Introduction to the Basics of Taiji – Part I

Taiji: An Introduction for Beginners

What is Taiji?  Taiji is classified as an internal martial arts system. There is plenty of literature available about the philosophy behind this amazing art form, so I will not go into those details in this article. That aside, there are so many other aspects that need to be discussed, but my idea here is to write a beginners guide to Taiji, and not a book. To this end I am any going to focus on certain aspects of training at I feel need to be discussed, more to follow at another time.

 

This classification ‘internal martial art’ refers to the training mechanisms and methods involved the practice of Taiji. It refers to the focus being primarily from the inside to the outside, as opposed to the ‘external’ martial arts that generally train from the outside to the inside. Most Chinese martial arts are both internal and external, the classification refers mainly to the method of training.

 

The focus of Taiji is unity and harmony

The focus of Taiji is unity and harmony

Taiji aims to achieve relaxation in the body which allows for the entire body to work as a unit. By performing the movements slowly the student’s body will start to move in a harmonious and unified way. This way of moving will allow the student to produce a more efficient power from within the body. When I say ‘power’, this refers to an extremely fine-tuned physical result. Teaching the body to become unified is not easy, it is a long process and requires patience and endless hours of training. The requirement of performing the movements of the forms slowly allows the student to be aware of their body and enables the student to make the necessary physical adjustments.  These adjustments include the fine tuning of each technique and just as importantly, if not, more importantly, to enable the student to relax the body and mentally connect the various parts of the body. Relaxing the body is an important focus in Taiji training, one that I will go into more in the section below. Relaxing and moving slowly also develops and heightens the sensitivity of the body and mind. The primary result of effective training in this manner is the fine tuning of bodies mechanics.  Second to this is the development of Qi within the body.

 

Words that describe what Taiji is; controlled, slow, smooth, fluid, open and relaxed.

Words that describe what Taiji is not; rigid, closed, erratic and uncomfortable.

 

The most important qualities to have whilst training are awareness and feeling/sensitivity.

The joints of the body need to be open/relax, so no acute angles in the elbows and wrists.

The body must always be upright and relaxed – no tension, and also no collapsing.

The correct posture is important, it must be correct but not strained.

Shoulders should be relaxed and elbows soft, waist and torso relaxed and chest sunk/relaxed.

Taiji requires all parts of the body to be linked together and to move as one whole. As a new student of Taiji, you have to learn how to move slowly and in a controlled manner, which is far more difficult than it sounds.

students practise taiji in china

Students practising Taiji together

All teachers have their own methods and teaching styles, and they are all different. I start by teaching the basic leg positions, called stances. There are quite a few different stances in Chinese Martial Arts but the beginner student needs to know the 4 primary stances to start their training. So we first focus on the structure of each stance and the coordination of movement from stance to stance.

The movement from stance to stance teaches the student so much about the mechanics of the feet, legs, hips, waist and the joints and the connections between them. By practising these stances and their connecting movements the student will also develop leg strength and a sense of centre.

Below is a brief description of the primary 4 stances:

Ma Bu, known as “horse stance” or “horse-riding stance,” is a fundamental stance found in nearly all styles of Martial Arts. The stance typically begins with the feet a shoulder-width apart. The feet are parallel, straight forward, and the knees are bent at 90 degrees. The torso sinks down as if following a plum line and the sacrum curves forward and in or arches. Equal weighting (50-50) is given to each foot, making for a very stable stance.

 

Gong Bu translated as “bow stance”, Gong Bu is also known as “Deng San Bu” (mountain-climbing stance) or “Gong Jian Bu” (bow and arrow stance). The lead foot is pointed straight ahead, with the lead leg bent slightly. The trailing foot is angled outward at a 45-degree angle, with the heel lined up with the heel of the leading foot. The trailing leg can be held straight or slightly bent. The result is a “lunging” pose. The given weighting is 70% on the front foot and 30% on the rear. The body is up straight, always relaxed, never slouching.

 

Si-Liu Bu is the “four-six stance,” used heavily as a transitional stance. It is named for the fact that 40% of the weight is on the leading foot and 60% on the rear foot. The stance is somewhat similar to Deng San Bu, with the exception of the greater weight distribution over the rear leg. The rear knee is either turned inward toward the groin or slightly outward. Whichever direction it points in, it is important for the knee and toe to be pointing in the same direction. The accepted range for the angle of the back foot is between 90 and 45 degrees. The front knee is slightly bent, never straight.

Si-Liu Bu is a highly functional stance that often serves as a standard guard position; it has great utility, allowing the martial artist to initiate nearly any technique in this stance. From Si-Liu Bu, one may switch to any one of the other stances with minimal effort. The stance is highly mobile, used for swiftly stepping forward or backwards, “changing legs,” or leaping to the other side of an opponent.

 

Xuan Ji Bu is known as the “false” or “empty leg” stance, often also referred to as ‘cat stance’. Xuan Ji Bu is assumed by placing one’s entire body weight on a single leg and hanging the other leg in front to lightly touch the ground, only the front part of the foot resting on the ground – note that in external styles the front leg is extended forward and the contact point is on the top of the toes. Since the front leg has no weight placed on it, it can be used to launch fast kicks and allow for quick movement. It is sometimes used in conjunction with other stances for evasive actions.

 

Students will gradually become familiar with the leg movements and the structure of the legs and how to move more efficiently. It can take about a month or so of regular training to get the legs used to all the work they have to do.

 

In the same time as we teach the leg structure we start the focus on the arms and torso. There are many moves that train the torso and the arms to work and link together. The primary concerns are the coordination and correct performance of each technique whilst trying to achieve the Ten Essentials throughout the movement – refer to Part Two (coming soon).

 

By Sifu Stefan Friese

A defence against three muggers

 Practical outcomes of Chang Hong principles in real life

 

Around mid-March 2016, I was attacked by three muggers on Eastern Beach in East London.

 

I had woken up at around 4am to take a walk along the beach to catch the sunrise; it was approaching autumn so I wore a hoodie and a cap.

 

The main stretch is rocky, but becomes sandy towards the Northern strip, which is slightly isolated – an exit-only street lined with bars on one side and the sandy beach on the other side.

 

The beach side of the street is well lit but very quiet at that time of the morning.

 

As I went into this road, I noticed three vagrants walking on the other side behind me. They walked under the floodlights, which lit me up directly but kept them hidden.

 

I suspected they were following me, so I slowed down. They also slowed down.

 

One of them went up a dark staircase and spoke to a fourth guy. Then he quickly regrouped with the others to continue following me. I wasn’t too worried because the street was well lit and I had passed by a police vehicle, I felt safe.

pan-long-twe-gwun

Students demo double staff form

 

But then I saw some fires in the distant beach dunes and someone appeared from around the corner ahead of me, running.

 

That is when I decided to turn back. The police car was nowhere in sight; I started to panic.

 

As I walked back, I looked over my shoulder at the guy running and turned to see that one of the vagrants was crossing the street to my side of the street. Adrenalin pumped, I felt an ambush.

 

The person chasing me turned out to be just a morning jogger and he just ran past. At that same moment the one who had crossed the street walked towards me but jumped out of my way at the last second, pretending to dig in the dustbin. I pretended to be confident, while inside I was already crapping myself.

 

The two others crossed and tried to grab me as the one by the dustbin turned around to close in from the back.

 

I fought, deflecting the two in front of me so they couldn’t hold me, but no solid hits.

 

The third guy was nearly on me, so I jumped over the low wall onto the beach sand, where it was dark. They followed, happy that I was now an easy target on the beach. But my thinking was I didn’t want anyone else to see the commotion and come down to help his buddies.

 

On the beach, I decided to attack one of them full-on, so I’d have fewer to worry about.

 

I managed to take him down and with his back bent over my knee, I shot a few punches into his ribs. As I was about to him properly, I felt objects flying past my head – empty beer bottles. Bottles were everywhere on that beach.

 

A bottle hit my chest and bounced off without breaking, I let go of the first guy. He already had a bottle in his hand, so I took that from him, thank you.

 

The other two were launching bottles at me, I ducked; they missed. I bent over to pick up a second bottle, this one with the neck slightly broken. I held that one with my right hand in a reverse grip ready to stab and the other in a front grip, ready to club, break and then stab.

 

I swung, I missed, while ducking flying bottles from three attackers.

 

I saw another jogger, and thought I’d get some help. I dodged the flying bottles while running back over rocks and over the low wall back up onto the street.

 

The jogger ran past me, refusing to stop to help. I realised the way I was dressed (dark jeans, black hoodie, black cap pulled low) and holding a beer bottle in each hand, I did not look like a damsel in distress.

 

So I had to fight. I threw some kicks while holding the bottles. The three circled, moving around me just out of range, they had obviously done this before. I turned and ran – hard.

 

Then, realising they were chasing me just as hard, I turned. One of them had a rock and taunting me with swearwords, he threw it. He missed. Another had a metal rod and he threw it, he also missed; idiots.  At that point, I began to calm down as they were now all three in front of me, while I backed out of the avenue.

 

Suddenly, they slinked back up the dark steps back into the bushes where they lived. I turned to see the police car was back, lights flashing blue, not too far away. I was relieved and walked past the cop car, which had only parked to stop a drunken driver. I still held the bottles in my hands all the way back to the guest house where I was staying, adrenalin pumping through my system. I took a shower and I crashed out on the bed.

 

Now, many people have been attacked and even hospitalised by the violent vagrants of Eastern Beach.

pan-long-twe-gwun

A student defends an attack using the staff

 

I could have been badly cut, but these were the key things that helped me leave the situation without a scratch, although very breathless:

 

  1. Awareness is key

In addition to staying away from dodgy spots strewn with empty beer bottles, taking in the surroundings has become an instinct from the many years of training in our system. The small details I took in as I walked into the trap allowed me to make split second decisions, like the counter-intuitive decision to jump onto the beach where the fight would not attract more vagrants from the bushes where they lived.

