Friday, September 23, 2022

Scott Rodell on Beginner Swordplay


"A common problem with beginners' swordplay is concentrating on strategy before mastering technique. This is like discussing chess strategy before knowing all the pieces and how they move to take other pieces. New students search for a trick to winning. However without technique fully mastered and incorporated in one's mind-body, they lack the ability and tools to change when their trick fails them. Likewise, if their duifang has a trick of strategy they do not comprehend, they have no way for responding to unexpected situations. This is the error of putting strategy before technique in the study of swordsmanship. Before thinking about strategy, students of swordsmanship must study each cut, mastering them one at a time." ~ Scott M. Rodell 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

On Long and Short Weapons - Trans. Scott M. Rodell







"Long weapons have a wooden shaft, (for) short weapons the arm is the shaft. With long weapons, advancing and retreating, the spirit is in the hands, (for) short weapons, moving forward or back requires footwork. The feet must be cunning like a rabbit, your body (fast) like the wind, (then) the three foot (sword) can disable the spear."

 - Trans. Scott M. Rodell quoted from Wu Shu’s Jiàn Jué Gē (Sword Rhyme Song, 劍訣歌)

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Kung Fu Conversations Solo Cast #1 - Warriorship Conversing EP1

 Kung Fu Conversations Solo Cast #1 - Warriorship Conversing EP1

 In this episode, Randel does a solo cast on the Warrior Spirit of Matt Stutzman and Bebe Vio.  #WarriorshipConversing

Friday, September 9, 2022

Kung Fu Conversations Podcast - Episode #25 - What is the most Liked or Disliked aspect of Chinese Marital Arts?

Kung Fu Conversations Podcast - Episode #25 - What is the most Liked or Disliked aspect of Chinese Martial Arts? In this episode, Owen and Randel take on the topic of their favorite and most hated aspects of Chinese Martial Arts!

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Chinese Jian Wisdom by Scott Rodell


一寸長, 一寸強

一寸小, 一寸巧

Yīcùn cháng, yīcùn qiáng
yīcùn xiǎo, yīcùn qiǎo
yīcùn duǎn, yīcùn xiǎn
~Gǔrén shuō

One inch longer, one inch stronger
One inch smaller, one inch (more) skillful
One inch shorter, one inch closer
~ an old Chinese saying

"This is an old martial saying that seems to originate at least in part with General Qi Jiguang who wrote, “Short weapons cannot intercept long weapons, one inch longer is one inch stronger (Duǎn bù jiē zhǎng, yīcùn cháng yīcùn qiáng, 短不接長,一寸長一寸強).” In general, the phrase addresses the difference between long weapons, such as spears, and shorter weapons, including swords.

It terms of sword work itself, this may be interpreted in another manner as~
If your sword cuts are an inch longer, they will have more power. However, if they are an inch smaller, that is more skillful. Then the distance to the duifang is an inch shorter, and you are an inch close to land a blow.

This describes the evolution every diligent swordsman moves thorough. At first, one tends to rely on power. Further training brings refinement leading to one’s movements becoming smaller, tighter, and thus quicker. Deflections are then only as big as needed and the sword isn’t swung at the duifang’s body in general, but at a small, exact target. This compacting of one’s technique changes the timing of actions so that your sword ends up moving closer to the target even as the duifang is attacking. Thus the distance to your target is shorter though the starting distance has not changed.
Note that the last word in this saying, xiǎn, is typically translated as danger in common vernacular Chinese. It can however also mean to be near as in anear miss or a close call.. The overall structure of the saying is one where a specific condition leads to a improved result. Following that structure, the distance being an inch shorter, places the swordsman in a better tactical position, one inch closer to landing his or her blow. Certainly, that is also a more dangerous position (for both swordsmen). However, if one has deflected properly, leading the duifang’s weapon into a void while maintain tip control, so that one’s sword is aligned with its target, then in this dangerous position, there is a strategic opportunity."

~ Scott M. Rodell 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Song family Xinyi Liuhe Quan (蚌埠心意六合拳大师蒋安波先生)

Song family Xinyi Liuhe Quan (蚌埠心意六合拳大师蒋安波先生) - M Jiang Anbo and his students. 

