The tradition from Banana Village in the Sai Kung area of the New Territories is that all the warriors of the Chan (陳) Clan should come together and train very hard to purify the mend and body of any bad karmic traits, and share and discuss personal combat experiences and the ‘secret’ teachings hidden within the style. Often, but not always, this regular training should within, without or near a Buddhist, Confucian or Buddhist Temple, as well as being within or near the Chan Clan Hall. When our Hakka-Chinese Chan Clan migrated to the London in 1956 – these traditions were maintained but adjusted to fit-in with the new culture! Now, we must rent a hall to train – or train for free in a local park! Many people train quietly within their own living space and no longer congregate to train. When Master Chan-Tin Sang (1924-1993) passed away I took-over as the Head of the Ch’an Dao Martial Arts Association and I decided to switch from 'closed' lessons to 'open' lessons to benefit humanity. This involved the teaching of the Sunday morning Gongfu classes designed for Chinese children only (as a cultural practice). I felt the parents and children should have a set venue that was neutral to all and safe for the children. Traditionally, the parents had to be a) present and b) supportive of their child throughout the lesson. When our ‘hidden’ training hall was discovered around 1995, the general people took an interest in what we were doing and asked to join in. This is how we opened our doors and let the entirety of humanity in. What follows is a chronology of all the training halls we have used for 'public classes'. This vital history evolves around a set of old photographs of Sunday morning training within Highfield Hall! Highfield Hall is on the road to Carshalton and the small hall used to be a swimming pool in the old days. The swimming pool had been filled-in and the resulting space declared a 'training hall'! The Hall is actually referred to today as the 'Sports Hall' and it was often dark and so cold in the winter that we had to bring our own heaters in to warm-up the air for the students who used to get cold hands and feet despite training hard! However, the hall was usually used for Badminton matches, and I liked its austere image and the rent was very reasonable (and still is)! We moved house around 1998 and relocated to a part of Sutton bordering with North Cheam and the training hall nearby (Club Constellation - next to Cheam Leisure Centre). When Sutton Council sold that hall into private hands, we relocated again to a very rustic training hall opposite Sutton Cemetery in Sutton Common. Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) taught in various 'private' and 'secret' places known only to the participants around Sutton. I Trained with him in Hong Kong (when we were both visiting the Chan Ancestral Village) and in a large Utility Room situated in a High Rise Block of Council Flats which still exist in Sutton (near to Sutton Bus Station) not far from where I now live - next to Sutton United's Football Ground. Our last public training hall was in Stoneleigh (although for a three-month period during the Summer of 2010 we trained in a small park just off St Dunstan's Hill near Cheam Village - whilst a new roof was added to the Stoneleigh hall):
Ch'an Dao Training Hall (Public Classes) Chronology:
Highfield Hall (Sports Hall) - Photographs Available - 1994-1998.
Club Constellation CLOSED - Photographs Available - 1998-2007.
Youth Centre 21 (Sutton Common) DEMOLISHED - No Photographs - 2007-2009.
Sutton Life Centre now occupies the land the above once occupied.
Den Lane Scout & Guide Hall (Stoneleigh) - No Photographs - 2009-2011.
If you know of any more pictures of students diligently training in Ch'an Dao martials arts - please forward to me!
In late 2011, I decided to switch to 'closed' teaching to focus on building the inner and outer strength of those who have shown loyalty and respect to the Chan Clan and our Family Gongfu. This change of emphasis is normal within traditional Chinese gongfu practice and a reflective of the conditions of the time. Sometimes the Chan Clan will 'open the gate' whilst at others the gate will be firmly 'locked'! The public lessons in the training halls represents training 'outside' the gate as there are many life-lessons to be learned. However, there is a time when this type of training must undergo a complete frequency change if the students are to develop into entirely new avenues of endeavour and experience. If more photographs come to light regarding Ch'an Dao students using our old training halls - then we shell add them to this article.
The ‘external’ component represented by the numerous ‘gongfu’ styles extant in China – perfects the ‘leverage’ of the joints on the horizontal plane. As this is generated by contracting muscles (which operate through the ‘awareness’ of the positioning of the bones and joints in relation to one another), very high levels of physical fitness and psychological conditioning must be pursued and mastered. This also involves the understanding of ‘torque’ or ‘deliberately’ employed muscular tensions to generate and increase impact. Bodyweight is also used across the horizontal plane – joint, bone, muscle bodyweight and psychological focus build ‘external’ power and erupt this force into a relatively small area of contact through the contacting limb and/or body-part. This type of power is quite often ‘shocking’ to encounter and difficult to recover from once a clean blow has been landed to a vulnerable part of the body. This skill can take five, ten or more years to perfect through traditional Chinese martial arts training (which builds a practitioner’s mind and body from the ground upwards – like the construction of a Book of Change hexagram). The most efficient martial arts style that I have seen that can convey this ability to a new student (with little prior experience) in the modern world – is that of the Shukokai Karate-Do style as formulated by O-Sensei Shigeru Kimura (1941-1995).
