Tiger Liver-Gall Bladder
Monkey Heart-Small Intestine
Crane Lung-Large Intestine
I was introduced to these movements in my youth - as a foundation to learning 'Old' (Yang) Taijiquan! In those days traditional training from a Chinese teacher was never questioned. The onus was on 'secrecy' - as if no one else possessed the knowledge just shared (today, the emphasis in China is upon an open sharing). I was told that the outer bodily positions-structures guided the qi energy with greater force into (and through) the five sets of corresponding inner organs thus strengthening and purifying them.
These exercises are established upon the theory of the 'Five Phases' (五行 - Wu Xing) - first found in the 'Classic of History' (書經 - Shu Jing) - probably linked to the five planets visible to the naked-eye of the ancient civilisations:
Tiger Liver-Gall Bladder
Monkey Heart-Small Intestine
Crane Lung-Large Intestine
As the 'Bear' is the central animal influence of our gongfu family style - this practice was seen as establishing (and enhancing) the rooted and central stability (and strength) this animal represents (the 'spirit' of the bear involves the practitioner suddenly standing-up and appearing much bigger and over-powering). According to the English language Wiki-page - this 'Five Animal Interplay' exercise is linked to the development of Hung Gar and Fujian White Crane (Bak Hok)!
The way I was taught this exercise involved 'morning' practice (yin moving to yang) and 'evening' practice (yang moving to yin) - with the movements staying the same. Unlike the 'connected' flow shown in the above video (a different style or method) - I was taught 'single' structure exercises that started with feet shoulder-width apart and hands by my sides. After assuming and holding the required position - the structure was completely dropped away back to the 'ready' (neutral) position - in preparation for assuming the next (different) position. I was taught that all these five movements exist implicitly in the Taijiquan Form - and so eventually I was no longer required to practice them separately.
Thank you for these explanations - they are all 'ingested' and 'processed'! Here is a short Japanese language blog article about 'Muchimi' (ムチミ):
What Is Muchimi?
I fed this through a Universal Translator but it looks good! Probably the content is a bit basic for you - but a good Japanese language reference. I always try to seek-out a Chinese transliteration (or original ideogram) for unfamiliar concepts as this helps me understand the meaning to a greater degree. This is the fruits of my research:
a) ム (Katakana) = 牟 (mou2) - An 'Ox' Mooing! To use great strength - to exceed and to expand! As strong (and as 'heavy') as an Ox!
b) チ (Katakana) = 千 (qian2) - Thousand, many - to greatly multiply!
c) ミ (Katakana) = 三 (san1) - Three, third or repeat three times, etc.
Therefore, the Japanese concept of 'Muchimi' (ムチミ) seems to suggest that the strength (and 'weight') of the Ox is increased in all directions (including 'downward' as in 'rooting') not only a 'thousand' times, but 'three' times a thousand! As the Ox is 'Mooing' - this might suggest an emphasis upon the outward breath - or perhaps the making of a special sound (or 'Ki-ai') whilst breathing-out!
The reason this is important is that when the Japanese scholars shortened the Chinese ideogram of '牟' (mou2) and replaced it with 'ム' - they chose to retain the emphasis upon the Ox emitting the 'mooing' sound! Originally an 'Ox' was written using '牛' (niu2) with the particle '厶' added to the top - to represent its 'mooing' (or 'lowing'). There is a 'rootedness' (heaviness) and strength expanding in all directions that is effortless, natural and somehow linked to 'sound'!
The footage and graphics contained in the following (Chinese language) video are very interesting when it is understood that the bones are aligned, the bodyweight is dropping into the ground (rooting) and a rebounding force is rising. The mind is calm and expansive whilst the joints, limbs (and sections of the torso) are 'rounded' (concave and convex). When the joints are 'rounded' the ligaments and tendons are relaxed and extended (like a drawn bow-string). Although the muscle are relaxed and released from any unnecessary tension - there is a natural 'torque' (twisting tension) - again, similar to a bow-string that is drawn with just the right amount of tension - and no more.