Song Guobin (1882-1960) was one of the four key disciples of Yuan Fengyi. Song's disciple M Jiang Anbo and his students recorded some ten animals and the Si Ba routine. 

Preserving the combat arts -

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Story of Bagua Zhang Ep. 01 - Dong Haichuan Part 1

The Story of Bagua Zhang Ep. 01 - Dong Haichuan Part 1

"The story of Bagua Zhang was produced and released domestically in China in around the year 2020. It features four lengthy episodes covering different topics regarding the history and practice of Bagua Zhang along with various interviews. I have translated, subtitled and dubbed this series and have also added relevant information for the international community to enjoy. I will be releasing it in smaller episodes for ease of viewing. Following this, I have some follow up interviews and videos that I will film and produce regarding the topic of Bagua Zhang and its history. Dong Haichuan Part 1 In this episode we look at the background and mystery regarding Bagua Zhang's founder, Dong Haichuan."

Monday, June 27, 2022

Power Of Chi The Movie - Is this really Chi or sophisticated body mechanics?

Power Of Chi The Movie - Is this Chi or something else? 

Several hundred years ago, when Tai Chi methods were being created and developed, the languaging they had to describe the results of their process was "Chi", "Yin/ Yang", and "5 elements", these terms mean different things to different groups in the east and west. They may mean something specific to a Daoist monk, an average Chinese person, or a TCM practitioner. They didn't have anatomical western terms like body mechanics, alignment, joint articulation, or fascia to describe what they were feeling and doing during a transfer knowledge between student and teacher. In the west, "Chi" immediately conjures up magical energy, and that seems to be what they are selling in this movie but we will have to wait and see. The skills Mr. Mizner is demonstrating in this video are not magic, they are body skills that have been passed down by generations of Chinese internal martial arts practitioners. They are teachable, transferable, and replicable and, to give Mr. Mizner credit, he is practicing these skills at a very high level while being filmed. 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Kung Fu Conversations Podcast - Episode #20 - Habits in the martial arts. Are yours helping or hindering you?

Kung Fu Conversations Podcast - Episode #20 - Habits in the martial arts. Are yours helping or hindering you?

In this episode, Owen and Randel discuss the pros and cons of developing, maintaining, and discarding habits while studying and training martial arts.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Kung Fu Conversations Podcast - Episode #19 - When Do you "Have it?". The Reality of Training in the Martial Arts.

Kung Fu Conversations Podcast - Episode #19 - When Do you "Have it?". The Reality of Training in the Martial Arts. 

In this episode, Owen and Randel explore the idea of embodying a martial art and when/ how that happens. When do you really "have it" or "get it"?

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Chinese Kung Fu Weapon - Guan Dao


     Chinese Kung Fu Weapon - Guan Dao. "Teacher Zheng's middle school, 77 years old, and he still attained that high rank."

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Xingyi Quan - The Song of the Tiger - 河北形意拳虎形 - Byron Jacobs

Xingyi Quan - The Song of the Tiger - 河北形意拳虎形 - Byron Jacobs

The fierce tiger pounces on its prey with a powerful and imposing mien, 

This intent engulfs and courses through the entire body like a tornado. 

The power of the back and shoulders comes from the tailbone, 

This skill can be expressed with two terms - straighten and extend. 

Byron Jacobs - 威龙 (Beijing - May 2022)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Bagua Zhang - A Traditional Chinese Martial Art - 1980's Documentary

 Bagua Zhang - A Traditional Chinese Martial Art - 1980's Documentary

"This documentary was produced in approximately 1986 in Beijing and features many of the prominent lineages/styles and practitioners. It portrays the methods and characteristics of these styles as they were existent in Beijing. I have added English subtitles to and relevant information to this documentary. This version's video quality is not ideal and it has proven quite difficult to locate a better quality copy in full, even when I contacted some of my own Bagua family members that were featured in this documentary.

