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Teacher Yao Cheng Rong of Beijing Zhong Yi Wu Guan on basic skills and double hand pushing hands

From the WeChat channel Yao Cheng Rong Yi Quan, 2018-05-11

By Beijing Zhong Yi Wu Guan,

Translated by Per Nyfelt

Practise teaches us about the principles, study teaches us about the method, pair practice teaches us about the result, Zhong Yi Wu Guan has always paid attention to the quality of teaching, focused on the exercise process, and paid close attention to the problems that occurred during the exercise. The direct and practice results are linked. Since the establishment of the Zhong Yi Wu Guan for more than 25 years, teacher Yao Cheng Rong has always been on the first line of instruction, personally instructing and personally demonstrating, solving various problems of the students, and with unremitting effort trained many outstanding students and disciples for the popularisation and promotion of Yi Quan which have been welcomed by the majority of martial arts enthusiasts.

Scan the below QR code to add Yao Cheng Rong public WeChat forum. For more information, please pay attention to (Yao Chengrong Yi Quan) public news.

Practise teaches us about the principles, study teaches us about the method, pair practice teaches us about the result, Zhong Yi Wu Guan has always paid attention to the quality of teaching, focused on the exercise process, and paid close attention to the problems that occurred during the exercise. The direct and practice results are linked. Since the establishment of the Zhong Yi Wu Guan for more than 25 years, teacher Yao Cheng Rong has always been on the first line of instruction, personally instructing and personally demonstrating, solving various problems of the students, and with unremitting effort trained many outstanding students and disciples for the popularization and promotion of Yi Quan which have been welcomed by the majority of martial arts enthusiasts.

Mister Yao Cheng Rong always pays attention to regularization, standardization and systematization in the training of Yi Quan for the perseverance and development of the art.

In the training of Yi Quan, Yao Cheng Rong emphasizes the theoretical guidance, development of skill (gong fu), the combination of practical combat skill and safe practice, and combined learning and its application. This is the hallmark of Beijing Zhongyi Martial Arts Academy in its many years of teaching!

In Yiquan pushing hands one should pay attention to the process; ignoring the result of the process will inevitably be unsatisfactory. The so-called <process> is whether you have connected your basic skills with every move in your pushing hands. Have you asked yourself how standing post, trial of force, footwork and the issuing of force is put to use in application? How you handle the various circumstances that come up in pushing hands? The question of correct timing, the transformation and changes of applying force, issuing force on the moment of contact, your ability to move and to follow up etc. That’s all important. If you approach pushing hands as always trying to push people to send them away and you don’t pay attention to basic skills training, you will not be able to make the connection between pushing hands and actual combat. The result will not be good. Therefore, the principle of “prevention of symptoms by treatment of the root” is the idea.

Yi Quan pushing hands practitioners should pay attention to the method. It is normal for force against force, brute force, and hardcore resistance to appear during practice. This process will be encountered by most practitioners. How to get through this stage is most important and not easy. I think about it from two aspects: first, the teacher should look with intelligence, observe the problems existing in the students, and come up with adequate and effective methods of improvement, formulate programs, and prescribe the right medicine to get immediate and effective results. Second, the students themselves should pay attention to basic skills training, meticulously and strictly in accordance with the teacher’s requirements, change their bad habits in their practice, transform the thick line exercise mode (clumsy) into thin lines (refined). Try do understand the deeper meaning while exercising, do not use tricks, do not bypass. Solve each problem one by one and look for the true skill in the basic practice. In practice seek finesse in clumsiness, it’s not that one should use fine movements in every point; one should have the spirit that when you walk a hundred miles only reaching ninety can be considered half of the way.

Teacher Yao Cheng Rong instructing students to practice double hands pushing hands.

