An Wushu – School Review

From soft-arts beginner

I previously trained for 1 year full-time with Shifu An Jian Qiu, where I learned the family basic sets (stances, stretching, bone hardening etc.) and then progressed on to Bajji Quan and San Da. After returning to live in Dezhou for 2 years and unable to train full-time, I’m very grateful that An Shifu allowed me to continue my studies with part-time training. It was great being able to join in training sessions with other full-time students and see how quickly they improved, and An Shifu truly made me feel part of the family despite my limited time, even inviting me along to the incredible International Baji Quan demonstration hosted in Dezhou and QingYun this summer (2018). He allowed my training to fit seamlessly into my busy schedule, and it remained the highlight of my week throughout my time back in Dezhou. As I’m still dealing with a neck injury sustained while practicing wrestling back in Europe, I asked Shifu if he could start to teach me the internal arts to compliment and aid in my recovery.

To my first complete Bagua form

As a total beginner to internal arts, I’m very grateful for the many long conversations we had about internal training methods and goals, as well as the details and differences of the 3 styles Xing Yi, Bagua, and Tai Chi. I feel that under his instruction I have gained a useful understanding of what I am actually aiming to achieve when practicing internal kung fu, and the images he uses to describe his internal sensations help me to imagine the feeling I will one day achieve. Stood in San Ti Shi posture for 20 minutes, I imagine my arms as leaves gently floating along a stream.

In total, I learned the basic stances and fists of Xing Yi, then a first basic Bagua series before learning Bao Zhen Bagua Zhang. I wouldn’t have imagined I would be able to learn so many complex movements in this time, but my year of full-time training in the past provided me with good enough basics to learn quickly. It was very hard work, following the detailed corrections of An Shifu week after week, and I feel it will still be years before I can be truly soft in all these movements. However, I am very confident now to take what I have been taught and gradually develop my internal kung fu through daily practice. Sadly leaving Dezhou once again, I am already looking forward to coming back to deepen my knowledge of the An family system further, and hopefully next time I will arrive injury free!

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The Importance of Hard Qigong in Chinese Traditional Martial Arts

by An Jian Qiu

At An Wushu, we believe that if you want to use your kung fu in combat, you must train hard qigong.

(What is hard qigong? Breathing and conditioning exercises that make your body harder, more resistant to pain, and able to give and take more force without becoming injured. Breaking a brick with your hand is probably the most well-known example.)

Many schools don’t share this belief, so it makes sense you may be wondering why…

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario: Imagine if you were to go and punch a brick wall as hard as you could, right now. What do you think would happen? You’re probably thinking about:

Hurting your hand badly, maybe even breaking your fingers or wrist
Losing your calm due to the pain
Instinctively hunching over your posture and holding your damaged hand to your chest
Why did this happen?

Obviously, the brick wall was much harder than your hand and wrist… or put differently: your body wasn’t strong enough to deliver your strike.

And what if you’d been fighting a live opponent? Losing focus so drastically can be the difference between life and death or victory and defeat.

Of course, hopefully your opponent isn’t as hard as a brick wall(!), but the difference is small when you’re both moving at high speeds and impacting at the strange angles of real combat, not “straight-on” like when you hit a bag. If you’re unconditioned, it doesn’t take a lot of force to become seriously injured.

Hopefully this has shown you why hard qigong is so important for offense.

What about for defense?

The example is obvious: imagine you get punched in the stomach so hard that you lose track of your senses. The next hit is definitely coming for your head!

At An Wushu, one of the things we recommend all new students do is ask Shiye (Grandmaster) An De Sheng if you can touch his stomach. No, we aren’t crazy… despite being 67-years-old, an age where most will have lost all their muscle mass, Shiye’s stomach is harder than steel from years of hard qigong. (The look of surprise on a new student’s face when they poke Shiye’s stomach is always a fun moment for older students.)

This is what days and days of hard qigong training does to the body: your body becomes not just firm like from working out, but literally hard like iron. This is where the name ‘Iron Body’ comes from.

As you progress through lower levels of training, you’ll find yourself taking less damage: receiving less bruises from sparring and watching them disappear much more quickly.

At higher levels of training, this protects you from even more harm, you heal amazingly quickly, and eventually, your opponent will hurt themselves by hitting you! The level of focus you can now have in training and fighting is what it needs to be for you to reach a truly high level of kung fu skill.

As a bonus, the hard chi that is packed into your body by hard qigong also greatly increases your physical health, your strength and your ability to fali/fajin (generate power). There are schools of Daoism that practice hard qigong purely for its health benefits.

These days, hard qigong isn’t so popular and has been lost from many styles, but in the years of true masters, hard qigong was a core part of all traditional kung fu systems. The ability to survive both your own offence, and your opponent’s, is a non-negotiable for a true fighter.

An Jian Qiu, is the headmaster of An Wushu International Martial Arts School in Dezhou, Shandong Province, China.

For further information on studying at An Wushu or other traditional martial arts schools in China visit www.StudyMartialArts.Org

 

An Family Martial Arts School

Here is our latest StudyMartialArts.Org Video. In this video you’ll see footage from our visit to An Wushu Family Martial Arts School.

An Wushu International Martial Arts School is a kung fu school steeped in family tradition. Located in Prefactured City of Dezhou within Shandong Province the school is just two hours from the capital Beijing by fast train. Dezhou and the School is therefore easily accessible for those wishing to experience traditional Chinese martial arts training.

The school offers both full-time and part-time classes to both Chinese and international students with the international students primarily being taught by An Jian Qiu.

Teaching at the school takes place in a picturesque setting and there is both indoor and outdoor facilities. This school offers a warm welcome to those who are serious about studying martial arts and learning about Chinese culture. Recent improvements to the school mean that it can cater for long term students providing both accommodation and food.

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