This is important as most people are far too 'tense' and 'rigid' as a habit. Once the awareness penetrates the centre of the bones and all this is achieved - this advanced understanding spreads all over the body and is held in place by an expanded awareness. It can then be reproduced in any and all Form movements and in any self-defence situations. The bodyweight drops down through the centre of the bones (stimulating the bone marrow) and 'rebounds' up from the ground - also through the centre of the bones - and can be emitted through any part of the body. This power production can then be augmented by the localised speed of a limb or position (angle) of the attacking body-part. A perfectly timed blow can be massively magnified in power by catching an opponent 'running in' onto a punch or kick, etc. Here, in this beautiful Shaolin (Europe) video we can see how the bow is correctly 'drawn':
All this is achieved through holding the '站桩' (Zhan Zhuang) - or 'Standing like a Stake' - ('Holding the Ball') position. Although I focus upon the 'rounded' structure of this exercise - its name traditionally derives from a foundational 'stake' or 'pile' (shaped like a 'rounded' Western telegraph pole) that was driven deep into the ground (or sea-bed) which served as an anchoring (and firm) support for a building. There is 'rootedness' (dropped bodyweight) and there is expanding 'stabilisation' (rebounding and rising) power! This is an analogy worthy of further consideration - as it is this psychological and physical 'roundedness' that makes all this ability possible!
Yamashiro Yoshitomo demonstrates 'aramed' and 'armed' aspects of this interesting Okinawan Styles (through a series of videos) - although in this short clip there is an emphasis upon 'Senaka No Kitae' or 'striking through the correct use of the back':
As is similar within the Chinese concept of 'Tong Bei' (通背) - or 'correctly passing and mediating energy (force) through region of the back' - a master of this technique is not only fully 'rooted' when stood bolt-upright (and exceedingly difficult to upoot ot push-over) - but he or she can deliever highly destructive blows without first artificially dropping the bodyweight achieved by lowering, widening or elongating the stance (as younger people are prone to do). This radically reduces reaction time and allows a practitioner to effectively 'move within' and 'between' the defensive gaps offered by the oppoment and is a vitally important element of 'Iron Vest' achieved through aligning the bone structure. The relatively 'high stance' encourages and opponent to habitually 'strike' without thinking - only to hit hardened bone enlivened through correctly 'dropping' bodyweight and efficiently 'rising' rebounding force - two sides of the same force operating simultaneously from within the centre of the bone-marrow outward. As I am in no way an epert in Okinawan Karate-Do - I find these videos by accident and then 'decode' their meaning by relating it all back to my experience within Chinese martial arts.
Our Hakka family gongfu style is primarily 'Northern' in structure and was brought into the New Territories of Hong Kong by Chinese people migrating from around the Henan area (during the 1600s as the Ming Dynasty collapsed) - but sometimes much further North (my partner's family migrated to the Shenzhen area from Shandong). Our 'Northern Snake Fist' (北蛇拳 - Bei Shi Quan) is comprised of sixty-four movements - which mirror the sixty-four hexagrams (卦 - Gua) of the 'Yijing' (易經) - known as the 'Change Classic' or 'Book of Change' (I Ching) in the West. This text must be studied over many years supplemented by hours of seated meditation and the perfection of 'movement' and 'stillness' when this 'Form' (形 - Xing) is deployed. This is an integrated Form requiring the mastering of the 'external' (外 - Wai) and the 'internal' (内 - Nei) - or 'Zagong' (雜功).
All traditional 'Forms' begin with the practitioner facing 'South' - the area of warmth, good farming land, trade, plenty and controllable borders within ancient China. By comparison, the 'North' can be cold, overly 'hot', suffer from a scarcity of food and peopled by barbarian hordes all seeking to attack, destroy and steal! The 'Snake Form' unfolds on overlapping 'cross' formations - starting toward the 'East', West', 'North' and then 'South' repeating the same techniques - which then adjust into a new set of techniques. The 'cross' alters into 'Southwest', 'Northeast', 'Southeast' and 'Northwest', etc. There are a number of unique movements (such as 'Gorilla Punches the Ground') - but generally speaking the 'cross' (both 'cardinal' and 'ordinal') formation holds true. This section appears to the 'Southwest' and is the first repetition of 'three' performed in this direction. The structure builds-up just as a hexagram does in the 'Yijing':
1) Foundation (first two lines of a hexagram - representing the Broad Earth) - Free Stance - Bodyweight is primarily channelled down through the back leg 'bent' at the knee and into the ground 'rooting' the structure. A 'rebounding' force emanates from the ground and up the supporting leg - spreading through the torso, upper limbs, and non-supporting front leg. This arrangement generates a 'floating' orientation in the front-leg whereby the foot feels as if it wants to 'raise' automatically - and the practitioner must exert 'intention' to keep the toes of the free-foot gently 'touching' the ground. This is in preparation for the 'groin kick' which has its origination in this 'Form'. the foot swiftly travels upwards with the toes turned 'down' and the groin of the enemy is impacted with considerable force. Due to the expert position of the back-leg and pelvic girdle - the front-leg can continuously 'pivot' around the created leverage with very little effort and in a continuous manner - generating huge amounts of force with very little effort. The groin area of the enemy may be struck repeatedly without stopping. Although all this is present and taught as an application to the 'Snake Fist' Form - within the Form itself - the front-foot never leaves the ground. Stance work is generally quite 'high' in orientation - with foot-work premised on 'light', 'short' but 'precise' heel-to-toe steps (involving bodyweight being expertly 'shift' from side to side).
