Letter from the Chairman…
Welcome to Issue 3, Volume 2, Longfei’s Millennium Newsletter. We are pleased to present another contribution from Professor Li Deyin. This was recorded in the summer of 1998 and it appeared in the 1999 summer issue of John Ding’s magazine “Tai Chi and Alternative Health.” Simon Ward and Simon Watson supplied the questions which are very thoughtful and should provoke interest among Taiji practitioners. We repeat this interview for the benefit of those who do not subscribe to John Ding’s publication.
HOWARD CHOY, HARMONY IN PRACTICE — THE QI CONNECTION
I have corresponded with Howard Choy for some time and have suggested he contributes to our newsletter. My connection with Howard arose through our mutual association with Yang Style Taijiquan. My Yang Style teacher, Master Chu King Hung, trained under and was a disciple of Yang Shou Chung (see family tree in Issue 1 Volume 2), the eldest son of the renowned Taiji Master Yang Cheng Fu. Howard was also a student of Yang Shou Chung. Yang Shou Chung inherited the role as head of the Yang dynasty when his father passed away in 1936. Master Yang died in 1986. The other important influence in Howard’s Taiji training is the current head and 19th generation of the Chen Tradition “Master Chen Xiao Wang.” This is surely a Taiji ‘win double’ by any standards. Howard Choy is a unique practitioner of Taijiquan who has trained with two of Taiji’s most significant masters. Leaving China at an early age, Howard migrated and made his home in Sydney, Australia. He has however remained in contact with his native tongue and culture. In addition to his passion for martial arts he is an expert in the art of Feng Shui for which he is a published author. He is a graduate from the university of New South Wales, gaining a BSc and B.Arch degrees. Howard currently practices architecture and I understand the Feng Shui connection has enabled him to create a special niche in the Sydney community. Howard’s martial arts began in 1966 with Choy Lee Fut, Yang Style Taijiquan, Baduanjin Qi Gong. These interests have never left him throughout thirty three years. I have seen Howard’s form and I can vouch for its uniqueness; a blend of Yang Style with the Fajing of Chen Style. He is the principle of the Sydney Tai Chi and Qi Gong Centre. He has taught Choy Lee Fut at the Choy Lee Fut Academy and assisted Master Chen Youg Fu with seminars in Spain, Portugal, Germany and Poland. He has taught Taijiquan in Australia and Switzerland. He is a regular contributor to “Inside Kung Fu’: “Australasian Fighting Arts” and “The Journal of Asian Martial Arts.” I hope you enjoy his article “Harmony in Practice.” We hope Howard will visit us in March 2000 and conduct a 3-hour workshop one Friday evening. See below for details.
CHANG QUAN (LONG FIST)
This article is presented by Simon Watson to help us under-stand the exercises presented by Professor. Li at Dudley University. The illustrations should help those students who wish to continue with these exercises. It is also interesting to see both the contrasts and similarities with the principles of training in Taijiquan. Internal and External In Professor Li’s article it’s quite obvious that the separation of internal and external is far from clear cut and remains controversial. Perhaps, as Simon often remarks: “The hard train to be soft,” while, “The soft train to be hard.”
Richard Watson, Chairman
Chang Quan Long fist Boxing
by Simon Watson
During the 1999 Summer Camp (Dudley Campus), Professor Li introduced Chang Quan as part of his warm-up exercises. The forms presented are known as the “Combined Exercise for Five Hands and Steps.” To help those interested recall these forms, I have reproduced the illustrations at the end of this article. I am also presenting some text on this discipline for the students and readers to understand how it differs from the internal school of boxing.
The Principles of Chinese Wushu (Martial Arts)
Virture and Skill
Chinese Wushu emphasis is on self control and good char-acter. Martial virtue requires that practitioners and students exercise self restraint, never abusing their skills for personal gratification or the oppression of those weaker than themselves. They should seek to uphold justice, remain fearless in the face of brutality, cultivate modesty and a spirit of co-operation. The monks at the Shaolin Monastery, Henan Province, laid down the ten commandments of Wushu Practice. Some of these instructions are reproduced below. Shaolin Quan is an alternate reference for traditional Chang Quan. “Let strengthening the body and mind be the chief aim . Proficiency in the martial art is only to be used for self-defence. Guard against all indulgence in one’s personal vigour As to any who shows pleasure in provoking disturbances or displaying unwarranted ferocity, the offender shall be dealt with in the same manner as any offending the rules of this establishment.”
