Advanced martial arts practice is ethereal even though it involves the movement of the body. In fact, moving the body is basic gongfu training, a mastery of which should be gained in one’s youth if possible. When the body ‘ages’ - a practitioner does not want the problem of mastering martial technique whilst coming to terms with how ‘ageing’ changes the mind and body. Knowing how to stand, fall, get-up, moving, kick, punch, block and evade, etc, are foundational issues that must be thoroughly absorbed into the deepest levels of the mind and body well before middle-age is reached. Of course, this is not always the case, as some people take-up the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts late in life – but with regards the more robust and rugged ‘external’ techniques – youthful practice is preferred. This is why many older people (with no previous experience) start their martial arts training through one of the ‘internal’ arts – which are a product of an ‘advanced’ and ‘mature’ mind-set.
On the other hand, if an individual is able to build 20-30 years of training prior to hitting 40-50 years of age – then the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and inner organs have all had time to experience a ‘hardening’ process over-time - and are far more ‘robust’ whilst the individual traverses into older age. Probably the greater reason for early martial arts practice is that the ability to produce massive (internal and external) impact power (with minimum) effort must be mastered before the body transitions into older age. This observation does not mean that older people cannot achieve this ability later in their life – but to already possess this devastating power is one less burden – particularly as we may also have far more responsibilities as mature people than the average young person. However, with the right type of instruction from a genuine Master, anyone of any age can ‘master’ gongfu regardless of circumstances. Motivation is the key to it all.
The mind must be ‘still’ and ‘expansive’. Its psychic fabric must be simultaneously ‘empty’ and yet ‘envelop’ all things without exception! Although there is much experimentation in the West with the physical techniques of the many (and varied) gongfu styles – very few practitioners are interested in the spiritual or higher psychological aspects of traditional Chinese martial arts. This is because gongfu has been taught the wrong way around in the West to suit the cultural bias of the fee-paying audience. Whereas in China kicking is learned before punching – in the West punching is taught before kicking (because of the influence of Western Boxing). Whereas in China a gongfu practitioner learns to stand still and to stand ‘solid’ whilst defending the ten directions – in the West students are taught to move around before being taught how to ‘stand still’ (this is because Western students do not understand the important of achieving inner and outer ‘stillness’). Whereas in China gongfu student learn to ‘relax’ before assuming postures – in the West students are taught to ‘stretch’ using yoga-like techniques (mostly unknown in China). Whereas students in China learn to ‘strike’ various wooden objects to condition the bones of the hands and feet – in the West, students are encouraged to hit ‘soft’ pads that give a false impression of what it is like to hit a ‘real’ body! In the West, the mind is ‘entertained’ as a means to secure continued fee-paying through class attendance – whilst in China the Master continuously looks for new ways of ‘testing’ the virtue of the student and for any reason to ‘expel’ them from the training hall!
All this ‘inversion’ must be remedied if the highest levels of spiritual and physical mastery are to be achieved. This has nothing to do with rolling around on a padded floor wearing padded-gloves – and everything to do with ‘looking within’ to refine the flow of internal energy. The awareness of the mind must permeate every cell of the physical body whilst the practitioner sits correctly in the meditation posture. What else is there? When advanced practitioners ascend to a certain age of maturity, reality has nothing to do with the ego pursuit of ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ in petty disputes that ultimately mean nothing. Most of the combat sports of the moment are fleeting and exist merely to make money – and they are ineffective on the modern battlefield and not practiced by the military! The final lesson is to ‘leave the body’ with the minimum of fuss when the time presents itself. In a very real sense, a genuine Master of martial arts has ‘already’ transcended the boundaries of material limitation whilst still living. This sense of ‘completion’ and ‘transcendence’ is what draws the already perceptive into his or her presence to receive instruction...
