AUTHENTIC EXPLANATIONS OF MARTIAL ARTS CONCEPTS
by Sun Fuquan [Lutang]
[published March, 1924]
[translation by Paul Brennan, April, 2013]
PREFACE [BY CHEN WEIMING]
After Sun Lutang had learned the boxing arts of Xingyi, Bagua, and Taiji, he feared that with the passage of time their genuineness would be lost. Thus he has produced this book, relating the essential ideas of previous generations of teachers so as to give them free rein. After he completed the manuscript, he told me to write a preface for it.
These three boxing systems are fundamentally the same in concept. Most emphasize using strength to defeat an opponent, thereby corrupting their own essential source. But by not seeking to defeat your opponent, your spirit is in motion and the mechanics of your movement are rounded, rendering the opponent incapable of defeating you. Your source thus remains pure, and by being pure, your skill conforms with the Way. Indeed, Sun’s books all conform with the messages of Daoism.
When he learned Xingyi, he did obeisance to Li Kuiyuan. Li’s teacher was Guo Yunshen, and Sun’s real learning is from Guo, for he followed him for the longest amount of time. When he was young, he abandoned his occupation and accompanied Guo around the provinces. When Guo rode his horse, he galloped. Sun grasped the horse’s tail and chased after it, running so fast that no one could have caught up, daily covering more than thirty miles.
Arriving in Beijing, he heard that Cheng Tinghua, a student of Dong Haichuan, was excellent at the Bagua boxing art. He visited him and fully received his art. Cheng helped him become more agile than ordinary people and was pleased to instruct him.
What Sun had earlier learned from Guo and later learned from Cheng, he refined over several years. When he went on his own travels, his skill was heard of wherever he went, and he was inevitably paid visits. He never refused a challenge and was never defeated. Therefore Guo and Cheng both supported him by saying: “This is a student who is truly incapable of humiliating his teachers.”
Once he was over fifty years old, he made his home in the capital. Hao Weizhen had come from Guangping. He was an expert in Taiji Boxing, and while Sun was discussing with him about its concepts, Hao said: “How strange. I said one thing about it and you realized all, surpassing my concentrated practice of decades.”
Therefore Sun harmonized the three systems and was able to obtain their essence. He committed them to writing, honoring previous generations and inspiring later generations, peerless in his aim of illuminating the methods and skills of the internal school. As to their method of movement and stillness cultivating each other, the principles are deep. Their teachings are well-presented in the book so that readers will easily come to understand them.
I have briefly related how Sun obtained these methods. Making use of what you find in his book, hard work will then take you through to attaining them, and these will not be empty words.
– written by Chen Zengze [Weiming] of Qishui [in Hubei], Dec, 1923
[PREFACE BY WU XINGU]
Sun Lutang has authored three books on Xingyi, Bagua, and Taiji for the benefit of new generations of students, and his skills are not superficial. However, he worries that those who do not understand them will use martial arts as a tool to resist invaders only by way of reckless courage.
Therefore he has made this book so that the profound ideas within these boxing arts may be fully elucidated. Recorded in this book are the ordinary things he heard from all these teachers from the older generation, one after another, so that those who love boxing arts can from this advance to the Way.
In order that the true meaning of martial arts not fall into oblivion, he has taken great pains. The reason the title contains “Authentic Explanations” is because the basic intention is to pass these things on without embellishment, which further demonstrates his modesty and virtue.
– respectfully written by Wu Xingu, Dec, 1923
The Way is the root source of the passive and active aspects, and is the essence of all things. When the Way was not yet expressed, it was suspended in the Void, and since the Way was expressed, it has been flowing within all things. [from Mengzi, chapter 3a:] “The Way is One, and that is all.” In Nature it is called “fate”. In people is called “nature”. In things it is called “principle”. In boxing arts it is called “internal power”, hence the “internal” schools of boxing arts, in which there are the three systems of Xingyi, Bagua, and Taiji.
Their postures are different, but at their limit is the Way of returning to emptiness, and in this way they are the same. It says in the Book of Changes [Great Treatise, part 1]: “The Way is the passive AND the active.” To incline toward the passive OR the active is wrong. Throughout your life, if your eating and drinking are not regulated, your energy and blood not harmonized, or your essence and spirit not roused, all these will put your passive and active aspects out of balance as a result. Therefore people long ago created the internal schools of boxing arts to get you to concentrate and ponder upon the theory and to get your body’s movements to conform with the Way, thus enabling you to return to your original essence.
In our nation’s boxing arts, there are so many schools, and their postures and applications are so varied. In a whole lifetime, you would not be able to even count them all, and even if given all the time in the world, we would not be able to exhaustively examine their methodologies. When I was young, I was fond of practicing boxing arts, and my disposition is toward the three systems of Xingyi, Bagua, and Taiji. I have studied for more than fifty years and have obtained their essentials. I have written books for each, which have already been published. Now I am also taking what I have been told over the years by previous generations of teachers and putting it all into a book so that students may obtain their authentic ideas.
The postures of the three boxing arts are different, but their theory is the same. Their applications may be different, yet they have controlling the opponent as their core, and so they defeat opponents in the same way. Within a single system of boxing, everyone’s explanations and postures are not identical, owing either to how they use them or just to differences from one person to another.
The methods of these three boxing systems begin with the principle of oneness, divide from there into the three distinct branches, then end up united again in the principle of oneness. Each of the three systems has its own way of oneness: Xingyi Boxing’s sincerity is a pure oneness, Bagua Boxing’s infinity of techniques is a returning to oneness, and Taiji Boxing’s embracing of original nature is a maintaining of oneness. It was said by men long ago [Laozi – Daodejing, chapter 39 / Zhuangzi, chapter 12]: “The sky obtains oneness by being clear. The ground obtains oneness by being firm. Man obtains oneness by being smart.” / “Obtaining the One, all things are accomplished.” The principle of the three systems is always to begin in emptiness and to end in emptiness. Therefore the way the teachers of the three boxing arts practiced can be equivalent to the three schools of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism – with their special theories of sincerity, undifferentiation, and non-identity – merging to become one.
I deeply fear that all the effort those teachers put into perfecting these things will be wasted with the passing of time. Thus I transmit it to share with those who will appreciate it. However, I am ashamed of my own learning, how shallow, ignorant, and illiterate I am, and that I cannot give full expression to their wonderful ideas. It would be good if their methods can be further elaborated upon, and so I hope my comrades will make more information available as it comes to light.
– written by Sun Fuquan of Wan County, Hebei, 1923
Chapter One: Brief Biographies of Xingyi Boxing Teachers
Li Luoneng [Nengran]
Chapter Two: Brief Biographies of Bagua Boxing Teachers
Chapter Three: Brief Biographies of Taiji Boxing Teachers
Wu Yurang [Yuxiang]
Chapter Four: Xingyi Boxing
Guo Yunshen Said… (fourteen parts)
Bai Xiyuan Said…
Liu Qilan Said… (three parts)
Song Shirong Said… (three parts)
Che Yizhai Said…
Zhang Shude Said…
Liu Xiaolan Said…
Li Jingzhai Said…
Li Cunyi Said… (two parts)
Tian Jingjie Said…
Li Kuiyuan Said… (four parts)
Geng Chengxin Said…
Zhou Mingtai Said…
Xu Zhan’ao Said… (two parts)
Chapter Five: Bagua Boxing
Cheng Tinghua Said…
Chapter Six: Taiji Boxing
Hao Weizhen Said…
Chen Xiufeng Said…
Chapter Seven: Selected Highlights from Xingyi Boxing Manuals
Chapter Eight: My Experience of Practicing Boxing Arts & The Essential Concept Within the Three Systems
CHAPTER ONE: BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES OF XINGYI BOXING TEACHERS
Li Feiyu, called Nengran – over the generations called Laoneng, Luoneng, Luonong, or Laonong, all turnings upon a similar sound – was from Shen County, Hebei. He was a merchant in Taigu County, Shanxi. Fond of martial arts, he heard that in the next county there was a Dai Longbang who was an expert at Xingyi Boxing, and he went to visit him.
When he met him for the first time, Dai’s speech and deportment were very elegant and he did not seem like a top martial artist, but his heart was not in favor of accepting Li and so he declined him. Another day, a friend introduced him as a favor. Li then did obeisance to Dai and became his student at the age of thirty-seven.
Once he received the instruction, he practiced day and night. For a whole two years, all he had learned was one of the five elements techniques, namely the chopping technique, and half of the Continuous Boxing set. Although what he learned was not much, he was not of a mind to ask for more. He sincerely practiced every day without interruption.
That year was the eightieth birthday of Dai’s mother, and Dai went forward to honor her with his good wishes. The guests that had arrived were not relatives and friends, but were Dai’s students. After she had been congratulated on her birthday, he gathered the martial artists and they all practiced in the birthday hall, each going through everything they had learned, except that Li was only doing half of the Continuous Boxing set. Dai’s mother was fond of boxing arts, and she understood all the principles and postures of Xingyi Boxing. Finally she asked Dai why Li had only done half the set, and he answered: “He has only learned that much.”
“This man has been learning for two whole years and he has been taught very little. He looks like he has become sincere and honest. He can be given this method. Diligently teach it to him,” she commanded. Being a dutiful son, he received his mother’s instructions and then taught Li everything he knew.
Li painstakingly trained until he was forty-seven, and then his learning was complete, the Xingyi Boxing theory attained in every detail. Whenever he competed with others, he always did whatever he felt like and his technique succeeded. He was then highly renowned, known of throughout several northern provinces. His students were Guo Yunshen, Liu Qilan, Bai Xiyuan, Li Taihe, Che Yizhai, Song Shirong, and others. His reputation kept growing and his theory kept deepening.
In the same county was a certain man who came top in the imperial military exams. His body was strong and he was an extraordinary man, also an expert in boxing arts. With Li he was simple and friendly, but of Li’s martial art he was secretly unconvinced. He always wanted to challenge others, but when he was on such friendly terms, he was too shy to say so. One day they were conversing in a room, talking and laughing like everything was normal. But he began to decide to test Li after all, and with the intention of catching him totally unprepared.
When he acted, he took advantage of the unexpectedness of it, sneaking up behind Li to clutch him and forcefully lift him up. And as he extended a hand, his body was already soaring diagonally upward, his head went into the ceiling, and then he fell back down with both feet standing on the ground rather than falling down.
He suspected Li of sorcery, but Li informed him: “It’s not sorcery, it’s just that at the highest level the boxing art is a spiritual skill. As it is unperceived, it seems miraculous and beyond your comprehension.” From that point, his contemporaries dubbed him “Magic Boxing” Li Nengran.
He was more than eighty years old when he died. Sitting on a chair, he smiled and passed away.
Guo Yusheng, called Yunshen, was from Ma Village, Shen County, Hebei. When he was young he was fond of practicing boxing arts. He trained for several years but got nothing out of it. Later he met Li Nengran and talked with him about the Xingyi boxing art. Its postures are very simple, yet its theory is profound. He adored it. Li saw he had a sincere heart and finally accepted him as his student, teaching him personally.
After Guo obtained the transmission, he contemplated its ideas until he understood them, and then his body acted according to them. Day and night he trained for more than ten years as Li passed on his techniques to him, so that when Guo drilled with a partner, he suddenly crowded the space and a body fell down more than twenty feet away. His partner felt no pain, only aware of a gentle flick, and Guo walked away with a swagger. Guo completed Li’s instructional course through the three-levels theory, and he achieved in form and function a profound standard of technical skill, as well as great skill in the arts of sword, saber, and spear, all of which he become quite perfect in.
He often traveled to various provinces, broadening his associations with people in both northern and southern styles who were of similar thinking, and he had many experiences. He once exhibited a test of his skill, calling for five strong men all at once to each hold a wooden staff and to press their points into his belly. The five men made their stances stable and pressed from their feet, then with a single bulge of his belly, all five of them shot upwards in unison and fell on their butts more than ten feet away. Also, when he practiced the tiger form, his body leapt beyond thirty feet.
The principle that he trained was for his belly to be completely solid but his mind be completely empty. His posture’s manner was as heavy as Mt. Tai, yet his body’s movement was as light as a flying bird. Therefore if ever he happened to be caught up in some incident by surprise, you only heard about it if you saw it for yourself, whatever it was, since when it happened he was so fierce and fast that at any time his body could evade it.
He was well-versed in military literature and was also an expert in unorthodox tactics. He wrote Explaining the Xingyi Boxing Classics with detail and clarity. It was given to me to treasure but was later unexpectedly stolen by someone. I do not know nowadays where it is and I am unable to send it to the publishers so it can be spread for the enlightening of later students. It has disappeared without trace, and this is a tragedy. [It seems possible that much of Sun’s motivation for making this book, which concentrates most of all on Guo’s teachings, was to make amends for losing that one.] His cherished skills and talents have not made it to today, and of the many people who have received his teachings, they are only in a few northern provinces.
He later shrugged off town life and lived in his native neighborhood. He was more than 70 years old when he died.
Liu Qilan was from Shen County, Hebei. Fond of boxing arts, he did obeisance to Li Nengran and learned the art of Xingyi Boxing. Liu shrugged off town life and lived in a farmhouse, and there he taught students. He associated with the various styles without being biased toward his own, and when martial artists met him for the first time, he would [defuse the need for a challenge] by immediately voicing much admiration for their students.
He was more than seventy years old when he died. Among his students, Li Cunyi, Geng Chengxin, Zhou Mingtai were the three most skilled. His son, Dianchen, wrote Selected Subtleties of Xingyi Boxing, which elaborates upon his method.
Song Shirong is from Wanping County [in Beijing]. He delights in hearing Kunqu opera and in playing encirclement chess, and also adores martial arts. In Taigu County, Shanxi, he opened a clockmaker’s shop. He heard Li Nengran was superb at boxing arts, considered at that time to be the best. He begged someone to introduce him, then did obeisance to Li and became his student. Ever since Song received instruction, he has trained hard day and night without interruption up to this day. What he learned was the techniques of the five elements and twelve animals, learning the subtleties of each to their fullest extent.
When practicing the snake technique, he can do it exactly like a snake. When twisting his torso to the left, his right hand can absorb to his right heel, and when twisting his torso to the right, his left hand can absorb to his left heel. When turning around and pausing in the posture, his body is just like a snake coiling into a ball. While striding through the movements, his body winds and turns like a snake wriggling through the grass.
When imitating the swallow, his body gets so close to the ground, he can slip through under a stool and come out more than ten feet away. The name of this posture is SWALLOW TAKES UP WATER. He also practices LEOPARD CLIMBS THE TREE (These relate to the individual techniques within the boxing art.), in which his body leaps up, his hands and feet both sticking to the wall, and he stays for a second or two. Such moments have been frequently witnessed, by his Xingyi colleagues and by practitioners from other systems. Nowadays there are a great many people who have seen with their own eyes his abilities in practicing the various postures. His study of the skills of the animals is so deep, he can in each fulfill its personality and thus transmit its spirit.
Long ago he was acquainted with a certain actor, who said: “While in Guihua [now called Hohhot in Inner Mongolia], I personally got to see him in competition with another. Both men were more than ten feet apart. The challenger extended his body and launched forward, shooting out a hand, but then the man’s body was already going away at the speed of an arrow and he fell down more than twenty feet away. Song had not moved at all except for a flick of his hands to the challenger’s body.” When I was in my early twenties, I had a stay in Beijing, at Bai Xiyuan’s house in Xiaoxi’er Alley. The actor and Bai lived opposite each other and I heard him tell this tale to Bai.
In Jan, 1923, a colleague of mine went to Taigu to do obeisance to Song, who is this year more than eighty years old. His spirit is as robust and his body as nimble as when he was in the prime of his life. When my colleague returned, he told me: “When Song talks about boxing arts, he is still enraptured. The theory that comes out of his mouth forms identically in his body. He has totally forgotten that his body is old, and his health does not seem to be declining at all.”
Che Yonghong, called Yizhai, was from a wealthy home in Taigu County, Shanxi. He learned boxing arts from Li Nengran. After he obtained the method, he looked upon wealth and rank as passing clouds.
He shrugged off town life and lived in the countryside, where he taught many students, and out of those able to expound upon his method, the best was Qiao Jintang of Qi County, Shanxi. Che found constant delight in Daoism. He was more than eighty years old when he died.
Zhang Shude was from Qi Prefecture, Hebei. When he was young he loved practicing martial arts, and did obeisance to Li Nengran for instruction. He trained in each of the arts of boxing, sword, saber, and spear, merging them into a single art, treating boxing as sword and sword as boxing, and his spear technique was superb. Visitors came to compete against his spear technique and they were all defeated by him.
He shrugged off town life and lived in the countryside, where he taught many students. There is now no lack of people carrying on his skills. He was more than eighty years old when he died.
Liu Xiaolan was from Hejian County, Hebei. He was a merchant of the towns of Yizhou and Xiling. He delighted in martial arts and when he was young he trained in Baji Boxing, becoming very skilled. Later he did obeisance to Li Nengran for instruction and studied the art of Xingyi Boxing.
He taught a great many students in his home province. In his old age his spirit was increasingly robust. He was more than eighty years old when he died.
Li Jingzhai was from Xin’an County, Hebei. Because he was filial and upright, he was appointed as a professor. He loved boxing arts and in his sixty-third year he did obeisance to Li Nengran for instruction, spending the most of his time studying together with Guo Yunshen, training until he was past seventy years old.
He very much obtained the knack, his movement as light and nimble as one still in the prime of life, about which he said: “At this point I then understood that the principles of boxing arts and Confucian teachings are not exclusive to each other, but are in accord with each other.” He died at the age of eighty.
Li Cunyi, called Zhongyuan, was from Shen County, Hebei. He treated wealth lightly and gave weight to honor. He was fond of boxing arts, and when he was young he practiced both Long Boxing and Short Boxing. Later he did obeisance to become Liu Qilan’s student and learned the art of Xingyi Boxing, training for more than ten years.
He became a bodyguard and went all over the provinces. Once when he encountered thieves in his path, he faced them with a single saber in his hand and they did not dare advance. Maybe they had heard of his reputation, for his spirit of righteousness conquered them and they avoided facing him altogether. Therefore people called him “Single Saber” Li.
In 1912, he established the Warriors’ Association in Tianjin, where he taught students and never tired of teaching. He was more than seventy years old when he died.
Tian Jingjie is from Raoyang County, Hebei. He loves martial arts and did obeisance to Liu Qilan for instruction. He worked as a bodyguard for many years. Throughout his life he has encountered many strange incidents, but unfortunately I cannot recall them and therefore cannot relate them.
He is over seventy years old and lives in the countryside, exercising daily to delight himself in his old age.
