The Year of the Rabbit is considered lucky in Chinese astrology. The Rabbit can grant your wishes, so let us ask for a healthy and prosperous year!
The Academy was invited to display its skills at the Multicultural Festival, in conjunction with the celebration of Chinese New Year in Civic. We had not participated in a demonstration for the general public for many years. I was wondering how people would react to our martial arts performance because we do not have flashy forms or even fancy uniforms. We train deceptively simple movements in the martial arts that we teach. People might not appreciate this type of training.
Our first demonstration was the Hun Yuan Tai Chi which seemed to mesmerize the audience. Hun Yuan Tai Chi embodies gentleness and strength. Its fluid, graceful movements are inspirational to behold. “Cotton Fist” is another term that describes Tai Chi; its soft appearance hides its internal strength. This year, students who join us on the September China tour will have an opportunity to meet and train with the Hun Yuan system founder, Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang, who is 83 years old and still going strong. Grandmaster Feng is a living legend in the Tai Chi and martial arts communities in China and around the world. The Hun Yuan Tai Chi system is an embodiment of his life’s work. This art will enrich the lives of all who practise it.
The Tai Chi demonstration was followed by the Wu Dao Gong students showing the strength and concentration of this art. The movements of Wu Dao Gong appear to be simple compared with some Chinese martial arts that are acrobatic in form. Our training, on the other hand, looks easy and monotonous. However, one soon discovers how challenging it is to coordinate and to release power.
The main practices of the art are drawn from Xin Yi (Heart-Mind Boxing). Xin Yi has a long history in China and is known as one of the three major internal martial arts. Tai Chi and Ba Gua are the others. Although these three internal styles have distinctly different external appearances, their essence is similar. They all train: (1) the yuan qi (essential energy), (2) the use of the mind instead of brute force, and (3) strong legs. The art of Xin Yi has undergone centuries of refinement. The great masters discovered that 5 main forces could be distilled from the hundreds of different styles of martial arts. These 5 forces make up the Xin Yi practice. The first one is called Chop or Pi Chuan. This one movement requires many years to perfect, yet it can be learnt in 30 minutes. Although it may take many years to master these skills, the practitioner receives numerous benefits along the way. This style of training is a form of meditation and physical conditioning at the same time.
The apparent simplicity of these movements is deceptive. Without a qualified teacher, one will never be able to fathom the depth of these practices – much has to do with the procedure. Each step has to be mastered before the next one can be explained or comprehended. This process is similar to travelling to a foreign country. At first, you read about it, then you see photos and you think you are prepared. On arrival, you realise it is different from what you have expected. Similarly, one’s initial impressions of the training will be different from the experience of it. Until one passes the practice, no amount of reading or talking can prepare one for the real thing. Our students also demonstrated some Army, Xing Yi. These arts are rarely displayed in public, so it was a good opportunity for others to see how these practices build power and coordination.
One of the highlights was a performance of the Guarding the Temple Form by instructors Chris Radnedge and Justin Hogie. This form is a combination of all the major forces of the Wu Dao Gong system. At first, it is done slowly like Tai Chi. Then, it is practised with fa jin (explosive power). Being able to practise these moves well depends on the foundation training such as Chicken Legs. Chicken Legs is practised with the thighs parallel to the ground at a 90-degree angle, moving slowly from one position to the next. This training builds strength and stamina and changes the whole body.
The last demonstration was an art called Yang Mian which is a system of fluid, spring-like movements. The uniqueness of this training is its rapid method of changing a tense, uncoordinated body into a powerful, rubbery weapon. Yang Mian is a results-based system. Anyone who seeks a relaxed, strong body capable of producing great power will find this system very appealing. Chris and Barnes presented a great display of body conditioning routines such as Gui Bei (Turtle Back), Arrow Punch, Steel Body and some spectacular applications and take-downs.
Well done to all those who participated and thank you all*. As an internal health and martial arts school of 28 years, we have tried to source authentic masters. The quality of the demonstration shows that our task is paying off. We are not a flashy or a macho school. We endeavour to present an authentic spirit in our teaching and expression of these arts. The training affects people deep into the subconscious level. Many people who saw our demonstrations commented on this different quality that our students exhibit, “They looked gentle but expressed great power; what you teach has real depth.”
I am very grateful for teachers such as Fei Wang of Wu Dao Gong, Grandmaster Fu Sheng Yuan of traditional Yang style Tai Chi, Grandmaster Feng Zhi Qiang of Hun Yuan Tai Chi and Master Yang Zhen Hua of the Yang Mian system. In the traditional Chinese kung fu circles, students in the know would always seek out highly recommended masters. This would ensure a good quality of instruction. Whether the teacher accepts the student depends on his enthusiasm and willingness to work hard. If one wants to learn from the best, one has to give one’s best. In the old days, a teacher would instruct a student to a deep level, only after 3 years of testing his character. The master needs to see the student’s commitment. Without the proper foundation, one would not understand the higher-level instructions. In today’s world, we think we can buy instruction with money. However, learning is a two-way street. The teacher can only teach when the student is ready and willing. In China, they say that not only is the student looking for a good master, but the master is also looking for a good student.
Tai Chi, Ba Gua and Xin Yi are arts full of ancient wisdom and practices that can improve every aspect of your life. They are viewed as treasures and to learn them properly is considered a great privilege. To put the teachings into practice is to honour them. The instructors of the Academy are dedicated to the spreading of this knowledge. We hope you are willing to practise and be enriched by these wonderful arts. The instructors of the Academy wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous year!
* As well as the instructors, we would like to thank the following students for taking the time to participate in the demonstration.
Tai Chi: David, Joy, Ruth and George.
Wu Dao Gong and Yang Mian: Emanuela, Miranda, Michael, Barne, James, Lian and Gordon.