 

  1. Always be moving

When dealing with multiple attackers I didn’t allow them to keep me trapped in one spot, especially when missiles were involved. Staying a moving target as they did the same, spinning, turning and going in for attacks, defences and counter-attacks is key.

 

  1. Position is key

Not allowing them to place me in the middle, I kept all my attackers in front of me, and kept the source of light behind me. Alternatively, wear a cap!

 

  1. Staying centred

The countless hours of training and focus on grounding and centred-ness probably helped out more than anything. I’m sure my attackers were confident that I would fall, especially on the beach. But our system does well to develop an great sense of grounding that even in panic and chaos, I was able to stay on my feet.

 

  1. Run if you have to..

There is no shame in running, especially when the instinct says so. There is a saying: “You can’t save your arse and your face at the same time” and in this case, I ran for my dear life. When the time came, I stopped running and turned to face my attackers again.

 

  1. Train harder

When I got back to the hotel, I wanted to go back and find those guys. It was only then that I realised how weak they were. At the end of the day the situation got me to train, not just harder, but smarter and with more intention. Not that I’ll be looking for trouble in the future, but if it comes, I’d like to think that I would have broken past the mental barrier of striking with full intent.

pan-long-twe-gwun-choreo

Students perform a choreographed sequence using the staff

It’s sad that there are places where we as people can’t walk freely for various reasons, but I’m grateful I was equipped with the Chang Hong training. It saved my skin, although I wish I had landed more decisive shots.

 

 

 

The Physiology of Chi

I am an engineer and like many of the students with similar backgrounds within the Chang Hong and CMAHC schools, I see things from a scientific frame of reference. The concept of Chi has always fascinated me and over the years great teachers like Master Chen, Si Gung Marco and the other seniors within our system have demonstrated that Chi and other attendant phenomena are very real and practically useful. However despite their best efforts to help me to understand this and related topics, understanding has eluded me for most of my career. It is only within the last few years that I have begun to feel and understand to a small degree how to apply these mysterious forces.

I would like to begin by stating categorically that this is not intended as an explanation of these phenomena. It is merely intended as a basis for discussion. I cannot claim to have apprehended all the facts or to have achieved a very high level of practice. As such, I am not ‘expert’ enough to explain Chi. Even the thoughts that I jot down here are fluid and may change significantly over time. However, I do believe in discussion with a view to creating a platform for future growth in understanding. Although intellectual understanding is very limited in its potential to open the concept of Chi to a student, it’s not without merit.

Firstly, Master Chen has stated in one of his treatises on Chi that there are definite limits to what a human being can do with Chi. He stated that if the opposing force was too fast (like a bullet) or too acute, Chi sense would not be useable against it. So right from the beginning of this discussion, we can identify that Chi and its usage does not constitute a supernatural phenomenon. As such, it is natural, however subtle, and a set of physical and physiological laws will govern its action.

When we launch into a study of the concept of Chi outside of our system of martial arts, the topic becomes confused very quickly. I believe that the reason for this is three-fold.

  1. Historic and cultural literature. The concept of Chi has been studied and treasured by individuals within Eastern culture for thousands of years. Because of its intrinsic value to Eastern culture and the history associated with it, it has accumulated a thick patina of references. Due to language barriers, cultural barriers and time related differences in perspectives, most of these references are confusing to modern, Western readers. Indeed, some of these references may be intrinsically misleading since they were originally intended as allegorical or mythic devices. In some cases, I believe that parables were used to describe phenomena in order to protect the integrity of the information and to limit the dissemination of this information only to individuals who had achieved a certain level of mastery. Putting all of these references together is bewildering and confusing unless you happen to be Master Chen. With his level of understanding and practice of martial arts, his practical mastery of Chi-related phenomena and his years of study into Chinese culture and history, he was able to sift through the bewildering mass and single out and interpret the gems that were relevant to an understanding of Chi.
  2. Subtlety of phenomena. The training methods and sensations associated with developing and using Chi are incredibly subtle to begin with. Trying to describe these phenomena in today’s language still leaves descriptions that can be as cryptic or misleading as the older historical references.
  3. Lack of true understanding. Many who claim an understanding of Chi do not fully or truly understand how to apply it. As such, they rely on tried-and-tested illustrations and proverbs from ancient masters to keep students happy. These ‘smoke-screen’ tactics hide their own lack of understanding and inculcate a sense of awe and wonder in their students. Unfortunately, this does little to further understanding and to disseminate knowledge. It promotes an uneducated status-quo.

 

My proposed model for Chi-related phenomena is that it is all based on sensitivity to and usage of the vestigial hydrostatic skeleton that is present within the human body to augment conventional muscular action. To produce a form of ‘Hybrid Movement’ composed of conventional muscular activity enhanced with hydrostatic pressure confined within the acting limbs. This hydrostatic skeleton is a reminder or a vestige of our relation to simpler forms of life. The Wikipedia article on the Hydrostatic Skeleton states the following:

A hydrostatic skeleton or hydroskeleton is a structure found in many soft-bodied animals consisting of a fluid-filled cavity, the coelom, surrounded by muscles. The pressure of the fluid and action of the surrounding circular, longitudinal, or helical muscles are used to change an organism’s shape and produce movement, such as burrowing or swimming. They alternately contract and expand their body segments along their length.

movement of chi

In fact, this structure may be seen to be a larger analogue of an even more basic structure and form of locomotion seen in the building blocks of life, cells. We can see this type of movement, called amoeboid movement, employed in some types of cells. The Wikipedia article on Amoeboid Movement quotes from a scholarly article that:

such proposed mechanism, the ‘bleb-driven amoeboid locomotion’ mechanism, propose that the cell cortex actomyosin contracts to increase hydrostatic pressure inside the cell. The increase hydrostatic pressure causes the cell cortex to be broken in the direction of the desired flow. During the bleb-driven amoeboid movement, the cytoplasmic sol-gel state is regulated.

As one can see, complex biological systems are built out of simpler biological systems and often mirror the simpler systems in terms of action and structure. Almost like the recursive repetition of structure seen within fractal shapes.

physiology of chi

Essentially, the human body is a large, muscular sack filled with fluid (an over-simplification, but necessary to illustrate the idea). By contracting and relaxing muscles surrounding the internal fluid-filled cavities of our bodies, hydrostatic pressure can be generated. Of course we are not as flexible as simple soft-bodied creatures because of our hard endo-skeletal system. We cannot grow pseudopods and ‘flow’ from one place to another like an amoeba. However, I believe that through the use of proper training methods, sensitivity and intuitive control can be improved to the point where the hydrostatic pressure can be confined to specific areas to produce the desired outcome of augmented muscular action. Conventional muscles no longer operate independently under these conditions but are now coordinated with and assisted by controlled hydrostatic pressure acting within the hydroskeleton.

This form of locomotion has all but been abandoned by higher organisms like human beings in favour of the use of simple mechanical locomotion through the contraction and expansion of muscles and the movement of endo-skeletal levers. I believe that this is why it is so hard to understand and apply this form of hydrostatic locomotion. It is hard because we are essentially re-assembling and re-activating the remaining building blocks of an ancient system of locomotion locked away within the recursive design of our physiology.

I will briefly mention the concept of chi being related to bioelectricity and blood-flow. Of course, the fluids that fill the human body will all be affected by the controlled hydrostatic pressure differentials within the hydroskeleton. This includes the blood. If hydrostatic pressure increases locally, so will blood pressure and possibly blood flow. The levels of control necessary to localise and modulate hydraulic pressure come along with an increased level of nervous activity in those locations. This, combined with increased blood pressure and flow could account for higher localised levels of bioelectrical activity. A good example of this is the ‘Red-Palm’ training methods.

I’m not going to list all that I have learned from my instructors about Chi and its nature and compare it to my model because the length of this article will become ridiculous. Suffice to say that in my mind, it seems to be a realistic and near-perfect fit. It is at least a start to the problem of explaining a very subtle set of phenomena to an audience which, like it or not, are firmly rooted in Scientific Realism.

Now I humbly turn the stage over to my more learned colleagues and instructors to overthrow the model and propose a better one or to refine the idea further.

 

Written by Lester Walters

 

Footnote

I must state that the information I present in terms of cellular and physiological mechanisms is really outside of my field of expertise. I have merely done a little bit of research online and in such textbooks as I had available at home. As such, the information may be incomplete or faulty.

My intention with this model is to provide a basis for understanding the major active mechanism in Chi-related phenomena. There are a host of other associated systems and phenomena which are related to the generation and control of Chi. My claim is that these can all be understood as cooperative systems which stem from or are used to produce and refine the major active mechanism.

My proposed model does not cover all the phenomena associated with Chi but it provides a possible framework to explain the basis. An example of one of the phenomena that are not covered by my proposed model is action at a distance. More study and understanding will be required to investigate those elements that appear to leave the framework of established physics behind. Many of these phenomena may end up being described by a type of psychological action or some form of as yet undescribed sympathetic ‘nerve induction’.

The framework of the internal body structure in Chang Hong Wushu

A projected model for visualisation of the fundamental theories of internal body structure

When considering body positioning there are many structural things one has to take into account. Our teachers continually speak about this framework in our bodies and it is up to us to not just grasp the concepts, but to be able to plot and create a living framework that use these concepts in our martial arts practice and application. This is more easily said than done.

While we might understand these ideas cerebrally,  most need only to look in a mirror when they practice, to see that my physical body has not yet manifested them.  It seems that our intention does not match with our physical practice easily. To assist with bridging this gap, I would like to present a ‘roadmap/blueprint’ to help point out the mental framework of Chang Hong internal body structure. As far as actually attaining the skills, well that’s time we will need to spend practicing and refining. No shortcuts there!

