samedi 27 septembre 2008

the origins (last part)

In the xinyi school, wich was at the origins of the yiquan, the method used to link the inside and the outside was represented by the six harmonies (or six coordinations / Liuhe) theory. But there is another chinese boxing school that uses this notion as its basis : the liuhebafaquan, also called xinyi from the Yue mount, in reference to its geographical origin.
One of the best specialist of this boxing was the master Wu yihui, whom Wang xiangzhai met in Shanghai and whom he was a great admirator of. Some of the very first disciples of Wang xiangzhai even became disciples in this school as well, like Zhang changxin and Han xingqiao.

Zhang changxin in a liuhebafa form, this boxing is also called "water boxing"

Those six harmonies are divided in three internal harmonies and three external harmonies. The heart (xin) leads the intention (yi) that leads the energie (qi) wich one leads the force (li), constituting thus three internal harmonies.

About the three external harmonies, they are often said to be wrists-ankles, elbows-knees and shoulders-hips. But this theory, then, doesn't help the practicionner in his achievement, according to the fact that any movment can only be the result of a good coordination between those body segments.

Now, as we did already see in the first part of this article, according to the different exercices like the xinyiliuhe's "squatting the monkey" stance and the xingyi's three wholes stance, wich are the ancestor of yiquan's stances, we can explain this theory in another way :

The "three curves" wich are mentioned in the old xinyiliuhe would be three major articulations of the whole body, the same that link the "three whole" (santi) of the xingyiquan. Those three curves would be the articulation of the hips (lumbar curve), the articulation of the back (dorsal curve) and the sternal articulation (sternum-shoulder curve). A right coordination between those three curves allows an effective use of the deep muscles, wich are close to the spinal column...

Tiger and dragon representing the yin and yang

These three articulations are used to generate a natural force in the six directions : up-down, forward-backward and closing-opening. Those six directions were technically represented, in the old xinyi, by the three old fists : Zuan (piercing), guo (wrapping) and jian (stepping in). Wang xiangzhai talks about it in his first book and says that those three forces must be mixed together.
Besides the six harmonies, considered as the "method" of achievement in the xinyi and xingyi boxing, Wang xiangzhai's teaching was also based on the yin and yang theory.

The name of the stances known as "to lean on the tiger" (fuhuzhuang) and "to ride the dragon" (xianglongzhuang) are coming from taoist esoteric expressions.

In the chinese tradition, tiger and dragon are the representations of yin and yang energies. The dragon is mythical, he represents imagination and fabulous, he is flying in the air and in the water, he evokes the sky. His force is subtle, it is pure yang. The tiger is a real and concrete animal, his territoty is the land, he evokes the ground. Simple and direct, his force is natural and brutal, it is pure yin.
For the man, yang represents his spiritual developpment and yin represents his lower and primal instincts. "To lean on the tiger" (fuhu) in order to control him shows the idea of controling our lowest instincts. "To ride the dragon" (xianglong) shows the idea of spiritual developpment.

Fuhuzhuang by master li jianyu

The two stances allow to developp martial capacitates attributed to the yin and yang : direct and powerfull force for the tiger, flexible and adaptable for the dragon's one.

Xianglongzhuang by master Li jianyu

Wang xiangzhai did developp those two "vitalities" at the beginning of his teaching in the 20's. He was, then, talking about two energies wich are the tiger's and the dragon's one...

jeudi 25 septembre 2008

the origins (second part)

According to Wang xiangzhai and to the interview he gave to the People's daily, the chinese caracter used for the word boxing takes all his sense with the expression "quanquan fuying" (拳拳服膺) wich means "to be sincerly confident" or "to keep sincerly in his heart".

In this expression, quanquan (拳拳) symbolises the action of closing the fist or the fists and designate the idea of sincerity, determination. Fuying (服膺) symbolise the idea of wrapping in one's chest or keeping in his heart.

Another interpretation of this expression, in a much more litteral sens, would be "the real boxing remains in our heart", wich means that the martial art should not be linked to the external form but to the intention that lead it.

Calligraphy of 7 traditionnal expressions by Wang xiangzhai

A famous calligraphy by Wang xiangzhai shows seven traditionnal expressions he was especially found of :

Zhongxiao ren'ai (忠孝仁爱), Xinyi heping (信义和平), Quanquan fuying (拳拳服膺), Yiquan zhengzong (意拳正宗), Duanlian shenti (锻炼身体), Hongyang guocui (弘扬国粹), Zhenxing zhonghua (振兴中华).

The translation of those four caracters phrases could be the following (personnal translation) :

Respect the elder and be charitable, be loyal and pacific, be sincer in your heart. (So is) the orthodox (ancestral) school of yiquan, (wich allows to) train your body, (so that) the best of the country will developp and extend (in order to) revivify the chinese nation.