To Practice Yi Quan properly one must understand the principles, research its methods and emphasize real results. Also one must research how to properly combine the outside movements with internal force and apply it to practical training. In what way can we examine ourselves and understand if we are making progress or not? For example, if you take photos and videos of yourself practising and you compare yourself with videos and photos a few months back, can you see the differences; can you see your own problems? Can you know in your heart that you have made progress? It is also possible to compare in actual confrontation, how the technical level is exerted, how your power is used, how your timing is, and whether the techniques are executed properly. Recently some of my friends like to post videos from their practise from many years ago on the Internet. This can only explain the technical level of your previous period. Did you shoot a recent video so you can see the improvement? Did you do this comparison and analysis? Is there real improvement? What else is missing? We must study every day, check and reflect every day, and make progress every day. Imagine that the contents of a certain number of years ago are always on the Internet. This can only show that this is the level of technology in the early years. It should be complemented with more pictures and videos of current practice. This would be very helpful to many of the friends who love martial arts and has a positive and practical significance for the promotion of martial arts. It is like the saying “taking a boat upstream but not moving upwards but downwards (逆水行舟,不进则退)”. Inheriting and carrying on, developing, and innovating are all very important.

Teacher Yao Cheng Rong instructing students to practice with single and double hands pushing hands.

Yi Quan Pushing hands emphasize listening and seeking opportunities to counterattack the opponent on the basis of undermining the other’s balance. You must not lack purpose, practice blindly, eat without loss, or just patiently endure. It is difficult to grasp the opportunity.

Yi Quan push hands should be combined with basic training so that practice is done with purpose and method. When problems are encountered, they must be resolved. You cannot be sloppy about this. Always think that small problems will accumulate into a big problem. With more and more problems accumulating, how can we improve? At Zhong Yi Wu Guan we pay attention to principles and focus on training methods in order to solve the problems that arise in the exercise according to each person’s individual situation. Through tailored teaching and specific guidance significant results are achieved.

In Yi Quan pushing hands one should pay attention to control. The more points that are controlled, the more opportunities you have against the opponent. In order to push the hands well, it is particularly important to practice basic skills such as standing, testing force, footwork, issuing force, and free sparring (sanshou) are all very important to apply in pushing hands. The first thing to understand is that pushing hands is a confrontation in the midst of physical contact. Do not search for pretty and impressive but aim for controlling the opponent. It is to make oneself master the initiative and more comprehensive control; the more opportunities you have, the more you have the initiative. It is just like the saying common in martial arts: “to hit someone is easy but to really control someone is difficult (打人容易控制难).

In Yi Quan pushing hands one should pay attention to control. Quickly turning, pushing and issuing is easy, the ability to move hands and feet freely while in the control of the opponents balance, applying correct timing, applying what one has learned, stability, accuracy, and countering the opponent at the right time is not so easy. Pushing fast is easy but pushing slowly difficult since when you push fast there are a lot of opportunities that you will miss [so it appears falsely as easy], the result of such practise will not be ideal. However if you try to find each opportunity [which is possible when practicing slowly] to control the opponent all the time, you will find that your skill in actual application will increase. Therefore, pushing hands is not better the faster it is but neither is it better the slower it is. There are appropriate measures and degrees according to actual circumstances; to grasp the right opportunity to issue force is what matters.

Teacher Yao Yue is instructing the students to practice Yiquan walking with hooking hands (Zoubu Guo Gua Shili):

The Zhong Yi martial arts centre pays attention to teaching quality, the combination of study and use, and emphasize real results. It offers classes every day, personally taught be teacher Yao Cheng Rong who is constantly examining the content of his teaching and improving its quality. He has developed many advanced concepts, advanced teaching methods, and are pointing out the key points. He can see in a flash whether the students practice correctly, or when listening to them asking questions whether they got the right understanding or not, and can come up with the best plan for the students to improve. Whether he is giving lectures, teaching movements or hands-on teaching, he has accumulated a rich practical and teaching experience and applied it to his teaching. In life and work, after many years of practice, it has proven to be effective and productive.

Introduction to the Training Course of the Zhong Yi Wu Guan:

Regular classes: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 19:00 – 20:30. Tuesday and Thursday from 14:00 to 16:00. Saturday and Sunday morning from 09:00 to 11:00

Special Classes: Monday to Friday from 09:30 to 11:30, Saturday afternoon from 14:00 to 16:00

The difference between the teaching content of the regular classes and special classes:

Regular classes:

  1. Basic knowledge of Yi Quan and the principles of practicing
  2. Working on basic/foundational practices
  3. Basic practical pair exercises

Special classes:

  • Systematic explanation and guidance of the theory of Yi Quan.
  • Emphasis is subtleties of the techniques, especially on subtle changes in skills and overall coordination and development of whole body force.
  • Practical training combined with explanation and analysis.
  • Provide targeted teaching and exercise for students with sub-health or chronic diseases, such as various back problems, insomnia, digestion, blood pressure, heart, etc.