 Nonetheless, is a valuable piece of history and now accessible to non-Chinese speakers. If I locate a better quality copy of this documentary, I will re-release it with the translation. As always, doing this type of translation and editing is time consuming and difficult, so any and all support you are able to give me through Patreon makes this worthwhile of my time and skills and will enable me to produce more such content into the future." - Byron Jacobs

Found HERE

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Chen Pan Ling Style - Seal the Throat Spear and Dragon Shape Hook Sword

黃裕盛 Huang Zhun-shen's student 林善民 Lin Shan-min back in 2003. He's performing the suo hou qiang 鎖喉槍 (seal the throat spear) and 龍形双鉤 longxing shuang gou (dragon shape hook swords). These are pretty rare sets and Huang is one of the last (if not the last) teachers that studied personally from CPL himself back in the day still alive.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Journey to the West - Sun Wukong the Monkey King

Scroll art of the 16th century novel by Wu Cheng'en, Journey to the West. With the three main characters, Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Sha Wujing and Zhu Bajie. China ink and rice paper. 

Anzu Fernandi    Found HERE

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Chinese Kung Fu Sword - Song of Footwork 步法歌

Chinese Kung Fu Sword - Song of Footwork 步法歌 

"Stepping correctly functions to maneuver one to an advantageous position, not to neutralize. Steps are hidden as part of the entire movement, as part of a deflection or cut. This is achieved by the waist commanding the entire body as one unified whole, the spine turning as a steel column. The legs are for changing one’s position, turn the waist to neutralize and enter. With training, the legs and waist become as one." ~ Scott M. Rodel Found HERE

Friday, April 22, 2022

Real Cheng Style/ Liu Bin Lineage Routines

                                               Real Cheng Style/ Liu Bin Lineage Routines

Features direct student of Liu Bin, 4th generation master, Liu Xinghan in Beijing, China.  Pieces of shown of the 9 Palace Monkey, Lion, Qi-ling, and other more rare forms such as Liu Bin's adaptation of Hsing-i plus 3 form. A rare glimpse of authentic Liu Bin material presented by 4th and 5th generation inheritors.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Bagua Sword - Sun Style

Bagua Sword - Sun Style 

"This Bagua Sword presentation is performed by Master Sun Jianyun, (1914-2003) in the 1980s. She is the daughter of the Grand Master Sun Lutang (1860-1933)."

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Chinese Swordsmanship/ Jian Fa - 步法歌 Song of Footwork

Chinese Swordsmanship/ Jian Fa -  步法歌 Song of Footwork  

Stepping correctly functions to maneuver one to an advantageous position, not to neutralize. 

Steps are hidden as part of the entire movement, as part of a deflection or cut. This is achieved by the waist commanding the entire body as one unified whole, the spine turning as a steel column. 

The legs are for changing one’s position, turn the waist to neutralize and enter. With training, the legs and waist become as one. ~ Scott M. Rodell

Monday, April 4, 2022

Kung Fu Conversations Podcast - Episode #15 - Variations in Your System

Kung Fu Conversations Podcast - Episode #15 - Variations in Your System or From Your Teacher?

In this episode, Owen and Randel discuss variations on forms and training methods in systems and the impact it can have on teachers and students.  

Learn Chinese Internal Kung Fu at Boulder Internal Martial Arts 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Historical Shuai Jiao

Historical Shuai Jiao

"A lot of revision going on lately about Shuai Jiao, it's traditional AND modern history. But some of us still know the truth and there is definitely a "paper trail". So we're going to start outlining and revealing. This is Master Jeng Hsing-Ping, who was head instructor at the Central Police College, and Master Roger Soo, respected senior in the Shuai Jiao clan. This was filmed in the actual Police College in Taipei, Taiwan in 1965"

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Sword’s Qì is as a Rainbow— trans by Scott M. Rodell


Jiàn qì rú hóng jiàn xíng shì lóng
jiàn shén hé yī xuánmiào wúqióng
Guǎng Píng Yáng Chéngfǔ tí

The sword’s qì is as a rainbow, the sword moves like a dragon.
Sword and spirit meet as one, its profundity is boundless.