To be "sincer in your heart" (quanquan fuying) is a human quality that is much beyond the martial art practice. But still, this expression, in an another way is nothing else but the teaching of Wang xiangzhai on the use of the intention in the practice.

The chinese caracter used for intention shows a standing man (between ground and sky) on a mouth, the whole reposing on an heart. The ancient signification beeing the possibility of formulating (represented by the mouth) the material as well as the immaterial (man between ground and sky) in an affective way (the heart).

The yi caracter in its ancient graphy (calligraphy from the author)

The yiquan / dachengquan founder was used to say that the intention is the general and the force, his soldier.

So the intention (yi) comes from the heart (xin), commands the energy (qi) wich leads the force (li).

This corresponds to the three others of the six harmony, the three internal harmonies.

(to be continued...)

lundi 22 septembre 2008

the origins

In the establishment of his teaching and all along his life, Wang xiangzhai has been in constant research of his ancestor's knowledge, those men who created the chinese martial art. He did study always more and more to understand this ancient knowledge, considered in China as supperior to the contemporary.

More than a great martial artist, Wang xiangzhai was a great historian and theorician of the arts and traditions of China.

Wang xiangzhai, great master, historian et theorician of martial art

Many expressions and many terms used in his teaching are coming from lost ancestral knowledges that he did use back again.

As an exemple, in the book "Everything about xingyiquan art" (Xingyiquan shu daquan) written by a group of experts in this school, we can find this paragraph on the practice of zhanzhuang :

"The standing postures of xingyiquan were called, in the ancient school of xinyiquan, "meridian posture" (ziwuzhuang) or "three wholes posture" (sancaizhuang).
The expression ziwuzhuang is refering to the zi caracter, wich stand for midnight - moment when the yin is at his maximum - and to the wu caracter, wich stand for noon - moment when the yang is at his maximum. The importance of this posture is suggested in its name : it must be practiced "from noon to midnight" !

Yiquan's ziwuzhuang stance by Li jianyu

Moreover, in the chinese tradition, noon is a reference to the south and to the fire, while midnight is a reference to the north and to the water. When practicing, it should be facing the south and back to the north, while mixing fire and water with the intention...

...In the ancient xinyiquan, the ziwuzhuang method goes with two steps. During the first step, man practice the accumulation of qi in the dantian using the monkey stance, also called "squatting the monkey" (dunhouzhuang). During the second step, man learn how to "squirt out from the dantian" (shedantian). This practice consist in a steping method forward while doing the "sound of thunder" (leisheng, the name used for the emission of sound in the old xinyiquan) that teaches how to make the qi flow out from the dantian. Dai longbang and his son did both put a lot of importance on the dantian practice."

"Squatting the monkey" by the xinyiliuhequan master Wang yinghai

The linking of the three body parts (santi) wich are the legs, the trunk and the arms, goes by three majors articulations, designated in the Dai style of xinyiquan as "the three curves".

Those three parts unified correspond to three of the six harmonies (liuhe) : the three external harmonies.

(To be continued...)

jeudi 4 septembre 2008

Yiquan and meditation

The Dachengquan is not only a way of boxing. Its practice is also based on spiritual exercices (the word spiritual is to be taken here with the meaning "of the spirit", yiquan is no religious sect)

The late master Wang xuanjie was explaining this aspect of the yiquan in those words : "Chan quan bu er" : Meditation and boxing are one !

Wang xuanjie in a jijizhuang

In her book « Dachengquan shiyong xueshuo » (pragmatic theory of dachengquan), Madam Mi jingke (disciple of Wang xiangzhai) gives us a few indications on the use of the spirit and intention while the standing posture :

« During the practice, whatever closed or open eyes, it is imperative to " concentrate your spirit and fix your intention ", it is the only condition on which your practice will give results.
Wang xiangzhai, in his « dachengquan treatise » (Dachengquanlun) says about the force :

" Everything I did learn in about fourty years of practice bring me to the idea that all the different forms of force are coming from the extension of "the original chaos" (hunyuan) joined up with the way of nourrishing the vital principle by the method of "forgetting yourself" and can only be produced this way."

Mi jingke, Wang xiangzhai's disciple, at the age of 95.

If, during the practice of the different stances of zhanzhuang, you can't reach the quietness (jing) by the concentration of the spirit (meditation), if you can't reach the level of " forgetting yourself ", is it really possible to liberate yourself from your conditioned reflex ?
That is the reason why some people can't manage to developp any force by their training. The key is to concentrate the spirit and fix the intention, that is the most important part in the basics of the training..."