A good starting point is the lower Dantian. This idea is especially important and is referenced very often in Wushu practice. It is a central concept to the physical and mental methods found in both Wushu and Qigong. The lower Dantian is located in the lower abdomen a few inches below the navel and in the middle of the body. The lower Dantian is not like an internal organ, in that it is not a physical thing. It is a feeling that becomes more tangible through continued practice. The Dantian becomes a focal point and is achieved through sensory training e.g. standing qigong like Dantian Hu Xi. The Dantian is also the body’s centre of gravity or Zhong Xin when standing upright and marks the intersection of both the Vertical Central Axis and the Centre line (Horizontal Axis).

Lower dantian side view

One of the main goals of Dantian is to control the force throughout the body. All trajectories of force must come from the lower Dantian and return back to it. Hence it is also the major focus point for stability.  Developing our Dantian is of primary importance for effective Wushu usage.

Actually, in our bodies we have Three Dantians, known as the lower, middle and upper Dantians respectively. The alignment of the Dantians in body structure is important but the lower Dantian plays the biggest role.

three dantians

The next structural element to explore is the Central Axis or Vertical Centre Line.  This is a line that dissects our body in half down the middle. The Central Axis is a continuous line that extends into infinity through the body and does not stop at the top of the head or the bottom of the feet.

vertical central line

The Central Axis intersects directly through Baihui, our 3 Dantians and Huiyin. We rotate our bodies on this axis and must learn to stay upright, raising our force from the lower Dantian. It is important to rotate from the Dantian and not from the extremities of our bodies i.e. shoulders, arms, legs, neck and head. Shuai Yao is the basic exercise which we can use to learn to rotate on the central axis.

baihui and huiyinbaihui and huiyin

 

Next we can look at the Centre Line or Horizontal Axis.  This is a line that cuts through the body on a horizontal plane and intersects the Central Axis at the height of the lower Dantian. This line also continues into infinity and is not bound by the width or shape of the body. This line is also the line we use to find our opponents Dantian and to “connect” with them to help better judge, see and manipulate their body structure in relation to ours.

centre line

Let us look at the theories of the Three Sections and the Nine Joints.  These form the basis of the central concepts of Chang Hong Wushu and are a major focus of learning. The three main sections of the body refer to: 1) Legs, 2) Torso and 3) Arms.

Each of these three main sections has three main joints (or three gates), which together give a total of nine joints. We can break it down as follows:

Legs: Ankle, Knee and Hip (Kua).

Torso: Waist, Ribs and Neck.

Arms: Shoulder, Elbow and Wrist.

Since these are quite physical things that we are very familiar with in our everyday life, they do not require a diagram to illustrate. However, it is worth looking more closely at one of the leg joints in detail. This joint is the Hips or Kua.

The Kua is actually not just the hips, it refers to the inguinal area i.e the creases at the junction of the thighs and torso. This also includes the Psoas muscles which connect to the hips. The Kua can be broken into three main sections. The Left Kua, the Right Kua and the lower Dan Tian.

position of kuapelvis kua

Since the Kua also houses the lower Dantian, it is a very important section of the body and much time must be taken to learn, understand and utilise all it’s different movements. The basic moves of Xia Dun, Shuai Yao, Huo Yao and Tuo Tian Hua Di all initiate from the Kua and help us to understand the relationship of Kua and Dantian.

Two more important points worth mentioning are the Laogong and Yongquan points. Although these two points are not necessarily about body structure they do help to maintain and create the correct structures for enhanced force delivery and controlling Qi.

lao gong yongquan

Laogong is the centre of the palm and in Hong Quan emphasis is given to focusing intention into the centre of the palm as well as to keep the palms con-caved in. Yongquan is important as it is the place that we centre our weight on.

By putting all these all ideas together we can start to create a mental framework. The diagram below shows a two dimensional model of the basic Chang Hong internal body structure.

internal body structure

TWO DIMENSIONAL MODEL OF THE BASIC CHANG HONG INTERNAL BODY STRUCTURE

My aim with creating this visual model is to help all kinds of students get a working concept of the internal Chang Hong Wushu structures relatively quickly.  A much better way to demonstrate it all, would be to use a 3D interactive model. And so, that’s exactly what I have created; an easy to use/access 3D interactive model. After all, a picture paints a thousand words.

 

Three Dimensional Augmented Reality Model

You can now see this model in three dimensions (3D) using Augmented Reality technology. You will need a ANDROID mobile/tablet phone to do this. Please follow the instructions below.

  1. Open your internet browser and download the ChangHong application on your mobile/tablet with the following link:      http://www.ra.co.za/ChangHong.apk
  2. Print a copy of the specially created TrackPad. Please print it on an A4 sheet. Lay the printed TrackPad out on a flat surface.
  3. Once downloaded, open the ChangHong application on your mobile/tablet and simply point your camera at the TrackPad.
  4. Move your mobile/tablet around and explore the Chang Hong Wushu internal body structures. You can move the mobile or the TrackPad to examine the 3D model.

 

Hopefully coaches around the world can see value in this model and it can be further refined and used as a teaching aid for students so that they can better understand the Chang Hong concepts and build a stronger foundation for deeper training.

Simply knowing about these points and sections is not enough to have competent Wushu skill. Chang Hong methodology requires that the student must add to the above with the learning and exploration of Kai/He i.e opening and closing of joints, inner space, intention, situation, Yin and Yang pathways, as well as circular rotation and the continual recycling of force. There is also the the very important topic and field of study; Qigong.

Only once a student has started on the path to understanding all these facets, can one say that the Chang Hong principles are in play. Hence we can see that the study of Chang Hong Wushu is both deep and profound.

Written by Sifu Ian Galvin from Durban CMAHC

Chang Hong School of Wushu

 

Master Chen notes: This article was published in the Chang Hong Wushu 2011 annual book. It details the core principles of our system of Wushu. It gives vital information on the broader perspective that ones’ Wushu study can attain, gives learners direction, and can help to demystify the path of learning. There are many historical references and quotations in the text which we have tried to translate more directly, hence giving an insight into the style and flavour of Chinese literature. Many of these phrases require some background knowledge of Chinese literature or history to interpret their meaning, so additional explanations have been added in parentheses. The original phrases have also been included as Chinese characters and followed by the corresponding phonetics using the Hanyu Pinyin system.

 Basic Origins and Concepts

Chang Hong Wushu is a school of “Zhong Dao” 中道, or “Middle way” Wushu study. It is also a school of lifestyle Wushu study (making Wushu part of everyday life), and holds this as its’ central concept. It is a branch of Wushu established on traditional Southern, Northern, Internal and External styles. We strive to break the shackles of external form routines (using purely physical muscle strength only) by turning inward and using inner space and breathing vitality as the central focus of learning and practice. This allows the practice to freely interchange between dynamic and static, fast and slow, light and heavy use of power and “Jing” 勁 (a dynamic form of power steered by intention and sensation rather than brute muscle force). In traditional Wushu terminology it is required that ones use of power must span: Hard, soft, skillful and lively 剛, 柔, 巧, 活 (gang, rou, qiao, huo). These four co-exist and can be used interchangeably so that Chang Hong Wushu practice is not constrained to only a few methods of exerting power and a narrow range of techniques.

Of course without doubt, our foundation is built from Northern Shaolin Long Fist 少林長拳 (shao lin chang quan), Southern Shaolin Hong Quan 南少林洪拳 (nan shao lin hong quan) and that which in ancient time was also called “Long Fist” 長拳 (chang quan) now known as Taiji Quan 太極拳 (tai ji quan), as a basic foundation and origin. This however is only our original starting pool of knowledge and is not something that should remain unchanged over thousands of years without any means to progress because of a conservative out-look that clings to what is familiar. As per the phrase: To value one’s old broom as a precious item, 敝帚自珍 (bi zhu zi zhen). Some would mistakenly cherish the external forms and empty shells as the so called proof of assumed lineages like the alms bowl and mantle of former Buddhist masters, instead of recognizing the truly important central concepts. To further explain the essential concepts contained in our system of martial arts, we quote and modifying a section of a poem by Li Bai 李白 (a 7th century poet) called  “Ballade of Lu Shan” 盧山謠 (lu shan yao) :  Colourful clouds swept along ten thousand miles by the wind, A flood wave nine fathom high rises towering out of the ancient river. 「長雲萬里動風色,洪濤九仞騰古江」(chang yun wan li dong feng se, hong tao jiu ren teng gu jiang). The first phrase referring to Chang Quang’s continuity, speedy advances and endless extension. The second phrase refers to Hong Quan’s unpredictable manifestation of power that is overwhelmingly forceful yet utterly shapeless out of a deep flowing base, the ancient river.

Our goal is to pass on wisdom through Wushu practice 「以拳來傳道」(yi quan lai chuan dao). To perpetuate ideas through the tapestry of history. We aim not to simply practice form movements to appreciate their postures and mythology, but rather to explore more deeply the vitality of the martial arts, which is the true essence of Chang Hong Wushu. So with Chang Quan 長拳 and Taiji Quan’s 太極拳 pursuit of continuity, opening 開 (kai) and closing 闔 (he) on the one hand, and Hong Quan’s 洪拳 multi layered variations and fine details manifested by its’ many diverse animal styles on the other.  Then the integration of both clearly inspiring the use of Li Bai’s lines of poetry. This establishes Chang Hong’s requirement to achieve the proverbial : ” To ride upon the rightfulness of Heaven and Earth, and drive the changes of the six elements”  one must walk the road of “permanence” and “change”「乘天地之正而馭六氣之變」(cheng tian di zhi zheng er yu liu qi zhi bian). This is from a quote by an early Daoist philosopher called Lie Zi 列子 (lie zi). He discusses the six elements or poles of change as:  Yin, Yang, Cold, Hot, Dark, Light 「陰,陽寒暑晦明」(yin, yang, han, shou, hui, ming). The theory is that one has to know and maintain that which is constant 「常」(chang), and also know and shape that which can change 「變」(bian). In addition using an approach of logical examination, analysing counter arguments and unifying the results with new findings and deeper research, which gives more room for progress and a goal to head towards. Chang Hong’s training guides one to change one’s bodies habitual method of using power step by step from its fundamental basis.

