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Song Zhi Yong Remembers His Teacher, Master Li Gui Chang

In this brief interview, Song Zhi Yong, a disciple of Xing Yi Master Li Gui Chang, remembers his teacher and talks about Master Li’s character, ability and views on martial etiquette.

Song Zhi Yong currently teaches Xing Yi Quan in Taiyuan, China. Song is a Senior Advisor to New York Internal Arts and Internal Arts International.

An Interview with Song Zhi Yong

by Bai Jian Yun

-访宋志勇

Song interview

Song Zhi Yong, Taiyuan, China, 2001. photo by Valerie Ghent.

Song Zhi Yong, strong in physique and in the prime of life, was accepted as a disciple of a School Grandfather, Li Gui Chang, in Master Li’s old age. We met in Fenghe Park.

In the park, among the shadowy green trees, fine grass, rippling water pools, and silent surroundings, the two of us pleasantly sat on a stone chair. At that moment, a middle-aged man was training Zhan Zhuang, the standing posture, nearby. After asking Song, I knew the man was Song’s disciple. Just as the disciples of the school said, Song Zhi Yong is very hard working.

宋志勇是师爷晚年收得弟子,体格魁梧,正值壮年。约在汾河公园见面,公园里绿树成荫,小草绒绒,水波粼粼,静寂幽深,两个人坐在石凳上,甚是惬意。一会又来了个中年人在附近站桩,问宋志勇才知道是他的弟子,正如门里人说宋志勇非常用功。

Song Zhi Yong started to talk about the achievements Grandfather Li Gui Chang:

“I met my teacher, Li Gui Chang, via Zhang Fusheng in 1990. In talking about my teacher’s art, Master Li was the most  incomparable master I have ever seen or heard of. For example, in an activity organized by Taiji Association in 1993, my master taught Cai (採, picking up) Lie (列, splitting), Zhou (肘, elbow) and Kao (靠, leaning against), demonstrating on me. At the time, I weighed about 100 kilos and was not flexible nor agile. But my teacher was able to make me roll 360 degrees in his arms, I fell to the cement ground with a loud sound. At that moment, my heart and mind were empty and I thought I was finished. To my surprise, I was not injured and I jumped up from the ground instantly, as comfortably as if massaged. At that moment people were stupefied and struck dumb by Li’s power.

宋志勇开始讲述师爷李桂昌的事迹:“我是90年通过张福生认识恩师李桂昌的,要说恩师的技艺,就我所见所闻的人里是无与伦比的。就说93年在太极拳协会的一次活动吧,恩师教太极拳的採、列、肘、靠的”,用我做师范,我当时200多斤的体重,身手也不灵活,可是恩师一个挒能让我在他怀里打了个360度的滚,哐的一下,摔在水泥地上,声音好大,当时心里一片空白,想这下完了。不想身上一点伤也没受,扑棱就从地上站起来了,仿佛被按摩过一般舒服,当时在场的人很多,都被惊呆了。

“Let’s talk about my teacher’s Pi Quan (Splitting Fist), in throwing a person down. In throwing a person down (ie: emitting force), some other masters would block an opponent’s leg with their foot, or would use a bed or another object to entangle, trip and throw down the opponent. My teacher could hit a person up into the air, landing about 5 or 6 meters away. In doing Yun Shou (Cloud Hand), he was able to throw a person upward. It was truly divine and marvelous.

说恩师用劈拳。用劈拳发人,有的师父是用脚制住对方的脚,或用床等异物把对方磕绊住而打倒,恩师却是把人打得腾空飞起来,站在5.6米外。做云手时一下就可以把人撺起来,真可谓神明至极。

“Let’s talk about sending a person out with Pi Quan (Splitting Fist) in training. No matter how an opponent defended himself, my teacher would strike and make the opponent fly away with Pi Quan. My teacher seemed thin and weak, less than 50 kilos in body weight. But he was able to throw a person of 100 kilos anywhere he wanted, exactly as described: “going out or coming back, all on his own will, lifting a heavy object like lifting a feather.” All the practitioners of Nei Jia Quan know this kind of proverb: “It is easy to strike a person, but difficult to send him out, and easy to send a person out, but difficult to control him.” My teacher could fully and marvelously display this ability. No matter how strong your power, he could withstand it if he wanted. But if he did not want to withstand your power, no matter how light or strong your power was, your power could not be placed on his body. In particular, when doing Tui Shou (Pushing Hands), no matter what you did, you lost. You could not withstand his ability – if you were distracted even a little bit, your body and spirit seemed to be tied up by a soft rope. No matter how hard you tried to escape, you could not get away from his hand. This is “conquering the enemy without fighting.”

