Letter from the Chairman…
The first half of 1998 has shown encouraging signs for the growth of Taijiquan in Great Britain. Another new magazine has appeared making four in total, dealing with the subject matter of Taijiquan, Qigong and internal aspects of Chinese Martial Arts. This increased interest is apparent in Longfei’s activity and growing membership.
NATIONAL OSTEOPOROSIS SOCIETY
In early spring we made contact with the North London Group of N.O.S. The introduction came from their North London representative, Pamela Wells. Pamela has personal experience of osteoporosis and she is also a practitioner of Taijiquan. It is through her understanding of both subjects and her conviction that one could benefit the other that a ten week pilot scheme was initiated. The group consisted of many levels of osteoporosis both to the limbs, pelvis and spine. A programme of posture awareness, relaxation, breathing exercise, meditation, self massage and exercise was embarked upon with a fifty minute duration. In the beginning the group were not required to stand but by the end of the pilot period we were able to embark on some of the more simple exercises from Dao-yin Yang Sheng Gong. The feedback from the participants has been quite positive and we have been encouraged to begin another class and their dedication is a credit to Pamela Wells’ foresight. (See Letters to the Editor).
HERTFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY OF THE THIRD AGE
The classes for the U3A are in their third term and have progressed from their introduction to Dao-yin to making headway with Simplified Taijiquan. The numbers involved have increased due mainly to the organiser Jack Hand, and a second group now meet every Friday. As with the N.O.S., groups attendance is excellent and the progress rewarding. (See Letters to the Editor).
MASTER WANG YANJI’S SPRING VISIT
This was Master Wang’s fourth visit to instruct our students in Tui Shou (Pushing Hands) and Ta-Lu. Some emphasis was placed on competitive push hands to help the students from David Nicholson’s School. (See Simon Ward’s article on the seminar).
MASTER WANG YANJI
I was able to persuade Master Wang to spend ten days in the UK this spring, giving many new students an opportunity to train with him. Glasgow was host to his first seminar with an invitation from Derek Daley and students of his Traditional Chinese Wushu School. The workshop was held at the Dumbuck Hotel — a short drive from Loch Lomond, amidst a cluster of malt distilleries. The weekend attracted some 70 delegates and my observation was that the two day event was a great success, covering the simplified 24 Step Form, Tui Shou and Da Lu. Thank you Derek, Jo and all your students for making us so welcome.
BRITISH OPEN TAI CHI CHAMPIONSHIPS AND FESTIVAL OF CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS
This was the tenth anniversary of this event organised by Dan Docherty for the British Council for Chinese Martial Arts and the Tai Chi Union of Great Britain. The venue was Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre, Oxford. A full day of competition covering Taiji forms, Weapons, Pushing Hands and Sanshou (contact sparring), Longfei was represented by six of David Nicholson’s students (Yorkshire Longfei), Peter Cox (West Country Longfei), Diana Choy (Hertfordshire Longfei). Congratulations to all the participants from Longfei and thank you for keeping us on the map.
A first-class performance by Jonathan Ingleby secured 1st place and a Gold Medal in the 60 kilo fixed step Pushing Hands. Jonathan was also recipient of the Bronze Medal for the moving step 60 kilo Pushing Hands. Jason Redman won a Gold Medal for his Taji form —a great performance in the novice section after only one year’s training. They follow in the footsteps of previous Longfei winners at this event: Simon Watson, Chew Yeen Lawes, Anne Lo. Well done Yorkshire, keep up the good work!
Richard Watson, Chairman
Master Wang Yanji’s Spring Seminar
a delegates view by Simon Ward and Eric Foxcroft
Master Wang Yanji from Järfallä in Sweden is a man of average height, however his stature as martial artist and his sheer physical ability is great indeed. Although relatively unknown in this country I feel it is only a matter of time before he is appreciated by a much wider audience.
