THE CORRECT PATH OF YIQUAN
by Wang Xiangzhai
[translation by Paul Brennan, Aug, 2016]
The way of martial arts is really very hard to describe. The Book of Poetry says [poem 198]: “They are without fists, without courage.” The Book of Rites [chapter 6] mentions the training of wrestling [alongside archery and charioteering]. Such references are the source of our martial arts. During the Han Dynasty, Hua Tuo made his Five Animal Frolics, which also had a martial quality, but because there were too few practitioners at the time, that aspect disappeared.
Then in the Tianjian era of Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty [502—519], Damo traveled east. In addition to teaching the Buddhist sutras, he also taught skills of training the body. Drawing from the special attributes of animals, he produced the methods of Marrow Washing and Sinew Changing, and created Yiquan [“Intention Boxing”], also called Xinyiquan [“Mental Intention Boxing”]. There were many skilled experts of it. It was called “Shaolin” because that is where the practice began. Yue Fei then collected the essences of various systems and compiled them into the methods of “five techniques continuous boxing”, “miscellaneous hands”, and “throwing hands”, his art becoming known as Xingyiquan [“Form & Intention Boxing”].
When the nation was later at peace, the attitude steadily grew that literary pursuits were important and martial pursuits were irrelevant. Moreover, martial arts experts were often too in love with fighting and caused trouble, resulting in the literati shunning martial arts more and more. Even though some of these boxing arts had profound theories, scholars were unable to see their historical importance. Systems were passed down for a long time without any modifications being made, and when later generations came up with methods that also had excellent qualities, they were usually hidden away in their native villages and they did not dare to spread their arts. This indeed fills us modern students with deep grief.
During the Qing Dynasty, in Taiyuan, Shanxi, the Dai brothers excelled in martial arts, but they taught their whole art only to Li Luoneng of Shen County, Hebei. Li taught many students, the finest being Guo Yunshen, also of Shen County. Guo’s teacher taught him Xingyi, emphasizing stance work as the first stage of fundamental training. Students have too often been allowed to skip that part of the teaching, and now it is hardly seen anymore. Guo was already worried, not that people would not be able to learn it, but that people would not be able to teach it. Guo and I were from the same town, and our bond was that between an old man and a young man. He taught me in the first place because he considered me to be intelligent, and then when he was on his deathbed, still showing the height of skill, he tirelessly encouraged me to maintain serious training.
In recent years, people no longer behave as they did in the previous era. Students usually prefer weird new things, and they have no comprehension for true arts and great ways. Every day, people keep forgetting this wisdom [from the Zhong Yong]: “The Way is not far from people. It is their expectation of the Way that distances them from it.” They are no longer willing to use such wisdom to seek what is truly great, and it has unfortunately become customary in recent years to incline toward what is inferior. Instead of striving for real life, they pursue empty fads. They pursue personal gain rather than self-knowledge. In imitation of corrupt literature, they seek power in order to get ahead, pages full of nonsense tricking them with illusions.
They ignore that what they seek is a mirage and chase their fantasies. They ignore the sheer scale of the real world and treat it as irrelevant. To push students to be studious is therefore like sending them into miles of fog. They can barely tell at all what is real and what is fake. Ordinary ignorant people seem to use the Way of the sages, but they cannot be bothered to go into it [to “drill into it or look up at it”, paraphrasing Lun Yu, 9.11: “The more I look up at his teaching, the higher it goes. The more I drill into his teaching, the harder it gets.”] Alas. Good men set out on the path, but where does the great Way flourish? They contemplate it in the middle of the night, but how do they keep themselves from sighing in despair?
I am not endowed with great intelligence, but I do have a heartfelt delight for martial arts. I was given personal guidance in the genuine art, and every day I carry on my teacher’s words. I have made a record of his precious ideas and compiled them into a book. Setting the example of benefiting both self and others, I not dare to keep it to myself. Hoping to share the benefits with fellow enthusiasts, the least I can do is publish this document.
– written by Wang Yuseng [Xiangzhai] of Shen County, during the “chrysanthemum month” [Oct], 1929
 STANDING METHODS FOR TRANSFORMING STRENGTH
If you seek a marvelous fighting ability, you have to use stance work and the transformation of strength as the place to start. By such means, weakness will be transformed into strength and clumsiness will be transformed into nimbleness. Students of Zen begin with disciplined behavior, then become experts in established wisdom, realize the origin of “mind”, awaken to the reality of emptiness, and then at last are able to discover the Way. Meditation is like this, and so are martial arts.
In the beginning of the training, there are numerous standing methods, such as Descending Dragon Stance, Crouching Tiger Stance, Pointer Stance, Three-Realms Stance, and so on. Then complexity gives way to simplicity as you take the strong points of each stance and merge them into one, called Primordial Stance. It is helpful for generating power and useful for actual fighting. It is training for mastery of both attack and defense, and for energy circulation. After just ten days of training, it will naturally produce results so marvelous that words cannot describe them.