Yang Chengfu of Guangping

Monday, March 7, 2022

TT Liang Yang Style Taiji Sword Form

                                                    TT Liang Yang Style Taiji Sword Form

"Master Liang started his martial art career in High School in Tientsin where his physical education teacher was the famous Huang Han Hsun, a Master of Praying Mantis boxing. In 1933, whilst attending a British Maritime Customs service training seminar in Beijing, he was able to study Tui Shou (Pushing Hands) with Yang Cheng Fu (1883–1936), a member of the original Tai Chi Yang family, who also taught Cheng Man Ch'ing. Liang was able to study with him for a couple of weeks but did not name him formally as one of his teachers. After a period of serious illness in Shanghai in 1946, Liang began to study Taijiquan with various students of Cheng Man Ch'ing, and began formal training with Cheng himself in 1947. He became Cheng's Da Shih Hsiung (Chief Disciple). Master Liang passed away on August 17, 2002 at the age of 102."

Friday, February 25, 2022

Monday, February 14, 2022

Xingyiquan - Mao Mingchong

Basic Xingyiquan Technique. Forms of hands, stands, step. Also shown is wuxingquan - a fist of 5 primary elements, shiersin - 12 animals. Forms of wuxingquan are shown in 3 versions, differ in speed of execution, step, release of force, shiersin in 2 versions. 

Mao Mingchun is the current deputy chairman of the Taiyuan City Association of Taijiquan and Tuishou, holder of 8 duans in wushu. One of the authors and drafters of the qualification requirements for the system of receiving duans in wushu, he holds the position of an expert consultant at the Hong Kong Wushu Association. 

Since childhood, Mao Mingchun studied the methods of traditional wushu, in 1978, after successfully passing the exams, he entered the Faculty of Physical Education at Shanxi University. In 1982, due to the high level in the list of those who passed the exams in the methods, theory and practice of wushu, he entered the graduate school at Shanxi University at the same faculty of physical education. In 1984, after graduation, according to distribution, he remains at the university to work as a teacher and trainer in wushu, and also teaches lessons on traditional methods of strengthening the body, feeding vitality (yangsheng).

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Kunwu Sword Manual 李凌霄 by Li Lingxiao - trans. Scott M. Rodell


Xīn, yǎn, shēn, shǒu, bù, běn shǔ liánhé dòngzuò. Gèzhǒng quán jì, mòbù jiǎngjiù. Jiànshù yì rán. Xuézhě bùkě hū yě.

Mind, eye, body, hand, steps, are all united in action. Of all types of boxing arts none doesn’t pay attention to this. The sword art is also this way. Practitioners must not neglect this.

Kunwu Sword Manual
by Li Lingxiao [published Feb, 1935]
-trans. Scott M. Rodell

Found HERE

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Shuai Jiao Training | Big Stick/Da Bang Zi 大棒子

 Shuai Jiao Training | Big Stick/Da Bang Zi 大棒子

Shuai Jiao Big Stick | 大棒子讲横 “the big stick teaches heng" 

The Da Bang Zi is one of Shuai Jiao's most useful training tools.  It teaches us how to to develop and use 'heng', which is circular, horizontal force to off balance your opponent. 

As with all training, understanding the intent and purpose of the movement helps shape our training so that it carries over into noncooperative application. 

Shuai Jiao is the oldest form of Kung Fu in China and one of the oldest forms of wrestling the world to be continuously trained and practiced.  Throughout its history it has always been used in a combative or competitive format, meaning that its techniques and training methods have been developed through real usage.  It is hard to even imagine the influence it is had on the development of Chinese Martial Arts except for the fact that is said that all forms of Kung Fu should contain throwing techniques.

For more information go to:

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Dao De Jing Chapter 69 - Strategists have a saying...trans by Scott Rodell

                            Dao De Jing Chapter 69 - Strategists have a saying...trans by Scott Rodell


Yòngbīng yǒu yán,
wú bù gǎn wéi zhǔ ér wéi kè,
bù gǎn jìn cùn ér tuì chǐ.
Shì wèi xíng wú xíng,
rǎng wú bì,
rēng wúdí,
zhí wú bīng.
Huò mòdà yú qīngdí.
Qīngdí jǐ sàng wú bǎo.
Gù kàng bīng xiāng rú, āi zhě shèng yǐ.

