Monday, May 30, 2011

Traditional Kung Fu circa 1960 - Chang Jun Feng

Demo of the Taiwan Kuo Shu Association from 1964. Features my great grand teacher Chang Jun Feng performing Xingyi Quan's An Shen Pao 2 person set with his wife(0:00).

Traditional Kung Fu circa 1960 - Hung Yi Xiang

Demo of the Taiwan Kuo Shu Association from the late 50's or early 60's. Features my grand teacher Hung I Hsiang (2:30)doing a China Na (joint locking) demo and his students doing some Xingyi Quan forms work.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Circle Walk Practice of Ba Gua Zhang from the Pa Kua Journal

The Circle Walking Method by Dan Miller

Practitioners who have studied Ba Gua Zhang for any length of time are no doubt very familiar with Ba Gua Zhang's circle walking practice. Walking the circle is the cornerstone of the art, all systems of Ba Gua Zhang practice this method and thus "walking in a circle" has become Ba Gua Zhang's trademark. However, even though the circle walking practice is common to all major systems, a student who has studied the art from a variety of different teachers can quickly become frustrated when trying to investigate exactly how the circle walking practice is performed.

Ba Gua Zhang instructor Li Zi ming (1900 - 1992) of Beijing, China, holds the "Millstone" posture. This is the basic circle walking arm position.

There are at least a dozen dif ferent circle walk stepping techniques and each teacher seems to have his or her own detailed criteria for practicing these techniques. Investigating the art of circle walking, one may run across some of the following: the lion step, the dragon step, the chicken step, the tiger step, the snake step, the crane step, the rippling step, the mud walking step, the shake step, the stomp step, the hesitation step, the continuous step, the sliding step, the digging heel step, the gliding step, and even steps such as the camel step and the elephant step. Some of these are different names describing the same step and others are steps used only for specific leg strength and body training. One will also encounter Ba Gua Zhang schools who walk the circle painstakingly slow and others who walk very fast. Then one may also encounter the lower, middle, and upper "basin" walking positions along with a wide variety of upper body postures one might assume while walking. Additionally, there are various sizes and combinations of circles as well as different ground surfaces and apparatus (such as bricks, poles, or stones) that the practitioner will walk on. To the beginning student who simply wants to know how to walk the circle and why circle walking is important, all of this may seem very confusing.
Xie Pei Qi, a Yin Style Ba Gua instructor in Beijing, China, walks the circle in the "lower basin" position.

The truth is that the circle walking technique will vary depending upon the result one intends to derive from the practice. There is no one "correct" method. Every school of Ba Gua which is teaching a complete art will have a wide variety of circle walking methods which they practice and each method will be designed for a specific training purpose. Some practitioners, like the Daoists, practice for meditative purposes and thus the walking will be slow and steady with the mind calm and focused; others practice to build leg strength and thus the posture is very low and the step is such that the legs work very hard; others practice to improve stability and balance while in motion and thus the stepping foot is lifted high while the practitioner moves slowly; others practice to improve cardiovascular endurance and develop a high degree of mobility and thus the walking is very fast and the directional changes are frequent; others practice to develop a balanced Qi flow in the body and thus the movement and breathing is very smooth, the dan tian is stable, and the stepping method facilitates a full circulation of Qi from head-totoe; others practice to build upper body strength and full body connection and thus the various upper body postures are held for long periods of time, consequently the change of direction is infrequent and the walking position is at a middle or upper level so the legs will not tire before the arms. While some practitioners might practice only one of these methods, others practice many of them. Practice method depends on what component of martial arts development the practitioner desires to improve or at what stage of development in the training process the individual practitioner has reached.
Cheng You Xin's son, Cheng De Liang, walks the circle holding the "Embracing Moon at Chest" posture. This posture is one of the eight nei gong palms in both the Cheng Ting Hua and Liang Zhen Pu styles of Ba Gua.

While Ba Gua Zhang practitioners will sometimes argue about the "correct" circle walking technique, the fact of the matter is that there is not one "correct" way to practice this exercise. Those that believe that there is only one way to walk the circle have only been introduced to a very small portion of a vast art form. The incompleteness of their training leads to ignorance. There are, in fact, many valid techniques utilized in circle walk practice, the technique used depends on the results desired. The primary guidelines in practice involve maintaining a relaxed, comfortable posture and focused intention while walking. If these guidelines are followed, variations on the theme are endless.

Because Ba Gua Zhang is an "internal" family martial art, the primary guidelines one will follow during practice are; (1) to allow the body to feel natural, relaxed, comfortable, and connected when walking the circle so that one can encourage a balanced flow of energy in the body and stabilize the body to improve balance in motion, (2) to walk smoothly and continuously so that the body does not waiver, bob or wobble and the overall flow of the movement is always smooth and continuous, never choppy (even when the practitioner changes rhythm and speed or executes a fa jing maneuver, the movement flows smoothly), and (3) to maintain focused intention so that the mind and body are in harmony.

Tension restricts the flow of Qi and throws the body off balance; a comfortable, relaxed body and focused mind promotes a balanced flow of Qi, a stable, mobile body, and facilitates quick movement. Additionally, if the practitioner feels natural and comfortable, less fatigue will be experienced and the practitioner can practice longer. Even practitioners who practice to develop upper body and/or leg strength should try to remain relaxed and comfortable while experiencing the muscle fatigue. Important points which most teachers stress to the beginner are all aimed at allowing the body to feel relaxed and comfortable while maintaining certain structural alignments. In the chapter entitled "Exercise Method Conforms to Natural Principles" in the book Liang Zhen Pu Eight Diagram Palm author Li Zi Ming states that,
" In practice, it is necessary to pay attention to these important details:

The lower body is sunken downward while the upper body is held erect.
The head is held straight up while the shoulders and elbows are dropped.
The back is rounded yet straight and erect while the chest is held in a hollow.
The wrists are sunken while the palm remains pressing.
The waist is relaxed while the buttocks are tilted up and slightly forward.
The knees are flexed with the toes grasping the ground.

In summary, each part of the body has specific conditions to meet and maintain during the execution of Eight Diagram Palm, but the coordinated synthesis of all these conditions, when performed in synchrony, allows the practitioner to move in a completely natural manner, breathing at ease and moving relaxed. It is a manner of moving in accordance with the laws of natural physiology that we can cultivate more energy than we expend thereby enhancing one's life force.4 "

The upper body posture held while walking the circle will vary from school to school. Typically each school will have a set of eight postures which are held in succession while performing the basic circle walking practice. These eight postures are known as the "Eight Mother Palms", the "Eight Great Palms", the "Nei Gong Palms," or the "Inner Palms." In the most common posture, the hips are rotated in towards the center of the circle (about 45 degree off the path of the circle), the forward (upper) palm is held at eye level and is facing the center of the circle, and the eyes are looking towards the center of the circle through the index finger and thumb of the upper hand. In most schools, the lower hand is held 3 to 5 inches below the elbow of the upper arm, however, some schools hold the lower hand down in front of the dan tian (see the "guard stance gallery" on pages 16-17). The shoulders are relaxed and allowed to drop down, the back is slightly rounded. The elbows are bent slightly and allowed to sink down. The upper body is relaxed.