When learning standing methods, the most important thing to avoid is that your body or mind put forth any exertion. If you use exertion, energy will stagnate. If energy stagnates, intention will stop. If intention stops, spirit will be cut off. If spirit is cut off, you will become prey to your opponent’s tricks. You should especially avoid tilting your head back, bending at the waist, or overly bending or straightening your elbows and knees. Always use the measure of “straight but not straight, bent but not bent” and the mindset of opening up the sinews and vessels.
Your head should press up, your lower spine should straighten, energy should sink downward, and your mind should quiet its thoughts. Your fingers and toes exert only the slightest strength. Your teeth seem almost closed together but not quite. Your tongue is curled up to almost touch your upper palate but not quite. Your pores all over your body seem to be open but not quite open. In this way, internal power will outwardly express, weakness will be transformed into strength, and then it will not be difficult to obtain the essentials.
 TRAINING THE SINEWS & BONES
Strength is born in the bones and fulfilled in the sinews. When the sinews are lengthened, your strength is great. When your bones are heavy, your sinews are lively. When your sinews extend, your bones should withdraw. When your bones are lively, the power is full.
Extending the sinews of your wrists and neck (meaning the wrists, ankles, and neck), the muscles of your whole body are thus opened up.
With your headtop pressing up and your teeth closed together, your heels store (as though storing a springy force).
The six centers (the palms, the soles of the feet, the solar plexus, the crown of the head) match each other.
Your chest and back should be rounded (meaning that by spreading the back muscles, the chest muscles will have unusual power), then energy will naturally spread.
Your forearms bracing across should be level, using the energies of lifting and embracing, opening and closing, extending and withdrawing.
Your legs use the energies of lifting and squeezing, raking and withdrawing, digging and collapsing, twisting and wrapping. Your shoulders brace and your hips drop.
[From Taiji’s Thirteen Dynamics Song:] “Your tailbone is centered and spirit penetrates to your headtop.” Energy courses through the three sections of your spine to the crown of your head.
Your joints arc like the curve of a bow. Your sinews stretch like bowstrings. Wielding energy is like the tautness of the bowstrings. Send your hand out as though loosing an arrow.
Apply strength like drawing silk, your hands as though tearing cloth. With your wrists and ankles expressing powerfully, your strength will naturally be full. With energy sinking and your teeth closed together, your bones will naturally be strong.
Imitate these qualities: dragon squatting, tiger sitting, eagle eye, ape spirit, cat walking, horse running, chicken leg, snake body. Examine these dynamics: straighten your lower back and sink energy; settle your hips and lift your knees; brace and intercept, wrap and sink; stick and settle, neutralize and follow.
If you can grasp these essentials, then when you face an opponent, you will naturally be able to respond according to the situation, adapting without limit. [Paraphrasing Taiji’s Playing Hands Song:] “Let him attack with heroic force, then act with one finger deflecting a thousand pounds.”
It is said: “The body is like scale, the waist like a wheel, the energy like gunpowder, the fists like bullets. The spirit acts with such subtlety, a bird could not escape.” Furthermore, let your thoughts shrink and your courage enlarge. Have a benevolent countenance but a ruthless mentality. Be in stillness like a scholar, in motion like a dragon or tiger.
Always the standards should be:
– Let emptiness and fullness be unfixed.
– Adapt, but without complying.
Then naturally you will be able to obtain the art’s ingenuity of transformation. Grandmaster Guo Yunshen often said: “To have a ‘shape’ or ‘intention’ is in either case a contrivance. Once your skill attains the level of unconscious action [‘no mind’], then you will notice wonders.” His words indicate these standards.
 APPLYING POWER
Effectiveness in martial arts depends on having power. Methods of applying power do not go beyond hardness and softness, squareness and roundness. Hardness is straightness. Softness is lively. Straightness is extended long, having a force of attack and defense. Softness has a shorter range, having a force that is sudden and elastic. Hard power seems to have a squareness:
Soft power is externally square but internally round:
Extend and withdraw, press down and raise up. Long and short make use of each other. Hardness and softness complement each other. When your left side hardens, your right side softens. When your left side softens, your right side hardens. When your end joints use hardness, your middle joints use softness. Sometimes hard, sometimes soft, the ingenuity lies in the transformations of emptiness and fullness. To have half hardness and half softness in your movements is best. Furthermore, when you make a soft retreat, make a hard advance, and when you make a hard retreat, make a soft advance. When you encounter emptiness, soften, but let hardness follow. When you face fullness, harden, but let softness precede.
Regardless of countless differences, the crucial factors are always that you keep your balance from slipping off-center and that you keep whole-bodied lines of force from being interrupted. Crossing and bracing, opening and releasing – the boundless reach of these radiating lines is called “squareness”. Lifting and wrapping, containing and storing – the center where energy is generated is called “roundness”. Thereby the muscles express strength [through the curved quality of movement] and the bones produce edges [through the angular quality of shape].