Strategists have a saying:
I don’t dare be the host, but the guest.
Don’t dare advance one inch, but retreat one foot.
This is moving without moving.
Push up your sleeves without revealing your arms,
prevailing as if you have no enemy,
wielding your weapon as is there was none.
The greatest disaster is to under estimate the enemy.
Under estimating the enemy I lose my treasure.
When soliders resist each other, those who lament combat will be victorious.

Commentary and Notes- Daoist thought has had a strong effect on almost every aspect of Chinese life, including combat and strategy. In this chapter, Laozi speaks of being the guest instead of the host, codifying one of the basic approaches to strategy in jianfa. When one is the host, one acts first, arranges things, demonstrating one’s intent by way things have been organized. The host does all the work then invites the guest in. From the swordman’s point of view, this presents a great deal of information about one’s plan of action and skill set. On the other hand, when one is the guest, one follows the action without interjecting one’s own plan. In this way, the swordsman can know his opponent while keeping that duifang in the dark about one’s own strengths and weaknesses. This is action or movement without there being action. This means that instead of expending energy on a plan of action, one waits and listens, allowing the duifang to expose his or her intent. Then, with this clear insight, applies the correct counters to defeat the duifang’s strategy. In this way, without having taken any action of one’s own, one can prevail. This does not mean surrendering control of the action to the duifang. Rather it means controlling the action by allowing the duifang to tell you his or her plan.

“Push up your sleeves without revealing your arms,” is a specific example of what the first line alludes to. Preparing to engage a duifang, one would commonly push the long flowing sleeves of Chinese garments up out of the way as the hands are raised to a useful position. But in doing so, one should not show any aggressive intent, or indeed any intent at all. Sunzi similarly suggests one -

“Be extremely subtle
Even to the point of formlessness
Be extremely mysterious
Even to the point of soundlessness
Thereby you can be the director
Of an opponent’s fate.” (trans. Tomas Clearly*)

While the Taijiquan Lun records, that by hiding one’s intent, “He (the enemy) can not know me, I alone comprehend him. Where ever a hero goes he has no enemies, this is because he has achieved these skills.\.” 人不知我, 我獨知人. 英雄所向無敵, 蓋皆由此而及也.

The notion of emptiness expressed as “wielding your weapon as is there was none,” is a common one found in jianfa. It brings to mind Huang Yuanxiu, (黃元秀),”Song of Empty Mind” from his Fundamentals of the Wudang Sword Method:

The song says
With palm empty, the sword is lively.
With the center of the foot empty, the footwork is nimble.
With the topknot empty, the entire body is one.

The central idea in Huang’s “Song” is that by being free of any predisposition, one’s movements as lively and adaptive, so that one is able to respond exactly as needed.

- Scott M. Rodell

*I usually prefer to translate myself any lines I reference from a Chinese classic, but honestly, I just couldn’t translate make any significant improvement over that already offered by Thomas Clearly when it came to this line.

— with Scott M. Rodell

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Xingyi Quan - An Interview with Zhao Daoxin

INTERVIEW WITH ZHAO DAOXIN Recorded by Huang Jitao Translated from Chinese by Andrzej Kalisz FOUND HERE 

"This is an excellent interview from one of the 20th century’s great Chinese Internal Martial Artists. Zhao Daoxin was a student of Zhang Zhaodong, one of the most capable Xingyiquan fighters of the early 20th century, and Wang Xiangzhai, the founder of Yiquan, one of the only “Internal” martial arts experts with a verifiable fighting record.

I pulled this from my teacher, Tim Cartmell’s website, It is an excellent interview that highlights the true reality of early 20th century Chinese martial arts training instead of the revisionist BS we often see from those “purists” out there. Please keep in mind when reading this that the translation was made by a non-native English speaker and thus there mistakes that are not mine. I have tried to correct the English where possible as long as I knew it wouldn’t change the meaning of the text or if I was unsure what the original text said since I don not read Chinese."

Zhao Enqing originally was a disciple of Zhang Zhankui (Zhang Zhaodong). Later he learned from the founder of yiquan – Wang Xiangzhai and became one of his best students, receiving from Wang an honorary name Daoxin.

