Teaching ‘at a distance’ is different to teaching ‘face-to-face'. For over thirty years of ‘face-to-face' teaching I have conveyed the physical forms, body-conditioning and body-building techniques to hundreds of different students. The ‘face-to-face' aspect is primary as we directly communicate through verbal instruction and physical demonstration. The emphasis is on generating a useful level of physical and psychological fitness that will be useful for any theoretical self-defence situation. This is the foundational first three-months of training – which once consolidated – leads into ‘specialisations’ of various kinds – depending upon the natural ability of the student and what motivates them as a person to train, etc. Every person who has walked into our Training Hall possesses some type of ‘above average’ technique – be it a side-kick, right-jab, groin-kick or under-cut, so on and so forth. Occasionally, the lead-attribute might a natural level of fitness, strength, endurance, or the maintaining of a happy disposition when training is severe!
Regardless of gender, age or ability, everyone who enters our Training Hall is given an ‘equal’ chance to prove themselves in the tough atmosphere of a military-style discipline which is common within proper Training Halls in China today. This is the traditional approach of ‘testing’ a student’s resolves to ascertain whether it is worth the bother of the instructor to invest time in a student’s psychological and physical development. The onus is to allow the student ‘quit’ in the quickest and easiest manner possible and go elsewhere for training. This removes them as a problem from our Training Hall – and confirms that they are noy suitable. This is the process of what I call ‘self-selection’. A student can continue to stay and train or remove themselves in defeat – the choice is only ever theirs. If a student survives the furnace of the initial ‘firing’ process, then they fall into line (literally) and become part of the school. This is where the training of the ‘mind’ begins – a process which continues as an under-current of continuous influences even outside of the Training Hall – and when the teacher and the student are no longer physically in close proximity.
This means that a ‘Disciple’ within the Ch’an Dao School is someone who has trained for years and passed many and varied tests – some obvious – others not so obvious. Yes – this approach does stem from a Confucian attitude of ‘respect’ and ‘social order’ premised upon the use of ‘wisdom’ and ‘compassion’ - and that is exactly the ideology within which ALL Chinese martial arts styles have developed. As a consequence, as we spar with no padding, and given that under the Law of China – if someone ‘dies’ in a sparring match they have consented to – then it is their own fault and no crime has been committed. When we are visiting China – this is the type of fighting we always participate in – and prevail through. We have never lost a bout yet. In the West, we make our sparring and training as authentic as possible whilst keeping within the boundaries of UK. The Law exists to protect us all and the Law must be respected for it to be effective. As a consequence, we do not participate in ‘sport’ or ‘pretend’ fighting of any kind. Neither do we participate in the boosting of the ego through pointless verbal abuse and physical violence. We remain quiet, peaceful and disciplined until it is time to move – then we move with the speed of lightning and the weight of a mountain!
Teaching at a distance, for me at least, evolves from teaching ‘face-to-face'. One facet of interaction supports the other facet and all is well. I have never participated in teaching only ‘at a distance’ (through video-link) as it seems to me to be a product egoism and superficiality. Of course, I might be wrong, but I think that I am correct within the context of our Hakka Chinese martial arts style. How are we to assess the quality of the character of each student? How do we know if the student in question possesses the integrity to benefit from the teaching and to benefit the style? As I do not teach for monetary profit, ‘gain’ is no motivator for me. A student can say anything ‘at a distance’ just to access the style whilst making no effort or sacrifice on their part. For this type of student – this entire process is an out-dated game which they play to pass the time. And yet this type of ‘untested’ person does not even know what a ‘squat-kick’ is, and probably could not do ‘ten’ let alone the ‘fifty’ required by every beginner! If you want to learn superficial movement without making any sacrifices – then pick-up a book and copy the pictures. This is all that is happening with martial arts conveyed via the internet as a means to generate an income – if there is no meaningful face-to-face' contact.
Every genuine martial arts style from North China is quite often linked to the Shaolin Temple of Henan – or contains techniques that are associated with temple’s gongfu training. The Chinese term ‘罗汉’ (Luo Han) refers to the Indian Pali term ‘Arahant’ - and in this instance includes the so-called ‘Arahant Fist’ (罗汉拳 - Luo Han Quan) - an ‘enlightened’ martial art which Bodhidharma brought from South India to China around 520 CE. An ‘Arahant’ is a man or woman who has achieved enlightened within the Early School of Buddhism – represented by the Theravada School today (and its Pali Cannon). This article presents exercises that are often linked to ‘squat-kicking’ in various styles – or exercises used to a) build the external (physical) structures and strength of the entire leg area, and b) develop the ‘internal’ awareness of how energy and bodyweight manoeuvre through the centre of the bone marrow. Quite often the exercises remain the same or are only slightly altered to build the foundation for the next stage of training. Below is the ‘Arahant’ exercises for building ‘internal’ strength, power and endurance through the entire bone-structure of each leg. As the ‘circular’ structure of the joints and bones are incorporated – the ‘iron vest’ armouring of the legs is also developed. This develops the advanced internal ability to harmlessly absorb, reject or deflect any incoming power from a hostile blow.