Whenever you send your hand out, use lifting and pressing, bracing and holding, raising and dropping, drilling and wrapping, going along with his force to go against his movement, using squareness to make roundness:
When your hand lands, use storing and continuous flowing, using roundness to make squareness:
Because round power can withdraw and lift, and square power can turn and press, opening and closing will seem interlinked, like countless silk strands wound round and round, causing the opponent to be incapable of understanding what is going on:
Your shining presence is like a fast horse leaping a stream and giving a proud neigh, with a majestic bearing and full of courage. Your spirit is inwardly solid. If you are facing a powerful opponent, then even if it feels as though you are confronted by a forest of swords and halberds, or by a mountain of sabers and axes, remain in a mentality of having no opponents at all. Your body is like a loaded crossbow, your hand like the bolt about to be released. You hand goes out suddenly, just like a snake biting prey. When you strike someone, it will seem like the shock of a landmine.
Methods of applying power should not be overly hard, for hardness is too brittle, nor should it be overly soft, for softness cannot advance. It is necessary to use vertical power to get in from the side, and to use the receiving and expelling of horizontal power to coil around. However, this kind of method of applying power is not easy to obtain without an intuitive understanding. If you are able to practice to the point of skill, then your power will naturally have roundness, your body will naturally have squareness, your energy will be naturally calm, and your spirit will be naturally focused. Do not be lazy in your training.
In methods of seeking power, slowness is superior to speed, leisure overcomes urgency, and it is most important of all to put forth no awkward effort. When moving, you must get the joints of your whole body to be natural, without the slightest stagnation. Your bones have to be lively. Your sinews have to be extended. Your muscles have to be comfortable. Your blood has to flow like the underground channels of a well.
In this way, you will then be able to have a whole-bodied technique, a concentrated force without the main part of your force getting dissipated. If you rush through a boxing set like a dance, using aggressive force to speed it up and look pretty, then you will hold your breath, and your blood circulation will be greatly hindered. Whenever we see people violently hurrying through the movements, they always have angry eyes and knit brows, noisily stomping, first holding their breath, then exerting their strength. Once they are finished, they are then gasping and panting, little realizing the great harm they are doing to their vitality. We often see those who have put in decades of hard work and still end up as laymen, and this is why. Using no awkward effort would not lead to such an outcome. But since there are also those who “work hard for a mere three months and achieve extraordinary effects”, we can understand the extent to which exaggeration may mislead people.
Students who work from these methods of seeking strength will get meticulous results and will naturally be able to possess the keys to a magical skill. However, this material is not something those at a mediocre level will be able to grasp.
 TRAINING THE ENERGY
Confucius used self-discipline to cultivate his temperament and train his energy. The Yellow Emperor used delight for the Way to train his spirit and transform his energy. When Zen master Damo traveled east to transmit the Way, he began teaching the methods of Marrow Washing and Tendon Changing, and he created Yiquan and dragon & tiger stance training. Therefore he was the ancestor who paved the way for martial arts.
Since ancient times, among wise men and scholars, sages and heroes, arhats and buddhas, there has never been a practitioner of martial arts who did not cultivate his temperament and train his energy. It says in Zhuangzi [chapter 3]: “By way of skill, we get close to the Way.” But although a skill seems a lesser Way, it turns out that its principles are limitless.
To practice this skill, do not approach it casually, with an attitude of frivolous delight in the material world. Sages, scholars, and refined gentlemen are in agreement that you would not then be able to learn it. When learning how to train the energy, results come from an idea of a cycle of energy. The practice is to breathe through the nose with a short inhale and a long exhale, the substance of the exercise is that it is like a river flowing unceasingly, and the achievement is to have such an awareness of energy that you enter a state of pure void.
First there are the paths of food and breath coming in and going out, then there is the course of kidney energy ascending. It is the art of using the acquired to assist the innate, of the revolving of energy through the energy circuit. In the beginning of training the energy circuit, draw in fresh air through your nose and send it directly to your “sea of energy”. From there it courses through to your tailbone, then curls toward your lower back, where your kidneys are positioned. This place is indeed the origin of the innate condition, the source for all the organs, and thereby the kidney water is sufficient. It then ascends along the Du meridian to the acupoints on the head, returning to the nose. The tongue attracts the kidney energy and from there it descends, filling the lower abdomen, gradually entering the elixir field. These are the essentials, the secret, of the energy circuit. Do not treat it lightly.
 CULTIVATING ENERGY
Although cultivating energy and training the energy derive from the same source, the study of instinct / discipline and movement / stillness, and the art of shape / shapelessness each have their differences. The study of cultivating energy is always a matter of instinct, and the study of training the energy is always a matter of discipline. Spirit has to do with instinct and energy has to do with discipline, therefore the art of cultivating energy has to start with instinct.
As for the way of instinct and discipline, there are not really words that can describe it. Furthermore, the Way is beyond language, and if it can be described, then it is not the Way. As Mengzi described it [energy] [Mengzi, 2a2]: “It is that which is difficult to describe.” We may struggle with words and force explanations, but the Way is based in nothingness. Nothingness is the source of the universe, the origin of all things. People live and die, things diminish and rot away, but the Way is eternal.
