Saturday, February 9, 2019

Sun Lu-T’ang Style pt 2 by Bradford Tyrey

Part 2 of 3: Further Aspects Taught Within Traditional Sun Lu-T’ang Style According to Master Sun Lu-T’ang and Madam Sun Jian-Yun.
One morning in 1984 Madam Sun told me that instead of having class we were to go visit someone. When we arrived I was introduced to Master Wang Xi-Kui who was perhaps Sun Lu-T’ang’s last surviving indoor disciple. He often went to Shanghai to be with family but would frequently return to Beijing to be with friends and his students. Master Wang was a very gentle soul who was a wealth of information, someone who absolutely loved the opportunity to sit and tell old stories about training with Sun Lu-T’ang and travels with him. I treasured every minute of it. He also loved spontaneously jumping up from his old bamboo chair and would demonstrate a plethora of bagua, xingyi and taiji that Master Sun had taught him. I found that in 1984 many Chinese were looking toward the future and doing away with the old, including old teachers of Chinese boxing. Master Wang therefore had very few people wanting to visit him, and even fewer ever spent more than an afternoon with him. He heard from Madam Sun that I would be delighted beyond words if he would be willing to tell me stories about those days. Master Wang was quite happy to speak with me and did not mind that another student from Madam Sun’s class come along to help translate. We all got along so well that he began teaching us the methods that he learned from Master Sun.
While Master Wang was showing a bagua knife form that he was taught by Master Sun he began explaining about the 三勁 sanjin that Master Sun emphasized. I was completely lost during the discussion so my translator thankfully took notes and carefully explained them later. Over the months I came to understand the terminology and meanings that Sun Lu-T’ang taught his students and hopefully I can explain these adequately for all of you. I will do my best, but forgive me for any failings.
First, let me explain the meaning of the term 三勁 sanjin as I learned it. The character 三 san simply means ‘three,’ nothing more than this, no hidden Taoist meaning this time. However, the character 勁 jin presents a challenge. It does not mean one thing but rather several things merging into one. Master Wang said that 勁 jin represents a special strength that can only be produced when one’s spirit becomes involved. He added that in times when you are part of a life and death situation your spirit will give you extraordinary focus and strength that can be expressed outward; this merging of strength and spirit which is expressed outwards is 勁 jin. So, we could translate 三勁 sanjin, in the most general way, as ‘the issuance [expression] of one’s spirit and strength’ which can be used to produce remarkable force and unique skills. An example that Master Wang showed was he stood up and asked me to hit him in his stomach. He was a thin man who was around 82 at the time and I had no desire to hit him, even though I had little hitting ability I still did not want to. But Master Wang insisted, so I hit him lightly. Then he said it must be harder, then again harder, until I hit him with my full body weight behind the hit into his abdomen which caused injury, not to him but to my wrist. He said that this was an example of 内勁力 Nei Jinli (internal expression [issuance] of force) in which he did not yield to the force of a hit but rather transformed the force to become part of his 内力neili (internal force). Neither my classmate nor myself fully understood what we just witnessed but it did show a skill rare to find. My classmate did ask Master Wang an interesting question, could he do the same if hit in the head with an iron bar? Master Wang said that he would likely die and please do not try, that so far he could only apply this skill to a few regions of the body and that for all parts it might take another 20 or 30 years. My classmate, realizing the mistake that he had just made, sincerely apologized for implying that he wanted to test Master Wang’s head against a piece of iron. Master Wang, ever so gracious, began laughing and said that he knew he was not serious because there was no iron bar in his home to use.
As Master Wang continued he told us about the 三勁 sanjin that Master Sun spoke about quite often so that students would attend to these three important points. Below are the 三勁 sanjin as we were taught:
1. 勁化 Jinhua (to become stiff or tight). 勁化 Jinhua is a term that refers to one’s strength and spirit changing from one of naturalness to one that is unnatural. Master Wang explained that the body naturally possesses 柔軟 rouruan (supple flexibility [softness]), but through incorrect practice one’s movement and body transforms from 柔軟 rouruan to 剛度 gangdu (stiffness). In particular, Master Sun warned students not to practice xingyiquan with 剛度 gangdu (stiffness) else ill effects would injure one’s qi, organs, and overall health. He emphasized to students the importance of acquiring 柔軟剛 rouruangang (supple firmness) in both movement and spirit. In movement, Master Wang said that beginning with one’s fingertips you must sense extending, but without forced tightness. Just relax and with one’s 意 yi (mind-intent) lead qi to the very tips of each finger for just a moment and then lead the qi beyond each finger an inch or more, no more than that distance. In this way, qi can accumulate and strengthen beyond the boundary of the hand(s). Once accumulated one to two inches at first beyond the hand(s) it can then be directed by one’s 意 yi (mind-intent) into any object touched. With practice this accumulation of qi can become significant.