Lifting pose: Standing up naturally, with feet shoulder-width apart, arms relaxed and hanging, all ten fingers slightly bent, eyes level, and the whole body relaxed. Get rid of distracting thoughts, concentrate on the pubic area. Breathing should be natural, slow, deep, and even, with 7 breaths as appropriate, with blood flowing through the whole body. (figure 1)
1) Stand upright: hold both hands on the top of the head from the side of the body, cross your fingers with the back of your palms facing up, and inhale at the same time, then turn your palms toward the sky, do not touch the top of your head, slowly bend your knees and squat, and exhale at the same time; When squatting, the head and body are upright, do not lean forward, bend the knees as far as possible not to exceed the toes, intend to guard the Yongquan (涌泉) point, then slowly stand up, and inhale at the same time, squat 7 times, so the blood flows through the whole body. (Picture 2～3)
2) Sunrise Over Eastern Mountain: Make a fist with both hands, flexing the elbows and raising them on both sides of your shoulders. Still in the squat rises slowly, with breathing, 7 times is appropriate, the rest of the requirements are the same as above. (Picture 4～5)
3) Worshipping Buddha in Ten Directions: Put your hands together in front of your chest, palms together, and do the same squat slowly and rise 7 times. Breathing is the same as other requirements. (Picture 6～7)
4. Embrace the moon with your arms: hold your arms in a round shape, with your fingers facing each other, palms facing inward, and do squatting and rising slowly for 7 times. (Picture 8-9)
5) Two Dragons 'Spit-Out' Pearls: Make a fist with both hands, elbows with both arms flat in front of the chest, in balance, with fists facing down, still slowly squatting and raising 7 times, and the rest are the same as above. (Picture 10-11)
6) Swallow Yin - Build Yang: Fold your hands behind your waist with your palms facing outwards. Do the same slow squat and rise 7 times. The rest of the requirements are the same as above. (Picture 12～13)
7) Ten Thousand Dharmas Return to a Single Source: Fold your palms on top of each other, palms facing inward, place your the hands on the lower abdomen and down into the expand the attention into the pubic area. Squat up 7 times with slow breathing to keep your pubic field. It also requires that the head be straight and the knees bend but toes. (Pictures 14-15)
Closing style: The method and essentials are the same as the starting style. Key points of Arahant Seven-Postures: When squatting up, do not bend your knees forward over your toes, let alone bend your head down, keep your eyes straight, keep your body centered, and keep your spine as straight as possible.
Chinese Language Article:
Translator’s Note: I knew of Master Hai Deng before he became famous for his martial arts skills. Indeed, he was considered a very devout Ch’an Buddhist Master whose understanding had been tested and confirmed by Master Xu Yun (1840-1959). He happened to come from the Sichuan area which has a number of Ch’an Temples renowned for their martial arts practice. The combining of martial arts and spirituality is very common in China and does not only happen at the Shaolin Temple in Henan. However, Master Hai Deng once tested his martial arts skills against another disciple of Master Xu Yun – namely ‘Master Ti Guang’ [体光] (1924-2005) - and lost the bout. There was no ego or anger involved and both monastics behaved with humility and respect toward one another. Master Hai Deng was very grateful that weaknesses in his physical technique had been exposed so that he could work at strengthening these areas and enhance his understanding in this art. More to the point, Master Xu Yun fully trusted Master Hai Deng to run monasteries as the Head Monk and teach the Buddhist Sutras to the monastics and visiting laity! Of course, with his visit to the West, and his involvement with the modern media, rumours and misunderstandings developed that were not the fault of a simple Buddhist monk. It is the world of dust that is to blame – and the Dharma that Master Hai Deng effectively upheld all his life! ACW (6.7.2021)
Master Hai Deng was originally just an unknown poor monk. Because of a coincidence, it seems that he became famous overnight and a household name. He became a heroic figure that people talked about. This all started with a news documentary called "Sichuan Unusual Events Record" (四川奇趣录 - Si Chuan Qi Qu Lu). It reported that in 1979, the Great Wall Film Company of Hong Kong and Emei Film Studio were preparing to jointly shoot a large-scale news documentary about unusual people from Sichuan. When the film crew was shooting at Baoguang (宝光 ) Ch’an Temple, a famous temple in western Sichuan, they heard that a martial arts-practicing monk - named ‘Hai Deng’ - lived in seclusion in the mountains of Jiangyou, spending his days and nights deep within seated meditation. After searching the remote areas, they eventually found Master Hai Deng on the mountainside near Chonghua Town, Jiangyou County.
