In all things, we each notice that at first we do not know what is superior or inferior, nor understand what is genuine or fake. But once we gather several similar examples before our eyes in order to compare which is superior or inferior, which is genuine or fake, differentiation will naturally be achieved by the way they contrast with each other.
Nowadays, practitioners of Taiji Boxing are numerous and publications are constantly on the increase. The common enthusiasm for it has led to all sorts of wrong paths and uncertainties. Therefore this book gathers together works by various experts who have made systematic studies [Part Two]. I also present distinctions between them by putting them into a comparative list so that you may understand at a glance where they have had slightly different ideas [Part One, Chapter One, Section Three].
Examining the origins of the various schools of Taiji Boxing, they all claim it was passed down from the elixirist Zhang Sanfeng. As for the names of the boxing postures, each school has it variations, sometimes older postures, sometimes newer versions, sometimes somewhere in between, some with many techniques, some with fewer techniques. Where one school has one posture, another school may consider it to be several. Postures may be the same but the names are different, or names may be the same but the postures are different. Something was formerly taught one way, but in the course of teaching over several decades, people became unaware of the extent to which changes had been made.
When we look for the reason for this, we find it is simply because variety of transmission leads to slight inconsistencies, unimportant ones for the most part. However, beginners will not know what lies within. It will be as though they have entered into miles of fog, unable to distinguish between what is real and what is fake, and their doubts will increase by the day. This book collects the postures, principles, and terminology of our nation’s notable Taiji Boxing experts in order to clarify the genuine art, giving students the ability to differentiate instead of misguiding students so as to keep the art inaccessible, and thereby eliminating the error of sectarian bias.
We can consider the practice of Qingping Sword and Kunwu Sword to be “sword arts” or “sword knowledge”, but it is in either case external training. Therefore it is necessary to engage in internal training [“nei gong”] to supplement it, for the internal and external must both be cultivated, and then your study of the sword will be properly enriched and fulfilled. The first twenty-seven movements brighten the eyes, open the ears, improve the breathing of the lungs, and benefit the vital organs and the brain. The purpose of the internal training is to provide a stairway into the learning of the sword art. The final nine postures are the basics in a study of the sword, and yet are still a phase of internal training. To your hands, feet, and hips, these exercises will bring countless benefits and not one harm. If you proceed according to the proper sequence, you will discover a beautiful experience for yourself and need not wait for me to tell you what to feel.
中華國術秘傳 少林護山子門羅漢拳圖影SECRET TEACHINGS OF CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS: SHAOLIN MOUNTAIN-GUARDING MIDNIGHT STYLE LUOHAN BOXING ILLUSTRATED
I have devoted myself to boxing arts ever since childhood, more than twenty years. Over the course of these twenty years, I traveled north beyond Hebei west beyond Shaanxi, south and east to the coasts, and to the lakes everywhere in between. Of all that I have learned in my travels, Midnight Style Luohan Boxing is the best.
I learned this boxing set from my third teacher, the monk Qi Yue [“gazes up at the peak”], who himself learned the Shaolin art from the great master Mai Shu [“walks with distinction”], mastering both the internal and external skills. I had so far applied myself faithfully to the northern arts for six years, but due to my lack of talent, I never really managed to get a proper glimpse of their profundities, only scratching the surface. However, my teacher liked me, and so he decided in the end to go ahead and teach me this boxing set. He told me: “This art is known as Shaolin Mountain-Guarding Boxing. Going beyond Damo’s method of striking acupoints, it will take you the rest of the way into mastery.”
The Shaolin boxing art has shaken the world, and yet although everyone talks of Shaolin Boxing and Shaolin Staff, nobody knows about Shaolin’s “three levels”, divided into the “twelve styles”. The four styles of Midnight, Post-Midnight, Pre-Dawn, and Dawn are the higher level. The four styles of Post-Dawn, Pre-Noon, Noon, and Post-Noon are the middle level. The four styles of Pre-Dusk, Dusk, Post-Dusk, and Pre-Midnight are the lower level. At the highest level is the Mountain-Guarding set, which is not taught to laymen. Laymen may be taught no higher than the middle level, most commonly the Noon Style. The Midnight Style within the higher level is not only not taught to laymen, it is not even shown to them.
This set turns in all directions with a dragon’s proud poise and a tiger’s angry glare. It has the energy of a surging storm or a roaring wind. If you study it and become skillful at it, then when you feel pressed to retreat, you can use it to activate your abilities and amplify your bearing. This set ought to be taught, not hidden away as a treasure for oneself. I learned it and have been practicing it for the last six years. Although I have still not mastered it, I have gained much from the experience.
Now that the government is promoting Chinese martial arts, these arts have been given a better chance at survival. I have therefore decided to publish a book about this boxing set in order to share it with all those who may be interested. I only hope this action will not go against my teacher’s wishes. I simply fear that if I do not share this wonderful martial art, it will gradually slip into oblivion and become as extinct as the notorious Guangling Melody.
When I was young, my body was frail and I was often ill. By the time I had suffered the twentieth boil on my skin, I began to feel alarmed about the situation. I thereupon learned various martial arts from friends, which indeed had an effect on my health, but much more so when I learned Wang Family Boxing from the focused and dedicated Xu Yiqian.