 The Quest for the Vitality of Wushu Learning

 Over the years, I have constantly investigated the path of Wushu learning’s intention and true meaning, hoping to sufficiently grasp the dynamics of its depth and life. Hence, I strive to continuously carry on learning and exploring unabated, hoping to fully grasp its’ vitality. Fortunately I have had the opportunity follow Wushu teaching as a career. It has allowed me to move beyond deceptive narrow minded thinking about martial arts and the so called “Discussing the battle on paper” 「紙上談兵 」(zhi shang tan bing).

[This refers to the Battle of Changping 長平之戰 (chang ping zhi zhan) in 260BC, in which the King Xiaocheng of Zhao 趙孝成王 (zhao xiao cheng wang) appointed Zhao Kuo 趙括 (zhao gua) the son of a famous General Zhao She 趙奢 (zhao she). It seemed to the King that the son’s ideas were sound, so the King took the sons advice. The battle was a momentous failure resulting in the slaughter of the Kings’ army. It refers to the difference between bold but empty speech and actual knowledge and experience.]

I have had the chance to face learners from different cultures, learners with different requirements, and of a wide variety of ages, from advanced learners to part-time enthusiasts.

Thus gradually the complete spectrum of Wushu learning has become increasingly clear.

I feel that now more than ever Wushu training must still contain the four traditionally required aspects : Martial Philosophy 拳道 (quan dao), Martial Concepts 拳理(quan li), Form routines 拳架(quan jia) and actual application or usage training 拳功(quan gong). Then it can truly be a complete system of Traditional Wushu study.

Unfortunately most pursuers of Wushu study, will only execute movements and achieve the form routines outer physical manifestation. They may add to this a few theoretical frameworks and then feel that this constitutes a complete syllabus of Wushu study.

However, such practitioners might find themselves unable to explore and integrate inspirations from experiences in life’s other realms. These may include so called spiritual experiences concerning the bounds between man and heaven, or connecting with nature and gleaning analogies from its direct experience, or even regarding interpersonal dynamics calling on moral restraint and courageous action. [The term used here is the Confusion phrase : 有守、有為 (you shou, you wei), which refers being clear about and maintaining ones moral principles]. This above mentioned deficient system of Wushu cannot be used as the yardstick of one’s seeking and a guideline to live by. Hence, most systems cannot become a Wushu practice that plumbs the depths of the vitality of human life experience, having only mechanical movements and gymnastics. We strive however, to establish a Wushu practice with Wushu Vitality, i.e. that has the capacity to draw from all of life’s experiences for its growth and then internally boost ones’ ability to manifest in life’s other arenas by using the abilities and insights gained during practice. To have this functional connection to every aspect of our life the Wushu practice must encompass the physical body, the breathing and mental intention, using the integration of all three domains inner and outer space transformation as the main focus. This is Chang Hong’s deeper goal and direction for Wushu training.

Just as with Chang Hong’s “No-stepping” 定步 (ding bu) Wushu training, which is an advanced type of inner and outer space training. We have taken the traditional saying of “A form routine fitting inside the area of an ox lying down” 「拳打臥牛之地」(quan da wo niu zhi di), which implies that practice can still take place in a limited space, and constrained it even further to become: “The fists move right where one stands” 「拳動立足之所」(quan dong li zu zhi suo). In normal Wushu practice there is the outer body methods and stepping to facilitate advance, retreat, turning and redirection. However in “No-stepping” practice this all becomes the transformation and flow of inner space, which allows the whole form routine, whether open hand or with weapons, to be used in an even smaller area but with even more freedom. This is by no means merely the typical use of fixed stance training to simplify forms by taking out the stepping component and restricting movements into a smaller space. What we require is an even more detailed, faster and more fluid expression than the normal version of the form routine with stepping allowed. The “No-stepping” form makes even greater use of inner breathing transformations that lead the body techniques and stance transformations while still obeying the criteria of the feet not moving from their initial position on the ground.  This is because we want our Wushu training, if confined in an even smaller environment, to still be able to manifest unhindered. No matter if walking, sitting, lying down or located on a mountain peak, waters edge, the work place or a small room. Chang Hong holds “The Dao follows Nature”「道法自然」(dao fa zi ran) as a core concept. [This is a quote from Lao Zi’s 老子 work the Dao De Jing 道德經. It states that: “Man follows Earth, Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Dao, the Dao follows Nature.” 「人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然。」(dao fa di, di fa tian, tian fa dao, dao fa zi ran). This means Nature is the ultimate guiding principle. In “No-stepping” practice the more constrained the situation, the more one needs to rely on the bodies internal space and adhere only to the core principle and abandon all inefficient and obstructive habits. Just as in the Daoist principle that is striving to strip away all that is superfluous and delve to the core. What remains is Nature.]

 

 Chang Hong studies lifestyle Wushu

 

Obviously because methods of refining power usage are a driving force in the vitality of any Wushu practice, it is fundamental in the direction of Chang Hong’s basic training. In order to let our learners advance their ability and gain knowledge in this regard,  Chang Hong takes the traditional idea of a martial arts syllabus needing to include ” Cavity pressing, striking, throwing and seizing” even further. Firstly one learns the skill and cunning of the technique. Then refining and progressing to an elegance in simplicity which allows a degree of freedom from the laws and stipulations of the technique.  Then ultimately to move to a level of mastery that is completely instinctive, natural and beyond the constraints of a step by step methodology. These three levels of depth allow one to achieve the goal of Wushu’s fine detail and artistry in application and practice.

First of all one must be meticulous and learn the basic theories. If these fundamentals are glossed over too quickly they will forever be flaws preventing deeper progress. Chang Hong’s syllabus takes into account the perspective of beginners all the way up to that of the most advanced learners, guiding them by a consistent theory and philosophy. Hence learners won’t encounter inconsistency and conflict of the essential concepts as they progress. Only with this competence and coherence can learners truly be able to step by step advance into the deeper aspects of study. Otherwise students’ progress will be mere  memorizing of additional moves and routines. Both basic and advanced forms learned in this manner will still be done simplistically. Hence they cannot discover the vitality of entry level forms, and the advanced transformation of our styles’ forms that achieve great depth and intricate details of power usage. Hence even with the most basic form Lian Bu Quan 連步拳, after 20 years of dedicated study one can still find even finer intricacies, new ways of achieving the core underlying principles, find even more space, and deeper levels of power manifestation. This truly is the kind of depth and detail in Wushu study that Chang Hong specialises in.

Additionally, dependence on life experiences and life application is Chang Hong’s key principle. To strive to in ones’ everyday life environment, easily adapt and attain some level of perfection. This is really Wushu studies greater purpose. This is the main difference between us and other traditional wushu practices that only have mechanical power training methods. I grew up in a poor rural environment, and initially my goal of learning Wushu was only to adapt to make everyday tasks easier. After that I progressed ever deeper into the application of Wushu vitality in everyday life, making it the focus of my studies and a way of learning from life’s events. Hence I can provide useful guidance and direction to learners in many different aspects based on personal experience. Rather than only reciting empty theories when teaching, with no way to actually practice what one preaches, or only impart superficial knowledge.

To transform our daily life style, we should have Wushu training principles and vitality as our central focus. Once applied in daily life then we can achieve the ability to do refined training even while at work. This could be focusing on continuously leading the breath to achieve the so called “Practicing Wushu as naturally as walking down the road” 「打拳如走路」(da quan ru zou lu). Or an even higher realm of practice: walking that is actually in-depth training. Our ideology encourages us to take inspiration from everywhere to feed the vitality of our Wushu practice. So even in a completely different environment we can still manifest Wushu lifestyle’s abilities and natural fluency.

 

 Chang Hong is the middle way of Martial study

 

The “Middle Way” 「中道」(zhong dao) is Chinese philosophy’s core idea and leading direction, regardless whether from the ancient “Shang Shu” 「尚書」(A compendium of documents in various styles making the oldest collection of texts in Chinese history) , which has the phrase: “It is well to hold the centre”「允執厥中」(yuan zhi yue zhong), or the later amended by other scholars and hence know as the “fake” Shang Shu: “The human mind is unstable, The true way (Dao) is feint and subtle, only found if focused as one, it is well to hold the centre” 「人心危危,道心微微,唯精唯一,允執厥中」. [It describes one of the five legendary emperors, Tan Yao 堯(2500BC) sayings, who instead of passing his reign on to his son, broke tradition and rather chose a promising young leader called Shun 舜 (shun). These are the words of advice Yao gave to Shun when passing the reign on to him.] The above mentioned are all central to Chinese Philosophies core. Further on to Ru Jia 儒家, The Confusion school of thought around 500BC starting with Confucious 孔子 (Kong Zi) and later Mencius 孟子 (Meng Zi) around 300BC, whose “Doctrine of the Middle Way” 「中庸」(zhong yong) in which was written: “Don’t deviate, don’t lean, without excess, without deficiency” 「不偏不倚, 無太過與不及」 (Bu pian bu yi, wu tai guo yu bu ji), which was their core principle advising the benefits of the Middle Way. This concept is Chinese cultures philosophical lifeblood. It is also Chang Hong’s pursued culture and naturally our most fundamental element.