ORIGINAL CHINESE LANGUAGE ARTICLE BY: QIANFENG DAOIST MASTER ZHAO MING WANG (赵明旺)
(TRANSLATED BY ADRIAN CHAN-WYLES PHD)
A few days ago, a venerable 70-year old man came to visit me in Beijing (at the Qianfeng Hermitage) from his hometown of Weihai in Shandong province! His name is ‘Jiang Daochang’ (姜道长) and he is a Disciple in the ‘Wudang’ (武当), ‘Sanfeng’ (三丰) School of internal martial arts practice and mastery! Indeed, Jiang Daochang has dedicated his life to the pursuance of Daoist gongfu (功夫)!
In his search for genuine Daoist self-cultivation knowledge and technique, he has travelled far and wide over many mountains and across numerous rivers! He is a Master of the ‘Taiji’ (太极) ‘Long-Sword’ (剑 - Jian) ‘Law’ (法 - Fa)! Eventually, he has settled in the ‘Wudang Sanfeng School’. However, he has also been aware of the Qianfeng Pre-Natal School and has attended a local study group for many years. It has been his positive experience with this group that led to him taking the decision to travel to Beijing and visit the Headquarters of the Qianfeng School.
He is a straightforward person who understands that usually a student must study with a Master for at least three-years (usually after three years of visiting other Masters) before being accepted as a ‘Disciple’ - but this situation is a little different due to Jiang Daochang already training in the Qianfeng School and the fact he is a Taiji Sword Master of many years standing! As is his right as an enquiring student – he requested that I ‘prove’ the efficacy of our School.
I first explained the ‘Essential Life Mind-Body' (性命双修 - Xing Ming Shuang Xiu) self-cultivation method as preserved within the Qianfeng School. I then assessed the health of his mind and body – and immediately ‘opened’ ALL of his energy channels throughout his body. As the transformation was ‘immediate’ - Jiang Daochang stated ‘This is the genuine Daoist self-cultivation! Without this method, the essential nature (精 - Jing) cannot transform vital force (炁 - Qi) in the mind and body!’ After experiencing this – Jiang Daochang immediately requested ‘Discipleship’ and he was formally accepted into the Qianfeng School!
Jiang Daochang is very concerned for the health of those who have practiced Taiji martial arts all their lives but who have also reached middle-age. When this stage of life is reached, it is important to replenish the ‘jing’ and ‘qi’ (精炁) so as to nourish the bones and inner organs. This is the same advice for ‘internal’ or ‘external’ martial arts practice! These activities consume a lot of ‘Jing’ (精 ) and ‘qi’ (气) - and this foundational store of energy needs to be replaced. This is a primary issue for athletes and people who like to keep-fit. Of course, this is also the same issue for everybody else – but at varying levels of use and replenishment. Many just burn themselves-out wasting their internal energy on frivolous pursuits! It is the ‘Essential Life Mind-Body' self-cultivation technique that can easily remedy this situation!
Qianfeng Pre-Natal School
Qianfeng Hermitage: Zhao Ming Wang
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2021.
Original Chinese Language Source Article: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_64e533c90102yssx.html
Although the martial arts term ‘Ninja’ is a distinctly ‘Japanese pronunciation – the two ideograms used to express this concept are of Chinese origin – namely ‘忍者’ (Ren Zhe). Whether this concept originally spread from China as a martial arts principle – or was distinctly developed in Japan - is open to debate. Certainly, the ‘Ninja’ of medieval Japan occupied entire clan-systems which ‘mirrored’ perfectly their Samurai equivalents with the only difference being that the Samurai clans were socially accepted and the ‘Ninja’ clans were clandestine and considered ‘illegal’. The ‘Ninja’ communities were made-up of the peasantry and any outcast members of the nobility and criminal fraternity, etc. Although the ‘Ninja’ communities were hidden from open view, they were disciplined, followed strict codes of conduct and were dedicated to perfecting many different martial skills designed to ‘counter’ or ‘negate’ every martial advantage the Samurai believed they possessed. In-short, the ‘Ninja’ communities represented a ‘different’ but related blue-print for Japanese feudal society – perhaps one that was internally democratic and fairer than its Samurai alternative, as women were considered ‘equal to men – and practiced martial techniques designed by women for women to use on the battlefield or during ‘assassinations’ - a key skill of the ‘Ninja’ warrior.
