For years I taught class of gongfu in a private and public capacity. The ‘private’ aspect involved my family’s Ch’an Dao School which involved a rented hall and two-hours of gongfu training on a Sunday morning. Initially, this only involved members of the British Born Chinese community in Sutton who were related to us (the Sai Kung Chan Clan), or who were associated through business, warfare or any other historical means. Just being ethnically ‘Chinese’ was not enough to train in our gongfu hall as we are of ‘Hakka’ Chinese ethnicity. This is the old way and very different to how many Westerners mistakenly view traditional Chinese culture. In this context, Chinese people of clans considered ‘enemies’ were termed ‘foreigners’ and excluded from consideration. However, although this was the reality, Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) was of the opinion that we had to find a way of ‘evolving’ beyond this feudalistic attitude.
As more and more Westerners started enquiring about training, when I was promoted to the Head of the Ch’an Dao School, I decided to open our doors to a class of people we did not know and were not related to. This also included other Chinese people we did not know regardless of their surnames. Around this time (the late 1990s), I also started being approached by Mainland Chinese people living in the UK, who explained to me about how ‘New’ China was thoroughly ‘modern’ and how this attitude of openness and inclusiveness was being used in China to teach all foreign visitors about the beauty of Chinese culture and what it has to offer to the contemporary world! As this change in attitude dove-tailed with what Master Chan Tin Sang had in mind, I decided to transform our family style of Hakka gongfu and ‘revolutionise’ the way in which we managed our martial arts lineage!
Although I was brought-up in the old way, I never felt comfortable with its exclusiveness and ethnic clannishness. Although I was accepted as someone of mixed ethnicity – this acceptance only extended to my immediate Hakka clan and Chinese people who knew me. When outside of this group, I was subject to this ‘exclusive’ attitude and marked as a ‘foreigner’ who was not welcome within the inner workings of the Chinese community. When this happened – I would scurry back into my cultural safety zone knowing I had just experienced something very unsavoury! After 1949, Mainland China thoroughly rejected this feudal attitude and embraced ‘Internationalism’ which is designed to open-up the beauty of Chinese culture for anyone who would like to benefit from it! Since the early 2000s, I have defriended many Mainland Chinese people (living and working in the UK and in China via the internet), and have even started various academic projects and translation initiatives. Indeed, our family gongfu has evolved because of these experiences from an insular, feudal entity to a local practice premised upon universal principles!
(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
Persisting in three-hours of Hard Qigong (硬氣功 - Ying Qi Gong) exercise every day, 95-year-old Tang Lixian is still very healthy. On the morning of the 11th, when a thief attempted to rob what he thought was a defenceless old man on the 115 Bus – the thief was beaten off his feet by this 95-year-old man! Yesterday, when reporters from the Chongqing Morning News met the old man - Tang Lixian - the kind-hearted man was a little worried that he might have really hurt the thief!
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Tang, who lives in Yubei, was watching TV at home. If he hadn't mentioned it himself, it would be hard to imagine that he was 95-years old just by his appearance. He has a childlike face, which is full of energy, he sits with his chest straight, and when he stands up he is like a mighty green pine. Facing the reporter, Mr. Tang was a little worried. He was concerned about whether he had injured the thief. "You were punishing evil - promoting good - and not purposely fighting." Said his smiling 71-year-old disciple - Tang Yongxian (唐永先).
When Tang Yongxian was 63 years old, he began to practice martial arts with Mr. Tang Lixian. Master Tang explained at the time that true Chinese martial arts are designed for health development and self-defence and that offensive action is strictly forbidden! This is the high moral standard that the Tang Clan has always uphold over hundreds of years of martial self-cultivation. All disciples of Tang-family martial arts ‘swear’ to uphold this moral precept! Once we explained that the young man he tackled is fit, strong and unhurt by the action he took to ‘limit’ the criminal’s violent outburst – Master Tang then agreed to grant us an interview.
This is what Master Tang experienced on the day in question. After 10 am on the 11th, Master Tang took the 115 Bus from Xiangshui Road Station to Caiyuanba. After getting on the Bus, there were a lot of people and the seats were already full of old people. So, Master Tang stood near the front of the Bus holding the rail. On the right side of Master Tang there is a young man standing with his back to him. He stood very close to Master Tang and he would not break the inappropriate bodily contact. "About a minute later, I felt that someone was pulling my wallet." Suddenly, as the Bus bumped along the road, the young man placed his hand in Master Tang’s pocket and attempted to extract his wallet. Although these movements were well practiced and very carefully carried-out – Master Tang’s years of sensitivity-training in the martial arts enabled him to understand exactly what was happening as events unfolded!