The original interview was made by Huang Jitao in 4 sessions over 4 days and is quite long. Here is only a translation of small part.

So also traditional wushu is not efficient in fighting?

People from traditional styles say that the modern wushu from national institutes is just “flowery forms”. But it still doesn’t mean that they themselves possess “true gongfu”. The wushu from institutes neglects the fighting side, while traditional wushu is talking about fighting. But it doesn’t mean that it really got it… Contemporary traditional wushu, just like the wushu from institutes is mainly about training forms. Moreover there is a lot of symbolic or ritual gestures, with no relation to fighting. Looking from point of view of training – they still use old methods of low efficiency. In theory they should help to develop practical skills, but in fact are more like kind of praying, method of developing patience, and just a lot of useless effort. I don’t know how many dozens of thousands of people practice traditional wushu in China. But I also don’t know about any of them, who could prove their abilities in fighting on international stage.

But in times when foreign fighting experts and strong men kept coming to China, Chinese masters of that generation defeated them many times…

If there are so many examples of Chinese master defeating foreigners, why do we only hear about it from our side, and they don’t mention this? Maybe they don’t want to talk about being defeated. But on the other side how many Chinese were defeated, but we didn’t talk about it because it would be humiliating. Anyway we don’t know what were the proportions between victories and defeats. And if Wu Song had fought not a tiger, but just a cat, there wouldn’t be reason to praise him for centuries. And what kind of opponents were those foreigners, who were defeated by our masters? My teacher (Zhang Zhankui) met Russian “strong man”, I met Danish “boxer”. Other friends had similar situations. But our opponents were defeated after just one action, there was no real fight. But this was only because traditional Chinese wushu didn’t meet real tigers. In those times you could easily become famous because of “defeating” some foreigner, but it was only because they were not any real experts.

More challenging was fighting with other Chinese at that time. No foreigners signed up for the leitai tournaments in Hangzhou or Shanghai. And the people from traditional styles, no matter if they were some monks or great masters famous in some place, they either became injured in fights or were not brave enough to fight. And the winners, although they signed up as representatives of some traditional systems, instead of forms and other methods of those systems, they were using completely different methods preparing for fighting.

Could you tell us your opinion and views about Chinese martial arts?

There is not much time. So I will only outline some issues. This will not be a very systematic discussion. And because people all the time talk a lot about advantages, I will speak rather about the problems.

First tell us, what you think about the internal and external division, and division based on territory.

If we want Chinese martial arts develop, we must reject such divisions. It doesn’t mean that there is no meaning in them at all. But they only partially describe way of demonstration, and they don’t really say anything about way of fighting. Divisions in martial art should be based on effectiveness in fighting, and not the way of practice, and they should not be effect of swindle. They should express human body and developing technique, and not sect-like customs nourished for hundreds and thousands of years. The division for Shaolin, Wudang, Emei and Zhongnan arts is only expressing fact, that communication was difficult in old times. But it is past. And the internal-external division was made up by literati fascinated by the style which they practiced, so they started calling it internal family art – skillful writers created flowery descriptions. But in fact nobody would talk about himself being representative of external family art. In fact, in real fighting there are no styles.

But the internal-external division is at least representing the real division for soft and hard.

This division is even more muddled. Some just use it to criticize other schools. But when they talk about their own school, they stress that “soft and hard supplement each other”, that “internal and external are trained together”. They maintain that it’s only them who keep right balance between soft and hard, while others tend to much toward softness or hardness.

But the concepts of internal-external, soft-hard, at least led to developing sophisticated theories of internal training – concept “from yi to qi to jin”.

“Yi, qi, li”, “jing, qi, shen” – those concepts related to internal training are hard to express with normal language. We could say that it is about using self-suggestion to induce feeling of comfort and strength. There are new concepts, at least evenly useful, and even more efficient in practical use.

What are the shortcomings of Chinese martial arts if we are talking about way of fighting?