The character ‘忍’ (ren3) is comprised of a contracted version of the lower particle ‘心’ (xin1) - which translates as ‘mind’ and ‘heart’ - and the upper particle ‘刃’ (ren4) - which represents a ‘bladed weapon’ such as a ‘knife’ or ‘broad-sword’, The Japanese version of this ideogram appears to have a handle affixed to a blade – a blade said to be covered in ‘blood’:
When combined together, the ideogram ‘忍’ (ren3) suggests a situation where the human mind (and body) is said to be highly skilled swordsmanship – together with ‘tolerating’ the ‘lose’ of a certain amount of one’s own blood – as well as spilling that of the opponent. The training in this martial art is arduous and painful to experience – but this is the path that must be ‘endured’ if mastery is to be achieved. Whereas the ideogram ‘者’ (zhe3) is comprised of the lower particle ‘白’ (bai2) which carries the meaning of the colour ‘White’, whilst the upper particle is ‘耂’ (lao3) and refers to a ‘an old man who is bent-over and has long hair’ - usually implying ‘acquired wisdom overtime’. Therefore, ‘者’ (zhe3) appears to mean a ‘body of expert knowledge acquired by an individual over a long period of study’. The combined term of ‘忍者’ (Ren Zhe) - or ‘Ninja’ - refers to the concept of an ‘accumulated body of knowledge and martial arts skill and acquired by an extraordinary person overtime’. Or, an ‘acquired body of knowledge and martial arts skill that transforms an ordinary person into an extraordinary person’.
忍術 (Ninjutsu) - ‘Ren Shu’ = ‘Endurance Art’
忍法 (Ninpo) - ‘Ren Fa’ = ‘Endurance Law’
Ninjutsu originally derived from an indigenous, traditional Japanese fighting technique known as the ‘Thorn Kill Art’ (刺杀术 - Ci Sha Shu) - perhaps implying the ability to ‘assassinate an opponent using a poisoned-dart'. Later, this art absorbed several Chinese cultural influences such as the ‘Art of War’ by Sunzi", and the martial principles contained within the ‘Six Secret Teachings’, etc. There is a legend that a Chinese Buddhist monk travelled to Japan early-on, and brought various Tantric Buddhist and Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques (perhaps around the 8th century CE) which were combined with Japanese Shintoism. This mixture of Chinese and Japanese martial elements was integrated to finally form ‘Ninjutsu’. The techniques of ‘evasion’ and ‘invisibility’ in were emphasised in the city – whilst ‘ambushes’ and the ability to suddenly ‘disappear’ was perfected in the mountainous areas.
Chinese Language Reference:
Despite my best efforts, and after hours of research on the Japanese-language internet, I have not been able to locate a single article about Sensei Kimura – although I have managed to reconstruct his name using the Chinese ideograms still used in Japan – placing his family name ‘Kimura’ (denoting a ‘tree village’) first, and his first name (‘Shigera’ meaning ‘talented’) second. This is the normal traditional placing in China, Japan and Korea, which is the exact opposite of the convention that has developed in the West. When coming to the West, for instance, many Asians rearrange the placement of their names in accordance with the Western custom. The lack of any written evidence for Kimura Shigera in Japanese language sources probably reflects the fact that he became famous outside of Japan. He is mentioned a number of times within Western (English) sources, and was considered an expert in ‘power hitting’. Not only this, but his understanding of body-mechanics was so profound and exact that his teaching of Shukokai technique eventually became considered a separate and unique branch of the style. Once, when attending a seminar in Poole, Dorset in the mid-1980s – I witnessed Sensei Kimura execute a perfectly timed mid-level front kick into a foot-thick striking pad held by a large Western man. The recipient flew upwards a couple of feet and then fell backward about 6 feet and came crashing to the ground. The next day, this large and stout practitioner of Shukokai (from Hereford) had a large ‘blackened’ bruise across the entirety of his abdomen area – despite 12 inches of foam rubber having absorbed the shock of the power! I find it interesting that Sensei Kimura managed to separate the ‘power’ producing aspect of karate from the religious and/or spiritual elements of traditional karate, and express that process in sound scientific concepts. For a standard biography of Sensei Kimura Shigeru – please reference the link below:
As I cannot access any reliable Japanese language texts regarding Sensei Kimura’s biography at this time, I cannot confirm any of these facts that appear in English. Certainly, when I trained with him in the 1980s, I had no idea of his past and assumed he had travelled to the UK from Japan. He appears to have left Japan for the White Minority ruled Southern African countries of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa in the early 1960s, although he eventually left and migrated further to the US. I have written elsewhere (although not on this blog) how US Cold War policy called for the spread of the same Japanese martial culture used in WWII (against the West) throughout the West to negate what was viewed as a possible diasporic Chinese culture sympathetic to ‘New China’ established in 1949. This false economy, if you like (which saw Western governments use domestic taxpayer's money to employ supposed ‘Karate Ambassadors’ from Japan), came crashing down when the US established full diplomatic links with Mainland China in 1979. By 1989 the traditional karate scene in the UK had completely disintegrated. Before 1979, karate classes in the UK would be held using Japanese terms and instructions, but by say 1989, this was already becoming a thing of the past which is non-existent today. One thing I can say is that as far as my experience of Shukokai was concerned, the classes in the UK were always multicultural.
PS: As far as I am aware, the ‘double hip twist’ which Shukokai is famous far was modified by Sensei Kimura. This technique (in its original form) used to involve one side of the hip being pulled back and then forcibly pushed forward to execute a technique (left-hip for left reverse punch for example) - but by the time I was training in Shukokai a basic time-saving guard position had been developed - whereby the hip was already held in the ‘pulled back’ position. Therefore, with the left leg forward, the right hip was already pulled back and ready to go.
I had trained in 'rice flails', 'spear', 'staff', 'stick' and 'long sword' etc, with Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) prior to my educational time in Hereford. He had told me that much of this knowledge had spread to Japan via Okinawa and was practiced within many styles of karate. Although I am wearing the Shukokai Karate Federation badge and 3rd Kyu Brown Belt in this photograph (performing right mid-level side-kick), I am carrying the Okinawan weapon known as the 'Sai' (釵 - Chai) - a non-bladed trident, usually made of steel. Although none of the karate styles I trained with in the UK openly practiced 'Okinawan Old Weaponry' (沖縄古武道 - Chong Sheng Gu Wu Dao) - or 'Okinawa Kobudo', I was taught for about a year in Hereford around 1985-1986 by a fellow student (I cannot recall his name) who had been taught the Sai and Nunchaku (rice-flails) by his martial arts teacher. We would meet-up at lunchtimes or in the evenings and swap martial techniques (with no money changing hands. This weapon is quite heavy and is also referred to as a truncheon (I perfected striking with the blunt handle-end as if performing a straight punch). Its weight helps to condition and strengthen the forearms, wrists and hands. I am told that the Sai is a farming implement orignally from Southern China, the handles of which are used to cut furrows in the ground, whilst the central section is used as a 'dibber' to make deep holes within which seeds are dropped.
My experience of Hakka villages in Southern China has not revealed 'Sai' type farming tools, despite the fact the Hakka Chinese people are very good farmers. This does not mean that 'Sai' tools have never existed in China, but rather that they are not evident today as an indigenous device. Of course, within modern China (which is economcally booming) some young people acquire Okinawan 'Sai' and seek authentic instruction - effectively re-importing what might be a lost art back into China from its safe-keeping in the hands of the Okinwans. It could also be the case that the 'Sai' developed only in Okinawa and has no roots in China - some Okinawans believe this. Within the Chinese language, '釵' (Chai) refers to an elaborate butterfly 'hairpin' such as worn above
- with variants comprising of one, two or three pins. When assessing the 'Sai' as a weapon, Chinese language sources talk of 'weaponised' hairpins expertly used by specially trained women. These hairpins were sharpened at the point and/or down the shaft, and were thrown into an opponent's body (like a knife) from a distance, or used to pierce pressure-points at close-range. If the Okinawan 'Sai' originated in China it could have evolved from the 'weaponised' hairpin rather than a farming implement.
