Fu Zhong Wen, Yang Chen Fu, Yang Shao Hao, Sun Lu Tang, Wu Chien Quan, Ma Yueh Liang, Tung Ji Yieh, Chen Wei Ming (below Sun Lu Tang)

Monday, August 12, 2013

"Grasp the Bird Tail", "4 Square" and other training comparisons in the Yang Family, Zheng Man Qing, and other Yang Taijiquan variations

Last update to this page 8/31/2013

While this post seems to 'bash' Zheng Man Qing/Cheng Man Ching...it really concludes that there are some excellent qualities he did actually have. It is really an analysis of the "Yang style" curriculum and what some are doing and what others are not. I never met the man, so I can not make a judgement, however I show positive and negative aspects. His legacy continues with great teachers as William CC Chen, Ben Lo, Huang Sheng Shyuan, Liu Xiheng, Robert W. Smith, and others. With teachers of that level, I conclude he had a level of gong fu that is worthy of talking about.

Zheng Man Qing (ZMQ) is a well known disciple of Yang Chen Fu (YCF), yet his system of Taijiquan is missing an extraordinary amount of drills and trainings that are common in its mother system of Yang Taijiquan. While he popularized Taijiquan in Taiwan and USA, his system is more well known in the free world and often considered by most the standard complete form of Taijiquan. I am not sure why I often get so much backlash from ZMQ players when I try to present training techniques and drills that are used by the Yang Family system. As someone who started ZMQ Taijiquan in late 80's and continue to practice, I am starting to get annoyed with the level of close-mindedness the ZMQ community has toward their root system. I suppose, since if it did not come from ZMQ then it isn't in Taijiquan right? No. ZMQ's Taijiquan is a simplified version of Yang Taijiquan's Long form. The ZMQ short form has 37 postures and is missing a great deal of many Long form postures. For example: Part horse Mane, Needle at Sea bottom, Turn and strike series/White snake spits tongue, Strike Tiger left and right, high pat horse, open Fan, and a few others were excluded in ZMQ's short form.

Fan through Back:
Part Wild horse Mane
High pat Horse
Needle at bottom of Sea
Turn and strike

Zheng Man Qing's short form and push hands-

Yang Long Form

Masters and Teachers on why ZMQ students to should learn from the source:

1. Da Liu, a student of ZMQ says in his book, at page 2 of 'T'ai Chi Ch'uan and I Ching', Da Liu says: "The long form of the Yang school has 108 different postures. It is like the Yangtze River, long but gently flowing. It lasts fifteen to twenty minutes when fully comprehended. The professional T'ai Chi student should learn this form. The short form, which is recommended for the average student, is much easier to learn, comprising about fifty forms and taking from seven to ten minutes to perform. It is good for the office worker and for people who wish to improve their health and can be practiced two or three times a day." (from Yang Family forum)

2. Regarding Yang family comments on Cheng Man-ch'ing, Fu Zhongwen stated in an interview published in Inside Kung-fu, April 1993: "Cheng Man-ch'ing is probably the most famous taijiquan teacher in America. I knew him when he came to Shanghai to study with my uncle Yang Cheng-fu. He was a very great artist. He was very interested in learning and practicing taiji tui shou (push hands), which he did quite heavily with Yang Cheng-fu and all those around him who were the most skilled...Cheng Man- ch'ing was legitimate, and now it is important for his students and other North American practitioners to research where 'they first drank the water.' The traditional methods of the Yang family style must be preserved..." The preceding excerpt from Fu Zhongwen's comments is most pertinent to the current discussion, but he went on to say that he felt that he saw differences in the way the short form and long forms were done.(from Yang Family forum)

Fu Zhong Wen and son Fu Sheng Yuan

3. Lastly, my first taste of Taijiquan came from a local teacher in Virginia Beach named Larry Mann, who taught the ZMQ's Short form and hosted Ben Lo seminars. He was the first to tell me, "The short form comes from the Long Form. Yang Zhen Dou is teaching a seminar up in Washington D.C., I suggest all my students go and learn this form from Yang Family inheritor Yang Zhen Dou" He then proceeded to hand out a flyer for the event.

I think a big major problem of this is due to ZMQ being a much later disciple of Yang Chen Fu in the early 1930's before YCF's untimely death, and not getting all the training and lessons as YCF's sons and relatives had received. The following drills I demonstrate come from the lines of Yang Zhen Jie (oldest surviving Yang family member) and Fu Zhong Wen (nephew of Yang Chen Fu).

Tui Shou and other differences:

1. 'Grasp the Birds Tail', various single hand, double hand, and moving step partner drills (first 5 minutes of this video)is one of the first partner trainings a novice person who learns the Yang long form will learn. It contains the essence of the applications so that when the person trains in the solo form and does the "Grasp Bird Tail" series of movements, they are aware of how to use and visualize the intention on the core movements of Pung (Ward off), Lu (Rollback), Ji (Press), and An (Push).