Master Hai Deng lived in a simple hut built on the mountainside. Although the thatched hermitage is simple - it has a very Ch’an-like name -"Benyuan Jingshe" (本愿精舍) - or ‘Source of the Will Abode’. This name was devised by Master Hai Deng himself. The interior space of the hut is very low, narrow and small. The only items inside are a meditation stool with a mosquito net, a small stove for cooking, a dining table, and a few bowls and chopsticks. Why is there no bed? It turned out that in order to pursue the true meaning of Buddhism and martial arts, Master Hai Deng did not sleep in a bed for decades, and sat upright in meditation at night. From this point of view, Master Hai Deng can be regarded as a generation of Buddhist monastics truly living outside the world.
Master Hai Deng was invited to the Baoguang Temple to take part in the filming of the TV show. When he finished performing martial arts, this esteemed, elderly monk granted interviews with the monks and the local martial arts-loving young people associated with Baoguang Temple – who asked his advice about meditation and self-defence practice. He was devoted to teaching, and he was not fatigued in anyway despite his age - and was able to write poems on the spot. If Master Hai Deng's posthumous work "Shaolin Cloud Water Poem Collection" (少林云水诗集 - Shao Lin Yun Shui Shi Ji) is examined, his improvised "Ten Poems of Baoguang Temple" are included, the construction style of which is considered quite high. The term ‘云水’ (Yun Shui) or ‘Coud Water’) is a term used to refer to a Buddhist monastic who wanders from place to place – like a leaf blowing in the wind – or a drop of water falling like rain. (Translator: See Hexagram 56 ‘旅’ (Lu) of the ‘Classic of Change’ (Yijing) - the ‘Wanderer’ to explain this situation).
After the release of “Sichuan Unusual Events Record", Master Hai Deng's reputation gradually became apparent. In 1982, the head monk of Shaolin Temple - Shi Xingzheng (释行正) - sent a monk to Sichuan to study at the Buddhist Academy. Since Master Hai Deng had visited the Shaolin Temple several times before, Shi Xingzheng decided to personally visit the ‘Source of the Will Abode’ to pay a return visit to Master Hai Deng. Whilst discussing Ch’an, Master Hai Deng expressed the intention of going to Shaolin and formally becoming a humble ‘Disciple’ of the famous temple. What can Shi Xingzheng say? He could only welcome such a visit. Master Hai Deng took six disciples and went to Shaolin to live and study with them for a time. Many of the Shaolin monks thought it a happy occasion to meet with Master Hai Deng – a Ch’an monk who seemed to have come from another (earlier) time! In 1983, the movie "Shaolin Temple" starring Jet Li was very popular. "Shaolin martial arts" immediately became a cultural heritage sought after and admired by the people.
In November 1982, Xiao Dingpei (肖定沛) - a disciple of Master Hai Deng - wrote an article about Master Hai Deng practicing Ch’an in the Shaolin Temple, and had it published. Outsiders did not know that Master Hai Deng was only a visiting ‘Disciple’ of the Shaolin Temple. This misunderstanding was compounded by the fact that many had seen Master Hai Deng perform three extraordinary qigong exercised in the “Sichuan Unusual Events Record" documentary – and mistakenly believed he had learned these abilities at the Shaolin Temple! This led to the further confusion that Master Hai Deng was a Ch’an monk ordained at the Shaolin Temple (he was not) and that his martial arts skills were learned at the Shaolin (they were not). It has to be made clear that Master Hai Deng never personally claimed any of this and was usually the last to hear about each rumour!
Furthermore, a well-known author concocted a biography of Master Hai Deng – which described him as a Shaolin monk – and even that he was the ‘Head Monk’ (Abbot) of the Shaolin Temple! Then, in 1983, the Beijing Evening News added to the flames, serializing this so-called ‘biography’ of Master Hai Deng Master! Master Hai Deng was said to have only ‘reluctantly’ taken the post of Shaolin Abbot whilst he became the focus of media attention. Master Hai Deng was also invited to attend the 2nd Spring Festival Gala held by CCTV in 1984, where he performed qigong stunts. In 1984, the Central News Film Studio found Master Hai Deng and produced the documentary "Dharma Master Hai Deng of Shaolin" (少林海灯法师 - Shao Lin Hai Deng Fa Shi). .
Needless to say, this film was a big success. The photography team was very excited and decided to continue to encourage others to organize the staff to write a script about the legendary life of Master Hai Deng! Unwilling to be left behind, CCTV quickly joined forces with the Chengdu Foreign Affairs Office and invited Master Hai Deng and his disciples - Fan Yinglian (范应莲), Li Xingyou (李兴友) and others to shoot the TV series "Buddhist Careers" (佛门生涯 - Fo Men Sheng Ya). With all this publicity, Master Hai Deng became a defacto Shalin monk, Shaolin Dharma-Master and Shaolin martial arts expert! As he was quiet and humble, he did not take any notice of what was happening in the outside world – but merely ‘responded’ to circumstances as matters arose, He neither confirmed nor denied all the rumours but remain detached from it all. Although sometimes criticised for this ‘silence’ in the face of this disinformation, Master Hai Deng’s behaviour was ‘correct’ from a monastic point of view, as he remained ‘non-attached’ from the ignorance of others and never made any false claims about his own history or abilities.
