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Master Chen Quan Gong on Xing Yi Quan Theory and Training – Part 5

Part 5 of a discussion of Xing Yi Quan theory and training by Li Gui Chang’s senior disciple, Chen Quan Gong. Master Chen talks freely and openly about how to train Xing Yi correctly and the subtle changes that take place in the body in the practice of San Ti Shi and the Five Fists.

Originally posted online in Chinese, this English translation is offered by Huang Guo Qi, Tom Bisio and Martin LaPlatney. The original discussion can be found HERE:


形意拳的养生

陈师伯:“内家拳是一种武术,搏击当然是他首要的作用,但是内家拳又是一种独特的养生术,这种养生作用随着时代的发展越来越显示出他的优越性。内家拳养生的优越性主要来至于他独特的运动内涵,也就是他是一种在道家哲学思想基础上,吸收道家内丹功而发展成的一种独特的养生术。但是内家拳如何能够成为道家的一种养生术,其实人们的认识还是模糊的。李师父说:‘许多人都知道形意拳是内家拳,此拳是可以通‘道’的,但拳谱上往往只有拳法,简单陈列出道经摘抄的语句,至于如何由拳通‘道’便含糊了’。在如何‘通道’的问题上,李师父用自己的身体实践回答了这个问题。他说:‘体呼吸’正是形意拳通‘道’的法门,从全身毛孔云蒸雾起为呼吸,此功夫,乃是精神真正呼吸,非有真传难入其‘道’,非有恒心难达其境,学‘道’者,勉力为之。

Xing Yi Quan Yang Sheng [47]

School Uncle Chen: “Nei Jia Quan is a kind of Wu Shu, and naturally fighting is the primary goal. However, Nei Jia Quan is also unique Yang Sheng art. This Yang Sheng function is increasingly advantageous as times change. The advantage of Nei Jia Quan mainly comes from its unique internal movement. It is a unique Yang Sheng art, based on Daoist philosophy, which draws upon Daoist Nei Dan Gong. [48] But, how does Nei Jia Quan become a Daoist Yang Sheng art? People’s understanding of this is vague.

“Master Li said: ‘many people know that Xing Yi Quan is Nei Jia Quan, and this Boxing is linked with ‘Daoism’, but in the boxing manuals, there are only Quan Fa (boxing methods), and quotations excerpted from Daoist scriptures. As for how boxing is linked with ‘Daoism’, they are not clear. Regarding this link, Master Li answered this question from his own physical practice. He said: ‘‘body respiration’ is precisely the approach that links Xing Yi Quan with ‘Daoism’.  Cloud steaming and misting (evaporation) from the pores of the whole body is the respiration. This Gong Fu is none other than the true respiration of the Jing-Shen. [49] This ‘Taoism’ cannot be easily approached without real instruction and cannot be easily realized without persistence. When studying Daoism, students must do their best.’

[47] 养生 Yang Sheng: “nourishing life.” A term used to refer to many types of Nei Gong and Qi Gong practices. The implication is that these practices help to improve health and prolong life.

[48] 内丹功 Nei Dan Gong: Literally “Internal Cinnabar Achievement”, but Nei Dan is generally translated as “internal alchemy”.  Daoist Nei Dan involves spiritual, mental and physical disciplines, including meditation and breathing exercises designed to transform the body internally. In Neidan the human body acts as a “cauldron” in which the Three Treasures – Jing (essence) , Qi and Shen (spirit) – are cultivated for the purpose of improving health, prolonging life, and ultimately merging with “the One”, the Dao – also known as “transcendence” or “becoming an Immortal”.

[49] 精神 Jing-Shen: “Essence-Spirit”; “Refined Essence”; “Refined Spirit”

所以李师父要求:‘练拳光练‘劲’不行,要‘练精化气,练气化神,练神还虚’,‘练精化气,练气化神、练神还虚’是道家用于描述内丹功过程的术语,一般人认识很难理解的,所以李师父简化说:‘身心得起变化,把‘练精化气,练气化神,练神还虚’的大道理就说通了。但李师父说的这个身体变化是有丰富的内涵的”。

“Therefore, Master Li requested: ‘in boxing, training, Jin is not enough. [One] must train to transform Jing (essence) into Qi, train to transform Qi into the Shen (spirit) and train to transform the spirit into emptiness.’ ‘Training to transform essence into Qi, Qi into the spirit and spirit into emptiness’ uses language and terminology from Daoist Nei Dan Gong. It is very difficult for the average person to understand this. So, Master Li simplified: ‘the changes and transformations should take place within the body and mind. Then it is possible to explain this great truth “training the essence into qi, training qi into spirit and training the spirit into emptiness”. These change and transformations in the body that Master Li spoke of are rich in meaning.

邓锋:“是不是说改变人的气质?”