对练中说用劈拳发人,尽管多方如何防范,最终还是一定要用劈拳把对方打飞出去。别看恩师老年时很瘦弱,体重不到一百斤,但二百斤的人要扔到哪里就哪里,那才叫‘收放自如,举重若轻’。还有,练内家拳的都知道一条谚语:‘打人容易,发人难;发人容易,制人难’。恩师在这一点上表现的更是奇妙,你再大的劲他要想抗就能抗住,可是他要不想抗你的劲,你就再轻微,再重的劲都搁不到他身上。尤其是推手的时候别说你丢不行,顶不行,就是脑子开小差也不行,你的身体和精神就仿佛他用软绳子一样捆着,任你怎么扑腾都出不了他的手心,那才叫‘不战而屈人之兵’。

“Moreover, the sensitivity of my teacher’s reaction in his body work and hand techniques was unimaginable. On one occasion, at a training course organized by an electronics company, my teacher rode his bicycle quite fast. When he made a turn into the factory gate, the rear of his bicycle was hit by a small car. Exactly at that moment, my teacher jumped off his bicycle and stood at the side of the street. At that time he was almost 80 years old.

而且恩师身手反应的灵敏程度更是让人不可想象。有一次在电子局办班,恩师骑自行车比较快,往大门里一拐,被路边的一辆下路丫子的小车撞在自行车的后面,就这一刹那的时间,恩师已经自行车上跳了下来,站在了路边,这时已经是快八十岁的年龄了。

“We just talked about my teacher’s art. Now, let’s talk about his morality.

这是说恩师的艺,再说恩师的德。

Master Li Gui Chang Long Xing

Master Li Gui Chang practicing Long Zing, or Dragon.

“People said my teacher was eccentric. In fact, my teacher highly valued the art of boxing and did not want it to become common. My teacher used to travel to meetings in Beijing with the director of the municipal sports commission. They stayed in a hotel and the director wanted to learn the art of boxing from my teacher. My teacher knew he was not the right person for training in boxing and did not take him seriously. That night, my teacher was training his art and the director heard him make a loud sound with his belly. In the morning, he asked my teacher for an explanation. My teacher just answered him humorously: “I am sick with hysteria.”

My teacher said some people would feel inferior in dealing with officials, but we had to be a class above when dealing with them, because when someone wants to learn the boxing art, no matter how high they are in rank and position, they are just a student or disciple, and we are the teachers or masters. If you are the governor of a province, then we are the teachers or masters of the governor. Training must be conducted according to the rules of the martial arts, otherwise it is not possible to extract the real art from the training.

们都说恩师古怪,其实是恩师特别看重拳艺,不肯让拳艺随俗。曾经和一个市体委的主任一起去北京开会,两人住在一个房间里,主任想跟恩师学拳。恩师知道他不是练拳的材料,就敷衍他。夜间主任听得恩师练功,肚里忽隆隆地响,天明了问恩师,恩师诙谐说:发癔症呢’。恩师说别人见了领导是自矮三分,咱们是见了领导是官加一级,因为你要学拳,无论多大的官,你也是学生、弟子;我就是老师、师父,你是省长,那么我就是省长的师父,就得按武行的规矩行事,要不练不出武艺来。

“From this story, my teacher might seem very arrogant. But actually it is a matter of having respect for the teacher. Once you were lucky enough to be a disciple of my teacher, he would take painstaking care and effort with you. One winter, not long after I was accepted as his disciple, during one of the coldest days of winter, I woke up in the morning to see it was snowing outside. I just wanted to be lazy. Just when I got back under the warm blanket to go back to sleep, I heard a knock on the door, and teacher’s voice: “I was conveniently passing by, on my way a sports committee meeting and decided to look in on you.” I knew no meeting would be held at six in the morning during the dark cold of winter. He just came to see whether I was up and training. An old man at almost 80, riding his bicycle on a snowy day, from Qingnan Lu all the way to the Finance and Economy College, to check up on his disciple’s training. I was really very moved by his devoted spirit.

