As human beings we exist (and have evolved within) a gravitational field. Most traverse their entire lives unaware of this fact in its practical and/or theoretical basis. External martial arts are the product of young people using their will-power to move their torso and limbs through this gravitational field in an inefficient but useful manner which sees the generation of a great force (only at the highest levels) which is far beyond the level of energy expenditure used to manufacture it. To achieve this the cardiovascular system must be made efficient (through running), whilst the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons must be 'toughened' through regular usage. The mind is strengthened and focuses through repeated arduous training and familiarisation with the corresponding (physical) pain. The mind learns to use the body very much like a 'slamming door' with no regard to the state of the inner body or the health of the inner organs. At the external level (which must be mastered), the physical body is 'forced' through the gravitation field and it is the resulting 'resistance' which can generate substantial force. This type of power is entirely dependent upon the body being at a continuous peak of physical fitness - which is a state very difficult to maintain without the body structures being allowed regular periods of complete rest (so as to recover). A problem with this method involves illnesses and injuries getting in the way of achieving peak levels of fitness - and the ever-present problem of the ageing process. Within ancient China, the external training for combat could produce confident and solid soldiers in around three-months of continuous and systematic training. However, if an individual survived both the training and the combat experience on the battlefield, then what? The ancient Chinese understood that with age came both enhanced understanding of reality and a much more subtle appreciation of the human body and the environment it inhabited. This is how 'internal' training was established often hinted at by Confucian and Daoist ideology - and later Buddhist thought. This involved the mind being trained to be aware of how gravity operates through the bone-structure of the skeleton. The ancient sages realised that without any muscular effort (or corresponding psychological angst) whatsoever, gravitational 'force' effortlessly drops down through the centre of the bones (stimulating the bone marrow in the process), and enters the ground ('rooting' the practitioner) before a 'rebounding' reaction occurs which sees a corresponding 'force' travel back up through the centre of bones to the top of the skull. This process occurs simultaneously without interruption, contradiction, or paradox. It only ceases when the human body leaves its familiar gravitational field. (Chinese Cosmonauts have been experimenting in the zero gravity of space to see if a modified Taijiquan can assist in the preventing of soft bones during long space flights). The internal practitioner trains their mind to become aware of this free reservoir of energy and to propel it throughout the body, regulated by the martial techniques of Taijiquan, Baguazhsng/quan and Xingyi, etc. This means that without having to move to generate power (as in the external model) power is immediately available 'here and now' whilst standing on the spot. As virtually no undue effort is required to produce it - this power is far stronger, penetrative and destructive than its external variant. The nature of internal power is like a spinning vortex whilst remaining free of any contrived violence. This is deployed in combat not through any form of aggression, but rather as a matter of gentile timing and positioning. Providing this skill has been thoroughly learned, then there is no need for any undue effort. At the highest levels, quite often it is the case that elements of the external and the internal are deployed simultaneously without contradiction and allows from the higher ground of the internal perspective. This is why old Masters with considerable health problems are still unbeatable in the training hall - even days or hours prior to their deaths! I wanted to make it clear that by mastering the internal method - poor health due to age, injury or genetics is transcended. Where many cannot detach themselves from their physical characteristics, the internal Master 'has already left' so-to-speak. Either way, and whatever the case, there is only love in the process with the internal giving the maximum chance for a possible recovery of poor health - even if it is unlikely. Seated meditation, by the way, is essence 'internal' and this is why the old Masters practiced it. Life can be preserved and prolonged even within illness and poor health. For some people this is needed because they have unfinished business to complete.
Teaching Taijiquan in Leisure Centres and Retirement Homes - Sutton and Surrounding Area (2005-2013)
I learned traditional Chinese gongfu in the traditional manner that places ‘virtue’ and ‘sincerity’ above money – as an individual cannot ‘buy’ ability but only earn it! This is why, when I have held public classes in the past, I did not charge for my tuition – but shared the rent of the hall with those who turned-up to train. Over each year I would be lucky to break even. However, following a change of fortunes in 2004, I was obliged to seek some type of employment to support myself, my partner and our children above and beyond my status as an academic specialising in Chinese cultural understanding and the translation of old and new Chinese script, etc. This is where I spent over a decade teaching Taijiquan in local leisure centres and retirement homes. I offered the same professional level of care for my students – but someone in the management system would pay me a regular fee (as I refused to collect money from those attending). This is a record of that journey.