1. Chang Quan,
Evolution and Characteristics
The name Chang Quan was first mentioned in Qi Jiguang’s book which refers to the 32 Forms of Chang Quan. However the term Chang Quan gradually became the reference to a variety of traditional schools of northern boxing. Rather than a distinct individual form, Chang Quan now refers to such styles as Zha Quan, Hua Quan, Dao Quan, Hong Quan, Hwa Quan, Fanzi Quan, Chuo Jiao, Tan Tui and Shaolin Quan. They all have strong, swift and extended movements with many leaps and turns. In combat they emphasise taking the initiative in attack, making long strikes, advancing and retreating swiftly and seeking to defeat opponents with speed. In 1920 the Wushu theorist Xu Zhedong, described these styles in his work “An Outline of Chinese Wushu.” Chang Quan is characterised by fast and vigorous as well as slower movements. The demands on the joints, muscles and ligaments develop as the intensity of the movements progress. Chang Quan is very powerful yet graceful, stable yet agile.
2. Essential Skills
The essential elements in the practice of Chang Quan are posture, co-ordination, strength, vitality (spirit focus), rhythm and style.
(a). Movement and Posture
The Chang Quan movements and postures make up the framework. This includes both posture and the pose maintained between movements as well as the movements themselves. Correct posture means that both upper and lower limbs, as well as the torso, must conform with specified demands for each form. For example the Bow stance requires that the front leg is bent at 90 degrees and the back leg is straight. In the Horse Riding stance, the thighs are horizontal with the ground. Basic posture requires that the head is upright, the neck straight, shoulders level, chest out, back erect and waist sunk.
Exact movements refer to the four basic skills of Striking, Kicking, Throwing and Grappling to immobilise the opponent. Each combat technique, advance or retreat, rise and fall, tumble or roll, leap or balance, must be clear and exact. The hands, feet, body and eyes displaying and conforming to the principles. Speed, strength, height, stability must all conform to the requirements. For instance Pushing, Thrusting, Chopping and Pulling are all attacking methods using the open hand, but each is different. The direction of the strike, the source of the force and the point of the attack are all different and they must be precisely distinguished. The Chang Quan saying: “Fist like a shooting star, eye movements like lightning, waist like a lithesome snake, feet firm like glue.”
Chang Quart requires perfect co-ordination of the hands, eyes, body, feet, limbs and joints. In addition concentration, spirit, breathing and strength must be integrated with the move-ments. Two terms frequently met with in Wushu are the “Three Sections” and the “Six Conformations.” The first refers to the division of the body into Upper, Middle and Lower sections which must be completely co-ordinated. The second term refers to the co-ordination of Hands and Feet, Shoulders and Hips, Elbows and Knees, The Spirit and The Mind, The Mind and Breath and The Breath and Strength. This expresses the requirements essential to Wushu Styles, of complete unity of the body.
(c). Use of Strength
Wushu emphasises strength, Chang Quan demands the full use of strength in combat, quick and precise action, the co-ordination of breath and strength. Movements should be crisp, fast, concentrated and snappy. However one must ensure that one’s strength never becomes stiff or inflexible.
Both form and spirit must be developed. One’s attention must be focused, spirit alert and determined. Eye expression is critical and must be ultimately co-ordinated with movement. Where the hands move the eyes follow with absolute concen-tration. However, concentration should not be expressed through tension in the face, frowning, clenched teeth or wild shouts. Expression should remain calm and composed and movements determined.
(e). Clear Rhythm
Chang Quan is composed of many changes, juxtaposing slow and fast, still and vigorous, rising and falling and tense and relaxed movements. These alternations give the exercise fluctuating and lively rhythm. Without this rhythm the forms would be stiff and monotonous. “Moving like waves, towering like a mountain, darting like a monkey, descending like a magpie, standing like a rooster, remaining like a pine, turning like a wheel, bending like a bow, light like a tree leaf, heavy like a piece of iron, moving slowly as an eagle, acting as quickly as the wind.” These comparisons vividly describe the rhythm of Chang Quan.
(f). Distinct Style
Each form of Wushu displays a distinct style through different postures, techniques, strength and rhythms. The movements should be bold, agile, quick and fluid.
The diagrams and some text used in this article have been repoduced from A Guide to Chinese Martial Arts by Li Tianji and Du Xilian – by kind permission of the publishers, Mclaren Publishing, 22 Golden Square, London W1R 3PA. Fax: 0171 437 5994.