Li Dianying, called Kuiyuan, was from Laishui County, Hebei, from a village called Dianshang Behind-the-Mountains. When he was young he attended school and excelled in small-script calligraphy. He was fond of boxing arts and learned Tantui, Baji, and other styles from a man named Xu from Yi Prefecture. Li’s skill became very refined and his strength very great.
When he was in the prime of life, he was a bodyguard for government facilities and became very well-known. He was always fond of competing with opponents and frequently won. Later he encountered Guo Yunshen in competition. Li was an expert at using his legs. He lifted up his foot to kick and noticed Guo make a mere stroke with his hand. Behind Li there was a wooden stool, and he went over it and fell to the ground more than ten feet away. He got up and apologized for any offense, then did obeisance and became Guo’s student. He attended upon Guo as if they were father and son.
After meeting Guo, he learned from him for several years, training day and night. He received the theory and mastered it inside and out, complete in every detail, though when I received instruction from him, his skill was not yet so exquisite. After he obtained the method, he was often a clerk, but never discussed boxing arts casually. I was then attending upon Guo Yunshen and receiving instruction from him. Although Li did not talk about boxing arts with people, he still practiced his boxing without slackening, and other people did not even know it. He was more than seventy years old when he died.
Geng Jishan, called Chengxin, is from Shen County, Hebei. Fond of martial arts, he did obeisance to Liu Qilan for instruction and learned Xingyi Boxing.
He shrugged off town life and lives in the countryside, delighting in Daoism and passing on his skills to many students. Though he is now over seventy years old, his body is nimble and he is as robust as one in the prime of life.
Zhou Mingtai was from Raoyang County, Hebei. When he was a boy, he was a personal servant in Liu Qilan’s household. Being fond of martial arts, he did obeisance to Liu for instruction. He trained for several years and then was a bodyguard for many years.
In the region of Mo Prefecture, Hebei, are many of his students. He died above the age of sixty.
Xu Zhan’ao, called Pengcheng, was from a wealthy household in Ding County, Hebei. When he was young he attended school and excelled at calligraphy. He was fond of martial arts, hired private instructors, and trained in the arts of Long Boxing, saber, spear, and sword. His body was as nimble as a flying bird, and those who knew him described him as “surpassing the feathered ones”.
Later he did obeisance to Guo Yunshen for instruction and learned the Xingyi boxing art. He taught many students and was above the age of sixty when he died.
CHAPTER TWO: BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES OF BAGUA BOXING TEACHERS
Dong Haichuan was from Zhu Family Village, Wen’an County, Shuntian Prefecture [an old way to describe Beijing]. He delighted in practicing martial arts, and traveled as far as the other side of the Yangzte River in Anhui, where he gained instruction from a unique man. He stayed for three years, learning boxing arts, sword arts, and all kinds of weapons, attaining perfection in everything, and then he returned and entered into service as a manservant in Prince Rui’s [Su’s] residence. People often knew that he had rare abilities and were constantly prostrating themselves before him to receive instruction.
The boxing art he taught was known as Bagua [“Eight Trigrams”]. Its postures are all based on the numberings of the He River Diagram and the Luo River Document. Its essence is entirely the theory of the innate and the acquired. Its function is the eight by eight sixty-four hexagrams, changing without end, a part of the theory of the Book of Changes. Even down to an inch his form was without gap. Therefore whether he was walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, his transformations were magical, and he was an extraordinary person to behold.
While sitting in cross-legged meditation on a stormy summer day, a wall suddenly collapsed. He was at that moment meditating in a depression in the ground next to it. Dong had not yet opened his eyes, but his student nearby had seen when the wall collapsed, and in the instant he looked to his teacher, he found Dong had suddenly disappeared and was already sitting cross-legged in a chair somewhere else, and that on his body there was no dust.
While he was taking a nap in late autumn, a student went to cover him up, gently covering his body, and unexpectedly he had covered the bed only and Dong had vanished. He was startled upon turning and seeing him sitting in a chair and looking out the window. It is said the student’s words were: “No words can express my surprise.”
At the magical level Dong had reached, he attained a condition in which he neither saw nor heard and yet was able to be aware. Thus when he happened upon danger, his adaptation to it was as miraculous as in these instances. It says in the Zhong Yong: “By the way of total sincerity, one can know what is about to happen.” This is exactly the idea.
He died over eighty years old, sitting up. His students – Yin Fu, Cheng Tinghua, and others – buried him beyond the east gate, by the hazel and pepper trees to the northeast, beside the Red Bridge Highway, and they had a stone tablet made, recording his deeds.
Cheng Tinghua was from Shen County, Hebei. He lived in Beijing, on Flower Market Street, and his profession was making spectacles. He was fond of martial arts but had no access to it until after an introduction to Dong Haichuan, to whom he did obeisance for instruction. The boxing he learned was called Continuous-Palms Swimming-Body Bagua. After receiving instruction, he practiced for many years, obtaining its refined subtleties, and became famous, known as “Spectacles” Cheng, and there was no one who had not heard of him. Many martial artists came to compete with him, but he defeated them all, and as a result – people quit challenging him.
One evening he was on his way back through the front gate of the city [beyond which his shop was situated], and as he was walking through Gourd Park, he suddenly heard behind him the sound of urgent footsteps. He turned his head and saw there was someone following him holding a large saber, eyes gleaming, looking to chop down at his head. He quickly shrank his body downward and leapt away seven or eight feet, the blade landing on nothing. Then he spun around, seized the saber, kicked the man to the ground, threw the saber away, and said: “Friend, go home, and after you have put some work into it, you can come back again.” He did not ask the other man’s name, but leisurely wandered away. There were on that occasion several people who had witnessed it.
In Beijing he taught many students. His son, Haiting, is also qualified to elaborate upon his profound skills.
CHAPTER THREE: BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES OF TAIJI BOXING TEACHERS
Yang Luchan, was from Guangping Prefecture, Hebei. He was fond of boxing arts and obtained instruction from a member of the Chen Family Village in Huaiqing Prefecture, Henan. Then he made Taiji famous all the way to Beijing and came to the capital to teach students. Therefore the Taiji Boxing in the capital all came from him.
Wu Yurang [Yuxiang], was also from Guangping and also went to Huaiqing, but to the town of Zhaobao, where Chen Qingping lived, to train in the art of Taiji Boxing. He studied for more than ten years how to subdue opponents. He made very many achievements, which Hao Weizhen spoke of but not in great detail, and so I am in no position to relate them.
Hao He, called Weizhen, of Yongnian County in Guangping Prefecture, received the art of Taiji Boxing from Li Yiyu [the major student of Wu Yuxiang]. Many years ago he came to Beijing to visit a friend, and through that person’s introduction I made his acquaintance. I saw that he had an imposing stature, but with mild looks, reasonable speech, and his behavior was amiable and casual. I for one always got along well with him.
Before long, he contracted very severe dysentery. Since this was the first time he had come to the capital and had not been there long, he had so far made few friends. The only one who knew him was Yang Jianhou, who was from his hometown. I ordered medicine for him and attended to him day and night. After more than a month went by, he had recovered.
He cheered me and said: “Before we were not best friends, and we met by chance. For treating me as you have, there is really no way I can repay you.”
I said: “Sir, you don’t need to be concerned about this matter. As it is said: ‘All in the world are friends, especially those who think alike.’”
He said: “I am sincerely touched. If you wish of me what I have learned in boxing arts my whole life, I will teach it to you. How does that sound?”
I told him: “Well, forgive me, but that’s exactly what I hoped you’d say.”
And so I invited him to live in my house, and I day and night received what he taught. After several months I had obtained the general idea, and then he returned to his home.
In his home county, there are many followers of his teachings. He was more than seventy years old when he died. His son, Hao Yueru, can teach his art, and there are many skilled students under him as well.
CHAPTER FOUR: XINGYI BOXING
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 1
The art of Xingyi Boxing has three stages of theory, three stages of skill, and three stages of training.
The three stages of theory:
1. Training essence and transforming it into energy.
2. Training energy and transforming it into spirit.
3. Training spirit and returning to emptiness.
(Such training transforms human temperament, returning you to your true nature.)
The three stages of skill:
1. Changing the bones:
The training builds up your foundation and strengthens your body. Your bones and body will be as hard as steel and rock, but your posture and temperament will be as dignified as Mt. Tai.
2. Changing the sinews:
The training stimulates your tissues and lengthens your sinews, (A common saying goes: “Long sinews means great power.”) [i.e. Greater flexibility leads to greater power.] Your strength is integrated in every way and will develop limitlessly.
3. Washing the marrow:
The training cleanses you internally and relaxes your body. The appearance of one internally cleansed is that the movement of spirit and energy is rounded and lively, without any stagnation, and the body’s movement is as agile as wings. It says in the Boxing Classics: “The three turnings up to the ninth repetition makes a complete process.” This is exactly the idea. [Guo will explain this statement further below in section C.]
The three stages of training:
1. Obvious energy:
When training, always go by an unchanging standard. The movements of your body should be smooth and must not be awkward. The lifting and dropping of your hands and feet should be orderly and must not be in confusion. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Squareness is your alignment with your center.” This is exactly the idea.
2. Hidden energy:
When training, your spirit and energy should be comfortable and must not be restricted. The exercise should be rounded and lively and must not be stagnant. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Roundness is how you respond outwardly.” This is exactly the idea.
3. Neutral energy:
When training, your whole body and each of your four limbs must never be moving and turning, lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating with effort, but should be wielded with concentration of spirit and intention. Although wielded with spirit and intention, yet the postural standards in the previous level are to be maintained and must not be changed. Although the movements of your whole body are to put forth no effort, they also cannot be entirely without strength, for always there should be spirit and intention coming through. Again the idea is that “the three turnings up to the ninth repetition makes a complete process”.
A. OBVIOUS ENERGY
The obvious energy is the boxing art’s hard energy. It is the method of refining the essence and transforming it into energy, and of “changing the bones”. If in your body the innate energy and the acquired energy are not combined, your physical constitution will not be strong. I will expound upon the method:
Generally speaking, a person is born with a good disposition and a healthy body, a firm grounding, and a purity which is innate. Then knowledge is opened up and intelligence closed off. Innate and acquired are not merged, the passive and active do not intersect, and what is always being applied to circumstances is acquired vigor. Thus even though your vigor may be flourishing, your real energy is weakened, with the result that your body is unable to be robustly healthy.
Therefore Damo long ago passed down to us the Sinew Changing Classic and the Marrow Washing Classic. Practicing by way of them will strengthen your body, returning you to your newborn state and your true self. Later in the Song Dynasty, Yue Fei expanded the ideas of the two classics and made them into three classics by adding the Bone Changing Classic. The three classics complete the boxing art, which is why I mention their rationale.
It says in the Boxing Classics: “Stillness is the fundamental form. In movement lies the function.” This art is different from the ancient Five Animal Frolics and Eight Sections of Brocade, whose training methods have form but no function.
Since this boxing art has the subtlety of limitlessness, it therefore begins with changing the bones, changing the muscles, and washing the marrow, so that “the passive and active are blended together, and hardness and softness are fully transformed”, and you will have a silence and undetectability, an emptiness coursing through your whole body, from which you will then possess the wonder of being magically unpredictably.
And so it is that this boxing art is a single continuum of both internal and external. Movement and stillness have the same source. Form and function have the same method. Hence it is the case that “stillness is the fundamental form and in movement lies the function”. Because a person is a lesser universe, you conform in all respects with the greater universe, except that when the universe’s passive and active aspects change, everything is changed by it [as opposed to changes in yourself which would have only local effects].
The human body conforms to the principles of the universe, and so if the body is weak and its energy is obstructed, can this not be changed? The method of changing is that weakness is changed to strength, softness is changed to hardness, and contrariness is changed to harmoniousness. Therefore the three classics are all about transforming your temperament to return you to your original state.
Changing the bones corresponds to the obvious energy in the boxing. It is the method of training the essence and transforming it into energy. Gather the scattered energy in your body into your elixir field. When it does not wander off-center, there is harmonizing without wavering. Use the standard of the nine requirements to refine it. [The nine requirements are listed in Chapter Three of Sun’s 1917 Bagua manual: 1. sinking your waist, 2. hollowing your chest, 3. lifting your rectum, 4. pressing up your tongue, headtop, and hands, 5. wrapping your elbows in, 6. loosening your shoulders, 7. hanging your elbows down, 8. shoulders and hips shrinking in, 9. clearly distinguishing lifting, drilling, dropping, and overturning.]
Train it until the six active meridians are fully purified and you have attained robustness. Within the boxing art: “above and below coordinate with each other… Hands and feet look after each other… Inside and outside are as one.” Reaching this point within the boxing art, the skill of the obvious energy is complete, as is the task of changing the bones, and the work of training the essence and transforming it into energy has also been accomplished.
B. HIDDEN ENERGY
The hidden energy is the soft energy in the boxing. (Soft energy is different from weakness. In weakness there is no strength, but softness is not without strength.) It is the method of training the energy and transforming it into spirit, and of “changing the sinews”. To first train the obvious energy and then the hidden energy is the same idea as in elixirism in which the microcosmic breathing [breathing with the breath] “suppresses fire” and then the macrocosmic breathing [breathing with the whole body] is practiced.
With the obvious energy, your hands came to a halt, washed only by the microcosmic breathing. With the hidden energy, your hands and feet stop and yet do not stop, for they are washed by the macrocosmic breathing which expands in all directions. What happens when this energy is used in the boxing is that the shape, energy, and spirit (spirit meaning the intention) are merged.
When both hands put their energy into pulling back (inwardly having a contracting force), the intention is like pulling out a steel wire.
As for your hands putting their energy into one going forward and the other going back – when your left hand is pushing forward, your right hand is pulling back, and when your right hand is pushing forward, your left hand is pulling back – the intention is like tearing silk. It is also like your hands are drawing a stiff bow, for there should be an intention of putting energy into drawing it slowly.
When your right hand turns over and goes across outward, your left hand has an energy of wrapping inward, and when your left hand turns over and goes across outward, your right hand has an energy of wrapping inward – this is the same as when your hands are performing the alligator technique, or the wrapping technique in the Continuous Boxing set. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Wrapping is like binding up invisibly.”
When both hands put their energy into pushing forward, it is like pushing something heavy that is on wheels. There is an intention of pushing forward without moving it, or an intention of moving it but not moving it.
As for the energy of your feet, when your front foot comes down, the heel touches down first and must not make a sound, then the whole foot touches down, its energy like a hand going forward to push something down, while your rear foot’s energy goes into pressing, as if you were intent on taking a large step over a ditch. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Attacking with your foot, stomp with an intention of not coming down fruitlessly (applying to your front foot), its placement depending entirely on the pressing of your rear foot.” The act of a horse making a hoofprint is the intention of both feet.
When advancing and retreating, the footwork is the same for both the obvious energy and the hidden energy, except that it makes a sound in the case of the obvious energy and does not in the case of the hidden energy.
C. NEUTRAL ENERGY
Neutral energy has to do with training the spirit and returning to emptiness, and is also called the work of “washing the marrow”. It is when hidden energy is trained to the point that it becomes so soft and smooth that it is called “when softness and smoothness have reached their extreme”, which is the conclusion of the hidden energy. The Elixir Book says: “When the passive and active are blended together, and hardness and softness are fully transformed, it is said the elixir has been cooked.” At the finish of the soft energy is the beginning of the neutral energy.
With further work, you are training the spirit and returning to emptiness, until distinctions of body and spirit are both obscured and you have truly merged with the Way, reaching a point of silence and undetectability which is called “shedding the elixir”. It says in the Boxing Classics: “The boxing is without boxing. The intention is without intention. Within no intention is true intention.” This is the point at which the neutral energy, the training of the spirit and returning to emptiness, and the marrow washing have all been achieved.
The neutral energy is not the same as practicing the scratching energy. [The characters for “neutral” and “scratching” are pronounced identically (“hua”) and would therefore be easily confused.] Obvious energy and hidden energy both have scratching energy. Scratching energy is when your hands come and go, lifting and dropping, all within short ranges, and so it is also called “short energy”. It is like your hand reaches out to scratch a mark onto a wall, then withdraws again to your body, and so it is called “scratching energy”. When training neutral energy, working the postures is the same as in the previous two stages, but the application of the energy is different.
The idea is as it says in the Boxing Classics: “The three turnings up to the ninth repetition makes a complete process.” The three turnings are:  Train the essence and transform it into energy.  Train the energy and transform it into spirit.  Train the spirit and return to emptiness. These correspond to the obvious energy, hidden energy, and neutral energy. The “three turnings” are the obvious energy, the hidden energy, and the neutral energy as a complete process. By “up to the ninth repetition” is meant doing it over and over again to purify the active aspect. The principle is to attain emptiness through these transformations and then there is a return of the pure active aspect.
When training, let the movements of your hands and feet be the same as when working the postures during the two previous stages. Always you should not use effort, but also you should not be idiotically vacuous about not using effort. [This seems to be a dig at those who, like a great many Taiji practitioners, get overly obsessed with the notion that you should use no effort at all. To actually use absolutely no effort at all means that you are lying on the ground drooling. The Xingyi mentality is a more balanced message that you simply should not use more effort than is necessary.] Your whole body, inside and out, is moving entirely by the use of true intention. The effort used in the movements of your hands and feet is something that is and yet seems not to be, is of substance but seems insubstantial. The energy in your body is employed but does not apply intention, and by not applying intention, the intention is then on the accumulating of naturalness of spirit.
The breathing seems to be yet seems not to be, and as with the elixirist practices, the active aspect generates perfect sufficiency. Think of it as sealing up a furnace to put the fire out, and then when cleaning it out [in order to start a new fire], it is the same kind of breathing, and since it seems to be yet seems not to be, it is always true breath. This is the subtlety of having singleness of spirit. Zhuangzi said [Zhuangzi, chapter 6]: “An authentic man breathes with his heels [as opposed to most people who breathe only with their throats].” It is this idea. It is not a stopping of the breath, however, for it should not be interrupted while practicing. When you have trained to the point of attaining emptiness, when body is without body, when mind is without mind, then distinctions of form and spirit are but subtleties, and you will truly be in a condition of merging with the Way, at which point you will be capable of being one with the Void.