There is a lot of shortcomings and taboos. Apart from those which are common for all Chinese martial arts, there are other, specific for some school. For example everybody fears that his style will resemble some other, so they try hard to make it look different. If you tell some person doing baguazhang, that his movements resemble taijiquan, he will hardly accept such opinion. If you tell some xingyiquan practitioner that you notice some similarities to western boxing he will feel bad about it. But actually the differences between styles are more in ritual gestures than in the way of fighting. But those gestures are useful only for demonstration or meeting, in fighting they are useless and stupid.

There is also the taboo of falling down. In challenges there was an unwritten rule, that touching ground with a part of body different than the feet meant defeat. So in the south they stress “ma”, and in the north “zhuang”. In many styles long, low postures and centered torso are stressed. But what is real value of those stable techniques? The principle “when leg is raised, half body is empty” results in loosing opportunity of efficient kicks and hitting with knee. And the force which can be generated from non-balance is not used consciously yet. Constant talking about “not loosing center” disturbs developing agile body work and fast footwork. What is rejected in Chinese martial arts, is exactly what is most valuable on the international martial arts stage. Traditional Chinese martial arts are old men arts. Old is seen as equal to saint, authority, deep knowledge. But for old man it’s hard to raise leg for kick, and falling down can be dangerous. So this hidden weakness of [an] old master, in teaching process becomes taboo of “not loosing balance”. But fighting is not limited to shuaijiao competitions. In many cases loosing balance or even falling down is not big price for getting opportunity of executing efficient action.

Let’s now talk about training methods.

Our martial arts teachers like to seek for differences in techniques and to hide “secrets” in techniques. But in fact, the real differences, and the secrets are the training methods. Combat efficiency is decided by way of training. And methods of traditional training have low efficacy. You need a lot of time, and even after long time you are not sure if you will be able to use your skills in fighting. Training is a complex science – on border of many disciplines. Just repeating some exercises for dozens of years is not enough. I will not talk much, I will only mention several discrepancies.

First there is discrepancy between training and use. No matter which style, the problem is lack of actual fight training. In which traditional school, is most of the time spent on fight training? Traditional teachers make two funny mistakes. First – they say that fight training can only be the last part of [the] training process, that only when you have gongli, you can start testing it in fight. Second – they think that when you become proficient in tui shou and other exercises with partner which resemble fighting, it means that you developed fighting skill. Of course it is difficult to introduce hard fighting during training. Martial arts hobbyists don’t want to go to work next day with swollen face, and bruised legs. But if you want to achieve high level in martial art, you must make it. From the beginning you should train like you will fight.

Next is discrepancy between fatigue and intensity of training. Traditional teachers talk about practicing many hours a day. This is long time training but with low intensity. Muscles and nervous system are not activated in a way which is necessary for fighting. Those teacher hate using modern training equipment, and will not ask other person to train together. They prefer to hide in dark place, keep repeating some movements and pondering over theory.

Then there is also discrepancy between theory and practice, between technique and physical attributes, between what is practiced in public and behind closed door. These are only some examples.

We were talking about Chinese martial arts in general. Would you care to talk about specific styles?

Let’s start with xingyiquan and baguazhang…
…first xingyiquan. In 1920s and 1930s there were many representatives of xingyiquan among winners of leitai tournaments. But today “power” of xingyiquan decreased. The reason is that apart from problems common for all Chinese martial arts, this one which stresses harmony-unity has many aspects where there is lack of such harmony.

For example, there is lack of harmony between technique and force. In xingyiquan hitting technique is powered by pushing force. Fists or palms mainly push opponent, in small part causing damage. But it also doesn’t allow pushing opponent far away in pushing hands. Actually, it seems as if xingyiquan people have not decided whether their technique is for san shou or for tui shou.

And lack of harmony between form and intention. All are talking about form and intention both being important, but actually they go close toward one of the extremes… There is also lack of harmony between fighting methods and exercises.

People like comparing xingyiquan to western boxing. But they also fear this comparing. They think that Chinese “thing” should be pure. So when there is even coincidental similarity, they prefer to get rid of it. But I think, that as for training methods and competition, xingyiquan should learn from boxing.

Was creation of xingyibagua a result of trying to fill shortcomings of xingyiquan by using baguazhang?