这个故事看似恩师很傲慢,崇尚师道尊严,其实不是。你只要有幸成为恩师的弟子,他会把心血在你身上熬干。那是我投师不久的一年冬季,正是数九寒天,早上醒来,看见外面雪花纷飞,就偷了赖。钻在热乎乎的被子里刚要睡着,就听见当当的敲门声,就听见恩师的声音:“我去体委开会,顺便来看看你。”我知道,那有大冬天黑个隆冬早上六点开会的,是看我起来练功没练功呢。快八十岁的老人,从青年路,大雪天,骑着自行车到财经学院查看徒弟练功,想想恩师的这种敬业精神真让人感动。

“Throughout his life, my teacher compared his art with numerous people and triumphed over them. But he was against the powerful bullying the weak. At that time, I was young and powerful. I met with a senior master in Beijing, who was very talkative, saying how powerful he was, and how he had disciples over China. He demanded that we push hands. The result was that I threw him down and I was very pleased. When I returned, I told my teacher, hoping he would be happy about my deeds. Instead, my teacher sighed: “Song, do not be happy, everyone will get old.” My teacher’s kindness made me regret this incident throughout my life.

师一生和人较艺无数、胜人无数。但反对以强凌弱。那时候我年轻气盛,在北京遇到一个老师父,老师父口若悬河,说自己如何如何了得,徒弟遍及全国,要教我推手,结果我把他扔了出去,心里很高兴,回来告诉恩师,本来以为恩师会高兴,恩师却感叹说:“小宋——,不要高兴,人都是要老的!”恩师的善良让我对此事反悔一生。

“My teacher’s selfless contribution to the development of Nei Jia Quan can also be seen in his publication of a Tai Ji Quan manuscript. This manuscript on Tai Ji Quan, cherished and collected by my teacher, is not an ordinary boxing manuscript that talks about the theory or shows the empty forms. It is in fact a detailed record on how to train the gong fu, and how to practically use Jing-Li (strength) and shou fa (hand methods). I can say that it is a rare and invaluable martial arts manual.

师在传播内家拳的无私奉献还表现把珍藏多年的太极拳谱奉献出来。恩师珍藏的太极拳谱不像一般拳谱那样只是泛泛的理论或空洞无物的简单拳架,而是修炼功夫和实用劲力、手法的记叙,可以说是难能可贵的武术秘笈。

“The time flies like an arrow and ten years have passed. Now, any time when I feel puzzled in my training, I recall my teacher, his smile and voice, just like yesterday. I remember ten years ago on October 16th, I accompanied my teacher to teach in Shanghai, and he demonstrated to all of us in the afternoon and evening and gave a lecture on the martial arts. In demonstrating Heng Quan, he was able to lift up a person of over 100 kilos with single arm. Who knew it was his last chance in his life to teach the students. Back in Taiyuan on the 17th, he told my school brother Li Runxi (Li’s son): “I must leave”. At midnight that night, he had no blood pressure. On the day of the 18th, he finished his ordinary and yet remarkable life.

光阴似箭,不觉十年,如今练拳每有困惑,就想起恩师来,恩师的音容笑貌,如同昨日。记得十年前的1016日我还跟着恩师去古交教拳,下午、晚上恩师又是给大家示范,又是给大家讲拳,在讲横拳的时候还能把二百多斤的人单臂挑起来,谁知竟然是一生最后的一次带人习艺。17号回到太原后就给润喜哥说:我要走了,到了晚上12点就没有了血压,18日白天结束了他平凡而又具有价值的一生。

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