The head is positioned so that the eyes are looking straight into the center of the circle (not up, down, or to the side). Typically the practitioner will walk around a tree or pole so that there will be an object of focus during practice. The head and neck position is critical to avoid stress and strain in the neck and eyes after walking for an extended period of time. If the eyes are not looking straight and the neck is not held erect, the eyes and/or neck can become tired or stiff after 10 to 15 minutes of walking. When muscles become tired or stiff, Qi does not circulate properly and becomes stagnant in that area. When Qi becomes stagnant in the head and around the eyes, it can be dangerous. The Ba Gua Zhang classics say "Hollow the chest, suspend the crown, and sink the waist."

Re-Blogged From The Pakua Journal

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boulder Internal Arts - Yi Zong Xian Tien Bagua - Luo De Xiu

Luo De Xiu at a seminar in Paris 2009 demonstrating the Yi Zong Gao Style Xian Tien/ Pre Heaven Bagua Zhang Dragon palm with some applications.
This is the same art i teach here in Boulder, Colorado; Luo De Xiu is my Grand-teacher. For more information contact me at 720 841 2404.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Boulder Internal Arts - Yi Zong Xian Tien Bagua - Luo De Xiu

Luo De Xiu demonstrating the Yi Zong Gao Style Xian Tien/ Pre Heaven circle walking Bagua Zhang set. This is the same art i teach here in Boulder, Colorado; Luo De Xiu is my Grand-teacher. For more information contact me at 720 841 2404.

Gao Style Bagua - Xian Tien Palms

"This video is a performance of the Gao style Baguazhang Xiantien Palms by Chen Baozhang. This seems to be an excellent performance of the set by a student of Liu Feng-Cai and a elder practitioner of the Tienjin flavor of Gao Yi-Sheng's martial art.
Some things to keep in mind, alot of the bigger twisting and deep stances, and the half-spins are missing (presumably because of Mr. Chen's age)."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Circle Walk Practice of Ba Gua Zhang by Dan Miller

Origins of the Circle Walk Practice in Ba Gua Zhang

Professor Kang Ge Wu (left) of Beijing, China, interviews Daoists to investigate the origins of the circle walk practice.

The art of Ba Gua Zhang was developed during the mid 1800's by Dong Hai Chuan, however, the circle walk practice which he used as a basis for his art was developed by Daoists long before Dong combined this practice with his martial arts training. Exploring Dong's discovery of this Daoist practice may help the reader understand some of the benefits the Ba Gua Zhang stylist derives from this practice and therefore before we discuss the practice itself we will take a look at its origin.

While conducting research for his master's degree thesis on the origins of Ba Gua Zhang during 1980-1982, Professor Kang Ge Wu of Beijing, China, discovered the following concerning Ba Gua Zhang's origins3:

Dong Hai Chuan's ancestors were originally from Hun Dong County in Shanxi Province. Close to the end of the Ming Dynasty the clan started moving North, first ending up in Gou Sheng County, Hebei Province. From there the family split into two branches, one went to Kai Ko village and the other went to Wen An (both in Hebei). Several generations later (around 1813), young Dong Hai Chuan was born in Ju Jia Wu township, Wen An, Hebei. Around the same time, another Dong, known as Dong Xian Zhou , was born in Kai Ko village (he will become important later in the story).

In Ju Jia Wu township, there were two predominant families, the Dong's and the Li's. The Li family was literary, a few of them passed examinations and became government officials. The Dong family was poor, but that was all right with young Hai Chuan because he was only interested in practicing martial arts, not studying for scholarly examinations. It is not known exactly which arts Dong studied when he was young, however, it was most likely some form of indigenous Northern Shaolin. Systems that were known to have been practiced in Wen An around that time were: Ba Fan Quan, Hong Quan, Xing Men Quan, and Jin Gang Quan. It is said that Dong practiced hard and gained a reputation as a skilled martial artist.

For some unknown reason, the Li's had a rivalry with Dong Hai Chuan. The Li family, being officials, had friends in high places and used their influence to persecute Dong. Eventually he grew tired of the Li's games and decided to leave Wen An in about 1853. At this point in Dong's life, the story becomes vague. He most likely went from Wen An to Kai Ko to live with his relatives. Remember Dong Xian Zhou? It turns out that he was also a martial arts enthusiast and had become very well known in and around his village for his skill at Ba Fan Quan. He was so well known that bandits in the area avoided his village so they would not have to confront him. It is very possible that while in Kai Ko, Dong Hai Chuan studied Ba Fan Quan with his relative Dong Xian Zhou. Professor Kang's investigation of Ba Fan Quan revealed that many of the movements and techniques of this style can be found in Dong Hai Chuan's Ba Gua Zhang.

After leaving Kai Ko, Dong continued south. Reports have him stopping in Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang, and at the Da Ba mountain area somewhere along the border of Shaanxi and Sichuan. Although Kang was unable to determine exactly where Dong went and what he did during his travels, the one pertinent piece of information that Kang was able to uncover was that somewhere along the way Dong became a member of the Quan Zhen (Complete Truth)* sect of Daoism. This sect was part of the Long Men (Dragon Gate) school of Daoism which was originated by Qiu Chang Chun. Interestingly enough, Qiu also invented a method of meditation whereby the practitioner would walk in a circle and, wouldn't you know, this method was practiced by the Quan Zhen sect. Delving further into this Daoist connection, Kang was able to find a section in the Daoist Canon which reads:
" A person's heart and mind are in chaos.
Concentration on one thing makes the mind pure.
If one aspires to reach the Dao, one should practice walking in a circle. "

This bit of evidence inspired Kang to try and find out more about the circle walk meditation method practiced by the Quan Zhen Daoists. What he discovered was that this practice, which the Daoists called Zhuan Tian Zun (Rotating in Worship of Heaven) is very similar in principle to the circle walk practice of Ba Gua Zhang. Researching Wang Jun Bao's book, Daoist Method of Walking the Circle, Kang found that while walking, the Daoists repeated one of two mantras. The first of these mantras was used in the morning practice and translates to mean "When Rotating in Worship of Heaven, the sound of thunder is everywhere and transforms everything." The second mantra was used in the evening practice and translates to mean "When Rotating in Worship of Heaven, the great void saves us from the hardship of existence." It was said that the practitioner should repeat the mantra with each movement in the circle walk practice so that "one replaces one's myriad thoughts with a single thought in order to calm and ease one's mind." The Daoists said that in walking the circle the body's movements should be unified and the practitioner strives for "stillness in motion." This practice was described as a method of "training the body while harnessing the spirit."
Footwork method for changing directions on the circle in the Daoist circle walking practice of the Quan Zhen sect.

When instructing his students Dong Hai Chuan was noted as saying, "Training martial arts ceaselessly is inferior to walking the circle. In Ba Gua Zhang the circle walk practice is the font of all training." Ba Gua Zhang instructors instruct their students to walk the circle with the spirit, Qi, intent, and power concentrated on a single goal. This is similar to the Daoist method whereby one clears the mind with a single thought. Although Ba Gua Zhang's circle walk practice trains footwork to be used in fighting, it also shares the Daoist's goals of creating stillness in motion and developing the body internally.