HARMONY IN PRACTICE THE QI CONNECTION
The following interview is compiled from question time at a Tai Chi Push Hands Workshop presented by Howard Choy in Melbourne, 1994.
By Kate Wells Edited by Howard Choy
Student: I read a book which said the essence of Tai Chi is to fully focus and concentrate on everything you are doing. Is that a result of doing Tai Chi Chuan?
Howard Choy: That is a stage in the development of Tai Chi Chuan practice. Do you know what is the next stage? Forget the mind and reach a state of mind/no-mind ness.
Student: But how can you do this?
HC: You practice a movement until it becomes a natural reaction and before you know it, you’ve got it. If you don’t practice enough the mindfulness of a particular movement slows you down because the mind must process the information of moving from point A to point B. When your mind intent is too strong you will kill the qi flow. The state you’ve got to enter when you practice Tai Chi Chuan is a state of “is/is-not ness.” Not only your mind, but also your muscles/posture and breathing, all three components of yi (mind), ti (body) and qi (breath-ing) are in harmony. Then you will be completely aware of all things happening around you at all times. For example, when you drive you don’t need to think about the physical act of driving all the time. When you need to, you can completely concentrate or “zero-in” when a dangerous situation arises. The same applies for Tai Chi Chuan — you practice until movement, breathing and mind relaxation all becomes one. You don’t need to “think” about it any more. So if you are being attacked, you “feel” your opponent and react naturally. When your qi is connected you can sense the danger immediately. The only way to internalise a movement is to practice it over and over again.
Student: So if I practice 4-6 hours a day, I can progress quickly?
HC: In theory, but not necessarily in practice. How much effort you put in and how much you will benefit also depends upon practising the movements correctly. Remember to keep things in perspective though, there’s more to life than doing Tai Chi Chuan.
Student: You hear students and teachers saying sometimes: “I practised for a long time and then I realised I did not know what I was doing.”
HC: Maybe they started learning long ago, but it depends on how much you practice in between. You need a teacher to help and guide you and you also need to practice in such a way so as to fine-tune your inner sensitivity (bio feed back) so you can continue to correct your mistakes as they arise. In my own experience I have worked a lot (especially in latter years) on correcting mistakes that I have picked up from less capable teachers and from my own lack of understanding. You probably all find that they are not just mistakes of form but also postural and movements from your life. But it is a Catch-22 situation. When you first start you do not have the experience and cannot tell good teaching from bad. This takes time; meanwhile, you have learned bad habits, which must eventually be corrected. Imagine if you stand incorrectly, e.g: leaning backwards slightly, you unwittingly put pressure on the vertebrae in the middle of the back. Imagine doing that hour after hour, day after day, year after year. That’s a lot of pressure. By middle age, you wonder why your back gives you trouble. That’s why it is very important to do the standing forms (jam jong), because in Tai Chi and Qi-Gong practice you put the qi under pressure, maybe two or three times greater than normal. If you do not have the proper posture and body alignment, it can cause more harm than good. It saps the vitality rather than nourishing it. That’s why relaxing the waist is very important, everything comes past the waist and massages the kidney points. When energy flows from bottom to top it passes the gate of life (ming men) in the middle back. Vital fluid is pumped up and down the body in all Tai Chi movements, breathing goes with it and the mind flows with it. When I do this movement “Single Whip” the energy sinks down past the waist into both feet. Then it comes back past the waist, lower back, shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingertips. When I finish, there is a connection of energy all through the body. Some postures are very deep, e.g.: “Snake Creeps Down”, you need to open up the hip and keep the joints open because you must sink the qi to the dantian. If you can’t sink the qi, then you are not connected. You can stop at any time to see if you have a connection and to see if your qi is in balance. If you don’t feel strong or solid then the qi is not connected. This is not just muscle-wise, but qi-wise. For example, in a kick, or in “Golden Cock Stands”, if you don’t feel yourself being centred and connected, the energy will float and you will feel off balance. You can analyse any movement this way, sink the qi, open up then qi can flow and spread out.
Student: When practising, do you tuck in the tailbone?
HC: The tailbone is not fixed in position or time. You relax the hip when you express energy at the end of a Yang cycle. When you move forward during the Yin cycle, the tailbone is tucked in, when you land it relaxes. Step forward, in, then relax it when pushing out. Nothing is static. For the same reason, don’t relax the tailbone all the time; I tuck in sometimes too, and it moves in and out all the time during the form. Make Yin and Yang and keep your postures upright and correct, so the qi can flow through.