2) Torso (lines three and four of a hexagram - representing Humanity). The torso 'slides' and 'shifts' from side-to-side and 'forward' into newly acquired or 'opened' space. The torso retains a forty-five degree angle as its continuously 'shifts' one side forward and then the other (sixty-one movements in this 'Form' continuously move 'forward' with only three movements taking a step backward). The torso also 'tilts' left and right from the centre-line as movements are executed - creating a moving target that is difficult to hit as it advances. Gaps are created through the intimidation of asserted movement - space which the Snake Form practitioner then occupies by 'stepping' into - thus depriving the opponent of options. This works because the 'Snake' is limited to the lethal 'eye-strike' which must be defended against at all costs! The torso 'slithers' and 'slides' into the space generated through the intimidation of the opponent! Despite moving forward the onus is upon preventing the opponent from generating or landing any powerful or significant blows! The torso shifts left and right - and forward into front-left and front-right! The expert use of footwork establishes and maintains this momentum.
3) Upper Limbs (lines five and six of the hexagram - representing the Divine Sky). In this section the reverse hand is deflecting the opponent's attacking limb down and to the side of the torso. This involves an open-hand with slightly spread finger aligned with an empowered fore-arm and 'pointed' elbow. The alignment and rebounding bodyweight renders this arm as strong and as heavy as a block of concrete and yet as light and manoeuvrable as silk blowing in the wind! The footwork and torso can 'move' around this 'blocking' arm so that direct conflict is avoided and the opponent's natural strength is bypassed by a superior (and deadly) technique. Simultaneously, the lead-hand strikes with the middle (longest) finger to one of the enemy's eyes. The severity of this attack can be varied from 'gouging' to a light 'tap' and every level of vision-disruption inbetween. The Four-fingers can be separated to create a 'double' strike which hits both the enemy's eyes simultaneously with one-hand. The fingers then collapse palm 'inward' (toward the chest) so that a powerful 'back-hand' strike is delivered to the eye and nose area of the opponent. This is followed by the hand suddenly 'closing' and delivering a power short-range punch to to side of the nose or eye structures of the opponent. During training, these blows must be practiced both 'slowly' and very 'fast'!
Translated By Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD ( © )
Yongchun (永春) White Crane Fist (白鹤拳 - Bai He Quan) is one of the seven major martial arts styles developed in Fujian Province. It was created during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties and has spread throughout China, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States. It is a national heritage of immeasurable cultural importance!
The Southern Shaolin Fighting Method (南少林拳法 - Nan Shao Lin Quan Fa) - which developed during the Tang and Song Dynasties – was popular in Fujian by the middle of the Ming Dynasty. In the Fujian area of Yongchun - no matter whether in the city or the countryside - there were countless practitioners of martial arts! The Southern Shaolin System was prevalent but with such styles as ‘Taizu’ (太祖) or ‘Grand Ancestor’ and ‘Houquan’ (猴拳) or ‘Monkey Fist’ being very prevalent! The area was economically and culturally prosperous! The ‘History of the Ming Dynasty’ (明史 - Ming Shi), Volume 91, Martial Aspiration Three (兵志三 - Bing Zhi San) - Recollections (记载 - Ji Zai) states: ‘The people of Yongchun possess tremendous fighting-spirit and are highly skilled in martial arts practice!’ Therefore, it can be historically proved that the Yongchun people's practice of martial arts has been highly developed as early as the middle of the Ming Dynasty!