Later, you will practice emptiness and merge with the Way. [After the three stages of refining the essence and transforming it into energy, then training the energy and transforming it into spirit, and then training the spirit and returning to emptiness, a fourth level is here introduced of practicing emptiness and merging with the Way. If the three stages can be thought of as beginner/intermediate/advanced, this fourth level could be thought as mastery. The three stages of obvious energy, hidden energy, and neutral energy could perhaps here be considered a concluded process, as in this fourth stage you seem to be transcending energy altogether and being exclusively of spirit.] Once you can be silent and still, then upon sensing anything, you connect with it. “There is no situation in which you will not succeed” [Zhong Yong], for you will obtain the method regardless of the circumstances, and everything you do will be right. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Solidifying your virtue and rousing your mind has to do with martial arts. Nurturing your virtue and bestilling your mind is a matter of cultivating the Way.” Therefore the Xingyi boxing art and elixirism merge to become one.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 2
In Xingyi Boxing, the starting point is the “three-substance posture”, in which your feet should be single-weighted and must not be double-weighted. Single-weighted does not mean that one foot is touching the ground and the other foot is suspended in the air, but that your front foot can be empty or full while the greater weight is on your back foot. Later in practicing the various postures, there will also be double-weighted postures, but although they are double-weighted postures, they must not depart from a single-weighted center of balance. Whether it is a posture that is very tall, very short, leaned forward, or leaned back, never depart from the three-substance posture’s single-weighted center of balance. Thus the three-substance posture is the foundation of all the postures.
With the three-substance posture’s single-weightedness, you obtain a starting point of centered harmoniousness, the movements will be nimble, and the postures will be continuous without interruption. With a double-weighted three-substance posture, the postures will be heavy and the effort will be excessive. The passive and active aspects will not be distinguished, there will be no differentiating between the hexagrams of Qian and Kun [“Creative” and “Receptive”], no discerning between odd and even, no discriminating between hard and soft. Empty and full will not be clear, nor will there be clarity as to inwardly expanding and outwardly contracting, nor nimbleness in the movements of advancing and retreating or lifting and dropping.
Therefore if you do not obtain centered harmoniousness in Xingyi Boxing’s single-weighted three-substance posture, the innate and acquired will not intersect, hardness will increase and softness will decrease. In losing your centered harmoniousness, the theory also will not be clear, not to mention adaptation will be hindered, blood and energy will be obstructed because of it, and clumsy energy will tie you up. This is all down to a double-weighted three-substance posture getting in your way. If you obtain the principle of centered harmoniousness in the single-weighted three-substance posture, then whenever you put it into action, it will no longer matter whether a posture is single-weighted or double-weighted.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 3
Practicing the method of the Xingyi boxing art is very easy, and is also very difficult. It is easy in the sense that the postures are very easy, very simple, and are not disorderly. The movements throughout this boxing art are always such that a person can understand them without having thought about them and can perform them without having learned them. The whole body moves according to commonsense principles.
However, for one who has not yet learned the art, there are not yet rules for the movements of his hands and feet, and so he will be unable to do them in an orderly way. When instructing, it is nothing more than drawing out a person’s capacity to know without thinking, perform without learning, and execute postures with commonsense, and to introduce him to the standards by which the movements of his limbs will be kept in order.
If the practice is persevering and uninterrupted, perfection can be reached, at which point all the postures will conform with the Way. When other people observe you, with each movement and each stillness, each utterance and each silence, your spirit and energy will be subtle and unpredictable, and yet you yourself will not be at all aware of your perfection within the boxing art.
Because the movements are all based in commonsense principles, there is no forcing a person through what is difficult, and in that way practicing this boxing art is very easy. But as the Zhong Yong says: “Everybody eats and drinks. Few know how to savor.” What makes the art difficult is that a practitioner gets bored with the plainness and simplicity of the postures, feels that it is ugly to watch, until finally he gives up halfway. Or he hates that its principles are commonsensical, resenting it for having no fantastical methods. He fixates on using an energy of vigor and strives to show off with bizarre postures.
He can train his whole life and be unable to obtain the Xingyi boxing art’s way of centered harmoniousness. Because he wants something lofty and seeks something distant, he looks upon the principles as being remote, thereby making the art’s theory very difficult for him to grasp. The Zhong Yong says: “The Way is not far from people. It is their expectation of the Way that distances them from it.” This is exactly the idea.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 4
The method of the Xingyi boxing art is peerless, for it is nothing more than two things: spirit and energy. Elixirism is from first to last entirely about breathing. It begins with the microcosmic breathing, then the macrocosmic breathing, then achieves return to emptiness, each stage a transformation through breath. This boxing art’s method is likewise, except that it is the work of training your body by way of working its muscles and bones. Elixirism is the seeking of movement within stillness, and then when movement reaches its peak, it returns to stillness. The boxing art is the seeking of stillness within movement, and then when stillness reaches its peak, it returns to movement. While there are similarities and differences in the way they begin the training, their returning to emptiness is the same for both.
It says in the Xingyi Boxing Classics: “To solidify your virtue by rousing your mind is a matter of dealing with opponents. To nurture your virtue by bestilling your mind is a matter of cultivating the Way.” Therefore the method of Xingyi Boxing is the same as the learning of the elixirists. In elixirism, there are three changes: refining the essence and transforming it into energy, refining the energy and transforming it into spirit, and refining the spirit and returning to emptiness. The boxing art also has three changes: changing the bones, changing the sinews, and washing the marrow. The three transitions within the boxing art are: the obvious energy, the hidden energy, and the neutral energy.
Train until “the boxing is without boxing, the intention is without intention, for within no intention is true intention”. Also as in elixirism, the emptiness training and the merging with the Way are the same thing. Elixirism has the practice of “begin by returning to emptiness”. Once there is a peak of emptiness and stillness, then your primordial true active aspect activates. This will suddenly turn your light upon yourself, concentrating spirit into your energy points, and with every breath you will return to your source.
When spirit and energy are not yet joined, preserve your spirit and just work with your breath as if you will dwell in it forever, keeping your mind on it always. This is called the “martial fire”. Once spirit and energy are joined, you may then forget about the breath, so that it is now like you are sealing up a furnace to put the fire out, then cleaning it out in order to start a new fire. In advancing and retreating, ascending and descending, you are returning to your source. Wait for movement to happen and then work at it [“smelt it”], working it until it attains stillness, enough stillness to “suppress the fire”. This is called “fire and water envying each other” and is the work of using the microcosmic breathing to attain the macrocosmic breathing. [From there is achieved emptiness, from which is attained purity.]
Only from nothing arises something, from the insubstantial comes the tangible, from the small comes the large, from emptiness is there accumulation. Your transformations are always a matter of what stage your breathing is at. Whether civilness or martialness, hardness or softness, they may fluctuate as necessary, for in all of this, within going along there is going against and within going against there is going along. What is to be employed is a method of neither-excessive-nor-insufficient centered harmoniousness.
These have been just a few general words about elixirism. Since it and the boxing art run parallel rather than contrary to each other, the art of Xingyi Boxing is therefore not a crass martial art. I fear that later practitioners of it will only use the strength of their acquired vigor and not know of the energy of their innate true active aspect. Therefore in expounding on the method of the Xingyi boxing art, it is nothing more than these two things: spirit and energy. And having so far begun by discussing the general ideas of elixirism, I will now discuss the boxing art in more detail…
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 5
In practicing the art of Xingyi Boxing, there are three stages of breathing:
In the first stage, your tongue curls up to touch the upper palate, and your mouth seems open but not open, closed but not closed. Your breathing is natural and must not be concentrated upon. It relies on the movements of your hands and feet, using them to regulate the pattern. This stage is the work of training your essence and transforming it into energy.
In the second stage, the standards of your mouth’s quality of being open yet closed and your tongue touching the upper palate are the same as before, but the breathing is not the same as in the first stage. Before, the movements of your hands and feet determined the pattern, whereas now it is the breathing itself that is the regulator. Before, the breathing was a matter of nose [inhaling] and mouth [exhaling], whereas now the awareness only goes as far as in and out. In this second stage of breathing, pay attention to breathing within your elixir field, which is also called “infant breathing” [whereas it was in the first stage not to be concentrated upon at all]. Through this stage runs the principle of training your energy and transforming it into spirit.
In the third stage, it is different from the idea of both preceding stages. In the first stage, it is an obvious energy and it has an external form. In the second stage, it is a hidden energy and it has an internal form. In this stage, although there is breathing, it seems there is not. There is an intention of neither forgetting it nor assisting it. It is the wondrous effect of spirit transforming. Within the mind is emptiness. There is neither being nor not being, and without being or not being, there is silence and undetectability, the method of returning to emptiness.
These are the three stages of breathing in their sequence from beginning to end in the practice of this boxing art. There is here the principle of a single process running through it all: the method of something transforming into nothing.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 6
Before a person has practiced boxing arts, the movements of his hands and feet have a disposition toward obeying his acquired nature, that which goes from robustness to aging to dying. Daoists reverse it to the innate by inverting the movement of Qian and Kun [“Creative” and “Receptive”] with the mechanism of turning the energies, striving for a longevity art. The boxing art does likewise. It starts with the way of following along with ordinary naturalness and then reverses the process, going from stillness to movement and then from movement back to stillness in the making of the three-substance posture.
In the posture, your feet should be front foot empty, rear foot full. Neither lean forward nor back, nor incline to either side. Within your mind there should be emptiness, perfect stillness, insubstantiality. The slightest bit of vigor cannot be added within. There should be pure, natural, soulful beingness. From touching this beingness, the training will sprout. This is the true energy within the boxing art – pure naturalness. It is also called “inherent human nature”, as well as the elixirist principle of “begin by returning to emptiness”, and is also the doctrine of “the brightness of perfection restoring you to your original state”.
As for the wonders within the three-substance posture, if you do not have the true teachings, you will not be able to understand them. The idea within it is like the elixirist’s “shadowy doorway”, is what the Da Xue calls “shining virtue”, is what Mengzi called “nurturing one’s noble energy”, and conforms with the He River Diagram’s central mark, the “innate energy of the grand polarity”. Within the posture, it is not your body and legs standing centered that makes it centered. Its centeredness is due to your abiding by the rules of the posture. Withdraw any hyperactive energy, returning it within, so that your true energy can be restored to its original state. There will then naturally be no extra vigor within, for within your mind is emptiness. This is what is called “centering”, and is also called the “Daoist mind”. You are to move in accordance with this.
The Elixir Book says: “Stillness is a matter of basic nature. Movement is a matter of intention. Subtlety is a matter of spirit.” Therefore when there is movement in the boxing art, what is practiced is called the “innate true intention”. The movements of body, hands, and feet then take shape, and this is called the “acquired [trained intention]”. The acquired conforms to standards and rules so as to imitate the innate true intention. Begin by returning to emptiness. End by returning to emptiness. It is the principle of cycling without end. It is the virtue of silence and undetectability. All these things together are known as the method of Xingyi Boxing.
This boxing art firstly stores true intention and energy until full enough that you are in a neutral position, not leaning in any direction, harmonizing without wavering. There is no form and nothing seen, and this is called the internal energy within the boxing art. (Internal boxing arts are so named because of this principle.) At the beginning of training the internal energy within the boxing art, a person will not understand the theory. Because the theory is so subtle, it has to be explained in detail so as to avoid sending students down the wrong road. In the beginning of learning, there are the standards of the three harms [sticking out your chest, lifting your abdomen, forcing the energy] and nine requirements. The three harms are not to be violated and the nine requirements are principles not to be neglected (as explained in [Chapters Two and Three of] A Study of Bagua Boxing). When the movements of the hands and feet conform to a standard, and when the three-substance posture is not neglected, being the foundation, all is being regulated.
When practicing, your mouth should seem open but not open, closed but not closed, as is natural. Your tongue touching the upper palate, breathing should be done through your nose. During ordinary time when you are not practicing, or once you have finished practicing, your mouth should be closed and must not be open, and you should constantly maintain nose-breathing. When talking, eating, or drinking, you can open your mouth, but beyond these, it always should be that your tongue touches the upper palate, your mouth is closed, and the breathing is being done through your nose. If you are conscientious about this, then it will still be so even when sleeping.
Practice until your hands and feet conform with each other, and lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating, are as one. This is the breath being regulated. But if the movements of your hands and feet do not conform to a standard, there will be no uniformity above and below, your footwork when advancing and retreating will be disordered, your breath will be drawn in unevenly and come out very coarsely, and as a result your chest will feel clenched. All this is because when lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating, your hands and feet are not conforming to a standard. This is the breath going unregulated, and as a consequence, both the boxing techniques and your body will be incapable of fluency.
The internal energy within the boxing art is when you take charge of your disordered external spirit and energy, applying the standards within the boxing art to the movements of your hands, feet, and body. Within going along, there is going against. Withdraw it into your elixir field to join with the primordial energy there. They go from nothing to something, from the abstract to the tangible, from emptiness to fullness, and both are gradually stored up and made complete. This is the boxing art’s internal energy. The Elixir Book says: “By way of ordinary breathing, we seek the exhaling of the authentic man.” As Zhuangzi said [Zhuangzi, chapter 6]: “An authentic man breathes with his heels [as opposed to most people who breathe only with their throats].” It is also this idea.
The regulating of breath in the boxing art is according to the accumulating of the acquired passive breath. If it gets to the point that your lower abdomen is hard as stone, this then is the acquired [active] breath accumulating forcefully. Always the breathing should be pure and natural. Use the primordial spirit of true intention. Draw it into your elixir field. Although your belly is full, it seems empty, and though having something, yet seems to have nothing. Laozi said [Daodejing, chapter 6]: “Continuously storing…” It is also said [in Xu Congshi’s commentary to Three in Agreement]: “Empty your mind and your native intelligence is no longer obscured. Stimulate your Daoist mind and the true energy will be permanent.” It is also this idea. This is the theory of the internal energy within the boxing art.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 7
There are three stages of applying techniques in Xingyi Boxing:
 A technique has shape and image. [i.e. You know it is there and you can see it is there – corresponding to obvious energy.]
 A technique has a name and an image, but leaves no trace. Or it makes a sound and has a name, but has no shape. [i.e. You know it is there but cannot sense it is there – corresponding to hidden energy.]
 A technique has neither shape nor image, and is silent and undetectable. [i.e. You neither sense it is there nor even know it is there – corresponding to neutral energy.]
It says in the Boxing Classics: “Lift like a steel file (lifting is when going out). Drop like a hooking pole (dropping is when withdrawing)… When it is not yet at the point of lifting, it is as though it is picking up. When it is not yet at the point of dropping, it is as though it is weighing down… Lift like an arrow and drop like the wind. Chase the wind and pursue the moon without letting up. Lift like the wind and drop like an arrow. Knock him down, bewaring of being slow… The feet are seventy percent of the attack, the hands thirty percent of the attack. The five elements and four limbs should merge and work as a whole. The energy connects with the mind and is used according to the moment. Firmly advancing attacks will go unimpeded… Fight opponents as if you are taking a stroll. Look upon them as if they are but weeds. Your courage rises like the wind whipping up. Lift and drop as if arrows are drilling in. If you advance and lose, it must be that you lost your nerve.” This is the first stage, the obvious energy, in which a technique has shape and is visible.
When you reach the point of hidden energy, technique increases in subtlety. “Lift like a crouching dragon climbing to the sky. Drop like a thunderbolt striking the ground. Lift without a shape. Drop without a trace… Send your intention out like wind rolling over the ground… If the lift did not lift, what would be the point of lifting again? If the drop did not drop, what would be the point of dropping again? Within going low, look toward going high. Within going high, look toward going low… Lifting and dropping are like water in overturning waves… There is neither overturning nor drilling unless preceded by a small step… The feet are seventy percent of the attack, the hands thirty percent of the attack. The five elements and four limbs should merge and work as a whole. The energy connects with the mind and is used according to the moment. Attacks that collapse his posture will go unimpeded.” This is the second stage, the hidden energy, in which a technique has no shape and leaves no trace.
“The boxing is without boxing. The intention is without intention. Within no intention is true intention… Attacking with your fists, be invisible in all three parts, like looking at something and not being able to see even its shadow. [i.e. Whether your fist is extending, retracting, or twisting, it is all too quick to see.]” It will come out according to the situation. With each utterance and each silence, each action and each movement, and whether walking, standing, sitting, lying down, even into your eating and drinking, technique will always be there. Whether there is an opponent or not, at every point there will be technique, and thus “there is no situation in which you will not succeed”, for you will obtain the method regardless of the circumstances. Once you can be silent and still, then upon sensing anything, you will connect with it. All of this applies to the neutral energy, in which technique has become neutrality of spirit.
Furthermore, techniques have emptiness and fullness, craftiness and straightforwardness, which must not be specific intentions. When applying craftiness and straightforwardness, emptiness and fullness, in the case of emptiness for instance, it is not really a matter of specifically applying emptiness upon the opponent. When your hand is above his and you put your energy into pulling back, “dropping like a hooking pole”, this is called fullness. When your hand is below his and again you put your energy into pulling back, so that as his hand closes in it does not get to touch your hand, this is called emptiness. There is no focus of intention on being either empty or full, it is a matter of how you are being affected by the opponent’s posture. This is also the case with the principle of craftiness and straightforwardness.
The crafty is not without the straightforward. The straightforward is not without the crafty. Within the crafty there is the straightforward. Within the straightforward there is the crafty. The alternating of the crafty and the straightforward seem to cycle without end, and so their applicability is limitless. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Once your fist has been sent out, it should not withdraw emptily, for if it is withdrawing emptily, it is never being crafty.” This is the idea. [To make this more explicit, the five elements techniques each extend a hand while the other hand withdraws. The extending hand is clearly attacking, and so it can be called “straightforward”. The simultaneous action of the withdrawing hand goes comparatively unnoticed as an offensive tactic, and so it can be called “crafty”.]
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 8
In the Xingyi boxing art, the obvious energy is the work of the lesser learning. In advancing and retreating, lifting and dropping, turning to either side, it pauses in its postures, and so it is considered the lesser learning.
The hidden energy is then the way of the greater learning. “Above and below coordinate with each other… Hands and feet look after each other… Inside and outside are as one.” There is cycling without end, postures without pauses, and so it is considered the greater learning. Below are a few references to further elaborate upon this reasoning in the boxing theory:
It says in the Lun Yu [4.15, 15.3]: “A single idea runs through it.” This boxing art also strives to have the principle of a single idea running through it. Passive and active are blended together. Hard and soft are merged with each other. Inside and outside are as one. This is the neutral energy. Using spirit to neutralize and dispel distinctions, you will attain the virtue of being silent and undetectable.
Mengzi said [Mengzi, chapter 7b]: “When a great man transforms us, he is called ‘wise’. When a wise man is beyond comprehension, he is called ‘divine’.” The Elixir Book says: “Once the distinction between physical and spiritual has been utterly blurred, you are in an authentic state of being merged with the Way.” It says in the Boxing Classics: “The boxing is without boxing. The intention is without intention. Within no intention is true intention.” In this way, though you are unseen, yet you make a mark, and though you do not act, yet you have an affect. It is by having no agenda that you succeed. By being silent and still, then upon sensing anything, you connect with it.