Mi jingke practicing chan meditation

"...Man needs to train by fixing his look far, to the horizon, up to the moment when he reaches to "look without seeying". At this moment, he will understand that he needs no more method, just to concentrate his spirit. »
In another chapter of her book, Mi jingke talks about the influence of the Chan buddhism in the Dachengquan. She is, then, talking about "the unified-body contemplation" (zhengti guan) which has to be practice until the level of forgetting yourself...

mercredi 20 août 2008

About Wang xiangzhai's teaching

It is difficult to know what Wang xiangzhai did really teach for the following reason : Most of his disciples did receive an education with Yao zongxun or had already a long experience of different schools of the chinese martial art.
It seems that the simplest way to perceive Wang xiangzhai's yiquan is by trying to understand the numerous comments and writtings he left to us.

In his interview by the people's daily, the master did express himself in those words, rough for the wushu community, that reveilled us the differents researches he made on the origin of the chinese boxing. Those researches pushed him to his famous trip around China and are probably the roots of his later teaching.

"To extend" (qiba) for beeing "one with the universe"

In this interview, the journalist is asking about the relashionship, numerous according to Wang xiangzhai's saying, between opera and martial art. The answer is the following (personnal translation) :

"In the ancient time, opera had ben created in order to educate the population. All martial art moves that are seen in opera find their origin in the way of boxing. At the beginning of the boxing, it was a practice called "qiba" (to raise up, to extend). This gongfu was a sort of shili consisting in the search of the force by the repartition of the bodyweight between the two legs and the right positionning of the head. By unifying the body in this practice, it was possible to extend it until to be "one with the universe". This gongfu was called qiba ( 起拔 ) and we can find it in nowerdays opera but mistakenly called qiba ( 起霸 / to extend for domination). It consist, then, in the searching of the right personnality of a caracter (the caracter's yi). By watching the postures and theories that are resulting from this practice, we can feel that without beeing very far away from the goal, they didn't reach it as well. They contain the original roots but did derive and they are, now, nothing else but esthetic postures created in the way to please the eyes of the rich spectator : They are a complete creation. There it goes today with the boxing practitionners : All are able to take different kind of stances but no one does really posses a real balance ability in their application. In fact, There are a lot of old horses but few young foal. All of this became fake distraction. And even in this way of doing, some will never acomplish anything. So how would they even more have any idea of the deep satisfaction that the way of boxing can bring to them ?"

Beijing opera (jingju) extracts from a representation of "The three kingdoms"

Later, in the same interview, he is expressing himself about the art of health preservation (yangshen) in those words :

"In fact, the keys to the health preservation are simple. Our deep human nature pushes us to simpleness and free of any restriction moves. The extention of natural instincts is its basis. Every day, in the fresh air of the morning, without any fixed method, simply bend all your body joints, consider the emptiness around you, move simply and freely. Feel the energy of the blood circulation in your body and in a meanwhile, be aware of the natural forces that are exerced on the outer part of your body. This is called : The spirit (shen) is as if swimming.

The body and the spirit are natural and confortable. Not only free and without any limit, they will progressivly extend to finaly be one with the universe."

The spirit is "as if swimming" by Wang xiangzhai

So, Wang xiangzhai's teaching, often presented in his most complex or martial aspect, had simpleness and natural for basis.

vendredi 15 août 2008

Interview of master Li jianyu (second part)

On what, exactly, was based the teaching of master Wang xiangzhai ?

It was essentially based on 3 exercices :
- Zhanzhuang, basic stances for the training of body and mind.
- Shili, movement to test the force.
- The walking, principles of moving

The first exercice was the only to be practiced for, at least, three years. Then, the two others were aded and could be practiced with different levels of conscience, because without awakening, it's impossible to practice Yiquan. Patience and will are requiered. Then, he was teaching the sound, the fali, the tuishou with one arm and with two and then was coming the training of combat. It is a patern of training that absolutly need to be followed. Anyway, it's impossible to pass over this process, the "little things" are important. My master was insisting a lot on the details : How to hold a brush for the calligraphy, what is the right position for the little finger, the hand in zhanzhuang...

Boxing, beneath wild appearance, is based on refined theories wich have thousand years of experience. The deeper you go, the more you become conscious of the infinity. This "space to time" paradox become concrete in yiquan through the outside apparent immobility and softness runed by an inside high speed explosion. Master and students are looking in the same direction together and because of this, the relationship they have is different than the one a teacher have with his students. They are searching for the way that they are going to build together. The perfect comprehension of the relationship between the three fonctions wich are conception, intention and action is necessary to practice yiquan effectivly.

xianglongzhuang by master Li jianyu

In his famous treatise, master Wang xiangzhai is roughly criticizing the orientation that schools like taijiquan and baguazhang were taking in that time. On what were build those critics ?

My master did melt those arts in one. He did catch their essence and principles. He prooved by all the fights he did win in all China the good of his synthesis. Baguazhang and taijiquan have a lake of spontaneity. The habit is an inertia that make you loose the freedom and then the spontaneity. In yiquan, a well trained man works like a helix : from the outside you can't see any moove but if you try to get in, you are thrown away. It is not conscious.