The general requirements of the Daoist practice was to walk with the body natural and the movements comfortable. The practitioner strived to achieve a feeling of balance while moving slowly. The Daoist practitioners were to walk slowly and gently in such a manner that their Daoist robes were only slightly disturbed by the walking movement. The Daoists started the practice on the Eastern side of the circle with their body facing North. After three revolutions, they walked through the center of the circle to the other side following an "S" shaped pattern like that described by the Tai Ji diagram (see illustration). They then reversed the direction and walked South to West. There was no set circle size. The size of the circle was determined by the practice area. As most Ba Gua Zhang practitioners know, the Ba Gua Zhang circle walking practice is very similar. The practitioner will usually start in the East and face North. In most systems the beginning practitioner will walk slowly, increasing speed gradually. The requirements of comfortable, natural movements while walking in a balanced, smooth manner with no bobbing or weaving are the same as in the Daoist method. While the Ba Gua Zhang practitioner employs numerous methods in changing the direction of the circle walk, the Tai Ji diagram pattern is one of the many changing patterns which is practiced by most major schools of Ba Gua Zhang today.

Beijing's Temple of Heaven Park has worn dirt paths around many of the trees from the practice of circle walking.

Convinced that Dong Hai Chuan had learned the Daoist circle walk practice as a member of the Quan Zhen Daoist sect and had then integrated this practice with the martial arts he had learned in his youth to form Ba Gua Zhang, Kang Ge Wu began to research the arts that Dong was known to have practiced to see if he could detect similarities. Since the Dong family was known for its Ba Fan Quan and thus Kang was fairly certain that Dong Hai Chuan had studied this art in his youth, Kang investigated the forms and postures of this art with the elderly practitioners of today. Not only did he discover that Ba Fan Quan techniques rely heavily on the use of palm striking, he also found that many of the postures and movements of Ba Fan Quan are identical to Ba Gua Zhang. Included in Kang's thesis are photographs of Ba Fan Quan practitioners' postures compared to Ba Gua Zhang postures found in Ba Gua Zhang books by third generation practitioners Guo Gu Min, Sun Lu Tang, Sun Xi Kun and Huang Bo Nian. He concluded that many of the Ba Gua Zhang postures and movements are identical to those found in Ba Fan Quan, Xing Men, Hong Quan, and Jin Gang Quan.

Having found no solid evidence to prove otherwise, Kang concluded that Dong Hai Chuan was the originator of Ba Gua Zhang. He states that after practicing the circle walk practice with the Daoists, Dong recognized the utility of this footwork and body movement in martial arts. Kang believes that Dong Hai Chuan's genius was in coming up with a system of martial arts whereby the practitioner could deliver powerful strikes while remaining in constant motion. Due to Ba Gua Zhang's combination of unique footwork and body mechanics, the Ba Gua Zhang stylist never has to stop moving. The feet are in continuous motion even when applying a block or strike. Kang said that Dong's development of the Kou Bu (hooking step) and Bai Bu (swinging step) footwork in directional changes was also an important addition.

* The Quan Zhen sect of Daoism can be traced back to the Tang period (eighth century) in China. It evolved as one of the two main schools of Daoism. The other main school, that of the "Heavenly Masters," has been passed on hereditarily since the Han Dynasty. The Quan Zhen sect was based on the Buddhist model of monastic communities. The Western missionaries in China refered to the Quan Zhen Daoist as the "Daoist popes." In 1222 Genghis Khan's religious teacher Qiu Chang Chun, a Quan Zhen Daoist, was installed by Genhis as head of the religious Chinese. (Reference: The Taoist Body, by Kristofer Schipper, translated by Karen C. Duval, University of California Press, 1993.

Re Blogged From The Pa Kua Chang Journal

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Circle Walk Practice of Ba Gua Zhang By Dan Miller

Ba Gua Zhang instructor Sha Guo Cheng
(1904-1992) walks the circle holding the
"Rubbing Body Palm" posture.

" In Ba Gua Zhang, mobility is primary.
Store then release, evade then return,
False and true change inside the steps.
Move like the wind . . . "

So begins the "Song of Ba Gua Zhang" handed down by the art's founder Dong Hai Chuan over a century ago. Its message to practitioners is clear - practice the footwork! While there are a variety of footwork components which are practiced by the Ba Gua Zhang practitioner, the major component is trained while the practitioner walks in a circle, or multiple circles, and thus the circle walking practice has become the trademark of Ba Gua Zhang. While one goal of training the circular footwork is to develop Ba Gua Zhang's characteristic evasiveness and mobility in combat, the depth of this practice reaches far beyond its application in self-defense.

A good Ba Gua Zhang practitioner spends a lot of time walking in circles; the question on everyone else's lips is, "Why are you doing that?" If Kwai Chang Caine practiced Ba Gua Zhang his answer to this question might be something like, "Those who practice will know. Those who don't practice will never know." A very short answer which holds a lot of truth, however, since I can't fill up the rest of this article with a flashback to my youth at the Shaolin Temple, I guess I will have to come up with something a little more concrete.

The Ba Gua Zhang practitioner will benefit in many ways from the circle walk practice. Health, longevity, body strength, stamina, coordination, balance, Qi cultivation, calming of the mind, mental concentration, mobility in combat, body/mind unity, stillness in motion, etc. - all of these aspects of physical, mental, and spiritual* health can be improved through simple circle walking. As third generation Ba Gua Zhang instructor Li Zi Ming states in his book Liang Zhen Pu Eight Diagram Palm, "When cultivated to the highest level of proficiency, circle walking serves to regulate physiological functions by balancing metabolism, improving the physical constitution and enhancing the overall health. Therefore, it is not only a way to maintain health, but also a key to longevity. Furthermore, it is a good method for vanquishing enemies.2" As Li lived to be 92 years of age, he can certainly validate the longevity claim.

Every system of Ba Gua Zhang contains numerous variations to the circle walking practice. While certain principles are always adhered to while walking the circle, variations on the theme are many. In this article we will explore the history of Ba Gua's circle walk practice, examine the underlying principles which are common to all circle walking methods, and then take a look at some of the many variations of the circle walk practice available to Ba Gua Zhang practitioners.

* When we refer to "spirit" or "spiritual" here we are not speaking in religious terms. The term is use here in the context of describing one's individual spirit as it is defined in Chinese Medicine. It relates to a quality of vitality

Re-Blogged From The Pakua Journal

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Oregon Internal Martial Arts - Yi Zong West: The Establishment of Tang Shou Dao

An Excellent post by Matt Autrey:
Oregon Internal Martial Arts - Yi Zong West: The Establishment of Tang Shou Dao: "                                                                                     Of the three Hong brothers, Hong Yi Xiang did the most ..."

Friday, May 6, 2011


Li Cunyi (李存义), a.k.a. Li Zhongyuan (李忠元), was one of the most influential Xingyiquan figure at the end of 19th century and early 20th century.

