Internal Martial Arts
Meet the excited with calm; await the disturbed with control. Be formless, so as to master the formal; respond to change without contrivance. Then, even if you are unable to attain victory over opponents, opponents will have no way to attain victory over you.
Three strains have developed since the time of Kuo Yün-shen within the larger Hsing-i-ch’üan school: the conservative strain of Li Ts'un-i, the Hsin-I branch of the Ta-ch'eng-ch’üan of Wang Hsiang-ch'i, and the conservative strain of Sun Lut'ang. In a two-volume work entitled - Hsing-i-ch’üan, Sun Lu-t'ang has written in detail about Wang Hsiang-ch'i.
The Hsin-i group, as I have indicated, is another name for the Ta-ch'eng-ch’üan, which is a subgroup founded within Hsing-I-ch’üan by Wan Hsiang-ch'i. I can explain the origin of the name Ta-ch'eng in the following way. Wang Hsiang-ch'i believed that the power of the mystical techniques of Kuo Yun-shen was to be found in a force called ki in Japanese (the word is pronounced ch'i in Chinese; for further explanation, see p. 1 4). He also believed that, unless a person learns to control and use ki, he cannot master any of the combat techniques. In order to develop the needed mastery, Wang concentrated on standing Zen meditation. In combat with another person, the man who can control ki and manifest it to the extent reuired has attained and understanding of the kempo of Wang Hsiang-ch'i. Such attainment is called ta-ch'eng in Chinese (the same characters are read tai-sei in Japanese). This is the reason for using ta-ch'eng in the name Ta-ch'eng-ch’üan. I met Wang Hsiang-ch'i while I was working in China. He was a small man with a most ducklike walk. But he was extremely difficult to study with. When people came wanting to learn his system, he ignored them. They had no recourse but to observe his actions and, practicing together, try to imitate his techniques. Fortunately, being a foreigner, I was able to ask questions and do things that would have been considered very rude in another Chinese.
Since at the time I was a fifth dan in Judo, I had a degree of confidence in my abilities in combat techniques. When I had my first opportunity to try myself in a match with Wang, I gripped his right hand and tried to use a technique. But at once found myself being hurled through the air. I saw the uselessness of surprise and sudden attacks with this man. Next I tried grappling. I gripped his left hand and his right lapel and tried the techniques I knew, thinking that, if the first attacks failed, I would be able to move into a grappling technique when we fell. But the moment we came together, Wang instantaneously gained complete control of my hand and thrust it out and away from himself. No matter how many times I tried to get the better of him, the results were always the same. Each time I was thrown, he tapped me- lightly- on my chest just over my heart.
When he did this, I experienced a strange and frightening pain that was like a heart tremor.
Still I did not give up. I requested that he pit himself against me in fencing. We used sticks in place of swords; and, even though the stick he used was short, he successfully parried all my attacks and prevented my making a single point. At the end of the match he said quietly, 'The sword- or the staff- both are extensions of the hand.'
This experience robbed me of all confidence in my own abilities.
My outlook, I thought, would be very dark indeed, unless I managed to obtain instruction from Wang Hsiang-ch'i. I did succeed in studying with him; and acting on his advice, I instituted a daily course in Zen training. Gradually I began to feel as if I had gained a little bit of the expansive Chinese martial spirit.
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Last update: March 2023