Thursday, October 27, 2005

Principles of Master Hong JunSheng

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Master Wang Peisheng


Great Master Wang Peisheng, head of the Northern Wu Style Taiji Quan group, passed away at 8:40am on September 3rd, 2004 in Beijing of
heart-related illness arising from the complications of an earlier stroke. He was 85 years of age.

Master Wang’s funeral was held on the morning of September 7th at Ba Bao Shan National Cemetery in Beijing. Among the hundreds of family members,
friends, and students in attendance were older generation Taiji masters like Li Bingci and Feng Zhiqiang, as wells as representatives from all major martial art
groups and associations within Beijing, and some from outside of Beijing.

Master Wang’s passing marked the end of an era. He was commonly regarded as the youngest of the last generation of masters belonging to martial arts last
golden age. He was also a bridge between the old and the new. A voracious student in a wide range of subjects both eastern and western, traditional and
modern, his knowledge was imposing in its scope and depth, and extraordinary in its subtlety and refinement. Assimilating knowledge from diverse fields
such as philosophy, science, and medicine; synthesizing, and creating new methods and approaches, he dedicated his life to passing on traditional martial arts
to the younger generation of people who grew up in a radically different world from which he was born.

The Path to Mastery - Early Childhood Training – Yin Style Bagua, Tantui, and Taiji Quan

Master Wang Peisheng was born on March 24, 1919 in Wu Qing County, Hebei
Province. Peisheng is his zi, the unofficial first name used for casual situations. His
official first name, or ming, is Liquan. Later on in life he would also be widely known
by his religious name (fahao) of Yin Cheng. But in daily life, his students, and even
many others outside the martial arts, simply referred to him as Wang xiansheng.
Xiansheng means “master”, a traditional title reserved for classical scholars and

When Master Wang was six, his family moved to Ganyu Alley in the eastern part of
Beijing. He had a love for martial arts right from the beginning. As a child he liked to
play traditional martial arts heroes. There was a family of circus performers in his
neighborhood. The son of that family taught him some basics in martial arts and
acrobatics. He learned fast and practiced hard. As a child, he accomplished the feat
of being able to do more than thirty back flips in a row, all on a small tabletop.

At age twelve, a chance encounter was to change the rest of his life. The common
residential housing in the north at the time was the si he yuan. Master Wang’s family
shared a si he yuan with several other families. Structurally the si he yuan is like the
ranch style house we have in this country today, only having four wings surrounding a
central courtyard. Three of the wings are for residence, with the fourth - the front of
the compound, being the entrance. Usually there’s an outer wall and gate in front of
the inner front gate. One day he was practicing the basic spear thrust in the narrow
alley between the outer wall and the front gate, thrusting the spear away from the front
entrance. At the end of the thrust, he would have to turn to pull back on the spear
using full body power. He was standing a little too close to the front entrance, and
engrossed in his training, he did not see until too late a small old man coming in during
one of these turns. The end of the staff headed right for the old man’s throat. The old
man neatly dodged the spear and took it away from Master Wang. He was very angry
and started yelling at the child. A neighbor, a relative of the old man, heard the
commotion and came out to try to calm things down. The neighbor explained that this
boy loved martial arts, that he has been practicing these basics very hard everyday.
“In fact”, he said, “you’re a great master, why don’t you teach him something?” The
old man, calming down a little, asked Master Wang to show him his basic gongfu.
Master Wang did his best and the old man was satisfied. He agreed to take Master
Wang on as a disciple.

Years later, Master Wang would remember it this way: “At that time, I did not know anything about the old man. I
could only wonder about what kind of martial art he would teach me. But my neighbor was very excited. He said:
'You are a very lucky boy, tell your parents about this right away! Ask them to prepare a ceremony for your
acceptance as a disciple of Master Ma Gui.' I still didn’t appreciate how important this was. But my father
practiced a little bit of martial art, he knew about Ma Gui’s reputation. He was shocked, 'I can't believe it!' he said,
and ran out to welcome Master Ma. When asked about the induction party, Master Ma said he did not want a big
party. Ma said, ‘we can just make a Bai Shi ceremony right now.' So my father set up the incense table, and we
performed the acceptance ritual at once. According to traditional way we burn incense and then I had kou tou to

So, in this way, the young Wang became a disciple of Ma Gui, and, importantly, started out with high level
professional training from an early age, which helped pave the way for the greatness he eventually achieved.

Of course, Ma Gui (1853-1940) was one of the most renowned martial arts masters of that time. He had many
nicknames: (i) mu Ma, or “wooden Ma”, because he owned a wood factory; (ii) Ma cuo zi, “short Ma”, because he
was small in stature; (iii) pang xie Ma, “crab Ma”, because he liked to draw crabs in traditional watercolor paintings;
(iv) tie ge bei Ma, “iron arm Ma”, because of the famous technique he like to use in fighting called zhi bi wan da –
“straight arm wrist strike”.

Ma Gui studied with Yin Fu from an early age. He was very small in size, but he had natural talent and he practiced
very diligently, so his skill grew very rapidly. Master Yin liked him and always brought him to meet with other
masters and try out his skills. Dong Hai Chuan, Yin Fu's teacher and founder of Bagua Zhang, was also very fond of
the Ma, the young prodigy. Ma Gui received direct training from Dong, and after Dong retired from his duty in the
king’s palace, he moved into Ma’s house. Because of this Ma’s skill was widely respected as among the very
highest in Bagua Zhang circles, even when compared to the many outstanding Bagua Zhang masters of his teacher’s

Ma was well-known for wearing 10 pound iron rings on each wrist during practice. By age 20 he was already a
famed fighter. He always welcomed a good fight and he beat many other martial arts masters. When he worked for
Duke Lan, the duke relied on him more than any one else. Later on he became instructor to the royal prince. After
the Republic Revolution, he worked at the president’s office. Eight years after that, he became a martial arts coach
in the National Police Academy.

Master Ma was extremely conservative about imparting his knowledge of fighting skills. In his lifetime, he had many
students, but most, including his own son, were taught only some basic, general skills. His standards were
extraordinarily high. To him, high level skills should only be taught to a person with great character, talent,
intelligence, and work ethic. Of his many students, some of whom were in fact quite talented, only Master Wang
became famous. Today we can only guess why the apparent change in attitude with the young Wang, whom he met
very late in life. Given Ma Gui’s awesome reputation in Bagua Zhang, he had not yet produced a worthy successor
so far. Perhaps he saw hope and continuity in Wang, the young prodigy.

In their first three years, Master Ma gave Wang lessons at the Wang household first thing in the morning, afterwards having breakfast in Wang’s home, and
then going on to his other teaching duties. Ma taught the young Wang Shaolin Luohan Quan, Yin (Fu) style Bagua, and weapons. Wang worked hard,
thought a lot about the practice, and was able to receive answers to his many questions.

At age 13, one year after meeting Master Ma, while continuing his Yin style Bagua Zhang practice, the young Wang also became disciple of two other
famous martial artists, Master Zhang Yulian, from whom he began learning Jiaomen Tantui, and Master Yang Yuting, from whom he began learning Taiji
Quan. At the time, both men were teaching martial arts at the Beiping (Beijing’s name of that time) Third Popular Education Institute near the Wang

Zhang Yulian was the oldest of seven very famous martial arts blood brothers. His nickname was Gou Tang Zhang, because of his outstanding skill with the
special Tantui weapons, gou and tang. In his younger days, he did security and police work, and he excelled at the practice of qing gong, the ability to scale
high buildings very quickly and quietly. Zhang was a Muslim, and in the old days, Chinese Muslims always kept certain high level techniques secret. Tantui
is an extensive style that includes many skills. There are two major styles within Tantui: Jiaomen (Muslim style) and Shaolin. But one famous saying goes:
"From Nanjing to Beijing, the best Tantui comes from Muslim style." The style is extremely demanding, requiring very high level basic conditioning, so the
training is rigorous. Student Wang joined Master Zhang's group with many other youngsters of the area. They practiced hard and performed frequently all
over the city. The core teachings learned by student Wang consisted of ten section kick skills, six short forms, ten section Cha Quan forms, and the four
special weapons of gou, je, tang, and dei.

Yang Ruilin (1887-1982), more commonly known as Yang Yuting, was
the leading disciple of Taiji Quan Master Wang Maozhai. Yang eventually
succeeded his teacher as the leader of Northern Wu Style Taiji Quan.
Yang’s entire teaching career spanned over seven decades, producing
thousands of students. Master Wang Peisheng was part of his first group
of indoor disciples. When they first met, Yang was also teaching at
Beijing Taiji Quan Institute in Taimiao Temple. Taimiao was the great
memorial hall where Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors came to worship
their ancestors. Today it’s called the Working People's Cultural Palace.

The headmaster at Taimiao was Master Wang Maozhai, a disciple of Wu
Style Taiji Quan founder Quan You. Each morning more than one
hundred people came to Taimiao to practice. Master Yang brought the
young Master Wang there to practice. Wang proved to be such a quick
learner that after just one year, he was assisting Master Yang with classes:

“At that time I practiced very hard. Each morning, I woke up around
four o'clock. First I practiced everything I learned, then I went to
Taimiao Temple around six o'clock. There I would lead some students in
form practice first, and then we practiced push hands. I had to push
hands with thirty or forty people. Some of them were young and strong,
some of them were old or weak, and some of them already had very
good gong fu. This was very good training for me: different people had
different styles and presented you with different problems. For the young
and the strong, I must try to relax. For the older and weaker people, I
must take care not to overdo it or injure them.” Grandmaster Wang
Maozhai was the teacher of Yuan Liang, mayor of Beijing at the time.
Many of the capital’s money and power elites flocked to Wang Maozhai’
s classes as well, in order to get closer to the mayor. For these people,
some of whom led decadent lifestyles with associated bad habits, Master
Wang had to make other special accommodations for their physical
condition and status. “When they attacked, I can’t just lead their force to
emptiness. Being suddenly unbalanced is a very unpleasant experience,
these people would not like that. So I had to make them comfortable at
all times. If they pushed in, I had to lean all the way back, further than I
would have to in a normal situation. Not only do I have to support and
balance my own weight, at the same time I had to do the same for theirs.
So this whole experience was very good to develop my basic gongfu. For
the people who already had good skills, it was like an intense
competition, I must do my best to deal with them. Everyday like this for
several hours, it went a long way in helping me develop my skills.”

For five years, Master Wang had a single-minded focus on martial arts. “I probably was a little crazy back then”, he remembered, “everyday, every waking
moment, my mind was on martial art. When I walked down the street, I imagined myself as the xia ke (knight-errant) of old, walking alone in a big
mountain. Anyone who came toward me, I would imagine from his posture the various ways he could attack me at any given time, and what I would do in
response.” “To really reach high level”, he would later say, “you probably need to go through something like this, to have this level of intensity.”

Master Wang also realized from very early on that achieving high level skills required more than hard work and dedication, you must also exercise your mind
as hard as you are exercising your body. So he paid attention to everything in his practice, reflected on his practice deeply, and asked many questions to his
masters and to himself. To me it all boiled down to one puzzle he wanted to solve, and he would not stop until he had it all figured out: having been exposed
to all the great feats his various masters, he wanted to know: “… we all have two arms and legs, what makes it so that in a fight, this one person can remain
standing and the other one ends up flat on the ground?”

Student Wang fought many times, even at his young age, and by age fifteen he had already beaten many people, even a few famous masters. One of the
early stories about him was in regards to a saying: “Don’t let your big mouth get you in trouble with the young boy.” One day, while walking around Tian An
Men Square, he saw a large group of people watching some masters practicing martial arts. So he stopped to watch as well. One of the masters said that
no one can move his feet even one inch. No one else present challenged that, since they knew from experience that this was true. But the young Wang
never let a chance go by to try out his techniques. Many in the audience laughed because they did not believe this young boy could do anything. But he
surprised everyone by throwing the older master back three times. From that point on, in this area, people began to say: “Be careful, never have a big
mouth, or you may run into a certain young boy.”

Student Wang’s fighting ability soon captured the attention of Wang Maozhai. One day a challenger came to Taimiao. After defeating several students, he
came into Yang Yuting’s office and asked to push with Yang. Young Wang was in the office with Yang Yuting at the time. Yang Yuting’s personality was
very different from that of Master Wang. He was a very nice, even-tempered person who never carried things too far. He always stop short once he
thought the point had been made, careful to spare his opponent of any injury or humiliation. When he was pushing with this challenger, as soon as he sensed
his opponent was beginning to lose balance and control, he stopped and did not complete his throw. But the challenger, not even realizing he was losing,
and seeing Yang Yuting backing off, took advantage and managed to move Yang Yuting a step backwards. Young Wang understood what had happened
and was furious. He immediately asked to take Master Yang’s place. He took no chances in showing restraint, he threw and bounced the challenger off of
a wall like a ball seven times in quick succession before Master Yang yelled at him to stop.

The challenger came back again a few days later. He said this time he just wanted to fight with young Wang. He could not make sense of what happened
the previous day and want to try again. This time they fought outside in the yard. Young Wang threw the challenger down so hard the challenger passed
out. On this day Wang Maozhai just happened to come by and witnessed everything. He was delighted. He thought the young boy had the potential to be
a great master. So when he went to lunch with Yang Yuting that day, he asked young Wang to come along. During the meal he asked young Wang many
questions. At the end of the lunch he told young Wang: “From now on you can come to my house to practice every evening.” Upon hearing this, young
Wang was ecstatic. According to tradition, grandmasters usually do not want to appear to be interfering in their student’s affairs by teaching grandstudents
too much. So this was a very big deal. From that day forward young Wang would go to Wang Maozhai's home almost every night until the grandmaster
passed away in 1942.

Wang Maozhai (1863-1942) studied Taiji Quan with Quan You, one of Yang Luchan’s most outstanding students and Yang Banhou’s disciple. Although
he trained very hard from youth, Wang Maozhai did not reach true understanding of Taiji Quan until he was 52 years old. That year he went back to his
home village for vacation; and while taking a casual stroll around the village, he stopped to observe the masons working. When you pound on stones all day,
you develop technique, a certain kind of looseness, a springiness that is required in your motion, otherwise your hands quickly become numb from the hard
impacts. Watching these men work, Wang Maozhai was suddenly enlightened. When he returned to Beijing people were shocked by the change, he was
invincible. He became the most revered master in the capital city. Today, most traditional Taiji masters in Beijing and Northern China are from his lineage.
When his gong fu brother Wu Jianquan moved to Shanghai, people referred to them respectfully as “Southern Wu and Northern Wang.”