陈师伯:“对!李师父说:‘形意拳要练精化气,练气化神,练神还虚,气不(仅仅)是呼吸的气,比如男子的英俊潇洒,女人的妩媚亮丽,就是气的作用,所谓生机勃勃’。这就是形意拳改变气质的作用。形意拳改变人的气质是通过身体的变化来实现的。例如不练功的人仰着头,耸着肩无精打采的。而练内家拳的人站桩的时候头是向上领着,身体的筋骨的劲力撑成整体,而且精神矍铄,精力充沛,思维敏捷,动作灵活,这些都是气质改变的表现。而在精、气、神这些体质的表现上‘气’的变化的主要是“气息”。所以李师父认为站桩和劈拳从这个角度来说就是练气息,李师父说:劈拳就是练息。气息越来越绵长,越来越深远,精力充沛了,手部动作激发了全身,渐渐感到气息鼓荡,全身毛孔开合。李师父这里的‘息’,有两个含义义:一个是‘至于呼吸的气,叫做‘息’。另外一个含义是信息,‘气息鼓荡,全身毛孔开合’的气息是身体对外感觉信息的物质基础。形意拳练到高程度练什么,就是练‘息’,看你得到什么信息,对方有表现出一点信息来,自己就知道是要干什么”。

Deng Feng: “Does this mean changing people’s character?”[50]

School Uncle Chen: “Correct! Master Li said: ‘In Xing Yi Quan [one] must train to transform essence into qi, train to transform qi into spirit and train spirit to return to emptiness. Qi does not (only) refer to qi of respiration, for instance, the handsomeness and elegance of man and gracefulness and beauty of women are simply functions of the vigor and vitality of qi.’ This is the way Xing Yi Quan transforms the character/disposition. The way that Xing Yi Quan transforms the character/disposition of a person is through changing and transforming the body.

For instance, those who do not train these skills look unenergetic, they tilt their head backward and their shoulders are hunched listlessly. Those who do train in Nei Jia Quan Zhan Zhuang uplift their heads and stretch and integrate the tendons, bones and Jin-Li of the whole body. Moreover the Jing-Shen is hale and hearty and full of vigor, the thought and senses agile and quick, the movements nimble and lively. These are all manifestations of a transformation in character/disposition. Jing (essence), Qi and Shen (Spirit), these physical substances are constitutional manifestations of changes and transformations of the ‘Qi’ which is “Qi Breath” [51]

As a result, Master Li believed, that from this perspective, Zhan Zhuang and Pi Quan (Splitting Fist) are supposed to train Qi breathing. Master Li said: Pi Quan is to train the breathing. Qi breathing can become increasingly continuous, deep, long and profound, so that the Jing-Li is abundant. The movements of the hand stimulate the whole body, little by little you sense the arousal of the Qi Breath and the pores of the whole body open and close.’ For Master Li ‘breathing’ holds two meanings: one is ‘qi of the respiration, termed ‘breathing’. The other is informed breathing. Qi breathing ‘stimulating (arousing) the pores of the whole body to open and close’, the material foundation of the body’s to feel the external sensory information. When Xing Yi Quan is trained to a high level it trains the breathing. You are seeking to obtain the “informed breathing.” The opponent reveals himself, the informed breathing arriving, and you know what you need to do.

[50] 气质 Qi Zhi: literally “qi nature” or “qi quality”. Usually translated as “character”; “temperament”;  or “disposition”.

[51] 气息 Qi Xi: Can also mean ”Qi Breathing”.

[52] 精力 Jing Li: “energy/vigor”

邓锋:“练拳能练出来这样的状况来?”

陈师伯:“对啊!能练到这样的程度你看活不活?这就是站桩、练拳中重点要明白的,但不是脑子明白,是身体明白”。

邓锋:“体悟?”

陈师伯:“对啊”。

邓锋:“有点糊涂”。

陈师伯:“坚持站桩,练拳,久而久之,通了以后就不糊涂了。”

Deng Feng: “Can this condition [the whole body breathing and body awareness described above] be achieved in boxing training?”

School Uncle Chen: “Right. Are you sure you are active or not, while training to achieve this state? This is Zhan Zhuang. In boxing training, it is necessary to know the key points, but it is not understanding with the brain, but understanding with the body.”

Deng Feng: “Understand with the body?”

School Uncle Chen: “That is right.”

Deng Feng: “I’m a little bit confused.”

School Uncle Chen: “Keep training Zhan Zhuang, and train the boxing, and in the course of time, you will understand and no longer be confused.”

白建云:“体呼吸中丹田的呼吸是不是和毛孔的呼吸在节奏上、频率上来往运动方向上是相互联系的,一致的”。

陈师伯:“那是肯定的,咱们一般人一开始是胸呼吸,练得成为腹呼吸,最后练到毛孔呼吸。最后到忘呼吸,但忘呼吸不是不呼吸”。

邓锋:“整个身体就像肺一样?”