On the occasion of Hertfordshire Longfei Taijiquan Association’s Tui Shou seminar at the end of April, Mr Wang was in his usual good humour. We started with a short introduction from Dick Watson, Chairman of Hertfordshire Longfei Taijiquqan Association, and a commendation for the party of Longfei Taiji students present who ‘recently entered the TCUGB’s British Open Push Hands competition. Among them was Jonathan Ingleby from Hebden Bridge (a student of David Nicholson, who heads the Longfei organisation in Yorkshire) who won a gold medal in the 60 kilo fixed step competition and a bronze in the moving step.
The first exercises performed by the class were of a nature that could be practised at home, in training for pushing hands and are particularly useful when no partner is available. They primarily strengthened legs and involved a sitting motion, whilst keeping the shins and back as upright as humanly possible. Another exercise started in a bow step with the arms being brought up, weight shifted to the front foot as the arms were brought forward, the hands then turn over and are brought back down as the weight shifts into the back foot. This exercise helps with the use of ‘Split’ and in breaking wrist locks.
Mr Wang also demonstrated some techniques from Chinese Wrestling or Shuaijiao. You may ask why such techniques were shown to us at a pushing hands seminar but as push hands com-petitions can appear no different from street fights, with diverse methods from Judo to wrestling techniques used, a wide repertoire is necessary. Furthermore, he said that if one were to push hands in a Beijing park or in a competition in the UK, then one should have the attitude of fighting for one’s life, thus the attention would be fully present and ‘listening’ would take place.
During the push hands practice which followed, Mr Wang said that single pushing hands can train the waist for the next step, which is double pushing hands. In solo practice the waist movement can also be developed by standing in ‘riding horse’ posture, holding a chair in front of you by its back legs and turning from side to side.
After lunch outside in the spring sunshine, the practice continued with Mr Wang explaining one theory of push hands that it is similar to a car with brakes on one side only. Therefore if one side is stopped the other side carries on and in that situation the car would skid.
In pushing hands, push one side and the other will continue to move and the person may become unbalanced. This idea does seem to relate back to the Taoist essence of Taiji — in order to contract a thing, one should surely expand it first, in order to weaken, one will surely strengthen first — in other words, to get your opponent to move to the right, push him to the left first, and to get him to move up, push him down first. In fact this appeared to be a very subtle point of mr Wang’s Taiji forms themselves. In a recent seminar in Glasgow Mr Wang demonstrated the twenty four step form. He could be seen making very slight movements to the left before going right and so on.
Whilst practising pushing hands Mr Wang said later on that no one should worry about losing face — learn from the other person! In fact Mr Wang’s seminars have the ambience of serious training in a light-hearted way. No-one got too serious! Mr Wang has a very endearing sense of humour, and is very keen to share his vast knowledge of internal arts with all who wish to learn. He did once receive criticism from an elderly Chinese gentleman who said that he should not be teaching Westerners internal arts. But he is very open, taking the attitude that under-standing Taiji belongs to no one single man, it comes from all, and belongs to all. He said that we are all one family, not just Taiji practitioners, but all martial artists.
The second day started with Chi Kung, in the standard `hugging the tree’ posture. Mr Wang explained that the posture should remain constant during your practice, however weight could shift slightly from leg to leg. He said that in practising this posture one should start by holding it for about five min-utes at a time, building up to about fifteen after the first month.
A technique that Mr Wang uses for pushing hands involves holding both the opponent’s arms (so you are in a similar posi-tion to the one described above, with the arms open but relaxed). As the opponent pushes on one side you counter on the other, and thus they spin round. In push hands practice you can often tell if muscle power is used instead of Taiji principles — the person huffs and puffs! But Mr Wang’s demonstration of this technique was very smooth — he used the energy you gave him, spinning on his centre to deposit you behind him! However, he made sure that no one fell awkwardly or was hurt.
Despite his limited command of English, Mr Wang was able to communicate ideas of a detailed and subtle nature and this skill was enhanced by the services of our interpreter Diana Choy. However, what he passed on to us seemed to be just a small part of his knowledge and we look forward to learning more from him on his future visits to this country.
So I left the hall into the afternoon sunlight uplifted and refreshed by the inspiration given to me by a great man.
An Interview with Professor Li Deyin: Part 2
By Dick Watson. Questions supplied by Dan Docherty for Combat
The concluding part of an interview with Professor Li Deyin which began in the last newsletter.