Student: When should the eyes focus?
HC: There is a fine line between focus and awareness. I prefer to use the term `isness.’ You let everything be the way it is, not a pre-conceived idea, the whole body moves, you work with the energy internally so you are aware of the surroundings (but not focused on them). You should have a feeling of what you are doing. For example when executing “Embrace Tiger Back To Its Mountain,” you should imagine as though you are picking up the ferocious tiger and throwing it back to the mountain where it came from. You should feel the spirit (shen) of the movement and the animal the form refers to. This is not a Western idea of the spirit being external but inside there is an awareness of the ‘connectedness’ of all things, the microcosm inside the macrocosm, the little things within the big, not focusing on the hands but seeing all round, feeling all round.
Student: I notice that when you breathe you make a sound. Do you tense up the throat when you do this?
HC: No, not at all. I relax and I breathe out and the sound is made naturally. The sound helps me to track my qi down to my dantian. There is a whole field of sound Qi Gong — the sound helps to vibrate the organs in the body (for healing) as well.
Student: Would you clarify reverse breathing?
HC: What you call ‘reverse’ breathing and ‘normal’ breathing, the Chinese call pre-natal and post-natal respectively. In pre-natal breathing you breathe like a baby in the mother’s womb. It is natural and part of our original nature. I will use this terminology to avoid confusion. When you breathe in (pre-natal/reverse) the chest cavity opens and the diaphragm drops and relaxes — like an air sac sucking in qi. When you breathe out the chest cavity closes and the inside of the body drives your qi outward.
Student: I find I cannot breathe that way all of the time and when I try in the form it becomes difficult.
HC: This breathing is like learning the movements — when you practice and do it long enough it becomes natural and the other way feels uncomfortable_ If you run out of breath, take a break and continue. Gradually you will learn to breathe deeply. Because we gradually lose our connection to pre-natal qi as we grow older and our stressful lifestyle tends to cause tension build up in our body, we need to make pre-natal breathing part of our behaviour to re-establish the balance.
Kate Wells: Try this: when you raise your arms above your head while breathing in you will automatically be breathing pre-natal, i.e.: the lower abdomen draws in, diaphragm relaxes, chest opens. You cannot expand the lower abdomen breathing in while the arms are raised. The Tai Chi form helps you to breathe correctly by the very nature of the movements, e.g.: the opening movement starts the pattern. As long as you remain relaxed and aware of the internal aspect, the (pre-natal) breathing will be natural and comfortable. Breathing and movement flow together as one.
HC: As you breathe in the chest cavity opens and the qi is sucked in. Breathe out, close your chest, and the air is squeezed out. But when you breathe don’t float the qi away from the dantian. The waist is like the hub of a wheel; if the hub is not centred then the framework twists. Keep your qi always in the centre, then it flows out where you direct it, you do not lose the centre, you always stay balanced. If you tense up, the dantian floats, so stay relaxed and sink the qi to the lower dantian. Having a firm abdomen and a relaxed chest will help you to feel grounded.
Student: Won’t the qi rise as you breathe in and expand the chest?
HC: It is like a balloon — as you blow it up all parts of the surface become taut, but one part more than the rest — the centre, the centre does not move or diminish. When qi is concentrated in the dantian then it can be directed to one point or wherever you want it. First you cultivate the centre, and then you can transfer the energy to any points of contact. To move energy from bottom to top you must be grounded. So you practice Tai Chi form slowly and you can feel the energy flow, track it and correct the posture if the flow is blocked. When you can feel the energy flowing freely, you can express it at any time. You see, when you work and assemble the qi, it is like having one central bank account instead of having deposits here and there in many banks. Then, when you need it, it’s there — ever ready. My teacher Yang Sau Chung (his name ‘San Chung’ means to cultivate the centre or ‘guard the centre’), his father, Yang Zheng Fu, gave him the name because it is very important not to lose the centre and not to lose the qi connection.
Student: Could you explain about qi flow and how to move it.