Chang Hong draws on the ” Middle Way” concept, letting it be our systems Martial Philosophy 拳道 (quan dao), our guiding nature and cultural spirit (consciousness). Thus allowing our Wushu practice at the deepest spiritual marrow to sufficiently attain the theory of the so called: “Oneness of man and heaven” 天人合一, or in contemporary terminology: Man’s integral part of Nature, as a philosophical state of awareness. Our quoting these old texts is not the so called “Clinging to a dragon and attaching the phoenix” 攀龍附鳳 (pan long fu feng), as a form of quoting famous phrases to inflate ones status. Nor is it merely a dry reciting of the old phrases. [Literally: 八股不通 (ba gu bu tong): a formal essay written in the classic eight part structure, but actually doesn’t make sense.] Rather it is Chang Hong’s Wushu training methods and ideology that actually mirror the existence of this fundamental ideal: The Middle Way.

Chang Hong’s theories are built on Vertical Centre Line and Centre of Gravity, combined with the opening and closing of the nine joints in the three sections of the body to attain balance, co-ordination and lively nimbleness in the basic body methods. Added to this the theory of continual circulation of force which always cycles back to ones centre rather than extending then falling back. This is absolutely not the normal action and reaction theory of using force used by most. Further advancing to include the principle of the bodies outer Yang 陽, inner Yin 陰 and central pathways of force to achieve Jing 勁(Power) and Qi 氣 that flow continuously rather than stop and fall back. Both need to be continuous over time and smooth in shape without bottle necks in their flow. Letting them circulate back to the inner core again building to extend even longer. These concepts all require locating and maintaing stability of the center. Just as in the “Don’t deviate, don’t lean” 不偏不倚 (bu pian bu yi) prerequisite stated earlier. Once having this focus of awareness of the bodies central rotation point, then when the centre of gravity is shifted. One should still be able to create upright circular rotation and not lean over or hold the breath and suffering distressing panic conditions where you resort to using brute force. This really is where the essence of the “Middle Way” of martial arts lies. If one can sufficiently grasp this point, then one can maintain a state of activity and jumping about and easily transform lightness and heaviness letting the Wushu trainings “Centre”「中」(zhong) still be lively and ever present. Otherwise it’s a empty theory that only applies superficially in a static posture, but one is actually still clumsy when in movement.

 

Chang Hong is a style of Wushu vitality exploration

and philosophical inheritance through Wushu practice.

 

We have continuously emphasised Wushu life style vitality’s importance and value, so Chang Hong’s attitude to this aspect is to make it the central ideology and teaching requirement. The same as in traditional Chinese Culture, regardless of whether its Confucius’s great works: 「刪詩書, 定禮樂, 贊周易, 修春秋」[Shan Shi Shu, a consolidation of ancient poetry and historical records. Ding Li Le, a compilation of ancient rituals, ceremonial procedure and music. Zan Zhou Yi, a version of the original I-Ching or “Book of Changes” with added explanation, expanding on the very brief original work. Xiu Chun Qiu, “Spring and Autumn Annals, a record of the recent history of his times].  Or then later in the Song Dynasty 明理學 (Ming Li Xue or School of Principle which was later known as the Neo-Confucian Rationalist School, from the Song to Qing Dynasties 1000-1750AD. Then still later with 心學(Xin Xue), [Literally “School of Mind” a Ming Dynasty school of thought, who championed the works of Mencius in discussing Man’s role in nature and the link between knowledge and action], who’s teachings passed sequentially on to 陸久淵 Lu Jiu Yuan, to 王陽明 Wang Yang Ming, to 周敦頤 Zhou Dun Yi, and to its culmination in the teachings of 朱熹Zhou Xi etc. Even though all these era’s had the Confusion classics as their teaching framework, all had a new appearance which emerged as various types of Neo-Confucianism thought. The difference is only in the manifested life vitality of the inherited knowledge at each stage and the different ways each age chose to further research and experience it. This is analogous to how we have retained the traditional way of martial arts through life experience, awareness and the mental principles, the manner of which we’ve been exploring for many years.

Refining Chang Hong’s ideology required time and experience. Before starting the Chang Hong School I had endeavored as a student for fifteen years in the pursuit of traditional Wushu knowledge and practice. Then later in the first ten years of my teaching experience, I followed the traditions closely. So twenty-five years of observing the traditions and in-depth understanding were devoted to make the Wushu concepts that I have been seeking more realistic and mature. Unlike most others who teach Wushu, who speak of passing on traditions with shameless bravado after merely three years of shallow study. They may then need to exaggerate their speech when trying to teach the next generation. Or others may be unwilling and unable to deeply understand the fine distinctions between truly understanding the principles and blindly following mistaken ideas. They use superficial knowledge and the memorized form movements to teach in a secretive manner, in which they place themselves in a position of seniority in the lineage.

Of course, the value of Wushu learning lies in the vitality of the martial art, which encompasses both the refinement of one’s own body and manner of application of techniques, which is way more than simply a few empty movements and postures. This is similar to the importance of actually analyzing and understanding, gaining comprehensive knowledge, and then application of the classic works in ones life such as Lao Zi 老子, Zhuang Zi 莊子 and the I-Ching (Book of Changes) 易經. This is way more important than simply memorizing and reciting the old verses. Thus the fundamental concepts and direction that I offered learners were always explained step by step and demonstrated while teaching. Until after a great number of years I concretely proclaimed the crystalized systematic core concepts of Wushu as the specialty of the Chang Hong system.

The central concepts and focus of learning in Chang Hong Wushu can be stated as follows: The opening and closing and balance of the nine joints in the three sections of the body is the basis. Further with the Central Axis and Centre of Gravity concepts allowing circular rotation and continual recycling of force, which is then further enriched when including the concepts of the bodies Yin and Yang pathways. These all combined together to bring about the manipulation of Intention 意念, Space 空間 and Situation 形勢 both internally and externally. This is Chang Hong’s core principle and practice.

[形勢 Xing Shi here translated as “Situation” needs further clarification as it is a concept that doesn’t exist in English and as used in Wushu differs from the dictionary definition anyway. Some have suggested a translation of “Gestalt” as it covers so many aspects. In a physical sense it is the comprehensive landscape of the distinct and cumulative momentums of all the parts of both oneself and the opponents bodies. Added to this is the strategy, goal, and the intended, perceived, or telegraphed paths of travel, which is also affected by the mental presence or spirit, and also the distribution of  Qi 氣. So it is the entirety of the situation made up from all the contributing factors of both combatants.]

Chang Hong regards form routines as merely a tool, or a ladder and a curriculum that learners advance through and not the main goal of Wushu practice. Hence Chang Hong regards a traditional forms’ origin and system with respect, but does not consider it something that should be followed blindly in a self-constricting way. As the saying goes: “The Yangtze river and the oceans are vast because they don’t turn away a single small flow” 「江海之所以成其大者,不擇細流」 (Jiang hai zhi suo yi cheng qi da zhe, bu ze xi liu) . The Yangtze rivers’s source is the Jin Sha river 金沙江, but the Yangtze’s greatness and beauty comes from its unique living value, as opposed to some inheritance from its predecessor. Otherwise it is only an extension of the Jin Sha river, and not worthy of an independent name. Chang Hong’s traditional Wushu system as passed on to the next generations, is not as un-selective as the great rivers and oceans that turn away no small flow of water, but rather there is a clear process of tempering and refining the integration of life vitality and honing the clarity of purpose and direction. We are in an unceasing process of evolution. Our relationship to our historical lineage is neither the stifling adherence to age-old rules, being bound by convention unaware and inflexible, nor the pursuit of fragments of history and obsessed with formalities. The example we follow, is the great ideal exhorted by Tai Shi Gong 太史公. Literally known as the “The Great Historian”, whose actual name was Si Ma Qian 司馬遷. In the Han dynasty he wrote the first officially sanctioned history of China. This was a life’s work which detailed nearly 3000 years of Chinese history. When writing The Record of the Grand Historian he continuously maintained a single aspiration: “Investigate all between Heaven and Man, Know all the changes from ancient times to the present, and form a school of teaching”. 「究天人之際,通古今之變,成一家之言」(jiu tian ren zhi ji, tong gu jin zhi bian, cheng yi jia zhi yan). This is how we approach the variations and flexibility of Wushu, which is actually where the life blood or spirit of its’ study lies. This is the dynamic life vitality that we embody and perpetuate.

 

 

Conclusion

 

A Confucian saying goes “Our ways are linked by the One ” [吾道一以貫之](Wu dao yi yi guan zhi), which originally referred to the one central morality of his teaching. It applies especially well to the path of Wushu study. It is a kind of endeavor that requires bodily practice and effort. A single over-arching concept is needed to harmonize its various layers, including body, breathing, and intent through their various stages of development. Throughout the years, I have endeavored to integrate these aspects, and worked to hone and direct the contents of this prestigious school with a unifying mental approach. This is in the hope that the concepts and practices can be further refined, just like the natural principles of the 8 trigrams in the Book of Changes. So that over time they may be polished by the grinding against each other and the collision and swaying between counterparts. Through all these iterations of refinement, they should still embody the fundamental principles, which will be elucidated in the process. For a long time now, Chang Hong has undertaken to establish this way of thinking, this mental approach is our lineage, which is showing signs of good initial achievements.

In the summer of 2011 we had the opportunity to travel to South Africa to teach classes and also present the school in Durban with a ten year celebratory carved wooden plaque. It carried the four characters 長洪武學 (Chang Hong Wu Xue), which is honored alongside the name of the school. Already with many Chang Hong Wushu schools open, we need to let everyone understand the required state of mind and core concepts. I hence specially wrote this article to further explain the core principle and application of the Chang Hong system, and illustrate its’ vitality. I hope that it will aid all learners to gain further understanding and knowledge about their own pursuit and direction.