Generally I do not like to write about the following events for many reasons. But during my years in China I witnessed many fascinating occurrences particularly concerning Chinese boxing and Chinese medical treatment. So I want to tell of one event that I have never written about before primarily to protect the privacy of Master Wang Xi-Kui and his family. However, I think there is no issue at this time.
One afternoon Master Wang asked if I would stand and assume a fighting position. I did so and after 30 seconds of him also standing Master Wang very lightly hit me between my liver and kidney using xingyiquan’s 鑽拳 Zuanquan (Drilling Fist). I did not move and felt nothing more than a light hit that would not be of use in an actual fight. Then he asked my classmate to stand up in a guard position, and likewise he was lightly hit in the same region on his body. Neither of us thought this was impressive, but we said nothing, not wanting to offend this old master. As we sat down Master Wang took out a small piece of paper and wrote something on it and then placed the paper in his old desk. He continued explaining about what Master Sun Lu-T’ang taught in classes, and then approximately 40 minutes or so later both I and my classmate began to feel tightness and a very uneasy feeling building in the right sides of our bodies where we had been lightly hit. In fact, I came close to vomiting because nausea was setting in. Neither of us had anything to eat or drink at Master Wang’s that day, and neither of had eaten together that day at a restaurant. So, we knew that food or drink was not the cause. The sensation of tightness began to grow within both of us, somewhat like a ball expanding and placing pressure on other organs until we both asked Master Wang if he had caused this with his hit. Before answering he reached into his desk drawer and showed the paper that he had written upon. The paper read ‘Less than 1 hour.’ He said that this meant the effects of his hit would occur in less than 1 hour. I was in growing panic that something more was about to happen to me during that hour and began to sweat from fear. Master Wang calmed me and assured me that the worst had happened and for me not to be afraid. My panicked face I’m sure began to alarm him. He said that his sudden release of qi into us at a special place and time caused the sensation of swelling. Master Wang grabbed my wrist and pressed upon two points using his middle finger and thumb like a ring shape for about 2 minutes until I said that no pressure remained inside of me. He then attended to my classmate. Both of us stopped sweating from fear soon after and felt relatively comfortable. Every ten minutes for the next hour he would stop the conversation and ask if we both still felt comfortable. I recall thinking that he is a very caring individual other than the fact that he almost sent us to the hospital. Master Wang said that we would sleep very deeply that night but we would awaken feeling quite well in the morning. That night I felt not only very exhausted, but heavy, as if I weighed 30 pounds more. As Master Wang said I did awaken the next morning feeling quite robust. My classmate had much the same experience with heaviness and a restful sleep. Neither of us wanted to repeat the experience and we were cautious thereafter anytime Master Wang said to stand in front of him in a fighting position.
A couple of months later when I began initial studies in Chinese medicine in Beijing I found that the points he pressed upon my wrist were: 內關 Nei Guan (Inner Pass) being Pericardium 6 in acupuncture located three finger breadths below the wrist crease on the inner forearm in between the two tendons, and 外關 Wai Guan (Outer Pass) being Triple Warmer 5 in acupuncture located on the dorsal aspect of the forearm, on the line connecting SJ 4 and the tip of the elbow, 2 cun (Chinese inches) above the transverse crease of the wrist between the ulna and radius.
There is a famous story about Master Sun and one of his students who challenged him involving a similar incident of feeling ill after being hit that Madam Sun and Master Wang elaborated on. This event has been written about in many books and journals but I will add more according to details I was given along with that student’s photo. I will write about this event very soon in an upcoming article for all of you.
Madam Sun said that Master Wang was known for several skills that he acquired through practices with her father. He did not demonstrate these skills often and kept such things behind closed doors but because he knew that he was in his final years of teaching he wanted to impress upon others that such skills exist and are not secrets, but skills to pass on and explore. Master Wang added that the old boxing masters from many lineages had skills that are rarely found these days and he wanted to pass such knowledge to his students, not to injure others, but as a means to understand how to help those afflicted with pain and ailments.
2. 加勁 Jiajin (to increase or bolster one’s efforts). 加勁 Jiajin is a term that means when you are doing something and have reached a level of adequacy you should then apply yourself even further, adding to your effort in order to attain excellence. Master Wang told us that when Master Sun taught students many became discontented with their own sense of progress because they would compare themselves with senior students and feel ashamed at what little skill they possessed in comparison. Master Sun’s classes were often demanding and precise movement was constantly encouraged therefore each student had to daily enhance personal 意識 yishi (awareness/consciousness) of movement and their spirit so that mind and body could harmonize. Master Sun often reminded students of the characters 意志 yizhi (the intent to aspire/determination) during practice. However, he warned students that ‘to aspire’ did not mean to compare yourself with others and try to become as good or better than others but rather 意志 yizhi refers to one’s intent to excel in taijiquan and other boxing methods so as to harmonize with the Cosmos. Master Wang added ‘What greater aspiration could there be than this?’ This is the true meaning and significance of 意志 yizhi within Sun style practices.