Laozi said [Zhuangzi, chapter 12]: “Obtaining the One, all things are accomplished.” When a person obtains the One, this is called greatness. In the boxing, when the energy of “inside and outside are as one” is used while dealing with an opponent, then when it is time to be hard, there is hardness, and when it is time to be soft, there is softness. By transcending and adapting, “there is no situation in which you will not succeed”, no matter what it is.
This is the “single idea running through it” – the use of the One. Even though you are skillful, it is always the One that is manifesting. If you have not yet attained this level of subtlety, you must therefore send in the One to neutralize distinctions until at last you have achieved a state of emptiness. This is called “perfect sincerity” or “perfect emptiness”. In this way is realized the principle that when a great man transforms us, he is called “wise”, and when a wise man is beyond comprehension, he is called “divine”.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 9
It is the way of boxing arts that you should first train your body in order to prevent disease and prolong life. In this there is no great difficulty, but competing with opponents is not an easy matter. The first thing to keep carefully in mind is that you should know both self and opponent. You must not be arrogant, for with arrogance you will surely lose.
If you have known someone for a long time in the same place, you know what style he practices and the depth of his skill. Both of you know each other, whether one likes to use one’s feet or is good at using one’s hands, you both have the general gist of each other, and so who would win or lose would be rather difficult to say.
If you do not know a person and are meeting for the first time, you will not know of each other the style practiced or the techniques used. When you compete, the instant you stand to face each other is not sufficient to determine one another’s depth of skill. When two people are apparently adept, it is very difficult to say who will win.
Therefore you should know when first meeting your opponent to begin by examining him. Is his spirit nimble or no? Is his energy abundant or no? Is his body lively or no? Then examine his speech – modest or arrogant? Do his  speech,  spirit and energy, and  body movements all tally with each other? Observing these three things, you will have a general idea of his skills and abilities.
When competing, whether he moves first or I move first, I must distinguish the situation we are in, whether we are far from each other or near, whether the ground is uneven or smooth, whether the area is spacious or confining, what positions would be most hazardous and most safe. If we are very close to each other, then whether he attacks with fist or foot, either way it can injure me.
It is just as is said in the Boxing Classics: “Your eyes should be venomous. Your hands should be treacherous (treacherous meaning skillful). Your foot should dash in right through the center of his doorway. Your eyes should be good at scrutinizing. Your hands should be capable at deflecting away. Your feet should be skillful at covering distance. Your elbows should not leave your ribs and your hands should not leave your center. When going out to attack his gaps, follow closely with your body. Attack where he is unprepared and appear where he does not expect.” The idea here is “using speed when near”.
When we are far apart from each other, whether by three or four steps, or five or six steps, or whatever, I must not go straight up to him. I beware the opponent and wait for him to tire himself out. Shooting out my fist is not as good as letting him attack first. When I then take action, I should not let my spirit and energy manifest outwardly, and so I appear to have no intention. I slowly go to the opponent until we are near each other and watch for an opportunity to make use of. Once he takes action, opportunity then manifests and I quickly pounce on it.
Whether using palm or fist, I follow him to the left and strike to the left, or follow him to the right and strike to the right, depending on his hardness or softness. I advance and retreat, lifting and dropping adaptively, always watching for the opportunity and acting according to it. This is called “using slowness when at a distance”. My own position has advantages and disadvantages, but so does the opponent’s, which is what I make use of. I must not be restrictive as to my techniques.
Cheng Tinghua also said as much: “When competing with an opponent, I observe his hardness and softness, and whether he has great strength or a treacherous skill. When he hardens, I soften, and when he softens, I harden. When he rises, I lower, and when he lowers, I rise. When he lengthens, I shorten, and when he shortens, I lengthen. When he opens, I close, and when he closes, I open. Whether I suddenly open or suddenly close, or suddenly harden or suddenly soften, or am suddenly above or suddenly below, or suddenly shorten or suddenly lengthen, or suddenly come back or suddenly send out, I must not get restricted by fixed techniques, I must observe the opponent’s situation and act according to it. Then even if I cannot defeat him, at least I cannot suddenly be defeated by him. It is always important to pay careful attention.”
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 10
It says in the Boxing Classics that “above and below coordinate with each other” and that “inside and outside are merged into one”.
It is commonly said that “above and below” refer to the head and feet, but it is also said that it indicates the hands and feet. According to the theory within the boxing art, it is the air breathed above and the air breathed below that are connecting with each other, and this then is the meaning of “above and below coordinate with each other” – the heart and kidneys [i.e. the elements of fire and water] are interacting.
When inside and outside are merging into one, the mind centers itself and then the spirit and intention go down to the root chakra. [The actual name in the text is Hai Di, which means “Under the Sea”, another name for what is more commonly called Hui Yin, “Gathering Place of the Passive”. Hai Di is the Chinese name for the first or root chakra, called “Under the Sea” because it is placed below the Qi Hai, or “Sea of Energy”, which is approximately equivalent to the sacral chakra. All in all, the area intended can also be thought of simply as the perineum.] Within the abdomen, once stillness reaches a peak, there is a movement. Energy at the root chakra gently goes upward from below to interact with the spirit and intent, then returns to be within the elixir field. It then moves through the whole body, smoothly flowing into the four limbs.
If it is done in this way, above and below will coordinate with each other, hands and feet will naturally look after each other, and there will be merging of inside and outside to become one.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 11
When practicing boxing arts, you must not have so much determination that it obstructs you. If you are obsessed with seeking to have strength, you will get jammed up by it. If you are obsessed with seeking to have energy, you will get clogged up by it. If you are obsessed with seeking to be heavy, it will weigh you down. If you are obsessed with seeking to be light, your spirit and energy will wander off.
Therefore the way to go about these things is to practice the postures smoothly, and then naturally there will be strength. When there is centered harmoniousness within, it will naturally produce energy. When your spirit and intention return to your elixir field, your body will naturally be as heavy as Mt. Tai. When your spirit and energy merge into one and transform into emptiness, your body will naturally be light as a feather.
Thus you must not obsessively seek, even though there may be something to be gained through the seeking. Look upon that something as if it is nothing, treating its substantiality as insubstantial. Neither forget about it nor assist it. Do not strive for it and you will hit the target. Do not fixate on it and you will obtain it. Being patient and balanced is all you need.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 12
In Xingyi’s crossing technique, there is the “innate” crossing [i.e. its internality], the “ acquired” crossing [i.e. its externality], and the crossing as a singleness of action [i.e. internal and external combined].
The innate crossing goes from stillness to movement, and is the formless crossing technique. The crossing technique is in the central position. It says in the Book of Changes [hexagram 2 explanation]: “The gentleman takes yellow [the color associated with the center, i.e. centeredness, and which corresponds to the element of earth and thereby to the crossing technique] as his guiding principle, which corrects his behavior and affects his very being.” This is exactly the idea. It says in the Boxing Classics to “lift without a shape” and that “lifting is crossing”. This is always the case. (This use of “lifting” has to do with lifting internally, in which something is generated from nothing. When the true meaning of it sprouts, it is in the boxing called “crossing” as well as “lifting”.) This crossing has name but no shape. It is the source of all the postures. All things are contained within it. The crossing technique is thus the grand polarity [taiji] within this boxing art.
The acquired crossing is the external form of the hands and feet within the technique, an action called “crossing”. This crossing has both name and posture, but it is without a crossing appearance because head, hand, foot, shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee outwardly form as the “seven fists” [and so there appears somewhat more of a forwardness to the technique than a sideways]. This action called “crossing” is the trunk of all the postures [which branch from it]. Though they are many techniques, they are all born from within this one.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 13
In the Xingyi boxing art, the first stage is obvious energy, which is called “training the essence and transforming it into energy”, and for the elixirists is the “martial fire”.
The second stage is hidden energy, which is called “training the energy and transforming it into spirit”, and for the elixirists is the “civil fire”.
The third stage is neutral energy, which is called “training the spirit and returning to emptiness”, and for the elixirists is when the fire has been “cooked to purity”. Once the fire is purified, inside and outside become a single continuum.
Training further until there is no energy and no fire is called “training the emptiness so as to merge with the Way”. The result of this is that whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, with each utterance and each silence, in everything you do you will merge with the Way.
It says in the Boxing Classics: “The boxing is without boxing. The intention is without intention. Within no intention is true intention.” In achieving this, you will attain the virtue of being silent and undetectable. An ancestor’s poem goes:
The method is essentially naturalness, a single energy flowing along.
Your state of emptiness and stillness is the hardest thing for the opponent to read.
He can try countless ways of attack but all of them will be useless,
for your body’s shape responds just like a river current.
[GUO YUNSHEN SAID…] – Part 14
The reasoning of martial arts concepts is mainly the theory in the He River Diagram and Luo River Document, drawing from their representations and classifications of things, with their numbering and principle equally emphasized. They accord with human movement in its naturalness, and so they supply a standard by which the human body is to perform.
Just as ancient people said that “the weather has the eight winds” [Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, chapter 4], or the Book of Changes has the eight trigrams, or a person has eight pulses, so too in boxing arts there are eight dynamics, and thus in boxing arts there are the transformations of the eight trigrams. The eight trigrams signify roundness. The sky has nine levels of sky, the stars are spread in nine expanses, the ground has nine layers of strata, the human body has the nine orifices and nine counts, and so too in the boxing arts there are the nine “palaces”, and thus in boxing arts there is the compass of the Nine Palaces. The nine palaces signify squareness.
Ancient people used nine sections of government to make a surrounding law, nine rooms to form a courtyard, nine administrative districts for the collecting of taxes, nine armies to deploy a defense, nine orifices and nine counts to make a boxing art. (The nine counts are the nine sections: the head is a tip, the solar plexus is a middle, the elixir field is a root, the hand is a tip, the elbow is a middle, the shoulder is a root, the foot is a tip, the knee is a middle, the hip is a root. Three by three totals a count of nine sections.) [The nine orifices are the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, urethra, and anus.] All of these use nines, for the principle is so wonderful.
The He River Diagram and Luo River Document both come from the natural mathematics of the universe. In the cases of both Emperor Yu’s Model [Book of Documents, chapter 32] and the calendar of Great Nao [traditional founder of the sixty-year cycle], they were wise men who obtained the pattern in Nature’s mind. I on the other hand am an ignorant bumpkin, but when I received the Map of the Nine Palaces, its principle emerged in the same way, and it was marvelous to apply, that of transforming unpredictably. The Map’s method is thus like inexperienced newlyweds who are able to achieve understanding and ability even where some wise men remain ignorant and impotent.
The form of the Map is the method of flying around the Nine Palaces, the principle being to go from 1 to 9:
and to return from 9 to 1:
Use poles planted in an arrangement of nine, planting them at the four compass directions, the four corner directions, and one in the center. There is no restriction as to the thickness of the poles. In the beginning of training the exercise, the space should be large and the poles should be rather far apart from each other. Make it around ten feet square or more, perhaps twenty feet, no finicking over feet and inches.
Once you have practiced it to familiarity, gradually shrink the space to the point that the distance between the poles will only just admit your body moving between them. Be like flowing water, spinning around the poles so smoothly they are never in your way. For these circling postures, make use of the twelve animals, such as the skillfulness of “Hawk Enters the Forest” or “Hawk Turns Over”, or the subtlety of “Snake Slithers Through the Grass to Enter the Burrow”, or the nimbleness of “The Monkey Leaps”. Each animal’s ingenuity has a part to play in it.
The effects of the Map:
– For one who does not take part in boxing arts, this technique of walking can improve digestion and blood circulation.
– For someone training in boxing arts who has slow footwork, this walking can help you be more lively.
– For someone training in boxing arts who has difficulty breathing due to holding the breath, this walking can help you breathe more freely.
– For someone training in boxing arts who is too stubborn about making plans work out, this walking can help you be more quick-witted.
– Regardless of man or woman, old or young, all can do it. It can prevent disease and prolong life, can strengthen and invigorate the body, and a host of other effects that can hardly be declared in words.
It says in the Boxing Classics: “Fight opponents as if you are taking a stroll. Look upon them as if they are but weeds… In all martial arts methods, there is no orthodox path. Arbitrarily change postures without limit. I am overjoyed to have realized the innocent playfulness of an infant. Now my fighting method is authentic with every opponent I meet in the world… The three turnings up to the ninth repetition makes a complete process.” These principles are all within it.
One who understands math can realize the Map’s theory. One who practices Bagua Boxing can understand the Map’s method. With the Map you can also create recreational exercises. While practicing, your tongue is to be touching the upper palate. If you do not want to practice it as a boxing arts exercise, your arms can bend and extend as you please during the walking. If you do want to do it for boxing arts purposes, you can do it in whatever pattern you want. Regardless of whatever movement it is or whatever direction you turn, it is important to know that your hands or body cannot move to a place where there is already a pole standing. The Map is not only for exercising the body, for the methods of the sword art are also contained within it.
The height of these nine planted poles should always be your own height. The poles can be inserted into nine blocks with holes in them, which are made of either clay or wood, so the poles can be moved. When using them for practice, they can be arranged as the Nine Palaces. When not practicing with them, you can gather them up and store them in a single place. But if the ground is convenient, you need not remove them at all. If you do not actually have poles, bricks can be laid out as the nine palaces. Or if you have no bricks, then drawing nine small circles and walking around them is acceptable as well. But for the most part, training with poles is the best way.
For this method of walking practice, start by walking in the order of 1 through 9, then reverse it and walk in the order of 9 through 1. Beyond the Map, the four compass and four corner directions of the eight planted poles are analogous to the eight trigrams, and adding the one planted in the center, they are then analogous to the nine gates [of a walled city]. You should practice it until you are skillful at it. It does not matter which gate you start at as long as you return to it, but you cannot neglect the center gate, for it is the fifth palace. Walk 1 to 2, 2 to 3, and so on up to 9, then reverse it and walk 9 to 8, 8 to 7, and so on back to 1.
One lap around each planted pole of the Map, going from 1 to 9 and from 9 back to 1, is walked, yet its name is “Flying Around the Nine Palaces”, and also called “Passive Bagua”. The He River Diagram’s theory is stored within it. The Luo River Document’s method manifests outwardly. Therefore in the method of boxing arts, form and function are both prepared, number and principle are simultaneously emphasized, your disposition and destiny are doubly cultivated, Qian and Kun [“Creative” and “Receptive”] are joined with each other, and internal and external are combined into one.
When doing walking training according to the Map, the nine poles are like nine people, as if you are one person versus nine opponents, spinning to either side, bending and extending, attacking and withdrawing, soaring and transforming, evading and ambushing. To get the standards within it depends on your following a pattern, but to get the subtleties within it will depend on your own realization. The Map’s method also combines the principles of the two trigrams of Qian and Kun, and the postures of the sixty-four hexagrams are all contained within it. A worthy person will recognize its greatness, an unworthy person will find it to be of a lesser degree, but in obtaining it, all will have the profound method of this boxing art.
[BAI XIYUAN SAID…]
Practicing the method of Xingyi Boxing truly is an illness-preventing life-prolonging study in cultivating the Way. From my youth I have practiced medicine. Though this year I am almost seventy, my body’s movements are nimble, I seem still as strong as in the prime of my life, and I have not needed medicines to maintain my health. The method of this boxing art is the principle of nourishing energy to cultivate oneself. Its effects are demonstrably true and it genuinely seems to serve as a panacea.
However, practicing boxing is easier than realizing the Way, and realizing the Way is much easier than cultivating the Way. Therefore in practicing boxing arts, the first thing of importance is to obtain the authentic teachings, which convey the standards of practice within the boxing art, for once you know you have the real thing, you will train according to the proper learning sequence. The second thing of importance is to truly cherish it. The third is to be of a persevering mind, making it the task of your whole life to master it.
Without these three things, then even if you are practicing, it will be as was said by an ancient man [Zengzi, from his commentary to the Da Xue]: “If your mind is not on what you are doing, you will look and not see, listen and not hear, eat and not taste.” This is to spend your whole life on it and be unable to obtain it. Real sincerity possesses the principle of training with a mentality of perseverance.
Although you may obtain a little, you cannot be complacent. Therefore in practicing the postures and principles, you also should frequently seek out instruction, looking to all of those from the older generation of teachers. Some ancient man said: “Since no one is perfect, who is it that can make no mistakes?” If you are proud, then usually whatever you get out of the principles will often go ignored soonafter. With the principles neglected, your boxing art will give rise to countless errors. (And errors in boxing arts are not such as a person can take medicine to cure.)
If errors are obvious, they can still be easily fixed, and a teacher of either greater or lesser skill, with either a deep or superficial understanding of the theory, can make corrections. But if errors are hidden and complex, then even a teacher whose theory is very deep and is backed by a wealth of experience will be unable to cure you of such maladies.
Complex errors are when the source of a problem with the head does not lie in the head, or of a problem with the foot not in the foot, or of a problem on the inside of the body not there, or of a problem on the outside of the body not there. Hidden errors – those that seem invisible yet visible, or to be there yet not to be there – are common enough in a person’s training and do not get discerned as errors. If you are aware of them yourself, they will be no trouble.
By thinking about the principles in what you practice, you will become skillful. But without knowing your own errors, how can you attain a deeper level? If you do not obtain a thorough and profound understanding of the art’s theory and method, you will not be able to fix these errors, and if not, then though training day and night, you will be for your whole life unable to get it right. These errors are considered to be of a crude and ordinary kind of strength, in the same league as a commoner’s use of exclusively straight lines when writing calligraphy, and is no better than having a theory that from beginning to end cannot help you progress.
A practitioner of boxing arts who is very skillful with his whole body and very brave in competing with others – it is easy to find seven or eight such people among ten. But one who can instruct others, whose skill is so good, whose movements are so harmonious, whose analysis of the theory is so clear and detailed, that he can get others to easily understand and is a model for the next generation of students – it is difficult to find one or two such people among ten.
How to practice: spirit and energy are coursing through, and the form is harmonious – hardening and softening, twisting and turning, lengthening and shortening in the proper degree. It is the same principle as in Zeng Guofan’s discussion of calligraphy, in which he says “[Everything comes from] the two trigrams of Qian and Kun”. [Kun (“Receptive”) represents the formalized external postures, while Qian (“Creative”) represents the personality of the spirit within.]
[For whatever reason, Bai Xiyuan was given no bio of his own in Chapter One.]
[LIU QILAN SAID…] – Part 1
In the method of the Xingyi boxing art, there is no distinction between form and function, except that what you practice on your own is the form and what you do to an opponent is the function.
During solo practice, your eyes cannot be wandering around. Either look to a distant point or toward your own hand. Firmly consolidate your spirit and energy, inside and outside merging into one and never shifting apart.
When acting upon an opponent, you should either watch his eyes above, his middle section, or his feet below. Do not get stuck in an established pattern or focus on using an established method. Whether using palm or fist, observe the reason for it. In lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating, adapt limitlessly. You are thereby using your intelligence and seeking victory based on the opponent. If you use an established method, then you can be defeated by the opponent or even just by bad luck. Knowing this, you must consolidate your spirit and energy, and not let them be in disarray. This is what it means to be invincible.