Li Cunyi
Li Cunyi was born in Shen County of Hebei Province in 1847. Li studied Xingyiquan under Liu Qilan (刘奇兰, 1819 – 1889) at 20 years old , he later became friend with Cheng Tinghua (程庭华, 1848 – 1900) and studied Baguazhang under Cheng’s teacher, Dong Haichuan (董海川, 1797 – 1882). In actual fact, it was Cheng who passed most of the Baguazhang skills to Li.

Li Cunyi joined “Righteous Harmony Society” at the age of 50 in 1900. Li used to held a saber against the army of the Eight-Nation Alliance during Boxer Rebellion, and the nickname of “Single Saber” Li has became famous.

Li Cunyi has been teaching martial arts to the army of Liu Kunyi (刘坤一, 1830 – 1902) in 1890. Li later ran a “Biaoju” business in Baoding, and he also tough Xingyiquan (both staffs and students) during those years. The business later closed down due to poor management.

Li Cunyi has co-founded “Chinese Warrior Association” at Tianjin City in 1911 which spread the skill of Xingyiquan, this caused Tianjin to become one of the headquarter of Hebei Xingyiquan. Li Cunyi later tough his arts at Shanghai Jingwu Tiyuhui (Chin Woo Athletic Association) under the invitation of the association.

Li Cunyi resided to his hometown and tough the skills of Xingyiquan in his later years. Li passed away at the age of 74 in 1921.

Li Cunyi’s students include Shang Yunxiang (尚云祥, 1846 -1937, his Xingyiquan was later known as Shang Style Xingyiquan by his successors), Wang Benian (黄柏年, 1880 – 1954), Fu Jianqiu (傅剑秋, 1885 – 1956), Chen Panling (陈泮岭, 1891 – 1967, Chen later resided to Taiwan during the Civil War of China).

Re-Blogged from Xingyi Max

Thursday, May 5, 2011

“Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards”.

Narrated by Li Zhong-xuan
Recorded by Xu Hao-feng
Translated by Tomabey

What is a better way to start my translation “career” than to present you with the best of the best in Chinese martial art writing? I have picked this one out of the Li Zhong-xuan series because it vividly illustrates how martial art culture, tradition, training and secrets are interwoven together.

The Chinese martial art world was visibly shaken two years ago when an 85-year-old Mr. Li Zhong-xuan came out from nowhere and introduced himself as one of Master Shang Yun-xiang’s disciples. Published in the Chinese Wuhun Magazines, his articles have since caught the fantasies of thousands of martial art practitioners.

Ancient Xingyi poems suggest one can increase his power by producing certain sounds, this method is called, “Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards”. Mr. Li Zhong-xuan became a disciple of the Xingyi master Shang Yun-xiang when Shang was in his advanced age whereas Li was only 19-year-old. Since the huge age difference, Shang commanded Li not to have any disciples in the future, in order to avoid seniority confusion in the Shang’s school of Xingyi. After Master Shang passed away, Li continued his personal development alone, away from the martial arts circles. He is now 86 years old. At this age, he becomes even more attached to his memories of Master Shang. Thus he wishes to record the stories of his martial art study in an effort to enrich the martial art legacy.

This story is about the “Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards”.

Before Li Zhong-xuan became a disciple of Shang Yun-xiang, he had studied with Shang’s younger martial art brother Tang Wei-lu at Ning River. He had inherited the complete system from Master Tang: the martial arts, medicine, and Taoism (As a neijia system, Xingyi is found on the principles of Taoism, which includes medicine and neigong - the internal training) and had became Tang’s principle disciple. Once, when Tang verbally taught him the ancient Xingyi poems, he came across the phrase “Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards”, but did not go into it in detail. Li took it as shouting out load in combat in order to unsettle the enemy’s nerves, so he didn’t follow up on it.

He was ignoring it, because Master Tang forbad his students to make any kind of sound during practice. Once Li finished his practice in a high spirit, he proceeded to sing some Beijing Opera before he was verbally trashed by his teacher. “To practice martial arts is to work on your Qi; once you open your mouth you waste anything away!” Tang said dangerously, “More over, since all your Jing-Qi-Shen is contained in your breathing, if you don’t work on absorbing them internally, but rather singing them away with your big mouth, you are putting your life on the line.” Because of this “no talking while practicing” rule, Li was biased against making any sounds, so he did not continue to investigate.

Li had taken Tang’s rule to his heart, because he could draw from his own experience. After a Xingyi training session, he could feel his energy steaming within him. If he started to talk casually he would indeed sense this steam “leaking out”. Now to dissolve this breath of energy, as Tang instructed, you should not sit down right away after the training, instead, walk slowly. After strolling around the surroundings a few times you may feel as if you have taken a steamy shower, your mind and energy is crispy clear. As the days go on, your intelligence will improve. Hence martial arts training is the production and digestion of energies: the beginning of a movement is just as important as the closing, the time you spend wondering around after the exercises may even be longer than your actual practice.

The way Tang taught old Xingyi poems was to recite the whole thing out, have Li memorizing them, then explained them section by section later on. Because martial art training requires actual practice, only after you have reached a particular level you may not have the corresponding comprehension for that level. Sometimes Tang’s explanations were very clear, other times they were difficult for Li to follow - it seemed even Tang had trouble searching for the right words. Once they got to the section on “Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards”, Li asked, “Is it for driving fear into the opponents?” “No, no,” Tang quickly corrected him, “it means using the sound to increase your Kung Fu.” – that goes against Tang’s rule of “no talking while practicing”, so Li had to know why. Tang explained that his teacher Li Cun-yi’s had once said, “To push your Kung Fu to a new level, take ‘Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards’ with your travel.” Tang pointed out, “The only catch is that your Kung Fu has to reach a certain level before it will work magically.” Li wasn’t about to let go of his teacher’s last words, he asked, “So it isn’t about crying out load, but a training method! Could Sifu elaborate more?”

Tang was stuck. After thinking it over for a while, he led Li to a temple by the town of Ning River. Making sure that no one else was nearby, he lightly knocked on a large bell hanging inside the temple. The bell gave a resonating sound. Tang asked Li to put his hand on the bell. “That’s it,” Tang said. Seeing Li was still confused, Tang commented, “Back then Sifu Li Cun-yi taught me the secret of ‘Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards’ exactly this way, I didn’t hide anything from you. Only you didn’t get it.” So the matter was put aside.

In order for his disciple to reach a new height, Tang later have Li transfering to Shang’s school, so Li moved from Ning River to Beijing. Li’s family had relatives in Bejing, but Beijing was then in turmoil, a lot of people headed south bound, leaving behind a lot of vacant houses. Rent was unprecedented cheap. Li spent a few days in a relative’s home, then rent his own room and settled down in Beijing to study martial arts fulltime.

Since Li was used to Ning River’s countryside large-family-style living complex, and now he was living in a hutong - narrow alleys in the old Beijing city, he was intrigued by everything new. Back then Mr. Yan, an accountant who was very good at using abacus was living in the same hutong. When he had some spare time, he often taught the neighborhood kids how to use abacus. And that was how Li got started. Little did he realize then that he would become an accountant. Whenever he contemplated on how a game from years ago would eventually turned into a skill set for making a living, he couldn’t help but to marvel the karma and the coincidences in one’s fate.