At that time Wang Maozhai had a profitable business in building materials (bricks and tiles). In his store, in between the sales counter and the da kang
(traditional brick bed), the floor was made up of two large slabs of stone. Wang Maozhai often practiced while standing behind the counter. Over time his
feet polished the stones to be as slippery as ice, and as smooth as mirror. This is the area where Wang Maozhai would stand pushing with grandstudent
Wang. In later years, Master Wang recalled, “Even standing still on these stones required a lot of effort. In the beginning, I could not understand my
grandmaster's skills, I just remembered being thrown down repeated to two places, either under the sales counter or up the da kang."

If Master Wang Maozhai's had any weakness as a teacher, it was that he could not verbalize the principles very well. But he obviously understood it
intuitively at a physical level. So when he taught, he just threw students again and again and let them get the feeling by themselves. This approach was
worked very well for some students, not so well for others. Later in life, Master Wang, being one of the former group, would say “I was really lucky. From
this training I really understood what Taiji Quan is.”

Eight years of hands-on contact with the high level master made him realize what high level skill should be like, and honed his own sensitivity to a very high
level. He studied every movement in detail and thought about them deeply. At the same time, he also began studying traditional Taiji principles and
philosophical theories under Master Guo Fen, another disciple of Quan You. Master Guo was a high level traditional scholar with formal classical training,
so he could articulate Daoist Taiji principles very well. Like others he was astounded by young Master Wang’s ability, and was happy to help further his

With such dedicated efforts, student Wang’s skills grew very quickly, and by age 18, Grandmaster Wang Maozhai had judged him qualified to teach. Yang
Yuting had many other outside teaching duties at the time, and so he gave some of them to his star disciple, and thereafter, student Wang became one of the
youngest taijiquan masters in China.

The Path of Mastery - Broadening the Horizon and Making Friends through Martial Arts

Young Wang continued learning more and more about martial arts. From age 15,
while continuing his studies of Yin Style Bagua, Taiji, and Tantui, he also began
learning Cheng Style and Liu Style Bagua with Gao Kexing. At that time, Master Gao
was a famous professor in the Martial Arts School of Hebei Province. Yang Yuting
had studied with Gao previously, then he brought along the young Wang. Young
Wang also received training in Ruyi Tongbei Quan with Liang Junpo, in Baji Quan
with Wu Xiufeng, in Xingyi with Zhao Ruenting, an in both Xingyi and Bagua with Han
Muxia. He also learned Shuai Jiao (Chinese wrestling), qigong, and Chinese medicine
as well.

At the same time Master Wang pursued his studies in traditional Chinese culture. He
studied Ru Xue (Confucianism) with masters Jin Hu and Xu Zhenkuen, Daoism with
famous scholars Shen Xinchan and Wu Jinyong, and Buddhism with priest Liao Yi
and Miao Chan. At age 13, he received ju shi jie from his Buddhist master. A ju shi
is someone who joins the group but can remain a layman instead of becoming a monk
living in the temple. Jie means monastic discipline. It was from this he received his fa
hao Yin Cheng.

Master Wang had a gentle temperament, but he really enjoyed a good fight. However, this was never just fighting for the sake of fighting. Although in his
lifetime he defeated many famous masters, he never thought any of that was important. What was important is the art - the skill itself. As he liked to say:
"I just like to research these skills, and for me fighting is just the testing part of that research." So despite his great skills, Master Wang remained modest
and humble. If he found any skill or capability that was good, anything worthwhile, he wanted to study it, even if it came from someone whom he had

A good example of this was his encounter with Wang Daoyi. Wang Daoyi is a Wudang
Mountain priest who had traveled widely to test his own martial arts skills. He defeated
many masters when he arrived in Beijing. When he came to challenge Yang Yuting, he
had to fight the young student Wang first before he could fight with Yang directly. It
never went further than that. However, both admired each other’s skill. Wang Daoyi
ended up staying at the Wang household for two weeks. Every day they practiced
together. Before Wang Daoyi left Beijing, he gave the young Wang a gift to thank him
for all his help and friendship. It was the famous, but rare, Wudang Jiang form. Master
Wang loved this form and practiced it very well. This was a very valuable gift since so
many people wanted to learn it.

In the old days, high level masters of big schools were not as conservative and jealous
of each other as some people think today. Perhaps some of the elder masters were
conservative in regards to teaching students but they did not reject learning high level
skills from others. These people loved martial arts more than life, if they saw anything
good, no matter where it came from, they wanted to learn it. They didn’t have the
arrogant attitude,“…my group is the best, if it didn’t come my group, I’m not
interested”. You can see that in the close relationship between members of Xingyi,
Bagua, and Taiji groups. People were blood brothers, and among blood brothers, as it
should be between real brothers, there were no secrets.

So if you were a high level martial artist, and you had some really valuable skill, you
could use it to trade for many other skills from other masters in return, even if you were
not an indoor disciple. Master Wang received much valuable training this way with
masters like Chen Fake of Chen Style Taiji, Wang Wenfang of San Huang Pao Chui
(three emperor cannon fist), Sun Xikuen of Bagua, Mo Wanda of Ying Zhao Li (eagle
claw force), Song Shutang (Song Changrong's nephew) of Song Style Bagua, and Wu
Zhizhen of Shaolin.

When Master Wang did push hands or fought, he felt that everything should be done precisely. Sometimes this meant he beat people very hard, and
created the misconception that he was a mean person. But fighting is something to be taken with utmost seriousness. Most traditional martial artists
understood this. Nevertheless, through his encounters, Master Wang often made many friends. They would study from each other and researched skills
together. Some of them even became Master Wang’s blood brothers, like Zhang Litang, Gao Ruizhou, and Ma Yilin.

Master Zhang Litang was born to an extremely prominent and wealthy family. His grandfather Zhang Zhiwan and granduncle Zhang Zhidong were scholar
warriors, both of them served as high level military advisors (equivalent of joint chiefs) of the Qing Dynasty. But Zhang Litang only had his mind on martial
arts, he was not interested in any book learning. To this day it is a mystery how, given his family background, Zhang Litang was able to avoid his classics
studies. In any case, his family hired a very famous Baji Quan master to instruct him at home. That master was Li Shuwen. Master Li Shuwen was one of
the most renowned fighters of his generation. His skill with the spear bordered on the miraculous, hence the nickname Shen Qiang Li; shen meaning god-
like, magical, divine, and qiang meaning spear. On top of his terrifying skill with a spear was his totally merciless attitude. Li was famous for having killed
several challengers, and severely injuring others.

So it was under his stern tutelage that Zhang Litang trained as a youth. Zhang Litang would later remember that there was little pleasing Li Shuwen, no
matter how hard your trained. By Li Shuwen’s standard no amount of effort was enough. The rest of the world would soon find out just how good Zhang
Litang’s spear skill was. At age 13, for fun Zhang and his uncle, who was only 17, decided to rob a wagon that was protected by professional armed
escorts. They handily beat the four masters protecting the wagon, who ran away in defeat. After he grew up, a friend got him a job as an instructor for the
army. When he joined there were about 20 instructors already, none of them thought anything of Zhang. Like his teacher, Zhang was small in stature. In
very short time he beat them all and won their respect.

Master Wang Peisheng first met Master Zhang in a park, where they talked and fought. Master Wang won the encounter but he admired Master Zhang's
skills, especially his spear technique. So they became very good friends and began practicing together often. Later on they met Master Gao Ruizhou.

Master Gao was from a martial arts family. His father Gao Fenglin was a famous martial arts master and Chinese medical doctor who taught his son since
his early youth. Later on, Gao became Li Ruidong's disciple, from whom he learned Cuo Jiao, Fan Zi, Taiji Wuxing Chui (Taiji Five Star Fist), among other
things. Master Li Ruidong's nickname was Bizi Li (Nose Li), after his deformed nose. His skill earned him the position of supervisor of the guards for the
Forbidden City. Through Li Ruidong, the art of Taiji Wuxing Chui, a mix of Taiji and other skills, became famous. When Master Wang and Zhang Litang
met Master Gao, they all became good friends and decided to start a school together, but not without trouble.

One day, while teaching in the park, a young man came to challenge Master Gao. Gao defeated the challenger, but he also said something that made the
challenger very angry. So the next day the challenger brought a man to fight with Gao. This man defeated Gao and said: "I hear you and your friends want
to start a martial art school, so I will see you on that day." This meant that he wanted a public challenge. According to tradition, if you lose on that day, then
the school cannot open. So Gao went to Wang and Zhang right away. They had to settle the situation before they started the school.

A few days later, they saw the challenger in the park. As the challenger shook hands with Master Wang, he suddenly used a technique called “dragon stirs
tail” to attack Master Wang, but Master Wang immediately countered with "dragon coils around the jade pole", which enabled him to keep his balance,
and at same time destroy the challenger's balance. The challenger was very surprised at being bested. They began to talk about martial arts and each of
them tried out other techniques. The challenger knew Xingyi Quan very well, so he tried beng quan to beat Master Wang, but Master Wang used pi quan
in return to throw the challenger out. The process continued until the attitude of the challenger changed and he became friends with Master Wang. The
challenger now asked to join the group in building the school. This challenger turned out to be none other than Ma Yilin, disciple and son-in-law to the
famous master, Han Muxia.

Han Muxia, born 1872 in Tianjing, had studied martial arts from a very early age. He had nine acknowledged masters as teachers. The last of them was
Xingyi and Bagua master Zhang Zhankui, also known as Zhang Zhaodong. Zhang’s nickname was Shan Dian Shou, or lightning hand. Zhang was the
supervisor of the president’s guards. Later he taught martial arts in Tianjing. Zhang had studied Xingyi with Liu Qilan, and Bagua with Dong Haichuan.
Han Muxia was Zhang Zhaodong’s best disciple. Many actually thought Han Muxia’s gungfu was better than Zhang Zhaodong’s. Han had excellent
fighting skills and defeated many famous masters. Han’s school, the National Martial Arts Academy, was very famous. Han’s only daughter was married
to his best student Ma Yilin. Through Ma, Master Wang had the opportunity to learn Xingyi and Bagua with Han Muxia. By this point, Master Wang had
a firm grasp of the basics, and so had the added opportunity to talk more with Han about many higher level concepts, things like the famous “200 baffling
questions in martial arts”, which Han explained to Master Wang in detail.

So with Zhang, Gao, and Ma, Master Wang founded the Huitong Martial Arts School in the northwestern part of Beijing in 1947. Master Wang was the
director of the school. Eventually they all became blood brothers. In 1957, the four brothers founded a second school, People’s Martial Arts Club, in
southern part of Beijing. Master Wang was the chairman of that school.

During this period, Master Wang became increasingly famous for his fighting skills. He defeated many masters, some very famous, but he did not often
mention these encounters. To him, fighting was about researching, and about proving your ideas about martial arts, not for elevating one’s own reputation
at the cost of another’s reputation. His reputation grew nonetheless such that Dacheng Quan founder, Wang Xiangzhai, confided to him once: “Peisheng, I
always keep your name on the cuff of my sleeve.” This is a saying from the Tale of Three Kingdoms. According to the story, King of Wei Cao Cao, upon
hearing from General Guan Yu that his younger brother Zhang Fei, was the better fighter, immediately tell all his generals to write down the name on their
sleeves, so that if they were to run into Zhang Fei later, they would remember to exercise extreme caution.

Early Days of People’s Republic of China – Contributions

The early 50’s marked the end of more than one hundred years of fighting for China, both civil and foreign. The country and its people finally had a chance
to rest. The social climate was once again great for martial arts training. Master Wang was very busy teaching martial arts, at his two schools and at many
other places, especially in colleges and universities. He started to play a very active role in the national martial arts scene as well. This was in the early
days of national martial arts competitions, before the advent of modern Wu Shu, so it was not uncommon for competitors who thought they lost unfairly in
forms competitions to want to settle the issue with a real fight, with the other competitor, or even with the judge! So judges were needed who could keep
this type of thing under control. Master Wang did a lot of judging during this period. He also joined in many martial arts research conferences. As a result
he started to become famous on a national level.

In 1953, he finished a great work, the Wu Style Thirty-Seven Posture Form. At that time, he was teaching at the Beijing Industrial College. Some faculty
and students complained to him that the traditional form took too long. At over 40 minutes, many of the busy college faculty and students often did not
have time to finish one repetition of the form. So Master Wang had the idea for a short form.

The first thing he did was to remove all the repetitive movements, so that trimmed down the form to just 37 postures. Then he edited and rearranged these
postures to create a new form. The logic he used was to put some of the simple and easy movements in the beginning of the form, with some complex and
difficult movements in the middle, and finally some quiet and relaxing movements in the end.