Written by Chen Ching Ho

 Translated by Si fu Paul Hanrahan and Hsu Sheng-Hsia

Principles of Self-defence

 

 Human Nature

It is important to realise that people are not basically good. Everyone is motivated by a certain level of selfishness. This selfishness can cause people to do shocking things. This can been seen in the fact that babies and young children are very selfish but learn compassion as they grow older. Different people develop different levels of control over their selfish nature. Some people have a high level of control, and these are the friendlies. Others don’t, and these are the un-friendlies. It is important to remember, however, that anyone can become violent or dangerous given the right circumstances. With this in mind, every person out there, in particular some of the badly adjusted people you may be dealing with directly, are a potential threat to your safety.

We should cultivate awareness of this fact without living in fear of people or becoming paranoid. Essentially, keep your eyes open, don’t daydream when you’re dealing with people or when you’re in a dangerous situation, and always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.

Self-Defence Truths

What do you think you need in order to be safe in a physical confrontation?

  • 1001 combat techniques
  • A gun
  • Extreme physical strength and speed
  • 20 years of experience in a martial arts system

The truth is somewhat uncomfortable. In a real combat situation, learned techniques too often are not remembered. Gun owners are often the victims of criminals using their own guns against them. Without the will to act, speed and strength are just decorations. Experienced martial artists are often left questioning their own abilities after being incapable of defending themselves.

The truth is that all the weapons and physical training in the world are next to useless in self defence without the appropriate mental training. The will and mental control to fight and survive is of paramount importance. Without it, physical training is like carrying a pistol without any bullets loaded in the clip. It is counter-productive because it gives you a false sense of security.

What is Self Defence?

Actual combat is of minor importance in self defence. Self defence is predominately the avoidance of dangerous situations. A self defence situation can be compared to a long chain with a meat-hook on the end of it. The chain represents a chain of events leading to a physical confrontation, which is represented by the meat-hook. The physical confrontation can be avoided by breaking the chain at any point before the meat-hook. This could involve apologising to someone for spilling their drink, crossing to the other side of the road when you see a potential situation occurring, or choosing a safer route home from work.

Don’t forget your OATS

I have identified 4 prime principles of self-defence:

  • Observation
  • Acceptance
  • Tactics
  • Safety

Observation – The more observant you are, the smaller the chance that you will find yourself in a physical confrontation. Observation can be visual, social or internal.

Visual observation includes visually noting people, events, and places. This includes noting suspicious behaviour, learning about dangerous areas and avoiding them or being cautious when travelling through them. This also includes being aware of unfolding events that may bring danger such as a fight happening on the street or a client becoming anxious or using abusive language.

Social observation includes awareness and understanding of social dynamics such as body language, gang mentalities, ego issues, clothing and appearance. It also includes using social dynamics to diffuse or mitigate self defence situations before they become physical. It is important to never let your own pride or ego cause you to place yourself in harms way.

Internal observation includes paying attention to any feelings that you have. Feelings are often a communication tool used by your subconscious to feed information to your conscious mind. For example, if you have a bad feeling about someone or something, treat that person or situation as a threat until you find otherwise.

Acceptance – The next key step in a self defence situation is acceptance. Remember that your first opponents will be internal. You will be assailed by adrenaline overloads, fear, self-reproach, existential questions, anger, resentment etc. It is important to accept what is happening to you and then do what is required. Adrenaline gears you for action – do NOT interpret it as fear. Accept it and work with it. You will feel sinking sensations in your stomach. You may loose bowel/bladder control. Your heart rate will increase rapidly. These are all NATURAL. Do not think of these as symptoms of fear. They are your body preparing for action. Training in mental control techniques such as meditation can assist in accepting a situation and removing unnecessary and negative thoughts. During your martial arts training, ensure that you are focused and that your thoughts are clear and concise.

Tactics – It is important to realise that actual combat or fighting should be automatic, not a tactic. You should never have to think about HOW to fight. Combat/fighting is just a tool to help you to become safe. Don’t get distracted by silly ideas about the ”glory” of combat. There is nothing ”glorious” about it. It is brutal, fast, dangerous and dirty. Combat is a meathook. Combat is only applied in order to assist in the application of your tactics. I have identified 2 types of tactics involved in a self defence situation– Microtactics and Macrotactics.

Microtactics are minor advantages which help you to achieve your goal. These answer the question, “How can I make my journey or task easier?” or “What can I use to increase my chance of success?”. This could involve use of the environment eg. Stairs, walls, doorways, high ground, rough terrain, other people and obstacles. This could also involve the use of psychological/social controls eg. confusion, distraction and emotion. Finally this could involve the use of combat approaches, tools or weapons eg. fast movement, rocks, sand, hats etc.

Macrotactics are broad tactics or goals which answer the questions, “Where must I go or what must I do to be safe?” and ”What is my final destination or goal?”. This should involve identifying the nearest possible place of safety or the easiest way to achieve a state of safety. These goals should be as simple as possible eg. Get to a doorway, get to the end of the street, get to the nearest phone, or get to a large crowd of people. It is always best to avoid combat/fighting but it might prove unavoidable, for example if you identify that your macrotactic is to physically disable an opponent because escape is impossible. When faced with a self defence situation, immediately identify your macrotactic, and then use microtactics to help you achieve this goal.

Safety – Once everything is over and you are safe, you can evaluate the event and think about it.

Remember that if you used combat/fighting, you may have a court battle to fight as well. Perhaps there are injured people that need medical assistance – call the relevant authorities. In any event, you should report the event immediately and use all the proper channels (police/medical authorities) to follow up.

taken from a recent seminar presented by Si Xiong Lester Walters of the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia

SENIOR CLASS GROUP SESSIONS

With all the up and coming Public holidays we are joining senior classes on these days below.

Times depend on when senior classes are held at the different branches. Check with instructors.

Monday senior classes will join with Tuesday 22 April class (21public holiday)

Monday senior class will join with Tuesday 29 April class (28 public holiday)

Tuesday senior class will join with Wednesday 30 April class (1 May public holiday)

Hope this all makes sense and keep up the hard training.

Si gung

 

An Introduction to Basic Wushu Qigong

Qigong can be divided into several types. Such as medical treatment Qigong, fitness Qigong and the type we will discuss: Wushu Qigong. Wushu Qigong also has many different types. Within the Shaolin system we have Natural breathing and Reverse breathing styles, and then this can further be divided into many different styles of practice. For example one type may not place importance on the limbs, but emphasise focus on the Dantian instead. Another type, although also involving the Dantian, does not have the breathing centralized there. Here the Dantian is seen as if suspended by iron threads, and the focus is gathering Qi to the four extremities.

In this article we will use 4 types of different characteristic Fist arts as example to aid explanation. They are: I-shaped Tiger Taming Fist which first needs the Dantian’s stability to drive movements; Chang Quan’s criteria of circular movements, with changes in posture influenced coordinated with breathing. Next Crane fist and Snake fist which are also different. Crane fist uses reverse breathing and raising up the breath, this is because its main concern is speed. Raising the breathing up creates lightness instead of steadiness. The process of drawing the Qi into the lower Dantian is not fast, so the Tiger can only be mighty and fierce, sunken and stable, but in the Crane Fist if Qi is raised up, the power is skillful and cunning. Snake fist’s principle is with the Dantian as its central focus, but breathing and resultant Qi are continuous without breaks, spreading to every part of the body.

With Dantian as the Center

Wushu Qigong’s first basic concept is: ” The Dantian is the center”. During Wushu breathing do not use the chest to breathe. Chest breathing is acquired Qi drawn in from the environment, itself having physical restrictions. (This referring to the distinction of prenatal Qi which is the life force your conciseness had from birth, and postnatal Qi which you absorb through breath and food etc. It means that chest breathing is superficial and not linked to your bodies’ deepest Qi reservoir, which is the Dantian). From Eastern medical theory it is said that the Lung belongs to Yin, and hence it is naturally not suited to do a drastic or intense breathing cycle, as this will easily cause injury. Therefore with many Wushu practices it is suggested to use herbal wound medicine to supplement the body and to avoid injury when first starting.

The Dantian can be separated into: Upper Dantian (between the eyes), Middle Dantian (Solar Plexus) and the Lower Dantian (3 inches below the navel). In Wushu Qigong the Middle and Lower Dantian are places for storing Qi. When considering the upper Dantian we only discuss Spirit or Consciousness and not breathing. “Spirit” here means the intention. Fist practice and Qi practice both rely on the intention. Wushu has a saying: “The 3 tips align”, which is a type of intention development. The three tips are the toes, the fingers and the nose. We use inner body forging practice to achieve outer body development. The lower and upper body are united with the intention all to face ahead. Naturally once the intention is developed the body will naturally align to its command. When facing an opponent and only using the eyes to observe their movements, the eyes send a signal to the cerebellum, which then gets the body to respond. This is often too slow. Intention development lets us easily feel the opponent’s movements. As if our hand has consciousness and can detect through touch, and can directly respond.

In Wushu Qigong we inhale through the nose into the body, directly into the Dantian, without stopping the flow of air in the chest. Zhuang Zi’s staple teaching refers to: “Enlightened people breathe with their heels, normal people just breathe with the throat”. Meaning that breathing must be as deep down into the body as possible. When starting Wushu practice, even the basic movements must preserve their relationship with Qi flow and breathing. With HuoBei as example, the toes should hold the floor and the rest of the body should be relaxed. The breath can then naturally enter the Dantian. If obstructed, the Qi normally stops and vacillates in the chest area, and can cause inner injury. If the feet are not steady then the Qi is not stable and will float up, further allowing our base to sway. Progressing on from the basic movements, one’s practice is only able to advance if at the outset one can grasp these few basic essentials.

