated state of the universe. From the Dao, a qi force is generated which initiates change within the universe and produces yin and yang. Thus, although the xuwu state appeared to be empty, it had within it a creative force that could bring order and balance out of chaos.

Taiji is the “One” referred to in the Daoist principle of creation. It describes the state of the universe just after the undifferentiated state of xuwu has become ordered by the emergence of Dao and the movement of qi. The entities of yin and yang are differentiated within Taiji but are not yet fully separated. Yin and yang are the basic attributes of the universe, and the existence of each depends on and is clarified by the existence of the other. Each attribute also contains part of the other within it.

Liangyi, the “Two” in the principle of creation, is the point at which yin and yang become separated into two entities, each with its own attributes. Yin and yang are qualities possessed by all objects in the universe. When yin and yang interact, a new entity is generated. So yin, and yang, and the new entity is called Sancai – the three essentials.

Sancai, or the “Three Essentials,” is the generative point from which all perceptible things derive. Sancai contains within it the three most valuable treasures of the universe: sky, earth and humans. Sky is characterized by the attributes of yang; earth, by the attributes of yin. Humankind is generated from the interaction of sky and earth.

According to Daoist principle, the Sancai can be found within even the smallest units of matter. In every occurrence of Sancai, there are three treasures or Sanbao and in each treasure, there are three more treasures. The sky, for example, a treasure of Sancai, contains the three treasures of sun, moon and stars; the earth contains the three treasures of water, fire and wind; and man contains the three treasures of jin, qi, and shen.

In Xingyi Quan, the trinity or tripartite structure is called Santi or Sanjie. This structure includes three external parts of the body and three internal components. The three body areas defined by Santi or Sanjie are: Shao jie, the tip section which includes the arms and hands; zhong jie, the middle or trunk section which includes the head and torso; and gen jie, the root section which includes the legs and feet.  Consistent with the tripartite principle, each of these three sections can be divided into three smaller sections.  Shao jie includes: a tip section comprised of the hands; a middle section comprised of the elbows; and a root section comprised of the shoulders. Zhong jie includes the head as the tip section, the chest as the middle section, and the waist or stomach as the root section. In Gen jie, the feet are the tip section, the knees are the middle section, and the hips are the root section. The three internal components of Santi or Sanjie are shen, qi and jin.

Santi or Sanjie is the foundation of all skills in Xingyi Quan and the starting point for all change and development. The post standing practice Santi Shi, also commonly called Sancai Shi, is a technique that embodies the tripartite principle. It can be divided into three component parts known as Wuji Shi, Taiji Shi, Liangyi Shi, and Santi Shi. Santi Shi practice incorporates the core concepts of Xingyi Quan and generates all other Xingyi Quan skills.

Sancai Sanbao Santi Sanjie

Movement to Form Standing Posture

Wuji Shi
Wuji Shi – Wuji Standing is a preparatory form that involves simply standing upright. In this form, the body should be relaxed and the mind should be empty. Everything should be quiet, with only a glimmer of intention inside the mind to initiate movement. If you are thinking about something strongly, even about your practice, you are not yet ready to move. You should maintain Wuji Shi until your thoughts have quieted completely.

Movement Description for Wuji Shi:
Stand upright with both feet together. Your arms should rest naturally alongside your thighs with your palms facing in. Hold your body erect and look straight ahead. The tip of your tongue should touch the upper palate behind your teeth. Your chin should be slightly withdrawn.

Focus your mind on the Jianjing points to encourage relaxation of your shoulders and on the Quchi points and Shaohai points to cause your elbows to drop. Then, focus your mind on the Jiaji point to expand the middle of your upper back and straighten your spine. Focusing your mind next on the Tanzhong point and imagining that water is trickling down your breast bone to your navel will cause your chest to withdraw slightly and feel hollow. After using your mind to achieve these effects, forget everything and just experience the comfortable relaxed state of your body and the quietness of your mind. Your shen should be fully alert, and you should feel as though qi were gently impelling your body to begin moving.

Taiji Shi
Taiji Shi –Taiji standing signals the beginning of the form. Your mental intention and the flow of qi will cause change to occur inside your body. It is important in Taiji standing to distinguish between yin and yang. Yin is a substantial quality and represents stillness in your body. Yang is insubstantial and characterizes movement. Although yin and yang are separate and distinct, they should mutually embrace and support each other in all physical processes. Taiji standing creates an inclination to move and to keep the mind quiet. The practitioner should follow these feelings as he begins the form.

Movement Description for Taiji Shi:
All physical movement starts from this point. When you move, you should always keep your body erect. Do not lean in any direction. Focus your mind on the Baihui point on top of your head and imagine that your body is suspended from this point. Turn your right foot on your right heel about forty-five to sixty degrees to the right. Relax your shoulders and drop your elbows. This will cause your hands to feel like moving. Follow this feeling and slowly move both hands in front of your abdomen. Your left hand should be over your right hand, and the pad of your left middle finger should be over the nail of your right middle finger. Look at the nail of your left middle finger.

Relax your hips and knees. This will cause a feeling in your legs of wanting to move. Follow this feeling and slowly bend your knees and lower your body until your knees are over your toes. At the same time, drop your elbows down and slightly back. This will cause your hands to move slightly up. Let your fingers point forward and your palms face the ground while you slowly shift your weight to your right leg.

