This is the story of how three men from the US became seventh-generation disciples of Yang Lu Chan, the creator of Imperial Yang style of tai chi.
On the 25th April and until to the 5 of May, Ray Abeyta and Wolf Carter from the Texas School of Tai Chi in El Paso and Michael Paler from Colorado Springs will on the invitation of Dr. John Fung, officially a sixth-generation disciple of Imperial Yang Style will visit Beijing, to spend 10 days learning from his kung fu sister Wei XiLan the daughter of the late GM Wei Shuren. These three men will become the first Americans to be included in this particular linage of tai chi.
The story began when on the request of Ray Abeyta, Dr John Fung a 6th generation lineage holder of Imperial Yang living in Sydney Australia visited El Paso to teach a number of seminars. On seeing the dedication, skills, plus attitudes and personalities of Ray, Wolf and Michael as well as with much reflection Dr Fung decided to ask them if they would like to become disciples and join the Imperial tai chi family.
Dr John Fung’s lineage:
Wei Shuren – Wang Yongquan – Yang Jianhou – Yang Luchan.
This in itself is a huge deal for the tai chi community in the United States as Ray and his fellow tai chi brothers are all keen to return and share their knowledge with those who attend their classes as well as further afield.
Ray said. “There are other Yang family organizations, but this is the only one considered Imperial Yang style. You have to remember originally, Yang Lu Chan was hired by the emperor to teach his guards how to fight. He was the best fighter in the land back then. That continued in Beijing, where he continued to teach people. We are going to become official disciples of this linage. Very few people are picked. I don’t deserve it, but I’ll take it. I’ve going to do my best to honour the art.”
Knowing what I do of Ray I know this to be true as he is already sharing the information he’s learned from Dr. John Fung not only to the people in his existing classes in El Paso, but also to students in Santa Fe where he teaches every three months, and also with some people up in Colorado Springs. Anywhere people want to learn, Ray will share with them.
Catching up with the group on my return to Beijing from Cebu I enjoyed listening to their stories and the whole groups enthusiasm for this rare art which is effectively what Bruce Frantzis calls Old Yang Style Taichi. An art that comes directly from Yang Lu Chan who was said to have only taught the emperor’s guard, the aristocracy and a select few disciples to a high level of excellence. The best of these students were his sons Yang Chien Hou, and Yang Pan Hou and Wu Chuan Yu from which Wu Style Taichi originates and which then subsequently led to the development of Sun Style Taichi.
Over some delicious Yunnan food we discussed taichi and martial arts related topics. Listening to John Fung and Ray I was struck by their genuine openness, kindness, knowledge and of course passion to share this fascinating art.
If you are ever in Sydney, Australia or Texas, USA and would like to learn more about Imperial Style Taichi. Check out the following links:
A little footage taken from the Chang Ping Annual International Martial Arts Competition held every Summer from the 25th to the 28th of July.
‘All are welcome to compete in various forms and combat sports.’
Chang Ping is 45 minutes from the Center of Beijing and is easily reached by public transport. A direct bus will leave every thirty minutes from Jishuitan Subway station, Line 2. Bus 883 leaves from outside the subway station and will take you to the Chang Ping Gymnasium where the competition is held.
798 Art District in the north-east of the city is Beijing’s “SoHo” and is home to a large arts community. Paintings, ceramics, and street art are scattered throughout the area and it’s ex-industrial factories provide artists with flexible open space for arts installations both big and small. The most important of these art galleries include the expansive 798 Space Gallery, Long March Space and UCCA (China’s largest privately funded art museum).
The charm of the area is preserved in its post-industrial feel and the Maoist inspired art slogans and original features scattered throughout the converted factories and shop floors.
As an arts community 798 has both endured and suffered because of its success. Initially development pressures almost saw the district completely redeveloped however, successful campaigning and the growth in tourism resulted in the reclassification of the area as a legitimate art district supported by the government.Nevertheless rising land prices and development pressures remain. As a result many of the original artists of the neighbourhood who set up studios in these former military factories, including Factory 798 which originally produced electronics have been priced out due to increasing rents. Only a handful of the most successful of these artists continue to live and work in the district.
“Creating a unique backdrop to display the art”
“Galleries both big and small sell and display art works”
798 continues to thrive despite the rising prices. Today the district is filled with not only art galleries but also gift shops, book shops, restaurants, cafés, artsy clothing stores and of course street vendors. 798 Art District is one of Beijing’s most popular tourist destinations and certainly China’s largest and most famous arts district.
One of the highlights of the district is its change ability. The installations move, change and evolve. The details, textures and colours of the works of art, the setting and the people offer the viewer new interesting sensory stimuli around every corner.
Taking photos is a must. The street art unique, weird and unusual is accessible and allows you to participate and interact with this very Chinese art experience.
“Reform and Opening Up” (改革开放 – gǎi gé kāi fàng)
798 Art District can be found at Jiuxianquao Road and Jiuxianqiao North Road, Beijing. Entrance is free and it is open each day from 10:00am-6:00pm.
Bringing the way of nature into polluted Beijing from the inside out.
Living in Beijing, China’s capital has lots of benefits. In China’s annual 2012 expat survey, Beijing was voted in the top 3 of China’s most attractive cities for expats to live in.
Beijing’s Parks and open spaces are beautiful and full of life no matter what time of day you might visit them. Literally any open space buzzes with life. The old talk, play, stretch, sway, practice qigong or dance while the young chillout, cuddle or keep fit.