Registered students can choose to report according to their actual situation regardless of skill level and physical condition for individually adapted teaching.

Address for enrolment and practise:

中意武馆地址是,北京西城区新街口正觉夹道十七号宝苑宾馆内二楼217室。

Zong Yi Wu Guan, Beijing Xicheng district, Xin Jie Kou Zheng Jue Jia Dao No 17, Bao Yuan Hotel, Second Floor room 217.

Tel:13011140931 Yao Cheng Rong (姚承荣)

WeChat address: (微信号):ych13011140931

Zhong Yi Wu Guan WeChat public address: <姚承荣意拳>

Take Metro Line 2 to Jishuitan (积水潭) Station and get off at the south station. The Xinjiekou Department Store is just across the street and is 100 meters to the left of Zhengjue Hutong.

Alternatively, Take Subway Line 4 and get off at Xinjiekou (新街口) Station and go east 200 meters.

Alternatively, Take the 22 bus. Take tram 105 to get off at Xinjiekou station.

Zhongyi Wuguan warmly welcomes everyone!

Beijing Zhong Yi Wu Guan also offers training online through our Wechat classes <微信课堂>

In order to satisfy some students who are interested in Yi Quan, but because of many reasons cannot come to the Wu Guan to practise, we have created a WeChat class. Since its inauguration, it has been very popular.

The WeChat class is taught and coached personally by Mr. Yao Chengrong, a famous representative of the third-generation of Yi Quan.

The classes features:

  1. Targeted, one-on-one teaching.
  2. Timely answers to questions and answers to students, especially for those students who have sub-health or chronic diseases, etc.
  3. The teaching methods are diversified, including WeChat teaching, video instruction, and VCD discs as supplementary teaching materials, with phased face-to-face teaching and assessment.
  4. Teaching content is rich. There are four levels of training courses. Each phase of WeChat is set for one year. There are primary, intermediate, advanced, and special training classes, with an average of 20 teaching materials per period. Every two months, there are 3 to 4 contents as a unit. The contents include health standing, combat standing, testing force, issuing force, push hand, boxing methods, stick methods, using sound (voice), health dance and so on. The content is rigorous and rich. After each term of study expires, it is finally evaluated by face-to-face examination. The qualified person is signed by the master of Yi Quan, Mr. Yao Chengrong, to issue a certificate of completion.

Welcome friends from all walks of life to sign up! To participate in WeChat classes, please contact Yao Chengrong directly.

Registration address:

北京中意武馆,西城区新街口正觉夹道十七号,宝苑宾馆二楼217室。

Zong Yi Wu Guan, Beijing Xicheng district, Xin Jie Kou Zheng Jue Jia Dao No 17, Bao Yuan Hotel, Second Floor room 217. (other details as above)

Teacher Yao Cheng Rong’s personal We Chat:

Scan the above QR code to add Teacher Yao Chengrong’s personal Wechat

For more information, please pay attention to (Yao Chengrong Yi Quan) public news

Health and martial arts

As I see it there are three aspects to the practise of traditional martial arts: Defence/fighting (fang shen), health (jian shen) and philosophical. Emphasising one on the expense of the others leads to some kind of unbalanced situation. There are plenty of examples of people who has been practising only for health ignoring the martial and philosophical side with the result of harmless, empty movements at best and harmful, unnatural movements at worst. If we ignore the philosophical aspect then it becomes a mere physical exercise, lacking depth and something worthy of a lifetime of study. If we ignore the martial side then we have no means to verify if our practise is progressing or not and the meaning of the movements are lost. If we ignore the health aspect we will start to indulge in harmful, unbalanced practises that in the end will prevent us from constant evolving and growth. In this present age with a global culture characterised by impatience, consumerism, and value nihilism I think we have a responsibility to present an alternative where diligent practise, constant improvement, harmony and balance are at the core.

Investigating the health aspect a bit more in detail, there are some questions we can look into: What makes a movement beneficial for health? What makes a practise healthy? What kind of health benefits is reasonable to expect from martial arts practise?