David Lloyd Leisure Centre – Cheam – One-Off Taijiquan Lesson 430pm – 6pm (5.3.2005)
I was offered £45 for a one-off one-hour Taijiquan Class at the David Lloyd Leisure Centre (a chain of gyms owned by Whitbread) located with the grounds of the Nonsuch School for Girls (near Cheam Village). This was because the Manager wanted to see if I was competent enough to hold a regular Taijiquan class at David Lloyd – Epsom. March 5th, was a Saturday and I spent the earlier part of the day travelling Warwick with Gee and Sue-ling with Liz driving - to attend a meeting held by the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Service at the Forest Hermitage (a Buddhist Temple) situated within the Warwickshire countryside. The effort turn-out to be worthwhile as it led to regular work at David Lloyd – Epsom.
David Lloyd Leisure Centre – Epsom (2005-2009)
I taught a peak of three one-hour Taijiquan lessons a week (at £35 per lesson) at this leisure centre which now occupies part of the land used by the old ‘Horton Hospital’ (1902-1997). This David LLoyd Gym was opened in 2002 in a countryside setting (adjacent to the popular ‘Horton Farm’). I used to teach Taijiquan on Wednesday afternoon between 1pm – 2pm. My next Taijiquan class was held on Friday evenings between 630pm – 730pm. For a short-time an experimental third lesson of Taijiquan was added for a Monday between 1pm – 2pm – but was soon discontinued due to lack of interest. I think I started teaching around June, 2005, but I am not sure of the exact date at this juncture (although a document might turn up to clarify at some point). My last Taijiquan lesson for David Lloyd – Epsom, however, was held on Wednesday, April 8th, 2009. I then travelled with Gee and my eldest daughter – Sue-Ling - to my parental home in Torquay (by train). Gee and Myself were married the next day (9.4.2009) at the Oldway Mansion, Torquay – with Sue-Ling acting as ‘Witness’.
LA Fitness – Ewell East (2006)
By far the worst conditions I worked under. It was difficult to get to and/or find – so poor had been is locating - and the Manager was dishonest in her dealings with myself. She offered just £20 per hour for each class of 45 minutes duration (this was the agreement). This single class of Taijiquan was held on Thursday evenings between 745pm – 830pm. When I submitted my invoice to claim the ‘princely’ sum of ‘£20’ the Manager in question ‘crossed-out’ my claim and wrote in its place ‘£20 for one-hour - £15 for 45 minutes.’ Giving the impression that it was I (the worker) and not her (the Manager) who was being corrupt! I kept up this work for about a year before I terminated the agreement.
Fairfield Centre – Leatherhead (2011-2013)
This was a very good working environment with the Manager - ‘Christine’ - being very professional. I was originally booked for six-weeks to teach a class of retired and elderly people Taijiquan for one-hour (10am – 11 am) held regularly on a Tuesday morning (attracting a £30 per hour fee). However, as matters transpired, I spent three-full years teaching at this centre – often assisted by my partner Gee – who is a gongfu Master of our family style in her own right! We found the people of Leatherhead to be very accommodating, thoughtful and encouraging. Fairfield Centre was administered by Mole Valley District Council.
Ashcroft Place Residents – Leatherhead (2012)
A number of residents from this centre had attended one of my Taijiquan classes held at nearby Fairfield Centra – and had approached me to see if I could teach a class of Taijiquan at Ashcroft – an invitation I immediately accepted. I taught one-hour a week on Thursday mornings between 1030am – 1130am (for a £30 hourly fee). This arrangement lasted one very enjoyable year. Elderly people prefer (and should receive) a fifteen minute-break within each hourly session. This is only right and proper for the maintenance of dignity and respect. I enjoyed teaching the venerable members of our community – particularly as I am rapidly approaching this time of life myself!
The management of one of the fitness centres in Leatherhead had been taken-over by a woman named ‘Claire’ who used to work at David Lloyd – Epsom – and who knew me because she happened to have been my previous line-manager. Claire enquired as to whether I could teach a class of Taijiquan at this fitness centre – but they wanted me to hold it on the same day and time that I was already teaching at the Fairfield Centre – and so I declined.
I was also contacted by the Manager of the Virgin Gym near Abbey Mills – but his idea of a) a reasonable fee, and b) proper working conditions were worse than those held by the Management of LA Fitness – and so I declined.
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.
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
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.