Liangyi Shi
It is said that Liangyi Shi is generated by the changes in Taiji Shi. These changes result in the separation of yin and yang and end when yin and yang become integrated and generate Santi Shi. Liangyi Shi embodies the dual principles of motion and stillness, rising up and dropping down, stretching out and drawing back, going forth and moving back. Although yin and yang remain separated in Liangyi Shi, they are always in balance. When your body is moving, for example, your heart should be quiet; as your body rises up, your qi should sink down. When yin and yang are balanced and become integrated in the Liangyi posture, Santi Shi arises.

Movement Description for Liangyi Shi:
Imagine using the nail of your right middle finger to hold up your left middle finger. This will cause your left middle finger to move forward. Relax your left shoulder and drop your left elbow. Then, stretch your left hand up and forward. Simultaneously, step forward with your left foot and pull your right hand, which it is in front of your abdomen, back to touch your body tightly.

Look straight ahead and stretch your left hand out until the tip of your index finger is at the level of your nose. Your left palm should face forward. Keep your left elbow slightly bent. Pull your right hand back until the Yuji point on your right wrist touches the Shenqie point on your navel. Your right palm should face down. Step forward about two to three feet with your left foot. Shift about thirty to forty percent of your weight to your left leg. Keep your left knee slightly bent.

Keep your body erect and stable. Imagine that your waist is pushing your shoulders and hips, that your shoulders, in turn, are pushing your elbows, and that your elbows are pushing your hands. Be careful during this sequence that you do not lean forward. Imagine that your hips are pushing your knees, which are then pushing your feet. The movements of your upper and lower body should be fully coordinated. Internal and external components should be integrated. If this posture is done correctly, yin and yang though still separate, become integrated. Physically, Liangyi Shi is a dynamic posture that generates Santi Shi through the integration of yin and yang.

Santi Shi
It is said: Dao came from xuwu, the insubstantial and empty state, and generated qi; then, qi generated yin and yang which became integrated and generated Santi. Finally, Santi generated all things in the world. In Xingyi Quan, Santi Shi is called “the source of all skills.”

When Santi Shi or Trinity Standing is generated from Liangyi Shi, there is no overt physical movement. The Santi Shi posture should be held for at least several minutes. This will help develop strength, particularly in your legs, and will also help train your mind to integrate the different parts of your body.

Although there is no physical movement during Santi Shi, strict attention should be paid to the various postural requirements. It is important to keep your body and head upright, your neck and spine straight and your shoulders and hips level. It is also important not to lean in any direction.

If done correctly, Santi Shi will improve many of your gongfu skills because it will significantly increase your leg strength. To hasten the strengthening of your legs, imagine that you are trying to raise your front knee slightly. This will create a feeling of expansion and a very hot, burning sensation in your back leg.

The internal feelings that develop through Santi Shi are very complex, and so this practice can be very helpful for learning to focus your mind so that it can lead the internal components that direct your physical movements. The mental aspects of Santi Shi training should be developed step-by-step.Changing-Side Form:

When your left hand and left foot are in front during Santi Shi, the posture is called left-side Santi Shi. The opposite situation is referred to as right-side Santi Shi. You should practice equally on both sides.

Movement Description for Changing-side Form:
In left-side Santi Shi, focus your mind on the right Jianjing point to relax your right shoulder and on the left Huantiao point to relax your left hip. Then, imagine moving your tailbone over your left heel. This will cause your weight to shift forward onto your left leg. While your weight is shifting forward, relax your left hip. This will cause your left foot to turn on the heel about forty-five to sixty degrees to the left. At the same time, pull both hands back slightly.

Focus your mind on your left shoulder. This will cause your right hip to relax as your weight shifts to the left. Touch your right foot to the ground in preparation for stepping forward but keep your weight on your left leg.

Focus your mind on your left elbow. This will cause your left arm to drop down and move back until it is in front of your right hand.

Then, focus your mind on your left shoulder. This will relax your left shoulder and cause your right foot to step forward lightly. At the same time, pull your left hand back until it is in front of your stomach with your left palm facing the ground.  The fingers of your left hand should point to the right and forward. The Yuji point on your left wrist should touch the Shenqie point on your navel. At the same time, push your right hand forward until your right index finger lines up with your nose and your right palm faces forward. Shift your weight forward until about thirty to forty percent of your weight is on your right leg. Keep both knees bent slightly. Look straight ahead.

Santi Shou Shi(Closing Form)

When it becomes difficult to focus your mind on maintaining the correct body positioning and intention, you should stop Santi standing.  Continuing to hold the posture beyond this point can increase your leg strength, but it will not benefit your internal practice. When you are ready to end your standing practice, use the ending form, also called the ending form for trinity standing or, more simply, the closing form. This form will provide a feeling of refreshed completion to your practice.

Movement Description for the Ending Form:

If you have been standing in the left-side posture, relax your left shoulder. This will cause your arms and legs to withdraw. Follow this feeling and withdraw your left foot and left arm. Bring both feet together. When your left hand pulls back, raise your right hand slightly until both hands meet in front of your chest. Then push your hands down slowly in front of your stomach. Keep both knees bent.