In 1985, he accompanied a Chinese film delegation when visiting the United States, setting off a wave of "Shaolin martial arts euphoria" in throughout America; he was also invited to teach the Dharma in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in the USA... In the meantime, the Shaolin Temple monk - Shi Xingzheng - expressed his dissatisfaction at these developments. This view was supported in many areas around Dengfeng County, where the Shaolin Temple is located in Henan. The Shaolin Temple emphasises the Cao Dong lineage and is very strict. Only a few hundred men are chosen as fully ordained Shaolin monks at any one time, and they must go through a vigorous selection process far more difficult than anything hinted at in the movies! The Shaolin colleges surrounding the Shaolin Temple are places for sharing a certain strata of Shaolin Ch’an and martial arts knowledge – and are not considered the Shaolin Temple proper. There is a clear distinction. Master Hai Deng was not an ordained Shaolin monk of the Shaolin Temple – although he had been allowed to worship in the temple grounds – and he had not learned the ‘inner’ martial arts of the Shaolin Temple. The rumours suggested that he had – and herein lies all the subsequent trouble!
Due to all the confusion and trouble caused by these misunderstandings, the Education Department of the Dengfeng County Party Committee issued a statement that according to their records - Master Hai Deng is not the ‘Head Monk’ (Abbot) of Shaolin Temple. This was handed to the Head of the Chinese Buddhist Association - Zhao Puchu (赵朴初) – for clarification (just in case the government records were out of date or otherwise incorrect). Chairman Zhao Puchu wrote a reply on December 16th, 1985. His evaluation of Master Hai Deng in the letter is very objective. There are three main points: first, Master Hai Deng is a highly respected and fully ordained Ch’an Buddhist monk from Sichuan and is the Director of the Chinese Buddhist Association; second, Master Hai Deng is a genuine Master of martial arts; third, the news media's publicity is disrespectful and misleading. The solution proposed by Zhao Puchu is to understand the misleading propaganda, and correct it over-time through education. In this way the mistaken views will come to an end.
Although a statement was issued stating that Master Hai Deng was not the ‘Head Monk’ (Abbot) of the of Shaolin Temple – this fact did not affect his continued “popularity”. In 1986, he was invited to the Shanghai Armed Police Command School to instruct students in the practice of martial arts; He was hired as the general instructor of the PLA Scouts martial arts training team; in 1987, he participated in 20 episodes of the TV series "Dharma Master Hai Deng" filmed by Sichuan TV; In 1988 he settled in the ‘Martial Arts Dharma-Hall Dedicated to Master Hai Deng’ built for him in Jiangyou... But in January 1989, he fell ill and passed away. The ashes of Master Hai Deng were not yet cold when a reporter from Sichuan Daily – named ‘Jing Mou’ (敬某) , published a long report in Beijing’s "Reportage" magazine and Hainan’s "Gold Island" magazine. This article was highly disrespectful and wrongly claimed that Master Hai Deng was a ‘Liar’ and a ‘trickster’ who lived a life of only ‘making money’ out of those he fooled!
Fan Yinglian - a disciple of Master Hai Deng- took Jing Mou to Court in August 1989 for “infringement of reputation”. After investigation, it was found that Master Hai Deng followed the Vinaya Discipline carefully lived a very hard life – this pure and virtuous lifestyle was fully maintained even after he became famous throughout the country. All the offerings sent to him by sincere believers were immediately donated to the local temples and hospitals, and there was nothing left for him personally. However, one of the filmmakers of the "Sichuan Unusual Events Record" documentary came forward and revealed that Master Hai Deng was suspected of cheating when performing the one-finger Ch’an hand-stand where is legs were suspended from the rafters by cloth straps. As a result, the people were in an uproar, and Master Hai Deng’s personal reputation collapsed and he became the object of criticism. Master Hai Deng became both a comedy and a tragedy.
He was originally a poor monk who had left the world of dust, and was without power and money. The reason why he became a "god" was because of the wishful thinking superstitious attitudes of the people who held him up as something he was not; the reason why he was made a "demon" was also because of the same people who had become angry when they discovered their own stupidity in this matter. However, in all fairness, abandoning the dramatic changes in the last ten years of Master Hai Deng’s life, let’s just look at the majority of his life previous to his fame. He did indeed live a legendary life. He was an eminent monk who integrated Buddhism, martial arts, medicine, and literature. All these great achievements are ‘true’ and represent far more than most people achieve in a single life-time. The most commendable thing is that in the last ten years of his life, although he was praised as a god by the people, he could still maintain a hard life of pure and virtuous self-cultivation. He never once broke the monastic rules or abandoned the Vinaya Discipline.