My father ‘Li Tian Chi’ and my uncle ‘Li Tian Ji’ started their Wushu training from a very young age. My father later went to work as a doctor in a hospital using Taijiquan, Qi-gong and massage to treat and help patients to recuperate from illness.
My uncle ‘Li Tian Ji’ graduated from the Shan Dong Martial Arts College as a Martial Arts instructor in 1931. He taught at various universities and Martial Arts schools in the provinces of `Shan-xi’ and `Hei Long Jian.’ He came to Beijing in 1950 and was appointed coach to the state Wushu Team. From 1955 until his death in January 1996, he was a member and executive
member of the Institute of Physical Education and Sport. His main preoccupation was Research, Study and Development of Taijiquan.
What other Taiji/Martial Arts have you studied apart from Sun Style?
Because of my family background I started my training when I was still young. The first was `Shao-Lin Quan’ When I was a young lad, regardless of what we were going to learn, we had to begin with the study of `Shao-Lin’ and ‘Chang Quan.’ This was to facilitate good training for the waist and legs. When I was a little older I began to learn Pa-Kua Zhang’, lising-I Quan’and ‘Tai Ji Quan’. The Taiji I learned was centred on `Sun Style’, and ‘Yang Style.’ When I started as full-time coach at the People’s University in 1961, it was necessary to widen my knowledge and so I studied ‘Wu Style’ with Xu Zhi Yi who was senior student with Wu Jian Quan. I learned Chen Style from Li Jing Wu who was a top student with Chen Fa Ke.
Mr Li is still living and is 86 years old. At the same time I went back to school to learn modern long fist and `Woo Style.’ I have been coaching at my university for 35 years.
Is Sun Style Taijiquan real Taiji or is it a separate art like Liu Ho Ba Fa, bearing in mind that ‘Sun Lii Tang’ was famous for his Pa-Kua and Hsing-I?
Chinese Taijiquan has many styles and schools. The main five are: Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun and Woo. In addition there is ‘Zhao Bao Shi,’ He Zhao Yuan Shi’ and from Beijing there is Li Rui Dong’s creation of Taijiquan `Wu Xing Chi’ etc. All these styles have their own special movements and characteristics, but they are still recognised and come under the heading of Taijiquan.
I cannot say which one is real Taiji and which one is not. In the same way I feel it would be difficult to say that English soccer is the real soccer and the French soccer is not or Brazilian soccer is not. Each style has its own flavour.
About 70 years ago a Chen style master came to Beijing to teach. Many people could not recognise the style and a lot of people said this was not Taiji. Of course at this time the ‘Yang style’ was very popular in Beijing. However when Master Chen explained the history of Taiji, these people realised that the Yang style came originally from the Chen style. The realisation that there are different styles gave them the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and be able to practise the Yang style and learn Chen style from Master Chen.
Taijiquan is a developing Martial Art, we cannot look at it as fixed and set. There must be changes.
What percentage of the art as practised by Yang Lu-chan does your school retain?
In the life time of Yang Lu-chan there was no photography or video technology. So we can only surmise and take from the recorded literature and hear-say and create an image of what his form and style was like. In Chen Wei Ming’s questions and answers on Taijiquan, he mentions that Yang Lu-chan when performing ‘snake creeps down’ was reputed to be able to pick up a coin with his mouth, he was so low that it was like sitting on the floor. He was also accredited with being able to use elbow stroke to an opponent’s knee. From these records we can gather than Yang Lu-chan’s form was rather low.
Also Yang Ban Hou and Yang Shao Hou when they practised their style was closer to Chen style. One of the Yang family taught the Wu family so we know the Wu style developed from Yang style. How close the many styles are to Yang Lu-chan is difficult to ascer-tain with the material and information made available.
What makes the ‘Sun Style’ different from other styles?
‘Sun style’ has in common with other styles’ stability, central equilibrium, light and agile movements. The main difference is the adoption of moving, following steps. ‘Sun style’ is known as the moving step Taijiquan. This involves back and forward moves of a light and agile nature. When you step forward the back foot follows, when you step back the front foot follows. This stepping technique had already appeared in the Woo/Hao style.