Additionally there are some common misunderstandings. The Qi entering the Dantian makes the lower belly rise and fall, hence some people will draw the breath to the belly’s outer layer. This is a mistake. When doing any movements, the spine is the support. It is situated at the rear of the body and if the Qi is drawn to the belly’s outer layer, then because the belly is flexible, the body movements follow the breath and are unsteady. Thus Qi is unable to reside at the Dantian, which is our primary requirement.

Qigong Basic Movements’ Main Aspects.

When breathing one should inhale through the nose. The eyes are closed but still looking towards the nose. The nose points to the heart, as if watching the Qi flow down into the body. The tongue is lifted up to lightly touch the roof of the mouth. Draw in the chest. The lower jaw is slightly pulled in making the neck upright. Breathing is steady, slow and natural, inhaling into the Dantian. Don’t forcefully squeeze or press the air. When exhaling the tongue can lower a bit to the lower jaw, the air exits through the mouth. The hand movement is the same as the I-shaped Tiger Taming fist’s raising hands posture that is part of its opening greet. In our Qigong practice it is most important to clearly discuss and understand the fundamental concepts, as each particular style or form is just one kind of usage or application of those ideas. So learning forms is not the goal itself, it is merely a tool to understand these concepts.

Frequently people’s minds are easily distracted. If the eyes are open during Qi practice, the mind will be more open to external distraction unless one can look but not see. Practicing Qi above all else requires the Spirit to become focused. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and all the bodies’ senses should become focused and unified by the control of the intention. The eyes being closed does not mean we are without sense awareness. We should be looking inward at our own breathing. Following with the breath as it moves, just as when hitting with the fist the eyes follow the fist’s path. The tip of the tongue pressing up must not shake or move, the lower jaw is slightly pulled inwards. Allowing the air to flow undisturbed into the body. The chest must not stick out but rather should be slightly drawn in. However one should not concave too much to the extent that the back is hunched vertically. The spine must stay up straight. The breath is drawn continuously along the inner side of the spine into the Dantian and not on the outer surface of the belly. We can also lightly raise the anus. When exhaling the tongue is against the lower jaw and the air is slowly exhaled out. The release of Qi is slow and controlled if we wish to acquire the goal of keeping the Qi stable. This is like blowing up a balloon with air. When releasing the air it is essential to use the hand to pinch the mouth of the balloon and let the air slowly release out, so that the balloon won’t fly around chaotically.

People have said: “Beginners practice for and hour, but experts practice for only one minute”. That is because experts can grasp all the essentials, and can hence quickly achieve the biggest effect. Also the beginners’ hour of practice will mostly be focused on lessening problems. The movements are done, but regarding the advancement of Fist Skill, and the storing and cultivation of Qi the benefit will be small. Only after forging practice for a longer time, problems of technique can slowly be reduced, and thereupon one can grasp the essentials. With both Fist Skill and breathing essentials, the more they are practiced, the more quickly they can be achieved, resulting in faster progress. Often Martial Arts practice bottlenecks if breathing and Fist Skill cannot link together. Then we are merely forging practice on posture and movement and not building our ability to nurture and use Qi.

Practicing Qi’s Four Requirements: Breathing must be Deep, Fine, Long and Even.

1) Deep:

Qigong practices’ first requirement is the breathing must be deep. When practicing Qi it is best to find a place with fresh airflow, so to encourage deeper inhaling. The deeper the better, as if you want to inhale all the air between Heaven and Earth. Wushu Qigong development can be split into four stages namely: Inhaling Qi, Turning Qi, Moving Qi and Converting Qi. “Inhaling Qi” is initially just a process of storing and cultivation. If we want to get our Qigong to become part of our Fist skill, we must first accumulate an amount of Qi.  If we equate this Qi to water carrying a boat. Regarding the storing and cultivation of Qi, the deeper the water that is available the bigger the boat that can be carried, and for a longer time too.

In our system some people can have a mistaken notion that we only begin to develop the relationship between Fist skill and Qi after learning the I-Shaped Tiger Taming Fist. But actually from the very beginning with the basic movements of Huobei and Shuaiyao or even beginner forms like Lian Bu Quan and Gong Li Quan, breathings natural close connection with Fist Skill should not be broken. In accordance with normal reasoning when practicing the I-Shaped Tiger Taming Fist, because of its power and pace, breathing co-ordination should be very smooth and fast. But when one is just starting to learn the I-Shaped Tiger Taming Fist one is only starting to understand Qi, and hence when encountering breathing that should be fast, it causes one to breath incorrectly and only use chest power. This makes the force generated neither hard nor fierce, as it should be, but diffused instead. This is because the beginner has no idea of Qigong’s basic concepts. Once in place though they serve as a guide when trying to combine Qi with Fist skill and the use of weapons also. Hence these two Wushu disciplines both can transform to have the liveliness and vitality originally intended.

When beginning to practice the I-shaped Tiger Taming Fist normally it is done in a fierce manner, but regarding Qigong practice this should be avoided. At the beginning of ones Qi practice one definitely needs to store and nurture Qi. If the breathing isn’t deep into the Dantian then there is no centre. Having no centre ones base will be unstable. Hence one can only generate power using muscle action and has no awareness of using the Spirit. Hence only using Li (muscle power) and no Jing. (The term for power generated through harmonised body Qi and intention. Normal muscle force is short and burst like, Jing is continuous and recyclable). “Li” is only dependent on muscle and bone structure to produce force. When Jing is emitted the muscles are definitely not tense, Jing uses intention to apply Qi, then uses Qi to apply force, so using almost the whole bodies power. Most notably with the waist, legs and Dantian as center, then integrated through intention, breathing and posture changes combine to achieve the force.

It is important to know that the hard and fierce Jing emitted for the I-Shaped Tiger Taming Fist is not the only use of Qi. Chang Quan, Snake Fist and Crane Fist’s emitted Jing are different types of Qi expression. Qi itself is formless, it can be flat, it can be round, it can be long or short and it can change. Applying Qi can be light or heavy. Just like water it can become a big wave and also can transform into a small stream. How can our intention guide this stream of Qi? How can we develop this type of force totally by our selves? Of course you must first have this stream of Qi. Then if you want to make it into a big wave you must have enough stored Qi supply for this task.

2) Fine:

During Qigong’s forging practice one certainly cannot be impatient. One needs to trust gradual development. “Xi” then is in order to cultivate patience, and slowly achieve progress one small step at a time. Impatience causes the flow of Qi to be broken, and hence we cannot achieve the result of “If the Qi is long (unbroken), the force will be big”.

When inhaling it is like drawing a silk thread into the Dantian. Exhaling is also the same. If the breath is too fast then the flow is interrupted and the “thread” is broken.

Practicing Qi is like the flow of water, it needs to be continuous (unbroken). Only then can the Qi be continuous. Through impatience one will not be able to develop the martial power to use against others, further more it can actually cause the practitioner to harm them selves. Continued practice in this way can cause the so-called “Excess of fire Qi”. This is normally because of impatience. In this case the balance of “Fire Qi” (connected to the liver) and “Water Qi” (connected to the Kidneys) is out, and the excess of Fire Qi harms the body. It has also been know to cause delusions.

Fist practice and Qi practice both place extreme emphasis on the intention being focused. Qi practice requiring the breath to be finer has even greater need for this focus.

Starting off the breathing must be very fine, so fine that only you yourself can feel the air flow. Exhaling is different for our two styles. The Northern Shaolin Fist requires the exhale to be fine. The Southern Shaolin practice requires an audible exhale, but this breathing is still fine. Through this exhale sound we can check if the breathing is correct or not. It must be done without stops or breaks. Later if we note that when practicing Qi the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and intention are all totally focused, then there is no need to further depend on the exhale sound as a check. So we mostly adopt the traditional Northern Shaolin principle of not emitting sound. However in the Southern Shaolin styles there are some movements that are comparatively fierce, so they do require the emission of sound. In this case of applied use of breathing to generate power, if one doesn’t emit sound one may feel the Qi is smothered or blocked and that they are holding back when delivering power. However in our discussion of the cultivation stage of Qigong, silent breathing is correct and should not be confused with the above discussion of applied Qi usage.

With the requirement of the breath being fine, at the same time we must make sure that there are no breaks in the flow of air. So typically in Long Fist practice, when doing Lian Bu Quan this continuity is still achievable, but when practicing Gong Li Quan some people in order to try and punch with more power stamp down the foot hard when punching out. This only serves to break the flow of Qi. Although saying it has a lot of power, and appears to have a lot of intention, but after striking with one fist like this one’s power is exhausted (i.e. no accumulated power). The way of developing Jing is not easily manifested, so that after hitting with one fist all power is not dissipated. Each time then power build up must start a fresh, and from one punch to the next having to pause for a bit, being unable to link up ones power.

3) Long:

When practicing Qigong the duration of the breath definitely must be longer than normal breathing. We often use the tortoise, snake and crane to represent longevity because their breathing is very slow and long. Their metabolism is slow so they have a long life.

Qi practice is not only about breathing. Spirit or conscious awareness is also important. If Spirit can continue longer, intention and breathing then can be continuous and unbroken.

We often use Chang Quan and Snake Fist’s movements to increase the breathing length. Their movements, even though they could be done very quickly, if slowed down and enlarged it allows the breathing to follow the changes in body posture. The eyes should also follow with the general body movement. Earlier we mentioned that Fist practice should not have breaks. Between one strike and the next, although the Jing has stopped, the intention is not broken. Unbroken intention will let the movements easily follow on when it is time to continue, and hence it is not necessary to start again afresh building power from nothing.