One time Mr. Li asked Li while he was teaching Li abacus, “I used to think your martial artists must have thick fingers and rough hands full of calluses, you wouldn’t be any good with abacus. I didn’t realize your fingers are finer than a woman’s.” Li replied, “Neijia people don’t have to hit others with hard fists.” It just happened Tang had come from Ning River to visit his disciple. He was resting in Li’s room when he heard Mr. Yan speaking with Li outside, so out he came with a grin. He stuck his palms out and said, “Mr. Yan, my palms also don’t have any callus.”

Mr. Yan was even more surprised, because Tang was farming in a village near the town of Ning River, yet not only his palms didn’t have any callus, they were also small and without any mark of physical labor. Tang remarked, “But my hands are powerful.” He reached out with his hand, yanked out a nail which was tied to a string women used for drying their clothing out of the wall, then aimed the nail not at the original hole but a bit off to the side. With one twist of his hand the nail was back into the brick. Mr. Yan was dumbfounded at the sight.
One day a friend of Shang Yun-xang came for a visit when Li was in Shang’s house. This gentleman didn’t feel too good, feeling dizzy and suffering from tightness in the chest. He heard that reading Buddhist scripts might cure his illness so he heartily got a copy and started reading everyday. But the scripts were hard to understand; the more he had struggled with it mentally, the tighter his chest became. So he wanted to know out how he could get better.

Shang answered, “It takes even more mental work to study martial arts. I think you are only weak. Finding a good doctor to adjust your system gradually with medicine is your best bet.” After that friend had left, Shang continued chatting with Li. After a while, they started talking about this friend. Shang remarked, “Actually there is one way to cure illnesses: it’s reading. You have to be like a kid going to elementary school: don’t pay attention to what you are reading. Rather, swallow it down and just go on reading, so as long as the text is easy to read, it will benefit your mind and body. But adults don’t have as much energy as children. Reading aloud may hurt our chi in the liver. Instead, sound out only the tones and don’t be troubled with pronouncing every word clearly. As long as you get the ups and downs of the phrases you are fine.”

Li asked, “Why is that?” Shang explained, “Nothing in particular. I saw how charged up kids were once they started school, so I made it up.” Li followed, “So how come you didn’t teach your friend this trick?” Shang said, “He was troubled by life problems and was down in spirit, which was why he felt sick. It is better for him not to think about anything and not to use his mind too much, so I didn’t want to trouble him with this method.”

And so this topic was over. A few days later, Li suddenly had a thought inspired by that reading method: perhaps the “Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards” has some intricacy with voice? So he presented the question to his teacher. Shang took one look at him mischievously, “The Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards is not something you should practice. If you want to use it to frighten your enemy, go right ahead and practice. But too much practice will only hurt your brain and may drive you crazy.” Li insisted, “But opera singers do project their voice out load in practice.” Shang said, “Hey, but they don’t practice martial arts.”

From then on Li no longer dared to ask about the “Sounds of Thunder”. After they became acquainted with one anther, Shang began to teach Li. Since his teaching was very different from Tang Wei-lu’s, Li was puzzled, at times even visibly. Shang sensed his puzzlement, and laugh, “What Tang Wei-lu had taught you was exactly the same system as the one our teacher Li Cun-yi had taught us; what I am teaching is my own system.” Li was quick to jump onto this topic and told Shang how Tang taught him the “Sounds of Thunder” by knocking on a bell. Shang agreed, “Yes. My teacher Li taught me in the same way.” Li asked, “If that was how Master Li Cun-yi explained it; how do you teach it yourself?”

Shang was cracking up, he said, “My dear disciple really knows how to dig around. Okay, I will explain it to you when a thunder comes around next time.” Li figured Shang was joking in order to get him off the subject, nevertheless, for a while he was hoping for rain every day. Yet days went by without rain and Shang never brought up the subject again. Li had no choice but to focus on his training and dropped the idea.

Just then Shang’s neighbor had a group of kittens, one of them still didn’t pop up her two ears a month after birth, her ears were dangling loose like a doggy. Shang liked that kitty very much, even though he hadn’t adopted her, he often brought her back home and hugging her around. One day Li went over to visit Shang and found him sitting in the courtyard playing with this kitty with a short clothing strip, so Li sat aside. Noticed Li was waiting, Shang stopped after a few more games. He hug the kitty in his chest, closed his eyes, nd run his hands on the cat’s hair. He seemed to have spaced out. After a while, suddenly he said, “You have never seen a tiger or a leopard, me neither. But certainly you have seen a cat before, haven’t you? Actually, once a smart person has heard the phrase, “Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards”, he will have figured out what is going on.”

“Cats are like Tigers or Leopards, they make this “um” sounds all the time,” Shang declared. Li took the cat from Shang and listened. Yes, he heard this “um” sound coming from inside the cat, and even sensed a vibration on his two hands holding the cat. Shang further explained: once you reach a certain stage in your training, your bones, muscles, and tendons will be toughened up. At that point your trainings should aim inwards, which means you should work on improving your internal organs. But it is a difficult step, so you have to use certain sounds as bridges. The sounds originated from inside propagate outwards, your forces starting from outside move inwards. As a result, your inside will be connected with outside, and your Kung Fu will reach a new level.

Shang summarized, “The so-called ‘Sounds of Thunder’ is not the thunder from lightning, they are rather the humming noise from the sky right before the rain. You may hear them clearly, or you may not. But they are always very low in frequency.” Afterwards, Shang demonstrated the two “um” and “su” sounds.

It has been some sixty years since Shang Yun-xiang passed down the secret of “Sounds of Thunder from Tiger and Leopard”. As Li Zhong-xuan was bringing back his memories from the distance past, he remarked jokingly, “If it wasn’t for the kitty with sloppy ears, I might not have heard the Sounds of Thunder from Tigers and Leopards.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shang Yun-Xiang’s Xingyi Quan pt 2

Master Li Zhong-xuan explained a broad range of fundamentals in this article, including the beginning movement of Xingyi and secrets techniques in Standing.
First Published by the July, 2003 issue of Wuhun, Copyright

(Note: I looked for the original translations and website of this material and they are gone. I think the information contained in the article is interesting, it is part of a series that i will post over the next few days. It was translated by Tomabey. I believe this a picture of Li Zhong-xuan if not let me know :)

The beginning is the most difficult of all things. To practice Xingyi without understanding the beginning movement, one cannot master the Pi, Beng, Quan, Pao, and Heng. This time I will start from the beginning movement and end up with the Horse Form. The Horse Form is easy to learn and handy in application, perhaps it will increase my reader’s interest in Xingyi, I hope.

Before I begin I shall answer some of the recent mails from my readers.
(1) In Xue Dian's book, "Xiang Xing Shu" (“Imitation Boxing”, as Jarek in has translated), it says when one’s Kungfu has reached the highest level, his body can discharge electricity upon hitting somebody. Could you do so?
(2) You once mentioned that there are some difference between the Hunyuan Stance and Twenty-Four Requirements. Unfortunately, I don’t understand what you mean by “one is devoid of all desires while the other has specific goal”.
(3) My throat hurts every time I practice Xingyi, what’s the cure?
(4) One of your previous article suggests that once someone has mastered Pi Quan, he can naturally perform the Tiger Form. What’s the reason?