Sun Lu Tang incorporated characteristics of ‘llsing-F and ‘Pa-Kua’ and created a Taijiquan using features from the three internal/soft arts. They all follow common principies. In ‘Hsing-I’ you always step and follow, in ‘Pa-Kua’ we encompass the characteristics of open and close, step and turn. So I believe Sun Lu Tang developed his style because of previous training in martial arts.
In the same way ‘Wu Yu Xiang’ developed his ‘Woo style’ influenced by his background training. Each style has developed influenced by the previous Wushu training.
Why do you think the Chen style, as now practised in the Chen family village, is so different from the Yang family lineage styles?
The difference between ‘Chen Jia Gou’ and the `Yang Style’ that is the question.
The first three generations of the Yang family took three directions. The first is to bring Taijiquan from a village art to a wider audience in Beijing and encouraging its popularity to spread to the whole country. The Yang family can be regarded as the influence that initiated interest in Taijiquan to a world-wide audience.
The second is the modification of the Chen style. Whilst retaining the principles of Chen style foundations adapting the characteristics of smoothness, stability and practising the form at one level. The adaptation took place over three generations. The hard and fast movements learned by ‘Yang Lu Chan’ were gradually replaced to develop a new style more suitable for a wider appeal. After this creation, many areas of society began to take part in Taijiquan training. Interest was aroused among intellectuals, workers, the young and elderly, strong and weak. many of these practitioners put aside the emphasis on martial aspects and contained their interest in areas of rejuvenation, well being and health. So this development was the causative factor in the creation of `Yang style’ and the reason why it differs from the style of ‘Chen Jia Gou’.
Many people in England consider the 24 simplified and 42 combined Taijiquan to be a mishmash, chop suey. What is your opinion?
In 1956 the 24 was choreographed by the Institute for Physical Education. It is a syllabus simplified to help the novice. It has taken many of the significant postures from the Yang style. Depending on how one counts, the Yang style exhibits 81, 85 or 88 postures. Without repetitions there is actually forty. If you wish to popularise the art and introduce it to school curriculum such a long sequence as the 85 is very difficult to learn. The time and energy required is not available to the majority of the population. Therefore it was considered necessary to create a shortened form to fill this purpose and help the beginner. A form that would highlight the important characteristics and emphasise the most significant moves. That is why the Yang style was chosen. In China of course the 24 is not considered as a mishmash.
There are many variations of the Yang style practised in China and many of these different schools were concerned that their style was not chosen for popularising or not included in consultation. When the 24 was created the choreography was taken from one source. Several years earlier an attempt had been made to create an amalgamate form but this proved to be unpopular because it was difficult to learn.
With regards to the 42, this was developed when Taijiquan became popular as a competitive sport/art in the 1980s.
It was considered necessary to develop a unified style of Taijiquan to allow athletes to compete. The Physical Institutions of China have set competition forms for all the five major styles, i.e., `Chen,’ Yang,”Wu,”Sun’ and `Woo.’ Competitions take place for all three styles, but for international competition we have created the 42. This was introduced in the 11th Asian Games in 1990. Forty seven nations took part in this international event. The 42 incorporates movements from the major styles and competitors have the opportunity to show their overall skill and knowledge.
So we should examine why these different forms and styles have appeared. The 24 was introduced for the novice, while the 42 was created to standardise international competItion. They in no way interfere or cancel the importance of traditional forms of Taijiquan.
What do you think of competition Taijiquan?
First of all should we compete in Taijiquan? Can you compete in Taijiquan?
In the old days competition was with qui Shot]: attack and defence, to win or lose. This was the method to decide whether your Taiji was good or not. As Taiji became more popular the forms have assumed more prominence. Some people have asked whether you can use Taiji forms in the same way as we use and judge the floor exercise in gymnastics. If then it is possible, how do you award marks and what is the criteria for judging performance?
There are two opinions. Some insist that Tui Shou is the only way. Another group say both form and Tui Shou can be judged. These opinions exist both in China and throughout the world. In China today you can compete in one or the other or both. There is a third theory that Taiji is a pure form of self defence and competition is inappropriate and one should not take part in contests. Self cultivation is the only goal.