Li jianyu and his master Wang xiangzhai

What difference is it between dachengquan and yiquan and what did the founder, master Wang xiangzhai, think about it ?

Actually, there is no difference. For master Wang xiangzhai, it was only a problem of perception of the real signification and deep meaning of the caracters (NB : Dacheng, the "great achievement" is a taoïst expression wich represent the ultimate state of realization of a human being.) I am affraid that politic battles, wich have nothing to see with the interpretation of the caracters, are going on about the two names. In fact, there is no difference, the important thing is to stay humble...

Short trailer of an american video introducing li jianyu's teaching

Westerner are more and more interested by the magnificient art that your master did create. Do you think that the yiquan is going to developp more in the future ?

Different aspects are interesting to the westerners but they don't know much about the history. They are going to do ordinary boxing if they don't follow the pattern fixed by master Wang xiangzhai. But it is true that it is difficult to know what is yiquan in the beginning. Its discovery depend on the intelligence of the sudent and on the relationship between students and master. It is only after long years of practice (10, 20, 30 years) that it becomes possible to feel the principles of yiquan. The future of this art in the west will, then, depend on the capacity westerners have to master it. It is a question of patience...

Master Li jianyu and me in 2004, Beijing

jeudi 14 août 2008

Interview of master Li jianyu (first part)

This interview was published by the french magazine "ART ET COMBAT" in 1995 after master Li jianyu first trip to France, the questions had being asked by françois Song. I did the translation in english...

Master Li jianyu, can you please talk to us about your beginning in the Wushu ?

I was born in 1924. Very interested in the practice of the wushu, I did already start to practice at 6 years old in a martial art school in Daxing, in the surbub of Beijing. The name of my first master was Tang fengting and he did practice Xingyiquan.

When did you meet your master, the famous Wang xiangzhai ?

When I was 18 years old, I met a martial art master named Hong lianshun in a parc. He was about 50 years old and had been the first teacher of Yao zongxun. He was very impressive because he could break stones with bare hands using his internal energie and he had a lot of gongfu. He told me that his art was nothing compared to Wang xiangzhai's one. This last had beaten him in a fight and now he felt his art was very superficial. He was advising all his student to study with master Wang xiangzhai and decided to introduce me to him as well. It was in 1943; This one was very happy to take me as a new student. I was short, very motivated and sincere. He did also appreciate to meet someone from the muslim religion. I was the only student to be muslim. At that time, Wang xiangzhai was around 58 years old.

Wang xiangzhai and his students, young Li jianyu is second from the left

What impression did he make on you ?

Well, he was very calm, very elegant. When you were seeing him, it was very difficult to imagine him practicing chinese boxing. It was a complete change as soon as he was taking a stance or a fighting position. He was then becoming very impressive in a minute and for a short time wich was, in general, long enough to finish the fight !
I was often invited to his home. He was talking about philosophy and important problems of life. From time to time, I was staying for the night. It was not only about daily physical training. He wanted me to have a right vision of the world by trying to see things through different angles. Philosophical theories were often discussed.The problem wasn't only to be physicaly strong. He talked about physical force and about force. Sometimes you have to keep this force, sometimes this force has to become explosive. In his teaching, the rule was to be soft, nifty and light outside while powerful and fast inside.

The master Wang xiangzhai had become a man of legend during his lifetime. Did you witness one of the feat that made his reputation to be ?

A famous boxer was always provoking master Wang xiangzhai. Finally, master Wang did accept the challenge and asked his opponent to choose the kind of fight he liked, with bare hands or weapons. This one, very nervous, did start to insult the master while looking for a weapon. Master Wang stayed completely unblinking, just scratching his ear, unaffected by the threat of his adversary. Seeing such an attitude, the man finally said : " I can't keep my calm like you. I feel I did already loose the fight, I give up."

Shili and walking by master Li jianyu

On what, exactly, was based the teaching of master Wang xiangzhai ?

It was essentially based on 3 exercices :
- Zhanzhuang, basic stances for the training of body and mind.
- Shili, movement to test the force.
- The walking, principles of moving
The first exercice was the only to be practiced for, at least, three years. Then, the two others were aded and could be practiced with differents levels of conscience, because without awakening, it's impossible to practice Yiquan. Patience and will are requiered. Then, he was teaching the sound, the fali, the tuishou with one arm and with two and then was coming the training of combat. It is a patern of training that absolutly need to be followed. Anyway, it's impossible to pass over this process, the "little things" are important. My master was insisting a lot on the details : How to hold a brush for the calligraphy, what is the right position for the little finger, the hand in zhanzhuang...

Fuhuzhuang by master Li jianyu

To be continued...