The Third Rep: 2003-05-06
by Jerry Karin
I’ve been reading a great deal in Chinese and have had a lot of luck in finding things I wanted to read, chiefly due to the kind offices of Louis Swaim. I am going to present some snippets of my readings in English translation here. I will be adding these as I get them typed up, so check in from time to time for new additions.
Researches in Taijiquan
2003-05-12, I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the following anecdote, which comes from Wang Jiaxiang’s Researches in Taijiquan, Yang Style Volume, p 30:
In the early years of the Republic (started 1911) Shen Jiazhen learned taijiquan from Yang Chengfu for a protracted period. He once asked Yang Chengfu: “As far as fa jing goes, what’s the best move to practice to improve strength and most easily increase ability (gongfu)?” Yang Chengfu taught him a move:
The right fist was lifted high, protecting the head. The eye of the fist and the tiger’s mouth faced backward. The left fist protected the right ribcage, with the eye of fist and tiger’s mouth facing the underarm and the elbow hanging down near the left ribcage. The left leg was lifted till the (thigh) was level, protecting the crotch. It suddenly dropped, striking the ground and making a sound. Then a step forward with the right foot, the forward knee bending, back leg extending, the pair of fists both rushing forward using reverse reeling energy. The left fist was held high protecting the head, the eye of the fist and tiger’s mouth facing backward. The right fist protected the left ribcage with the eye of fist and tiger’s mouth facing the underarm and the elbow hanging near the right ribcage. The right leg was lifted till the (thigh) was level, protecting the crotch. It suddenly dropped, striking the ground and making a sound. Then a step forward with the left foot, the forward knee bending, back leg extending, the pair of fists rushing forward using reverse reeling energy.
The energy was complete, crisp and quick, with hard and soft alternating. Shen was puzzled by it. The taijiquan that he had learned following Yang Chengfu did not include this movement, but he didn’t dare ask more about it. Only later when Shen learned the second routine cannon fist from Chen Fake did he realize that what Yang Chengfu had shown him earlier was the Zuo Chong and You Chong (left and right charge) moves from Chen style cannon fist. This proves that the Yangs, up until Yang Chengfu, were familiar with Chen Old style second routine.
Taiji Quan, Qi Ren Qi Gong
2003-05-06, The first snippet is a couple of short excerpts from a book called Taiji Quan, Qi Ren Qi Gong (“Tai Chi Chuan, Unusual Personages and their Unusual Abilities”) By Yan Hanxiu. (In my Taiwan reprint edition this is on page 132, talking about Yang Zhenduo).
In the past when earlier generations of the Yang family taught, this was generally always a matter of the teacher at the front of the class demonstrating and the students following along. Seldom did they lecture or discourse about the principles of the movements, or taiji theory. This is how Yang Zhenduo himself learned. Over several decades from his teaching experience and his own practice, he has put together a method of teaching which really works. He has boiled down the requirements for each move into a set of short narrative phrases which are great for practice and easy to remember. When Yang Zhenduo teaches he simultaneously recites the narrative and demonstrates the movements himself.
For example, for right ward off his boiled down narrative is:
zhong4xin1 lue4 xiang4 you4 Shifting the weight a bit towards the right, yao1dai4 zuo3 jiao3 kou4 with the waist turn the left foot in, yao1 yao4 xiang4 zuo3 zhuan3 waist must turn toward the left, zhong1xin1 xiang4 zuo3 yi2 center of gravity shifts leftward, you4 bei4 huan2 zai4 zuo3 bei4 xia4 fang1 right arm circles under left arm, liang3 bei4 xiang1 he2 the two arms closing together, ti2 tuei3 man4 bu4 pick up the foot and step out, gong1 tuei3 you4 bei4 peng2 qi3 bending the knee ward off with right arm zuo3 shou3 zhi2 yu2 you4 bei4 zhou3 wan3 zhi1 jian1 left hand positioned between right elbow and wrist.
Note: I’ve long thought that the kou jue or short narrative was one of the chief pedagogical innovations of Yang Zhenduo. Another is the more precise terminology he employs for angles and degrees (feet, turns, etc).
Here is another snippet from an article in the same book about Yang Hou Zhuqing, the widow of Yang Chengfu.
After Yang Chengfu passed away, there came into her keeping a book of ancestral instructions and a hand-copied copy of a book of recipes for curing martial arts injuries. The ancestral instructions recorded the narrative of Yang style founder Yang Luchan as well as each successive generation of family inheritors of the style. The hand-copied book of recipes for curing martial arts injuries recorded secret recipes showing when a particular body part was injured how to treat it etc. When Yang Chengfu was teaching, if his students were injured while practicing they would use wine steeped in the herbs from the recipe in the book, rubbing it in and getting immediate relief. She regarded these two objects as treasures, kept them locked in a box, and never allowed anyone to see them.
During the Cultural Revolution some ignorant people came to search the house. Emptying out boxes and shelves, when they pulled these two objects out from the bottom of the box and saw that the paper was old and yellowed, they reviled it as part of the ‘Four Old things” and destroyed them on the spot. She and Yang Zhenguo stood on one side watching, hearts bursting with sadness but with no recourse. The Yang family martial arts have been passed down by other means, but the book of ancestral instructions and book of recipes perished in this way.
Translation Copyright © 2003 Gerald N. Karin. All rights reserved.