If we look at movements and postures there are some things to consider:

  • Unnatural movements are unhealthy, natural movements are healthy. An unnatural movement is something that goes against how the body is constructed e.g. turning or twisting the knees, torquing or bending the spine to a great degree, letting the elbow joint take care of the force when punching by making it completely straight at the end of the punch.
  • Compensating for bad posture by using muscular strength. If we strive to make postures and movements as effortless as possible we avoid developing a lot of unhealthy habits.
  • If we have stiffness in the body we should stretch and loosen those parts so that we can move more freely. If we have spent a lot of time sitting on chairs (as we do in the west) then the hips are usually quite stiff which results in movements that might “seem” natural e.g. turning the knees when turning the body but are in fact due to a stiffness of the hips preventing one to move in a more truly natural way.
  • Lü’s Spring and Autumn annuals from 239 BC observes:

Running water does not become stale, a door hinge (of wood) does not become worm eaten

Hence exercises should be gentle and focused on increasing the flow of vital energy and bodily fluids.

  • Numerous studies (e.g. examples at the bottom) has shown that standing postures, soft, flowing movements and stretching gives positive health benefits for breathing, digestion, skin, immune system, and the central nervous system as well as better sleep and improved restoration.
  • Breathing properly and deeply can do wondrous things for ones health. Zhuang Zi wrote:

The True Man of ancient times was breathing from deep inside.
The True Man breathes with his heels; the common man breathe with their throats.

Another important information is to observe the age and health of long term practitioners. When looking at this we need to keep in mind that heretical and environmental factors play a big role in ones health and lifespan. Nevertheless many Xing Yi and Ba Gua practitioners where in vibrant health in the upper 80’s. Sun Jian Yun maintained an active practise throughout her entire life and her mind remained crystal clear. Di Zhao Long still practised Neigong and Bagua 3-4 hours a day in his upper 80’s and loved travel and hiking on mountains.

It might be tempting to make alterations to Tai Ji or Qi Gong movements to create simplified health exercises while still claiming the same benefits. I think such claims should be regarded with a lot of scepticism.  If you strip the martial or philosophical sides away and try to create some system that is only focused on benefiting health then you have created something completely new that would need a few generations to prove its worth and its promises. Is it not better to preserve the wonderful practises that we have and perhaps try to improve a small bit on them after decades of practise?

Scientific studies on Tai Ji and Health

* Au-Yeung, PhD, Stephanie S. Y.; Christina W. Y. Hui-Chan, PhD, and Jervis C. S. Tang, MSW (January 7, 2009). “Short-form Tai Chi Improves Standing Balance of People With Chronic Stroke”. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair 23 (5): 515. doi:10.1177/1545968308326425.

* Effects of T’ai Chi exercise on fibromyalgia symptoms and health-related quality of life. Taggart HM, Arslanian CL, Bae S, Singh K. Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA, USA. PMID: 14595996 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

* McAlindon, T, Wang, C; Schmid, CH; Rones, R; Kalish, R; Yinh, J; Goldenberg, DL; Lee, Y; McAlindon, T (August 19, 2010). “A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia.”. New England Journal of Medicine 363 (8): 743–754. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0912611. PMID 20818876

* Liu H, Frank A. Tai chi as a balance improvement exercise for older adults: a systematic review.

* Wang WC, Zhang AL, Rasmussen B, Lin LW, Dunning T, Kang SW, Park BJ, Lo SK. The effect of Tai Chi on psychosocial well-being: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

* Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, Etnier J, Lin F. A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi.

* Wang C, Bannuru R, Ramel J, Kupelnick B, Scott T, Schmid CH. Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis.

* Wang W, Sawada M, Noriyama Y, Arita K, Ota T, Sadamatsu M, Kiyotou R, Hirai M, Kishimoto T. Tai Chi exercise versus rehabilitation for the elderly with cerebral vascular disorder: a single-blinded randomized controlled trial.

* Lavretsky H, Alstein LL, Olmstead RE, Ercoli LM, Riparetti-Brown M, St Cyr N, Irwin MR. Complementary Use of Tai Chi Chih Augments Escitalopram Treatment of Geriatric Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

Xing Yi as a way of life

Xing Yi as a way of life as I see it is certainly not the vulgar path of optimizing one’s ability to do harm as a way of life but rather a method of studying and serving life itself. To be human is to be in relation to others and in relations conflict often occurs. Conflict is a fundamental part of life. There is competition over resources, conflict due to opposing agendas, conflict due to misunderstandings etc.