Yongchun White Crane Fist is one of the seven major fighting styles developed in Fujian Province. It was founded during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. It takes the ‘White Crane’ bird as its spiritual, psychological and physical inspiration (形 - Xing) or ‘Form’ (‘Kata’ in Japanese martial arts) and manifests this inspiration in its general fighting method! The White Crane practitioner understands how to ‘move’ and remain ‘still’ - and how to transition between these two states with a smooth and non-confused accuracy controlled by an underlying higher knowledge that embraces the practitioner, the opponent and the environment! Furthermore, a White Crane practitioner fully comprehends the ‘empty’ (虚 - Xu) and the ‘full’ (实 - Shi) and how and when each is to be used so that the opponent is continuously ‘uprooted’ - whilst the White Crane practitioner is continuously strengthened! All the energy channels in the body (the eight extraordinary and the twelve ordinary) are opened, unified and fully functioning (transporting and strengthening Qi 精, Jing 氣 and Shen 神)! As this is the case, the mind, body and spirit are unified, just as the bones and joints are aligned (allowing the bodyweight to drop into the ground – and effortlessly rebound back up and out of the body – through the relevant striking areas). All movement is perfectly timed, and the speed is so fast that an opponent has difficulty discerning the blows as they are naturally ‘released’ from the limbs of the White Crane practitioner! The hands and feet alternate with a perfect timing and balance that is bewildering to encounter! The White Crane practitioner can ‘vary’ the 'speed’ of each blow so as to bypass the habitual (and expected) movements of an opponent’s defensive reactions! The White Crane practitioner can be as solid as a mountain or as light a feather – depending upon the ‘intention’ of the practitioner and the necessity of the moment! Those who master these ‘internal’ Shaolin martial arts can appear to ‘manifest’ and ‘disappear’ at will – as they manipulate the perception of the opponent! This is why there is said to be a blend of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ martial techniques! This style has been circulating in China and Southeast Asia for more than 300 years, and it is popular in Europe and the United States. As a consequence, this type of Chinese martial art is considered a quintessential manifestation of Chinese martial culture!
According to research - Ip Man (叶问 - Ye Wen) who is well-known at home and abroad as the teacher of the great Bruce Lee – taught his style of ‘Wing Chun Fist’ (咏春拳 - Yong Chun Quan) which was heavily influenced by the fighting techniques of Yongchun White Crane Fist. Bruce Lee used all this martial arts knowledge to later develop his system of fighting termed ‘Jeet Kune Do’ (截拳道 - Jie Quan Dao)! Furthermore, Chinese, Okinawan and Japanese scholars all agree that the style of fighting known as ‘Goju Ryu Karate-Do' (刚柔流空手道 - Gang Rou Liu Kong Shou Dao) has its theoretical and technical roots firmly embedded in the fertile martial ground that is Yongchun White Crane Fist!
Chen Hong (陈弘) - the President of the China Yongchun White Crane Fist Research Association - pointed out that there are many technical similarities between Fujian Yongchun White Crane Fist and the Guangdong martial style known as ‘Wing Chun Kune’ (咏春拳 - Yong Chun Quan)! For instance, before issuing a blow, the Yongchun White Crane Fist practitioner must first centre his or her own mind, body and spirit – gather up the accumulated energy and direct this ball of power toward the ‘centre-line’ of the opponent’s body! This gather and emitting ‘internal’ and ‘external’ power through the Conception Vessel 任脉 - Ren Mai) - whilst targeting the Conception Vessel of the opponent! This is the real meaning behind the ‘Centre-Line Theory’ which many only pay lip-service to. This is identical to the ‘Centre-Line’ theory as found in Wing Chun (and many other martial systems)! Furthermore, Wing Chun is also famous for the power its practitioners produce during their ‘one-inch punch’ demonstrations! This is termed ‘寸劲’ (Cum Jin) or ‘inch strength’ or the ability to generate ‘explosive short-range power’! Within Yongchun White Crane Fist, this same ability is known as ‘寸劲节力’ (Cum Jin Jie Li) or ‘inch power direct energy’! In both systems the feet are generally rooted with the knees remaining flexible to accommodate a dextrous upper body which delivers fast and massively powerful blows of all descriptions, landing at all levels! These include open and closed hands, fore-arms, elbow-strikes, upper-arms, shoulder and blows with the head! The torso ‘twists’ left and right through the pelvis and around the spine – whilst swaying and leaning left and right (forward and back at oblique angles) – all through, around, away from and back to the ‘centre-line’! The famous ‘chi-sow’ (黐手 - Chi Shou) or ‘stick hand’ technique of Wing Chun is very similar to the ‘pan shou’ (盘手) ‘enveloping hand’ technique found in Yongchun White Crane Fist! Although Wing Chun has been developed for more than 100 years, and is a renowned style of fighting, nevertheless, the shadow of Yongchun White Crane Fist still clearly looms in the background!
