Yao style Yiquan

Yiquan aka Dachengquan is a relatively new system, developed in 20th century. But it has roots in xingyiquan (hsing-i ch’uan) – one of traditional internal systems of kung-fu (wushu). Yiquan’s founder Wang Xiangzhai (1885-1963) was one of the greatest masters of Chinese martial arts in 20th century. In childhood he learned xingyiquan from famous Guo Yunshen. Travelling all over China he was meeting masters of various styles of kung-fu (wushu), comparing his skills with them and exchanging experiences. Apart from xingyiquan/xinyiquan he was especially inspired by baguazhang (pakua chang), taijiquan (t’ai chi ch’uan) and baihequan (pak hok kuen). His and his students contacts with representatives of western boxing also influenced further developments of yiquan.

After years of training and achieving great experience, in middle 1920s he came upon conclusion that xingyiquan was often taught in wrong way, causing students concentrating too much on superficial form, instead on the essence of the art. He postulated going back to the roots, to the original simplicity of the system. He changed the name xingyiquan, to yiquan (one of names of the art which were used previously), removing the part ‘xing’ (form). Yi means mind, idea, intention, will, quan – fist (fighting art). The name of this art indicates that the main stress is put on mental activity during training and not on mimicking movement patterns. Wang Xiangzhai and his students proved efficiency ot this method through numerous challenges.

In next years Wang Xiangzhai kept improving and developing his system. Due to impact of western culture and science, traditional concepts were reinterpreted and methods modified. This work was continued by Wang Xiangzhai’s successor – Yao Zongxun (1917-1985).

Presently one of the greatest experts of yiquan is Yao Chengguang, Yao Zongxun’s son. He is a president of Beijing Yiquan Research Association and director of Zongxun Wuguan yiquan school in Beijing. Our Yiquan Academy is benefiting from master Yao Chengguang’s support and teachings.

Yiquan is a kind of kung-fu, which particularly stresses the use of awareness and mind activity in training, developing perfect mind and body coordination, revealing the natural human potential. You will find here a fascinating learning process, method of nurturing health and combative training.

The stress in this art is put on mind, feeling, training the natural strength. Generally it can be said, that it is developing the feeling of interrelation between body and surrounding air. Talking more about details, it can be said that the basis is following the principles of nature, developing roundness of feeling and square strength at the same time, when form is curved, but the force straight, when there is no fixed proportion between empty and full, you are developing the ability of using alive force according to situation, based on feeling.

Yiquan training can be divided into two parts:

  • Basic training,
  • Training with partner.

In the basic training stress is put on improving perception of body, movement, strength, energy. This is seen as a basis of the ability of efficient use of body. Mind is focused in each exercise, which helps to achieve better coordination between mind and body, enabling fuller exhibiting of natural potential.

Zhan zhuang – relatively static exercises, enabling (due to the simplicity of form) concentrating completely on the subtle co-ordination and improving perception of force which you are using,

Shi li – slow movement exercises, where situation is more complex, but movement is still slow, so you can observe all its important elements.

Moca bu – steps practiced in the same way as shi li – it is shi li for legs.

Fa li – dynamic exercises – issuing force explosively – this is build on zhan zhuang and shi li practice. You are learning issuing force with any part of body (e.g. palms, forearms, elbows, shoulders, head, hips, knees, feet), in various directions, at any point of movement. It can be hitting, but also other movements, used for unbalancing opponent, pushing him away or throwing down.

At first you repeat simple single exercises, so you can concentrate on their essence. Gradually the exercises become more complex. You also start linking them, creating improvised forms. Then there is more and more modifications. You stick to the principles learned through basic practice, but paths of movement, speed, rhythm, ways of using power, are changing endlessly. You develop ability of adapting to unpredictably changing situations. The basic methods are also used as a system of practice for health and well-being.

Another part of curriculum is training with partner.

All abilities and skills which you want to develop, should be related to free fighting. Pushing hands should serve this goal and not be just pushing hands for sake of pushing hands. Tui shou helps to learn the principles which can be used when there is contact of arms of both fighters. If you understand those principles, then you can try using them also when contact is made with other parts of body.

Tui shou

In pushing hands exercises contact lasts for some longer time, but in practical use in free fighting the contact is very often not longer than a split of second. In basic tui shou we do many kinds of circular movements, keeping contact with partner’s arms, so it is easier to learn the principles of adapting to changing movements and ways of using power in various situations – with different positions of arms, and different position in relation to opponent.

In pushing hands you learn principles of:

  • Unbalancing opponent,
  • Searching for holes in opponent’s defense and creating them,
  • Controlling, neutralizing and counter-attacking.

The process of learning pushing hands can be divided into some stages:

  • Basic single and double pushing hands circles, in fixed position and with steps,
  • Various forms of using power in single and double pushing hands: short explosive movements intended to unbalance opponent, pushing, hitting with palm, fist, forearm, elbow, shoulder, head, knee etc.
  • Neutralizing and countering opponent’s power,
  • Free (sparring) pushing hands in fixed position and with steps (more stress is put on practice with steps). The goal may be unbalancing opponent or both unbalancing and hitting.

San shou – free fighting

Free fighting training includes some introductory and supplementary exercises, which help to understand some aspects of combat better, but most important are various kinds of sparring, with more or less limitations, from light to full contact. According to needs and practitioner’s level, protective equipment is used.

Usually the san shou practice is divided into stages:

  • Hitting only with palm/fist (including chopping movements), using footwork as main tool of defense,
  • As above plus using principles and skills developed through pushing hands training: redirecting opponent’s attack, opening space for attack, breaking opponent’s guard, affecting his balance, so it is easier to hit or throw him. This can be done by direct attacking opponent’s arms or contact can appear in result of opponent’s defense.
  • Low kicks are added,
  • Hitting with knees and elbows are added.

Some of basic principles we stress during fighting training:

  • Constant attacking with various methods and defending at the same time – “attack and defense are one”,
  • Affecting opponent’s balance by using both offensive and defensive actions,
  • Using opponent’s force – neutralizing and redirecting it, using principle of tun tu – swallowing and spitting out [force],
  • Use of whole body movement and power,
  • Swift footwork, enabling efficient defense while attacking – using triangle and circular steps,
  • Low kicks used simultaneously with hands actions,
  • Knocking opponent down, while yourself keeping stand up position. Dynamic balance instead of static root,
  • Using most simple methods and principles at beginning stage of training, then gradually developing more subtle skills.
  • Only thanks to the training with partner – the direct experience of combat, you can fully understand the basic methods, verify the results of their practice, and accordingly make the right corrections of basic practice, making it more efficient, so it can really help you in improving combative skills.

Through longer training yiquan practitioner develops ability of intuitive, spontaneous reaction also in situations different from typical training patterns. In jianwu – improvised yiquan dance, the high level of skill, experience and spontaneity of advanced practitioner is expressed.