Xing Yi is a kind of Wu Shu which usually translates as Martial Art. The meaning of the character Wu (武) is composed of two parts: Zhi(止) meaning ”to stop” and Ge (戈) meaning halberd. Shu (術) means art or craft. The simple meaning of Wu Shu is therefore ”the art of stopping violence”. Learning to resolve conflicts effectively is thus a very important thing and Xing Yi is a way to practise conflict resolution. Being in the service of life means to work with birth and death, creation and destruction to support it. Sometimes things need to be destroyed to make room for something new. When structure and order becomes stiff and rigid or is no longer serving life it is time for it to die. Sometimes new things need to be created to fit circumstances better. In order to make progress and to be able to live in harmony with ourselves, with others and with nature we constantly renew and create new things that enables this better than before. The five elements creative and destructive practise set is a way to help us understand the theory of creation and destruction.

In serving life we begin with the study of self preservation in Xing Yi. If we want to preserve ourselves we need to understand who and what we are so we understand what it is that we are preserving. For this reason the study of self and others in the most fundamental sense, is at the core of Xing Yi. Self preservation means strengthening and understanding the body and mind through practise. It also means gaining the ability to efficiently defend ourselves against an attacker. Where some people find the pursuit of martial arts to be the development of the most efficient combat system that can inflict maximum damage to an opponent, we see the necessity of being able to stop violence as quickly and efficiently as possible in Xing Yi but do not stop there. Instead we take this a good first step, connected to development of Ming Jin, and then further develop this martial provenness in the service of life in two dimensions.

The first dimension: Once I have acquired the ability to defend myself against an opponent, regardless of the amount of damage that I do to him, I extend this ability so that I am able to defend my friends and family against evil doers as well. Once I have learned to do this I extend this ability to serve society in stopping evil doers from destroying society for their own selfish aims.

The second dimension: Once I have acquired the ability to defend myself against an opponent regardless of the amount of damage that I do to him, I extend this ability so that I am able to defend myself with a minimum damage done to the opponent. This coincides with the development of An Jin. Once I can defend myself with minimum damage to the opponent I extend the ability to be able to defend myself with no damage to the opponent. Once I can defend myself with no damage to the opponent I extend the ability to dissolve or transform the conflict before it even breaks out into physical action. This practise coincides with the development of Hua Jin or transforming force in Xing Yi. At its ultimate level, no conflicts ever occur as immediately when a potential conflict arises it is transformed into win-win collaboration or cooperation in the service of life instead.

The practise of Xing Yi is not about repeating forms and movements over and over hoping to force some movements into becoming automatic reflexes. It does mean embracing form and ritual to connect with and explore fundamental truths about ourselves and nature and it does mean rigorous practise of movements over and over to discover and remove blockages to allow the movements to be expressed freely and naturally however. Repeating patterns over and over becomes a kind conditioning that is contradictory to the essence of Xing Yi unless we approach it with awareness, curiosity and a desire to go deeper. As much as the practise of fixed form is absolutely necessary be it doing pi quan or beng quan back and forth for hours on end, standing in San Ti, work on a sand bag or practising two man sets, it must be balanced with the practise of free form Quan Wu (shadow boxing) and various forms of free sparring to properly nurture one’s ability to improvise and create. In my mind, Xing Yi without creative improvisation is not even half an art.

Xing Yi as a way of life does not mean rejecting everything else such as pursuing a career or family life for the sake of practise but to make Xing Yi part of all aspects of life. If you can practise Xing Yi 24 hours a day how can you not improve much faster than someone who only practises for a couple of hours each day? Finding a way to always practise Xing Yi includes paying attention to your posture when sitting at your desk at work, or cleaning the floor at home. It means paying attention to how you interact with your colleagues at work and your spouse and kids at home – is it in the spirit of supporting life, transforming each moment towards higher refinement and depth? It means practising awareness of oneself and of the surrounding when going to work or buying vegetables. It means always maintaining integrity, generosity and a search for a deeper truth. It means the practise of doing things whole-heartedly with mind, intent and action as one. It means serving life by listening with your whole system to find harmony, let that with needs to die, die, and engage every moment with creativity and focus.