Mutual supplementing started from friendly contacts between Dong Haichuan and Guo Yunshen and between their students. Then Zhan Zhankui linked them together into one system. But shortcomings of xingyi cannot be filled by using bagua. Bagua also has a lot of shortcomings, and they cannot be filled by using xingyi. Baguazhang has a thick outside layers through which it is difficult to see anything. If you look from outside, there is only [the] impression of complexity and mystery. Big part of first layer are legends about Dong Haichuan and his students. Second layer is the unnecessary and forced use of the theory of eight trigrams. Baguazhang teachers always talked about “Book of changes”, but nobody could explain at least one necessary link between this martial art and that classic book. Third layer is not distinguishing between basic exercises and fighting. Even teachers think “how to use this change”, “how to move around opponent with tangnibu steps”, “how to move behind opponent and attack his back” – that’s just deluded thoughts. And beyond the third layer – practitioners expand their arms and move around, like people starting to learn skating, and sometimes they make some change into extremely twisted position. So this is mix of legends, old saint books and strange techniques.

Taijiquan is attracting a lot of people, because of theory and health benefits. But many people doubt that such soft and slow method could work against explosive power…

Lay people have not developed prejudice, so their first impression can be quite right. Taijiquan has its own form of comparing skill – tui shou. Why not be happy with just this? Not every martial art must be good for real figthing. I remember as in period of Republic of China taijiquan experts explained that the reason for no taijiquan people being able to prove their fighting skill at leitai tournaments is because taijiquan is too profound and it’s difficult to master it. Was this some kind of excuse or sincere statement? Taijiquan theory looks great and could be a model for other classical theories of martial art. The main idea is relation between yin and yang. You want to be hard? So start from being as soft as possible, because ultimate softness changes into hardness. You want to be fast? Then start from slowness. This philosophy, that after achieving extreme some attribute changes into its opposite is attracting many people. But did anyone test it? No, if you see what those taijiquan masters, who can demonstrate issuing power are practicing in secret, you will understand what I’m talking about.

So you say that those young people who want to develop fighting skills are in some part misled by taijiquan concepts. If so, then maybe Shaolin is more sincere? They stress hard, fast, fierce, using both hands and legs. People think that Shaolin monks are the last kings of real fighting.

Ming dynasty generals went to Shaolin temple, having such opinion, and they left disappointed. Today many young people leave school and go to Shaolin. With the same effect – their faith in Shaolin becomes ashes. They come with thought of developing incredible fighting skill, not available for normal people. But in fact they just learn some acrobatics tricks. Training methods which they learn are outdated and not useful for developing real fighting skills. Breaking stones, standing upside-down on fingers, taking hits, when you make such demonstrations, with addition of some tricks typical for illusionists – public will be delighted. Ma Liang’s new wushu (Ma Liang published book “New Chinese Wushu” in 1918) and modern wushu, despised even by representatives of traditional systems, are based on Shaolin. And I remember as in 1920s and 1930s those “last kings of real fighting” kept loosing at leitai tournaments and were going away like rats, one after another.

And what you think about southern systems.

When we look at southern styles, we can see that they have their own, quite different character. But I cannot say much, as I didn’t study them. But from what I saw at the tournaments at end of 1920s “southern wind is not making you freeze”.

Finally, please tell us about the martial art created by yourself.

My “thing” comes from mistakes and losses. When I was young I liked to fight with famous experts. I had no respect for them, and when I defeated them, I didn’t care about some [of the] good things they had anyway. It not only disturbed [the] exchange of knowledge, but also [caused] hurt feelings. Since I disputed and maintained different views from the main stream of Chinese martial arts, I kept some distance from martial arts circles. Until now people call me eccentric and stubborn.

Initially, I created xinhuizhang, in order to explain traditional methods of using force, but actually this is just a form, and cannot efficiently improve practitioner’s combat abilities. Only now I’m working on summarizing all those training methods and fighting methods which I benefited from, with thought of supplementing xinhuizhang. But the way of competitive fighting on international scene is constantly changing. So my “things” are constantly being outmatched by others. If [I] will not work on improving it, there will be no progress. Lately I’m worried about xinhuizhang explosive issuing power with legs, so far I have not resolved this problem. And I hope that younger will criticize me