[From Zhuangzi, chapter 33:] “It is so big, there is nothing outside it, and so small, there is nothing inside it.” [From chapter 22:] “Look at it, it has no shape. Listen to it, it makes no sound.” And yet it can embrace all things, reaching to all of the six directions, filling the universe, infused into the whole cosmos. The study of instinct and discipline is thus also the study of Nature’s passive and active aspects.
However, if you wish to cultivate energy and develop discipline, you must keep the intention to do so from getting involved. Mind is the fire of the ego. Movement is the fire of the body. If the ego fire does nothing, then the body fire will not be generated. And when the body is doing nothing, then energy and thought will both become calm. Without thoughts, the spirit will naturally be clear. Once you have a clear spirit, your mental intention will then be stable. Thus it is said [from 修道真言 “True Words on Cultivating the Way”:] “Whenever there is a thought of movement, there is fire. But when all ideas are calm, then there is true life… Constantly cause energy to course through the energy channels. Then naturally essence will be full and the ‘valley spirit’ will be maintained.”
Thus you will have the ability of [from the 赤文洞古經 “Classic of Sincere Words Penetrating to what is Ancient”:] “moving by not moving, doing by not doing. Not doing, spirit returns. Spirit returning, all things are quiet. Things quieting, energy dissipates. Energy dissipating, all things lie dormant.”
Ears, eyes, mind, and intention are all forgotten. This is the realm of the wondrous. [From the 大通經 “Classic of Great Understanding”:] “Regard the world, but forget it is there. (i.e. Do not succumb to the demons of the senses.) Transcend this world instead of falling into more traps of karma.”
[From the 清靜經 “Classic of Clarity and Stillness”:] “Indeed one who is able to do so [transcend] looks inward at mind and finds that mind is without mind. He looks outward at shapes and finds that shape is without shape. He looks far away at things and finds that things are things of nothing. Awaken to all of these kinds of nothing [no mind, no shape, no thingness] and discover emptiness. [But seeing ‘emptiness’ is also an empty thing,] because there is nothing there, and since ‘emptiness’ is empty, ‘nothingness’ also amounts to nothing. [And with even ‘nothingness’ amounting to nothing, there is calm.]… Typically, when the spirit prefers clarity, the mind gets distracted, and when the mind prefers quietude, desires become restless.”
Let spirit never be separate from instinct, and energy never be separate from discipline. You will then be as accurate in your training as a shadow following a shape.
 THE FIVE ELEMENTS UNITED INTO A ONENESS
The five elements are the basis for the transformations of mutual generating and overcoming, the process of which is the source of all things. The common description of the five elements theory runs thus: Metal generates water, water generates wood, wood generates fire, fire generates earth, and earth generates metal – this is the way they generate each other. Metal overcomes wood, wood overcomes earth, earth overcomes water, water overcomes fire, and fire overcomes metal – this is the way they overcome each other.
This old-fashioned concept is difficult to align with the boxing theory, for it really seems to have little to do with boxing arts. It is also said that certain techniques generate certain techniques, and certain techniques overcome certain techniques. This idea seems more reasonable. In considering boxing principles, how could there be a fixation for the five elements when hands connect during fighting?
What your eyes notice, your mind then thinks about, and then you send out your hands to deal with it. The rest of the theory we really should not presume to believe. Furthermore, the opponent’s incoming attacks keep varying, so how could we use the concept of generating and overcoming to be able to win? This theory of generating and overcoming simply misleads people with absurd gibberish.
It can happen spontaneously that you do not know in what way the opponent is attacking and yet your hands and feet arrive in the right place to respond to it. Nevertheless, you should not dare to say that you therefore have an ability for overcoming opponents. If you then start talking about what your brain measured or what your mind considered, the techniques that your hands performed or the practice sets that have developed your skills, you would be behaving at the level of the layman, which is insufficient for discussing boxing arts.
What we mean in boxing arts when we talk of the five elements is actually a “strength” of metal, of wood, of water, of fire, of earth:
The sinews and bones throughout your body are as hard as iron or stone. This is the nature of metal, and is therefore called the “strength of metal”. (A similar idea goes: “The skin and muscles are like cotton. The sinews and bones are like steel.”)
The four limbs and hundreds of bones have everywhere the same quality of bending and extending as a tree. This is the nature of wood, and is therefore called the “strength of wood”.
The movement of the body is like a spirit dragon swimming through sky, or a mighty serpent wading through water. Like the flow of water, there is no set path, just the liveliness of following the course of circumstance. This is the nature of water, and is therefore called the “strength of water”.
When you shoot out your hand, it is like an artillery shell exploding, a sudden action that is like a fire burning the opponent’s body, so alarmingly fierce. This is the nature of fire, and is therefore called the “strength of fire” [or “firepower”].
Your whole body is filled with a sincere sense of weight, as though as heavy as a mountain, and every part being like a pointed peak. This is the nature of earth, and is therefore called the “strength of earth”.