What is the right way?

Ever since coming back from a workshop in Taiji i did in the UK I have received questions about what the correct way is to do a certain movement or the correct way of practising this or that is.

My take on this is that there is a right way but the right way is not the same for everyone. At the same time, this does not mean that whatever I think is right is correct – actually most of the time it is wrong. The thing though is to keep trying and to learn from ones mistakes. The last couple of years when I was training with Sun Jian Yun was very different from the how we practised before (which was essentially learning the details of the movements and how they worked as well as listening to lots of stories about her father, Sun Lu Tang, and his other students). More and more teacher Sun would ask me a question (many times a phrase from the taiji classics or her fathers “the true meaning of boxing”) and then send me to the park to research it myself. I would then come back after 3-4 hours and tell her about what I had come up with. Sometimes she would say that I was completely wrong and have to start over again but most of the time she would give me hints about aspects or areas that I had not considered and I would continue to work on it. This way the dialogue of the topic i.e. the question, my own research and practise and my teachers input and hints would continue and deepen until we got to a point where she would be satisfied enough to move on to the next question. She said to me at one point that she did this because she was now in an advanced age and being from Sweden I needed a way to keep progressing even when she was not around. I am immensely grateful for these last years and they have proven to be one of the most important things I have learned in the study of martial arts.

There is a paradox between Taiji as a system and Taiji as an embodied experience in the sense that there is really no Taiji outside of you and yet you are in a constant dialogue with it. Focusing only on question of “the right way” without understanding this dialectic makes the pursuit shallow in my humble opinion. I mean, on one hand there is such a thing as “the spirit of Sun style Taiji” which guides you and informs your practise, on the other hand Taiji is nothing outside of what you have found in your research to be true and which you can do.

One of the ways to look at the role of the teacher is to help students to find a productive way to relate to this – sometimes pointing to the classics or to high level practitioners of old, other times encouraging the students to look into themselves, to question and to research what works and what is true essentially acting a kind of mediator holding this paradox live and present as it is the doorway to progress and deepening in this wonderful martial art.

Martial Virtue

The practise of martial arts is a personal journey but require help and support from friends and teachers to be successful. Sun Jian Yun often talked about two aspects of martial arts as Wu Gong meaning martial skill and Wu De meaning martial virtue. Martial virtue is Shou De (hand virtue) and Ping De (Virtue of character). Shou De means to use your martial skills for good deeds e.g. protecting someone who is bullied, not doing unnecessarily harm but lead the unrighteous on to the righteous path, transform violence into peace and use your strength and skill as an expression of loving kindness. When your skill level is low you will need to exert force and cause harm to the person attacking you in order to defend yourself. As your skill increases you will be able to diffuse or transform a violent or potentially violent situation without harming the attacker.

Virtue of character (Ping De) means to develop honesty and uprightness, benevolence, charity, faithfulness, integrity, good manners, respect etc. We start with our selves and get to the root of our own violence and other things stopping us from cultivating virtue. Learning to see our conditioning and how to be freer in relationship to that is just as important as cultivating virtuous qualities.

Many times Sun Jian Yun talked about virtue in the from 3 different perspectives: Virtue in a Confucian, Buddhist and Daoist sense.

The Confucian sense was the basis of her teaching on virtue. They include the cultivation of benevolence, righteousness, etiquette, knowledge, integrity, loyalty etc.

When talking about Ping De from a Buddhist perspective she sometimes looked at them as moral practises like the 5 precepts: not to kill but to cherish all life, not to steal but to respect others, not to misuse sex but to cultivate sincerity and integrity, not to lie but to be truthful, not to misuse drugs but to strive for clarity of mind). At other time she was more emphasising qualities like the paramitas: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, focus, wisdom.

When discussing Ping De from a Daoist perspective she saw virtue as both the expression of the way (i.e. that virtue is a natural expression of truth) and the sign that you are in accordance with the way (i.e. if you act virtuous then you act in accordance with truth).