He kept experimenting with the new form as he started teaching it to people. He thought it can be make even more efficient, using even fewer postures.
He analyzed the form in detail. Recalling his own learning experience, he realized the traditional approach relied on countless repetitions to finally drill into
the student what the correct feelings should be, teachers really didn’t explain much in detail. Using this approach, it is only those who are naturally more
sensitive and intuitive who finally acquired the skills. For many others the skills and concepts remained very difficult to grasp, even after decades of

So Master Wang took the next step of breaking apart the 37 non-repeating postures in Taiji Quan form into their 178 individual movements. For the first
time in history, for each of these movements, he standardized them: First, he provided detailed and exacting guidelines on just how each movement should
be performed, the direction, angle, and many other aspects. Second, he told people what the correct feeling for each movement should be. Third, he used
the idea of Liu He Ba Fa (six integration and eight basic methods) to explain each movement. Fourth, he explained how to practice shen, ii, and qi in that
movement. And five, he told you how to link all these detailed movements, from internal to external, so that energy is transferred smoothly between each

After many years of modifications and enhancements, he made his new form public. Today, we can safely say, after observing the experiences of all the
people who have practiced this form in the last half century, that this new form is more efficient as a training tool than the traditional long form. Everything is
very clean, straightforward, and easy to understand by comparison. It was an instant success. Years later he was to published book and video of this

Early Days of People’s Republic of China – Political Problems and Exile

As the People’s Republic of China emerged, more and more of the lives of Chinese citizens was being tightly controlled by centralized authority. And given
this type of the government, the quality of an individual’s like depended on the person immediately in charge. If he liked you, life was easy. If not, then
everything was difficult. Some, whose “agility of the tongue” was far better than their martial skill, became very famous throughout the country, mainly
because their ability to cozy up to certain authority figures. Others, like Master Wang, who had far superior skills, suffered because of their traditional

Master Wang actually had the opportunity to befriend a key government official in the martial arts establishment early on, but Master Wang’s penchant for
traditional ways made the official a lifelong enemy instead. This young official, who practiced Xingyi Quan, went to visit Master Wang at Huitong Martial
Art School in early 1950s. He thought of himself highly, and wanted to talk about real fighting skills with Master Wang. Out of respect for his official
position, Master Wang held back at first, only defending himself, and not attacking in return. This made the official very frustrated, since he expected it to
be real. So Master Wang became serious, and did not hold back, throwing the official three times, once even out of the classroom. Then they went to
Master Gao's home, and there, Master Wang beat him a few more times. It was all too humiliating. From that point on, for the next thirty years Master
Wang could not get anything published, and his name and picture never appeared in any newspapers or magazines. This official carried a grudge all the way
to the end, and even upon his retirement, he told his successor, “that Wang Peisheng is a very bad man. You keep an eye on him!” But this was nothing
compared to the troubles that were to come.

The communist government was a populist government and got wide support in the beginning. Things were great for a while. But by the early 1960’s, signs
of trouble appeared. The economy started to go downhill, and there was mass starvation. People for the first time started to question and criticize the
government. There were even those who thought the communists should be replaced as leaders of the government. One of Master Wang’s students
shared this sentiment, and confided his thoughts to a friend. Such thoughts were considered so subversive and dangerous that his friends became very
afraid, so it was reported it to the police. When the police came and searched the student’s house, they found his diary. Among the entries were his
detailed, wild fantasies of what an ideal, post-communist government should look like, which included installing Master Wang as a high level officer in his
fantasies government. Master Wang of course had no idea about any of this. But it didn’t matter, Master Wang, along with Masters Zhang, Gao, and
several others mentioned in the diary were arrested and found guilty of being anti-revolutionaries. This was one of the most serious crimes in China at that
time. Master Wang was sentenced to a 5 year prison sentence, but he ended up serving more than 17 years.

Master Wang and the others were sent to a prison in northeast China where the living conditions were horrible, and the weather was very cold. They had
to work very hard and the food was scarce and of poor quality. After several years, both Master Zhang and Master Gao passed away in what should
have been the prime of their lives, but Master Wang, even in deteriorating health, managed to survive.

Master Wang survived mainly because he had naturally robust heath and he secretly kept up his qigong practice. Obviously he could not practice any
martial arts in prison, but most qigong practices did not require obvious, external movements. In addition, since the prison was located in a very poor area,
there was only a small hospital that was very far away that did not carry sufficient medicines, so if you got sick, it was a serious matter. Master Wang, with
his vast knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine, used it to cure people, including several prison officials, security guards, and their family members,
becoming rather famous in the process. People respected him like a doctor. The prison officials and staff thereafter gave him preferential treatment. As
Master Wang remembered: “My traditional medicine skills really saved my life. The hardest work was to cut down trees on a big mountain far away. We
had to walk a long distance. We had no machines, just used axes and saws. The conditions were so bad, especially in the winter, that many people got
hurt or sick. And because the officers of the prison needed me, they didn’t want me to go far, so they gave me easy tasks. First I worked in the boiler
room, later I worked in the sugar factory in the town. So my life was much easier than most other people.”

The walls of prison separated the world into two parts. Inside, time passed slowly, but outside, it was fast. In 1979, Master Wang was officially released
and he returned to Beijing and reunion with his family. Yes, he lost many things during those years, but he was still alive and his gungfu was still in his body.
He found that many things had changed. Many friends were dead or had left. Young people had no idea who he was. And with his name forever on the
anti-revolutionaries list, his troubles were still not over. But his mind he was stronger, and he understood life and everything else much better. So he
steadfastly set out to use his skill to rebuild his reputation. He was 60 years old at the time.

Post-Cultural Revolution – Restoration

After the Cultural Revolution, traditional culture began to make a comeback. Many
people started to practice martial arts again, especially young people. But when
Master Wang was introduced to younger practitioners, many of them doubted his skill.
They did not really believe this old man could do real martial arts. But very soon they
found that Master Wang could beat everyone very easily. His knowledge of martial
arts was like that of an ocean, wide, deep, and unfathomable .

At the start, Master Wang just did seminars for his prior students. He needed to
restore his reputation within his own group first. Later, he did several public seminars
and demonstrations. In 1981, he won a gold medal in Beijing martial arts
championships for his performance of Taiji Dao (broadsword). Then he made a
nationally televised class about Taiji principles and real fighting skills. Each of these
activities garnered public attention. He was invited to teach martial arts in many places.
The government eventually invited him to join the martial arts conference again as the
lead judge in national martial arts competitions. In 1982, during the all-country martial
arts competition and demonstration championships in Shanyang, an incident occurred
that drew international attention and resulted in a resurgence of his fame.

From very ancient times Chinese culture has heavily influenced Japanese society, this
included martial arts. One Japanese martial arts group that has particularly close ties to
China today is the Nippon Shorinji Kempo group, or Japanese Shaolin Martial Arts
Association. Within Japan, although the total numbers of kendo, judo, and karate
practitioners are larger, they are splintered among many styles, so Shorinji Kempo is
actually the single largest martial arts organization. At that time in China, not just
Shaolin style, but martial arts in general, was going through one of its low periods.
Seeing this, and comparing to their own popularity in Japan, there was the sentiment
among Shorinji Kempo members that they were now the standard bearers of Chinese
martial arts. When they made their 8th trip to China during the 1982 National Martial
Arts Championships, they demonstrated their techniques, and afterwards, as they have
done in previous times, challenged the Chinese to a real fight. The last time they did
that, when there was no response, they said: “Today physically the Shaolin Temple may
still be in China, but the real Shaolin martial art is only in Japan.”

This made Chinese government officials very angry and ashamed. The government
desperately needed a Chinese master to defeat the Japanese. In this case, failure is not
an option, either you don’t answer the challenge, or you win. There is no other way.
But thanks to the policies in recent decades, there was no one in the younger generation
who could meet the challenge, and most of the older generation masters were either too
old or unwilling to do it. The Japanese delegation were at their prime. Their realistic
embu (fighting demonstration) were a marked contrast to the modern Wu Shu
performances. It looked hard. It looked real. It was extremely intimidating. But this
time, the Japanese found their calls answered. Earlier, Mao Behou, an official in charge
of the martial arts affairs, knowing Master Wang’s ability, had asked him if he would be
willing to accept the challenge. Master Wang said simply: “I can do it.”

The event took place in a regular meeting room. There were more than ten Japanese
masters in attendance. Master Wang was accompanied by Ma Jinlong, his student and
now head of the Li Style Taiji Quan group. First a translator introduced each master.
He then told the Japanese masters that Master Wang is a Taiji master. The Japanese
masters looked at each other in disappointment because they wanted to meet someone
who could really fight, and in their minds Taiji was for the old and the weak. “We hear
about Taiji,” the leader of the delegation said, “in Japan, many people practice it, and it
is just for health.” Then there was awkward silence, for a while nobody said a word, it
looked like they didn’t even want to talk any more. This made Master Wang unhappy,
but he kept his composure. He said: “From what this gentleman just said, we know he
does not understand Taiji Quan. If someone does not understand Taiji Quan, he does
not really understand martial art. Yes, Taiji is good for health, but it’s also for fighting.
Furthermore, it actually represents the highest level principle for fighting.” Then Master
Wang explained some Taiji principles. Standing up from his chair, he continued
smoothly, “I can say means I can do. I know your guys do not believe I can fight. So
please choose the best fighter from your group, and use his best skill to fight with me.
We will test this right now.” On the Japanese side, Yamazaki sensei, headquarter co-
chief instructor, stood up, and the fight began.

First he grabbed Master Wang’s wrist with one hand, attempted to twist it, and chop
the outside of the arm right above the elbow with the other hand. His movements were
so fast that many in the room did not even realize the fight had already begun. But
Master Wang was calm and poised, upon initial contact he unbalanced Yamazaki with
just one subtle movement, and then, in a continuous, fluid motion, twisted and chopped
Yamazaki’s arm. Yamazaki hit the ground with both his head and his knees. Master
Wang did not let go, he continued to control Yamazaki and kept him down. At this
point just about everyone saw what happened, but they couldn’t understand what was
going on.

Master Wang just smiled and said this was simple. He let Yamazaki up. Yamazaki tried it again, and was defeated the same way again. After that Master
Wang threw Yamazaki 6 more times. One time Yamazaki’s flew uncontrollably toward the corner of an end table, and Ma Jinlong pushed him out of harm’s
way. Another time he was thrown clear out of the room. As it should be with high level Taiji Quan skill, the Master Wang’s movements were extremely
subtle, sometimes it looked like he was just waving his hands or only moving a finger or two.

The Japanese delegation was in shock. They didn’t understand what just transpired, but their attitude changed immediately. “This is our 8th trip to China.
And this time we learned the most.” After they went back to Japan, they wrote an article about this fight and Master Wang's life that was published in a
Japanese martial arts magazine. The article opened with the line “Those slender fingers, they inspire such fear!” Also they listed Master Wang as one of the
ten greatest Chinese martial artists.

Post-Cultural Revolution – Later Contributions

From this Master Wang became very famous again, both in and out of the country. He taught in the United States and Japan. For decades his skills were
that of an international level master, only now, after decades of enforced hardship and anonymity, his fame was beginning to equal his skill. Everyday many
people visited him at his small house. In 1983, he published “Wu Style Taiji Quan” and it was translated into in English. In 1984, he published “Wu Style
Taiji Quan Short Form (thirty seven postures)” that had been written thirty years previously. In January of 1984, the Beijing Wu Style Taiji Quan
Association was established, and Master Wang was named vice president and shortly after became president.

From the 1980s onward, Master Wang was:

(i) President of Beijing Wu style Taiji Quan Association,

(ii) Director of Physical Science Research Center of BITI,

(iii) Expert of China Human Body Science Institute,

(iv) Professor of Chinese Qigong Institute for Advanced Studies,

(v) Consultant for Martial Arts and Qigong associations in many cities and

(vi) Instructor of Sport Teachers Training Camp of Whole Country Colleges
and Universities

In time past, Master Wang was also:

(i) President of Oriental Martial Arts School,

(ii) President of Peisheng Martial Arts School,

(iii) Chairman of People’s Martial Arts Club,

(iv) Director of Huitong Martial Arts School, and

(v) Professor and Martial Arts Coach at Beijing Normal College, Beijing
Foreign Language University, Beijing Language Institute, Beijing Industrial
Collage, Beijing Polytechnic University, Beijing Agriculture Mechanization
Collage, North Traffic University, China Science Institute, Tianjing Medical
Collage, Beijing Medical Collage, Beijing Workers Sanatorium, Beijing
Modern Management Collage, China Qigong Institute, Beijing Library, China
Daily Publish, National Education Committee, Beijing Dancing College, and
Beijing Taimiao Taiji Quan Association.

Before he passed away, Yang Yuting appointed Master Wang as his successor to lead the Northern Wu Style Taiji Quan group.

Master Wang taught martial arts for over seven decades. Most of the time was spent teaching Taiji Quan. For this reason, many thought he was only a
Taiji master. For a very long time, that was the only part of his skill he showed in public. He taught Xingyi, Bagua, and qigong to a few disciples, but from
time to time he would astonish people with his other skills. For example, once, in 1983, he was invited to a seminar in Nanning, Guangxi province. There is
a big martial arts group in this city practicing Baji Quan. They liked real fighting and always did things very hard, as was according to the Baji traditional
idea. When they knew Master Wang was in the city, they went to challenge him. Master Wang accepted and said: “You people practice Baji, so if I use
other techniques, maybe you are not interested, so today I’ll just use Baji skills.” Then he proceeded to beat everyone using just Baji skills. This made all
the group members admire him. The whole group decided to study Baji and Taiji with him.

Besides teaching martial arts and writing the standard book on Northern
Wu Style Taiji Quan, Master Wang also published Qian Kun Wu Ji Kung
in 1986. In this gongfu, he mixed several of the best techniques he
learned, from fighting skills to qigong practice. In 1990, he published the
other short Taiji form, the sixteen postures form, for people to learn high
level Taiji Quan easier. He has also published books on weapons and
qigong. In 1994, he published a series of Taiji and qigong videotapes.

Master Wang had a wonderful family. According to Chinese tradition, he
married Ms. Li Shuzhen when he was eighteen. Like every young couple,
they did not really know each other before they were married. Everything
was taken care of by both parents. Ms. Li (in China woman does not
change her last name after marriage) was a wonderful woman. She took
care of everything for Master Wang so he could concentrate on martial
arts. Each day, people visited Master Wang at his home and Ms. Li, on
top of all her housework, would take care of the visitors, by making tea,
and even preparing lunch or dinner. When Ms. Li passed away in 1997,
it had a very negative impact on Master Wang’s life. Suddenly the normal
rhyme of his life was disrupted. He was lost without her, seemingly not
knowing what he should do. Soon he had his first stroke, after that he
became quiet, and his health declined quickly.

Master Wang was truly a great master whose knowledge is based on a
lifetime of solid, real- world fighting experience. Some of these fights were
not about the friendly exchange of ideas or proof of skills, but rather life
and death. For example, during the Japanese occupation of WWWII, one
day Master Wang and others were practicing in a park when a group of
four Japanese soldiers came. After watching for a while, they made their
intentions clear. They wanted a fight. Furthermore, taking out their
bayonets from the holsters, they said: "Who can defend against us with no
weapons?" This was an incredibly dangerous situation. Beijing was under
occupation, a Japanese soldier could injure or kill Chinese civilians without
any consequences, but a Chinese could not hurt a Japanese. Master
Wang, displaying his usual confidence and courage, simply said: “Let me
try.” Then the fight took place. In a series of lighting fast moves he
disarmed all of them. Shocked and ashamed, the four Japanese soldiers
ran away from the scene.