陈师伯:“对!对!对!有这个意思。所以咱们门里比较重视劈拳也就是这个意思。李师父说:‘劈拳练息,先去病再强身,通过练息,身上的气养育起来,大脑时常会有灵感,此时,学拳就真是趣味无穷了。

Bai Jian Yun: Is the respiration of the Dantian in the body-respiration related to the respiration of the pores in rhythm, and is the frequency and direction of the movement identical? [ 53]

School Uncle Chen: “Certainly. Most people breathe with the chest breathing at the beginning. Then though training [they] learn abdominal breathing , and finally how to breath with the pores. The ultimate [stage] is to  forget breathing. But, “to forget breathing” does not mean there is no breathing.”

Deng Feng: “Is the whole body like the lungs?”

School Uncle Chen: “Right! Right! Right! That is the meaning. Therefore, in our school, we attach great importance to Pi Quan being (embodying) this idea. Master Li said: ‘In training Qi breathing in Pi Quan, [you] must first expel diseases, and further, strengthen the body. Through training Qi breathing, [Qi] is built up in the body, and then, through inspiration, [it] constantly rises up to the brain. At that moment, learning boxing becomes infinitely fascinating.’

[53] 相互联系的,一致的 Xianghu lianxi de, yizhi de: “inter-related and consistent”

“以上给大家讲了李师父对形意拳的修炼和实战以及养生的经验,下面再给大家讲讲李师父对习练内家拳在德行上的要求。李师父说:‘古人讲,武者不详。练武人太容易陷进是非,还不如不学武,就算学了,也最好一辈子默默无闻,有一份名气,便多一份烦恼’。‘练拳的时候,不宜在人多的地方练,晚上练,让谁也不知道。不准占别人的地方。遇到有人生事,不准动手比武,要学会以理服人,以德服人,要留着时间习武,不要卷入是非中,虚耗光阴’。李师父总的思想是要把精力放在习武上,不要和别人争名。

“In the above, I have talked about Master Li’s experiences with the self-cultivation, actual combat and Yang Sheng (life nourishing practices) of Xing Yi Quan. Next, I will talk about Master Li’s views  on moral behavior in Nei Jia Quan training. Master Li said: ‘I’m not sure which of the ancients said:  “If those who learn the martial arts easily fall into the trap of right and wrong, then it would be best for them not to learn the arts at all.  Even if they did learn them it would be best if they kept it a life long secret. Because once there is a piece of reputation there will be a piece of worry.” ‘In boxing training, it is not suitable to train in a place with lots of people. Train in the evening, so nobody will know. Do not occupy another people’s place. In encountering others who create situations [i.e.: make trouble], do not contest the martial arts. You learn how to understand other people and to convince people with morality and reason. It is necessary to schedule time to train the martial arts, and not waste precious time in arguments’. Master Li’s general idea is that the energy and strength should be put into training the martial arts, not competing with others or striving for fame.”

“李师父对如何管理门内事物也有自己的一些观念。他说:‘旧时代拳师收徒弟学孔子。孔子有子贡帮他结交官府,有颜回帮他传学问,有子路帮他管人。门庭有了三个这样的人,必然会兴盛’。‘从《论语》中可以看出,别人提问,孔子会耐心解释,语言简要准确,这是训练弟子一言以服众的能力,去管理其他弟子’。这些经验对我们的发展都是很值得借鉴的”。

“Master Li also had his own concepts on how to manage the affairs in the school. He said: ‘In olden times, the masters asked the disciples to learn from Confucius. Confucius had Zi Gong to help him in associating with those in authority, Yan Hui to help him pass on his knowledge, and Zi Lu to help him manage people. If there are such three people in the school, the school will inevitably flourish.’ ‘It can be seen clearly from “The Analects of Confucius” that when others raised questions, Confucius would patiently give explanations in simple and precise language. This is the ability to teach the disciples, convince people with a simple sentence, and manage other disciples.’ It is worth learning from these experiences for our own development.”

讲完课,大家纷纷要求购买师伯录制的推手光碟,师伯很高兴。自谦说:“要说我的技艺水平不及恩师的一半,深感不能把恩师的全部技艺传承下去,不过可以自慰的是多少也给世上留下了些东西”。听着师伯的话语,想起师伯文章中的结束语:“我从先师学练拳术,数十年间,精益求精,未敢有一日懈怠。今老矣,遥想前尘,检点旧事,恩师言笑,恍同昨日。光阴易逝,不觉先师仙去已界十载,感慨之余,援笔濡墨,草成此篇,以慰恩师在天之灵”。

After the lecture, all of us asked to buy the Pushing Hand CD recorded by School Uncle. School Uncle was very happy, saying modestly: “I have to say my level of skill is less than half of my late master’s, and I feel unable to pass down his complete skill. [54] But, I take comfort that I can leave something behind.” Listening to School Uncle’s speech, I think of how School Uncle concluded his article: “I practiced the martial arts with my late Master, for dozens of years, constantly seeking perfection, without slacking off for even one day. Nowadays, I am old, looking at the past and thinking of old times, Master’s smile and speech seem like just yesterday. Time goes by so fast. My late Master has been gone for over ten years now. Being filled with regrets, I pick up my pen and hastily write this article in memory of my late master.”

2010-4-10

[54] 技艺 Ji Yi  also can mean: “artistry”

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