Chinese language texts also talk of a blunt truncheon that was developed in Okinawa probably before the 16th century (prior to the Japanese annexation), as a self-defence weapon against bladed weapons (such as the sword). As the Ryu Kyu Islands were considered part of Southern China prior to this date, this seems to be where the idea comes from that the 'Sai' developed within South China (not to be confused with what might be better described as 'Mainland' South China today). These texts also record that two handles were added that were turned upward. I am told that sometimes a 'Sai' was fitted to the end of a six foot pole and used at a distance. Here are some examples of very early 'Sai' featured on the Chinese language internet:
The British Nationality Act of 1948 granted the right of all people born within British colonies to be 'British Subjects', or 'British Citizens' and therefore entitled to settle in the Mainland UK. Master Chan Tin Sang came to the UK in 1956 and the story was hat he worked hard at all kinds of jobs in and around Sutton, and eventually saved enough money to send for his wife and two young daughters. I was told this took about ten years and always assumed that 'Por Por' (i.e. our Chinese grandmother Cheung Yuet-Tai - known in the UK and Cheung Yat-Tai) came to the UK in 1966 - but these Immigration Papers record that she was granted permission to leave Hong Kong and fly to Britain in late 1968. From what her daughters have told me, the air-tickets Master Chan sent from the UK arrived two-weeks late due to a postal delay. In fact, the air-tickets arrived on the morning of the day of the flight - and Por Por had to quickly pack a few small cases, and rush to the local school to extract her children! This she did, and they eventually made their way to Sutton in South London. Master Chan Tin Sang went on to open one of the first Chinese Restaurants in Sutton - the King Wah - situated on the opposite side of the road from the Masonic Lodge and the Post Office in Grove Road. We have never managed to find a photograph of the King Wah.
Madam Cheung Yuet-Tai was born in the New Territories (Hong Kong) in 1924, and passed away in Sutton during January, 2011. She was 86 years old, and in her 87th year (her 87th birthday would have been on the 3rd of September, 2011). She had been suffering from kidney problems for quite sometime prior to her passing. In 2001, Madam Cheung Yuet-Tai 'confirmed' Master Chan Tin Sang's 1991 'Transmission' to me - and also passed on to me one of his jade rings, a gold and jade clan-leader's ring, and gold wristwatch.
My Chinese gongfu teacher (living in Sutton) - Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) - advised me to ‘explore’ the many martial arts that were then around, bearing in mind that virtually all Japanese karate has its roots in the Chinese gongfu styles imported into Okinawa from China’s Fujian province over the last few hundred years. As long as this exploration was carried-out away from Sutton (where I did not live at the time), there was no problem despite the memories of the Japanese atrocities carried out in China still being fresh in the minds of the elderly members of the British Chinese community (many of whom had witnessed these barbarous acts, been subjected to them or lost relatives). Whilst attending college in the Reigate area, myself (and a friend – Robert Townsend) decided to make a study of a Japanese school of karate. As we started in September, 1983 and only had to July, 1984 at this college, our study would be relatively short, but committed. The classes were held once a week (I think Tuesday evenings – 730pm-9pm) at the Sovereign Leisure Centre, and conducted by Sensei Alan Bound 1st Dan (at the time).
We did not know what style this was to start with, but just turned-up (we were both 16 years old). It turned-out to be administered by the ‘Southern Karate-Do Wako Kai’ association which interpreted its mission as returning to the ‘true’ of the Wado Ryu (和道流) style founded by Hironori Otsuka (1892-1982) - who had only passed away the year before. It was felt that the original ‘spirit’ of Wado Ryu had been departed from, and a return to the ‘Way of Peace’ was needed. Within the Chinese language ‘和道流’ is pronounced ‘He Dao Liu’ - and means ‘Harmonious Way Tradition’. Like many ‘old’ traditions in Japan, Chinese ideograms are used to describe its principles. In this style I was taught power through correct positioning. There was no body conditioning such as in my family gongfu style, but a practitioner was taught to assume a superior psychological and physical positioning from the very beginning (which eventually culminates in ‘enlightenment’ for those who pursue the spiritual aspects), a dominance which is maintained in combat through continuously out-manoeuvring an opponent so that they cannot set themselves to deliver their best techniques against your body. Within our Ch’an Dao System, this is reflected in the principles of aligned power and correct approach found within Taijiquan (and internal martial arts), although Wado Ryu has part of its roots in Jujitsu. We generated power through exact movement and we learned a reverse-punch drill I have never seen in any other karate style (involving ‘snake’ stepping). Sensei Alan Bound was a very good and talented teacher.