During his whole life, Master Wang never rejected any challenge, even up to when he was nearly eighty years old. He was utterly serious about martial
arts. He worked hard and he could not forgive mistakes or deviations from the principles of the martial arts. For this reason some people think he was too
hard, or even mean. But once you knew him, you would find that he was a very kind person. He treated young students like his own children. He loved
to help people. He was fair. He was modest. He was honest. He did not smoke or drink. In his mind martial arts was more important than the any other
thing. And he cared for his good name more than his life.

In remembering that remarkable life, Master Wang said “I am a lucky man because I met and
studied with so many great martial arts masters in my life. But many years ago, when those
unfair things happened to me and there seemed to be no hope, I really thought I would take
all of those valuable skills to the grave with me. But today I think that rich knowledge came
from the countless masters of all previous generations, something they labored for,
accumulated little by little through generations of experience. If I do not pass it onto the next
generation carefully, I will let the older generations down. So I will do my best and hope that
some young people can work hard to inherit these valuable skills from me.” This is what he
said he wanted to do, and that was exactly what he did.

Taken from

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Huang Sheng-Shyan

Huang Sheng-Shyan was born in 1910 in Minhou County of the Fujian province in Mainland China. At the age of 14 he began his life-long career into the ‘Martial Arts’ by learning Fujian White Crane from Xie Zhong-Xian, in which he first became renowned. In 1947 he resettled in Taiwan where he became a disciple of Cheng Man-Ching. Yang Cheng-Fu as the grandson of the Yang style founder had been Cheng Man-Ching’s teacher. It was into this tradition that Master Huang committed himself for the next 45 years.

At Grand Master Cheng Man Ch’ings injunction Master Huang immigrated to Singapore in 1956 and then in the 60’s moved to Malaysia with the expressed purpose of propagating the Art of Taijiquan.

Grand Master Huang set up home in Kuching on the Island of Borneo. There he remained for most of the rest of his life, steadily practicing, teaching, experimenting, developing his training system and opening new schools as well trained instructors became available.

Grandmaster Huang repeatedly said that “the essence of Taiji is in the Form”, which is the set of movements developed as a means to train the body to move in a synchronized and harmonious Taiji manner, and that eventually every movement contains the 'Principles', and the Form becomes formless.

The practice of Taiji is not performing posture 'A' and posture ‘B', it is whether you understand the transition from posture 'A' to posture 'B'. Attention needs to be paid to the sequence of synchronizing, the timing and body alignment within every movement of the Taiji Form. If all of these can be achieved than the relaxed force will naturally be cultivated - from the Form. In learning the Taiji Form we must first emphasize the accuracies of the external postures and movements. Then we work on the internal 'relaxation', ‘sinking', and 'grounding' before the releasing of the rebounding force is possible. In the later stages the external and internal needs to be synchronized together.

Relaxation in the Form is produced by mind 'awareness'. We all begin with 'regional' awareness where you move your mind to different parts of the body and visualize them to relax. After a while then when you think of relaxing the whole body will relax as one unit. But if you only work on relaxing the body, you are not likely to develop grounding without which there cannot be any rebounding force. So we next need to work on 'sinking', which is a mental process where-by you guide the melting sensations of relaxing, into the ground. The rebounding force is a product of the sinking.

Pushing-hands is an extension of the Form where you work towards remaining synchronized, balanced and grounded even with an external forces affecting you. It works on the principle of yielding to an oncoming force, and redirecting back to its source.

In Pushing-hands the practitioner learns to listen to the oncoming force of their opponent, stick and adhere to him or her, follow them back until they loose their centre, then issuing the relaxed force.

"The way that you do the form will result in the way that you push hands". "By understanding yourself and understanding your opponent, you will excel in pushing-hands." Therefore the way you move your body and synchronize your movements in the pushing hands must be the same way as in the Taiji Form. Listening begins in the Form, where-by you cultivate the 'understanding of yourself' and how your body moves and synchronizes. From this you can extend your listening cultivation into the Pushing-hands to 'understand your opponent'.

Training Pushing-hands begins with fixed pattern routines in which the body learns to respond to an external force that has a controlled direction and velocity. As per the Form, every movement must contain sticking, adhering, listening, neutralizing and issuing. We must be careful not to lapse into a mechanical movement of just 'going through the motions'. The listening should develop to include not only listening to the incoming force but also listening also to your reaction to the force, your movement in relation to your relaxation, how you push your opponent and their reaction to your push.

Grandmaster Huang would remind students that “yielding is not running away from the force, or even just going with the flow”. The 'Classics' state that “when a fly alights it sets you in motion”, not that you pull away because the fly lands. What that means is that the incoming force that ‘sets our body in motion’, just like a sponge that absorbs all of the push and returns as the push withdraws.

At the age of 60 Grand Master Huang Sheng-Shyan again demonstrated his abilities in Taiji by defeating Liao Kuang-Cheng, the Asian champion wrestler, 26 throws to 0, in a fund raising event in Kuching Malaysia.

When teaching, Grandmaster Huang would repeatedly pointed out that; “slow is fast and fast is slow”, to students eager to learn the Form in as short a time as possible. Those who paid no attention to this and rushed on to Pushing-hands classes often found the need to return to the beginners and start again, as they in their haste they had forgone accuracies. “Seek the quality not the quantity” was another frequent saying, encouraging the students to get one movement right before moving on to the next. Not many people like to spend a lot of time just learning one movement, and few teachers are prepared to teach the details of one movement. The basics might seem dull and monotonous, but future progress will depend on a sound foundation. “If you have a foundation deep enough for three stories, you can only build a three story building. For a twenty story building you need to have laid a foundation to support twenty stories.”

Everyone has a different understanding, and a different way of delivering Taiji teachings, but that as long as it adheres to the ‘Principles’ then it is correct. Learning Taiji is an ongoing process, so always with the attitude of always being a student, you can continue to refine your Taiji until the day you die. Even if you live to be over 100 years old.

True to this sentiment Grandmaster Huang Sheng-Shyan, developed his 'Art' right up until his death in December 1992, at the age of 82.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Rooting, the Secret of Getting Power from the Earth by Gaofei Yan and James Cravens

In studying the ideas which lie behind the “internal martial arts,” we recognize that internal means that there may be concepts and principles that are underneath the surface or not apparent as they would be in the external martial arts. While looking at these deep aspects, such as chi and internal power, one of the most intriguing principles is the study of rooting. Rooting may not sound like an exotic topic, but if one is to develop the energy skills that we hear the legendary masters attained, rooting must be understood, as well as practiced.
Everyone in the martial arts agrees that one needs good balance and many use the word rooting in speaking of this balance. Rooting is not just having good balance, it involves much more. Most beginners neglect this aspect because technique, counter technique, and the various ways to fight seem to be what initially captures their interest. After a period of time, the serious students, through much practice and thought, discover that they are losing power when they move and when they try to strike. They may have a strong shoulder or a big punch, but it is segmented and not part of a unitary body effort. This is because they have no root.

Chen Zhaopi, the 18th generation Chen family master and master of Chen Xiao Wang, Chen Zhenglei, Chen Shitong, and Wang Xian, said the following: “If one cannot come to recognize how the weight moves distinctly back and forth between the two legs, then the upper and lower body cannot work together and connect. If the upper and lower body cannot connect, then you cannot absorb the opponent’s force. If you cannot absorb the opponent’s force, you cannot use his force.”

After two years of dedicated practice, Mr. Yan’s teacher, Chen Quan Zhong, told Mr. Yan that he still had no Kung Fu, but had only begun to have a little root. Therefore, it would serve us well to look closely at how to attain this principle of rooting, because we can safely say that if there is no rooting, there will be nothing else. The study of the “internal” will give us the secret of true “rooting” and teach us how to get power from the ground.

The great internal arts have various ways to achieve the skill of rooting. In the art of Xing-yi (mind-will boxing) much time is devoted in particular to developing the San ti Shi or “Three Body Posture.” In the style of Bagua Zhang (eight diagram boxing), they use the idea of walking in a circle in order to build up the root. In Tai Ji Quan one develops the root by studying what the body must do in order to keep the weight’s center balanced while moving very slowly. Push hands practice, a two person touching exercise, then uses speed in order to develop this balance under more difficult circumstances.

Even though each art uses different methods in order to build and develop the root, other factors are important such as intensity and regular practice. Zhang Ju, who was a master in the art of Xin-Yi, practiced so hard that he would finally collapse and fall down asleep. Sun Lu Tang, one of the most famous internal boxers in Chinese history, practiced the “plowing step” wherever he went during the day. Even while standing around he would be practicing. Chen Xiao Wang practiced so hard he could barely bend his knees after practice.

Note: A variation of this article was published in Tai Chi magazine last year. Because of the importance of this topic, we have decided to use this article for the benefit of our readers.

Many people use the term rooting but have varied ideas about what constitutes its meaning. Let’s examine the details so we may understand its substance. First, let’s look at what it means to lose root or not to have it at all.

People lose root because they use the wrong part of the body to focus their strength. For example, when the shoulder moves first in an action to strike, it is incorrect. One should use the lower body to drive the force. No matter how hard one attempts to be soft, they will never truly relax and have power until the lower body drives the force.

Photo #1, #2 Photo #1 (correct), #2 (incorrect) When the hand in “Brush Knee” touches, the body should sink as in picture #1, not as in #2. In #2 the chi will rise, but in #1, the chi sinks and the power is balanced in the legs and opponents arm.

Even when one uses the lower body to drive the force, the root can be lost because the shoulder, as well as any other joint or part of the body may interrupt the transference of power. When there is tightness or loss of coordination between the various joints and parts of the body, root will be lost. The hip, leg, etc. must act as one! Many times things inside the body fight against each other. For example, if the inguinal crease (part where the legs connect to the torso) at the hips is tight, the flow of energy will be broken in the body, breaking the root. When one practices in this way, the tightness or lack of body unity can give one the tendency to get injured. Sometimes one locks a joint. The hips and shoulders are typical joints that students will lock which breaks the root.

Photo #3,#4, In #3 the right shoulder is locked and left shoulder is too loose or limp. The left hip is locked and the left knee is limp. #4 photo is correct.

Photo #8,#9 In #8 the chi stops in back because the back is bent and the chest is forward. #9 is the correct way.

At the other extreme, the body can be too loose or limp which will also cause the root to be broken.

Photo One Photo Two Photo Three

Other causes that disrupt a continuous root include psychological reasons. Being frightened suddenly is a common example of how one’s energy will rise, taking away the potential power from the ground through rooting. Other emotions, such as anger, happiness, sadness, and being excited, can all play a role in losing root since they distract the mind from its focus. Losing root while sparring is an example of how psychological pressure locks up the body causing the root to be lost.
Finally, the reason for a lost root is often a combination of several postural problems. When one loses root, his movement or force cannot change directions and his body is segmented and not unitary. Internal power should be round and unitary, not linear and segmented. Roundness has the quality of continuation and flow, while linear does not contain this quality and will cause the body to stop and start, producing a segmented non-unitary action.

We see from the discussion so far that when one loses root, several factors are involved: the amount of tension in the muscles, the way in which the body connects and works together, and the ability to produce a powerful product in terms of projection.

There are many misconceptions about what root actually is. Some believe that it means having strong legs or having a low stance. Some believe that it is developed only by practicing static postures. People who train only in this way usually cannot fight.
If root is so desirable, how then does one build the root? Many people may agree on a quality or principle being useful, but “how” is always more important than “what.” The method that will step by step get you to the point of rooting is often what is missing. As mentioned earlier, many people and styles have different ways to build the root. In the style of Xing-Yi the old way is to practice 60% in static postures and 40% in movement. In Tai Ji Quan the solo form is a major factor in training, while Wuji standing posture with no motion, Tai Chi stillness postures, and heavy weapons (Long staff (Dagan) and Guan Dao) exercises are also practiced. In the art of Bagua Zhang one walks a circle to build up the root. In spite of these different methods, the requirement is basically the same. Certain things must be true about the body, the movement, the Qi (energy), and the mind.


1. The body should be straight. The body sinks and the head hangs as if suspended or pulled upward lightly from a string. This opposite stretch creates a straighter spine which then allows muscles to relax, giving more flexibility and movement to the body.

2. The waist must sink; sometimes one side may sink. This sinking has always been recognized as necessary in rooting.

3. Muscles on both sides at the inguinal crease should relax. If one does not relax, chi will not go down into the legs. This also aids in the process of straightening the lumbar curve in the back.

4. Two Huantiao (the points just behind the side hip bones) must be rolled back and out; these are also acupuncture points.

5. The distance between the upper inner thighs (dang) is the same width at the front of the inner thighs as at the back of the inner thighs. For example, if one assumes a toe-in hour glass stance, the distance at the rear of the inner thigh is greater than at the front. If one tucks the hip forward, the distance at the front of the inner thighs is greater than at the rear of the inner thighs. In Yang style Tai Ji they say they put the whole body on two legs, and the Chen style of Tai Ji explains this by saying it is like taking a seat or a sitting position while standing. The upper inner thighs should have a shape like an upside down letter “U” and not like an upside down letter “V.”

6. The acupuncture point called the Huiyin or perineum, as well as the anus, is internally pulled upward. This keeps the small heavenly circulation or the chi unblocked.

7. The “Wei Lu” refers to keeping the lower back straight during the posture or movement.

8. The entire body through to the legs must screw inward which will open the inner thighs. The knee should not be inward, but should be lined up straight with the foot’s direction so that the power from the ground will not be broken. One will actually feel an outer pressure on the outside knee as the legs screw inward toward the ground.

9. The acupuncture point “Wei Zhong,” located on the leg behind the center of the knee should always be strong. The knee will have to be bent and not kinked inward in order for this to be right.

10. Toes should grip the ground and the yong quan points (located just below the ball of the foot but just on the toe half of the foot) in the bottom of the feet become empty, which contributes to all movement and stability. The yong quan points are also known as the “bubbling well.”

Photo #4,#6,#9 Refer to ten points

Photo Five Photo Six Photo Seven

Photo Eight
Photo Nine

Photo #10 - Chen style Da Lu

In order to have a proper root, movement should never go by arm alone but by the whole body. The weight is transferred by turning the body.