Integrated or ‘mixed’ power is a rarefied and highly refined skill of the highest martial order! A Master of ‘integrated’ power possesses the ability to continuously switch between power-generating systems (as in ‘external’ or ‘internal’), or apply only an ‘integrated’ approach. Furthermore, within the few seconds of a complicated fight – a fighter might have to switch rapidly from one power-expression to another because this is exactly what the situation calls for. The opponent could be highly skilled and a diverse approach necessary to ‘unlock’ their defensive patterns. Being ‘trapped’ in a restricted space might prevent certain techniques (and types of power generation) from being deployed – so the most appropriate mode should be selected. Where horizontal space is missing in the environment – then ‘vertical’ power can and should be used (with the orientation of power-generation adjusted to meet circumstances). Of course, the ‘iron vest’ ability to use the ‘aligned’ bones to absorb, reject or deflect any incoming attack is always in operation with the intention of ‘damaging’ the opponent’s attacking limb through using its own power and ‘deflecting’ it back into the structures of the attacking limb. This coincides with the maintaining of the perfect ‘rooted’ footwork.
External Power = 外功 (Wai Gong)
Internal Power = 內功 (Nei Gong)
Integrated Power = 雜功 (Za Gong)
The ‘neigong’ (or ‘neidan’) component is a vast subject that is very complex and directly linked to Daoist practice. This requires a qualified Master to lead the way. However, I have relayed above the basic requirements for ‘power production’ in our Hakka Family Style of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts.
It is best (or most advantageous) to perfect martial movement during the first half of your life – say aged 0-50 years – and then use that experience to integrate with the changes that happen to the mind and body from 50-100 years, etc. This is the ideal model. However, many people are not in a position to achieve this for various reason, and so a more serious attitude of self-organisation is required. The distractions of youth are interesting and enjoyable, but even when young there should be an inner core of training-attitude that is isolated from the worldly life. This oasis of peace, quiet, tranquillity and harmony will allow for the development of a deep and profound state of mind, the awareness of which will thoroughly ‘penetrate’ all aspects of bodily movement within the martial context. This is the traditional way which becomes ever more important the older a practitioner becomes. Do not become distracted by the ego-accomplishments of worldly-markers as these things, although interesting within their own context, do not give you any understanding or ability to cope with the ageing process. Those who become enmeshed in worldly concern may win this medal, that belt or this competition, etc, and although there is nothing inherently wrong with this, many people involved in such a superficial path simply ‘stop’ training at around 30 years of age because no one ever taught them about ‘what happens next’. If a practitioner must become involved in combat-derived competition, participate quickly, prevail swiftly and leave, as there are much more important martial elements to master.
Form movement is the key to mind, body and environmental mastery. A Form passes on the physical and psychological aspects of the martial lineage concerned. Intense practice when young allows for the dialectical elements of training to continue to permeate (and penetrate) the body and mind long after physical practice has ceased. The physical movements coupled with their reflection in the mind generate spiralling cycles of growth throughout the body-cells that eventually continues even outside of times of formal training. Ageing happens for a reason, and has many positive elements to it, as even young people age. With age comes maturity, experience, understanding, mastery, appreciation, wisdom, compassion, loving-kindness and selflessness. There is a certain ‘joy’ to giving-up the tyranny associated with youth! The other side is that physical abilities change. Within youth orientated societies it is said that abilities are ‘lost’, but this is not entirely true. It is better to say that physical abilities ‘change’, ‘evolve’ and ‘mature’, and manifest in a manner that is ‘different’ from that of the mindless years of youth.
Chinese martial arts are an interesting subject that has historically emerged from within Chinese historical experience. If a barracks, community, homestead or temple, etc, is attacked by a ruthless enemy, then everyone (men, women and children) are expected to ‘resist’ in one way or another, irrespective of ‘age’ (at least within Hakka Chinese family tradition). Between times of communal self-defence, people practiced the movements of martial forms to a) keep-fit and healthy (through preventative exercise), b) to perfect martial technique (i.e. retain ‘grace under pressure’ during intense combat experience), and c) deepen psychological and emotional maturity (or what might be more broadly referred to as developing a more profound sense of ‘spirituality’). Although there are numerous stages that an individual must traverse throughout their life, a paradox occurs whereby an elderly master moves with both ‘lightness’ and ‘speed’, whilst retaining massive striking-power with any part of the body that happens to make contact with the opponent. A mature practitioner knows how to correctly and appropriately ‘give things up’ without losing strength of mind or suffering any kind of detrimental reaction. Certainly, as the ageing process unfolds, the ‘physicality’ of youth is slowly replaced with the ‘psychological’ awareness of maturity.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.