Eventually, the classes (which always seemed to have around 20 or 30 people attending), were moved to the Scott Hut next to Redhill train station. The spiritual message was that if you align yourself with the deepest and loving principles of the universe (and do not conflict with life), then you will be invincible in the face of untoward violence and harassment. I have a soft spot for Wado Kai (and genuine Wado Ryu) despite the fact I am a Hakka Chinese martial artists! As young students, Sensei Alan Bound gave use a karate suit each and allowed us to pay for it over a few weeks. He was a gentleman! We successfully graded for our yellow belts (and probably our orange belts) - I think we travelled to Guildford to do this (and were graded under Sensei Barry Wilkinson 4th Dan) – and many years later, whilst looking through boxes of old documents and academic work, I came across my Wado Kai ‘licence’ and a grading certificate! It is my belief that Wado Ryu could do a lot of good bringing the Chinese and Japanese communities together! Thank you Sensei Alan Bound for enriching our lives!
In 1992, Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) - passed on his family style of Hakka (Longfist) Gongfu to me. In 1993, he was involved in a car accident in Sutton, which led to him developing further medical complications, and following a stroke – he passed away in St Helier Hospital. I received a scrap of paper with Chinese writing on in 1992 – confirming the transmission – which was formally confirmed by his widow –Mrs Chueng Yat Tai – in 2002. This type of time scale is not unknown with regards to traditional Chinese transmissions. I moved to permanently live in Sutton around 1996, and quietly set-up a small Gongfu Training Hall after first securing permission from the local Chinese clandestine societies operating in the area. Due to the respect that Master Chan Tin Sang was held, a) permission was granted (which means the training hall was acknowledged as truly representing traditional Chinese spiritual and martial culture), and b) we were granted ‘exemption’ status from paying the usual monthly ‘fees’ to these groups. This goes on all the time within Chinese culture throughout the West, with many Westerners being completely unaware of it.
As a consequence, many supposed Gongfu Training Halls – even those that are commercially successful and interviewed for publication in Eurocentric magazines and journals – are not acknowledged as ‘legitimate’ by the Chinese community these groups claim to represent (regardless of whether any Chinese people train in them). Even in modern China, although the influence of these clandestine associations no longer exists, the idea that there is ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ representation of Chinese culture is still a very strong. Master Chan Tin Sang stated that if I decide to ‘teach’ in public (and if he is no longer alive), I am not allowed to lose any fight – be it in sparring or during a ‘honour’ fight (of which I have had many since). As I have taken on the leadership of the ‘Chan’ (陳) clan, I must represent all the ancestors going back thousands of years, and not let them or their descendants down! All opponents must either be taught and improved as both human-beings and martial artists - or ‘removed’ as a threat – end of story.
Many of those who read this (and were in our Training Hall in Sutton at any time since 1996) will know this to be true, as they witnessed the many fights (at the end of training sessions) that I was involved in. Fighting does not bother me at all, and I enjoy it as a physical, cultural and spiritual activity. I have no hatred in my heart whatsoever, and only cultivate love for existence. Insult me, my family, our friend, other people or our beliefs and I will deal with you in a firm, disciplined and ‘fair’ manner, in accordance with the law, and as a gentleman. Before this, you will have to survive one of our Ch’an Dao training sessions which have defeated professional fitness instructors, combat sports athletes as well as serving soldiers. If you doubt this to be true – we can start with a thousand squat kicks and see how well you fight after this! This is genuine Hakka gongfu and I suggest a quiet and humble approach whilst you build experience and strength.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.