Turn your right foot on the heel until your feet are parallel. At the same time, straighten your legs slowly until you are standing upright (fig. 6).  Continue moving both hands down and gradually separate them so that each hand rests along the corresponding thigh as your legs straighten up. Relax your whole body and breathe deeply, smoothly and slowly several times.

Six-direction Force
When you have developed the physical ability to hold the Santi Shi posture correctly, you should begin to train your mind in more detail. Although your body will appear to an outside observer to be motionless during Santi standing, many changes and feelings of movement will be occurring inside your body. It is said of this state that “Outside there is stillness but inside there is movement.”

Typically, six-direction practice is the first step in training your mind during Santi standing. It provides a simple way to focus your mind so that your mind can lead your qi and your internal force. Diligent practice of the six-direction force will stabilize and coordinate all aspects of your external posture. It will also integrate your internal force and develop an internal state of comfort and clarity.

The six-direction force practice is of central importance for the development of jin. In this practice, internal force is developed simultaneously in six directions: forward; backward; leftward; rightward; upward and downward. Often, training in Santi Shi emphasizes force primarily in one direction, but unless one develops the ability to support or express force in all directions, it will be difficult to change and maintain balance during movement, especially when fighting.

Internal force should be expressed in all directions, but for convenience of training, only six directions are delineated. If you can express force in these six basic directions, you can quite easily expand your skill to the release of internal force in all directions. Internal force should follow the flow of qi and fill your body as air fills a ball. When inflated by air, a ball becomes springy and strong, and equal pressure is exerted at every point on its surface. Internal force should similarly affect your body.

The following instructions for six-direction force practice assume that you are in the left Santi Shi posture, that is, your left hand and left foot are in front. Each direction force is described individually.

Upward Force: Focus your mind on Baihui, the acupuncture point at the top of your head. Imagine that it is pushing upward. Imagine, too, that your feet are being inserted into the ground. This will create a reverse direction force that will push your body up. The greater your feeling of your feet’s being inserted into the ground, the more upward power you will feel. Be careful that the force is directed straight upward. It is important that your body always be upright, especially your neck and head.

Downward Force: Focus your mind on the Dantian in the center of your lower abdomen. Think about relaxing every part of your body and about your qi sinking down to the Dantian. This will cause your body to feel heavy and drop slightly. Imagine also that your legs are pushing down into the ground.       

Forward Force: Focus your mind on the Laogong point in the center of your left palm and feel as though your left palm were pushing forward. Feel power coming up from your back foot. Your right rear foot should press down into the ground, and power should feel as though it were flowing up through your right leg to your waist, then through your back, your left arm, and finally out through your left palm. You should feel a forward-pushing force from your back foot, in this case your right foot, all the way up to your front or left hand. At the same time, imagine that your right shoulder is chasing your left hand.

Backward Force: Focus your mind on the Jiaji point in the center of your back and imagine that it is pushing backward. This feeling is often characterized as “leaning on the mountain.” Imagine that your left foot is pressing down into the ground. This will create a feeling that your torso is pushing toward your back. At the same time, imagine that your right hand is pulling something back and then coordinate this feeling with the downward force in your left foot. The integration of the feeling in your right hand with the downward press of your left foot will augment the backward force.

Leftward Force: Focus your mind on the Shangyang point in your right index finger and imagine pointing with this finger to the left side of your body. This will enhance the integration of your right arm and left leg and will create a feeling that your body is twisting to the left. The sense of twisting will generate a feeling of power rotating to the left inside your body.

Rightward Force: Focus your mind on the Shaoshang point in your left thumb and imagine your thumb twisting to the right. This will enhance the integration of your left arm and right leg and create a feeling that your body is twisting to the right. This twisting feeling will generate a force that seems to rotate to the right inside your body.

In the beginning of your practice, you should concentrate on only one of the six directions of force. When you feel comfortable with one direction, proceed to work on the next one. Remember that this training involves using only your mind to lead your practice and to create internal feelings. There is no overt physical movement. Sometimes, a strong, clear feeling inside your body may cause some slight movement. You should neither seek to increase such a feeling nor struggle to stop the involuntary movement. Just maintain a relaxed state and continue with your six-direction training.

When you can practice each direction of force separately with confidence, you can practice pairs of force. First, practice upward and downward forces together; then forward and backward forces and finally leftward and rightward forces. This gradual process is recommended because most practitioners find it difficult to focus on more than one point or direction at a time. When practicing pairs, concentrate on each side of the paired force directions. Initially, change your mental focus slowly and with clear intent from one force in the pair to the other. Eventually, you will be able quickly to switch your mental focus back and forth between the two different directions. Eventually it will come to seem as though you are focusing on the two directions simultaneously. When you can do this routinely, your mind will generate a powerful, clear feeling.

Acquiring this ability takes a great deal of practice, so be patient. With sustained practice over a long period of time, focusing your mind on a pair of directions will seem almost effortless. Then, you can extend your practice to include all three-paired force directions. The goal of such training is to increase your ability to generate or withstand power from any direction instantaneously and without conscious thought.Integration Force

Basically, the six-direction force is an expanding force. He jin or integration force is the other important force that can be cultivated in Santi Shi. It balances your energy, makes you more stable and allows your internal components to be comfortably coordinated. Integration force can also increase your internal power. As with six-direction force, integration force concerns mental intention and physical awareness but does not involve overt physical movement.

