Introduction - Entering The Gate Of Ch'an Dao
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles - 11th Generation Lineage Inheritor
Ch'an Dao Quan Fa (禪道拳法 - Mind Way Fist Art)
Ch'an (禪) is a Chinese Buddhist tradition that emphasises the pure empty essence of the 'Mind Ground' (心 地 - Xin De) that underlies all phenomena. The highest attainment in this system is the realisation of this Mind Ground through both movement and stillness. Within the Ch'an Buddhist tradition, the concept of 'Ch'an' is defined as both the name of the Mind, and the substance of the Mind. Mastery within this system is not possible without the practice of meditation. The physical aspects of the art itself are termed 'Dao' (道), or 'Way', and may be viewed as a guiding principal toward self-enlightenment. The 'Mind' (Ch'an), expresses the 'physical arts' (Dao), as the one aspect is contained within the other. This is a traditional school of Chinese fighting arts that has been preserved within the Hakka (客家), or 'Guest People' ethnic minority group of south China, and has been associated the Chinese family surname of ‘Chan’ (陳). This particular lineage has practiced and passed-on this art for many generations. Tradition maintains that the Hakka people originated toward the north of China, and slowly moved southward over thousands of years, through a number of population migrations, bringing their northern language, culture and martial arts into the south. Qi (氣), the universal energy (or breath), is cultivated in both its ‘dense’ and ‘refined’ aspects, with the acknowledgement that both are required for a healthy, relaxed and robust mind and body. The ancient Chinese masters understood this principle, and devised Daoyin (導引), which literally translates as moving energy around the body, by stretching and exercising. But more than this, the mind becomes ‘aware’ of the qi or energy, as it is generated and moved around. This energy cultivation has two complimentary and yet distinct aspects; Waigong (外功), or ‘External Skill’and Neigong (內功), or ‘Internal Skill’. These two aspects are distinguished by how deep the cultivated awareness penetrates into the psycho-physical being, and the environment within which it inhabits, culminating in a third state, namely that of the achievement of 'Zagong' or, 'Integrative Skill' (雜功), a state that reconciles all difference, thus rendering notions such as 'internal' and 'external' ultimately obsolete.
Northern Longfist – Bei Chang Quan (北長拳) Waigong – External Skill (外功)
This school of Longfist is called Tongbeiquan, or ‘Through Back Boxing’ (通背拳) and is considered by tradition, to be approximately 2,500 years old. It is a method of producing force using the entire body, and has many distinct lineages. Its origins lie in the mountainous areas of north China, and the pragmatic considerations of the ancient battlefield. This lineage probably evolved out of a community defence military art, that eventually split into many family styles. As a Hakka style, it contains major elements of both Ying Jow (鷹爪) ' Eagle Claw’, and Tong Long (螳螂) Praying Mantis’. As a style, it pre-dates the arrival of Buddhism in China by nearly a thousand years, and is thought to be the basis of the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD) martial art known as Taizu Changquan (太祖長拳), or ‘Grand Ancestor Longfist’, named after the Taizu Emperor (reigned 960-976AD). It has since however, been practiced in Buddhist monasteries and has become associated with Ch’an (禪) Buddhism and the Shaolin (少林) tradition. It advocates long range kicking and punching technique, which eventually lead to a mastery of medium and short-range fighting skills. It is renowned for its fluid footwork and power-hitting techniques. External Qigong (外氣功) in the form of tough body conditioning, hardens both muscle and bone, and forges a strong and determined mind. Sparring in this lineage emphasises self-control and is carried-out without padding, to build both trust and confidence.
Yang Family Taijiquan (杨家太極拳) Neigong – Internal Skill (內功)
The concept that forms the basis of Taijiquan (Grand Ridgepole Boxing) is thousands of years old and is mentioned in the Yijing (易經), or 'Book of Changes'. Its movements are slow and deliberate, causing a calm mind and relaxed body. Posture is aligned; body weight is dropped through the feet, into the floor, creating a firm base referred to as 'rooting'. Body-weight moved through a relaxed body, creates massive power, when channelled through a hand or foot. A naturally rounded posture allows the practitioner to deflect and re-direct any attacks. This is internal qigong (内氣功). Subtle qi (氣) is cultivated through the practice of the long form (108), which was developed by master Yang Chengfu (楊澄甫) - (1883-1936). This system maintains the importance of qi (氣) development as a transformative agent within self-development, and preserves knowledge of the many self-defence applications of each taijiquan movement. Taijiquan is one of the most advanced martial systems to have developed in China.
Integration Skill - Zagong ( 雜功)
Over time, the ‘external – wai’ (外) and ‘internal – nei’ (內) aspects of martial training 'merge' in the mind and body of the practitioner, creating a state of both psychological calmness and alertness, combined with a physical robustness. The whole being of mind, body and spirit is developed through consistent training. Will power and determination is both required and developed, when training in this system. The external and internal are fully explored over years of training, and a deep and all encompassing knowledge and wisdom of the human condition is achieved. Mastery of the 'self' is only attained through an arduous path of trial and tribulation, which culminates in self-knowledge.
Seeking the perception of the 'timeless' moment
For the sake of Confucian clarity, the beginning student enters through the 'External gate' (外門) when practicing Longfist. Through 'hard' training, the 'internal' is realised. When practicing Taijiquan, the beginning student enters through the 'Internal Gate' (內門), and through committed training, learns to understand the 'hard' existing in the 'soft'. Taken together, both these two levels of attainment create a state of perfect balance described as 'za' (雜) . This idea means that two concepts that might be viewed as unconnected and diametrically opposed, can infact be reconciled into a functioning 'oneness' with no remaining contradictions. In this state of mastery, notions such as 'internal’or 'external' cease to have any real substance.