Chen Hong (陈弘) has been researching the theory and practice of Yongchun White Crane Fist for many years, particularly with regards to practitioners living or taking refuge within Guangdong! During the Qing Dynasty reign of emperors Xianfeng (咸丰) [reigned 1850-1861] - and the Tongzhi (同治) emperor (reigned 1861-1875) - there lived a couple of Yongchun White Crane Masters named ‘Lin Jun’ (林俊) and Chen Hu (陈湖) who took an active part in the Peasant Uprisings! Indeed, many such martial arts Masters participated in these uprising! Hong Xiuquan (洪秀全) led the ‘Taiping Heavenly Kingdom’ uprising which engulfed large parts of China – including Fujian province! ‘Lin Jun’ (林俊) was personally appointed by Hong Xiuquan (洪秀全) as one of the ‘Strong Kings of Three Thousand Years’ - stationed in the Fujian area! This gave him command of thousands of Taiping troops! Despite many early victories and tremendous battles – the Taiping were defeated, and the surviving rebels had to flee! Many of these fugitives fled all over China whilst being pursued by a Qing Army led by ‘Zou Zongtang’ (左宗棠) - which drove them out of Fujian and into the Guangdong and Zhejiang areas – where the Yongchun White Crane Fist practitioners had to adopt disguises and live secret lives (whilst teaching disciples behind the scenes – often at night)! These survivors were inspired by ‘Lin Jun’ (林俊) - where his reputation is still bright and shining in China today!
During the mid-Qing Dynasty, with the increasingly frequent unofficial cultural exchanges between Okinawa (Ryukyu), Japan and Taiwan, some White Crane Fist disciples went to Dongying (东瀛) to teach martial arts; many Japanese merchants who travelled to the Mainland for business and employment, also began to learn White Crane Fist and transmitted it back to Japan. During 1877, Higaonna Kanryo travelled from Okinawa to Fuzhou and studied Yongchun White Crane Fist. After three years of intense training, Higaonna Kanryo returned to his home in Okinawa – transmitting White Crane Fist as he went! After integrating White Crane Fist with Okinawan fighting techniques – the art of ‘Goju Ryu’ Karate-Do was eventually developed (by Miyagi Chojun – the key disciple of Higaonna Kanryo in Okinawa). It is clear from this example that White Crane Fist rejuvenated the Okinawan fighting arts! Another example lies with ‘Wang Xiangui’ (吴贤贵) who used to work for the Fuzhou Tower River Water Ministry (福州台江水部的 - Fu Zhou Tai Jiang Shui Bu) - but in 1912 he travelled to Okinawa where he met Higaonna Kanryo – who had established the ‘Eternal Light’ (永光 - Yongguang) Tea Shop (茶行 - Cha Xing). As he saw that Higaonna Kanryo and his disciples already knew ‘Yongchun White Crane Fist’ - he decided to teach the Okinawans the ‘Whooping Crane Fist’ (鸣鹤拳 - Ming He Quan) variant! It was the disciples of Higaonna Kanryo who had trained with Wu Xiangui that formed the ‘Okinawa Strong Foundation Association’ (冲绳刚泊会 - Chong Sheng Gang Po Hui)! Tokashiki, the President of Japan's Okinawa Goju Ryu Karate-Do Association, has been searching for many years to find the identity of the Chinese Masters who taught Higaonna Kanryo! Finally, the source of Yongchun White Crane Fist in Okinawa was discovered in Fujian - and a "remarkable monument" was raised in the Fujian Provincial Sports Centre (in 1990)!