Integration force in your arms works to coordinate the use of both arms so that they can work harmoniously together as one. Integration force flows from your back to your arms and hands. To feel this force, first imagine strongly pushing your front hand forward. At the same time, imagine pulling your rear hand backward as though trying to tear a stiff and resistant piece of paper in half. Next, imagine pulling your front hand back and pushing your rear hand forward as though trying to put two heavy things together. Remember that all these “actions” should occur only in your mind. The images should not be accompanied by overt physical movement or by isometric tensing of your muscles.

Integration force in your legs is also a coordinating force. It can help develop rooting. To practice leg integration force, first imagine that your body is sinking down. This will create a feeling that your feet are being inserted deeply into the ground. Your front foot should slant down and forward, and your rear foot should slant down and backward. Next, imagine that you are standing on an icy surface. The surface is so slippery that your feet feel as though they are about to slide apart. Imagine that your front foot is sliding forward and your rear foot is slipping backward. In order to maintain your balance and avoid falling down, you will feel as though you need to use force to bring your feet together. Once again, all of this occurs only in your mind. There should be no overt physical movement and no isometric tensing of your muscles.

Integration force in your arms and legs results in the coordination of your upper and lower body. A simple way to practice integration force is to use three specific points on your arm and a corresponding set of three points on your opposite leg. The three points on your arm are: the Jianjing point on your shoulder; the Quchi point on your elbow; and the Lao Gong point on your hand. The three coordinating points on your opposite-side leg are: the Huantiao point on your hip; the Yanglingquan point on your knee; and the Yongquan point on your foot.

The first step in integration force training is to mentally connect one arm with the leg on the opposite side of your body. Focus first on the Laogong point of your left hand and then expand this thought to the Yongquan point on your right foot. Then, focus your mind on the Quchi point on your left elbow and connect that thought to the Yanglingquan point on your right knee. Next, focus your mind on the Jianjing point on your left shoulder and make a connection in your mind to the Huantiao point on your right hip.

Then, shift your mental focus to the other Jianjing point, that is, the Jianjing point on your right shoulder and connect it to the Huantiao point on your left hip. Continue by focusing next on the Quchi point on your right elbow and connect it to the Yanglingquan point on your left knee. Complete this part of your practice by focusing on the Lao Gong point on your right hand and connecting it to the Yongquan point on your left foot. Repeat these six steps until all the connections feel natural.

In the second part of integration force practice, you should try to coordinate the feelings in both arms with the feelings in both legs, at each of the three sets of points. This integration training is commonly called bao or “holding and embracing.” In bao practice, you should focus your mind first on both left and right Laogong points and then connect the feelings at these points to those at your right and left Yongquan points. Then, mentally focus on both left and right Quchi points and make connections to your right and left Yang Ling Quan points. Thirdly, focus on both left and right Jianjing points and connect them to your right and left Huantiao points. Next, focus on your right and left Jianjing points and connect them to your left and right Huantiao points. The fifth step is to focus on your right and left Quchi points and connect them to your left and right Yanglingquan points, and the sixth step is to focus on both right and left Laogong points and connect them to your left and right Yongquan points. Repeat these steps until the paired connections feel natural at each set of points.

Integration force practice will strengthen your qi, increase your mental control and concentrate your shen. The physical training of movement in your arms and legs will gradually cause internal changes. This is what is meant by the traditional adage that “outside training leads to inside training.” As training improves sufficiently, the internal and external can be integrated. At this point, you can reduce your concentration on external movement and focus more on training the internal components. Gradually, your internal feelings will grow stronger, and any internal change will automatically cause an external change. At high levels of mastery, it is possible to focus exclusively on shen because everything else, that is, mind (yi), qi, jin and physical movements, will follow naturally. With this ability, you will have fully achieved the integration force.Twenty-Four Key Points

For more detailed practice of Santi Shi, one should keep in mind and conform with the Twenty-Four Key Points in order to achieve high level skill.

The Twenty-Four Key Points come from Ba Zi Ge – the Eight Word Song, which is one of most important traditional formulations in Xingyi Quan. One should be mindful always of these essentials throughout one’s practice. Before one can apply all these considerations in one’s moving practice, one should learn and practice them well in Santi Shi – a stationary posture.

The eight words of Ba Zi Ge are: ding, kou, yuan, min, bao, chui, qu, and ting.

Most people believe the “Eight Word Song” was written by Master Li Luo Neng. It should be used in everywhere in Xingyi Quan. It is very important for all movements. Sometimes people refer to it as the “twenty-four key points in Santi Shi” because each of the eight character/words includes three points, resulting in a total of twenty-four ideas.

Xingyi masters traditionally introduce the Twenty-Four Key Points when students start to practice Santi Shi which is the first focus in traditional training.

The Twenty-Four Key Points include some internal and external ideas. Even so-called external points, actually should be done internally, i.e., using internal components to lead external training. Some of these ideas look similar on the outside, but are different inside. Some of these ideas may appear to be opposites, however they describe how to balance these points in practice. One should practice and then try to understand all of them in detail.