HC: In a Yin/Yang diagram you can cut through the centre and in only one point will it be 50/50: always one is more than the other is. This creates the dynamics. In the form the only time you should be double-weighted in the `wu qi’ state is in the commencement and closing moves. For the rest, nothing is equal. Even the breathing is not mechanically regulated like a metronome, but is relaxed and goes with the movements. When you move the qi there is always Yin and Yang. This polarity creates a different ‘charge’ and the energy flows between them. People think Tai Chi is always relaxed, soft, but there is a constant interplay in the form between up and down, in and out, soft and firm, open and closed etc. To move the qi from bottom to top you need to be ground-ed, centred and connected. So you practice slowly to track the movement of qi, then, when it is circling and connected you can express it any time. So, be relaxed, be centred and be connected and the qi will circulate. All physical sports, martial arts, Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong, they all circulate energy. The difference with Tai Chi Chuan and Qi Gong to sport is that the mind is connected with the qi flow and you are conscious of internal process. It looks inward to achieve its goal rather than outward to “score” its goal.
Student: I have been practising kata (karate). Is this similar to Tai Chi?
HC: They have different postures to Tai Chi but in the highest level they are the same. It does not matter what form of martial arts you practice, you end up with the same kind of results because they work with the same internal energy whether you call it “qi” or “ki” or even “prana.” In the long run they all have the same aim and physical make-up.
Student: How can I feel this connection of energy flow?
HC: When you practice Tai Chi Chuan, do not just go through the whole form all the time. Stop at some postures some of the time. For example, in “Raise Hands to Strum Lute,” stop a while, hold for a few minutes and feel the qi connection of your body, especially the standing leg, with the ground. Say to yourself, where do I feel pain? In the knee, hip, shoulder? Tension causes blockages, blockages lead to pain. If there is tension after a few minutes you will feel it. You must learn to let go of tension by adjusting your posture and your mind set, then gradually the body comes back to balance — it achieves homeostasis and the pain will disappear. So, number I: learn the correct posture, and relax and let go and number 2: join up the qi flow and you will definitely feel the connection.
Student: How does push hands help Tai Chi practice?
HC: After you connect the energy, you can put pressure on your posture. When you practice push hands, try to find someone a little better than you and work with each other. If there is no-one else, you can do the same by pushing against a wall. Take up a Tai Chi posture and ask your partner to push lightly. Then feel the reaction in your body — what is the qi doing? Does it go to the ground? Adjust so your partner will not push you over. If the connection is there, ask your partner to push slightly harder. Gradually you will learn to sink your qi to the ground and feel the internal strength of your qi connection. If your shoulder gets tired or your knee gets sore, you need to adjust your posture and relax more. In that way you can guide yourself to correct posture. You don’t need a teacher looking at you all the time, you can learn to help yourself to develop a bio feedback mechanism. You still need an experi-enced teacher to guide you to fine-tune your progress on a regular basis, though. You connect your energy and put it under pressure when doing push hands — if it can move properly under pressure, you can move it to wherever you want and with whatever force of strength is needed. So for healing, you can move the qi to the affected area. When you put it under high pressure to express a single point of contact you have martial arts or kung fu. To express energy under pressure is known as ‘fa jing.’ But when we talk about moving energy to one point, it is not necessarily explosive: you can do it slowly too, like a trickle. Practice slowly, centre yourself, track the flow of qi and connect it, then when you move everything is connected as a whole. In push hands, he pushes me, I open, absorbing and con-necting energy. When I push back, I close the chest, squeeze out air and energy. In this way you use the whole body to move and breathe. Tai Chi is wholistic in the sense that when one part moves, the whole body moves with it. The Yin and Yang became one in Tai Chi.
A Profile of Professor Li Deyin
The questions were supplied by Simon Watson and Simon Ward. The translation was carried out by Tarry Yip.
I have transcribed the text to the best of my ability. — Richard Watson Chairman, Longfei Taijiquan Association of Great Britain.
Longfei Question One
Professor Li, can you tell us a little of the impressions left in your memo) of your early training in Taijiquan?