[LIU QILAN SAID…] – Part 2
It says in the Xingyi Boxing Classics: “To nurture your virtue by bestilling your mind is a matter of cultivating the Way. To solidify your virtue by rousing your mind is a matter of dealing with opponents.”
As for how to deal with opponents: “Lift like a steel file. Drop like a hooking pole… Lift like a hidden dragon climbing to the sky. Drop like a thunderbolt striking the ground. Lift without a shape. Drop without a trace… Send your intention out like wind rolling over the ground… Bind your torso when lifting. Hide your torso when dropping. Lift like an arrow and drop like the wind. Chase the wind and pursue the moon without letting up. Lift like the wind and drop like an arrow. Knock him down, bewaring of being too slow… Fight opponents as if you are taking a stroll, looking upon them as if they are but weeds. Your courage rises like the wind whipping up. Lift and drop as if arrows are drilling in. When encountering an opponent, you should seek to win, and so your limbs should all work in unison.”
Now inside and outside are truly as one, and “if you advance and lose, it must be that you lost your nerve.” This is the method of “solidifying your virtue by rousing your mind” in order to deal with opponents.
[LIU QILAN SAID…] – Part 3
The function of the Daoist arts is to empty the mind within. When there is no effort, there is centering. When there is no expectation, there is obtaining. Follow the easy balanced way and the moment will emerge. [It says in the Boxing Classics:] “The boxing is without boxing. The intention is without intention. Within no intention is true intention.”
The mind is without mind, for the mind is empty. The body is without body, for the body is empty. An ancient man [Kumarajiva in his commentary to the Diamond Sutra] described this as: “Empty but not empty, not empty but empty – this is known as true emptiness.” Even though you are empty, you thereby achieve perfect genuineness and sincerity. Suddenly an opponent attacks you, but within your mind there is no intention of striking him (no intention meaning no anger), and you follow his intention along and respond to it. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Stillness is the fundamental form. In movement lies the function.” By being silent and still, then upon sensing anything, you connect with it, and everything you do will be right. This is the method of “nurturing your virtue by bestilling your mind”.
When you have drilled the boxing to the point of nothingness, then you have in the boxing the condition of no intention, and then you can be one with the “grand emptiness” [the universe in its essence]. Thus you will act with such subtlety that you cannot be fathomed, and you will then have become a rare one indeed.
[SONG SHIRONG SAID…] – Part 1
The method of Xingyi Boxing is to begin by learning techniques, then to play with them and try them out until they become a part of you. If in my mind there are countless techniques, this will do fine. Or if in my mind there is only a pure simplicity, not even a single technique, this will also do fine. To be without a single technique is to have a singleness of energy, with the result that when responding to an opponent, everything I do will be right. But to have countless techniques is to have a single energy constantly flowing.
While dealing with an opponent, when it is time to be hard, I use hardness, and when it is time to be soft, I use softness. My lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating, adapting and neutralizing, can all be applied according to the opponent. To have countless techniques is to have a technique for each posture, and within each technique is always the capacity to generate new techniques without end.
Take the snake technique as an example. The snake is skilled at slithering through the grass. Once you are equal to its coiling and twisting, its bending and extending, its hardness and softness, its nimbleness and subtlety, you have all of its qualities. Sunzi said it is like the army formation of “Snake of Mt. Chang” [Art of War, chapter 11]: “Strike its head, its tail responds. Strike its tail, its head responds. Strike its middle, both head and tail respond.”
Therefore in practicing each animal, adopt its natural abilities. By studying the animal until you have reached perfection with it, then when applying it upon an opponent, you will be able to cycle without end and transform without limit, and thereby able to always do what is appropriate for the moment. Once this is the case for the abilities of one of the animals, let it be the case for all twelve.
The theory in this is that the animal’s extending is my fist’s long energy, the animal’s bending is my fist’s short energy, as well as my fist’s scratching energy, the animal’s twisting and winding is my fist’s soft energy, and the animal’s fierce and fast directness is my fist’s hard energy. However, as to an animal’s natural abilities of hardness or softness, bending or directness, its ease and adaptability, its nimbleness and ingenuity, there are nevertheless some attributes that are impossible for a human to imitate.
Therefore one who practices the Xingyi boxing art studies the natural abilities of the twelve animals to get them into his mind so he is able to fully understand an animal’s nature, as well as fully understand his own. This means that one who practices Xingyi Boxing is following the example of Nature and the way it nurtures all things. This principle preserved inwardly is virtue and applied outwardly is the Way. Moreover, internal power is the “inward virtue of nature”, while the external technique is the “outward way of kings”. Thus when applying this boxing art, everything you do will be right.
[SONG SHIRONG SAID…] – Part 2
The Xingyi boxing art divides into Daoist art and martial art. Its three-substance posture divides into a single-weighted version and a double-weighted version.
For training its martial aspect, there is the double-weighted posture. The weight is centered right between your feet, and you are putting forth effort with your whole body. There is no distinguishing between pure and impure, no discriminating between innate and acquired, and so it uses the acquired intention, drawing in energy from the breath to accumulate in your elixir field so as to make it as hard as iron. Your whole body stands as heavy as Mt. Tai, and when competing with others, there is no fear of feet kicking or hands striking. It says in the Boxing Classics: “The feet are seventy percent of the attack, the hands thirty percent of the attack. The five elements and four limbs should merge and work as a whole. The energy connects with the mind and is used according to the moment. Firmly advancing attacks will go unimpeded.” This way is called “impure” and is the martial skill for dealing with opponents. If you train this to the point of perfection, you can be invincible.
As for practicing its Daoist aspect, the three-substance posture is done as a single-weighted posture, empty in front, full behind. The center of the weight is on your rear foot, and your front foot can be either empty or full. There is no effort within your mind, for you should first empty your mind. The idea conforms with elixirism, which states: “In seated meditation, you should begin by returning to emptiness. Without returning to emptiness, you will not be able to see your original nature.” And without seeing your original nature, all your work will be impure and nothing to do with your innate true nature. The principle in this boxing art is likewise that “you should begin by returning to emptiness”. Do not use acquired intention, but also do not completely not use it, for if you want to completely not use it, that would be idiotically vacuous. Therefore when applying power, it is not the use of habitual clumsy effort, it is always to be the balanced use of force.
Returning to emptiness is as described in the Elixir Book: “Centeredness is the quality of emptiness. The maintaining of centeredness is the function of returning to emptiness.” Therefore the starting point of the Xingyi boxing art is the wuji state [nonpolarity], then the taiji state [grand polarity], then the three-substance posture. The principle is the practice of “begin by returning to emptiness”. The Elixir Book says: “The Way: from emptiness arises a single energy, then from the single energy is generated the passive and active aspects, the passive and active then combine to make the three substances, and then from the three substances are all things born and raised.” It is this idea.
The three substances in the body externally are the head, hands, and feet, and internally are the three elixir fields of upper, middle, and lower, and in the boxing arts, they are the three branches – Xingyi, Bagua, and Taiji – as a single substance. Although they are separated into three names, they are united in their essence by a single passivity-activity, which together are a taiji [i.e. a singularity of duality, or the pole of the polarities], meaning the singleness of energy. As for the taiji within Xingyi Boxing, it is the initiating action of the formless crossing technique. This crossing technique is a person’s original true mind, insubstantial, not clinging to the slightest bit of clumsy effort. Perfect emptiness is a taiji. As it is said [Daodejing, chapter 1]: “Namelessness is the beginning of the universe.”
However, this emptiness-taiji is not something dead, but something alive, for stored within it is a life-spark. This spark is called the “innate authentic singleness of energy”, which is the basis of human life, the source of Nature, the basis of life and death. Within this emptiness is contained singleness of energy. There is no being and no not being, and without either being or not being, there is neither expression nor emptiness, just a liveliness. It is also called “true emptiness” – that which is empty but not empty, not empty and yet empty. As it is said [DDJ, chapter 1]: “Naming is the mother of all things.”
In emptiness, there is a life-spark within. It is the singleness of energy contained in the grand polarity, manifesting from emptiness. This singleness of energy contained in the grand polarity is what the Elixir Book means when it says that “when stillness reaches its peak, there is movement, and then once at the peak of emptiness and stillness, within the root chakra the life-spark rouses”. As worded by Shao Yong: “It is when the active aspect starts to move, but all things are not yet born.” Within the boxing art, when emptiness reaches its peak, the crossing technique is complete and without gaps, and within there is the inspiration of the life-spark.
The Elixir Book says: “Once singleness of energy has manifested, you cannot be without movement and stillness.” Movement is active. Stillness is passive. Thus movement and stillness arise from a singleness of energy because the passive and active sprout from the single energy. When movement reaches its peak, there is stillness. When stillness reaches its peak, there is movement. Chopping, crashing, drilling, blasting, lifting and drilling, dropping and overturning, and essence, energy, and spirit are all derived from this. Therefore, once within the three-substance posture there is any manifestation of movement, there is no limit as to what it can do. In this way, it is considered a Daoist art.
[SONG SHIRONG SAID…] – Part 3
Sitting meditation regulates by way of breathing, while the practice of boxing arts regulates by way of the movements of hands and feet. In lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating, there should always be adherence to a standard, and the movements of your hands and feet should all be fluent.
Inside and outside, the spirit and the posture, merge with each other. This is looked upon as a harmonizing, and when it is applied to your body’s movements and turns, crissings and crossings, comings and goings, there is no stagnation. There is continuous flowing, cycling without end, although it is called a “cessation” [of internal fire in order to cleanse the self and start up a new and purer fire]. It is also called “being reborn as an immortal”.
In one case [boxing arts] there is seeking stillness within movement and in the other [meditation] there is seeking movement within stillness. Although the two things seem to be different, the principle within them is in fact the same.
[CHE YIZHAI SAID…]
The way of Xingyi Boxing conforms to the Way as described in the Zhong Yong. Its method is centered yet expansive, and it is easy and simple. There is neither leaning nor inclining, there is harmonizing without wavering, and it includes everything with nothing left out. “Sending out, it goes beyond the ends of the universe [the ‘six unions’ – i.e. the six directions of north, south, east, west, up, down]. Rolling in, it stores away tightly. It is infinitely delightful and all of it is learning of substance.”
When beginning to learn, first learn just one style, and within that one style, focus on learning just one posture. Learn it and constantly practice it, drilling it until you are skillful at it, and then you can learn another posture. Once you are well-versed in each posture, they can then be practiced in combination with each other. When you are highly skillful at them, whole-bodied in each posture, one posture is like the posture of a single hand, the posture of a single hand like the movement of a single thought, and a single thought like the expressing of an empty mind.
Therefore when learning how to practice the boxing, it starts from emptiness and returns to emptiness. When you reach this point, the notions of Xingyi, Bagua, or Taiji all disappear into nothing but waves and ripples, a vagueness of oneness in which there can no longer be a “Taiji” or a “Xingyi” or a “Bagua”. Therefore the practice of the boxing arts does not lie in the postures, only in the spirit and energy being fully rounded and without gaps.
If your spirit and energy are full, then even if the posture is square, you will be able to move without sluggishness. If your spirit and energy are insufficient, then even if the posture is round, you will be unable to move with nimbleness. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Esteem virtue rather than force. The idea is in the storing of spirit.” Merge your spirit and intention into your elixir field. Your innate authentic vitality transforms your whole body, reaching to the smallest place. When applying it, it will be everywhere all the time. And so it is said that all things are a grand polarity, everything a single passivity-activity.
The Zhong Yong says: “The special power of ghosts and spirits, how they prosper by it! Look for them and you will not see them. Listen for them and you will not hear them. And yet spirit inhabits all things, excluding nothing.” This is also the idea in this boxing art. Therefore one who trains in the boxing arts cannot hold to a fixed set of rules or methods and also apply it. Set methods are rules for the beginning of instruction which can transform a person’s temperament, expand a person’s knowledge, illuminate a person’s character, eliminate acquired habits and return a person to one’s innate instincts. But once you attain emptiness, there is nothing that can any longer be called form and nothing that can any longer be called function.
It says in the Boxing Classics: “Stillness is the fundamental form. In movement lies the function.” Form and function have the same source. To speak of them separately, in the case of form, whether you are walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, with each utterance and each silence, you will obtain the method regardless of the circumstances, and then in the case of function, everything you do will be right.
When I was young, I had an overbearing temperament and great strength. I memorized many techniques and applied them with skill and speed. Whenever I competed with others, I observed the opponent’s posture and could apply certain techniques as the most suitable. When it was an opponent with a shallow skill, I could tell what he was going to do beforehand and frequently won.
When I then encountered an opponent with a deep skill, I observed his posture and again applied certain techniques as the most suitable, getting him from the side, but he went along with my posture and adapted. Before my old power had finished and my new power had begun, I constantly thought about changing techniques, but it was always too late to do anything, and so I was not nimble enough when I needed to be advancing or retreating and was defeated by him.
Afterwards I worked hard at it for a long time until one day I suddenly understood. I then took my postures and techniques and threw them all away. I had begun to realize that the way I was training was all vigor and that the techniques I applied were all patterned beforehand. Between techniques there was always a disconnection and I was unable to link them adaptively. This was all because they were acquired techniques, and as a result they lacked centered harmoniousness.
Some years ago, there was a man who also practiced boxing that I chatted with in my spare time, and as he tended toward vigor and strength, he did not understand the theory behind my boxing art or that hidden within it was a non-submitting mentality. I was at that moment washing my face, which I always did in a horse-riding stance, and I was not paying attention to him. He suddenly decided to get up and kick me as a joke, and so he targeted my lower back and kicked.
His foot reached my body, and in that moment when it had almost connected but not yet connected, I was still unprepared for it. Just as in seated meditation practice, the energy in my elixir field started to move and I subconsciously became aware of him, then I quickly turned to meet what was going on behind me. At this moment I became fully conscious of it and my spirit and posture merged into one. My body became alert, and I felt my waist lowering and bumping outward. I had turned to see him, and as a result he fell more than ten feet away and was lying flat on the ground.
How did I know in the first place that he was attacking? On top of that, how did I know how to respond? This then is the boxing art without intention. It rouses our supernatural aspect that we find hard to believe. It says in the Boxing Classics: “The boxing is without boxing. The intention is without intention. Within no intention is true intention.” Attaining this level in the boxing arts, there is no form, no relationship, no me, no him, only a glorious spirit, subtle and unpredictable.
It says in the Boxing Classics:
“From the primeval oneness is our method made, and in the method is nothing beyond the five true forms [i.e. the five elements]. Stored within these forms is essential spirit, and stored within this spirit is the energy of the elixirist ways.
“If you wonder how we are to get to the authenticity of the true forms, you must understand that the true forms merge in an authentic relationship. From this authentic relationship comes genuine skill, and as the genuineness of the skill merges with the Way, your realization builds to the revelatory.
“To nurture your virtue by rousing your mind is a matter of dealing with opponents. To nurture your virtue by bestilling your mind is a matter of cultivating the Way.
“There are genuine skills in martial arts but also false ones, and one can go nuts trying to figure out which is which. Because the founder preserved the true skills, those who know them should be discriminating as to who they pass them on to.”
[ZHANG SHUDE SAID…]
The method of Xingyi Boxing does not discuss weapons [i.e. does not have a special theory for weapons that is independent of the boxing theory]. When I began training, I only thought about arts like the spear, saber, and sword. I trained the spear techniques for several decades, paying visits around the provinces to notable experts, many of whom were renowned. The systems they practiced were different, each with its own strong points. After this I trained diligently, day and night, until finally I obtained the spear’s subtleties.
In former years when I had used the spear, I always took advantage of the quickness of my body and hands. My footwork, movements, and techniques were very skillful, yet when I competed with others I was often controlled by them. Later I began to understand that it is not a matter of posture or technique. To have a body was the same as having no body, and to have a spear was the same as having no spear. The exercise lies only in a singleness of mind. (The mind is the spear. The spear is the mind.)
The spear divides into three sections and eight edges [i.e. eight angles of cutting]. Use your eyes to intently observe the opponent’s posture. Above, middle, and below are the three paths, [targeting] his tip, middle, or root sections [i.e. head, chest, or lower abdomen]. When your mind moves, your hands, feet, and spear all move as one. It is like the “flood dragon leaving the water”, heading straight to the opponent’s body, and he is promptly defeated.
Once I knew the movements of the hands and feet, I practiced what I was taught until I was skillful, able to do it without thinking. Since I started practicing Xingyi Boxing, training day and night has made the principle realized in both my body and mind, and knowing and doing has been merged into one. Hence it does not matter if it is a long or short spear, either way it is my spear. I used to use a relatively short spear, but now I use a long spear. As I felt I was getting better at wielding it, it was no longer a matter of the spear posture or its length, but entirely in the style’s subtlety of spiritual intent.
I then comprehended that the boxing art is the sword art and the spear art, and that the sword and spear arts are also the boxing art. It says in the Boxing Classics: “The mind is the commander, the eyes are the vanguard, and the hands and feet are the battalions and patrols. Treat spear as fist and fist as spear. When the spear stabs, it is like shooting an arrow.” This is exactly the idea, and from this I began to understand why the Xingyi Boxing art does not discuss spear or sword. Because its principle is one of centered harmoniousness, inside and outside are the same thing. When any of it is expressed with nothing left out, you will have obtained the method for any circumstances.
[LIU XIAOLAN SAID…]
The method of Xingyi Boxing is without compare, nothing less than transforming a person’s temperament and achieving centered harmoniousness. From a single energy, it separates into passive and active aspects. From passive and active, it separates into the five elements. From the five elements, it returns to being the single energy. The theory of the twelve animals is also generated from the process of oneness > passive and active > five elements. Zhuzi said: “Nature uses the passive and active aspects and the five elements to transform and generate all things. Energy creates form, and principle is applied to it.” This is exactly the idea.
I had practiced Baji Boxing from my youth, and my skill became quite deep. Among its practical methods are techniques such as the piercing elbow, bracing elbow, pressing elbow, carrying elbow, and so on. Becoming very skillful in them, I often won when competing with others, but I later encountered an expert whose body adapted so nimbly, one moment coming away, another moment coming in, and so I had no chance to carry out my techniques. I kept on holding to established patterns and was unable to adapt, and the problem was the impurity of my own skill.
After that I switched to practicing Xingyi Boxing, and trained in the two-person exercise of the five elements generating and overcoming each other. Examples of its applications are that the chopping technique can defeat the crashing technique, since metal overcomes wood, and the drilling technique can defeat the blasting technique, since water overcomes fire. After practicing for several decades, I came to realize the method, the principle that knowing and doing is merged into one. Within my mind I achieved a naturalness and my body posture likewise achieved a harmoniousness, inside and out becoming as one. I also understood how the five elements generate and overcome each other, and that while metal overcomes wood, wood also can overcome metal, and while metal generates water, water also can generate metal.