2. Four Square Tui Shou in the Yang System (starting at beginning of video)- Four square is another understanding of the energies of Pung, Lu, Jie, and An in a fixed pattern for Tui Shou. The fixed pattern contains the essence of the 4 core/square movements and trains the practitioner to understand the energies of:

Teng Jing (listening energy): the ability to feel precisely the direction of the push on contact.

Nian Jing (adhering energy): the ability to stick and keep in contact with your partner.

Hua Jing (neutralizing energy): the ability to neutralize the force directed towards you.

Lian Jing: (Continuous, connected energy). the ability to be connected in order for your reactions, to any attack, to follow the principle that as soon as your opponent moves.

Mian Jing: (Cotton, soft energy). the ability to use sensitivity that you achieve enables you to detect even the slightest changes in the movements of your opponent.

Sui Jing: (following energy). the ability to follow if the opponent steps either back or forwards.

Bu Dio Ding: Never loose contact and avoid using force against force.

Fa Jing (explosive energy): the ability to project your own chi and throw your partner away.

Yang Zhen Dou and Yang Jun of Yang Family
Yang Jun video on Push hands

3. Four square in the ZMQ system is called "Sui Zheng Tui" video (Starting at :29 sec) : this is totally different and modified from the previous version and not seen or found in other Yang Family style. Tung family,Fu family, Yang family, none of these families who studied with Yang Chen Fu practice this variation:

4. Da shou or striking hands video before Tui shou there was "striking hands" partner drills that used striking and parrying similar to "step-parry-punch" and other sections of the Long Form. These are flow drills that are not seen in many styles of Taijiquan. A private video is available upon request on my Youtube if you have a Youtube account.Find me there and send a request.

5. 88 two man fight set (Partner san shou) and Fast frame forms- these are controversial forms even for the Yang family today. It is widely practiced by people who studied with the Yang family. Yang Chen Fu was said to have teaches a Long form and Long fist fast form. Chen Wei Ming's book on Yang Long boxing fast form. Tung family teaches this, Chen Wei Ming, fast forms are in the Imperial Yang Taijiquan system and Wu Jian Quan's Taijiquan system. My ideology on the 88 two man set and fast frames is based on the Tibetan mandala, "Pacify, Enrich, Magnetize, Destroy." My interpretation is this: Pacify: be a skeptic and question it. Enrich- learn it and make distinction, find usefulness. Magnetize- learn all you can from it, digest the knowledge, go deep and make it a part of your gong fu. Destroy- let go of it, you have gotten as much as you can from it, it is contrived and not true free fighting, it is a tool and the tool has done its job, move on. Book containing the 88 two person set translation: Chen YanLin student of Tian Zaolin (disciple of Yang Jianhao and Yang Chen Fu)

Some benefits from Fast forms and the 88 two man set:

1. They teach varying speeds, stepping patterns, various Jings such as listening, adhering, following, etc.

2. Many traditional kung fu system have two man fight sets to train qualities and attributes of the system. The 88 two person set is no different containing attack and defense, counter, qin-na, anti qin-na, timing, distance, bridging, and other fighting attributes.

3. It makes for a beginner a great start before going into real sparring, it trains lines of attack that you can not get from push hands and moving step push hands. see previous blog post: 25 lines of attack.

4. Yang Tai Chi was originally taught using various speeds. A real fight is fast, you have to train to move fast. The Taiji classics say, "If my opponent moves fast, be fast, if opponent moves slow, follow slowly."

Tung family Fast Set video

Wu Jian Quan's Fast set video

6. Solo fajin, and linear step work: this was taught in our school when I was with Weiqi a disciple of Fu Zhong Wen founder of Yongnian Taiji Association, I have also seen this practiced in Yongnian group in Thailand and in China. Basically it is taking a single movement and repeating it with linear and angle stepping.

Fu zhong Wen fajin video

Fu Sheng Yuan fajin video

7. Da Lu- 4 corners is the only similar training set that is similar in the ZMQ and Yang system, there is not much difference in the training between these two drill. Some slight variance, but in essence the same.