At the exact moment the young man ‘lifted’ Master Tang’s wallet from his trouser-pocket – Master Tang landed a punch enthused with immense internal energy that took the strength out of the young man’s legs – causing him to crumple to the floor with a look of surprise on his face! In the right-hand of the young man was Master Tang’s wallet clear for all to see! The punch had landed on the young man’s right shoulder-blade as he was trying to run away. This is why Master Tang decided to take the energy out of the young thief's legs! Afterwards, there was a sense of high-energy and profound shock throughout the interior of the Bus!
As the young man began to struggle on the ground, Master Tang dropped into Horse Stance and ‘pinned’ the thief to the floor whilst everyone in the Bus became aware of what was going on! Master Tang had single-handled protected the public good by tackling a notorious thief who had caused untold suffering to the masses! Master Tang held the thief in a painful submission hold until the Bus reached Nanping Station – when both alighted – with Master Tang retaining control. The people gathered around and saw that the thief was in tears and obviously ‘sorry’ for what he had done. Many begged Master Tang not to take him to the Police Station – but to tell him off and give him a chance to ‘reform’. Although Master Tang was robbed in a similar manner twenty-years previously – he decided to give the young man a severe warning and talking to before letting him go.
Although some people thought the young man might have suffered broken bones – Master Tang explained that he emitted just enough strength in his punch to inhibit the young man’s internal energy flow in a temporary manner – and never had a thought of doing any permanent damage. Master Tang stated that everyone can make a mistake and equally everyone can reform if they are helped by others! Obviously, if this young man does not reform after being granting a reprieve, then we shall take him to the Police Station and then he will suffer the consequences of his selfish actions – explained Master Tang – who has tackled a number of thieves in the past. When he was eighty-years old, he came to the aid of a woman who was being attacked by a robber – again knocking the thief to the ground with a single punch! He explained that robbing is wrong and that the general public must defend themselves whilst retaining their virtue and dignity in the process. Do not lower yourself to the status of the thief but remain aloof, kind and considerate.
Master Tang started practicing ‘Hard Qigong’ when aged 71-years-old. As early as 2007, the Chongqing Morning News reported on Tang Lixian’s street exercises. At that time, he would forcibly strike his head with an iron rod. "I decided to practice ‘Hard Qigong’ qi to strengthen my body." In 1978, Master Tang retired from working at the Chongqing Bus Plant. At that time, he suffered from rheumatism. Over the next ten years, his emphysema also became more and more serious, and he had to cough and spit up many times a day. In 1991, the 71-year-old Master decided to change. He visited a local park and participated in a ‘Hard Qigong’ training class. As he was very talented in this style, he was promoted to a more ‘enhanced’ training at a different training hall. Despite many difficulties and set-backs – Master Tang did not give-up and his determination eventually won-through. After ten-years of training and testing – Old Man Tang was eventually recognised as a ‘Master’ in his own right! Just prior to this time, all of Master Tang’s ailments and injuries eventually cleared-up and all disease left his body!
Due to his success the 71-year-old Tang Yongxian has followed Tang Lixian to learn martial arts for eight-years. During these eight-years, his emphysema and bone hyperplasia have been miraculously healed. Interestingly, ‘71’ is also the age Tang Lixian also started to learn ‘Hard Qigong.’ Master Tang can stand for long periods of time in a low Horse Stance and his body can withstand forceful (and repeated) blows to any area. Although 95-years-old, Master Tang can also produce tremendous internal power! Sometimes, his neighbours look on amazed when Master Tang is training outside – but everyone is impressed with his martial arts mastery! In over twenty-years of training – no one has been able to ‘hurt’ or ‘knock-down’ Master Tang who has become something of a cultural treasure! Indeed, when much younger martial artists attempt to strike Master Tang in the abdomen or chest, etc, they invariably damage their own hand or foot! In the meantime, on the odd occasion Master Tang is still able to attract a large crowd when he decides to practice in a public space! (Reporter Wang Zihan [王梓涵], intern Zhang Jia [張嘉])
Chinese Source Article:
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.