Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sun Lu-T’ang Style by Bradford Tyrey

Part 1: Some Aspects Taught Within Traditional Sun Lu-T’ang Style According to Master Sun Lu-T’ang and Madam Sun Jian-Yun.
Some time ago I wrote about Questions and Answers that came from our classes in Beijing over the years with Madam Sun Jian-Yun, daughter of Sun Lu-T’ang, and other family members. Originally, I had given only partial answers for many reasons, much to do with a lack of space for long answers in my books. Here, for those willing to read a longer article is further information.
Quite recently I have received a large number of emails from people who say that they are confused by the increasing number of individuals who are teaching Sun style on the internet who never studied in China with the Sun family. These people teaching are reported to be saying that they don’t believe in the existence of indoor or secret Sun style teachings within the Sun family. I have not personally read or watched such things from these individuals as I try to focus my attention to other matters. I feel that I should comment on such things. It is not necessary to have lived in China to have studied Sun style well, but as for some teachings it was important to have learned things from the Sun family directly regarding the deeper practices of Sun Lu-T’ang. Next, there have never been secret teachings. Though I may have used the word secret from time to time because many old boxing masters used this word in their writings so it was appropriate to translate it accordingly. The reality is there are no secrets. Let me explain further.
When I studied with Madam Sun and many of the old Sun clan over the years they clearly told us that there are public and indoor methods. Indoor methods does not mean secretive. Rather, public methods are easier versions for those interested in taiji, bagua and xingyi. Many of the Chinese students who were in class with me, beginning in 1984, worked full-time and had duties at home or school afterwards, so their time to practice was little. This was their life for many years. They were looking for exercise to relax the mind and body after a day of brutal stress. Also, they were searching for exercise having health benefits. Beyond the simple methods taught in class such students did not want deeper studies.
Also, many of my classmates had lived through China’s difficult Cultural Revolution and were taught that there is no such thing as 氣 qi and therefore were looking toward only the calisthenics of Sun style. Madam Sun did not object and actually accommodated these students by further simplifying forms and explanations for them. However, there were also those students who searched for the deeper practices of her father and his teachers. Madam Sun always said that these methods were not secret but did require that you have the time to study them with her and several of her father’s disciples who were still alive at that time. All were quite willing to demonstrate and share what they had learned from Master Sun Lu-T’ang and other disciples. This meant that travel was involved to Heibei Province, Tianjin, Nanjing, and Shanghai to name a few, short-term living arrangements for each visit, and many unexpectedly strange expenses, which I will describe sometime soon, things they forgot to mention in realistic travel guidebooks.