Da Lu video sample video:

8. Warm-ups and stretching sets- there have not been many ZMQ schools that do warm ups, stretching, and other basic gong training. The ZMQ school does however have a strong standing training using the form for holding and molding postures, but standing training is common in about all Taijiquan schools. ZMQ's student Huang Shen Shyang of Malaysia who was a well know white Crane boxer also had a 5 loosening exercises. I also blogged on ZMG teaching some basic drills 5 Commitments and 8 ways to assist in Taiji short form but they are not considered warm-ups or stretching.see video

Yang Family warm-up sample video:

Huang's 5 loosening exercises video

James Fu Tai chi warm-ups video

9. Moving step push hands, Yin/Yang push hands and circular stepping push hands: this is practiced in many places but I have not trained this at ZMQ schools. They train a whole lot of fixed step push hands but not moving step. The first video shows some more of the patterns and moving step. However this video should be much clearer. (see around 6:00 for moving step and 6:50 mark for yin/yang and circular yin/yang).

The solo Broadsword and Spear set along with the two person Spear set is also excluded from ZMQ's Taijiquan.

Taiji Saber/Broadsword video

Taiji spear/pole basics video

10. Yang Taiji Straight sword- The Yang family, Fu family, Tung family, and others all pretty much have the same Straight sword (Jian) form. This is good. Each might have very slight differences or variations, but the names and choreography is nearly the same.

Zheng Man Qing's straight sword form video-

Yang's Taiji Straight sword video

11. Sword play- fixed set and freeplay: some schools of Taijiquan have a paired set that teaches sword play techniques similar to the 88 two man set. ZMQ had freestyle sword play with wooden swords at his school These are both very good in training some of the usefulness and techniques of the sword.

Taiji sword paired set (sometimes called Wudang swordplay) video-

ZMQ and student with sword freeplay video

12. Tui Shou competitions and San shou fighting competitions: Here is a major difference in the ZMQ and other Yang groups have. There are more Tui shou and San shou top athletes of the ZMQ school (in particular William CC Chen's and NYC schools) willing to compete and fight in National and International Tui Shou and Lei Tai/San Shou fight events that out shine anything Yang, Fu, Tung and other Tai Chi groups have done.Some of the top players have been william CC Chen's students and kids: Peter Ralston, Tiffany Chen, Max Chen have been on USA San Shou team and Lei Tai teams. Others Tui Shou competitors include: Mario Napoli (who won in Chen village), Avi Schneier, Mike Pekor, Lenzie Williams, David Walls-Kaufmann,Josh Waitzkin, to name a few (many others). I have not seen many other Yang family or other groups really show much of a showing at major competition events.Other notables: John Signarello of CK Chu's in NY and Patrick Brady of Little River Tai Chi center have both won Lei Tai championships on numerous occasions.

Mario Napoli winning in Chen village: video

Max Chen (William CC Chen son)highlight video

John Sigarello of C.K. Chu's Tai Chi (.45 sec, 1:45, 2:00, 3:09, 5:41 of video)

Patrick Brady of Little River Tai Chi video

Author of this article, Matt Stampe Lei Tai, San shou, and Push hand clips (ZMQ, Fu family (Yongnian Taiji), Yang family association member):

13. Pai da gong: Limb and Body conditioning/warm down solo and partner drills- I have only seen this done in our class that was handed down from Fu Zhong Wen. I have not seen this anywhere except in a Shaolin class (that was done much harder) and in a Pakua chang class which was done entirely differently. In the solo set one lightly to heavy palm hitting the limbs. There is a partner set of hitting the arms, shoulders, thighs, hips, and more. I had a video somewhere of me performing some of these solo and with a partner.

14. Taiji Qigong, Massage,and meditation exercises- Back when I studied with Xianhao Cheng we had some Qigong sets that were done using "Golden Bell" breathing. we were told to abstain from sex as much as possible (was told this when I was 18 when training in Taiji and Qigong) and we did a particular qigong set that was supposedly done in the Yang family tradition as taught in Hangzhou China.

When I studied the two man 88 partner "San shou" exercise at Qi Elements school of Taijiquan and Massage, I took up learning massage. I had already done Chinese acupressure massage with my first teacher Wilson Pitts, a student of Amy Tseng. Back then, I was told that many of the younger students of Taijiquan, had to use Tui Na massage on many of the Instructors and Senior students to learn the meridians used in Traditional chinese medicine (TCM). The student had to learn the pathways that qi travels, and understand the cavities, joints, bones, sinew, and muscle attachments sites. At Qi Elements, my teacher Sifu nancy Bloomfield, a student of C.C. Liu of D.C.'s Chinatown, taught a massage style called "Taiji massage" in where you use Taiji when you massage someone on a table. That is, using push on the limbs and back of a patient.

The only meditation I have learned is a visualization using standing meditation that was taught by Fu Qing Quan, Fu Zhong Wen's grandson. This is very similar to some of the standing meditations used in the art of Yiquan. I have learned some sitting meditations in Pakua chang. There was also some standing meditation in the ZMQ's style with concentration of 20 cycle breathing at the tan tien while holding wu ji, embrace tree, and other postures.

Old pictures of Tui Shou and Da Lu.