The martial arts circle is full of legends. I had a friend named Jin Dong-lin who was born with a crooked spine. Hadn’t seen him for a few years, I happened to run into him one day and found out that his spine was straightened. He said an old guy from the Xinjian province had cured him, which till this day I have never figured out how it was possible. Another legend was the rumored skill called “Eruption from the Mouth”.

In the old days it was a tradition for martial artists to visit other martial artists all over the country once they had graduated. They looked for whoever was the famous, they walked in and they fight. Learned a technique or two if they lost; walked out if they won. There was this strong guy going to test out an old man. The old man said, “Can you tell I am too old? I am not interested in competition any more.” But the younger fellow insisted on an exchange. Seeing someone was carrying two barrels of water passing by, the old guy said, “Okay, okay. But you have to let me drink some water.” So he stopped the water carrier. The bully young guy couldn’t believe his eyes, for the old man drank a whole barrel of water. Before the young guy realized what was going on, the old man suddenly opened his mouth, and the surging out water stream knocked the young guy on the ground.

I had never seen Xingyi people playing this stuff; I thought it was merely a legend. Then one time I went to an opera and watched the famous opera singer Guo Yue-lou demonstrating this skill on the stage. In the back of the stage he also performed this trick, a mouthful of water can be ejected to a long distance. If you were to stand next to him and have him spit the water at you, you would be like being punched with a small fist.

I was an opera fan when I was young, since then I haven’t been inside an opera house for some thirty to forty years. Hitting somebody with electricity is beyond my ability, so you cannot use me as the proof. But during martial art practice one must have “the feeling of electricity”, which is sensitivity.

Once Shang Yun-xiang and Chang Yan-hua [1] tried out each other, Shang was the one who started it. Master Shang was short and carrying a big belly. He went to visit Chang a New Year. Sitting behind a large table, he secretly bumped the table with his belly. Just when his force was about to move the table, Chang’s hand had landed on the table. Afterwards these two went into the courtyard to try out each other. Some said, “Chang Yan-hua has mystical power”, praising Chang’s sensitivity.

Sensitivity is the key in bringing out a number of Kungfu, or skills. Therefore the opening of Xingyi is the “opening” of sensitivity. The actual form goes like this: your two hands raise upward as if they are holding two bowls of water, turning slightly while passing your eye bows level, they reach the top of your head. Be careful not to spill the imaginary water. That caution leads to your sensitivity.

Once reaching the top, your hands came down like the receding tide, moving in front of your eye bows, you get the sensation of compressing air. The air is a big sponge - you have to squeeze the water out of it. You keep pressing until your hands reaching your thigh. At this point you have to bend your knees and close your kua (the inside of your thigh), your whole body squats down. As you are squatting down, your hands lift and pull towards your waist. You body is tied up in a bundle, so are your hands, as if they are to squeeze and twist something, all five fingers are closed up together to form a fist.

Note 1: Chang Yan-hua was the famous Bagua master.

As soon as the first movement begins, your whole body becomes sensitive. Lifting up your two arms, your mind is crispy clear; like the standing up mane in the back of a wild animal's head, your neck goes into an alert state. Bending your knees and squatting down, it charges you with energy; like the extending tail of a wild animal when it locks his jaws onto the target, your tail bone goes into an alert state. Human's eyes are located at the front of the head, people look at things in front of them, nobody's too slow for what's happening in front - only when you become sensitive to what's behind you can be faster than everybody else.

Xingyi's first movement offers many benefits, learning just this movement alone will give you plenty of practice material. Following the first movement you go into Pi, Beng, Zhuan, Pao and Heng, you should carry this sensitivity with you. The Hunyuan Stance also requires your sensitivity. Its posture looks like this: you put your two arms in front of you as if they are suspended in air with just a hint of hugging something, your left and right palms are facing your left and right chest respectively. Otherwise you do whatever is natural for you and don't worry about other requirements.

The key to the Hunyuan Stance is in the eyes, your eyes have to look up. The first thing about martial arts training is the training of your eyes, with the eyes it comes the the spirit, Shen, therefore the first thing about martial arts training is also the training of your spirit. Say you climb to the top of a mountain, you can be so tired that you are about to collapse. But as soon as you look into the distance your body is lighten up again. That is exactly the idea behind Hunyuan Stance.

There’s a saying, “The hearts have channels to communicate with one another”. The spirit in your eyes is that channel. You may stand for a long time to exercise your tendons and bones, but that only strengthen your tendons and bones – you haven’t done much standing yet. The relationship between the spirit of the eyes and the body is what you have to taste in a Hunyuan stance. Only when that channel is opened there is life. When winter is retreating and spring is coming back, life is returning to the soil, you can smell its fragrance. Holding a handful of soil, you can see every particle being alive. Same for standing, you have to feel the life in you.

When you stand in the Hunyuan posture, your body has to be led by your eyes, itself cannot have any artificial movement. Since the martial arts is an experimental science, I only wish to discuss Hunyuan stance with these sentences. On the other hand, the Twenty-Four Requirements analyze your body in great detail.

The Twenty-Four Requirements are rules for every part of the body, from head to toes, they are everywhere in every framework. Since it’s impossible to meet all twenty-four requirements completely in the beginning, in actual teaching the adjustments are made one at a time - eventually one has to meet all requirements at any given time. You may work on the adjustments in sessions, a few seconds or a few minutes at a time, or you may keep on standing like the way you do the Hunyuan stance. The older generations generally preferred to do them in sessions, for example, Li Cun-yi’s skillsdidn’t come from prolong standing.

If your throat hurts after your exercise, you haven’t meet the “tongue pushing upward” requirement. When your tongue is not touching the roof of your mouth, you loose energy as you practice, of course you will have a throat problem. A sore throat is still a small problem in comparison, Master Shang said, “You’ve got to watch over the young beginners, or they may get a crooked back.” Sports in general mostly work on your four limbs, whereas martial arts also work on your spine. If your don’t meet the Twenty-Four Requirements, your posture will be crooked no matter what form you do. As time goes on, your spine will suffer. While working on forms you get a lot of movement, whereas in standing you hold on to a posture, where it’s easy to injure your tendons and bones, therefore you need to know about the Twenty-Four Requirements to protect yourself.

When you are meeting the Twenty-Four Requirements, you feel light and floating. Don’t look for forces and play with Jings when you are standing. As you stand there and time is passing by, your body may start to play with the forces, you shall learn to relax and let it go. Xingyi is an art that thrives on relaxation but frowns upon tightness. Sensitivity is her first priority - once you use forces you slow down your own progress. As a matter of fact, only when you can feel light and weightless you are using your forces correctly. To empty your whole body is to bring your whole body alive.

Not only you have to meet the Twenty-Four Requirements while you are standing, you have to follow them when you speed up. They have to be in your movements. The transition from static postures to movements is a major barrier - therefore you need to learn the art of "moving in one centimeter".