Qi practice also requires intention to be unbroken. Broken intention makes each movements’ Jing need to be formed afresh leaving gaps between movements. Fist practice requires these empty gaps to be reduced. If each time we do one movement all the intention is scattered only to have to be formed afresh for the next move, then after practicing for 10 years our Wushu will still be useless. Even if one punch could knock down a tree, but with scattered intention after hitting once we would have nothing more. Suppose your one punch misses and your opponent can return 4 or 5 strikes. Qi practice then needs to make the empty spaces between moves disappear. Just like the sea. One wave rises and is followed by the next before the first has leveled out, so as to continue unbroken.

When starting fist practice one needs to use slower movement so we can be sure to check that breathing is flowing with body posture and stepping. If movements are fast and with lots of muscle power and holding the breath, this can feel like there is sweet chili sauce flowing in the blood. This is caused by holding the breath and over exerting. The Qi production is stopped, which can cause injury to the body. Also when extending the intention it can be used to watch the Qi along its path. One should check to see if the Qi is an unbroken link from when entering the body until when it exits. If it is unbroken then there is no problem, and one can continue with practice. If incorrect, one must normally return to the beginning and review the basic movements. So our potential to progress past this bottleneck then lies with our practice of continuous self-review and checking of movements already learned.

4) Even/ Unbroken:

“Even” is breathing’s equal distribution from inhale to exhale. Not only must the breath not break at any point but further more it must be of a constant rate of flow. In application this seems impossible with Fist practice having light and heavy, fast and slow movements all intermixed. This has already been discussed with the application of Qi earlier. As a beginner starting Fist practice, movement must not be fast, but rather slow and uniform. This is the only way that the whole bodies breathing can link up. By the time the movement is well practiced, intention can naturally accelerate the movement to be faster. When practicing the I-Shaped Tiger Taming Fist we say it must have: “Raising steps that lift wind and clouds, roaring breaths that move mountains and rivers”. But when first learning it must be slow. Slow movement is the only way to stay connected. If we start to introduce speed too early the flow of breath will be interrupted. The remedy for this is continued forging practice, nothing more.

Only after the breathing is slow, steady and stable can speed be introduced. Only after a period of regular forging Qi practice does the breathing method become natural and we can feel inside the body and so produce the bodies’ expansion and contraction. When starting we only feel the bodies movements, later we feel the movement of Qi, producing the so-called “Qi Sense”. To develop this Qi Sense is Qi practice’s most important point. Taiji Quan has a saying: “If my opponent can’t sense me, and I can sense my opponents intention, then I will be invincible”. This saying can be interpreted as follows: When part of our body collides with the opponents’ body, both of us definitely have a physical sensation. But if we have Qi Sense we have sensation before the opponent does.

There is a saying: “All styles can be defeated, only the fast are not defeated”. This “fast” is actually not a physical movement done quickly but is attained by the Qi Sense going first, feeling the opponents movement. Hence they arrive late even though moving first. Unless the speed of the attack is too fast (as a bullet) or too acute or sharp, Qi Sense will be too late to respond, this is because people have a definite limit. If one’s own breathing is not uniform and stable we will not be able to sense changes in breathing coming from outside. Also not being stable we are unable to influence the opponents body posture or Qi.

Extending this Qi principle we can draw example from Qinna or breaking free from a grasp.

Due to our Qi being continuous, but the opponents’ force being segmented and with our stable sense reading the opponents changes in breath, naturally we can control them. This use of Qi’s most devastating effect is when the breathing is intensified and transformed. We don’t want the Qi to build and then dissipate, we want it to rather build and intensify. Just as one and one is added to make two and then again added to make three. As opposed to interrupted Qi flow where one dissipates to become zero and then has to become one again.

Leading with intention

It is said: “Practicing 1000 times, makes the body movement natural.” But this has one prerequisite condition: We must practice with conscious awareness, and we must know this type of “One command, one step” unified method. Otherwise the result of practice is that movement is natural, but not useful in practical application. In the historic work entitled “All Men are Brothers” there is a character Jiu Wen Long who previously followed several teachers practicing the various pole methods. His technique was extremely beautiful and smooth. The movements one could say were very natural, but once meeting Jin Wang the expert teacher of the king’s 80 000 elite guard, it was clear his pole techniques although looking good, weren’t one bit useful. Hence in our Fist Skill or Qigong our emphasis is all on consciousness and intention as the guide. This does not imply that these techniques are inflexible but rather should be guided by intention each time they are applied. Each time a technique is applied the situation will be slightly different. Range from the body can vary.  The intended goal of the action will be different. There will be a different opponent and different circumstances. Each time however, our movements and postures must naturally follow to make the appropriate adjustments to achieve the required effect. If this is kept in mind then even when practicing on one’s own, progress can also be made.

 Conclusion

When first learning Qigong we need to understand the basic ideas clearly and then start to practice. Find a place with good airflow and few distractions. Stay focused. Relax the body and don’t be in a rush or restless. Based on the required principles gradually get the breath to extend longer. Starting off the breath must not be too fast or fierce. Initially don’t aim too high. Practicing Qi is not just a routine habit. One must time after time improve one’s practice. Carelessness cannot be allowed. Preferably do the practice well once rather than carelessly 20 times. This way you will at least gain the effect of one time’s practice. Practicing Qi’s highest need is conscious awareness. Don’t practice with rigidity. If consciousness is not present normally there will be no effect.

 The most important thing in Qi practice is to achieve an effect. But first the Qi Sense needs to be cultivated. First the seed must be planted, and then slowly nurtured. Be sure to avoid rushing and “pulling up the seedlings to try and make them grow faster”.

 Furthermore with Wushu Qigong, the point is to get Qi to merge with our Fist Skill. Otherwise Qigong ought to belong to Qigong, and Fist Skill should belong to Fist Skill. If Fist practice cannot be combined with Qi, the fist has no way to advance. This is the so called: ” Fist practice without practicing its usefulness and applicability is futile, one can practice ones whole life and it will still be useless”.

By: Teacher Chen Qing Ho

Complied by: Instructor Lu Ray Xu

Translated by: Paul Hanrahan, Arthur Hsu, Jiang Xian Ting

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UK Branch

The Journey Begins

 

When I moved to Johannesburg I started looking for a new martial arts school to train at.  Having always had an interest in Kung Fu I was lucky enough, in 2003, to move in to a house around the corner from the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre in Parkhurst.  I was not aware at this point just how life changing this move would in fact be.

When I entered the school, I was met by Si Fu Marco who spoke to me and asked me a few questions and showed me a video of the school.  I decided I wanted to try a class and that first class was the beginning of a wonderful journey for me.

It was shortly after starting that I realised this was the system for me and that in order to truly progress in my own training I needed to put the time and effort into both my kung fu and the school itself.  It was not long after having started my path within the ranks of the school that I realised I wanted to not only train kung fu but to gain a better understanding and further my own learning, I wanted to get involved in teaching.  After two years of training I was given the opportunity to begin down my path of becoming an instructor within the school.

Several years later, in 2008, I made a move to the United Kingdom.  I was determined that the move would not limit my training and made a concerted effort to ensure I was able to maintain my training and learning within the school, as there were a few senior students.  I have also been able to make regular trips back to South Africa to ensure my progression is maintained.  It was shortly after moving to the UK when I started chatting with the students in the UK about potentially opening up a school in London.

A lot of discussions where had regarding starting a school, but every time we looked into it we realised there were several hurdles that we would need to face.  The UK has a very different set of rules and regulations, especially when it comes to things like martial arts.  There were various laws that we had to ensure we could comply with, for example the handling of our training gear, as well as ensuring the health and safety of those individuals looking to participate.

A few years later still, I had a conversation with Si Fu Marco who then asked me whether I would be willing to consider formally taking on the responsibility of setting up and opening a Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre in the UK.  I was very excited about this, as I had never thought it would be possible for me to open up my own school.  This was always a dream, which thanks to Si Fu Marco now had the potential to become reality.  Having thought about the opportunity that was being offered to me, I accepted Si Fu Marco’s offer and started working towards setting the school up.

With all the various legal restrictions which I knew where facing me, I started doing some further research with the help of the other senior students that were in the UK.  Having identified that insurance was a high priority to ensure legal cover both for the school and the students looking to start their own journey into the ranks of the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre, I looked for the best place to obtain insurance.  After additional research it was evident that the best way to get the school started and obtain the necessary insurance would be to register with a sports council.  Thankfully in the UK there is the British Council for Chinese Martial arts, I successfully registered the UK branch of the school with the British Council for Chinese Martial Arts.  One of the requirements meant I needed to undertake training to become a qualified coach, which I have since completed.

Although senior students have been training for a number of years in the UK, the next and biggest challenge I am currently facing, is identify the best location to start advertising and building the student base.  The hunt began to find a suitable venue to run more classes and be in a position which would benefit more people.  At this point in my journey, I am continuing the search for a suitable venue to start building the necessary student base needed to successfully grow the school.

Even facing these challenges it has not stopped a junior class from forming.  This first junior class of the UK branch has been with two students, and will hopefully increase as the school grows.

I will look to write another article once I have progressed with building the school allowing me to further grow my own knowledge, the schools lineage and the strength of Chinese Martial Arts.

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Discovery Vitality and Momentum multiply partners

We have just partnered up with Discovery Vitality and Momentum Multiply so that our members can log in at the Parkhurst and Cape Town branches for fitness points. The Durban and Fourways branches will follow shortly.

The Momentum Multiply login will be manually entered into a spreadsheet and sent to Momentum directly. Please provide us with your Momentum details at the front desk.

The Discovery login is entered using an IPAD at the front desk.  Students will login every time you come in and train.

Your training at Chinese Martial Arts & Health Centre can now earn you points.