Ancient Wisdom in a Modern Era
Da Cheng Quan, Wang Xianzhai
Dachengquan ~ Mind Boxing
abound in yiquan. It was the internal core of these other arts that made them effective. This core is what Master Wang decoded. In essence, there is only one principle of merit in all martial arts, one core, one moment of truth, one Natural Fist.
Overview of Yiquan
The actual training in yiquan can generally be divided into:
- Zhan zhuang (站樁) Standing pole postures where emphasis is put on natural condition, working to improve listening to the body and on developing hunyuan li, "Natural living force" or "all things that make the whole".
- Shi li (試力) Testing force moving exercises, trying to bring the sensations of hunyuan li developed through Zhan zhuang into movements.
- Moca bu (摩擦步) Friction stepping Shi li for the legs.
- Fa li Emission of force (a practice later dropped by Wang)
Yi Quan (意拳) which literally means "Mind Boxing", also known as Da Cheng Quan (大成拳 - "Great Achievement Boxing"), is a martial art system which was founded by the Chinese xingyiquan master, Wang Xiangzhai (王薌齋).
Yi Quan History
Wang Xiangzhai (November 26, 1885 - July 12, 1963), also known as Nibao, Zhenghe, Yuseng, was a Chinese xingyiquan master, responsible for founding the martial art of Yiquan.
Wang Xiangzhai was born in Hebei province, China. As he was a very weak child, his parents decided to send him to the famous Xingyiquan master Guo Yunshen to improve his health.
The Wang family had always had connections with the Guo family, Master Guo Yunshen taught him zhanzhuang gong (post standing postures) that the young Xiangzhai had to keep standing for hours.
During his young adult life, Wang Xiangzhai became a soldier in Beijing and at the age of 33, he went all around China, studying martial arts with many famous masters including monk Heng Lin, Xinyiquan master Xie Tiefu, southern white crane style masters
Ancient Wisdom in a Modern Era
as well as in Tianjin and Shanghai. At this period of his life he met the respected Liuhebafa Chuan master Wu Yi Hui and also became friends with the Baguazhang master Zhang zhaodong.
In the 1930s in Shanghai, Wang studied medicine and culture with Qian Yan Tang, a famous scholar and doctor. It was here that Qian introduced the idea that further exploration of Zhan Zhuang (standing practice) might be fundamental to the development of Yiquan. Wang researched this idea in the doctor's library, which was full of classic texts Wang was always changing the practice
and method of Yiquan, always innovating based on natural principles.
He started to teach many influential martial artists including Hong Lianshun, Zhao Daoxin, the Han brothers (xingqiao and xingyuan), Yao Zongxun, Wang Shujin (who studied Zhan zhuang for one year), and others.
He first named his teaching Yiquan, in reference to the Xingyiquan and Xinyiquan styles. Later, in the 1940's, one of his disciples who was a journalist publicly called it
Fang Yizhuang and Jin Shaofeng, Liuhebafa master Wu Yi Hui, etc. Learning from his experience and honoring the truly skilled, Wang made a public statement in 1928:
"I have traveled across the country in research, engaging over a thousand people in martial combat, there have been only 2.5 people I could not defeat, namely Hunan's Xie Tie Fu, Fujian's Fang Yi Zhuang and Shanghai's Wu Yi Hui."
Having studied xingyiquan with Guo Yunshen in his childhood, traveling and comparing skills with masters of various styles of kung fu, in the mid-1920s, he came to the conclusion that xingyiquan was often taught with too much emphasis on 'outer form', neglecting the essence of true martial power. He then started to teach what he felt was the true essence of the art using a different name, without the 'xing' (meaning form). Wang Xiangzhai, who had a great knowledge about the theory and history of his art, used the name "Yiquan" (意拳) as it had already been used in historical texts, such as the "liuhequan xu" (foreword to the six harmonies boxing, said to be written by Dai Longbang himself : "When Yue Fei was a child, he received special instructions from Zhou Tong. He became skilled in the spear method. He then used his spear art to create a fist method and called it Yi Quan. Mysterious and fabulous, nobody had never had such skills before...".
After 7 years of research and study, Wang established himself in Beijing and penetrated the circle of famous masters in this city
Dachengquan, which means "great achievement boxing". It is still known by both these names today, however this name was no longer used by Wang Xiangzhai at the end of his life and, thus, his students came back to the first name of their master's teaching (Yiquan) after his death.
He was one of the first Chinese teachers to publicly teach the practice of Zhan zhuang, or 'standing like a tree' methods.
He received the visit of many Japanese experts during the war. One, Kenichi Sawai became his student and created his own school in Japan calling his martial art Taikiken. Sawaii was primarily instructed by Wang's successor Yao Zongxun.
At the end of his life he performed research into the healing aspect of Zhan zhuang and worked with different hospitals. He died in 1963 in Tianjin, from a disease.
The style of Yiquan
Yiquan is essentially formless, containing no fixed sets of fighting movements or techniques. Instead, focus is put on developing one's natural movement and fighting abilities through a system of training methods and concepts, working to improve the perception of one's body, its movement, and of force. Yiquan is also set apart from other eastern martial arts in that traditional concepts like qi, meridians, dantian etc., are omitted, the reason being that understanding one's true nature happens in the present, and that preconceptions block this process.
Yiquan seems to have been influenced by various other arts that Wang was exposed to, including Fujian hèquán, Tai chi chuan, bāguàzhǎng, and Liuhebafa. Other arts as well, such as the swimming dragon posture, present in shiao jiao, is transformed through feeling, understanding, and the condition of the practitioner. In fact, typical movements and postures from other systems
- Shi Sheng - Producing sound with voice a high level occurrence, only relative to those with a formidable understanding already in place.
- JiJi Fa - Real combat, not sparring.
Principle of Nature
All truth and action occur in Shunjian, the split second of now. Everything before and after this moment is 'Wu', the Void, and thus, uncontrollable or unknowable. All objective and preconception is fixed and not in accordance with this undetermined state of Nature. "The Dao that is called the Dao is not the eternal Dao".
Yi Quan Schools
Famous schools include the Han Xing Yuan (韓星垣) School, the Han Xing Qiao (韓星橋) School, the Han Shi Yiquan school (founded by Han Jing Chen), son of Han Xing Qiao), and the Li Jian Yu (李見宇) School. Teachers of modern yiquan include Yao Chengguang (姚承光) and Yao Chengrong (姚承榮), twin sons of Yao Zongxun (姚宗勛) and Cui Ruibin of Beijing. Teachers in the USA include Fong Ha of Berkeley, CA (student of Han Xing Yuan), Andrew Plack (Han Shi Yi Quan), Glenn Pasion (Han Shi Yi Quan) of Hawaii, Sifu Gregory Fong of Portland, Oregon, and Sifu John Koo of Portland, Oregon.
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