During October 1928, the first national martial arts examination was held in Nanjing since its abolition in 1911 – following the overthrow and abolition of the Qing Dynasty and its feudalist and imperialistic system! Yongchun County in Fujian sent a martial arts expert known as ‘Jin jing’ (晋京) - who placed first in every category and won every available award! Indeed, Yongchun as a place was awarded with the title ‘Central Hall of Martial Arts Execellence’ (中央国术馆 - Zhong Yang Guo Shu Guan)! This meant that a government-sponsored centre of martial arts practice was established, legally protected and funded in the Fujian area! The advent of Yongchun White Crane Fist in the 20th century served to strengthen China not only in the eyes of its own people – but also in the eyes of those across the world – a view held and expressed by Mr. Tan Kah Kee (陈嘉庚) - who further stated, ‘China as a country has been strengthened by the vigour of our own martial arts!’ He also said, ‘Promote the strengthening essence and eradicate the weak!’ During August 1929, in his honour, he requested that the Yongchun White Crane Fist School contribute to the formation of a ‘Central Martial Arts Hall Southern Fujian Martial Arts Touring and Exhibition Group’ be formed to travel around China and to do so abroad! Its first performance was at ‘Xingma’ (星马) - but became the first martial arts delegation to go abroad in the history of Chinese Martial arts - creating a precedent for overseas cultural exchanges focusing upon martial culture!
Mr. Tan Kah Kee met with all the members of the martial arts troupe many times to promote the concept of ‘strengthening the country by promoting martial arts’, and on the spot, he gave the correct title to the Southern Fujian Martial Arts Troupe: ‘Who is the sick man of East Asia – Certainly not the Chinese people! This shame is eradicated by the mastery of Wu Weiyang (武维扬)! Do not forget that the grandsons and granddaughters of the Yellow Emperor can be reborn anywhere – even as fishes! Perhaps the Heros of the Central Plane Create Cities that are dry!’
In 2008, Yongchun White Crane Fist was included in the national heritage list as being of immeasurable cultural value! Today, there are an estimated 100,000 practitioners of Yongchun White Crane Fist, with thousands of experts and hundreds of top-class Masters! Fuzhou has also successfully held the first World Conference for Yongchun White Crane Fist – which attracted thousands of diverse people from all over the world – including many hundreds of Karate-Do practitioners! Yongchun White Crane Fist has also been a vehicle for good-natured and friendly exchanges across the straits! Throughout the martial arts competitions of the world - Yongchun White Crane Fist practitioners won more than 1,000 awards in various competitions at all levels! This style of martial culture is deeply rooted in Okinawa and across the world! As the theoretical and technical foundation for Okinawan Karate-Do – particularly GoJu Ryu – Yong Chun White Crane Fist has inspired a rich academic research genre, that has spread from educational facilities and on to the internet, as well as in books and in films! There have even been theatre performances, plays and other ‘live’ action and educational activities! At the same time, Yongchun White Crane Fist is entering the fields of health, culture and tourism, etc., and its comprehensive and all-round positive effect is becoming increasingly apparent. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, Moldova, Poland, the United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Iran, Malaysia and other countries, as well as Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, have all established professional organizations for the inheritance and practice of Yongchun White Crane Fist - in order to establish the ‘World Yongchun White Crane Fist Association' - which now has now laid a solid foundation.
Reporter: Ceng Guangtai (曾广太)
Correspondents: Chen Hong (陈弘) & Zhou Lili (周莉莉) - Text & Photographs (Except Signatured)
Foundational Taijiquan is practiced by those with health or mobility issues. This is a gentle set of physical movements designed to get a person moving around in a dextrous manner. Taijiquan can be very useful for those who are not fit and need some type of co-ordinated physical movement combined with deep and full breathing. With repetition this training process can build strength in the legs, improve balance and dexterity, and enhance the circulation of oxygen throughout the body by relaxing any and all unnecessary muscular tension. Through aligning the bones (and dropping the bodyweight into the ground), the bones, joints, ligaments and tendons are made more ‘robust’ through correct weight-bearing! Many people spend years working on this practice and quite often gain a considerable suppleness through this relaxation and the sharpening of ‘awareness’ in the mind!