Putting the Twenty-Four Requirements into your form is not the same as setting up showy postures that have no meaning. Once your posture is meeting the requirements, it has to become alive - something is to be born from the structure. Merely having an exact posture in terms of dimension is not enough; your static posture has to have a desire to move. For example, if your posture is a tiger pouncing forward, it has to be ready to pouncing forward, and also be ready to bouncing backward. Your posture has to compress this back and forth movement within one centimeter.

When you set up a posture, you seem to be stationary. Actually the bones and tendons are pushing and pulling each other when you "jump" in this one centimeter. A mountain valley has echoes; a human body generates returning forces. If you jump forward one center-meter, you will be bounced back one centimeter. When you take advantage of the returning forces, your Gang Jing, a power with the quality of steel will come naturally. The most painful part of standing is when the bones and tendons are tired. Once you learn this technique, however, your twenty minutes of standing is as fun as twenty minutes of doing the form. Soon you will learn to enjoy standing.

If you don’t follow the Twenty Four Requirements you will never find the key to martial arts; if you don’t study the form, you won’t get to a high level. The Five Elements form is a summary of a few hundred years of practice - it’s your lose if you don’t experience it firsthand. When you realize the Tiger Pouncing is springing forward with a bouncing backward force, your feet will be able to send you forward as well as backwards, because now you have understood the working of the Tiger Pouncing.

Seeing I became a disciple of Master Shang, my teacher Tang Wei-lu informed me, “Your teacher Shang is very street smart, he pays attention to details. So be a good student.” Master Shang was wise, he knew how to express his feelings subtly. If he didn’t like something, he wouldn’t say it, instead his face turned solemn and his student would get the hint. His solemn expression would come at the right place and at the right time, it wasn’t just for frightening people. He was otherwise easy going, yet I was often afraid of speaking in front of him.

Master Shang’s study was into details, because he had grasped the reason behind every form and framework clearly, his understanding went very deep. The form taught by Master Shang was about the same as Master Tang’s, not much difference there. His understanding on the reason behind the moves was sometimes different.

Once you have learned Pi-quan you will know how to do Tiger Pouncing, because a Tiger Pouncing is the same as a Pi-quan done with two hands. Pi-quan has one hand pouncing forward with another hand rounding up the back, whereas Tiger Pouncing has two hands pouncing forward and two hands rounding up the back. When you are learning how to move “in one centimeter”, you will find Tiger Pouncing to be easier, whereas Pi-quan to be slightly harder. Therefore you can also claim: once learning Tiger Pouncing, Pi-quan will come naturally. Practicing the “one centimeter” move is also a mental study. Using this technique, you can figure out the reason behind all the movements one by one.

Master Shang earned his reputation while he was alive and kept it after he passed away. However, after Xue Dian was gone, people voided talking about him. I’ve never been to his house. When I was learning from him I went to his martial arts school, as soon as I heard a couple of interesting points, I got hook right away and immediately looked for a place without people to practice. Back then he used to stay over night in his martial arts school, which was located inside Heibei Park. As long as the lights were still on in the school, the gangers who used to hang out in the park would not dare to do anything. Xue Dian is no god, but he did secure the safety of that area.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shang Yun-xiang’s Xingyi Quan pt1

Note: I looked for the original translations and website of this material and they are gone. I think the information contained in the article is interesting, it is part of a series that i will post over the next few days. It was translated by Tomabey.

Master Li Zhong-xuan discusses the essence of Shang's Style.
Narrated by Li Zhong-xuan
Recorded by Xu Hao-feng
First Published by the October, 2001 issue of Wuhun, Copyright

I studied Xingyi from Shang Yun-xiang when I was young. Many years later, I heard people referring his martial arts as the "Shang's Style of xingyi" in respect. Recently a visiting martial arts enthusiast asked me why his Xingyi was so different from others that it was named as "the Shang's Style" . I could not come up with a concise answer at the moment, because back then I was only looking for self improvement when I studied martial arts; I had never thought about this issue. I have chatted with my teacher often, but I don't recall him comparing his martial art with others.

How people at the present day are distinguishing Shang's Xingyi with other Xingyi is beyond me. For decades I was an ordinary man and was busy making a living, I had never got involved with any of such discussion. Based on my experience in being with my teacher, the xing(posture, form) and yi(intent, "heart") in the Shang's style of Xingyi can only be taught by a teacher in person, in order for the student to get a gut feeling about it. If I have to describe it with words, then I have to say that his "form" means "no form" and his "intent" means "no intent". This is not some old monks making useless zen speech, it is a fact in martial arts training.

Take the issue with xing, for example. Some martial arts enthusiasts would automatically believe that its postures must be dramatically different from others, once they hear the term "The Shang's Style of Xingyi". They got stuck with arguments such as whether the front foot is pointing straight or at an angle, or the rear hand is held in front of one's waist or behind the front elbow. Certainly, one of the reasons for calling it "the Shang's Style" must be that it has some unique forms, but that is not the essence. They were the habit Teacher Shang formed in his many years of practice, they were not there because he was trying to create his own school and made them up for the sake of being different. Being able to balance and coordinate is an inherited ability of the human body. Even if you drastically change the old postures, with consistent practice you can make it look like the real thing. If you so claim to have created a new style, surely must you be joking?

Teacher Shang’s famous saying was, “Do train on the power but not the form, do use Jing but not the force.” If all one sees is the postures but does not study the principles behind them, he is “marking the boat for the sword [1]”. Some analyze the Shang’s form from the point of mechanics, they believe the reason for the change is for a better power release; or they consider Shang’s body shape, believe that the form was changed to make it more suitable for short and heavy people, which perhaps has some true in it. Unfortunately, because Shang’s Xingyi uses Jing rather than force, to analyze it with mechanics is to start with the wrong foot.

If you study it from the point of application, take Sparrow, for example, you may see that other styles utilize the shoulders, whereas Shang’s style uses the foot. Since the targets are different, the postures are certainly not the same. The fact of the matter is that if Shang’s Sparrow comes out using the shoulders, what’s wrong with that? It’s not boxing, whose downward hook is only for the chin and a straight jab is aiming the face. Once you put out a posture, you can attack people with any part of your body. When a posture is as good as one hundred postures, only then it is Xingyi. Otherwise with only the few postures in Five Elements and Twelve Animals, how could it become one of the three major Neijing systems

More over, every posture in Xingyi can be manifested in three different ways: training, application, and demonstration, depending on the purpose. Books don’t talk about these. Only after you become a disciple, you may know them all. The so-called sets in the books are often a random mix of application, training methods and demonstration. If you use the sets to compare the difference and similarity between the Shang’s Style and others, how can you figure it out? For example, some styles start Piquan with the rear hand rubbing the inside of the front forearm. Because the forearm is covered with Jing Luo, or meridians, the rubbing motion has health benefits. Therefore it’s one of the training methods. Another example, some have the front arm extending high and level, and the two hands coming back slowly - they are for health considerations, no good in a fight. In order for comparison to work, we have to compare the three categories one-on-one. A rather complicated work it is, so we won’t delve into the details in the article.