Each internal art develops the root in various ways. In Xing-Yi, the classics state that the power of the technique is 70% from the lower body and 30% from the arms. Many misunderstand this teaching to be kicking rather than the lower body. Without this lower body emphasis, there is no rooting.

In Tai Ji Quan one moves very slowly, balancing over the yong quan points in the bottom of both feet in order to find and control the center of the weight. This assures that the force can come from the ground and not be stopped inside the body.

Furthermore, on a punch, the front leg must also screw and not be “loose” so that the whole body can contribute to power going out of the hand. The sensation is that the ground below moves in opposite directions due to this inward screwing with both legs. During the punch, a loose front leg creates a large energy loss going out the front knee. In Tai ji we say that the front leg has no “Peng Jing.”

Photo #5 (wrong way) Photo#6 and Photo #6B - The knee must not go limp but allow power to back up and back the punch.

Qi (energy)

The Qi in the body will flow properly when the three acupuncture points are lined up properly. These points are:

1. Bai hui - located on the crown point.

2. Hui yin - located between the genitals and the anus; this point should close and lift.

3. The intersection between the two yong quan points The intersection is somewhere between the feet depending on the posture.

These three points should all be lined up vertically. One cannot overemphasize the need to relax. When the three points are lined up in a relaxed manner, the Zhong Qi (centered chi) gets larger. Chi is a difficult subject for those just beginning to study, and the concept of centered chi is difficult as well.


The mind and spirit must be strong in order to keep chi from rising, which will destroy the effort of rooting. The mind must be very centered and controlled. Many people practice Chan (Zen) exercises, or something similar, in order to accomplish this. This, of course, has a parallel in life since the mind must also be kept centered every day in order to handle all circumstances.

When practicing, one should use imagination so that one can image clouds or a river to create evenly flowing movement. One can go fast yet stay quiet. When traveling in an airplane, one feels very still even though the speed may be 500 m.p.h.. Enemies to the mind are anger, fear, and various other emotions and distractions. They raise the chi high in the body, making the body tight and again destroying the root.

All of these requirements to building root support each other and connect to each other in a complimentary fashion. After a long time you will understand the beautiful harmony of the requirements. The straight plumb line requirement causes the thigh to go in, but when one takes the two points in the hip out the knees move out opening the thighs up properly. Another example of harmony between the requirements is that when the legs are down and when one sinks, the practitioner can use the whole body as a unit.

What kind of feeling is obtained from rooting? Should we feel something when we root? The feeling that is derived from rooting is that the upper body is empty and the lower body is full. In push hands or in application when two people are linked together, if one person is rooting and the other is not, the lever principle comes into effect. One person has the power of his chest and arms versus the other person which is using the entire body as a unit. Everything else being equal, the unitary rooted person has three times the leverage. It is like someone who is standing on ice pushing hands with a person on dry ground.

Photo #14 - Lose right knee-chi stops in back-force only from elbow out-short leverage vs. long leverage-black one on ice - other on dry ground.

Another feeling derived from rooting is that of smooth movement. The body turns as a unit; it also gives turning a greater range of motion. The body can turn in any direction.

Photo #11, #12,#13 - Mr. Yan can change to #12 or #13 from #11 depending on which way the Opponent goes. This is changeability.

Whether in fighting application or when interacting with an partner in some sort of dueling, one must yield and follow the opponent or the root can be shattered.

Root also allows the body to calm down and feel centered. In Bagua Zhang one walks a circle to build the root. It is said that after a long time, the eyes will be able to see very clear. This speaks of awareness and sensitivity. For example, one can taste the sweetness of bread if his or her taste buds are sensitive. Rooting allows the eyes to become clearer. In contrast, when one is angry, he does not see clearly.

When one sinks properly and allows the chi to sink, it is very intense. One may not be able to hold the posture for very long when he truly learns to sink and root purely.

The intensity can be greater with a root. Li Wen Bin, a master of Xing-Yi, taught a member of the Chinese National Hockey team who was very strong and could lift a two hundred pound weight over his head over one hundred times or more very easily. When placed in the proper rooted position, he could not hold a Sun ti shi (Xin-yi posture) for very long when he let the chi sink purely.

Chen Tai Ji sets up the root initially by standing in the posture called Wu Ji. Wu Ji refers to absence of movement. From the Wu Ji comes the Tai Ji. In the Wu Ji one can feel the three points in one line in order to feel the centered chi. The weight should be centered over the yong quan points in the bottom of the foot.

Every posture is like Wu Ji. Some people practice for many years and never feel the centered chi or root. In September of 1992 a Spanish martial art team visited Chen village. A famous teacher in Spain asked Chen Shi Tong to correct his posture. The posture was called “Walk Obliquely.” He held the stance and Chen Shi tong corrected every part of his posture properly. While changing his posture, he began to have an unusual feeling in his body. His eyes showed a big surprise. He could not hold the posture very long. He grabbed Mr. Yan’s arm (who was the interpreter) and began to say the word “Big Tree” many times. He wanted Mr. Yan to tell Chen Shi Tong what he was feeling. If the instructor is good, he will put you in the posture and you will feel the “centered chi,” or the “Big Tree.” A good instructor is very important in the development of many steps in internal boxing. You may have the knowledge, but a good teacher can cause you to get the proper feeling.

In Chen Tai Ji there are many ways to make the opponent’s chi rise. One way is to use chin na (grabbing, grappling, etc.) to cause the chi to go up. When one touches the fighter or in push hands, you want to find out the person’s direction of force and center, so you listen to his energy.

Photo #15, - Mr. Dees in rollback and Mr. Yan in Press. Mr. Yan finds tightness in Mr. Dee’s shoulder.

Photo #16 - Mr. Yan follows the tightness in the shoulder.

We have discussed why root is important, why people lose their root, how to build the root, and the feelings derived from rooting. The principle of rooting is a product of the principle coming from the Tao Te Ching, the most famous book in China.

The Tao Teh Ching was written by Lao Tzu who described the way of the universe. This book told people how to control the world. Its conclusion was that you control the world by controlling yourself — that you have more control in this world if you simply learn to control your own self and balance.

As this idea was factored into the internal martial art, it was discovered that when one learns to root, he has much greater control of his own balance as well as greater potential of power coming from the ground.

In the book Xing-Yi Quan Xue, The Study of Form-Mind Boxing, written by the famous internal martial artist Sun Lu Tang, translated by Albert Liu, and compiled and edited by Dan Miller, an interview with Sun Lu Tang’s daughter, Sun Jian Yun states that “her father did not think there was any secret way to practice the martial arts. He emphasized that there were two words which described correct practice, Zhong He, which translates to mean ‘balanced’ or ‘neutral’.” It is always easier to reach a goal if the goal is very clear. Why be rooted in martial movement? It is because our goal is to be balanced.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Jou Tsung Hwa's Teachings

As Grandmaster Jou himself freely admitted, it wasn’t until the last decade of his life, especially in the last few years, that he began to make real progress in taiji. Ever the scholar, he took up the classics as his primary source of learning. In fact, he would often say that his teacher was Zhang San Feng, a reference to the legendary founder of taiji. In addition to the classics, Grandmaster Jou spent considerable time in studying any ancient text, originals or reproductions, written about taiji, qigong, meditation or Daoist energy practices. He revived forgotten systems of practice and borrowed exercises from other martial disciplines, vesting them with internal attributes until they became just one more internal arts exercise. He developed new and unique practice systems, all intended to lead to further progress in taiji. Many of these systems he openly shared with all his students. Some of the more advanced practices he reserved, not as an act of secrecy but simply because they required a minimum level of progress that few attained. Even then he freely shared a vast scope of knowledge and gave anyone who understood them, the tools to master the art of taiji.
His theories were simple though sometimes controversial. The practice of taiji should follow the evolution of the art. Chen Form(s) should always be studied first, its principles understood and mastered. Only then should the Yang Form be studied, for only by mastering Chen could Yang be truly understood. The final stage of evolution was expressed in the Wu/Hao Form, which internalized the principles to its subtlest nuances. Beyond that was pure mind method. These, the “four classic forms,” as he considered them, comprised the heart of his taiji study and teachings. At the same time he made no secret of how he felt about the forms outside of these four. The Wujianquan Form was a less advanced derivative of the Yang Form. The Sun Form was a redundant hodgepodge of the three internal arts. Weapons forms were often learned too early in a student's taiji education -- a waste of time that could be better spent in practice and understanding of the principles. All other variants were simply a distraction from the originals.
Grandmaster Jou approached the study and teaching of taiji holistically, that is, he taught all its aspects: as a martial art, as a spiritual practice, as a philosophy, etc. He disapproved of those who taught the art in a fragmented fashion. Taught properly, he believed that all benefits became an effective byproduct of diligent taiji practice. Taught in fragmented fashion the benefits are equally fragmented. He understood that not everyone was the same. As such he taught people to begin their study by tailoring their practice to their body’s limits. He encouraged everyone, however, to extend those limits to their utmost. Lastly, it saddened him that so many teachers neglected to teach (and often didn't even know) the taiji principles and Daoist energy practices which comprise the heart of taiji.
As Grandmaster Jou’s understanding evolved so did his teachings. He had no illusions about his own abilities and never let ego get in the way of progress. For example, for years he taught his students to perform prebirth, or reverse, breathing during the practice of the form. However, he had also spent much time pondering a phrase which had cropped up in a number of ancient texts relating to qigong. The phrase was “wuxi zhixi,” roughly translated, “breathing without breathing.” Through much meditation and experimentation, Grandmaster Jou came to understand the phrase and, after years of teaching breathing the old way, he took up the practice of “breathing without breathing,” passing the knowledge on to his students (for more information see The Dao of Taijiquan).
As Grandmaster Jou’s understanding of taiji continued to progress he focused more and more on the “simpler is better” approach. He continued to refuse teaching weapons forms and warned his students that if they were to make any serious progress, they had to give up everything they’d learned and go back to the basics, focusing on the pure principles of taijiquan. He focused heavily on basic exercise drills, study of the classics, and the Chen Form. Many of his students abandoned him during this period, instead choosing to pursue easier avenues with quicker gratification. Still Grandmaster Jou would not relent. The dongjing, the “knowing energy” was upon him. He knew he was right and persevered. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was a purist and refused to mix any other martial arts techniques into his practice of taiji. This, he claimed, was what led to his breakthroughs in the Art.
For example, during Grandmaster Jou’s many travels he observed that none of today’s taiji masters are able to effectively spar with taiji alone. In fact, even those who said they could were not actually using pure taiji principles but rather mixing techniques from other arts, such as gongfu, to bolster their sparring. From this observation he believed that he had discovered an almost universal mistake made by contemporaries and students alike. This discovery, in turn, led to one his most controversial breakthroughs. The purpose of practicing the forms, he realized, wasn’t for fighting but rather to be used as a template to become one with the taiji principles. In fact, he eventually became convinced that use of form application would forever lock a practitioner into a level from which no progress would ever be made. This theory did not sit well with people who’d spent their whole lives practicing and teaching application. Yet proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
When sparring, Grandmaster Jou became a showcase for the unpredictable. Attack him and he was behind you. Grab him and he was no longer in your grasp. Push hands became “push air” then suddenly back to push hands and you’d lost. Chin na was useless against him. Hard styles couldn’t compensate for his unpredictable moves. As one former sparring partner put it, “When you sparred with 'Grandmaster' Jou you typically ended up ‘upside down against a pole without remembering how you got there.’” Not for a moment did he “pollute” his taiji with any other martial art. Years of infusing taiji movement into his very being paid dividends -- for when this 81 year old man sparred, he did so with taiji principles alone and could not be beaten.
The death of Grandmaster Jou was especially difficult for those who studied beneath him, for they knew better than any what the world had truly lost. Yet perhaps before leaving us, Grandmaster Jou had already given us the secret to taiji mastery, which, like so many secrets, remains in plain sight. “Go back to the basics and practice.” With that simple fact we come to realize that understanding is the easy part. It’s the mastery that takes a lifetime.

The original article can be found at the Jou Tsung Hwa Memorial Site

Sunday, July 03, 2005

An Interview with Mr Wang Xiangzhai

Wang Xiangzhai Discusses the Essence of Combat Science
An Interview with Mr. Wang Xiangzhai

The founding master of ‘Dachengquan, Wang Xiangzhai, who is famous in the North and South, and praised by the martial arts circles of the whole country, has recently moved to Beijing. For the exchange of knowledge and opinions among the practitioners of different martial arts, he has arranged a meeting time every Sunday afternoon from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm, at Dayangyibin Alley, where he acts as the host, and exchanges opinions with other famous experts of boxing, carrying forward and promoting the martial spirit of our nation as his sincere wish. A reporter interviewed Mr. Wang yesterday, having the following discussion with him.
[1] Interviewer: I have always admired and respected your superb boxing skills, may I ask what is your aspiration with regard to the combat science?
Wang Xiangzhai: Being praised as the representative of ‘Dachengquan’ by my friends really makes me embarrassed. I left my teacher in the 33rd year of the Reign of Guang Xu of the Qing Dynasty (1907), and since then, I have travelled all around the country, and thus I have seen much and learned much about life, left my footprints on uncountable places, both north and south of the Yangtze River, met many famous masters and veteran boxers, and experienced untold hardships. My biggest gain during these more than thirty years has been meeting many good teachers and helpful friends to compare skills and knowledge with, thus I am confident that I, as a veteran boxer, am on the right path of combat science.

A few days ago, Mr. Zhang Yuheng repeatedly made some comments in newspapers. Fearing that people of different circles have not clearly understood his meaning, and thus have had some misunderstandings, I wholeheartedly want to let people know what I have in mind. My remaining years are gradually waning away, life itself is enough, there is no room for fame and gain to occupy my mind, thus I am so anxious to, while this body of mine has not yet decayed, join forces with prominent compatriots to advocate the full development of natural instincts and martial virtue, and get rid of heresies. I do not want to be praised in vain, like those deceiving the public in order to gain fame.

[2] Interviewer: What is the basis of combat science?

Wang Xiangzhai: What is, after all, the basic principle of combat science? Different people have different answers to this question, but studying boxing routines, forms of movements, fixed techniques, and training hits and beats, all fall into the category of superficial, and although the boxing routines and forms of movements have been popular already for a long time, they are, indeed, extremely harmful to the people.

