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Monday, November 14, 2011

Dachengquan Martial Essence of Wang Xiangzhai

Dachengquan Martial Essence of Wang Xiangzhai
By Michael Tse
Qi Magazine | Issue 53 | February 2001

There is a saying in Chinese martial arts that “All heroes have the same ideas.” On doing some research into different master and founders of styles this seems to hold very true. But although the ideas might be the same, the way in which they make them into reality can be different.

Chinese martial arts are fascinating. They contain many unusual movements that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Even Hollywood movies today, like Mission Impossible, The Matrix, Charlie’s Angels, etc. have all been influenced by Chinese martial arts and movement. They have flying kicks, tumbling and other acrobatics and in these you can see the shadow of Chinese martial arts. Some people will say there is also a Japanese and Korean martial arts influence as well, but do not forget, these originally came from Chinese martial arts as well, although they eventually developed into their own styles. Of course, there will be other people who will say the movies also have Brazilian, Thai and Philippine styles in them as well. This shows that film makers will take all different styles and movements to create an action movie and its fight scenes. However, the deeper influence still comes from the Chinese martial arts. If the movies kept to their old ways to movie fighting, only punching and perhaps boxing, I do not think the audience would like it.

If you ask yourself who has had the most influence on martial arts movies, your answer will most likely be Bruce Lee. His popularity is still growing today and I do not think it will ever stop. Since his death, his skills and philosophy have attracted the newer generation and the older generation still love him, maybe even more than before. What made Bruce Lee’s fighting style different to the traditional martial arts was the fact he said that in martial arts you should be able to freely express yourself. You should be like water, when water is poured into a cup, it becomes the cup and when it is in a teapot, it become the teapot. From this you can see his fighting style Jeet Kune Do is about freedom and freedom of expression. You are not controlled and do not need to follow a traditional style, thus, his fighting style could be any style and anything. This is what made him so powerful. However, how can you be free and not follow any system, without learning anything first? In some way, beginners need to learn something first, and that something is fixed. Otherwise, if you had some one who had learned some martial arts and someone who had not learned anything, there would be no difference between them. If these same people were to fight and as long as one person defeats the other, then that sounds okay. But if you think about how injured they will be and that the longer it takes to win the more tired they will be, then finally you will see that you need to learn from someone who has more experience of fighting.  

So therefore, even Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do still has a way to teach you how to fight. Of course, at the end, when you have learned enough, then you can freely express yourself. When you fight, you will have your own style. So everyone who studies Jeet Kune Do will be different to each other because even the teachers will have there own style and way to interpret Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. But if fighting is really about “free fighting”, then should we then say that the thousands of years of martial arts development in China has been a waste of time? In the 1920’s there was a famous martial arts master who had very similar thinking to Bruce Lee. He combined all his martial arts studies into one style. In particular, he was very good at Xingyiquan, which is a very powerful and popular martial art style in China People always talk about, Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua together as internal martial arts, although, personally I do not like to separate martial arts styles into internal and external styles as all Chinese martial arts have internal and external training. Only the training is different. As long as they develop Qi, then it is internal training. This famous master’s name was Wang Xiangzhai. Wang Xangzhai started his martial art’s training when he was fourteen under the guidance of the famous Xingyi master, Quo Yunshen, who had a very high level of skill and was very a traditional teacher. Wang Xiangzhai inherited his teacher’s skill, and when his teacher died, he travelled all over China meeting masters of different martial arts styles. On one of his journeys, he met a Buddhist monk from Shaolin Temple named Xing Lin who had a very high level of Shaolin Martial Arts skill. They compared their skills with each other, shared their knowledge and had friendly discussions about the differences between their martial arts skill. They became each other’s teacher and also good friend. Even Xing Lin’s teacher, Ben Kong Shang Ren, who was already ninety years old, liked Wang very much. He also passed some of his skill on to Wang. Wang Xiangzhai stayed at Shaolin Temple for a while and absorbed more martial arts knowledge. Afterwards Wang continued to travel to different areas, provinces, cities and villages to meet famous martial arts masters. In Zhejiang he met a famous mast er named, Fang Shizhuang, who was very famous for his skill at “Five Hands Technique” which contained some very good fighting techniques. In Xian he met Master Liu Peixian who was very famous for his unpredictable kicking technique. In Fujian he met a famous Wudang martial art’s master, Xie Tie Fu. Xie Tai Fu had a very long beard and people called him “Big Beard Xie”. He was famous for his Crane Fist which was well respected in Southern China. Both Wang and Big Beard Xie compared their styles and learned together, not only bare hand techniques, but also weapons, especially the sword. In the end they had a great respect for each other’s styles, skill and knowledge. Wang Xiangzhai he also met one of Dong Hai Chuan’s (the creator of Bagau Palm) students, Cheng Jianhwa. They studied together and Wang realised that hand techniques in Bagua were very smooth, and could twist in all directions and angles and co-ordinated with the fast and turning footwork. All this meant you could really take your opponent by surprise. In Beijing Wang visited the famous Yang Style Taiji master Yang Shouhou. Meeting all kinds of different masters and learning about different styles gave Wang a lot of knowledge and also made him understand his own style, Xingyiquan, more. 