There are two distinct recollections I can record. The first is that the art was surrounded by mystery and mystique. The second, the training of Taijiquan was one of the hardest and most difficult things I have experienced in my lifetime. The reason I say that Taiji was surrounded by mystery is because the training was difficult and therefore it was not very popular. Opinions on the worth and value of Taijiquan was somewhat divided. On the one hand it was claimed that you could pick someone up and discharge them, cause them harm or possible death. A second opinion would claim that Taijiquan, being soft and slow, was quite useless. In those early days when I trained in the park I would be surrounded by curious spectators. The young girls who took an interest in Taiji were too shy to train in public and like myself they were reluctant to train openly in the parks. Taijiquan prowess was considered akin to catching fish in the water with bare hands. During my academic studies, a duration of four years, my university colleagues observed me training so it was by coincidence that my Taiji background was discovered. In fact I spent more time playing football! I was also a member of the university’s athletics team partaking in field and track events. Indeed, at this time I was a record holder for hurdle events. I can recall at this time (1960) China was experiencing natural disasters and the population were faced with hunger and starvation. During this period the people were generally too weakened and feeble to practise strenuous excercise and avoided doing so. When my Taiji background was realised I made the decision to organise for my fellow students a programme of soft and gentle excercises. These excercises represented their introduction to Taijiquan. In keeping with the mystery of the art it would be quite unusual to own a book or manual of learning on the art. If you owned a book or text on Taijiquan it was considered a treasure and one kept it to oneself. Hence the mystique connected to the art was perpetuated. My second recollection was how hard and difficult it was to learn. I began my training when I was very young and my teacher was my grandfather “Li Yu-Lin” (1888-1966). Every move he taught me was to be repeated many, many times before another was to be added. To some extent this training programme was forced on me at a very young age. To learn one routine took some eighteen months even when training on a daily basis. So you can understand why I recall my early training as one of the most difficult experiences of my life.Now of course, things are different and practising in the parks and public places is quite common. It is one of many activities practised in the open. Nowadays Taiji is being popularised and practised in groups. This is a departure from the old methods when Taiji was only taught person to person. Popularisation has changed the approach to teaching. Practicising with the family or a group of friends is quite commonplace and is considered a pleasant thing to do. Previously a training plan would be tailored to suit the individual and each teacher would bring to the instruction his own personal touch. Taiji has moved into a different arena covering health preservation, well being, sport and competition. This has created a far wider interest and appeal, Taiji has become accessible thoughout China and its appeal is to people from all classes and walks of life. In my lifetime this has made Taijiquan one of the most widely recognised and practised physical activities in Asia.
Longfei Question Two
The modern tendency in Taiji is to develop short forms. How comprehensive are they and do they contain the necessary elements to fully develop our Taiji skills?
Professor Li: Do you refer to the simplified 24 Taijiquan?
Longfei: Not necessarily. All the major styles have choreographed short forms in recent times. Some are to simplify transmission. Some are shortened for time limitation in competition.
Professor Li: If we can take as an example the Simplified 24; this was created for several reasons. At its conception in the early 1950s, it was considered impossible to popularise Taijiquan using the traditional methods. To ask a student to practise two or perhaps three hours a day, seven days a week in contemporary society, is not very practical and can be counter productive. To bring Taijiquan to the wider audience and to make it a subject for academic study in schools and universities, it was considered necessary to introduce a formal curriculum. A systematic training to guide the learner through beginner, novice, intermediate and advanced stages of transmission. In the old days of traditional training the instruction was oral on a one to one basis. Each teacher’s learning and teaching technique was subject to the understanding of his own teacher’s knowledge and his communication skills. It was rather akin to learning a craft skill and the relationship between journeyman and their apprentice. So the geographical vastness and the enormous population of China were also considerations to be examined before standardisation could take place. For all the foregoing reasons it was felt necessary to prepare a programme of development to bring the study of the art of Taiji more readily to aspiring students. This was the reason behind the creation of Simplified Taijiquan. However the compilation was based in traditional theories, principles and characteristics. It was important for the compilers to base their construction from a traditional base. The movements were selected from the “Yang Style” as it was considered the most popular and widely practised style. In the traditional Yang Style, depending on how we count more or less of the repetitions, there are 85 or 88 forms. If we discount all repetitions there are only 40 different forms. What the creators did when they compiled Simplified Taijiquan was to select 21 of the more significant postures.
In terms of tradition we cannot claim this to be comprehensive as only half of the movements are represented. For instance, Simplified Taijiquan has only two heel kicks while in Traditional Yang Style there is a greater variety. There is the use of both heel and toe kicks also turning to kick. In my opinion all the elements, principles and characteristics are contained in Simplified Taijiquan provided they are faithfully transmitted. Watching just a few movements of Taiji will establish the substance of traditional values. To quote a Chinese saying: “The person who knows as soon as they see even a small illustration can tell if it is substantial or insubstantial.” In Taijiquan Talu Competition, a 5 to 6 minute demonstration is considered ample time to ascertain the values of a performance. There is a body of support that 6 minutes is too long and that there is room to shorten competitions. To perform the whole of a traditional routine does not imply that the performance has not compromised the essentials of the practise, whereas if performing a short routine well, it can be seen that we have not compromised on the true content, characteristics and specialities of Taijiquan. For example, Simon, with your interest in music I do not have to listen for two hours to your guitar playing. In 5 minutes I can judge whether you have something or nothing at all. As most of the students practising the 24 Simplified Taijiquan would be novice and beginner, to make premature value judgements of the performance would be worthless. At this stage of training when they cannot portray true standards, the performance itself cannot be an indictment of the form. My conclusion is yes, the Simplified Form in movements is not as comprehensive as the traditional form, however the standard of the quality of movement, the principles and characteristics of true Taiji are not compromised. To some extent the question itself is erroneous.