Because Santi Shi is a stationary practice, students may find it easier to learn and feel each point in the right way. When every point can be done well in Santi Shi, finally all points should be applied to all moving skills.

Below is Some Explanation of Twenty-Four Key Points:

Ding
Ding means go against, push forward or upward slowly but hard, withstand, support, or stand up.

* Head (back of skull) should be ding (pushes up), like it wants to fly up and smash the sky. This will cause one’s qi to ascend along the back to the upper Dantian, which is on the point which inside between eyebrows and underneath Baihui point.

* Palms should be ding (pushing outside or around), as if trying to push down a big mountain. This will cause one’s qi and internal force to extend to the tip of hands and feet.

* Tongue should be ding (pushes up to gums behind incisors), like a lion wants to swallow an elephant. This will cause one’s qi to sink to Dantian.

Kou
Kou means withhold, suppress, restrain, hold, keep, control, lock up, or button up.

* Both shoulders should be kou (held a little bit forward), like they can withhold something on chest. This will make one’s chest comfortable and qi can go to elbows with internal force.

* Back of palms and feet should be kou (suppressed), like hands can grip or lock up something and feet can grip or lock up on the earth. This will make one’s hands really strong and one’s steps really stable.

* Teeth should be kou (suppressed), like gritting teeth. This will make all your bones and muscles are tighten back.

Yuan
Yuan means circular, round, smooth, or flexible.

* Back should be yuan (round), as if internal force pushes the body forward. This will keep one’s tailbone in the center of body and make one’s shen rise to the top of head.

* Chest should be yuan (round), like chest take sunken slightly. It will make both elbows stronger and breathing smoother.

* Tiger mouth (the area between thumb and forefinger) should be yuan (round), hands should open like eagle talons. This will train one’s binding and controlling force.

Min
Min means quick, nimble, agile, sharp, acute alert, or sensitive.

* Heart should be min (nimble and quick), like an angry cat that wants to catch a mouse. This will make one’s mind alert and sensitive, increasing the nimbleness of one’s movement.

* Eyes should be min (sharp), like a hungry eagle seeking to catch a rabbit. This will train one to capture the best chance (timing) in combat.

* Hands should be min (quick), like a starving tiger wants to spring on a goat. This will train one how to move just before one’s opponent moves.

Bao
Bao means hold, carry in arms, or embrace.

* Dantian should be bao (embrace), like holding qi in Dantian and never to be destroyed. This will train one how to concentrate, collect, and use one’s qi.

* Xin qi – qi of heart (mind and shen) should be bao (kept quiet), holding the mind and shen in a constant and concentrated and relaxed state. This will train one never to be nervous and never to be confused in combat.

* Both sides of the chest should be bao (held in), like carrying something in the chest. This will train how to use one’s qi to protect one’s body.

Chui
Chui means droop, hang down, or vertical.

* Qi should be chui (sink down), like always move qi back to Dantian. This will make one’s body stable like a mountain.

* Both shoulders should be chui (sink and relax), as if using shoulders to chase elbows. This will make one’s arms become longer and more agile. Qi can move to arms and hands smoothly.

* Both elbows should chui (drop down), as though the qi can move in the inside of one’s arms. This will make both sides of one’s chest stronger and train side-to-side force.

Qu
Qu means curve, bent, crook, or winding.

* Arms (elbows) should be qu (curved), like a crescent moon. This will make one’s internal force in the arms become stronger and like a bow.

* Legs (knees) should be qu (bent), like a crescent moon. This will make one’s internal force in the legs become more springy and thicker.

* Wrists should be qu (curved), like a crescent moon. This will make one’s internal force concentrate in the hands, capable of moving forward and backward continually, freely and smoothly.

Ting
Ting means press onward, upright, erect, stiff, or straight.

* Neck should be ting (upright), the chin should be tucked back slightly. This will enable one’s qi to rise to the Baihui smoothly.

* Spine and waist should be ting (erect), like keeping straight. This will make one’s internal force move smoothly, extending through the arms and legs freely, and also exciting one’s qi to permeate every part of one’s body.

* Kneecap should be ting (stiff), like making stronger. This will make one’s qi comfortable, extend one’s shen, and deepen one’s rooting.There are a lot of things on which one should focus during practice, but no one can do these all at one time. It is important to note that one cannot fight while focusing on these points either. One should only practice one of them at one time. So, one should practice one idea until it becomes ingrained, so that one does it naturally without focusing on it. Then one can move to the next practice point.

One should practice until all points become ingrained, i.e., one can apply all of them naturally without thinking. When this is achieved, one will experience a totally different feeling. Only when one reaches this level, can one say one has really mastered these points.

From the above description of Santi Shi, one can understand why people traditionally refer to it as the source of all skills. This practice establishes a good foundation for Xingyi Quan training. From internal and external practice, each of the twenty-four key points is trained and the benefits of this training can then be applied everywhere in one’s movements and applications. How well one can perform internal skills will determine how high a level one can reach in Xingyi Quan. Thus, Santi Shi skill is emphasized greatly.