[3] Interviewer: ‘Xingyi’, ‘Taiji’, ‘Bagua’, and ‘Tongbei’ are considered to be schools of internal boxing, what are the differences of all these branches?

Wang Xiangzhai: People often say that ‘Xingyi’, ‘Taiji’, ‘Bagua’ and ‘Tongbei’ are internal styles, I do not know how the names of internal and external came about, so I cannot comment on that. By observing the past famous masters, one can see a part of it though.

The original ‘Xingyi’, and the ‘Xinyiba’ and ‘Liuhebu’ of Henan province, are of the same school. When tracing the lineage of Mr. Li Daidong (who was known as Old Dai) of Henan , you can find out that he is Mr. Li Zhihe's great-grandson, Mr. Li Zhihe was the teacher of the old gentleman Dai Longbang. The Yuan family of Jiyuan in fact followed the school of Mr. Li , although they named the art differently. Mr. Dai, although he changed the name ‘Xinyi’ into ‘Xingyi’, was not in contrary with the original meaning, and in that boxing the word ‘boxing’ carried the meaning of most faithfully adhering to it.

One should know that the original ‘Xingyi’ completely lacked the training method of the twelve forms, but the whole body was meant to express the essence of all these twelve forms. It did not have the theory of the mutual promotion and restraint of the five elements, there were just the five elements representing five kinds of forces. It did not have any fixed techniques, boxing routines or forms of movements either. I remember well the words of my late teacher about the five elements: Metal means the strength contained in the bones and the muscles, the mind being firm like iron or stone, being able to cut gold and steel. Wood has the meaning of the bending but rooted posture of a tree.

Water means force like the waves of the vast sea, lively like a dragon or a snake, when used, it is able to pervade everything. Fire means strength being like gunpowder, fists being like bullets shot out, having the strength to burn the opponent’s body by the first touch. Earth means exerting strength heavy, deep, solid, and perfectly round, the qi being strong, having the force of oneness with heaven and earth. This is the syncretism of the five elements. It has nothing to do with one technique overcoming another technique as the modern people claim. If one first sees with the eyes, then thinks of it again in the mind, and then launches the counter-attack towards the enemy, it is very seldom that one will not get beaten up.

‘Bagua’ was originally known as ‘Chuanzhang’. In my childhood I met Mr. Cheng Tinghua, I remember he seemed to be like a divine dragon roaming in the sky, changing infinitely, it is hardly possible for the modern person to reach such skill and strength. I distantly remember Mr. Dong Haichuan, it is even harder to understand how profound was his insight into the Sea of Law and attainment of the Tao. Mr. Liu Fengchun is a friend of mine, his skills are really profound, but his attainments are slightly inferior, but still those studying the sixty-four palms and seventy-two steps cannot compare with him.

I wish that the people practising ‘Bagua’ would concentrate on the double and single ‘chuanzhang’, paying special attention to intuitively perceiving every movement, doing their best to take a more advanced course of training, and earnestly enter into the theory, putting it all into practise for a long time, then they could get close to approaching its essence.

As masters of the original ‘Taijiquan’, I should recommend the Yang brothers Shaohou and Chengfu. They are also old friends of mine, thus I know that this boxing really has some knowledge of mechanics, but out of one hundred persons not even one gains its essence, and even if one can gain it, it is still one-sided, because the basic skills of intuitive perception already died out a long time ago, thus their lower bodies have no real strength to speak of. Originally this boxing consisted of three fists, also called the "old three cuts", Mr. Wang Zongyue changed it into "thirteen postures", and it was later changed into as much as one hundred and forty or fifty postures, this is the major reason for the distortion.

For health preservation, it restrains the spirit and mettle, and brings discomfort to the practitioner. For combat, it harms the practitioner’s limbs and trunk, and causes the useful body to become a mechanical and stiff thing, it also disturbs the student’s nerves, and is nothing more than wasting one’s time. As for its method of training, a punch with a fist here, a slap with the palm there, a kick to the left, and another one to the right, that is pitiful and laughable.

As for dealing with an enemy in a fight, against a master-hand, please do not even consider it, if the adversary is not stiff and sluggish, even the famous masters of this boxing have no chance to apply their skills. These abuses are so big that ‘Taijiquan’ might soon become just a mere form comparable to a chess manual. For the last twenty years, most people who have studied this boxing have not been able to differentiate right and wrong, even if someone has been able to differentiate them, he has not been capable of putting it into practice. As for common students, most of them use their ears instead of their eyes.

So ruined is this boxing that it has become useless, this is really deplorable. I wish that the powerful members of this school would promptly and strictly clean it up, and attempt to develop it in the future. When the day of success comes, they will be held as the bosom friends of all the boxing fans. I dare to say that I understand ‘Taijiquan’ deeply, those who do not agree, can notify me or lay the blame on me, only the wise ones might understand. At the same time, I suppose those who have really gained something in their study of ‘Taijiquan’, when they read this, they will nod in agreement and cannot help laughing.

‘Tongbeiquan’ is popular in northern China , especially in Beijing . The practitioners I have met were mostly out of shape, however, some were also holding a theory that was close to being right, but when checking their skills, they were very far from it. Most probably their predecessors were not like that, but the later generations have lost the essence. Although occasionally there were some who had deep and great skills in some one-sided parts of it, eventually they will have no hope of walking down the right path of combat science.

‘Meihuaquan’, which is also known as ‘Wushizhuang’, has a direct lineage that has been passed down generation by generation, especially in Henan and Sichuan provinces. Their way is different in approach but equally satisfactory in results with that of the practitioners of ‘Wujisanshou’ of Fuzhou , Xinghua, Quanzhou, Shantou , and other places. They also have their special and profound strong points for dealing with the enemy, but unfortunately most of them are one-sided and only very few are complete.

‘Bafan’, ‘Mianzhang’, ‘Pigua’, ‘Baji’, ‘Dagongli’, ‘Sanhuangpao’, ‘Niantui’, and ‘Lianquan’, all have their strong and weak points, most are one-sidedly inclined to hardness and a few to softness, they lack the internal skill of gathering the spirit. As for ‘Dahongquan’, ‘Xiaohongquan’, ‘Tantui’, ‘Chuojiao’, long boxing, short boxing, and the other various schools, I would rather not discuss them.

[4] Interviewer: What is your opinion on preserving the national arts?

Wang Xiangzhai: The boxing arts of our nation are in a chaotic state, thus the people cannot know what course to take. Summed up, they have abandoned the quintessence and kept only the scum, nothing more. Although the martial arts of Japan and the boxing of Western Europe are one-sided, they all have their original points. In comparison to an ordinary boxer of our nation, they are countless miles ahead. The people should be very ashamed of this. So we should clean up and carry forward the old knowledge. Except for us, who else is there left to do it? Despite my meagreness, I call for action to advocate it, only for this purpose.

[5] Interviewer: Sir, you have fixed a time to play host to the martial artists of various circles, this has proved that you are very modest and enthusiastic for the martial way, but why do you do all this?

Wang Xiangzhai: The way of learning builds up from comparison, this applies to boxing as well. When comparing skills, there is victory or defeat, but one’s personality is not harmed by it, on the contrary, it may improve one’s personality and increase one’s morals. If everyone could inspect and learn from each other’s experiences, the dispute between different schools could be avoided, and furthermore, it could stop the irresponsible talking. I wish that those who pursue the same things as I, will not take these words as empty talk, and if the prominent personage and the wise hermits of this country will be willing to make a journey to grant me instruction, they are very welcome. If you do not wish to come to visit me, please just send me a note and I will surely and wholeheartedly pay you a visit and respectfully listen to all you have to say. To sum up, I only seek to improve the boxing art, I do not bother about anything else.

[6] Interviewer: Sir, you are the founding master of ‘Dachengquan’, you must have some judicious views about this school, would you please tell us some details about it.

Wang Xiangzhai: The way of combat science is extremely complicated and difficult to unravel. Extremely complicated and difficult, yet it is extremely simple when its gist has been grasped. Thus when we study boxing, we should first know what we study it for. When we know that, we can surely gain something. Most people study boxing mainly for health, and then secondly for self-defence. Good health is the basis of all the human activities, so the ways of health preservation and protecting one’s body really cannot be neglected.

If one learns the method of exercise properly, then the benefits will be great, but learning it improperly can even lead to death. Only very few of the sportsmen doing strenuous exercise can enjoy longevity. The boxers who have lost their lives or injured their bodies because of improper exercise are uncountable. That kind of boxing is indeed pitiful and also laughable. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of studying boxing, one should experience and observe the states of movement and stillness with special care while exercising, not only the external movement of the body, but also the moving state of the spirit.

One should use the spirit and mind to observe the whole body inside and outside, and whether every action is in accord with the requirements of health preservation and self-defence or not. Why move? Why be still? What are the results? What is the phenomenon in the middle of the process? Thus perceive by intuition, and you will be approaching the truth! As for the profound and subtle essence of the Tao, one can only keep on studying and searching, otherwise it is not easily gained. Now here is a brief summation of the be-all and end-all of ‘Dachengquan’ to be questioned by the various fellow martial artists, so that an open discussion on combat science can be started.

First I shall talk about the stages in the stude of boxing. As I said before, health preservation and self-defence are inseparable from each other, if one is lost, then abuses are created and one will enter the wrong path. First of all, one should train and foster the spirit, the temperament, and the natural instincts, and only after that start talking about bringing the fine instinctive strength of the nerves, the limbs, and the trunk into play. The first step in studying boxing is exercising the nerves as the basic training method, and intuitively perceiving the peristalsis of the whole body. The second step is training the trial of strength (shili) and the trial of voice (shisheng). The third step is self-defence. They are separately narrated below:

Basic training: in daily life, in order to gain results from training all the time, while walking, standing, sitting, and reclining, one must start the training from the pile standing (zhanzhuang) method. Arrange the posture of the whole body properly, keep the body upright, have no thoughts, strengthen the nerves in stillness, adjust the breath, warm up and nourish the muscles, let every cell activate naturally. The strength comes from the inside and reaches the outside smoothly in the whole body. Thus, one does not train the bones and the muscles, yet they get trained by themselves, one does not nourish the nerves but they get nourished by themselves, one should especially experience and observe their barely perceptible movement and activity. When one has done it for long enough time, one will know that standing brings many inexhaustible wonders. One who wants to achieve wonders in his boxing skills, should first dedicate his time to pile standing.

Trial of strength and trial of voice: after having the basic training in boxing, one’s natural instincts have been strengthened. In applying them one must take strict precautions against the predominance of human desire, or else the misapplication of the illusory will arise. Sometimes, because of the predominance of desire, the natural instinctive strength becomes something that has nothing to do with exercising the natural instincts.

Therefore the scholars of the past told us not to try helping the shoots grow faster by pulling them up6. The way of applying the natural instincts can be suited to personal needs, but first, one must understand the moving state of strength, only then can one continue to the second phase. Trial of strength is the most important thing in learning the basis of boxing skills, with trial of strength one gains strength. The strength is gained and realised by trying it, and one will realise how to use the strength too.

First one must make the strength equal all over the body, the muscles agile, and the bones supporting the frame of the body, so that the muscles can contract, stretch, relax, and tense in harmony. Strength should come from inside and be issued outside. In movement, slow excels over quick, be relaxed rather than impatient, the movement should be slight and the spirit full. When one wants to move one will stop, when one wants to stop one will move, furthermore, when moving one cannot help but stop, when stopped, one cannot help but move.

In trial of strength, one should not have unilateral strength, furthermore, one should not have sheer strength7. First of all, one should perceive by intuition whether the strength of the whole body is all-pervading or not, whether the strength can be issued out at any moment or not, and whether one can react to the atmosphere or not, furthermore, one must not let the mind break and the spirit disperse. Have light and heavy forces ready to be issued out, when one part of the body moves, the whole body moves. The strength is consistent, resulting in nimble and heavy insubstantiality, and round and whole substantiality. Up and down, left and right, front and back, do not forget them. To sum up, what cannot lead to comfort, happiness, and gaining strength does not deserve to be called boxing.

The trial of voice is a supplement for the insufficiencies of trial of strength. All people have physiological differences due to the congenital, so everyone’s body has parts difficult to connect, thus trial of voice is namely complementary internal breath work. It is also called inner breath, or brain [abdomen]-back breath8.

Self-defence: namely combat. One should know that a big movement is not as good as a small movement, a small movement is not as good as stillness, one must know that only stillness is the endless movement. If the body moves, that is just an expression of immobility and lack of strength, what is called movement in stillness, is moving as if one was not moving, the movement and stillness are the basis of each other, and the wonders of their application mostly depend on the nervous system being connected, the mind leading, the big and small joints and ligaments extending and contracting mutually, the fulcrum being firm like iron, having twisting and opposite strengths, rotating around the pivot point, moving the centre in a balanced way, and issuing the explosive power together with the breath. If one can exert it properly, one has the basis of combat.

What was said above was mostly abstract, but much of its meaning cannot be described in words. If one can keep practising unceasingly, then it is naturally not difficult to realise. What is the distinction between the so called big movement and small movement, in fact, depends on individual basic skills, and whether all kinds of strengths are being gained by the body and understood by the mind or not. If one can raise the hands and move the feet with the whole body having mechanical skills everywhere, then a big movement is fine, a small movement is fine as well, and a movement that is neither big nor small is also equally fine.

If one does not have the basic mechanical ability, then no matter what the movement is like, it is all wrong. The same applies to using strength and not using strength. The movements of an ordinary person cannot have strength without constant unilateral tension that disturbs the blood circulation. Every kind of strength based on constant unilateral tension is stiff and inharmonious, and besides that, harmful to health. Having strength without constant unilateral tension is namely having strength without using strength, and when using it, one gains strength.

That is what the natural instinctive strength is like. It is like seeking all kinds of real things from the unreal9, which is hardly possible to express in words. Anyway, ‘Dachengquan’ is beyond the external form of being good or bad, it actually depends on dealing with the mind. In a nutshell, having a fixed form and fixed techniques are all false, skills reaching the level of no-mind are getting very rare, this is what the above means.

[7] Interviewer: I think there must have been many visitors calling on you since the last time your views appeared in a newspaper. Were there any brilliant persons of unusual ability?