Longfei Question Three
It is very difficult to find a clear definition for the division of Internal and External. Indeed the question “what is an Internal Martial Art” is itself often misunderstood. Can you briefly explain your understanding for the term “Internal.”
Professor Li: The first mention of Internal Martial Art was not on the basis of academic enquiry. The reference first arose in a book published by “Zhang Sungxi” who practised “Nei Jia Quan” (Internal Family Fist). Zhang Sungxi claimed he learned this skill from the Taoist monk “Zhang Sanfeng” from Wudang mountain. Zhang Sungxi is reputed to have challenged and successfully defeated many Shaolin monks. In his biography it is said that he practised Internal Fist and the main emphasis of this art is softness. The emphasis in the practise of Internal Fist is softness and gentleness and the famous remark attributed to this form of Wushu is “comes late but arrives first.” One can compare this with the Shaolin method which supports strength, speed and always attack first. Whilst the biographical reference extolled the virtue of the Internal Fist methods (“Nei Jia Quan”) there were implications that Shaolin Fist was inferior, thereby drawing unfavourable comparison. So it was from this era using the biography as source material that the historians recorded the segregation of martial arts. From this period the Wudang System was spoken of as internal and the Shaolin method was seen and referred to as external. So the division became significant for the geographic locations rather than examination of the traditions behind the respective arts. However, this view is not one that is accepted by the monks from the Shaolin tradition. We must understand that many martial systems came from the Shaolin temple, not just one. Their methods embrace many strong and powerful excercises but also martial techniques that emphasise softness. No Chinese martial artist would profess to practise external arts for, according to the biographical premise, this would be reducing the status of their art. There is another school of opinion that infers. “Taiji,” “Xingyi” and “Bagua” form a trilogy of internal martial arts, that anything outside this family of fighting arts should be considered external. The so called Internal Trio are of course philosophically based in the I Ching. They take their inspiration from Yin and Yang, Wuxing and the Bagua. Those that advocate the theory that any martial arts not embracing the principles of the I Ching cannot be considered Internal Arts. Of course this premise also has its detractors. It should be pointed out that Yin and Yang, Wuxing (5 Elements), Bagua (8 Trigrams) are all ancient principles from Chinese philosophy and it would be incorrect for the three families to claim the sole rights for the application of the principles to their martial arts. So the basis of categorising which art is essentially internal or external has no real scientific approval. Martial arts outside of the Internal Trio also use techniques of softness and hardness, the methods employed are initiated by circumstance and the quality of the opponent.Throughout history famous masters have failed to agree as to what philosophy and principles determine internal martial arts. The great grandmaster of the internal trio, “Sun Lutang,” never emphasised the segregation of the internal and external martial arts. There are those who suggest it would be more correct and accurate to define the methods of training into external training or internal training systems. Traditional Chinese martial arts emphasise the training of the body, mind and Qi. If we consider the Olympics for a moment, the contest is to find the fastest, the strongest, the longest and the highest. By contrast the Chinese martial arts cultivate stillness, quiteness and calmness in action. They consider the mind, the heart, the well being of our internal organs. The training embraces the concept of balance between mind, body and harmony of the internal organs. One must use visualisation to balance the body internally and externally, to free the heart and erradicate confusion of the nervous system. The training to develop the Qi is another important aspect of our martial arts. One must cultivate good breathing habits and coordinate the breathing with the movements; also we have to understand the Yin and Yang energies within your body and secure a balance between them. In traditional Chinese medicine the human body is subject to the fluctuations of the two energy fields that are Yin and Yang. If these two are in balance we experience good health and well being. If they are not coordinated and in harmony, confusion reigns with ill health. Therefore the end result of our martial arts training is to be balanced, coordinated and to harmonise the trainee with nature. In this Chinese medical philosphy to train for the fastest, longest, strongest and highest will make you fit for the tasks. To be strong and fit does not imply that you are balanced and healthy. Only when balance (Internal and External) is achieved can you gain true good health and well being. A balance to mind, body, internal organs, brain and nervous system. In Japan and China the symbols for health and longevity are the turtle and the crane. They do not associate the virtues of health and longevity with the strong and powerful — for instance the Tiger and Horse. In conclusion, I would like to say that all Chinese martial arts according to the individual characteristics of the training will place more or less emphasis on the external or the internal. For example, with Chang Quan they combine high jumps with kicks and speed. Whereas with Taiji we place importance to regulate the mind and developing the Qi. I feel that based on this approach a categorisation would be more acceptable to the majority of people. I would also comment that this does not reflect a difference in individual martial arts but rather the approach to training. Even the Shaolin Traditions look to train the bones and skin externally. Taiji brings our attention to first in the heart/mind then in the body. However these discussions between Chinese martial artists have remained controversial throughout history and have presented an obstacle to the unification of martial arts throughout China.