These old disciples never said that anything was secret; rather they would simply say that if you wanted to learn certain things you had to invest time or it was not taught to you. Often I was asked how long I was planning stay in China, my answer dictated their willingness or not to teach something. There were certainly times when one of Master Sun’s disciples would say it is impossible for me to understand the depth of the teachings so it would be wasting his precious time that he should spend with his family. At that time my translator indicated that this meant these teachings were private and secret, not to be shared with outsiders. Later I learned that this was not what the teacher said nor meant. He actually was embarrassed that he could not communicate directly with me at the time and so waved me off. When my Mandarin, particularly Beijing dialect, became somewhat better in a couple of years, he happily spoke with me and even shared his favorite beer. As one disciple so accurately spoke ‘there is no need for secrets or holding teachings from students as there is far too much to teach a student in a single lifetime.’ This is so very, very true.
Below are some teachings from our classes in Beijing during the 1980s that I was initially taught and want to share with all of you and hopefully can be applied to your personal practices. In the near future, I plan to share much about bagua, xingyi, taiji, qigong and weaponry that we were taught over the years.
Part 1: Some Aspects Taught Within Traditional Sun Lu-T’ang Style Boxing
Q: One of Master Sun’s foremost xingyiquan teachers was Guo Yun-Shen, known for his extraordinary skills involving 氣 qi. What was one of Master Guo’s methods that he passed on to your father?
A: Not every teacher was willing to pass on knowledge and skills to their students, but Master
Guo loved to share. My father said that Master Guo possessed so much skill that he wanted
others to experience the expanse of xingyiquan. A profound training method that Master Guo
taught was to manifest 氣 qi through the practice of 壯膽神 zhuangdan shen (to embolden the spirit).
It is essential in practice to unite one’s 氣 qi and 神 shen (spirit) with the great forces of the Earth.
Master Guo taught that one such force is a large stone [boulder], larger than a man; that has not been
disturbed from its place of rest. Partially exposed to sunlight [that being 陽 yang], partially hidden
[being 陰 yin] and embraced by the Earth. The stone, therefore, is the embodiment of the 陰 yin and
陽 yang essences.
Master Guo taught his students to stand in 三體勢 Santi-shi (Three Embodiments Posture [though
a more accurate translation is the Three Embodiments Power Enhancement]) upon a boulder or
large stone, absorbing its heavy 陰氣 yin qi into the legs and lower waist region. Care must be taken not to transform heaviness into sluggishness, which indicates heaviness has spread beyond the legs and entered into the lofty 陽氣 yang qi of the upper body. This is why one’s 心意 xin-yi (heart-mind [intent]) must direct and embrace the stone’s 氣 qi within the lower tan-t’ien, thereby developing 剛勁 gang jin (firm power [firmness]) below. Such practice was to be followed for several years until true rootedness with the Earth unites with one’s 陰 yin.
Note: I will provide an explanation of 三體勢 Santi-shi in Part 2 of this article for everyone’s reference.
My father said that Master Guo had his students collect large, heavy, flat stones that were placed in the
ground in a large circle and in a straight line. The students were instructed to practice xingyiquan upon the formations to accumulate the essence of firmness into stepping. Firmness in stepping establishes loftiness and agility of hand and foot methods. Stones are but one unique method of practice that Master Guo learned from his masters. His disciples were known to be immovable when pushed or attacked, possessing hands that issued power like a stag’s hoof, achieved through 骨肉 gurou (bone and flesh [referring to a human]) treading upon the Earth’s 陰氣 yin qi [being stones]. This is among the first hidden skills of xingyiquan that Master Guo taught, a very important one followed by all of his students.
My father also taught the 三靈 Sanling (Three Spirits) that Master Guo passed to him. These are very
special within Sun family practice. The 三靈 Sanling (Three Spirits) are also referred to as the 三珤 Sanbao (Three Jewels/Treasures). These are three principles of practice to which one must adhere. These are simple, yet simplistically difficult:

1. 靈活 linghuo (nimbleness/agility). In all movement 陽氣 yang qi must be directed and established at the point泥丸 Ni Wan (Mud Ball) which sits upon the crown of one’s head. Through qigong practice the 泥丸 Ni Wan (Mud Ball) becomes active and is then linked with its mirrored point below, that being 會陰 Hui Yin (Meeting of Yin) at the perineum below. This establishes the 陰 yin and 陽 yang duality within movement. The cohesion of these two points is accomplished through seated neigong (inner development) methods to enhance the ‘Small Heavenly Cycle.’ These methods are not exclusive to the Sun family style and are found within many Taoist boxing sects. As these upper and lower points harmonize through practice one will notice that physical movement in taijiquan becomes rooted, yet the trunk, arms and legs move with a feeling of fluid nimbleness, a sense of increasing agility and lightness; the meaning and importance of 靈活 linghuo. Such is the result of 陽氣 yang qi fusing deeply within all parts of the body and moving along with and merging with the 陽氣 yang qi of Nature.

2. 靈感 linggan (inspiration/insightfulness). In practice we must never fall prey to mere physical movement that possesses no essence, no spirit behind an action. To simply move about in xingyi and bagua, flailing one’s arms and legs without 意 yi (intent) beckons no lasting results. One must look into the meaning of each posture with a conviction of insightfulness to look beyond the physical surface. It is easy to understand the many applications of any posture, none are secrets, but to be inspired to pursue deeper skills within each posture is very important toward acquiring greater levels of competency. There are many explanations of 靈感 linggan which we touch upon each day in practice. As we practice taijiquan, for example, suddenly you understand how to do something that you have struggled with, and it is this realization and understanding that is the foundation to follow further interest into that realization of a posture or action which produces 靈感 linggan (inspiration/ insightfulness) from which to find further explanation. My father taught that 靈感 linggan is what separates a good student from those who excel. It is something he emphasized that his students nurture throughout all aspects of their boxing practices.

3. 靈驗 lingyan (to be efficacious/accurate). In the boxing arts it is easy to move about and appear knowledgeable and skillful to a novice. But to someone who has trained most properly in traditional methods it is important to examine each posture in terms of use as to health, martial application, and spiritual wellbeing. Therefore, each action must be thoroughly examined from many perspectives. In fighting application it is important to that each movement be very accurate without the slightest embellishment which would lead to inefficaciousness. In pursuing health through qigong and taiji the pathways of qi throughout one’s body must be carefully enhanced through the expansion and contraction of movements entwined with Taoist breathing methods to further bolster qi. This is not difficult nor complicated but requires that you 驗 yan (examine) all aspects of a posture and technique so that a high level of 靈驗 lingyan (accuracy) can be attained. Again, this is not secret to any boxing art but is an important principle that is often overlooked.
The 三靈 Sanling (Three Spirits), referred to as the 三珤 Sanbao (Three Jewels/Treasures), are
therefore: 靈活 linghuo (nimbleness/agility), 靈感 linggan (inspiration/insightfulness), and 靈驗 lingyan
(to be efficacious/accurate). These three, with time and practice, merge and transform to affect one’s
靈魂 linghun (soul). Master Sun remarked that ‘it is one’s靈魂 linghun (soul) that dictates the profound
aspects of study.’ My translation of the 三珤 Sanbao (Three Jewels/Treasures) are rudimentary at best as
each of their true meanings can only fully be understood through experiences and examples pointed out
each time by one of our teachers. But my translation will hopefully serve as a foundation.
Madam Sun added that when her father taught military officers in Nanjing they were very concerned with
the soul of each soldier in respect to creating 大膽 dadan (big courage [fearlessness]). Therefore, Master
Sun taught qigong exercises to officers and soldiers to enhance the 膽 dan (gall bladder). This method is
called 壯膽功 zhuangdan gong which means ‘to achieve [to develop] in strengthening the gall bladder,’
in turn meaning ‘to strengthen courage.’ Master Sun consequently taught the 二十四站走步樁 ershisi
zhan zoubu zhuang (24 standing and walking posts [stumps]) that he learned from his bagua
master, Cheng T’ing-Hua. These methods were openly taught to all of his students, both public and indoor, and were never kept secret as they were to serve as givers of health for one’s 精神 jingshen (essence and spirit [vitality]) rather than to do harm martially. Each of the 24 methods, practiced while standing or while walking a circle, taught and enhanced 24 specific principles and skills. Once
these 24 were learned then the final 12 were added which were concerned with 12 animals to total 36 methods. These methods were openly taught but many students, many of my classmates, simply felt the number were so many that they gave up after a dozen or so. Generally, 3 methods were taught each month, so time was required. Over the years, when I revisited my classmates, most had forgotten the majority of these postures and only practiced those that came to mind. However, there were some who
continued to reverently practice these methods and passed them on to their students exactly how they
were taught to us in class in Beijing. Today, I am happy to openly teach the entire 36 methods to those interested as they are not secret, but simply somewhat rare to come across in their entirety. I still fondly remember classes when I would see many senior classmates in class performing all 36 post/stump methods, openly sharing them their apprentices. It was a very rich environment in which to learn that I know all of you would have loved. Hopefully, I can bring much of this to you through my writings. More about this in Part 2 of this article.

Thank you very kindly for taking the time to read my articles and supporting my efforts to share with each
one of you,

Bradford Tyrey

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