With every action, always have these five kinds of strength. This is the method of the “five elements merging into one”. Whenever you are not moving, your whole body has a consistent strength, but whenever you are moving, there is everywhere, large and small joints alike, a duality of contending strength above and below, forward and back, left and right. In this way, you can gain the combined strength of your whole body.
 THE SIX UNIONS
The six unions are divided into internal and external.
It is said: “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 hand is united with the foot, the elbow united with the knee, and the shoulder united with the hip. These are the three external unions.”
It is also said: “The sinews are united with the bones, the skin united with the muscles, and the lungs are united with the kidneys. These are the three internal unions. The head is united with the hand, the hand united with the torso, and the torso united with the foot. These are the three external unions.”
In short, there is union that has to do with spirit, power, and lines of force. It is methods of using the whole body that makes “union”. It is not merely a matter of some postural alignments. There are indeed people who are misguided in their interpretation of the six unions. Do not become one of them.
 POETIC INSTRUCTIONS
(The poetic instructions supply the essence of a boxing art. If you are able to fully understand these concepts and principles, you will naturally be able to obtain the method.)
Further concentrate your mind.
Triply hide your intention.
Further fortify your essence.
Further stabilize your energy.
Further brighten your spirit.
(These are the five most important essentials to learn.)
Let sincerity course through your whole body.
Keep your structure from crumbling anywhere.
(Using the power of the whole body, there is no part that is incomplete. Seek for a constant intention of internal “roundness” and external “squareness” from beginning to end.)
Punches go out like meteors.
Switch techniques like lightning.
(i.e. Adapt rapidly, your spirit quick and decisive.)
Your tongue is curled upward and your teeth are closed together.
(The tongue forms the “end” of the muscles. The muscles are the bag for your energy. When your tongue is curled, energy descends and pours into your “sea of energy”, and is also able to guide energy from your kidneys into your elixir field. The teeth form the “end” of the bones. When they are closed together, your bones are firmed.)
The headtop is like a hanging chime.
(The head is the source of the six channels of active energy. The five sense organs [eyes, ears, nose, tongue, lips] and the whole skeleton are based in this place. When the headtop seems suspended, the three sections of the spine and the nine orifices of the body will have a smooth energy flow, and so you will naturally be able to have “white clouds facing the headtop”, or a halo hanging over your head. This is also a key principle of Zen teachings.)
The spirit in your eyes shines brightly.
(This means that your vision comes into sharp focus.)
Your breath and your hearing become concentrated.
Your mind’s eye should watch inward.
(This has to do with the practice of breathing through your nose with a long exhalation and short inhalation, and the function of your ears, eyes, and mind watching instead of listening.)
Your waist turning like a pulley wheel,
your hands and feet go out like drill heads.
(Nimble and lively, they dash forward to seize a position.)
Lifting, wading, wrapping, raking, shrinking.
Rolling, scraping, lifting, bracing, twisting.
(Whether in motion or stillness, you must have these qualities.)
Your fingers and toes grab with strength.
Your pores seem to generate electricity.
(The fingers and toes form the “end” of the sinews. When they are hooking in, there is naturally ample strength. Body hair forms the “end” of the blood. The blood is the boldness of energy. When the pores are not open and the hairs do not stand, blood is not abundant. When blood is not abundant, energy is not roused. When energy is not roused, then strength is not full. And without fullness, the fight will be lost.)
 SPARRING TIPS
[Much of this text draws from the “Yue Fei manual” that features in Li Jianqiu’s 1920 book.]
Everyone has a different personality. Some are clever. Some are wise. Some are determined and persevering. Some are calm and alert. Some are sneaky and sinister. Because our personalities are different, our actions will be different. This is also the case in martial arts techniques.
Attack with a noticeable posture, but land without one. Go forth appearing to fail, then strike with a victorious shout.
As there are countless transformations, they are impossible to fully describe.
You have to engage in devoted training for courage to come through, so that whatever the technique, the movements will be filled with spirit. But this result will happen in its own time. One moment you’re not there yet, then suddenly you are.
Your body moves as fast as a horse. Your hands move as fast as the wind.
During ordinary practice, the zone for confronting an opponent is between three and seven feet away.
When sparring with someone, act as if there is no one there.
Your neck should be upright. Your waist should be erect. Your lower abdomen should be full. Your arms should brace. Your legs should carry. Then from head to foot, there will be a single energy coursing through.
With timidity or lack of will, you will not be able to win. If you cannot observe his behavior and read his expression, you will again not be able to win.
Always, if the opponent makes no action, I remain calm, but if he acts at all, I issue before he does. It is said: “The key to attacking and defending is to beat him to the punch.”
In stillness, be like a scholar. In movement, be like a dragon or tiger.
Strike the opponent like thunder clapping. When thunder claps, there is no chance to cover your ears. However, the means to defeat an opponent lies between movement and stillness. True “movement / stillness” lies in the instant between having issued and not yet issuing.