THE SECOND AND FINAL PART OF “A PROFILE OF PROFESSOR LI DEYIN” WILL CONTINUE IN THE NEXT EDITION OF THE NEWSLETTER
Yang Cheng Fu, grandson of Yang Lu Chan the creator of Yang Style Taiji, left ten instructional insights to correct training. The newsletter will carry an introduction to these one at a time so they can be studied and relished.
A brief guide to Qigong Practice – Part 3
A Personal Understanding, by Dick Watson
The benefits of Qigong practice are generally accrued a little like a savings account, the more you save, the larger the interest and the healthier the account becomes. Hence the advice to train consistently with patience, perseverance and determination. For some individuals Qigong practices can bring a spontaneous (Chambers Dictionary: ‘Acting by its own impulse or natural law”), Zen-like expansion of consciousness. These experiences are usually the spur to make Qigong training wonderfully worthwhile. To borrow the familiar phrase “A finger pointing at the moon.” For most of us however, it is an incremental process and all or any experiences should be just that and then put aside.
Daoyin Yangsheng Gong
Daoyin Yangsheng Gong is the Qigong system taught and practiced by instructors and members of Longfei Taijiquan Association. Many students are familiar with two, three or four sets of Professor Zhang Guandge’s system. Definitions of Qigong and Daoyin have been referred to in an earlier edition. In later issues we will present more articles on this enlightened system of health management. For those of us fortunate to have trained with Professor Hu Xiao Fei in 1998, can only remain fascinated by his demonstrations. Through the Jersey Daoyin Centre and Mark Atkinson we have direct links with the Beijing University of Physical Education and Professor Zhang and his work. Finally, to close this brief look at Qigong, I would like to quote from Professor Zhang’s book: “Chinese Daoyin Yangsheng Gong (health guiding and inducing exercise for the promotion of well-being), was initiated in the middle of the 1970s. Professor Zhang inherited knowledge and skills handed down by his ancestors. He bases his exercise system upon treating difficult and complicated ill health he was experiencing at that time.
His studies embraced the theory of Daoyin (the skill of guiding and introducing the free flow of Qi inside the body). “It begins with the study of pathogeny (development of disease) and pathology (the progress of disease in the tissues and organs that depart from normal function), used in conjunction and with the guidance of dialectical and integral treatment of traditional Chinese medicine. “Using traditional Chinese medical theories, such as Zanfu (Internal Organs), Jingluo (the meridians and collaterals of accupunc-ture). Yin and Yang (the theory of positive and negative opposing principles in nature). Qixue (vital energy and blood). Wuxing (the five basic elements). These studies are combined with certain modern medical knowledge and harmonised with the exercise methods of Daoyin. “This equates to a modern method of health care with the characteristics of physical education, combined with the functions of Qigong (Daoyin). “It is simple, coherent, beautifully shaped, soft and smooth, scientifically based and self systematic. “It is sympathetic and in harmony with many disciplines in the social and natural sciences such as: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western Medicine, Physiology, Anatomy, Psychology and Philosophy. “It is aesthetically pleasing and also embraces the culture of traditional Chinese Wushu. While comprehensive, it is a relatively new discipline. It is available to persons of all age groups, but it is particularly accesible to the middle aged and the elderly.”
Footnote: The above passage was taken from Prof. Zhang Guandge’s brief introduction to the works of Daoyin Yangsheng Gong “The Treasure of China.” I have changed certain parts of the sentence structure to make it grammatic (I hope!). — Dick Watson.
This brief introduction to Qigong will be followed by more detailed methods of practice.