[This particular theory of generation does not work for the elements themselves, but for the techniques they represent. Metal can overcome wood by chopping it, but there is no method by which wood overcomes metal. Metal can generate water by way of overnight condensation, but there is no means by which water generates metal. Therefore what he means is that while the chopping technique defeats the crashing technique, and the chopping technique leads naturally into the drilling technique, he has through experience learned that the order of these things can be reversed so that crashing can also be used to defeat chopping, and that drilling can just as naturally lead into chopping. Since his theme here is things merging into one, his point seems to be that the proper order of the generation sequence can be merged with its reverse order, and so also for the overcoming sequence, and that there is no longer a sequence of one following another in a prescribed way, for at his level they are now all one.]
Someone from a previous generation said: “It is the idea of passing it down to each other through the generations.” [i.e. What matters is that technique follows technique follows technique.] By using the methods I have stated above, when I then applied techniques they were always appropriate to the situation, and “there was no situation in which I did not succeed”. Consequently I began to understand that Xingyi Boxing is a system of centered harmoniousness, which is a state that nurtures all things.
[LI JINGZHAI SAID…]
Usually among those who train in boxing arts, many have a situation in which form and function do not merge. We often see postures being practiced with much skill and great power, but the techniques and the postures are usually at odds with each other, and because of this the training of the postures does not fit, the body and mind do not blend, and thus there is a corrupted energy.
Take for example a Confucian scholar who reads books to a deep level and also considers their principles very deeply, yet he can only make essays, and usually not very good ones, and so the principles he reads in the books thus dwell in absurdities. Although literary and martial are different methods, their principle is the same.
[LI CUNYI SAID…] – Part 1
It says in the Boxing Classics: “Stillness is the fundamental form. In movement lies the function.” By being silent and still, then upon sensing anything, you connect with it. This is the function of neutral energy, of training spirit and returning to emptiness. The form and function of the obvious and hidden energies are in getting your whole body and every limb to relax. Spirit and energy shrink in and sink to your elixir field. Inside and outside merge to become a single continuum.
Then look with your eyes right into the opponent’s eyes or to his four limbs. When you are unmoving, this is the form. But as soon as you move, there is hardness and softness, bending and straightening, crissing and crossing, circling and grinding – these are the emptyings and fillings of energy. There is lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating, evading and extending, extending and contracting – these are the variations of technique. All of these form the function.
When you are competing with opponents, distinguish the meanings of form and function. To describe the original notions of form and function in Xingyi Boxing, going through the solo practice is the form, whereas competing with others and training in how to respond is the function. The transformations of empty and full are not a matter of your own design, but are to be generated by the postures brought forth by the opponent.
[LI CUNYI SAID…] – Part 2
In my practice of boxing arts, I have never in my life understood the use of a treacherous mentality, but my teacher [Liu Qilan] often said: “In war, you can never cheat too much.”
Although you might make no use of treachery yourself, you must be prepared against it. All my life I never once had the idea of using treachery to defeat opponents, only of using honesty in the demonstrating of my skill. I figured that if I used treachery to defeat an opponent, he might not be convinced I had defeated him, in which case what is the use of a treacherous mind? When fighting with opponents, I was always honorable, unwilling to hide behind a treacherous mentality, whether defeating them or being defeated by them. What was in my mind was naturally shown and known, and I was always able to benefit from this principle.
Yet although you might make no use of treachery yourself, again you must be prepared against it. And so it is that the opponent’s theory, his hardness and softness, emptiness and fullness, skillfulness and clumsiness, must be examined. (Within these six words [hardness… clumsiness] is the principle of adapting. A treacherous person not working within this principle uses fine words to lull an opponent into a false sense of security and then strikes him when his guard is down.)
Hardness breaks down into obvious hardness and hidden hardness, and softness breaks down into obvious softness and hidden softness:
The obvious hardness –
When I have not yet made contact with the opponent, the movements of his whole body and the expressing of his spirit and energy are all revealed externally. If when we make contact he uses strength to seize my hand and it is like a steel hook, the strength penetrating into my bones, I become aware that my body seems to have been bound up by him. This is the internal power within obvious hardness.
The hidden hardness –
When fighting, the opponent’s movements seem constant, and his actions of lifting and dropping are very smooth. When our hands cross, his fingers are as soft as cotton. Using intention to grab me, his spirit and energy not only penetrates to my bones, but connects to my center like an electric shock. This is the internal power within hidden hardness.
The obvious softness –
I see the opponent’s posture and movements are completely without strength. When observed knowledgeably, although the opponent’s body is soft and without strength, yet his body’s movements are light as a feather, his inside and outside are as one, and his spirit, energy, and whole body are without the slightest bit of disorder anywhere. In fighting this kind of opponent, he seems to be there when I grab him, but then when I try to strike him, he seems to be gone. This person also seems to not be using any intention from himself. This is the internal power within obvious softness.
The hidden softness –
I see the opponent’s manner is as dignified as Mt. Tai. In fighting with him, once our hands cross, he turns like a steel ball. When my hand touches his body, he seems very hard, but when I use strength to hit him, his body is then very supple. His hand like glue, his arm like a steel wire, he can stick to me and wrap me up. I am aware of everything that is going on but am unable to execute any techniques. For this person, there is no moment in which he is resisting outwardly or using exertion. It is always a continuous flow. This is the internal power within hidden softness.
These are the methods and skills of competing with an opponent in my experience of fighting. If you encounter these four types of opponent, estimate your own depth of theory, your own richness of spirit and energy, and then fight. If you are unable to be deceived by the opponent’s spirit and energy, you can fight with him. If when looking at his face, his spirit and energy are shrouded and you are the first to show fear, then you are not ready to fight. If you are not of a mind to spy his method, it is already over. If you are of a mind to spy his method, you have to be reserved and modest in order to do it.
Sunzi said [Art of War, chapter 3]: “Knowing both yourself and your opponent, in a hundred battles you will have a hundred victories.” If you can by these means observe and await the opponent, you will be able to be invincible. And if no one can defeat you, then you will be called a hero. Emptiness and fullness, skillfulness and clumsiness – these are a few things to look for when facing an opponent and about to fight.
Observe the opponent’s build and height, and whether his movement is nimble or not. Also look to see whether his spirit and energy are grand or feeble. With each movement, each stillness, each utterance, he is either of the internal school or the external school. You must not start off by trying to defeat him suddenly. First use a fake technique to try and find out more about him, the level of his movement, his emptiness, fullness, skillfulness, clumsiness. With each hint that is revealed, victory or defeat can be determined in general.
It is not necessary to discuss how you may be defeated by the opponent, for if you are defeated by him, it was with the principles by which you would have defeated him, in which case you were defeated by him simply because you were unable to make use of the treacherous mentality. In practicing boxing throughout my life, I have therefore always used its methods to convince others. What is above is from what my teacher often used to say, as well as from my life’s experience. In your own studies, although you might make no use of treachery, you must be prepared against it. If you do not learn from what I have shared honestly, you will be frequently deceived by others.
[TIAN JINGJIE SAID…]
The Xingyi Boxing art’s theory is based on neither leaning nor inclining, staying centered and balanced, and a method of natural and continuous flow. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Your body’s posture must not be leaning forward or back, nor tilting to either side.” This is the idea of neither leaning nor inclining.
Your energy is “rolled up and stored away tightly” (in your elixir field). When “releasing it, use all six unions” (i.e. mind united with intent, intent united with energy, and energy united with power – these being the three internal unions – as well as shoulder united with hip, elbow united with knee [and hand united with foot] – these being the three internal [external] unions) [Tian Jingjie’s interpretation of this Zhong Yong quote is completely different from the usage of it in the rest of this book – “Sending out, it goes beyond the ends of the universe (the ‘six unions’ originally meaning the six directions of north, south, east, west, up, down). Rolling in, it stores away tightly.” Furthermore, to not stray too far from the original context of the ancient text, it would possibly be more appropriate for these words to be applied to the use of intention rather than the operations of energy].
Practice expressing power through the twelve animals (these twelve techniques being the key to all techniques). Your body’s movements are to accord with the postures, which have separations of up and down, large and small, distinctions of movement and stillness, hard and soft, postures of lifting and dropping, advancing and retreating, and moments of expand and contract, conceal and reveal. Although the external movements take countless forms, the internal movement is a single principle running through it all.
[LI KUIYUAN SAID…] – Part 1
In the method of the Xingyi boxing art, “intention” is simply primordial human nature. In the natural world, it is represented by the element of earth. The earth is the basic substance of the world. Our basic nature is the “earth” of our bodies. It is in people associated with their basic nature and in the boxing associated with the crossing technique. Within the boxing art, the crossing technique is the singleness of energy of an innate and complete centered harmoniousness. It contains within it the four other fundamental techniques – chopping, crashing, drilling, and blasting – and is the true intention. [As the core of Xingyi, it is the equivalent of Taiji’s “ward-off”.]
Xingyi is whole-bodied four-limbed movement in accordance with its standards and its naturalness. There is externally no contrariness in its posture and internally no contrariness in its spirit and energy. When the outward posture is at ease, the spirit and energy within are harmonized. When the outward posture is correct, then the spirit and energy within are balanced. Therefore when you see the outside, you know the inside, for when there is sincerity within, it manifests without, and this is what is meant by the inside and outside merging to become one. An ancient wise man said [Zhuangzi, chapter 12]: “Obtaining the One, all things are accomplished.” This is the “form” [all things] and “intent” [the One] of Xingyi [“Form & Intent”] Boxing in a nutshell.
In sitting meditation, while it is said that “stillness reaches its peak and gives rise to movement”, the movement of the elixir field which outwardly appears to be the breath moving is in fact still the intention moving. The packed-in passive aspect peels away entirely and then the active aspect begins to return. This is the passivity of stillness reaching its peak and giving rise to movement. The Elixir Book’s chapter on self-training says: “By ‘self’ is meant my true basic nature. Stillness is a matter of basic nature. Movement is a matter of intention. Subtlety is a matter of spirit.”
If I am not in a state of stillness, then it is not true intention that is going to be moving. If it is not true intention that is moving, then how is there going to be subtlety? Therefore what is intended by “movement” is true intention. When you have achieved the highest level in the practice of the boxing art, it is just that your nature has attained stillness, your true intention is expressing the movement, and there is subtlety of spirit. As for sitting meditation’s “stillness reaches its peak and gives rise to movement”, it is like the process of turning old back into new, a full rotation of the dharma wheel [i.e. energy going up your back along the Du (“command”) meridian and down your front along the Ren (“obey”) meridian], and is nothing more than your nature bestilling, your intention moving, and a spiritual subtlety.
[LI KUIYUAN SAID…] – Part 2
In practicing the Xingyi boxing art, the first level is obvious energy. Hang your shoulders, drop your elbows, collapse your waist. When you are practicing writing characters, it is the same idea as when you bring down the pen.
The second level is hidden energy. Relax the energy outward, expand the energy, shrink the energy. With each placing of energy, it is the same idea as in writing characters when you lift the pen. Press up with your headtop and press down with your feet. Within pushing there is lifting, and within lifting there is pushing.
The third level is neutral energy, in which both of the above energies are and yet do not seem to be, for there is only spirit moving subtly. It is the same idea as in cursive writing when you do as you please. Within the standards of the boxing art, spirit and energy are integrated as you writhe through the postures. It is the same principle as in Zeng Guofan’s Letters Home [published as a posthumous collection in 1879] in which he discusses calligraphy [in a letter from 1841], saying “[Everything comes from] the two trigrams of Qian and Kun”, and talks of their relation to ritual and music [Kun (“Receptive”) being the structure within ritual, Qian (“Creative”) being the expression within music (thus aligning with the “form & intent”)].
[LI KUIYUAN SAID…] – Part 3
In the method of the Xingyi boxing art, do not be restricted by the posture nor fixate on the posture. Both are the incorrect method. My teacher [Guo Yunshen] said: “The methods and standards come from your teacher’s transmission, while the principles and skills will depend on your own awakening. Because of this, you must not practice bizarre postures, which would restrict your body, but you also must not practice in a disorganized and unstructured way, which would render you incapable of understanding the method.”
Therefore to train in the art, you should first seek out and befriend a good teacher. For your mind to grasp it and your body to perform it well, practice daily without a break, and then you will obtain it. If it is not thus, it will be a mess your whole life, a vagueness without understanding in any part. A common saying goes: “When there are no problems in the world, a worrying mind becomes unfocused.”
Everyone is of the opinion that the art’s theory is too deep and distant to seek, but in fact this is not so. The Zhong Yong says: “The Way is not far from people. It is their expectation of the Way that distances them from it.” Between sky and ground lies the underlying principle of all things, for the activity of the Way disperses through them all. A person is a small universe, a substance between sky and ground. Therefore the passive and active aspects within our bodies are the passive and active aspects of sky [active] and ground [passive]. The principle in things is also the principle within ourselves.
A commentary to the Da Xue says: “The mind is internal, yet its reasoning extends to all things. Things are external, yet their principles are all there in the mind.” A commentary to the Book of Changes says: “It goes farther than the ends of the universe, nearer than the center of one’s own body. For what is distant, observe all things. For what is near, examine within the self.” The greatness of sky and ground, the farness of the six directions, and the principle in all things, are all within our bodies.
The boxing begins with a single principle, which is the starting point within Xingyi Boxing of the grand polarity and the three-substance posture. That posture disperses into all activities that follow – the passive and active aspects, the five elements, and the twelve animals. Addressing the individual principles of each posture, not the smallest feature of them goes untouched, and they each finish by merging again with the single underlying principle, so that the principle of each posture is that they all combine internal and external into one.
“Sending out, it goes beyond the ends of the universe.” When your body posture extends and spreads out, your spirit and energy within open up so as to be complete and without gaps, going higher than the sky, farther than the horizon. “Rolling in, it stores away tightly.” When your spirit and energy withdraw into your elixir field, the idea is to attain perfect emptiness.
“For what is distant, observe all things.” Take for example the snake. It bends and twists, coming and going like the wind, and I wish to catch its intention. “For what is near, examine within the self.” Like studying the snake’s form to practice the snake technique, so too with the five elements techniques – namely chopping, crashing, drilling, blasting, and crossing – examine how they change each other and give rise to each other’s power. [To add clarity, the “far & near” difference here is that to practice the animals we must look outward and observe animals, whereas to practice the elements we must look inward and contemplate concepts.]
Power is when the energy of spirit is flowing through within. If you want to consider the operations of these techniques, from beginning to end and in between, there is extending, contracting, and coiling, making three sections of a single flow, and without even slightly forcing it to happen.
In the natural ability of animals, there is hardness within softness and softness within hardness. The softness is like a silk ribbon, and the hardness is like when it is tightly wound up to be like a steel wire. An animal’s movements have the principles of being nimble and lively, bending and folding, hard and soft, all these ideas gathered together.
My own physical performance was affected, and after working at it for a long time, I organically achieved the form and natural abilities of the animals, which merged with my own natural abilities to become unified. To get an animal’s natural ability, study the animal until you understand it thoroughly, then move on studying the natural abilities of the rest of the animals. When the principle of the twelve animals is thus, you will have attained the underlying principle of all things.
It should be that in every movement and stillness, the moment I see something suddenly happening, my intention is affected by it. Suddenly aware, the method in my body merges with what is happening, and then I can imitate an animal’s movement and apply it. Therefore to practice boxing arts, you should open your mind and expand your inquiry, and must not just rely on yourself.
Many years ago, whenever I competed with others, whether using spear or fists, I was defeated by their techniques. Then by means of the methods they used to gain victory over me, I obtained a clarity about the principles of what I was practicing. It turned out that the boxing art is the theory and the theory is the boxing art. Everything in the world can provide an example to follow, and everyone in it can be my teachers and friends.
When practicing boxing arts in my youth, my temperament was unusually headstrong and I always felt myself to be better than others. I did obeisance to Guo Yunshen for instruction and he taught me the art of Xingyi Boxing, not just giving me access to it, but also teaching me patiently and systematically. I worked hard day and night without a break, but because we also had a good friendship in which we assisted each other, I experienced a sudden illumination and my mind was as broadened as the ocean.
I thought back to what I had trained in former days, and it was all wrong. I felt in my mind such shame and regret that my hairs stood up in horror. From that point I understand these ancient words: “Seeking out the wise and worthy is up to you, but getting fame and fortune is a matter of fate.” Students of boxing arts must understand this when regarding human fortune or misfortune. I henceforth no longer dared to talk of my own greatness or discuss the shortcomings of others, for I understood the nondiscriminating nature of the principle. As is commonly said: “As strong as you may be, there’s someone stronger. When a skilled person turns around, there’s another skilled person there.” Be vigilant in your mind, do not dare to depart from the principle for an instant, and for your whole life never dare to be arrogant toward others.
[LI KUIYUAN SAID…] – Part 4
In the method of Xingyi Boxing, the training is multi-faceted and multi-layered, but it also comes with countless curses and confusions. If one does not scrutinize, then countless errors in the boxing will emerge. Right from the beginning of the training, emptying the mind is the form, the intersecting of spirit and energy is the function, the waist is the commander, the elixir field is the source, the three-substance posture is the foundation, the rules of the nine requirements are the tools for training, and the five elements and twelve animals are the material within the boxing art.
When the energy you are expressing is disorganized, then although following along, you will be resistantly contracting. Return it to your elixir field and use your breath to temper it. This is not the breath of nose or mouth, but the true breath that accumulates in the elixir field. As for your mouth when breathing, your tongue touches the upper palate, and your lips seem flattened but not flattened, pursed but not pursed. As with ordinary breathing, there must not be the slightest bit of effort to make it happen, for it should be pure and natural.
It is important to eliminate the three harms: sticking out your chest, lifting your abdomen, forcing the energy. [The three harms are mentioned in Sun’s 1917 Bagua manual, but are slightly different: 1. forcing the energy, 2. using clumsy effort, 3. sticking out your chest and lifting your abdomen. In this book, mention is made of “the three harms” also by two other Xingyi teachers, Guo Yunshen and Xu Zhan’ao, so it is likely intended as the same version Li Kuiyuan uses here rather than Sun’s Bagua version.] These are the greatest errors when practicing Xingyi Boxing.
Sometimes you will not be conforming to the standards of practice but will be unaware of it. Your body posture with feel harmonious and your mind will feel unhindered, but after you have worked at it for several years, you will not feel that your boxing art, internally or externally, has made progress or that any breakthrough has been seen. In this case, you have gone down the crude and ordinary road of demonic strength [as opposed to spiritual power].