Reference:
Santi Shi – Trinity Pile Standing ycgf.org
With pictures demonstrated by Lu Shengli

Equal Strength All Over

Make your strength equal all over the body. Your muscles must be agile. They must be able to contract, stretch, relax and become firm in harmony with each other. Your strength must come from inside you and the radiate out. When moving, slowness excels over speed. Be relaxed rather than impatient. Your movement should be slight, but your spirit should be full.

Wang Xiang Zhai

Reference:
The Way of Power by Lam Kam Chuen
ISBN 1856751988
p. 67

The Heart of Da Cheng Chuan

Inwardly alert, open, calm.
Outwardly upright, extended, filled with spirit.
This is the foundation of stillness.
Add the hard and the soft, the powerful and the relaxed,
Motion and stillness, contraction and extension:
In the instant these converge, there is power.

Wang Xiang Zhai

The Way of Power by Lam Kam Chuen
ISBN 1856751988
p. 18

Wang Xiangzhai’s directions in verse for Dachengquan

Extremely subtle and profound,
Boxing theory is not to be taken lightly.
At the beginning of history martial art was of paramount importance;
And it was there that science of learning has its root.
Its essence has largely been lost, having been distorted to a sheer absurdity.
This Boxing is based on spirit and mind,
Merits of all schools are included in it.
Most earnestly I advocate the rejuvenation of shadow boxing,
With a view restoring it to its original essence.
In doing so I devote myself to the exploration of theory,
While considering the combat techniques as only secondary. Continue reading “Wang Xiangzhai’s directions in verse for Dachengquan”

The All-Round Standing Pole Exercise

Stand with feet apart at shoulder width, toes point forward or slightly outward. Bend the knees and sit down slightly, weight centered firmly on the soles of the feet. Keep the head and spine erect from tip to tail, chest empty (i.e. relaxed and slightly concave, never stuck out) and stomach full and relaxed, not pulled in. Gaze straight ahead, eyelids hanging relaxed over the eyes. Rest the tip of the tongue on the upper palate behind the front teeth, let the lips and the teeth hang slightly open. Arms hang by the sides. The body should feel perfectly poised, relaxed but not slack, breathing completely natural and no joint locked, as if the body is suspended in air, hanging from the top of the head by a string.

This is the basic standing posture. Stand like this for a few moments relaxing the whole body and collecting one’s thoughts before assuming the following posture.

Raise the arms to shoulder level, keeping them curved as if holding a ball in each arm. Keep the fingers apart slightly curved, palms pointing in and slightly down. Hands are at shoulder distance apart, and about three fists distance from the chest. Elbows should be slightly below the level of the wrists. Shoulders must be relaxed, not hunched, with a slight sense of outward stretching, so the chest feels open, neither sticking out nor constricted. Curved arms should also have a slight sense of inward force, as if not letting a ball drop, though no physically manifest in tension.

The posture is most suitable for those without any particular illness to strengthen the constitution, prevent illness and promote health into old age.

Reference:
Traditional Chinese Therapeutic Exercises: Standing Pole J.P.C. Moffett, Wang Xuanjie
Foreign Languages Press May 1994
ISBN: 7119006967

Pages: 49-52

(Red. Caveat: If the standing pole exercises are not done naturally with composure, correct posture and body alignment, and with the necessary lightness and full relaxation of all parts of the body without collapsing, there is a potential health risk. It is recommendable to consult an experienced Zhan Zhuang teacher. The Way of Energy by Master Lam Kuen Chun is an excellent beginners tutorial.)

Links:
Zhan Zhuang  Michael P. Garofalo’ extensive bibliography and reference

Anecdotes Of Dachengquan Founder Wang Xiangzhai

by Wang Xuanjie (Translated by Chen Shengtao)

DACHENGQUAN is a set of barehanded exercises for health-keeping and combat. It was developed by my instructor Wang Xiangzhai in Beijing in the 1940s. The following anecdotes about him will help you learn something more about Wang and his dachengquan.

When Wang Xiangzhai created dachengquan half a century ago, wushu which waspopular among the folk was not much to the original and had become a showpiece rather than a fitness exercise and combat skill. To preserve the quintessence of traditional Chinese wushu, there was every need for all martial artists to pay attention to the prevailing deviation and make concerted efforts for a renewal. His determined resolution strengthened as he saw the Japanese invaders beating their victims of occupation for fun in Beijing. “We are a great nation,” he said indignantly. “How can we put upwith such insults?”

Then, while absorbing strong points of various schools of wushu, he created a style of barehanded exercises Dachengquan. To spread the newly emerging routine far and wide, Wang recruited a large number of youngsters and gave them lessons personally. His aim was very clear and that was to help boost the morale of the Chinese people and counter foreign pugilism. He issued a statement in a local newspaper and declared that he was ready to take on any rivals including those coming from foreign countries.

Wang’s remark angered Kenichi Sawai, a Japanese martial artist then living in Beijing. Sawai was good at karate, swordplay and judo. In his eyes, Chinese wushu was only something like gymnastics, having little value in actual fights. So, one day, he went to call at Wang’s in the hope of showing off his prowess. When he saw Wang Xiangzhai, he found that the Chinese shadow boxer, a man of middle stature clad in long gown, looked very gentle and suave. He was very happy to meet with such a weakling, thinking that he would win without fail. After introducing himself and explaining why he hadcome, he produced a newspaper which carried Wang’s statement and tossed it on a table.