These observations alone deserve the respect of future generations. Of course, the most controversial aspects of Master Hai Deng are of two aspects: 1. Is his Dharma Correct? 2. Is his martial arts authentic? First, is the Dharma of Master Hai Deng correct? Old Tan (老覃 - Lao Tan) thinks it was very high. Furthermore, Master Hai Deng was a disciple of Great Master Master Xu Yun (虚云大师 - Xu Yun Da Shi) [1840-1959] - the ‘True Dharma-Eye of this Generation’! Old Tan added here, that Master Xu Yun was one of the first people who advocated the establishment of the Chinese Buddhist Association. He later became the first honorary president. Master Hai Deng visited Master Xuyun at Zhenru Temple in Yunju Mountain, Jiangxi, and was appreciated by Master Xu Yun. He soon became the ‘Head Monk’ (Abbot) of the Zhenru Temple, with Master Hai Deng being considered an expert lecturer on the the Shurangama Sutra, the Lotus Sutra and so on, by Master Xu Yun. Master Hai Deng was certainly of a generation of very highly accomplished and virtuous Buddhist monks!
Was Master Hai Deng's martial arts of a high quality? Lao Tan again believes that Master Hai Deng was a very great martial arts master! This being the case, then how should we view his legs being suspended from the roof when performing his famous hand-stand? Well, it is to be expected as the Master was 80-years-old at the time! The fact that he could do any of these stunts is truly remarkable! How many 80-year-olds could be turned upside down and suspend their bodyweight on one or two-fingers? Hardly any! Furthermore, Master Hai Deng explained to the film crew that at his advanced age he could not perform the stunts of his youth – but that he had taught his disciples how to do these qigong movements. However, the film crew continued with their disrespectful attitudes and behaviour and literally ‘forced’ Master Hai Deng into performing the stunt himself – and as they wanted him to ‘hold’ the posture for far-longer than was normal – it was their idea that his legs be suspended to the rafters by strips of cloth! Ironically, the head of the film-crew who abused Master Hai Deng in this manner even came forward years later in an attempt to make money by falsely accusing Master Hai Deng of suspending his own legs! According to people who were there – Master Hai Deng was still able to assume the hand-stand on his own prior to his feet being secured to increase the length of time of the demonstration. This is despite the fact that as people naturally age their energy levels change and increase in their profundity and depth. Master ‘turn inward’ and abandon the world of dust!
Chinese Language Article:
In the West, Asian martial arts have been thoroughly commercialised and converted from a battlefield spiritual art – into a vehicle for making money. The instructors ‘sell’ their knowledge to classes of students – with an emphasis upon a very narrow definition of ‘self-defence’ (in the UK, many such teachers attempt to relate to their students by assuming they are in a pub on a Saturday night – and another drinker ‘starts looking at your bird’ and such other laughable narratives! In other words, the ancient martial arts of the East are taught to students in the contemporary West as a method to ‘defend’ themselves from attacks from other Westerners in a social (leisure) setting! Teachers of this type tend to cultivate a ‘cult of personality’ mentality throughout their school, which suggests that their art contains some sought of ‘mystical’ core that grants invincibility to each practitioner, and certain defeat to all those who are unlucky to confront it!
Ironically, I have been shown evidence of so-called ‘contracts’ signed by students when setting-up their monthly bank payments to the instructor. In the small print a disclaimer reads ‘The ‘student’ acknowledges that the movements taught are for guidance only, a may not be effective in any position of ‘self-defence’ - and that the instructor has no liability whatsoever for the well-being of the student.’ A lawyer-friend of mine advises that such contracts and ‘clauses’ are common-place nowadays in the martial arts scene which tends to target large classes of young children – where the training is sold to parents as ‘play’! The teachers do not care about the psychological, physical or spiritual well-being of their students, as the individuals concerned exist only to generate income and pay the bills.
In the expensive leisure centres, for example, the martial arts are sold as ego-trips for well-off and very rich! These people like to pretend that for the duration of the lessons they are legitimate martial arts fighters, when in reality the classes are designed around retaining their comfort levels in an air-conditioned room, with movements that do not go beyond a light cardiovascular workout. Each lesson is a self-contained episode as there is no guarantee that the ‘clients’ will be back next week! There is no continuation, but only the repeating of the myth of a deficient self-empowerment that occurs within one of the safest and crime-free environments on earth! The teacher must alter everything and change whatever the clients want changed to keep their attention levels up and to keep them coming back for more (whilst paying the ridiculous membership fees)!
Should a student progress in their martial arts practice and attend long enough for the teacher to take their presence seriously, he or she may well be considered suitable for participating in martial sports. This is a safe type of combat within which neither of the participants actually hit one another – but purposely throw-out their arms and legs to empty air in the direction of the opponent! He who throws enough such techniques is declared the ‘winner’ and the instructor’s school receives all the kudos for this success (hence the interest shown in the student by the teacher). Then there are the mixed martial artists who roll around on the floor in one-on-one bouts – each trying to ‘submit’ the other. In some versions, kicking and punching is also allowed during ‘stand-up’ periods to excite the fee-paying crowd! Although presented as the ‘best’ type of martial arts, modern militaries do not use this type of fighting simply because it does not work in reality (on the battlefield).