Wang Family Boxing was created by Wang Yuequn, called Yanzhou, a native of Nantong. Practitioners of it are very rare and Xu’s father passed it down to him alone. I had visited Xu’s father, Xu Huaicheng, because of the achievements of their family. He was already an old man settled into his retirement, but he was happy to receive me and suddenly demonstrated a leap as impressive as that of a robust young man. His eldest son Jiliu, called Yiquan, had also learned many skills for his own enjoyment. My acquaintance with Xu Yiqian thus began because of this.
Xu is a somewhat reclusive man and does not stand out since he is not remarkably tall, though his eyes are very bright. He is skillful at calligraphy in the style of Yan Zhenqing and he writes compositions in language that is simple and deliberate. He has the unassuming look of a scholar, as though his clothes are about to overwhelm him, and so it is surprising and unexpected for such a man to also be skillful at martial arts.
I later traveled south of the Yangzte River and lost touch with him for more than ten years due to the distraction of various hardships, though I frequently thought about him and wondered if he had simply vanished into obscurity. In the autumn of 1935, I came to study at the Martial Arts Institute in Nanjing and was delighted to find that Xu Yiqian was there. He had come at the request of Zhang Zhijiang, who was unsatisfied with the Institute’s literary output. Xu has thus been producing boxing arts textbooks, several of which have since been published. In the summer of this year, he showed me his manuscript for the Sancai [“Three Realms”] Sword set, and he urged me to write a preface for it.
He both practices his skills and writes about them every day, and thus not only are his movements flawless in appearance, he is also able to transmit the deeper ideas of these arts. Instead of being satisfied at having obtained his own understanding, he goes further and shares this material with the world, which seems to me to be quite impeccable conduct.
I read in the “Bibliographical Records” in the Book of Han that there were a hundred ninety-nine chapters on military skills, among them “six chapters on bare-handed fighting” and “thirty-eight chapters on swordsmanship”, and so we can know that such things already had a strong presence in those early days. However, scholars in later generations became embarrassed to practice martial arts, and it was left to simpler men to pass it down in alleyways. These illiterate men were incapable of writing down the principles in order to further the spread of martial arts. The purpose of these arts was therefore limited to self-defense and bodyguard services, and their value as a means of strengthening the masses was not yet understood.
Schools have recently come to know the value of physical education, but have only been utilizing foreign forms of exercise, such as: long jump, high jump, running, swimming, soccer, discus throwing, and so on. To start a school without having these things in the curriculum would look downright amateurish. However, foreign exercises are too intense for weaker people, draining all of their energy until they look completely demoralized and then requiring they take a long time to recover. How can this be beneficial for the body?
The practicing of Chinese martial arts is very different. The more diligently you work at it, the more results you will see, and the more refined your skill becomes, the more the effects will show. It is a means of exercising the whole body rather than overemphasizing any particular part. It is a moderate form of exercise rather than being suitable only for the strong. There is no better method for invigorating the body. Those who do not understand this show a total lack of discernment, like someone who treasures stones from the Kingdom of Yan and discards jade from the Kingdom of Zhao.
It has now been a good many years since the Central Martial Arts Institute was established. Its director Zhang Zhijiang has been promoting it well and more martial arts masters are drawn to it each day, including Xu Yiqian with his literary skill which will help to wash away the uneducated past that is associated with practitioners. I am sure that a prosperous age for our martial arts is not far away, that they will spread throughout the nation and become so popular that they will live on forever. How marvelous it will be.
- written by Wang Huanbiao at Zhejiang University, Sep 4, 1936
Practice at midnight, at noon, at sunrise, at sunset, devoting all of your time to it.
Distractions such as wine and sex should be avoided.
To go from striking lightly to hitting heavily, seeing true progress,
requires working at it day after day and month after month without any interruption.
It was with this attitude that previous generations created the Luohan Exercises.
If our generation would study it, we would produce remarkable men.
Even thousands of hammerings and smelting would not be enough.
Honestly, how could you expect to achieve skill in just a hundred days?
In other words, practicing any art, whether some or all of it, requires complete dedication and no vices, and the discipline to work at it all day long. When practicing, there has to be constant spirit and steadfast energy. Guided by the mind, energy reaches to the limbs, flowing naturally and without forcing it to happen. When not practicing, get into a habit of stillness and silence, like a Daoist monk cultivating oneness, keeping you free from distracting disorder. This is the essence of how to practice.
This does not refer to listening with your ears. Use your intention to anticipate the opponent’s action, “listening” for his own intention to move. Use your hand to touch and examine, “listening” for his direction of movement.
Listening with your hands relates to this saying from Understanding How to Practice: “If he takes no action, I take no action.” Listen for what the opponent is doing and do not simply act on your own. Go along with his speed of movement and match it, “following the opponent”. This is the first half of listening.
Listening with your intention relates to the next part of the saying: “But once he takes even the slightest action, I have already acted.” The slightest of actions cannot be “heard” without the listening of intention, and to act before him cannot be done without the use of intention. This is the second half of listening.
Both kinds of listening are like this saying from Laozi [DDJ, chapter 7]: “He puts himself behind others and thus ends up placed in front. He goes away and thus ends up staying.” Listening with your hands and intention is also like another saying from Laozi [DDJ, chapter 6]: “The Way goes on forever, accomplishing without effort.”