“You are ready to have a dual fight, aren’t you?” asked the Japanese karate practitioner, his face wreathed in contemptuous smiles. “Yes, I am,” retorted sneeringly my instructor. “I always mean what I have said. I would never refuse anyone who wants to compete with me. Foreign martial artists are especially welcome.” Hearing that, Sawai went out of the drawing roomand stood in the courtyard waiting for a duel. Without any hesitation, Wang came out with hands placed behind his back. Directing his strength to bothhands through concentration, Sawai assumed a horse-riding stance and launched a sudden attack on Wang’s face with hands. Seeing this, my instructor, his left hand remaining still, extended his right forearm to parry Sawai’s hands. Then, with a slight exertion of strength, Wang threw the Japanese muscle man 10 feet away. Before realizing what had happened, Sawai was already Lying on the ground on his back.

Not admitting defeat, Sawai wanted to have a swordplay contest with Wang because he was so skilled at it that he could cut an apple on the head of aman into two without hurting the head. Considering that Sawai should get an idea of what Chinese swordplay was, Wang agreed to have another contest. With a sword held overhead in his hands, Sawai delivered a hard blow at Wang’s head. Wang stepped a bit to the right and wielded his sword to block the opposing sword. As the two swords clanked, Sawai was also thrown several feet away and flattened with his palms benumbed. (According to the son of Sawai, they did not fight with swords but with sticks.)

Irreconciled, Sawai rose to his feet and pounced upon Wang with his sword towards the throat. This skill is very famous in Japanese swordplay, with which one can catch his rival off guard. However, Wang was so good at Chinese swordplay that it seemed as if he did not make use of eyes but sense only in a fight. Wang turned his body to the right slightly, leaving Sawai’sattack wide of the mark. In another instant, Wang pressed his sword against his opponent’s. Sawai tried hard to draw his sword back, only to no avail, since it was “pasted” fast to Wang’s at the guard of the hilt. When Wang mustered up his strength, Sawai was flung out and slammed against a nearby door which caved in as a result.

Later on, Sawai engaged Wang in a qinna-something like judo- contest. By then, he was already a 5 – dan judoka in Japan. However, he could never get hold of Wang by the sleeve or the front in competition, no matter how hard he tried. Instead, he was grasped by Wang as soon as they came to grips.

Then came an Italian boxer who had made a name for himself in West Europe.His surname was James. When he was on a tour in Beijing, he learned that Wang Xiangzhai, founder of dachengquan, was looking for a rival, so he was also eager to have a try believing that it was a good chance for him to earn fame in China.

After exchanging a few words at Wang’s, they came out into the courtyard and began to warm up for competition.

James, with shorts only on, put on a pair of gloves and gave several straight punches to a thick tree and leaves fluttered down from the swaying branches. When James took off his boxinggloves and changed into a pair of cotton-yarn ones and assumed a boxer’s classic stance, the onlookers on the scene held their breath. The alien contestant appeared so powerful, so muscular and so agile, and he dwarfed Wang by a head. Could Wang be his match? Looking as calm as ever before,Wang was all geared for the contest, with his right hand in front of the chest. James was an experienced boxer endowed with long and powerful arms and highly proficient in the art. With his right hand in front and left hand at his lower jaw, he suddenly delivered a straight left to Wang’s face. As James came up with his fist, Wang raised his right forearm for a parry and in quick succession made a powerful push that shot James up and grounded him six feet off. Without knowing what it was all about, James rose to his feet and composed himself for another bout. This time, he changed tactics. He first made an arm feint and then gave his chest a right uppercut. Turning slightly to the left, Wang put his right wrist gently on the right elbow of James, who felt benumbed all over at once, and collapsed on the ground after tottering for a moment.

Now, he realized that he was not as good at fighting skills as Wang, which should account for his previous defeats. However, he thought he could outplay his rival in the third bout; he believed that he was much more powerful than Wang. To show this Italian boxer what Chinese boxing was really like, Wang asked James to punch his chest and ribs. A hail of hardblows followed and Wang was as firm as a rock. Getting desperate, James gathered all his strength and landed a heavy punch on Wang’s abdomen withhis right hand. Wang’s abdomen heaved a bit and James fell down onto theground with his right wrist sprained.

Later, a Mongolian wrestler, who had been living in the suburbs of Beijing, came to compete with Wang Xiangzhai. This story sounds quite incredible, but it has been on the lips of martial artists to date. Named Bator, this lad was a son of a former official in charge of military affairs in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Bator began to learn xingyiquan (form-and-will shadowboxing) from his father at the age of 14 and took a fancy to archery and horsemanship four years later.When he was 20 years old, he started to practice wrestling under the guidance of a former imperial court trainer. After five or six years of training, he made rapid progress and became quite versed in wrestling. He was strong enough that he could subdue a galloping horse. One day on his way home, a shying horse ran up to him, pursued by a yelling crowd. When the horse arrived in front of him, this Mongolian wrestler first moved aside, then, to the great surprise of the pursuers,jumped forth to catch the horse by the neck and upset it.