Legitimate Asian martial arts do exist. They exist in Asia and they exist in the West but they are well-hidden behind the thick blanket of highly commercialised martial arts. If a sincere student genuinely seeks-out a proper martial arts teacher, it is highly likely that they will be drawn into something very similar to what is described above. In fact, given the current conditions, such a scenario is virtually inevitable. In such a situation it is better to make the best of what is on offer in the outside whilst retaining you own inner freedom. It is a matter of bidding your time until you encounter what you are really looking for. Until that time, adaptability is the key to ongoing development. Understanding a situation does not mean that you have to be in conflict with it. It is better to remain quiet and meaning onto a situation and breathe new life into it. Traditional Chinese martial arts do exist, but they are difficult to find and even more difficult to enter!
Translator’s Note: Reading through historical texts on the Chinese language internet (Baidu) - I came across the following true story apparently recorded in a journal or diary written by the British imperialist living within Fujian province at the time - John Charles Oswald (1856-1900) - who was responsible for running a tea house and horse-racing track! The photographs were found in the journal entry but it is not clear whether he took them or if they were taken for him. This episode – essentially a legal case – took place in 1895, and although cameras were known, there numbers were few in China. Such devices would have been considered a very rare and specialised piece of technology. However, the photographs themselves are of a very good quality considering the time they were taken. I suspect the pictures were more or less ‘posed’ for and that the ‘criminals’ had to participate in sessions despite all being sentenced to death and scheduled to be killed on the day of the photographing! The Emperor of China tried to keep out all foreigners, but they managed to penetrate the border guards, they were directed to Fujian province, which was full of robust and loyal Chinese people who knew how to ‘control’ and ‘limit’ the activities of these visitors. These English and American visitors ended-up in exactly this place, despite their dominating and oppressive attitudes and behaviours. People from Fujian province often travelled to the Island of Okinawa – an ancient Chinese settlement – and it is their Chinese martial arts which eventually evolved into ‘Karate-Do’ - now considered a ‘Japanese’ art. In these photographs we see the grinding poverty of the ordinary Chinese people, and can see that two men entrusted by the Authorities to carry-out executions – despite being relatively well-dressed – nevertheless, lack any semblance of shoes or socks! From their stance-work it is obvious that traditional Chinese martial arts were brutally effective in practice rather than ‘flowery’ or ‘elaborate’ in theory. ACW (4.6.2021)
Chinese prisoners who killed foreigners in the late Qing Dynasty - were forced to the execution-ground after a simple interrogation (with no legal defence). Four suspects in the ‘Gutian Religious Case’ include Du Zhuyi (杜朱衣), Zheng Huai (郑淮), Liu Xiangxing (刘祥兴) and Zhang Ch (张赤). In the early morning of August 1st, 1895, more than one-hundred members of the "Piety Association" (斋会 - Zhai Hui) situatin in Gutian County, Fujian Province - attacked Mount Hua - where British and American missionaries lived, resulting in the deaths of eleven British missionaries and other female Christian assistants. Many other people were injured. This incident became known as the "Gutian Religious Case" in the history books. This is one of the two largest religious-orientated single cases that happened during the late Qing Dynasty – with the other being the "Tianjin Religious Case" which happened in 1870. Western missionaries aggressively penetrated and took-over large parts of China and used brutality to force Chinese people to ‘convert’ to a religious they neither wanted nor understood. Every so often, this foreign aggression and brutality was met with ‘resistance’ primarily from the embittered peasant community – which generally paid dearly for its loyalty and bravery.
The suspects in the "Gutian Religious Case" were arrested by the Qing government. This group of photographs was found in a recently discovered album left by the Englishman John Charles Oswald (1856-1900), which recorded key scenes relating to the trial of the suspects. Oswald once ran a tea and horse racing business in Fuzhou, and it is not certain that these photographs were taken by him personally. After the "Zhaihui" congregation killed people, they robbed the missionary's residence and set fire to it.
The scene after the looting of the British and American missionaries' residence was very bloody. In the late Qing Dynasty, missionaries went deep into China to preach, and there were often conflicts between the church and the local people. The involvement of missionaries in the opium trade, forced land leases, and illegal act of shielding the faithful aroused the anger of the local people. The Gutian "Zhaihui" and the church have had long-standing grievances, with both encroaching upon the other’s territory. The church employed all kinds of illegal methods but continuously got away with their crimes – which included rape of Chinese women and girls. If the Chinese Authorities dared to act against this foreign criminality, then the foreign governments would often send in their armed forces and make matters far worse. When the ‘Piety Associations’ fought-back – they were invariably ‘blamed’ when caught and issued with the severest of punishments demanded by the church missionaries – who enjoyed watching the spectacle of scared men kneeling to be ‘beheaded’!