My personal view is that Taijiquan is an ancient health motivated exercise, however it can be used for physical competitions. Furthermore through competition the standards can be raised. It affords the opportunity for people to meet and exchange views. This can also encourage the incentive for others to join and practise.
Do students of your school take part in San Shou competition? If not, why not?
San Shou competition has only developed in the past few years, both in China and outside. Before it was called `Da-Lei-Tai. `Da-Lei-Tar is not a part of Taijiquan. It is set competition for all forms of Wushu or Kong Fu as known in the west. In `Da-Lei-Tai’ they use the techniques of `Pi,’ Da,”Shuai’ and `Na’ (i.e., Chop, Throw, Grab and Wrest). Taijiquan practitioners engaging in Tui Shou, only use the techniques of `Peng,”Lu,”Ji,”An: `Cai,”Lie: `Chou,”Kao:
What do you think of the difference in approach in the east and west?
I think that any brilliant cultural developments of the human race should not be subject to the division of east and west. Western influence should spread to the east, eastern culture can travel to the west. They should be common treasures for humanity. However, because of geographic location and the events of history, this exchange has been resisted or blocked. To understand takes time. When English soccer first came to China, we Chinese could not understand it. The Chinese had played a form of football a thousand years earlier but this was completely different. But now western soccer has a great audience in China. It has become one of the most popular sports. Every year the Cup Final attracts a large viewing. Chinese Wushu and Taijiquan were not popular in Japan thirty years ago. Today there are over 500,000 students. Because of this cultural exchange Wushu has developed rapidly.
For the last few years I have spent my summer holiday in England. I can see more and more people love to practise Taiji. Although the level of skill at the moment cannot be compared with China and Japan. The learning exchange in England is different. It has taken place with small groups and individuals, nothing on a large scale. So it takes more time. Let us consider the intensive promotion of the Olympic Games, how quickly and strongly it became a huge world-wide activity.
Chinese Wushu has been created for self cultivation, stillness is promoted within movement. The emphasis is on being natural, balanced and relaxed. To pursue the release of tension and combat fatigue this is the essence of Chinese Martial Arts.
Many westerners realise that strenuous types of exercise is inadequate. Using only movement is not enough. Cultivation of relaxation and stillness in movement is necessary. This is like a human being and nature becoming one.
The late development in England will delay progress in Taijiquan, but it can follow the parallel of football in China with more and more people enjoying Taijiquan. I have been able to watch and enjoy the growth of Taiji and Wushu on an international level. I have seen it grow to competition at World class. I have seen the levels of skills rise and arts enjoys greater popularity. To move further forward we need earnest development, we need all interested participants to enjoy cultural exchange. To raise the standards we require more organisation to promote Taijiquan and Wushu, we must bring our sport/art to the attention of the respective sporting and health authorities. We need to let them know about our arts and seek their support.
This concludes the interview with Professor Li De-Yin.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Some thoughts on Taiji
I am 76 years old and have never been interested in physical activities. I am now seriously asthmatic and have osteoporosis so I am on a lot of medication.
As I seemed to be getting rather stiff in my movements I joined this class, as I knew the physical work would not be too energetic. After about 16 weeks I can bend down more easily to fasten my shoes and my movements have become more flexible. But an unlooked-for help has been with my violin playing. My hands, fingers, wrists are more flexible and I can hold my violin and bow for much longer periods of practice.
I am very pleased so far,
I did not tell you when I came to your Tai Chi class on Friday 27th February that I was suffering from considerable pain in my right shoulder, but was determined to do all the exercises that morning and put up with the pain.
When I got up on Saturday morning I was amazed to find the pain had almost disappeared so I can only assume that the gentle Tai Chi movements had resulted in giving me so much relief. Since embarking on Tai Chi exercises with you,
I have noticed how much improved my legs have been. I can now get up and down the stairs with Peggy’s early morning cup of tea like a spring chicken!!!
We are registered with a Dr Watson (no relation — Ed!) in Hertford and when we told him we were going to Tai Chi classes he was absolutely delighted and said that it was the best thing that we could possibly do especially in our age group. He used to
indulge in Kung Fu which I believe to be a little more strenuous.