When he heard that Wang Xiangzhai was willing to have contests with other wushu devotees, Bator went into the city to rise to the challenge. At the start of the contest in Wang’s courtyard, the two stood a few meters apart, face to face. Bator moved forward, trying to throw Wang down with a unique skill he had mastered in wrestling training. As they were about to come into contact, a small insect buzzed into Wang’s left ear. Disturbed as he was,Wang continued with his firm steps forward while picking his ear with hisleft little finger. At the sight of this, Bator jumped out of the way and, bowing to Wang with his hands folded in front, said: “You are so good at martial arts. I am no match for you.” The two exchanged a smile out of their tacit understanding for each other and the contest thus ended. The onlookers were all in a maze. One of them asked Bator, “How come you acknowledged defeat? You should have a try for it.” “As an old saying goes, a master knows what a man he is fighting against the moment he takes the opponent on. He was so sedate and self assured at this juncture that he could afford to pick his ear. If he was not an adept in the art, how could he have so much confidence in winning the contest?”

In the year he developed dachengquan, Wang Xiangzhai kept having contests with dozens of martial artists, Chinese and foreign. They all came in confidence, but went in failure. Since then, the name of Wang Xiangzhai has spread far and wide and dachengquan become a beautiful blossom in the flowergarden of Chinese wushu.

Reference: Martial Arts of China Vol. 1, No. 7 , Page 297

Book:
Dachengquan
by Wang Xuanjie
Hai Feng Publishing Co. May 1988
ISBN: 9622381111

The Mighty Warrior Exercise

(Ichuan, Dachengquan, Yiquan, exercise, qiqong, chikung, breathing, energy)

The Mighty Warrior Exercise Stand with the feet about double shoulder-width apart and toes pointing ahead. Bend the knees while lowering the body to stand in a horse-riding posture. Raise the arms sideways to form each an angle of about 60 degrees with the torso, the palms facing the ground and fingers apart. Keep the torso upright, lower abdomen loosened, chest held in, and the eyes looking into to the far distance with restrained concentration. Stand still for some time.

Move the arms upwards to shoulder height, and straighten the legs. Press downwards with the palms while bending the knees back into the horse-riding position. Repeat the procedure. The arm movements resemble those of an eagle’s wings, hence the exercise is also known as the Spread Eagle exercise. Repeat for no more than 360 times at a time.

Regular practice of this exercise will cause the vital energy to penetrate every part of the body and finally form a unique strength. Once this is required, with some simple instructions, one will be able perform wonders assisted by the control of breathing, such as cleaving a rock with one palm, hitting a stone tablet with the head, breaking an iron chain with deep breathing, letting a car running over the body. What he will be able to achieve the will be diametrically different from that put on by those sham kung fu masters under the name of controlled breathing.

Reference:
Dachengquan
by Wang Xuanjie
Hai Feng Publishing Co. May 1988
ISBN: 9622381111

Page: 78

Sam Tam – 2006 Copenhagen Summer Workshop

Master Sam TamMaster Sam Tam comes to Copenhagen from the 2. to 4. of June 2006 to give a workshop at Ole Eskildens Ichuan Standing Meditation School.

Master Sam Tam travels around the US and Canada giving workshops in pushhands in Ichuan and Taiji. Ichuan people would properly know Sam Tam by name from Jan Diepersloot’s book “The Tao of Yiquan”. Master Sam Tam is a senior student of eagle claw grandmaster Lau Fat Mang and studied Ichuan with Master Han Hsing Yuen in Hong Kong.

Internal Martial Arts Association for Health and Enlightenment
http://www.imaahe.com/

Ichuan Standing Meditation School
http://www.ichuan.dk/

Workshop
Ole Eskildsen
Vanløse Kulturhus
Frode Jakobsens Pl. 4, 1. 2720 Vanløse
DENMARK

( Next to Vanløse Station by Metro or S-Train )

Show on map

The workshop starts friday 2. June 2006 at 5 p.m.

Price: app. € 300

Participation: Work Shop is full.

Wang Xiangzhai – General Principles for Dachengquan

Directions in verse for Great Achievements Shadow Boxing

Integrated with spirit and mind,
This boxing is named Dacheng.
With plain truth easy to understand,
It is both interesting and enlightening.
It has no method yet every method,
for in boxing all methods are of no avail.
With profound knowledge it helps to mould your temperament,
Cultivating you in faithfulness, sense of justice, benevolence and bravery.

Propelled by natural strength,
you are as strong as a dragon.
Inhaling and exhaling naturally and quietly,
You perceive the mechanism of all movements.
Be neither too familiar nor too distant towards others,
Show them courtesy, modesty and respect.
Avail yourself of the force of the Universe,
And bring your instinctive ability into full play.
Stand at the centre holding the key,
Act according to circumstances without a trace.
Eyes seeing nothing and ears hearing only your breathing sound,
You train your mind and regulate your nerve system.
In motion you are like the angry tiger,
In quietness you are like the hibernating dragon.
Your expression is as awesome as the leopard,
Your strength is as powerful as that of a rhino.
Preserving the heavenly wisdom and maintaining the state of meditation,
You are ready to act in response to all possible situations.

Reference:
Dachengquan
by Wang Xuanjie
Hai Feng Publishing Co. May 1988
ISBN: 9622381111

Pages: 13-14