Your hands should be dexterous. Your feet should be nimble. In advancing, retreating, and turning, move like a cat. Your body should be upright. Your eyes should be filled with spirit.
When your hands and feet act in unison, you are sure to win. If your hand arrives but your step does not arrive, your attack will be unimpressive. If when your hand arrives, your step also arrives, you will strike the opponent as easily as spreading aside grass.
When attacking above, go for the throat. When below, go for the groin. When to the side, go for the ribs. When to the middle, go for the solar plexus.
When punching, the range can be more than ten feet. When close in, it all happens within an inch.
When your hand goes out, it is like the booming of a huge cannon. When your foot comes down, it is like a tree planting roots.
Your eyes should be venomous. Your hands should be treacherous.
Step right through his center, letting your mass take away his space. You will thus seem too mystical for him to defend against.
When using a fist, it has to be like a piercing claw. When using a palm, it has to express energy.
Your upper body and lower are coordinated with each other. Your attacks are driven by your mind, with your eyes, hands, and feet going along with the movement.
The weight is forty percent on your front foot, sixty percent on your rear foot. Then once you are applying a technique, the ratio switches.
Stepping divides into “fixed” and “unfixed”. When the front foot advances and the rear foot follows, they are “fixed” [i.e. front foot remaining forward, rear foot remaining in the rear]. When the front foot becomes the rear foot or the rear foot becomes the front foot, whether it be because of the front foot becoming the rear foot by way of the rear foot stepping forward, or because of the rear foot becoming the front foot by way of the front foot stepping back, they are “unfixed” [i.e. front foot and rear foot switching roles].”
When going to the left or right, or turning around to face behind you, it is like a tiger searching a hillside. Take advantage of opportunity with bold fierceness, and the opponent will not be able to withstand you. Swipe aside his fists and go directly forward, and you will seize his center. Striking above or below, move like a tiger. Seem like a falcon descending on chickens in a coop.
Once you have “diverted the river and turned back the sea” [signifying a stupendous achievement, in this case going through the hard work of learning a martial art], there is no need for you to perform your techniques in a hurry. Once the “the phoenix has landed on the sunny slope” [signifying the arrival of talent, in this case a level of mastery], your skill has become powerful. When clouds cover the world, light from sun or moon makes no difference, but when martial artists clash, inferior and superior will become apparent.
With the three “stars” in alignment [nose, toes, fingertips], the four limbs acting in unison, the five elements issuing together, and the six unions strongly bound as one, boldly advance.
Move vertically and horizontally, high and low. Advance and retreat, and turn to the sides. When the situation is vertical, release power, advancing bravely instead of backing off and cowering. When the situation is horizontal, wrap with power, opening and closing without colliding. When the situation is high, raise your body up, giving your body an appearance of growing. When the situation is low, shrink your body away, giving your body a shape of crouching to capture something. When it is time to advance, advance to destroy his body. When it is time to retreat, retreat to guide his energy. When you turn around to face to the rear, do not think of it as the rear, for it is now in front of you. When you look to the left or right, do not think of them as left and right [but as forward and forward]. If your head and hand advance, your body must also advance. The correct method is for body and hand to act in unison.
Internally you should be alert. Outwardly you should follow along. Your attacks should reach through to a great distance. Your energy should destroy. Your punch is like a cannon firing. Your body bends like a dragon.
When issuing, be ruthless, and thereby do as you please. Melting away his plans, your actions will be like magic, as when you perform the techniques of HAWK GOES THROUGH THE FOREST or SWALLOW TAKES UP WATER. But when the TIGER CAPTURES THE SHEEP, it overwhelms the prey with a powerful presence.
To win, all four limbs have to work in unison. To lose, all it takes is doubt.
Shout to the east, but strike to the west. Point to the south, but attack to the north. Empty above, but fill below. Inspirations will arise from such contemplations.
Your left fist goes out, then your right fist arrives. One hand goes out, then both hands arrive.
Your fist goes out from your solar plexus and strikes in alignment with your nose. The nose is related to the center, the source of sustenance for all parts [seeing as air is the most basic fuel we take in].
When you thrust out from the center, your whole body bound together, your hands working in an integrated manner, then naturally your technique will be assured in every way.
Body like a crossbow, fist like a bullet. Like the sound of a plucked string or the precision landing of a bird, you will exhibit marvels. When you encounter an opponent, it is like his body is touching fire. If you smash through with a hard advance, you will not be blocked.
What are attacking and defending? Defending is an attack. Attacking is a defense. All it depends on is where you send your hand. Your schemes should be skillfully adaptive. Your movements should make use of spirit. A vicious mentality is the best strategy. Ruthless techniques are the ones that will defeat opponents.
What are evading and advancing? Advancing is an evasion. Evading is an advance. You do not have to look far for a pretty sight. A square-inch site right in front of you gives you all you need to work with.