For many practitioners in the West, Taijiquan is encountered only later in life, and quite often is not the common spectacle it is in China and throughout many diasporic Chinese communities. The popularity of basic Taijiquan (even in China) relies on quick courses which involve a ‘coach’ who has learned a Short Taijiquan Form over a six-week time period and is then tasked with conveying these movements to two or three classes of students a few times a week! This approach certainly gets the basic techniques ‘out there’ and gives dedicated individuals a training platform which they can build upon at a later date. This can involve longer and more complex Taijiquan Forms (of which there are many Styles), and can even include competitions, seminars and demonstrations, etc. However, even if this type of practice results in winning a World Title for ‘moving about effectively’ - this is still not the complete Taijiquan practice.
If you want to master the proper and in-depth practice of Taijiquan, you will have to find a genuine gongfu Master who is knowledgeable in Daoist self-cultivation technique and knows how to ‘fight’ in real life without compromising the sublime spiritual vision that underlies the Chinese martial arts. Following decades training with Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) - I now occasionally have the honour of meeting the odd male or female Taijiquan Master through ‘invitation’ so that my physical and spiritual understanding of Taijiquan can be ‘tested’ and ‘confirmed’. Such encouragement ‘dissolves’ difficult to see ‘habitual blocks’ in the mind and body and moves onward or deeper into penetrating the empty essence of the Dao – as all movement is equally ‘empty’ and ‘still’ - this is why an immense power emanates through the channels that connect the ‘broad earth’ to the ‘divine sky’. This is why every perfect technique is both immensely ‘powerful’ and equally ‘empty’ from beginning to end – and within this freedom is vibrating a positive light that is a combination of wisdom, loving kindness and compassion for the entirety of existence!
Advanced Taijiquan is a product of a perfected state of mind and body that expresses the perfect Taijiquan technique – but which is no longer ‘limited’ to the practice of the physical Taijiquan Form - which naturally manifests every moment of everyday, whether formally training, lying in bed, going to the toilet, meditating, making love or carrying-out your work! As many of you reading this either have a low opinion of Taijiquan or believe Taijiquan cannot be used for combat (viewpoints that are a product of a lack of direct cultural knowledge), the manner in which Taijiquan technique is used on a kick-bag is simple and straightforward.
Advanced Taijiquan expresses the entire ‘bodyweight’ through any part of the body without any undue effort. Just as the bodyweight ‘drops’ into the ground through the aligned bone-structure – a re-bounding force naturally rises up continuously and without a break in the circuit. This remains true just as long as a practitioner is stood within a strong gravitational field. I start a suitable distance from the kick-bag and carry-out a mini-form set of co-ordinated movements that brings my body nearer the kick-bag and sets-up the power-technique! Today, I started with the left leg forward and threw on the spot a left-lead punch, right-reverse punch and left-lead punch. Weight shifted back onto the reverse right-leg (with bent left-leg forward in ‘cat stance’) and I throw a front-snap kick – landing forward on my properly placed left-foot and bringing the weight onto the left-leg. The power-shot is the reverse right roundhouse-kick – which swings through the air and impacts the bag with considerable and unhindered power! The process is repeated on the other side of the body and I repeat this for three-minutes.
Any combination of techniques can be used that test the ‘smoothness’ of Taijiquan technique on the one-side – and the unbroken (and considerable) power on the other. Obviously, being ‘rooted’ is important as is continuously changing sides so that left and right are properly trained and tested (as true combat is unpredictable unlike fighting with rules during sporting encounters). The mind should be calm, still, aware and all-embracing so that it is ‘reflective’ of all phenomena (like a mirror). The Buddhist Surangama Sutra explains this principle, as do various Daoist texts such as the Laozi and Zhuangzi, etc, and the ‘Book of Changes’ (Yijing). Not everyone is trained to this depth of Taijiquan attainment, and not everyone wants to be trained to this degree – but it is an option with the proper training and instruction.
Generally performed in groups of 50 - squat kicks condition the mind and the legs. If recovering from injury or inactivity, start slowly but exactly with groups of 10 (as this will also work the heart and lungs). The muscles (quadriceps) of the upper (front) leg will soon become fatigued, weakened and difficult to move. You must train through this experience with further movement, and use the other muscle sets of the legs to distribute the effort. As a conditoner for combat, squat kicks develop tremendous strength, power and endurance. A practitioner can hold a stance with strength, move with fluidity and kick with power. The bones, joints, tendons and muscle structures can absorb or deflect incoming blows with little or no damage. Squat kicks are an essential preparation for ruck sack running, and can be performed whilst holding dumb-bells, or with a free-weight bar held across the shoulders.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.