Using Jing is like wrapping a pile of loose mandarin oranges (human body) with a net and throwing the whole thing out. Doing it this way the body weight will not be devalued, instead, it can take advantage of acceleration to project a force that’s larger than the body weight. Knowing such creative solution, Shang’s Xingyi certainly “uses Jing but not the force.”

Only when one lets’ go of the force will his training produce Jing, that’s because Jing is associated with the entire body. Once you use force, you are stuck with segments: you may gain sesames but you loose a watermelon. Some martial art enthusiasts read the sentence from boxing chronicles: “Xingyi has Ming (clear) Jing, An (hidden) Jing, and Hua (dissolved) Jing”, then reckon they must show some power at the beginning of their training. So they do a lot of Fali (power release) right away and go some obvious results, they can fight really well. They heard the cliché “A Xingyi student can kill somebody within a year” and believed they were on the right track. If that’s the truth, then how is it different from a boxer hitting sandbags? You can kill somebody after a year of boxing training. A good boxer’s punch can be 70 pounds. With that 70 pounds hitting one’s chest, of course it can kill him.

The fact is that the character “Ming” as Ming Jing in the boxing chronicles not only means clarity, but also means comprehension. You have to “observe the Jing within your own body”. Your punches will naturally become stronger in this stage. The word “An Jing” means a transition from clear to hidden, from awareness to subconsciousness: let go of your observations, let the Jing become an automatic reaction. Hua Jing is a state where you can switch between awareness and subconsciousness at will.
Since An Jing and Hua Jing are difficult to describe, I will only try to talk about Ming Jing. There’s a trick in Ming Jing training: look for it at the turning points. The Five Elements are not about techniques, but rather trainings on five different Jing. Therefore the turns are different for each element, the turning postures are designed to express their particular Jing. So work on your turns more often, it may help you figuring things out.

Legend used to say that whenever Sun Lu-tang run into difficulty in explaining Jing to his students, he would compare the Jings in Xingyi with those in Taiji to give them more inspiration. After a while he found it amusing himself so he created the Sun Style Taiji. Not sure about the accuracy of this story, but there were Xingyi people who made a lot of discoveries after seeing Sun Style Taiji.

In the process of practicing Jing, naturally you will run into the feeling of Shen-Qi, or the spirit. This is not the place for such discussion, only the practitioners know it themselves. If you study it from Fali (Power Explosion)’s point of view, there must be a posture that’s better than the others. Regardless, Shang’s Xingyi uses Jing, once you have the Jing, one posture is no good or worst than the others, therefore it is pointless to discuss the Xing, or the appearance.

Speaking of Yi, there are people who artificially introduce thoughts and imaging. The damages are beyond measure. In the old days some martial artists had no proper education. Before they had received quality instruction, they read the adjectives in the boxing chronicles and took them as secretes. For example, when they read the phrase “Four Ounces Moving A Thousand Pounds”, they started thinking about tricks in mechanics. Once they think like a thief and want to take shortcuts, they would never get the real Kungfu. These days some martial artists are influenced by Qigong, they add lots of thoughts and imaging into their practice, such as “holding up the entire ocean with your hands” while doing standing. How much does the ocean weight? Thoughts like this will create mental tension for no good reason. Doing it all the time will only shorten your life.

Another example, some read the line in a poem: “Enemy encountered, my body was like on fire”. They don’t understand “body on fire” is merely an analogym instead of the actually physical condition. Imagining your body catching fire when you go to a fight, you will ruin your reaction. You will loose for sure.

So really what does “Yi” refer to? A little girl in the gymnastics team doesn’t take much effort to do a somersault, she doesn’t need much thinking either; she only relies on her trained body feelings. When her feeling comes she will complete a somersault. The Yi in Xingyi is similar. It’s not some imagined pictures in your brain, so Yi means not thinking (translator: the original text says, “Yi equals no Yi”).

Master Shang always encouraged his students to get more education. He said people with education could pick up martial arts faster. A martial artist is a true martial artist only when he looks more like a scholar than a scholar. Most top generals in the ancient books had the portrait of a scholar. Same for people who study martial arts: if you spend the whole day looking angry, as if you are always playing with your swords and drawing bows with arrows, you won’t get the highest Kungfu. That’s because a lot of the stuff on the boxing chronicles were written between the lines. While scholars may get it in a second, martial artists can easily be confused. And so Master Shang himself was very easy going. His face had a creamy look; his skin was very soft. He didn’t have the look of frowning or staring like a typical martial artist. Only when people walked behind him, he might turn and cast a glance, which was quit frightening.

The Yi of Xingyi is like the casual creation of a painter. The composition and strokes are not arranged ahead of time, yet once the brush hits the paper everything becomes alive – only that is the real feeling. It comes before your movement, before your imagination, as if before a rain, the moisture carried by the breeze, it's here and there. Grasp this feeling and you may start to train in Shang’s style of Xingyi.

The Xing and Yi, the form and the heart of Shang’s style of Xingyi can be summarized by a poem, “Such subtlety, clear and pure, how many people will understand?”

(The End)


Shang Yunxiang (尚云祥), a.k.a. Shang Jiting (尚霁亭), was a renowned master during Xingyiquan of late Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) and early Minguo (Republic of China, 1911 – 1949).

Shang Yunxiang was born in Leling City of Shandong Province in 1864, he passed away at the age of 73 in 1937.

Shang Yunxiang obtained his Xingyiquan skills from Li Cunyi (李存义, 1847 – 1927). In the beginning, Li Cunyi refused to accept Shang as a student due to his “not-ideal-physique for martial arts”, Shang was skinny and short with a height of less than 1.6 meters. It was under the intercede of Zhuo Mingtai (周明泰, a student of Liu Qilan) that Li Cunyi accepted Shang Yunxiang as his student.

Shang Yunxiang had also learned Baguazhang from both Li Cunyi and Cheng Tinghua (程庭华, 1848 – 1900). Shang was well known with his bengquan combat skills that motivated Guo Yunshen (郭云深, 1820 – 1901) visited Shang personally and passed his famous “Half Step Bengquan” techniques to Shang.

Shang Yunxiang, like his shifu Li Cunyi, was famous with his combat ability, he earned nicknames like “Iron Arms”, “Iron Feet Buddha”, “Half Step Bengquan”, etc., through real combats and his ability of generating exceptionally strong power. Shang’s career was all martial arts related, he has worked as a biaotou (headman of a biaoju), bodyguard, detective, martial arts teacher and so on.

Shang Yunxiang’s Xingyiquan was heavy promoted as Shang Style Xingyiquan by his successors in recent years. The leading promoters of Shang Style Xingyiquan were Li Wenbin (李文彬, 1918 – 1997, Shang’s student), Shang Zhirong (尚芝容, 1923 – 2004, Shang’s youngest daughter), Li Hong (李宏, 1954 – ), Zhang Shijie (张世杰, 1946 – ), etc.

Biaoju is an establishment which provides services such as escorts, bodyguards, transport of goods (armed) for a fee.

re-blogged from Xingyi Max