In stillness, be like a shy maiden. In movement, be like thunder and lightning. Power shoots out from the hollow of your shoulder, energy courses through to your palms, and intention reaches to your fingertips. Energy issuing from your elixir field, push out powerfully and breathe out audibly. When you encounter your opponent’s incoming power, release a storm of wind, cloud, thunder, rain – all arriving in unison.
 DRAGON TECHNIQUES
There are six dragon techniques: BLUE DRAGON CALLS FROM THE BLUE SEA, CLOUD DRAGON APPEARS FIVE TIMES, GREEN DRAGON SEARCHES THE SEA, BLACK DRAGON DIVERTS THE RIVER, SPIRIT DRAGON WANDERS THE SKY, SPIRIT DRAGON SHRINKS ITS BONES.
The things it can do: it can stretch or shrink, can be hard or soft, can ascend and descend, can disappear and appear. In stillness, it is like a mountain. When moving, it is like the wind. It is as limitless as the universe, as full as the “grand storehouse”. Its energy is as vast as the ocean. It shines as profoundly as the sun, moon, and stars.
Anticipate the opponent’s opportunities to attack. Estimate his strengths and weaknesses. Await movement with stillness, and maintain stillness while moving. Use advance as retreat, retreat as advance.
If the opponent goes out directly, go in indirectly. If he advances diagonally, strike vertically. If he sends out with softness, suddenly shake. If he sends in with hardness, coil around.
Shrink your bones and then emerge. Release power and then land. Withdrawing is releasing. Releasing is also withdrawing.
Most of all, seek to penetrate his bones all the way to the marrow. When issuing, the intention is focused within the space of a few inches.
 TIGER TECHNIQUES
There are also six tiger techniques: FIERCE TIGER LEAVES THE FOREST, ANGRY TIGER GIVES A STARTLING ROAR, FIERCE TIGER SEARCHES THE MOUNTAIN, HUNGRY TIGER RIPS OPEN ITS PREY, FIERCE TIGER SHAKES ITS HEAD, FIERCE TIGER JUMPS OVER THE STREAM.
Adopt its nature and strive for its strength. Horizontally cross, vertically strike, climbing the mountain with both claws. Fiercely advance and fiercely retreat. Do lunging pounces and then short-range techniques. As though tearing prey, seem to shake your head, like a cat catching a mouse. Press up your headtop and seize with your claws, rousing your whole body.
Lift your hand like a steel file, using slashing, crashing, crossing, lifting, sliding. Drop your hand like a hook on a pole, using chopping, dragging, parrying, scattering, bracing. Sink and strike, spread and twist, extend and withdraw, press down and hold up.
Your head should butt the opponent. Your hand should strike him. Your body should crowd him. Your step should pass him. Your foot should stomp him. Your mind should compel him. Your energy should surprise him. Other methods are easy, whereas the ones listed here are difficult, and yet these are the most primary.
Fighters must not be thinking, for thinkers cannot fight. Better to teach the thought of advance than the thought of retreat. Have intention rather than a concern for shape. If you are concerned with shape, you will surely not win. Be just like an angry dragon or a lively tiger, singing out shouts until the valley is echoing and the mountain is trembling. Your strength is like the energy of the dragon and tiger. As long as you do not underestimate the opponent, how could you fail?
To sum up, the two methods of dragon and tiger are exercised without choreographed techniques. The posture is like a tiger running a thousand miles. The energy is like a dragon flying three times as far. The power finishes without the intention finishing. And when the intention finishes, the spirit continues.
Without personal instruction, you will not be able to grasp these things. I have written here the general ideas, not comprehensive details.
 THE CORRECT PATH OF YIQUAN
The correct path of Yiquan is nothing more than the “three classical techniques” and the two energies of dragon and tiger. While the energies of dragon and tiger are for skill building, the three techniques are for fighting. They are: stamping, drilling, and wrapping.
The stamping punch is externally hard and internally soft. It has a power of calmness (or of enduring). Within emptiness, it stores and waits to issue.
The drilling punch is externally soft and internally hard, like silk wrapped around iron. It has a springy power. Within fullness, it reverses the opponent’s own action and counterattacks him with it.
The wrapping punch is hardness and softness switching roles. It has a startling power. Within transformation, it uses natural movement.
Go along with the opponent’s endless changes, and then one shock will make him fail. As it is said [in Zhuangzi, chapter 3]: “Obtaining the center of the circle and from there respond limitlessly”.
– – –
[As a bonus to this brief book, included below is an article by Wang published in 國術
統一月刊 第五六期 Martial Arts United Monthly – issue #5/6, 1935, which also mentions the phrase “correct path”.]
DISCUSSING THE BOXING ARTS PRINCIPLE OF
HARDNESS & SOFTNESS COMPLEMENTING EACH OTHER
by Wang Yuseng [Xiangzhai]
Ever since the government has been encouraging martial arts, the number of practitioners has daily increased, like clouds thronging the sky at sunset, appearing one after another, truly a magnificent thing. There are basically two purposes to martial arts: strengthening the body and defending the self. These achievements are grand indeed. As these aims are well understood by all, I do not really need to explain in order for you to believe. When people are born into the world, who does not wish to be physically fit, and would instead be willing to spend one’s life going through illness after illness? And who does not wish to be able to defend oneself, and would instead be willing to be brutalized by bully after bully?