Sometimes for a practitioner, the movements of his hands and feet are in good order, and his internal and external energies have combined, then someone nearby will make an observation that he has a whole-bodied strength and that it is visibly mighty and inexhaustible. Once conscious of this, he will continue to practice as he has been, except that while competing, he does not notice upon making contact with the opponent’s body that he is using force. A wise man has called this “being trussed up by restrictive demons”. Because the practitioner’s shoulders and hips are not relaxed and opened up, he will be not aware if he is inwardly expanding and outwardly contracting. If you do it this way, then even if you practice your whole life, your body will not be able to have the nimbleness of being light as a feather.
It may also be for you in your daily practice that your body postures are harmonious and your mind is at ease, but then suddenly one day your body posture is no longer harmonious, or something inside just does not feel right, or that when training the postures, something about it, be it the lifting and dropping, or advancing and retreating, does not feel correct, and then within your mind you will feel depressed. A wise man has called this “finding yourself in a maze of doubts”. This is actually the point in the art when you are making true progress, and so at this time you must not stop working at it and absolutely must not let those demons of doubt hinder you, but immediately seek a teacher who will explain the theory, and then get on with practicing it.
If you work at it ardently for a long time, then one day it will suddenly all make sense, and all the parts, inside and outside, in details and generalities, will be achieved, and the full form and function of our boxing art will be clear. At this point, all your demons will have been exorcised, and the theory can no longer be obstructed. In the words of Qiu Chuji: “Every instance of quelling your demons gives you an increase in strength of character.”
[GENG CHENGXIN SAID…]
When I practiced boxing arts in my youth, my liver fire was overfull and my vigor was excessive [i.e. I was both touchy and hyper]. I was often out of harmony with other people for no reason and looked upon my fellows as foes. I was usually annoyed and irritated with myself, contorting my body with clumsy effort, not knowing my own strength.
A friend recommended Liu Qilan of Shen Prefecture, and so I did obeisance to Liu for instruction. He told me: “Xingyi Boxing is a method for transforming the temperament. It returns you to what is innate and does not strive for the vigorous strength that is acquired.”
From the beginning of training to skill with the obvious energy took me about four or five years, and then I became aware of my body’s tendencies and my temperament within, and how it was completely different from what it had formerly been. I recalled how I used to behave and the abrasive words I had expressed to other people, and I kept it all in mind with shame and regret.
From that point, I practiced the hidden energy. After another five or six years, the condition of my body, inside and out, was different again from what it had become from training the obvious energy. Whenever I saw my comrades, I was always in harmony with them, and whenever I encountered someone who was more skilled than myself, I always praised him. As to my attitude toward my own skill at this time, I became in a sense miserly, for I was unwilling any longer to casually show off.
Then I shifted to the neutral energy and worked at that for another five or six years. I allowed my body inside and out to blend its hard and soft energies, gradually blurring until they were finally indistinct from one another. Upon reaching this condition, I felt within myself an emptiness and a purity, a state of being formless and imageless, of being without a sense of an “I” or a “he”. From then on, there was then no longer a distinction between self and opponent, no kind of bias.
When I met with comrades, there was no one I did not cherish, and if I met someone who was not yet at this level, I always pitied him and wanted to teach him how to get to it. When I happened to compete with my comrades, there was no idea in my mind of being the first to attack. Everything I applied was purely rational, and hence “there was no situation in which I did not succeed”. I now understood that Xingyi Boxing is a method of centered harmoniousness and that it can therefore transform one’s temperament, bringing one to the Way.
[ZHOU MINGTAI SAID…]
In the Xingyi Boxing method of training the body, the whole body should be moving and must not be restricted. In the “sixteen part training method” discussed within the Boxing Classics [see Chapter Seven below], although the fourth one, “bringing in”, is defined as “binding up your body”, this does not mean being restrictive, it simply means making your body shrink in. Internally expand and externally contract. Although there is shrinking in, the external posture should be stretched out. Going along contains going against, and going against contains going along.
In the method of Xingyi Boxing, your spirit and energy should be balanced and interconnected, and the external postures should be harmonious rather than contrary. Therefore when training your body, your whole body should not be restricted, either inside or out. However, although there must be no restrictiveness when training your body, the outward postures must not be disorganized when they are applied, and within there must be neither arrogance nor fear.
If you meet a martial artist who has reached only a shallow level, or if you meet someone who knows nothing about martial arts, you must harbor no conceit within, nor think that you will defeat others with a single move. You must first make your own hands one empty and one full. You should be nimble and must not use restrictive force. The advancing and retreating of your feet should be easy and must not be stagnant. Whether one or two techniques, or three or five, it does not matter. By drawing out the truth of the opponent’s emptiness or fullness and then advancing according to the moment, you will be able to defeat him.
If you encounter a martial arts expert and you know his skill is at a very deep level, and you see his body movements are united in spirit and posture, and within your mind you are praising his skill, yet you must not give rise to fear. You must concentrate your spirit and energy. Watch his eyes for his going along and going against, then observe his hands and feet, his empty and full, his advance and retreat.
During a competition: when he advances, I retreat, and when he retreats, I advance; when he hardens, I soften, [and when he softens, I harden]; when he shortens, I lengthen, and when he lengthens, I shorten. I also get the measure of when he is real or faking, of whether he is being cunning or obvious, and then respond accordingly. As long as I do not get stuck in a fixed pattern, I will assuredly win.
If you do it in this way, then even if you are unable to defeat or even compete with an opponent, it is because of him [i.e. not because you are training wrong, but simply because he happens to be better]. Therefore when training in the methods of boxing arts, you must not be arrogant about your abilities and think you are invincible, and yet you must also not be fearful, never daring to compete with opponents. Thus it is that you must know both self and opponent. If you know yourself but do not understand him, you will not be able to defeat him. If you understand him but do not know yourself, again you will not be able to defeat him. But if you can know both self and opponent, you will not only be able to defeat him, but might even gain a heroic reputation.
[XU ZHAN’AO SAID…] – Part 1
In practicing the method of Xingyi Boxing, you must never have a flippant or distractible mind. In the case of its five elements and twelve animals, by spending a mere seven to ten days on a single technique, some could learn the whole system in about six months, and most could get through it all in a year. But if you learn Xingyi Boxing in this way, you could do it your whole life and you still would not get it, for what would have been grasped would only be a superficial knowledge of the boxing postures. Perhaps you would even come to deeply understand this boxing art’s theory, yet still it would not be easy for you to achieve it in your body, and since you would also have an attitude that makes you shy away from such difficulties, you would always be in doubt over some of the postures.
If you instead were to give it around three to five years, you would still not be able to obtain its refined subtleties. Even if you have the theory for all the postures, you could probably spend your whole life on it and still obtain something only incomplete. Both of these situations amount to the same thing, for despite practicing, you would always be unable to complete it. In either case, if nothing at all has been obtained, then open your mind and seek out a teacher for instruction.
Firstly, you must not have the errors of the three harms. Second, the standards of the nine requirements should be clearly delineated. Third, the three-substance posture should be stood in frequently. The nine requirements should be orderly, your body’s external shape should be balanced, your mind should be empty, your bearing and breathing should be natural, and the posture should be harmonious. If it is not done in this way, you will be unable to move on to practicing the hand movements and stepping.
To sincerely practice, you should never seek quick results. If after one day the posture is not harmonious, then the next day try again, and if not after one month, then for the next month try again. Because the three-substance posture is the beginning of transforming your temperament and does not require an animal strength, it rids you of your errors (such as the errors of awkward energy or awkward effort). When it comes to standing in the three-substance posture, some need to do it over a longer period and some are quicker, and the time it takes is not consistent because each person’s disposition is different.
Once you have reached the point of practicing with your hands and feet moving, then if you do not have fluency with the first posture, you cannot move on to another posture. If after a month you are not fluent with it, then repeat the training for the following month. If after half a year you are still not fluent with it, then train it for the whole year. Train it until your body has fluency, and then move on to the next posture. It should not be that you are still unfamiliar with the posture or that your temperament within is untransformed.
Train a single posture until you have fluency with it and then move on to another one. Go from ease to fluency, and then you can go continuously through the rest of the postures. It says in the Boxing Classics: “Understanding one, you will understand all.” Therefore in practicing Xingyi Boxing, do not expect quick results and do not have a quitting attitude. You must be persevering. Make it your lifelong task of personal cultivation, regardless of whether or not you get your desired results. If you train in this way, skillfulness will naturally be obtained.
[XU ZHAN’AO SAID…] – Part 2
The Xingyi boxing art’s three-substance posture is a model of the “three substances” – sky, ground, and mankind – which in the body are the head [sky], hands [mankind], and feet [ground]. It is also the three boxing systems of Xingyi [ground], Bagua [sky], and Taiji [mankind] merged into a single essence. In this posture, a single energy is born from emptiness – from stillness there is movement. From the state of grand polarity arises the dual aspects [passive/active], and then there is the three-substance posture – from movement there is stillness. Upon reaching the peak of emptiness and stillness, you have returned to your fundamental condition, which is your innate condition, not your acquired condition. This is the Xingyi boxing art’s foundation.
This three-substance posture is not something of acquired clumsy-strengthed vigor. It remains the standard within the art as it has been passed down to us and is the principle in boxing arts of “begin by returning to emptiness”, the same principle as in seated meditation [as is said in the Elixir Book]: “In seated meditation, you should begin by returning to emptiness.” While awaiting full emptiness and stillness, awareness is born at the root chakra. There should be movement and then awareness of it. This is innate movement. There cannot be knowledge of it and then movement, for that is acquired movement, a contrivance of movement. [In martial terms, the “innate” quality is that if you do not know what you are going to do, neither does your opponent and you will catch him unawares, whereas the “acquired” or “contrived” quality is that if you know what you are going to do before you do it, you will just give yourself away.]
When there is finally movement of your active aspect, this will suddenly turn your light upon yourself, concentrating spirit into your energy points. With spirit and energy intersecting, two energies are merging to make a single energy. There will then be the teachings of the civil and martial aspects, as well as the process of turning old energy back into new, which can be refined once your breathing is correct, and then forward and back, up and down, you will be able to go step by step through the training.
Because of “begin by returning to emptiness”, vigor can add nothing to it, for the mind is now empty within, as in the saying that “it is the clear mind that perceives nature”. First go from emptiness to the three-substance posture, which is to go from stillness to movement and then from movement back to stillness. Within the boxing art, it is before lifting, drilling, dropping, and overturning are expressed, and it is called “centering”.
Being centered is the harmony of not yet expressing. Then from the three-substance posture, “all things are born and raised”. When stillness reaches its peak there is movement, which is the lifting, drilling, dropping, and overturning being expressed, meaning the initiating of the crossing technique. The three-substance posture is within the five elements techniques and twelve animals techniques. It extends to every posture, and they all come from it. The Zhong Yong says: “Our nature comes from Nature. To accord with our nature is the Way.” Stillness is the centeredness of not yet expressing, movement circulated from the three-substance posture is the harmony of expressing, and harmony is the centeredness of expressing.
When practicing boxing arts, mistakes come from an unattaining kind of temperament. Such a person admires for a while and then is satiated, admires for a while and then quits. A teacher who transforms your temperament and returns you to being centered – that one is a teacher.
The internal power of Xingyi Boxing is born of centered harmoniousness. A common saying goes: “The boxing art’s ‘internal power’ means stimulating your belly until it is as hard as a rock.” This is wrong. Xingyi Boxing’s internal power is a person’s primordial spirit and primordial energy merged together. It does not wander off-center. It harmonizes without wavering. It does not go too far nor not far enough. It goes from nothing to something, from the abstract to the tangible, from the small to the large. It goes from the rousing of a singleness of energy to expressing with the whole body. It is a liveliness, everywhere, all the time. The Zhong Yong says: “Sending out, it goes beyond the ends of the universe. Rolling in, it stores away tightly. It is infinitely delightful.” All of this describes the boxing art’s internal power. A good practitioner will ponder on it and thereby obtain it, and then he will use it for his whole life, unable to exhaust it.
Regardless of whatever posture the three-substance posture changes into, without the ritual, there is no movement (ritual indicating the act of being in the posture that sets the standard within the boxing art), for it is the cultivation of the self. Therefore with each movement and each stillness, with each utterance and each silence, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, all will be correct, and this method of movement will be pure and natural, rather than forced to happen. Someone long ago said: “Inwardly – the virtue of nature. Outwardly – the way of kings. And never – the behavior of tyrants.” This is also the intent of this boxing art.
CHAPTER FIVE: BAGUA BOXING
[CHENG TINGHUA SAID…]
To practice the method of Bagua Boxing, first find a knowledgeable teacher to instruct you who knows the meaning within the boxing art and the order of the sequence.
What it all comes down to is that Bagua [“eight trigrams”] is a single energy transforming into distinct parts. (The single energy means the grand polarity.) The single energy remains merged with the eight trigrams, four manifestations, and dual aspects. Therefore without the grand polarity, there are no eight trigrams, and without the eight trigrams, dual aspects, and four manifestations, there is no grand polarity.
The single energy and the eight trigrams are its form, and the sixty-four changes and seventy-two hidden foot techniques make up its function. Form is also to be considered function, and function is also to be considered form, for form and function have a single source, movement and stillness a single method. It goes farther than the ends of the universe, nearer than the center of your own body. In each movement and each stillness, each utterance and each silence, everything has its trigram representation, all have form and function, and all have the method of Bagua. When its method has reached greatness, it embraces everything. When its application has attained spirituality, it contains everything.
If you want to discuss the training, it starts with understanding the principles of extending, shrinking, revolving, and grinding.
Let us first discuss shrinking. Shrinking is when you shrink from tall to short, or from front to back. For the manner of shrinking from tall to short, your body is as if it is shrinking down into an abyss. As to the idea of shrinking from front to back, your body is as if it is shrinking back into a cave.
Let us move on to extending, which is when you go from your body having shrunk to its limit of shortness or smallness and extend up as if to touch the sky or away as if to reach the sea. This is the essential idea of expanding and contracting within the boxing art. It was said by ancient men [from Guanzi, chapter 36 / then from Zhong Yong]: “It is so big it has no outside, so small it has no inside.” / “Sending out, it goes beyond the ends of the universe. Rolling in, it stores away tightly.” So it is that the method of Bagua Boxing has no inside or outside.
Grinding means to turn your body as if slightly corkscrewing or pivoting. When your body does a grinding turn, it pivots inside with the intention of not leaving the ground.
Revolving means to pick up your foot and step in a curve to turn all the way around, having an intention of your torso rotating as if the full circumference of the Earth.
Attaining in your body both hardness and softness is like a quick-wittedness manifesting throughout your body. You have a liveliness, flowing without stagnation, and yet the standards within it are really unchanging. Your arms after much training become hard, then transform toward softness.
When your feet move, always hook the thighs in to make a triangle. When your hands move, they unite in arcs cut into the eight lines [i.e. up, down, left, right, upper left, lower right, upper right, lower left]. Thus the count does not depart from the theory, the theory does not depart from the count, but theory and count concur with each other, and thereby it is complete.
By this means, the method is obtained in both body and mind and you can perfect yourself as well as benefit the world, for the conduct of the self is: filiality, respect, loyalty, and trustworthiness. Even without using your mouth, you can constantly chant the Buddha’s name. In your conduct, do not depart from the ways of the wise and virtuous. In your thinking, do not depart from the teachings of the immortals and buddhas. If you do not understand these things, you are not ready to discuss practicing Bagua Boxing, and if you do not act according to these things, you will not be able to obtain Bagua Boxing’s wonders.
CHAPTER SIX: TAIJI BOXING
[HAO WEIZHEN SAID…]
In practicing Taiji Boxing, there is the concept of three stages.
In the beginning stage of training, your body is as if it is in water while your feet are walking on the ground. Your whole body, your hands, and your feet move as if they are feeling the resistance of surrounding water.
In the second stage of training, your body, hands, and feet move as if they are in water, but with your feet floating rather than touching the ground. It is like a long-distance swimmer going for a swim, every action so fluent.
In the third stage of training, your body gets lighter and more agile, and your feet seem to be walking on the surface of water. When you reach this point, you have it in mind to be “fearfully careful, as if standing near a cliff edge or walking on thin ice” [Book of Poems, poem 195], and so you do not dare to have even the slightest notions of recklessness. When your spirit and energy become at all in disorder, immediately your body becomes alert to it and sinks down.
It is said in the Boxing Classics [paraphrasing from Essentials of Playing Hands Essentials (by Wu Yuxiang)]: “Your spirit, energy, and limbs should always be integrated. If one part is not in order, your body will be in disorder, inevitably causing you to lean all over the place, and you will be unable to efficiently do anything.” This is exactly the idea.
It is also said [paraphrasing from Essentials of Solo & Partner Practice (by Li Yiyu)]: “The work of knowing yourself lies in the practice of the thirteen dynamics [i.e. the solo set]. If you want to understand opponents, you must have a partner to practice with, every day playing the four techniques (namely: ward-off, rollback, press, and push).” After training for a long time, you can know where the opponent is empty or full, light or heavy, and at any moment you can make use of it.
If there is no one to work with, exercise the techniques on your own with an unmoving object in place of an opponent’s hands or body. Watch fixedly on the object’s center. Whether sticking, yielding, or attacking, your hands and feet should always be harmonized. Sometimes there will be the thought of sticking tightly to it. Sometimes there will be the thought of contact without contact. Your body inside and out should always be empty and nimble, and after a long period of training, your body will be able to be so.
If it is between self and a moving object, when the object moves, I can follow its “attacks”, using my hands to connect and follow, my body bending and extending, coming and going, my upper body and lower coordinating with each other, my inside and out acting together. Just as if there is actually somebody there to compete with, I maintain the intentions of neither nearing nor separating, neither coming away nor crashing in.
By this means, what your mind realizes, your body will perform. After training over a long period the methods of drawing in [the object / “opponent”] to miss you, then you will be able to do whatever you want. This is my own experience in the methods of not having a partner.
(Hao Weizhen and Chen Xiufeng practiced different solo sets, but the practical applications of their arts are abundantly similar. Where there are differences, it is because what they learned from individual experience was different.)
[CHEN XIUFENG SAID…]
Chen Xiufeng spoke of Taiji’s eight trigrams and the sixty-four hexagrams thus: “The [fifty-six joints of the] hands and feet, plus the four trunks and four branches [The “trunks” would be the upper arm/leg and the “branches” the lower arm/leg, the shoulder/hip area being the “roots” of the limbs.] total sixty-four hexgrams.” (The theory of the sixty-four hexagrams was detailed in A Study of Bagua Boxing.)