“Xing” means shape and refers to external movements, “Yi” means mind and refers to the internal mind. “Quan” means fist. The whole name means “External Shape and Internal Mind” martial art. However, when Wang went back to Beijing, he realised that many people only concentrated on the external shapes and missed the internal mind. Originally Xingyiquan was called Xinyiquan. “Xin” means heart, and so the name meant “Heart and Mind Fist”. This meant the heart and mind were more important than the external shapes. Master Wang had seen any different martial arts styles in China and found that most people only concentrated on the external shapes and forms and missed the internal spirit. When they were confronted with another high level martial artist they were lost, because they only concentrated on the external shapes and did not spent too much time on them in order to develop the internal Jing, Qi and Shen. Jing, Qi, Shen is the martial arts meaning of internal spirit. So he began to change his Xingyiquan and called it Yiquan. This went back to the internal spirit, and he said that studying martial arts was for developing true spirit and the mind and not external shapes. Master Wang found that the most important thing in all martial arts skill was true spirit and mind or internal spirit. At the end he even gave up the external shapes and had no forms, only concentrating on Zhang Zhuang - standing positions and Tui Shou – pushing hands (Although this is not exactly the same method as Taijiquan’s pushing hands, it is similar , but the method of training is not the same although the meaning is the same.) This new art he called “Dachengquan” which means, “Great Success Fist ”. It also means the essence of martial art Zhang Zhuang develops internal power, the mind, Qi, spirit, relaxation and breathing. Tui Shou develops fighting techniques, by learning how to read different people’s energy when you come into contact with it, and how to use your own energy in all different kind of techniques. Master Wang combined all his knowledge of Xingyiquan, Taijiquan, Baguazhang together with principles of Confucianism, Buddhism, Qigong training and philosophy to create Dachengquan. He used Xingyiquan’s strong foundation, Taijiquan’s sticking and contacting skills, Baguazhang’s fast and twisting body movements and foot work, plus his own knowledge. The principle of Dachengquan, Master Wang said is that “There is no method for martial art. Even with a method there is still nothing. If we do not accept any method, then we can have all kinds of methods.” In this case method means styles, skills and techniques. He also said, “Something comes from nothing and steadiness is the mother of movement.” Dachengquan concentrates on developing the mind and spirit. Practising Zhan Zhuang will develop the mind, calmness, relaxation and a strong foundation. When the spiritual energy is high and you need to defend yourself, you will be able to move naturally, powerfully and instinctively. Just like an animal living in the natural world fights instinctively and powerfully. Everything comes from natural instinct, just like a baby needs milk from its mother and bees need honey. Sometimes even a very weak person, if they have a sudden mad fit, can be very powerful and it can take many people to hold them down. This is spiritual instinct, but this power needs to be developed through stillness and a calm mind. This is what meditation develops and so when you need power it will come naturally. 

Today Dachengquan is becoming more popular. Although Master Wang Xiangzhai has passed away, his skill is still developing and so Dachengquan is becoming better and more effective. Sadly another famous Dachengquan master passed away on March the 6th this year. He was Master Wang Xuanjie who promoted and taught Dachengquan all his life and has students all over the world. Though another master has gone, I believe that if a skill is good it will live forever.