This is why practitioners of martial arts can be so numerous nowadays. But they absolutely must not follow a system blindly. When a blind person looks at an animal, if he is told it is a horse that he is looking at, he responds that it is a horse, and if he is told it is a donkey that he is looking at, he responds that it is a donkey, simply assuming that it is true. However, the ways of doing martial arts are beyond counting. Each person joins a particular style, and each style has its particular interpretation. Going into a style, there is the strength of being part of something, but then emerging from it comes the extreme of insulting other styles. Practitioners slander each other for no reason other than getting carried away with emotion. If the contents of systems are not meticulously studied, such abuses will accumulate until there are harms without end.
I have previously seen certain boxing experts sticking out their chests or bulging their bellies. With bulky solid muscles, they can lift weights and smash hard objects. People consequently point at such a person and say: “He is quite simply iron coated in bronze. He has truly entered the realm of the arhats and will surely have great longevity.” But then after not even half a year, he suddenly vomits blood and dies, whereupon they look around for where to lay the blame and say: “Why? Why? It must’ve been Fate!” Little do they realize that although externally hard, he was internally harmed. Therefore although martial arts can strengthen the body, they can also damage the body. So why practice them?
There are also certain boxer practitioners who put forth no effort at all while exercising. Like a maiden of seventeen or eighteen, they make graceful dancing movements that can smooth the energy and liven the blood. This indeed conforms to the way of strengthening the body, but it is insufficient for dealing with opponents or breaking bricks. To speak of martial arts being able to be used for self-defense would be almost meaningless in such a case.
Let us sum up both of these situations. In the case of the former, although it can build a robust appearance, internally it is actually greatly contrary to physiological principles, and so it cannot be used to properly strengthen the body. This is the mistake of being overly hard. In the case of the latter, although it is able to conform to the principles of health, it cannot be used for self-defense. This is the mistake of being overly soft. To be overly hard or overly soft are both extremes and is not the correct path. You will not be able to succeed in either case, and if you did succeed at all by such means, it would amount to but a simplified fragment, an incomplete piece of the learning.
In fact, the true teaching in martial arts is simply to strive to conform to principles. The complexity or simplicity of a posture is not important. The beauty or ugliness of a movement is not important. (Complex or simple, beautiful or ugly – these are not absolutes. Although a posture may appear complex, the action inside may actually be simple, and although a posture may appear simple, the action inside may actually be complex. What is within a posture is difficult to discuss because answers cannot be sought based on external appearances. What the world deems beautiful may in substance actually be ugly, and what the world deems ugly may in substance actually be beautiful. True beauty or ugliness is entirely a matter of appraising substance. Take for example the beauty of Xishi. Even dressed in poor clothing [“thorn hairpin and cloth skirt”], her beauty could not be affected. But when ugly Dongshi tried to imitate her beauty [“Dongshi trying to imitate the way Xishi knit her brows”], even covering herself in make-up only increased her ugliness.) You have to relax your body and free your energy. To “relax” actually means to give your body exercise. To “free” actually means to get your energy into the proper flow. By exercising your body and getting your energy to flow properly, you then have the basic foundation of martial arts.
Proper exercise should be sought from relaxing the body and freeing the energy. It is then not contrary to physiological principles, and is instead beneficial for body and mind. By such means, you will thus be able to achieve the condition of proper exercise. When your body is relaxed, your energy is free. Then you must unify essence and spirit. With essence and spirit unified, you can quietly realize the inner work and can cultivate a fearless spirit. With a solid foundation coming from quiet realization, you will then respond to opponents properly. By cultivating a fearless spirit, you will then be able to be in a state of detachment from fretting in terror over a matter of life and death.
This powerful attitude has been described by Buddhists thus: “When I come upon the ‘mountain of sabers’, I will break the sabers. When I enter hell, I will extinguish the fire.” And then even if Mt. Tai collapses in front of you or the eastern sea drains away behind you, your mind will stay as dignified and calm as during any ordinary time. Equipped with this mentality, the art is now sufficient for strengthening the body and also defending the self, both aspects resulting in each other.
As for methods of dealing with opponents, consider of an opponent: What is the state of his spirit? What is the condition of his structure? How much target area is exposed? How strong is he? Empowered by being driven by intention and guided by spirit, you then have to always be analyzing in detail. When your analysis produces clarity, then you can be sure to perform with accuracy, whatever your technique or attack. In this way, you can then win with certainty.
At Wu Yihui’s request, I have here supplied my opinions, declared here with sincerity. But in my eagerness to fulfill my task, I have not expressed everything in my head. The way of martial arts is difficult to explain, and without a long treatise it is impossible to deliver even a tenth of a percent of its details. The most that can be described in an article is but the barest generalities.