Cheng Tinghua talked of Swimming-Body Bagua with its sixty-four hexagrams: “The postures and applications of the two systems [Bagua and Taiji] are different but their theory is the same.” [Sun risks derailing his Taiji chapter by leading into further discussion of Bagua, but he seems to be doing this as an opportunity to compare some theory, Chen and Cheng saying similar things about two different systems, rather than presenting a segment specifically about Taiji. This may also be part of the reason Chen was given no bio in Chapter Three, seeing as his teachings are not really given the spotlight here.]
Chen Xiufeng on the usage of Taiji’s eight trigrams [i.e. the four primary techniques and the four secondary techniques]: “Sometimes sticking, sometimes yielding, sometimes hard, sometimes soft.” And on their function in sparring: “Always it is a matter of seeking the subtlety of neither nearing nor separating, of studying the concept of neither crashing in nor coming away. Once you draw the opponent off balance, four ounces moves a thousand pounds. When your movement expresses your spirit and energy, it is like ‘river flowing into ocean, on and on ceaselessly’”. (The most detailed discussion of this boxing theory is Wang Zongyue’s Taiji Boxing Treatise.)
Cheng Tinghua on the usage of Swimming Body Bagua: “Sometimes sticking, sometimes yielding, sometimes expanding, sometimes contracting, sometimes separating, sometimes nearing, sometimes crashing in, sometimes coming away. Suddenly disappear, suddenly appear, sometimes suddenly separating so that you are apart from each other by more than ten feet, then suddenly returning, closing right up in front of his eyes. Sometimes use the power of your whole body, sometimes use one finger, sometimes two fingers, sometimes just one joint of one finger. Be suddenly empty, suddenly full, suddenly hard, suddenly soft, with no defined shape, transforming unpredictably.”
As for all these teachers of the three schools of Xingyi, Bagua, and Taiji: the postures they practice are different, but their theories all merge, and their applications are according to circumstances. [Sun now switches gears again, no longer Taiji, nor even Bagua, but an abrupt attempt to sum up chapters four through six.]
CHAPTER SEVEN: SELECTED HIGHLIGHTS FROM XINGYI BOXING MANUALS
It says in the Boxing Classics: “In the method of Xingyi Boxing, there are the seven fists, the eight terms, the two chiefs, the three venoms, the five cruelties, the six ferocities, the six directions, the eight essentials, the ten eyes, the thirteen patterns, the fourteen attacking methods, the sixteen parts of training, the ninety-one boxing techniques, and the hundred and three spear techniques.” I fear that later students who have not read the Boxing Classics will not understand what is here. Thus I relate this in order to bring some of its ideas to light.
The seven fists:
head, shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee, foot.
The eight terms:
 Cleaving (as in the chopping technique)
 Checking (as in the drilling technique)
 Wrapping (as in the crossing technique)
 Lunging (as in the crashing technique)
 Carrying (as in the swallow’s running punch)
 Hoisting (as in the blasting technique)
 Clouding (as in the alligator technique)
 Leading (as in the snake technique)
The two chiefs:
The three boxing techniques [drilling, wrapping, running] and the three staff techniques [crashing, blasting, reversing] are the two chiefs [i.e. the three major techniques you will fall back on for a fistfight and the three for a duel with staffs]. (The three boxing techniques are as sky, ground, and mankind, generating methods without end. The three staff techniques also are sky, ground, and mankind, piling it on nonstop.)
The three venoms:
When you are well-versed in the three boxing techniques and the three staff techniques, they are each called the “three venoms”.
The five evils:
Obtaining its five essences [i.e. becoming proficient with the five elements techniques], they are the five cruelties.
The six ferocities:
Once the six unions have been fully trained, they are called the six ferocities.
The six directions:
When inside and outside are merged into a single unit [i.e. when the three internal unions and the three external unions are joined together], they make the six directions [i.e. making you complete to the front, back, left, right, up, down].
The eight essentials:
 With your mind stable, your spirit will be calm.
 With your spirit calm, your mind will be at peace.
 With your mind at peace, there will be tranquility.
 With tranquility, there will be emptiness.
 Through emptiness, energy will move.
 When energy moves, it will cut away image.
 With image cut away, you will feel enlightened.
 With a sense of enlightenment, spirit and energy will be linked with each other and all energies will return to the source.
The ten eyes:
This means the intention of the vision. [i.e. Look so intently it is as though you are gazing with a great many eyes.]
The thirteen patterns:
The patterns begin from the seven fists, and when they reach to scholars, farmers, laborers, and merchants, they become the “thirteen patterns”. [I have no explanation for this.]
The fourteen parts of attacking:
The hands, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet, make twelve fists. Add your head, which makes a fist, and your buttocks, which makes another, and the total is now fourteen. They are called the “seven fists”, although there are fourteen parts to strike with. [The buttocks are not mentioned as an eighth fist probably because the seven can all strike forward at the same time, whereas attacking with the buttocks requires an angle change that would reduce the involvement of other parts.] In the varying of these fourteen attacking parts, there are countless techniques. In blending them together, the five elements and dual aspects return again to being a single energy.
The sixteen-part training method:
1. Inching, 2. Running, 3. Drilling, 4. Bringing in, 5. Squeezing in, 6. Union, 7. Pressure, 8. Straightness, 9. Scraping, 10. Surprise, 11. Lifting & dropping, 12. Advancing & retreating, 13. The passive & active aspects, 14. The five elements, 15. Movement & stillness, 16. Emptiness & fullness.
 Inching has to do with the stepping action of your foot.
 Running has to do with the stepping action of your leg.
 Drilling has to do with the stepping action of your torso.
 Bringing in has to do with binding up your body.
 Squeezing in is like the closing of scissors [as your legs pinch together forward and back].
 Union means the six unions, internally and externally. Mind is united with the intention, the intention united with the energy, and the energy united with the power. These are the three internal unions. The shoulder is united with the hip, the elbow united with the knee, and the hand united with the foot. These are the three external unions.
 Pressure means that your urgency is venomous, and that inside and outside are as one.
 Straightness has to do with directness of orientation. Observing your posture head-on, it would look askew. Observing your posture diagonally, it would look straightened. [In the three-substance posture, what gives your left hand and left foot their forwardness is your torso facing forty-five degrees to the right.]
 Scraping has to do with the friction of your hands during the five elements techniques.
 Surprise has to do with the jolt through your limbs. As with a shot from a cannon, your opponent will fall, scraped aside. But though he has been rubbed out, your intention and energy echo on.
 Lifting and dropping:
Lifting is going out and dropping is striking, but when lifting is also striking, dropping is still striking. When lifting and dropping are like water in overturning waves, then you have fulfilled lifting and dropping.
 Advancing and retreating:
Advancing is with the step low [digging your foot in], retreating is with the step high [lifting your foot out]. Unless you advance and retreat correctly, you have learned this art in vain.
 The passive and active aspects:
Seeing the passive, yet there is the active. Seeing the active, yet there is the passive. When the sky and ground, the passive and active, join with each other, rain falls. In this boxing art, when the passive and active combine, you can attack an opponent and become one with him. Always it is the energies of passive and active.
 The five elements:
It is internally that the five elements should move. Externally they should merely be following along [with the internal movement].
 Movement and stillness:
Stillness is the fundamental form. In movement lies the function. To explain stillness, it means you are not telegraphing the moment you will act. To describe movement, it means nothing of what you have just done was seen. Movement and stillness are therefore the moment between not yet expressing and having expressed.
 Emptiness and fullness:
Emptiness has to do with your essential spirit. Fullness has to do with your enlivened spirit. Essential and enlivened together are the emptiness and fullness. Its song in the Boxing Classic goes:
Essence nourishes virtue, energy nourishes spirit.
In cultivating the skill and the Way, you will see Nature’s truth.
When your elixir field is nurtured, it brings the treasure of long life.
A thousand pounds of gold is not wealth when compared to your body.
The ninety-one boxing techniques:
The three boxing techniques separate into twenty-one. The five elements generating and overcoming each other makes ten techniques, which then separate into seventy. 21+70 = ninety-one boxing techniques. [The reason for the separating into these sevens is because] one technique divides into seven versions, which are: striking forward, striking to the rear, striking to the left, striking to the right, not striking by striking, striking by not striking, and striking by striking.
The hundred and three spear techniques:
Sky, ground, and mankind makes three spears, each separating into four “pillars”. 3×4 = twelve spears. The five elements techniques makes five spears. 5×7 = thirty-five spears [going by the same separation into sevens as with the boxing techniques]. The eight trigrams makes eight spears. 8×7 = fifty-six spears. 12+35+56 = a hundred and three spear techniques.
Attacking with your head, it lifts and drops along with the stepping of your foot, lifting and yet not lifting, for it occupies the center. As your foot stamps through the doorway, snatching the position, you project so much spirit it is difficult for the opponent to defend against.
Attacking with your shoulder, one side is passive to balance the other which is active, while your hands are stored away in the hollows. Using either your left shoulder or right, it is entirely a matter of smothering his capacity, for you are to “bind” up then “spread” out, and in those two words is one command for him: flee!
Attacking with your elbow, the intention is to take possession of his chest, the lifting hand wishing to be a tiger pouncing on a lamb. Or if it goes inward, turning to one side, your rear hand stays below your ribs.
Attacking with your fists, be invisible in all three parts, like looking at something and not being able to see even its shadow. [i.e. Whether the fist is extending, retracting, or twisting, it is all too quick to see.] It can be that a thought finishes, but not that a thought lingers, and that an energy was there before it was thought of, but not after.
Attacking with your hip, it is coordinated with your torso, for when your passive and active aspects are joined together, it is difficult for him to catch you. The outer hip bumping is much like the flopping of a fish, and the inner hip bumps with your step and is a situation which is hard for him to adapt to.
Attacking with your knee, it goes to several places your opponent will not see, and it will be like a fierce tiger leaving a wooden cage. It takes but a gentle turn of your body and the power will go unhalted, spreading cleanly to either side as your intention dictates.
Attacking with your foot, stomp with an intention of not coming down fruitlessly, its placement depending entirely on the pressing of your rear foot. When you compete with courageous opponents, be not unprepared, and send your intention out like wind rolling over the ground.
Attacking with your buttocks, lift and drop invisibly, like a fierce tiger crouching in a cave, ready to spring out.
It says in the Boxing Classics:
“From the primeval oneness is our method made, and in the method is nothing beyond the five true forms. Stored within these forms is essential spirit, and stored within this spirit is the energy of the elixirist ways.
“If you wonder how we are to get to the authenticity of the true forms, you must understand that the true forms merge in an authentic relationship. From this authentic relationship comes genuine skill, and as the genuineness of the skill merges with the Way, your realization builds to the revelatory.
“To nurture your virtue by rousing your mind is a matter of dealing with opponents. To nurture your virtue by bestilling your mind is a matter of cultivating the Way.”
The “Formula for Breathing Like a Newborn Baby” says: “The ancients deemed the energy points to be the ‘gateways of life and death’ and also the ‘roots of the world’. Concentrating your spirit into them over a long period, your primordial vitality will daily fill and your primordial spirit will daily flourish. With your spirit flourishing, your energy will be unimpeded. With your energy unimpeded, your blood will flow. With your blood flowing, your bones will be strengthened. With your bones strengthened, your marrow will be full of potency. With your marrow potent, your abdomen will feel full. With your abdomen full, you will lower solidly. Lowering solidly, you will step nimbly. With your movements energized, your body will be healthy, your complexion will be like peaches and plums, and longevity will not be far off.” This is the same idea as with the boxing art’s internal power.
MY EXPERIENCE OF PRACTICING BOXING ARTS & THE ESSENTIAL CONCEPT WITHIN THE THREE SYSTEMS
[PART 1 – MY EXPERIENCE OF PRACTICE]
I have practiced boxing arts since my youth. I had heard every teacher say that these boxing arts are Daoist arts. I was doubtful whenever I heard this until I had progressed to training the hidden energy. Hardness and softness had merged into one, movement felt miraculous, and it became spontaneous and natural.
Discussing it with my fellow students, we each knew something about it. However, once I had moved on to training the neutral energy, the quality of discussion about my new internal condition had changed. Those who understood the experience were often less willing to talk about it, and those who knew nothing about it would not stop talking about it. For that reason, I have put pen to paper in order to reveal it to my fellows. For those of you who have passed through to such a condition, by sharing with each other we can mutually achieve perfection.
When I trained to develop the neutral energy, at the finish of each day’s practice of postures I would stand straight and think of my spirit and energy settling. Each time, I felt something down in my root chakra (also called the Yin Jiao acupoint). [Yin Jiao means “where the passive energy is quickened”. This is again still the same place as Hui Yin, meaning similarly “where the passive energy gathers”. There are three names for the same place because of three traditions: in Chinese medicine it is called Hui Yin (“Gathering Place of the Passive”), Daoists named it Yin Jiao (“Passive Quickened”), and Buddhists named it Hai Di (“Under the Sea”).] It was like a plant sprouting, and in the beginning I did not pay it much attention.
In my daily practice, there were times when the sensation would be there, other times when I felt nothing at all. In the course of time, there were occasions when the sensation lasted very long, as well as other times in which there was again no sensation. Gradually, once in the finishing posture and thinking on settling, it seemed like it was there but on the verge of going away. I thought of what the Elixir Book says about seated meditation: “Your true active aspect activates.” I made use of this idea, which to elixirists is a matter of movement within stillness.
Among those who practice seated meditation, there are a great many who understand the idea of seeking movement within stillness. In the case of boxing arts, what is sought is stillness within movement, but I am not sure how that can be communicated. I also thought upon this phrase from the Boxing Classics: “Always the exercise is to be maintained and never allowed to slip away.” I trained every day, never skipping a day.
Eventually in the training, from the moment I was in the finishing posture my whole body went into a condition of emptiness. My true active aspect would also activate, but would be on the verge of going away. Such a state is what Liu Huayang meant by “returning to a sense of the true primordial state”. I became aware of my body’s smallest movement, and I dared not to move at all, for if I moved it would go away.
I thought if I returned to the method in the boxing, it would adjust the situation. My intention within was of sinking naturalness down to my elixir field, while underneath also using an intention of naturalness to lift up my rectum. The idea inside and out was now just like when practicing the boxing. Then the moment my intention focused on my elixir field, the active aspect promptly shrank in upward and resprouted there. My whole body was now pleasantly warm and stayed so continuously. [In short, what Sun had discovered here is the simple but crucial principle that if you are sticking your butt out, your energy will seem to leak away, but if you slightly tuck your tailbone in, you will feel full of power.]
I did not yet know about the principle of rotating the dharma wheel, but it was all going on there within my elixir field, like two things in a state of competing with each other. [A dharma wheel rotation is the active energy moving up the Du meridian in the back and the passive energy moving down the Ren meridian in front, and the elixir field is where the exchange of passive and active takes place.] Then after four or five hours like that, finally they were at peace.
It seemed to me that the cause of such stillness was that from when I was practicing the boxing, the essential breath had remained in my elixir field. Even when I was not practicing, despite even the breathing of conversation, the true breath within was not hindered at all. Indeed I was not trying to deliberately cause such an effect, but there was no moment when it was not so. Zhuangzi said [Zhuangzi, chapter 6]: “An authentic man breathes with his heels.” This is essentially the idea, and this engine of there being breath without my mind being on the breath drove the activity of the active aspect to be absorbed and to smoothly reach to every part of my body.
I thereafter repeated the process as before, again rousing my elixir field, again going through my practice routine of boxing postures. With my inside and outside always a single continuum, I slowly and leisurely practiced, not allowing the slightest bit of unevenness anywhere. As I practiced, within and to my extremities it was harmonious, a continuous emptiness, and then the situation once I was standing in the finishing posture was no different from before.
There were times when I would go through my practice routine and then feel nothing, times when I would go through my routine twice and still feel nothing. But subsequently when there was something happening, I would again lift it to my elixir field and then use the boxing art’s internal breathing to rotate the dharma wheel, my intention focusing on my elixir field.
Breathing mindfully, I rotated the wheel along its course from my tailbone, to my spine, to my head, to my headtop, and then back down, same as in seated meditation practice, back down to my elixir field. At times I could do only two or three rotations and then the feeling would stop, at times only three or four rotations and then the feeling would stop. The degree of my intent was matched in both cases, the amount of rotations I could manage and the amount of boxing practice I had put in.
Later when I was not practicing, whether I was just sitting, standing, or walking, inside I was still using the breathing of the boxing practice. My body while walking could still process it. Later on it happened even when I was sleeping deeply. There would be a sudden stirring within, which immediately woke me. I again used the breathing from practicing the boxing to absorb it. I then slept soundly, and inside there was no movement. Inside and out, my whole body to its extremities suddenly felt like a void. My whole body was as harmoniously contented as if I was taking a bath.
Sometimes when this situation happened in my sleep, I was able in my dream to mindfully breathe and thereby absorb it. After I woke up, I was aware that it had happened and had been dealt with in my dream.
After practicing the boxing, I slept soundly and there was stillness within. Eventually I only had to fall asleep for my inside and out to suddenly slip into a period of emptiness. During the day, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, my limbs also experienced periods of such emptiness, and the sensation within my body was extraordinarily comfortable. Every evening, I practiced the boxing, and then while I was asleep in the night, my body often slipped into a state of emptiness. Although if I did not practice in the evening, the emptiness during sleep would occur less regularly.
Later on I understood that elixirism has an energy which dispels ailments. My own personal experiences and observations of internal and external conditions were that typical human problems become inconsequential, all illnesses are cast off, and vitality is increased. After doing seated meditation in this way and practicing the boxing in this way, I finally understood that boxing arts and elixirism share the same principles.
This has been my personal experience, internal and external, of practicing boxing arts. I have written it down for the purpose of further clarifying for my comrades.
[PART 2 – THE ESSENTIAL CONCEPT WITHIN THE THREE: UNCONSCIOUS AWARENESS]
Boxing arts are ultimately a means of practicing emptiness and thereby joining with the Way. This is the true meaning of transforming into a condition of perfect emptiness and perfect nothingness. When not moving, there is silence within, emptiness without a single movement in your mind. When something unexpected suddenly happens, even if you neither see it nor hear it, you can nevertheless sense it and evade it. The Zhong Yong says: “By the way of total sincerity, one can know what is about to happen.” It is this idea.
Of those who were able to attain the “way of total sincerity” in these three boxing arts, I know of only four. In Xingyi Boxing, there was Li Nengran. In Bagua Boxing, there was Dong Haichuan. In Taiji Boxing, there was Yang Luchan and Wu Yuxiang. These four men were all conscious of the unseen and unheard. Other teachers all perceive with their eyes and ears, and when something unexpected suddenly happens to them, they only have the seeing of their eyes and hearing of their ears to depend on. They can evade all attacks no matter how fast, for their skills have achieved a condition of emptiness, yet because they have not attained perfect emptiness, they are incapable of being aware without seeing or hearing.