The character Wu (武) in Wu Gong is made up for the character for “stop” and the character for “lance” i.e. “to stop violence”. Stopping violence is not just learning to defend oneself from physical attack but also about not contributing to increased or prolonged violence. This includes holding grudges, violent speech, violent thoughts, violent feelings etc.. It is true that we need emotional content when we practise martial arts and engage in life, but not unmanaged anger or hate.

The practise of Sun style martial arts is learning to transform anger into assertiveness, hate into engagement, and aggression into decisive action. The heart must be tranquil, the mind quiet and the soul at peace. The practise of sitting and standing allows us to get a taste of true stillness. The practise of walking the circle or doing the Taiji form allows us to get a taste of this stillness while in motion. As it becomes more and more involved – in applications practise, two man practises such as wu xing sheng ke or tui shou as well as duan da and san shou, we must make sure this connection with our true selves are not broken and that the connection with inner peace is not lost. If it is then we need to trace the root of the problem back to its origin and uproot it thoroughly. Uprooting means to acknowledge it and see into it to understand it clearly and then to learn to direct the energy in a different, more creative and constructive, way.

In Sun style we talk about whole body power being the correct way of acting. This is the power that comes from heart, intention, Qi, force and the physical body united i.e. it requires wholeness. Wholeness is health. In Swedish, “hela” (to heal) is a verb coming from “hel” (whole) i.e. to heal is to make whole. In order to be healthy we need to live healthy lives. In order to live healthy lives we need to examine it mindfully and work on all aspects of it.

Having many students is not important compared to having a good, stable and deepening practise. Being able to knock someone’s teeth out is not important compared to one’s ability to calm down and defuse conflict in everyday situations. Sun style martial arts help you to know yourself and to know others and to find the courage and power to act in accordance with this knowledge. It requires diligent practise, deep reflection, clear intention and a strong love for the truth.

Practising forms

Forms have a special place in Chinese martial arts. Almost every martial art in China (with some important exceptions, e.g. Yi Quan) have forms which consists of a sequence of movements connected together. It places such a central role that they in many respects represent the essence of the art.

The practise of forms has been criticised by many. In some cases for good reasons and in other cases due to ignorance about how to make forms practise deeply meaningful and conducive to ones development.

A form as just a sequence of movement is just a shallow indoctrination of habitual patterns and if practised mindlessly as some kind of repetitive callisthenic will at best have a slight health benefit but will give you nothing in terms of martial ability or personal development. Fortunately, it is possible to go beyond shallow repetition into a space of dialogue and insight.

There are two phases in form practise where the second one depends on the first.

The first phase is about learning the form. Learning the form starts with learning each movement. Understanding each posture and the transitions between the postures. In any Chinese martial art there are several applications for each movement and to learn the form properly you need to learn at least 3 different ones for each movement in the form.  You also study the type of power (Jin) that is expressed in each movement. In the internal martial arts any kind of power is an expression of whole body power (Zheng Ti Jin). Whole body power is achieved by adhering to the six harmonies. It often becomes apparent when learning a form that there is some aspect of six harmonies that was not understood before. To address that one needs to practise more basic exercises such as standing, walking or  single movements until that particular aspect of whole body power has been found and integrated. Learning the form is a lot about about precision. There is no room for individual interpretation at this level. The form needs to be performed exactly according to standard, down to millimeter precision. Of course if there are physical limitation that is taken into into consideration.

While you are learning the form you are also finding a place in your daily life to practise it. After some months you will have a daily ritual of practise of the form. It will take another couple of months until that ritual starts to deepen your practise. Thus the second phase begins. If the first phase took concentration, discipline and devotion the second phase requires curiosity, openness, inquiry and listening. You need to relax into the ritual to the extent that you stop “doing the form” and instead let the form do you. This opens the dialogue where the wisdom of the past generations who devoted themselves to perfecting the form starts to tell you their secrets allowing you to investigate strategy, application, power, the flow of qi, why postures are the way they are etc. Rushing it or wanting it too badly will not help. You need to patiently and gently inquire and listen in the temenos (sacred container) of the ritual you have created around your daily practise. Verify your findings in pushing hands and free fighting with your boxing siblings and with your teacher who could verify and guide you to even deeper levels. Properly cultivated, this dialogue and the teachings of the form can continue for the rest of your life allowing you to slowly improve day by day.