After the incident, foreigners in China reacted strongly. The British and American envoys in Beijing protested to the Qing Court and sent warships to intimidate along the coast of Fujian. The "New York Tribune" of the United States even clamoured to put China "under the gun" and subject it to "the most severe sanctions."
Du Zhuyi - one of the main criminals in the case - was kept in a cage. In his early years, he repeatedly failed the exams, and then he despaired of his career and joined the "Zhaihui". Because he couldn't understand the arbitrary behaviour of foreigners, he rebelled against their corruption. The "Zhaihui" is mostly comprised of the poor people at the bottom of society, and a small number of frustrated intellectuals and small businessmen.
The British who died were buried in Fuzhou. On August 5th, Emperor Guangxu decreed, "The case is serious. The generals (Bian Baoquan, Governor of Fujian and Zhejiang Province, General Qingyu of Fuzhou) should send troops to severely deal with the perpetrators and be punished in accordance with the law; The church residence was properly protected by the stern magistrates, and there was no need to do anything else," which shows the attitude of the pro-Western Qing Court.
Chinese, British, and American personnel involved in the investigation and trial of the case. On August 13th, an investigation team composed of British and American diplomats, military officers, and missionaries went to Gutian to investigate the incident and participate in the Qing government’s trial of the arrested suspects. Under their pressure, the Qing government offered high rewards and arrested hundreds of people. Among them, a large number of innocent people were implicated for being allegedly reported by others.
The scene before the execution. In order to quell the adverse effects caused by the case as soon as possible, the Qing government adopted a method of rapid arrest and rapid trial. The procedure was very simple, and the participants in the confirmed cases were immediately sentenced. By October 18th, the trial was completed in just over two months, and 92 people were finally determined to be guilty, of which 26 were sentenced to death, 17 were enlisted in the military, 5 were imprisoned for life, 27 were imprisoned for 10 years, and 5 were imprisoned for 5 years. 5 people to hold the stone pier for 3 years, 5 people hold the stone pier for 6 months, and 2 people hold the stone pier for 2 months.
The executioners who carried-out the death penalties. During the trial of the case, the British and American authorities did not claim compensation, but only demanded that the perpetrators be punished. This is a rare case in modern history that caused heavy losses without financial compensation. Reference materials: Liu Guoping, "Research on Gutian Religious Cases in 1895", Yang Guanghui, "Public Opinion and Modern Religious Cases".
Original Chinese Language Source 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.
The point is to bring an end to all greed, hatred and delusion in the mind, body and environment. Although this a distinctly ‘Buddhist’ solution to the ills of life – generally speaking, it is also the solution of most ‘secular’ models of reality! An individual can choose their path and express their development in any way they wish or see fit – but in the end a definite ‘purification’ process is experienced which changes the inner and outer being forever! Inner peace is expressed through a deadly martial technique that is NEVER personal but always ‘indifferent’ and in a state of continuous ‘healing’ of humanity, the world and everything in it! Although wild animals can be extremely dangerous in their natural habitats – nevertheless it is important not to produce thoughts of ‘anger’ or ‘violence’ when taking suitable action to ‘avoid’ the danger.
This is using wisdom. Sometimes, even wild animals can be seen responding to ‘kindness’ in a manner that is considered very unusual! Even domestic pets can be difficult – but this is all the more reason to maintain a sense of inner and outer peace. Human-beings, by way of contrast, are often far more dangerous with their habitual anger and potential violent outbursts! Traditional gongfu training prepares human-beings for the maelstrom of combat in the outer world – whilst maintaining a calm inner terrain that remains ‘unruffled’ regardless of circumstance. Life can be hard, but it can also be beautiful, truthful and full of justice! The point is to always be ready to build upon the foundation of ‘peace’ and make the world a better place for everyone to live!
The physical techniques of the martial arts exist to empower an individual to protect their bodies, their community and their nation. The inner path is universal and transcends these narrow categories of potential violence! If combat happens, then the qualified Shifu must fight to prevail and never lose any encounters! However, this ‘victory’ should never be allowed to happen through ‘anger’ as this is ‘low’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘despicable’! As a situation can change in an instant, a martial artist must always be prepared to ‘adjust themselves to circumstance’ and never let a prejudiced view of reality take over the ‘flow’ of combat and conflict resolution. On the other hand, when combat must be successfully engaged within, then the sheer ‘weight’ of the cultivated ‘inner peace’ must quite literally ‘crush’ the violence that exists in the mind and body of the opponent! Peace must prevail over all.
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...