3. 勁力 Jinli (to issue force). Madam Sun said that her father explained 勁力 jinli in different ways according to what he was teaching. She added that 勁力 jinli does not mean one thing but many. However, here I am going to explain only one meaning, the most common one to which Master Sun often referred. This involves a story that Madam Sun told our class back in the 1980s.
Madam Sun said that her father, Sun Lu-T’ang, often taught classes in Nanjing for special groups, one being military officers. Nanjing had a large military garrison that invited many Chinese boxing masters to teach at on a regular basis. Madam Sun had accompanied her father there many times, assisting him in general instruction. She said that most soldiers were just young men from the countryside who had no formal education nor had ever held professional jobs. The only martial arts they had seen were street performers and gang related fist fights. These young soldiers were difficult to teach because they did not see the value in training in traditional Chinese boxing because the military taught that a gun was more effective along with basic hand-to-hand self-defense military methods. However, high military officers reminded their soldiers that there were not enough handguns or rifles for each soldier (this being the 1920s) and that using one’s knife or bare hands in combat was likely to happen. Therefore, high officers requested that Professional Teachers, a much revered title, like Sun Lu-T’ang come to not merely instruct their soldiers in fighting skills to defend the nation but to inspire soldiers to practice Chinese boxing. Madam Sun said that this was not an easy task for her father; it was a task that gave him concern. He decided that he had to demonstrate what young men would understand the easiest, that being a fighting competition. Therefore, he asked the base commander to have a wooden stage/platform built many feet off of the ground, upon which fighting matches could take place. The day after Master Sun and his daughter arrived he was to begin teaching. He went to the wooden platform and announced to several hundred soldiers who were seated surrounding the platform that he wanted the crowd to select challengers to come up and hit, kick or throw him off the platform. The crowd erupted in frenzy, exactly what Master Sun wanted, that being their immediate interest and participation. He asked that they select ten large men with muscles. One by one they came on stage. Before each soldier attacked Master Sun explained what technique he was going to use and demonstrated it solo, giving each attacker the advantage of knowing what was to happen. Madam Sun said that she nearly could not watch because she did not like seeing her father fight. However, she did watch and saw one by one these soldiers flew from the platform into the audience once hit by her father. The last three men came on stage together and attacked Master Sun. The result was the same, all three failed. Then Master Sun invited all ten men back on stage and bowed to them, showing them respect, they returned this tribute. They requested that Master Sun teach them something and this is when Master Sun explained the concept 勁力 jinli (to issue force) when using such methods as 崩拳 Bengquan (Crushing Fist) from xingyiquan (the attached photo shows Sun Lu-T’ang demonstrating 崩拳 Bengquan.
Master Sun taught these soldiers what is known as 一馬一箭 yi ma yi jian (one horse, one arrow) which means that, for example, 崩拳 Bengquan (Crushing Fist) applied in a specific manner uses a specific method to issue force. He taught when advancing with both feet using 半步 banbu (half-stepping) the feet must feel as though they are sinking into thick mud so that rootedness of the body can begin, though agility of movement must remain. Then, the 腰部 yaobu (waist) must lead the body as a general commanding his troops. Qi from the 丹田 Tan-t’ien (Cinnabar Field [the lower region of qi]) in turn 勁力 jinli (issues force) forward like a 波 bo (a wave [an ocean’s wave]) into the shoulders which 按 an (pushes) into the elbow, and in turn the elbow pushes this wave into the hands from which 崩勁力 bengjinli (the issuance of collapsing force) is manifested. After this explanation Master Sun demonstrated the xingyiquan form 雜勢捶 Za Shi Ch’ui (Mixed Posture Poundings [Hammers]) and showed many martial applications from that form to the delight of the soldiers. They began shouting that they all wanted to study such methods. The commander of the garrison thereby established weekly Chinese boxing training for his troops under the direction of Master Sun and several of his colleagues which included such masters as Chen Pan-Ling and Xu Yu-Sheng [one of my translated books ‘Taiji Power Enhancement’ was authored by Master Xu].
I would like to mention here that you can find a film on Youtube showing Master Wang Xi-Kui demonstrating the public version of Sun style taiji. Just place his name Wang Xi-Kui in Search and you will see his film. Though his movements were not as refined as he wanted, his knowledge however was quite vast. I hope that you can learn something from the film because Master Wang allowed himself to be filmed in order to help preserve and contribute to the Sun family arts of which he was a close part. Sadly Master Wang passed away in 1986, giving me two wonderful years to have known and learn from this gracious scholar. I will happily share with all of you his teachings through my future articles.
End of Part 2. Next week Part 3 will be presented.
Thank you again for taking the time to wander through this article,
Bradford Tyrey

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