Wang Xiangzhai: I’m very gratified that you care and introduce me to the readers. Among the martial artists of Beijing , there still was not a single person willing to come and grant me instruction. But the numerous letters coming from all quarters of the country expressed that there are many people who hold me in favour and esteem. Moreover, there were some people from some places who came here to bargain, wishing to be appointed to the position of an instructor. Furthermore there was an incident that I can tell you about. Recently, there were very many people who were seriously researching combat science and seeking for advice. Most came to ask for instruction by their own initiative and there were also those who were introduced by someone else. That is the only reason I advocate combat science.

I have no intention of contending with others, moreover, I scorn contention. I wish to help all the countrymen who are interested in combat science to understand it, and also hope that the combat science legislation will be reformed completely. Victory or defeat should not be taken as honour or disgrace. I wish that other boxers would not consider themselves to always be right just by studying blindly and practising recklessly. I especially hope that all boxers will become healthy pugilists. I do not wish them to become martial artists wandering from place to place making a living with their tricks. But nowadays, out of one hundred boxers, not even one has anything right at all.

Looking at them, I mostly get the feeling that it is all completely wrong. As for the boxers who rely on boxing to make their living, they just should not feel ashamed of studying again from others after they have started teaching. They should not be hard on themselves in spirit, but try hard to follow those who excel over them. They must keep in mind that they should not mislead and harm their students. Nowadays, boxers do not know where the spirit of combat science is. While they have no alternative but to make their living with it, surely they should not instruct people with mystery and violence. That way they might not commit the great error of going as far from the truth as the heaven is from the deep sea.

But then again, the weaknesses of these men are too numerous and they cannot be easily influenced over a short period of time. I only hope that they will become conscious of the truth and start to self-examine themselves bit by bit, nothing more.

[8] Interviewer: Since the martial way arose, many schools have been born, each advocating its own way so that eventually the students end up with a feeling of ignorance. What is legitimate after all?

Wang Xiangzhai: All learning in the world depends on comparison, only that way can good and bad be distinguished, otherwise every school will claim to be right, and the laymen will have difficulties distinguishing right and wrong. The correctness of boxing cannot be judged merely by the criterion of victory or defeat, it must be judged by whether it is reasonable and suitable to the human needs or not. What is reasonable is achieving comfort, gaining strength, and getting zest into one’s life. If one does not achieve comfort, gain strength, and if the study does not bring zest into one’s life, then it cannot be called boxing.

Whether one knows of the history of boxing or not does not matter at all, one should only see whether there is any value in regard to learning and whether it accords with the requirements of life. But speaking of the combat science of our nation, it has a centuries-old history. It began revealing its brilliance in the Warring States Period (403 BC - 221 BC), and gradually advanced and evolved. During the times of the Tang and Song dynasties, boxing started to turn into technical skills and different styles started to evolve. During the Yuan, Ming, and early Qing dynasties, the different schools were most popular.

There were very many practitioners, and only because their strength, skill, and attainments were different and some being wise and others stupid, boxing broke into different schools, each claiming its teachings as correct. Those schools are namely what are now called the various styles. During the reigns of Kangxi and Yongzheng of the Qing dynasty (1662 - 1735), firearms were not yet prevalent. The emperors feared that the martial arts would be used against the government, therefore they wanted to destroy them for good and so that they could never recover.

Therefore they started to influence the people to think highly of the civil arts and look down upon everything martial. On one hand they advocated flying immortal swordsmen and taught the mystical on purpose, on the other hand they praised the boxing forms and fixed techniques in order to lead the martial arts astray. The middle road and the great Tao could not be asked about, and they used opera and storybooks to serve as their tools of propaganda. Furthermore they made the people who practised martial arts to be despised by the scholar-bureaucrats, so the situation went from bad to even worse. All kinds of ugly performances emerged, what a great pity and tragedy.

Luckily our combat science predecessors secretly had successors, and they succeeded in having a gleam of light survive. Although training halls were set up all over the country to advocate the martial arts during the last twenty years, the more they were advocated, the sooner they would be lost, never being able to return to the right path of combat science. In fact, learning boxing is not difficult, but because the brains of the ordinary people are tormented by the storybooks, and furthermore, because the boxers of modern times mostly do it for living, the combat science is completely at loss. Even if some people are conscious of that, they are still too ashamed to study from others, and thus have no way out.

During the last half of the year, the other boxers have come to me to compare their skills in combat. I will not point out who they were, in order to let them keep their ways of making a living. Now they mostly understand that they were wrong, but why do they not agree to come and discuss the martial arts openly, and furthermore, why are they not willing to compare their skills in combat, in order to improve their learning? On the contrary, they go against their conscience and claim others to be wrong. They do nothing but secretly create absurd tales, and still they pretend being ignorant of those tales. What do they do that for? As for the non-professional martial artists, they want to become mysterious boxers by creating these tales, being like theatregoers not well versed in drama, they are not able to do anything but throw punches at random to show off their skills.

That is really something to be despised. In case my words are considered erroneous, can the non-professional boxing students agree to grant me instruction? Furthermore, I wish to have small friendly tests of skills in combat, and even if the people who come to me have no martial skills at all, I will not insult them, and I will not tell about them to other people in order not to harm their business. If one cannot come to visit me to grant me instruction, then please tell me the place and the time, and I will come to pay my respects on time. If one has even a tiny strong point, I will do my utmost to give him publicity, and if one has no strong points at all, I will keep my mouth shut. If one always considers oneself as a top boxer behind closed doors, that is not worth a penny.

[9] Interviewer: I have heard your discussion pointing out the right path of our national arts. You have introduced something new, and a fresh approach in seeking the good of everyone pursuing the same things, but I think you went a bit too far in some of your critique towards ‘Taijiquan’.

Wang Xiangzhai: My understanding of the Tao is still shallow, I do not dare to say that I have introduced something new, I just follow and spread the tradition of the predecessors, nothing more. There are many more things, but I feel embarrassed to say them because I have many good friends practising ‘Taiji’. Also, this boxing is less abused than most of the others, and has more sensible practitioners, thus I freely criticise it. I would have already stopped discussing about it a long time ago otherwise.

Talking of criticism, I am afraid that among the ‘Taiji’ practitioners, those who will never understand combat science are fearfully many, and those who are far from being learned masters are even more numerous. In my childhood I heard of the fame of the Taoist Zhang Sanfeng. Having grown up, I travelled all around the country, so I know that among all the schools of boxing, ‘Taiji’ has the biggest amount of practitioners. I had already been doubtful of this boxing for a long time. I heard this boxing was handed down from Mr. Zhang Sanfeng, thus I had despised Sanfeng for a long time. Later I read the collected edition of Mr. Sanfeng’s teachings, and began to realise that he had advanced all along the great Tao.

He had already gone deep into the Sea of Law and profoundly realised absolute truth. However, I even more deeply believe that such boxing was not handed down from him. Actually, if it was or was not does not matter at all, because, even if one was the descendant of Sanfeng, one is not worthy to talk about his art if one has not gained its essence. I do not know who were the successors of Mr. Sanfeng, but I suppose they were inferior to Sanfeng. If they had been capable, why would they have misled others? Whether the teachings gained by the students are true or false is the key.

Moreover, nowadays the practitioners of this boxing are different from each other and the theories vary. It is all random and false! I remember that Mr. Sanfeng said: Leaving one’s own body is wrong, but clinging to one’s own body is much worse. ‘Taijiquan’ has one hundred and forty or fifty postures, is there any posture or method that is not being clung to? What are these postures for? Moreover, the spirit is firmly bound and cannot be liberated. It is indeed harmful to the freedom of the nerves, the limbs, and the trunk. Remembering how wise Mr. Sanfeng was, he should not have gone so far as to hand down ‘Taijiquan’ that is so improper.

Discussing the wordy content of the ‘Theory of Taijiquan’10, the single and double weighting and even weighting, and all such profound things are also nothing more than a part of the rudiments of combat science. May I ask the famous ‘Taiji’ masters to examine their conscience, whether there can be even a single posture or method in accord with the theories of this boxing guide? Since they claim it to be supreme combat science, why does it not produce any results in practice? Furthermore, the practitioners of this boxing believe that they can gain good boxing skills with superstitious practises. This is even more absurd.

Even if all the methods of this boxing would excel over the others, and the skills would tower above the ordinary, there is no doubt that it would still be wrong on the spiritual side, and besides, that is not the case. Although ‘Taijiquan’ is practised by a huge amount of people, which has given it much publicity, the sensible people have long known that it has collapsed of itself. Perhaps there was something improper in my words, I really hope that the other martial artists will question me without any hesitation, if there is someone who can instruct me, I will sweep the pathway to welcome him.

[10] Interviewer: Sir, you criticised the shortcomings of ‘Taijiquan’, I certainly have to admit, but I also have many friends who have gained good health by practising this boxing, I am afraid that your critique is somewhat inappropriate.

Wang Xiangzhai: The value of combat science is not only in relaxation and other trifling achievements. One must know that combat science is persistent learning, which is a human need and one cannot learn it thoroughly in a very short time. Therefore Zhuangzi said: Martial arts do indeed enter the Tao. They are the basis of culture and arts, they are the lifeblood of Zen and philosophy. If just a tiny result could represent boxing, then there would be no need to observe and study combat science. If one sticks to the practice of boxing in the way you said, it will produce some results. Furthermore, one should know that if one can take the time to practise boxing, do it without any method, freely and slowly perceiving by intuition, then the results will be great. I dare to say they will be much more than what you mentioned .

[11] Interviewer: The different schools of boxing are extremely numerous and their theories differ. Among my good friends there are many who practise boxing. Some of them practise according to books, but none of them has gained any results. What kind of a book should they adopt?

Wang Xiangzhai: Combat science cannot be divided into schools, and the boxing theory does not have the distinction of Chinese or foreign, and new or old. Do nothing but examine whether it is right or wrong, and suitable or unsuitable, that is enough. At large, the numerous schools of our society, generally take the approach of forms and techniques to learn boxing. One must know that this kind practice is just forgery conducted by the later generations, it is not the original essence of combat science. Even though a few people by chance realise some side-mechanics and one-sided techniques, they have not, however, left the methods and forms after all, so it is without avail in the end.

As for the writers of the martial arts guide books, they cannot exceed this boundary either. Although this doctrine is very easy to study, it is still not as simple as following others like sheep. Sometimes those who are taught by a famous master who passed the knowledge orally and from the heart, still cannot differentiate between right and wrong after dozens of years. How could these writings then be of any use? In any kind of learning, one should first understand the fundamental principle, and bit by bit intuitively perceive the skills, starting from the basics. In addition to that, one should ponder carefully, making a clear distinction between right and wrong, and proving one’s perceptions by experimenting in many ways. Only then can one move on to study those technical skills.

One should avoid training in front of a mirror, because this way one can easily become similar in form but untrue in spirit. Those training according to books are really the blind being led by the blind. Then again, by reading a book one can collect the crystallization of all sorts of theories, not paying any attention to the postures and form. According to the survey of my thirty years of teaching, this branch of learning is extremely difficult yet also extremely easy. A gifted student, in less than one hundred days of exercise, has the hope to become a great learned master11, but among one hundred students there is not even one or two of them, and in most cases the talented sagacious people lack honesty and tolerance, some of them are even shams and cheaters.

Therefore most are abandoned halfway by their teachers, this is also a pity! As for the common students of our society, their difficulties are really lamentable. Most people always believe their ears instead of their eyes. The two words, fame and fact, cannot be mentioned in the same sentence. Even though the amount of boxers in the world is uncountable, those who have gained the essence are rare like a unicorn’s horn. All of those who have gained the essence are very different from the ordinary people in character. They cannot be enticed by fame or attracted by benefit, and they would never associate with the hypocrites! Finding a master is very difficult indeed.

Even if you meet a wise master how can you differentiate whether he is wise or not, and then he is not necessarily willing to teach you. Even if he agrees to teach you, he does not necessarily have a good method of teaching. Be it that he has a good teaching method, it is still not certain that one can realise the essence of his teachings. There exist a variety of difficulties that an inexperienced person cannot know. Then again, nowadays it is easier to study than before, because the science is flourishing. It helps very much in understanding the principles of combat science, but still, combat science cannot be limited to this.

If it is explained with the hierarchy of science and local anatomy, then it should be the one and the only way and phase of studying. But there are still many principles in our combat science that cannot be explained, but after some years they might be proved by science. Learning knows no limits, perhaps there are no means to ever explain it, this cannot be known. Summed up, if discussed under the conditions and knowledge of today, one should add a scientific method to the spirit of combat science, then it will not be difficult to solve the problems in combat science.

[12] Interviewer: Repeatedly in their comments, the readers did not deny your theory, but they felt uneasy studying without forms and routines, especially the beginners!

Wang Xiangzhai: The human body has all kinds of functions; no wise man can exhaust them all even if practising all his life. What is the reason to abandon the essence and study the scum? The more one studies the methods of forms and routines the farther one will be from the truth. That is like binding the feet of the women, the more profound one’s skill is, the more difficult it is to extend the feet, therefore the beginners advance much faster than the veterans. This argument has been proved by many irrefutable examples. The theory created by the later generations where a certain posture breeds a certain strength, and a certain method overcomes a certain boxing skill is real magniloquence resulting in deceiving the people. I am afraid that the one who claims such things has no understanding of boxing at all.

[13] Interviewer: What you said, Sir, is very right, and the martial arts are indeed at a loss. Would you teach everybody a simple and convenient way to succeed, that people could easily produce results with?

Wang Xiangzhai: A general idea of health preservation was already outlined above. If one is willing to do as advised, then one has already advanced halfway on the path of health preservation. If one wants to study the profound skills of combat, then one must also go through that, but if one is not an extremely foolish person or great sage, one will not be willing to do so. If one is a genius or has a character close to that of the sages, then there is no need to study all those methods. Also the methods of combat have pile standing (zhanzhuang) and trial of strength (shili) as the basis. I already narrated their general ideas above. The methods of trial of strength are too numerous, and besides, after all kinds of strengths are gained by the body, one should not think that the way of combat has been completed.