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:
The traditional Chinese martial arts probably evolved from ancient rituals pertaining to shamans ‘dancing’ or otherwise purposely ‘moving’ in a highly ritualised manner premised upon the behaviour of living animals and the spirit of animals, etc. The shamans dressed in furs, wore make-up, jewellery and elaborate head-dresses. The manifestation of the shaman would change depending upon which animals was being represented. The head-wear might well have contained various types of ‘horns’ or ‘antlers’, etc. Although communication with the ‘hidden’ spiritual realm – these shaman (around 2000 BCE or more) was believed to possess ‘special’ or ‘magical’ martial skills assumed to be the product of spiritual influence. The ‘Huangdi Neijing’ (黃帝內經) states that the daily ‘shapes’ made with the body, determine the strength of the internal energy-flow, and the general health of the individual’s mind and body. This observation is often used as one of the main medical principles behind the justification for the structure of ‘Forms’ as used within develop Chinese martial arts.
Overtime, the ‘dances’ took-on a special significance, and came to represent particular ‘styles’ of Chinese martial arts premised upon the behaviour patterns of animals ‘fighting’ for their lives in self-defence! Although the mind is ‘calmed’ and ‘strengthened’, martial skill is attained not from the spiritual realm, but is rather slowly acquired through continuous, physical repetition and critical assessment from those who have more experience. The ‘Forms’ of Chinese martial arts are vehicles for preserving, maintaining and transmitting the martial secrets of particular lineages. The concept of martial arts being practiced this way is thousands of years old in China, and was probably developed during the Zhou Dynasty and perfected during the Qin Dynasty, etc
Thousands of men, women and children would practice together in an open area, whilst instructors led the training usually to a count – demonstrating and correcting the movements when required. These ‘Forms’ were practiced in the daylight so that every movement could be clearly seen, communicated and copied. Martial arts ‘Forms’ designed to be practiced in ‘secret’ or in the ‘darkness’ of the night – are often referred to as ‘Black’ arts (as in ‘hidden’). These ‘Black’ arts are not practiced in the open, but rather behind ‘closed’ doors. Rather ‘Light’ or ‘dark’ martial arts – the ‘Forms’ involved serve exactly the same purpose and are structured in the same manner. Perhaps around thirty distinct kicking, punching, blocking, elbowing (and other strikes) are expertly weaved together in an integrated pattern of movements. Continuous practice builds technical skill and familiarity within the context of the style concerned.
The ideogram ‘形’ (xing2) is comprised of the left-hand particle ‘幵’ (jian1) - contracted to ‘开‘ - refers possibly to ‘two hairpins’ designed to make the hair ‘level’ and ‘straight’. This particle could also imply an ‘even’ and ‘flat’ open space within which martial art ‘Forms’ are practiced. However, ‘幵’ (jian1) is also created by doubling the particle ‘干’ (gan1) - with ‘干’ (gan1) representing a ‘two-pronged’ (shafted) weapon depicted during the Shang Dynasty as:
The right-hand particle is ‘彡‘ (shan1) - which literally translates as ‘three strands of hair’. This may be used to denote a large collection of objects so that when assembled everything becomes ‘clearly visible’. ‘形’ (xing2), therefore, can refer to martial arts practice being carried-out in the open and by many individuals - so that all the movements are clear and observable. Interestingly, ‘形’ (xing2) used to be written as ‘𢒈‘ (xing2) - with ‘𢒈’ being viewed as a variant of ‘丹’ (dan1). This refers to the ‘three’ energy-centres (丹田 - Dan Tian) spread throughout the body. These are areas of great importance for developing the various internal energies as found within Daoist self-cultivation. As martial arts practice develops these areas – the ideogram ‘𢒈’ would make more sense.
The related ideogram ‘型’ (xing2) is comprised of the upper particle ‘刑’ (xing2). The left-hand particle ‘幵’ (jian1) - contracted to ‘开‘ - refers possibly to ‘two hairpins’ designed to make the hair ‘level’ and ‘straight’. This particle could also imply an ‘even’ and ‘flat’ open space within which martial art ‘Forms’ are practiced. However, ‘幵’ (jian1) is also created by doubling the particle ‘干’ (gan1) - with ‘干’ (gan1) representing a ‘two-pronged’ (shafted) weapon. The right-hand particle is ‘刂’ (dao1) - a contracted version of ‘刀’ - which refers to a short, single-edged blade such as a knife. ‘刑’ (xing2), therefore, refers to the concepts of ‘punishment’, ‘sentence’, ‘punishment’, ‘massacre’, ‘slaughter’ and even ‘torture’! The lower particle is ‘土’ (tu3) which translates as ‘potters clay’, or the ‘broad earth’. As the area where martial art ‘Forms’ are practiced is thought of as ‘holy’ or ‘scared’, etc, ‘土’ (tu3) is related to the ideogram ‘社‘ (she4) - which refers to the ‘God of the Earth’. ‘型’ (xing2), then, refers to ‘martial’ or ‘violent’ movements performed in a wide-open (public) space – the technique of which can be ‘moulded’ and ‘improved’ through regular practice whilst exposed to continuous expert scrutiny.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.