I felt I had to drop you a line because Peggy and I are so delighted that we both feel so much better as a result of the gentle Tai Chi exercises that you have so expertly and patiently taught us.
Kindest regards and best wishes to you and Margaret,
David and Peggy Holmes
Dear Pamela — Secretary, North London National Osteoporosis Society.
I write on behalf of Mrs Alice Sotin. Prior to starting the Tai Chi exercises run by Richard and Simon Watson which were organised by yourself, she felt very isolated with her condition. Since attending these classes and doing the exercises she is much brighter, more confident and certainly more informed. Her back is noticeably straighter and her neck movements better. Her sister has commented on this noticeable improvement in her posture.
She wishes to thank you and the instructors and wants them to know she can now sleep much better since learning these exercises and practising them.
She would like to continue with any more groups that you are organising.
Mrs Alice Sotin
Opening the KUA
MASTER YANG CHENGFU REMARKED: “Although I ponder deeply over Taijiquan all year long, discuss it all day long, yet, once I am engaged in hand to hand fighting, I find I am still a layman.” It’s useless to be an armchair strategist, one will not master the secrets of Taijiquan until he trains through a hard and bitter process. One needs to train the standing stance to enter the gate of hand pushing. Through the constant drill of the standing stance one will gradually learn the mechanism of the integration of mind power and vital energy. To have the crown of the head press against the heavens will help to achieve a sense that your joints have been relaxed and extended. To have the feet firmly and steadily placed on the ground as if the roots of a tree had been planted deep into the earth.
The preceding paragraph has been taken from the Journal of the Beijing Institute of Physical Education. The original article was considerably longer and more philosophical so what I have recorded here are the bare bones.
I often ponder on how disadvantaged Westerners are trying to get to grips with Taijiquan although from my own teaching experience I have not found any individual or groups particularly gifted. I write of course only about physical endowment and not examining the philosophical and psychological content of the art. I have not found the young, the middle aged, senior citizens, ethnic groups including Chinese readily able to assimilate the intricate movements of Taijiquan. Indeed the only path to success is that emphasised by all old masters of the art — Diligence, Patience, Perseverance, etc.
However I feel there is one distinct cultural advantage that Asians have, that favours the ability to be free in the KUA. This word describes the area of the body’s fulcnim, generally the form, the function, and the area of the hip joints, the sacrum, the sacroiliac joints, and the inguinal creases.
The Asian historically has crouched and sat on his haunches and sat on the floor in variations of the half and full lotus for many centuries. A habit they may well lose in the next few centuries. This suppleness of the KUA can of course be seen in our children and grandchildren.
The Importance of opening the KUA
All practitioners are urged to loosen, soften the waist. How many times are we told to initiate the movements from the ground through the feet and legs and controlled by the waist.
So lets come back to the armchair strategist — we may hear it, we may know it but do we train it. On a practical level and for our general well-being, it is most important that the inguinal joints are soft, open and free from tension.
The circulation, the supply of nutrients, the function of the nervous system to the lower limbs will all benefit from a relaxed KUA. For Taiji practitioners it becomes of major significance to sinking our energy and rooting. Reflecting on some of our Taiji postures, will our snake ever creep down without this facility.
More importantly, examine the “White Crane Flaps its Wings;’ “Playing the Lute,” when we do these one-legged empty step postures do we open and relax the inguinal joints and the hips?
With the most familiar step in Taiji, Gong Bu (Bow Step), it is easier to open the relevant joints but we should pay more attention to the empty steps.
I think that a simple visualisation is to view the inguinal joints, hips (crotch) as an and not as a applying this to all our postures. Applying this armchair knowledge to practise will enhance both form and pushing hands.
For developing the KUA, softness and relaxation of the hips take a renewed look at the Daoyin Postures.
- Picking up a Huge Rock
- Elephant Looping Trunk
- Oriole on The Wing
Also for those who attended Master Wang’s Tui Shou Seminar there were at least three first class exercises for opening the KUA. Anyone that trains regularly in Zhan Zhuang can also apply this to the method of opening the lower body.