At that point one has just begun to have the possibility of studying combat. For example, how to gain the mastery of "interaction of relaxation and tension never not being correct, and the interaction of void and solid coming to equilibrium" is another problem. Anyway, after finding a teacher, the profundity or shallowness of one’s attainments indeed depend on one’s individual talent, strength, and skill, and whether one can grasp the right timing to be able to launch an attack at any moment, but without much experience in actual combat, it is hardly possible to gain it.

[14] Interviewer: I have heard many martial artists saying: "If you do not use strength, how can you increase it? None of the ancient and modern masters neglected the enriching of the dantian qi, and only because of that, could they be successful."

Wang Xiangzhai: The theory of using strength is the talk of laymen. There are also those who speciously support the theory of not using strength, but do not know what it means after all. One must know that not to use strength is correct, but not to use the mind is incorrect. If one uses strength then the internal organs die, the body becomes ineffective, stiff, stupid, and easy to be taken advantage of by others. In other words, it is just a disguised form of passive resistance. The idea of resisting is produced by the fear of being hit by the adversary, but in this way one is completely ignorant of the fact that the spirit has already accepted to be hit. How could one then not get hit by the adversary?

Therefore, using strength is a great taboo in combat science. As for the theory of the dantian qi, from the theoretical point of view, field tests, and my own perception from experience and observation, this theory does not seem proper. Within the abdomen there are the intestines, the stomach, and the liver, there is no place to fill with the qi. As for the functions of force, they are all effects of the opposite power, the explosive power, and the power of the universe combined, and exerted together with breath that makes the body bulge and undulate, open and close, and the body and spirit being integrated with the atmosphere in one's mind.

That has nothing to do with what the people call the qi of qigong. They always take a potbelly as dantian qi, that is just extremely wrong. One must know that when exerted, the strength must be issued evenly and completely. In order to be entirely free from worry and to gain strength, one should also be at leisure and natural, that is just being reasonable. The students of modern times do not understand this truth, they spend dozens of years working hard, and instead of gaining lively bodies and minds from the training, they become machines. Is that not a great pity!

[15] Interviewer: Although your critique is appropriate, it is still always the same combat arena, and if you, in the long run, accidentally misstep in one of the challenge fights, then what?

Wang Xiangzhai: How would I dare to give an open challenge, I do not even dare to act as the ringleader for challenge. I just wish that my fellow boxers would be willing to advocate, discuss, and investigate combat science like this, then it would not be difficult to carry it forward in the future. However, if nobody does this, I wish to start from myself, with nothing else other than advising the others with earnest words and good intentions, and often injecting cardiotonic shots into the arms of the other boxers of our country in order to little by little cure their illness of paralysis, I offer a few commonplace remarks by way of introduction so that others may come up with valuable opinions. Even if my body be full of cuts and bruises, my utmost wish will come true if combat science can be promoted.

[16] Interviewer: People generally accepted your talks, but there were still some who were liberal in their condemnation of you.

Wang Xiangzhai: Those who understand me are wise people, those who condemn me should sit alone in the still of night to listen to their hearts. Anyhow, let them laugh who will, I will not mind. If the true essence of combat science will prosper again, how could personal praise or blame make any difference?

[17] Interviewer: How can the ordinary people dare to disagree with your knowledge and virtue?

Wang Xiangzhai: What you said is right, I am very ashamed, but our countrymen have already become socially reserved. Honesty and prudence are really the basis of the self-cultivation of learning and morals, in other words: being solid inside and void outside, or firm outside and nimble inside. That is just the same principle as that of Laozi, ”The desireless one can see the essence, while the desiring one only sees its manifestation.” But somehow it is made use of by the people. It has already become the talisman of those who make their living by deceiving others. Lies in the society are also created by such people.

I have travelled all around the country for almost forty years, often feeling that there is only the art of ”opera acting” that does not put up with the society. Opera does not allow the laymen to assume positions in it either, but there are many styles of opera which all differ, I do not know all of them. As for what is called honesty and prudence toward others, I think one should act according to the other party, there should not be any unreasonable politeness. Like the sages of the past, respectfully serve others and be honest and sincere, overcome your desires and show love to others.

I am very glad to comply with that as the teachings of the books of good intercourse and treating each other with respect cannot be seen nowadays. I do not deserve praise for my learning and morals. In studying morals I only put myself under the patronage of the important people. What is called Tao is the truth that is all pervading and complex, and the only proper course to take. In other words, is it reasonable or unreasonable? Reasonable is namely the Tao and unreasonable is not the Tao.

It is not a mystical and strange thing, it is not the poor superstitious chapters and verses of the vulgar and pedantic literati either. It has especially nothing to do with the eccentric people, who pretend insaneness, calling that the doctrine of Buddhism and Taoism in order to look different21, they cannot even dream about the gate to the great Tao. If one does not understand the society, I have no choice but to retain talking about other things with him.

[18] Interviewer: You said that there are still many places in opera where the essence has not been lost, which are far ahead of the average schools of boxing. I do not understand on what ground you can say that, I feel that this comment is rather improper.

Wang Xiangzhai: Opera was originally meant to subsidy the shortcomings of education, all of its martial performances originated from the way of boxing. In boxing there was originally the qiba (pulling the body) exercise, which is one of the skills of shili (trial of strength). Qiba is seeking the pivoting strength of the barycentres of the vertex and the two feet, making the whole body extend equally and completely, becoming one with the universe, therefore named qiba exercise.

In opera it is mistakenly called "rising of the domination", but watching their postures and the meaning of their theories, although they are not proper, they are not far from that either, thus we know that it has some essence. As for all kinds of postures which try to please the eye and win people's adoration, they are all forged. Of the postures of today’s boxers I have not seen a single one that would have gained equilibrium, even the old veterans and young ?lites turn into imitating the untruthful and childish ones, and some of them cannot even succeed in that, how could they ever see the profundity of the martial way?

[19] Interviewer: I suppose that recently there was no lack of people asking for advice. What is your sentiment, Sir?

Wang Xiangzhai: Although there were many people from all circles who came to see me these days, they were all just curious people and what they talked about was not related to combat science. As for the visitor pursuing the same way, none of them was the kind of person I expected.

[20] Interviewer: What did you expect then?

Wang Xiangzhai: Although I am incompetent, I really expected the visitors to test me with difficult questions to the best of their abilities. To discuss what is reasonable in combat science and its important connection with life, and to pay attention to seeking the true spirit of the martial way. Although combat is just a trifling skill, without it the results cannot be proved, therefore I am also ready to have friendly comparisons of skills in combat. These days there were many small things, thus I could not personally meet all the visitors one by one. I am ashamed of that, and thus from now on, I plan to also fix reception times for Wednesdays and Fridays, from three o’clock to six o’clock .

[21] Interviewer: What do your fellow boxers think of that?

Wang Xiangzhai: In order to research the true essence of combat science in its entirety, I already cling to disregarding derision and taunts, and will never promote the supernatural. I always support altruism, I do not worry about there being no one coming to grant me instruction or asking for advice. What I worry about is that the famous masters do not inspect and learn from each other and discuss the problems. I fear it is hardly possible to gain the hope of combat science succeeding. Anyway, I hope that combat science will advance, polish up the goal of the martial way of our society, and wash off the deep rooted bad habits. I am not concerned about other things.

[22] Interviewer: The conversation with you that was published in a newspaper last time has caused quite a stir. I suppose that there was no lack of visitors. Were there any pursuing the same way as you?

Wang Xiangzhai: I was granted the favour of not being abandoned by the society, there was indeed no lack of visitors, but most of them came to learn from me, there were only two gentlemen pursuing the same way, Lu Zhijie and Shao Zefen from Fengtai, who wanted to do push-hands (tuishou), which is nothing more than what the experts call "listening to strength". There were no others, furthermore no one agreed to enter into combat. The method of push-hands is only a one-sided part of the way of boxing, it is not what I welcome.

As for the famous masters in Beijing , there was not a single person willing to come to instruct me, that is really not what I expected. I do not understand why the other boxers do not want to contact me. What I have always respected are the martial morals, therefore courtesy must come first, so there are also some limits, namely, the old people I modestly decline, the modest and gentle people I modestly decline, the incompetent people I modestly decline.

If you do not believe in my words, please ask those who came to visit me and you will know. When Mr. Lu visited me for the first time, we did a little push-hands and he took my skill only as such, and thus was not convinced. Later he started to visit frequently and started to realise that there was a huge difference between our skills, and now he has become a faithful disciple of mine.

[23] Interviewer: How many people are there among our martial arts predecessors that you admire?

Wang Xiangzhai: Examining the boxing predecessors of the last one hundred years, besides Dong Haichuan, Che Yizhai, and Guo Yunshen, these three masters, all the others are of minor importance, but our country is huge and has a big population, there are still many people pursuing the martial way who I have not met. I do not dare to make comments at random .

[24] Interviewer: The people often mention Yang Luchan, how was his learning?

Wang Xiangzhai: Mr. Luchan was a combat science predecessor as well, he was skilled in ‘Taiji’, and now most people follow his lineage. What I talk about has to be observed from every aspect, Luchan only achieved a part of the Tao, even Mr. Wang Zongyue of the Ming dynasty was not a complete expert. Mr. Zongyue obtained the one-sided part of push-hands with both hands, originating from General Yue Fei, changed the three fists into thirteen postures, and named it ‘Taiji’.

There is no way to do textual research on what was handed down from Zhang Sanfeng and the people would just draw wrong conclusions from it. As for the one hundred and forty or fifty postures, I have no idea where they originated from. But talking of the practice of this boxing, it does not only abuse the limbs and the trunk, but also does infinite harm to the spirit, it is still very far from the art of actual combat, they have nothing in common with each other.

[25] Interviewer: You have frequently published commentary on boxing in the newspapers, how have others pursuing the same path reacted to that? Have you ever heard?

Wang Xiangzhai: The sensible people pursuing the same path accepted it without an exception. As for the conservative people who cannot differentiate between right and wrong, I have no choice but to let them have their own way. Even if one can understand, it is still not easy to put it into practice, and it is even more difficult for those who cannot differentiate between right or wrong at all. However, the ordinary boxers still take exercising the body as the catchword and stop talking about combat. Watching that, one can also know that the way of combat, compared to health preservation, is a very trifling thing.

The way of health preservation relies on concentrating one's spirit and nourishing one's nature. The mind becomes empty and unified; that is called the art of one’s body and mind, life and nature. With this movement and that posture, springing forward and jumping backward, it is really difficult to even dream about entering the gate of health preservation. In fact health preservation is simple and easy.

True human nature loves naturalness and unrestricted free movement, the whole offshoot of the natural instincts are the basis of that. Every morning in the fresh air, without any method, just let the joints of the whole body be slightly bent, consider the sky, move slowly and freely, experience and observe the intestinal qi22 and the flow of blood. At the same time, intuitively perceive the external void and nimble opposing strength. This is called the spirit resembles as if it was swimming.

The spirit and the body are comfortable and natural, not only free and unrestricted, but also gradually realising the echo of nature. After a long time of training, the instincts unveil and the rays of the spirit will shine, one will have gained the basis of combat even without having sought them. If one always sticks to mechanical movement, plays around with a staff and performs with a spear seeking beauty, taking that as the glory of being good in martial arts, then one does not know that if a man of insight sees that, he will feel sick for ten days. That is terrible, such a person cannot comprehend boxing for life.

[26] Interviewer: Your purpose is studying truth and developing the martial arts, why were there so few visitors? Can you think of a reason?

Wang Xiangzhai: It is very difficult to find an answer for this. According to my conjecture, in the martial arts circles of our country there are no doubt many wise ones, but the unworthy ones are especially numerous. Everyone studying a certain style of martial arts, assiduously practises for many years and flatters oneself by claiming that one alone has accomplished the profound skills, and then calls oneself the successor of that school. This way one will even be respected by the society, so one can solve the problem of making a living at the same time. Once such people are told to abandon all their learning and start studying from the beginning, it is really intolerable for them.

Perhaps their way of making a living would also be affected by that, thus they consider their personal advantages and disadvantages, and notice that the disadvantages would be huge, therefore it is no wonder that the visitors were so sparse. The most unfortunate thing in the end is that there are some ignorant people, who do not dare to measure or discuss right and wrong, and thus just make gossip at random, making irresponsible remarks in order to hide their weak points. The people in our society trust them and the people who have been deceived by them are really numerous, this is a great pity. If we do not wipe out this obstacle, the martial arts of our country will hardly have any hope of a quiet and great progress.

[27] Interviewer: Sir, you are the forerunner in the martial arts, and you are holding the decision in your hands. Furthermore, I hope you will keep on working with perseverance, then the martial arts will surely have no difficulties in seeing the days of glory and progress.

Wang Xiangzhai: Your words touch me deeply, naturally I shall do my utmost. Success or failure, praise or blame, I do not dare to care for them. There is only one goal, namely to solve the question of how combat science can advance. Therefore I tell other boxers here: originally combat was just a minor skill, but the ordinary people mostly judge one’s boxing skills by the relative superiority or inferiority in combat, therefore there are two research methods.

If one is willing to research the suitability of each action, then I immensely welcome him. If one wants to enter into combat or do push-hands, they are both fine as well. The scope of researching combat science is extensive. If the amount of visitors will increase, then there will be no dilemma. If the visitor has even tiny strong points, I will certainly do my utmost to blazon forth and praise him. If he has no strong points at all, I will certainly say nothing, because even talking cannot make him understand. I really hope that the visitors will test me with difficult questions to the best of their abilities, in order to compare experiences with each other, aiming at the progress of combat science, everyone pursuing the same way with me, all should shoulder the duty to develop combat science.

This important prospect should definitely not be weakened because of personal reasons, if it can really benefit the general interest. Even if one has to suffer any personal sacrifices, one should still give up something small to achieve something great. I maintain this determination, if combat science can thereby progress, it would not only be an individual gain, but also the whole world and our descendants would benefit greatly.

The reporter and Mr. Wang finished their conversation, and because it was already late, they bid farewell to each other and left.

In the 1940's ‘Yiquan’ was known as ‘Dachengquan’. Later Mr. Wang Xiangzhai dropped the name ‘Dachengquan’ and asked his students to return to the old name as well. All of Mr. Wang's top students did that, but some people still kept using the name ‘Dachengquan’. Thus ‘Yiquan’ and ‘Dachengquan’ are just two names for one art.

B.C. Hill Bey
Director of The Ba-Gua Zhang Research & Boxing Association