For foodies Beijing has an abundance of cheap and delicious eateries. There are traditional and exotic offerings available that are either local or from further afield. All of which can be easily obtained and many of which can be obtained without even leaving the house. Thanks to the numerous delivery services like Jinshisong, sherpa and many more. Yet, of course, food and parks aren’t the only thing on offer: Beijing also has a rich history and culture, as well as a maze of hutongs and hidden gems, all there for you to explore should you wish to leave your house. For many Beijing’s cultural scene is a legitimate draw and, for many, has more substance than Shanghai.
Beijing is a City of parks, restaurants, historic sites and culture, knitted together by an ever expanding subway system that allows its 20 million plus residents easy access around the city for as little as 2 rmb.
Beijing it seems has everything and in abundance. However, this abundance does not come without a cost. Air pollution, traffic and overcrowding are the biggest challenges that the city faces.
However, whether you’re a Chinese citizen or expat the truth is that we can do very little about these three things individually, without sweeping local and national policy changes and the time for them to take place. At present, too many of us continue to enjoy the convenience of cars, whether it’s our own or a cab, and quite frankly, even the most unsociable of us enjoy congregating from time to time. So what can we do individually to improve our environment?
Consider for a second the saying ‘charity starts at home’. Now why not replace the word ‘charity’ with this phrase; ‘Environmental change’. Maybe for the Beijinger, ‘Environmental change can and should start at home also’, rather than wait for local and national policy changes. Its up to us individually to be more proactive, by having more awareness and connection to our surroundings. We can do this very simply and cheaply by improving our own personal environments. You can create your own personal oasis of peace and quiet away from the air pollution, traffic and overcrowding by introducing the following key elements (because no matter how peaceful, softly lit or less crowded your home is, it is unlikely that it will be untainted by Beijing’s air pollution).
The surprising and unhealthy truth is that almost all of the contaminants present in outdoor pollution can be found in indoor pollution! These pollutants include PAHs, solvents, organics, heavy metals, particulates, benzene, carcinogens and fecal material. As a result classrooms, offices and homes are introducing more and more air purifiers. But does the introduction of another impersonal home or workplace utility make any real difference without a very personal and natural mental shift? Does the introduction of yet another machine send the right message to students, workers or homeowners? What other measure can we take to protect our little oasis’s and improve our personal environments? Well the answer might just be in creating an oasis.
Below you will find my answer for the practical Beijinger who wants to avoid Beijing’s air pollution, traffic and overcrowding. Here is my list of air cleaning plants that you can order from taobao to create your own oasis without even leaving your home:
Spider Plant: A beautiful houseplant with long grassy leaves, the spider plant also grows rapidly. This elegant plant is great at removing poisonous gases as well as other impurities like formaldehyde and xylene. For better effect, it should be kept in the kitchen or near the fireplace, as these are the places where carbon monoxide accumulates a lot.
Gerbera Daisy: This bright, flowering plant is effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning. It’s also good for filtering out the benzene that comes with inks. A great place to have this little plant is either in your laundry room or bedroom provided it can get plenty of light there.
Marginata (Dracaena marginata): This plant is stunningly beautiful with glossy thin leaves with red edges. It is a famously slow-growing flowering houseplant with very few growing requirements. It also not only removes formaldehyde and benzene from the air, but is also capable of filtering out other toxins present. However, proper care should be taken while placing the plant inside, as it is poisonous to dogs.
Aloe vera: We all know that aloe vera is present in many skin care products. Not only does it help with skin burns but also with filtering various gas emissions from dangerously toxic materials. Claimed to possess tons of medicinal properties, this incredible succulent can also be grown as an ornamental plant and can easily be picked up anywhere there are plants being sold.
Chrysantheium morifolium: The colorful flowers of these plants can do a lot more than brighten a home office or living room; the blooms which come in a mixture of different shades and colors also help filter out benzene, which is commonly found in glue, paint, plastics and detergent. This plant loves bright light, and to encourage buds to open, you’ll need to find a spot near an open window with direct sunlight.
Inherent in BaJi Zhandao philosophy, is the Daoist concept that is woven throughout Daoist philosophy; namely the vital and integral theory of Yin and Yang.
That, at the same time something can be large and limitless in its size and entirety, like the infinite expanse of the universe itself; simultaneously there can exist side by side, its opposite of such infinitesimal size, like the tiniest of atoms.
Baji Zhandao (Baji Fighting Dao) is the combination of Qi (breath or energy), martial arts, health, medical/therapeutic healing arts, aesthetics, and fighting skills, all of which can be applied to a skillful fighter or to produce an accomplished martial artist. Judging from its name, “Fighting Dao” is the instrument through which the proponent can gain victory.
I have been practicing Ba Ji Quan, Pi Gua Tong Bei, Ba Gua, Tai Chi, Xing Yi and many other kinds of traditional Chinese martial arts since I was very young. The great Ba Ji master, Wu Zhong, went to Shao Lin temple to compete in three matches, all of which he subsequently won. Some emperors in the Qing Dynasty learned Ba Ji from Huo Dian Ge, who was then an armed escort in the retinue of Wu Zhong. Many Ba Ji practitioners also served as bodyguards for among others: Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai Shek, Chen Shui Bian, Mao Ze Dong, and Zhou En Lai. Ba Ji’s success in this area is testament to its practicality and martial techniques, which are not flowery or useless moves, but instead a series of deadly weapons.
I have won many gold medals in both national and international martial arts contests and in April 1995 was listed in A Compendium of Chinese Martial Artists. My students and apprentices come from 15 different countries around the world.
In 2007, I founded Ba Ji Zhandao, which, with the basics of Ba Ji Quan, also incorporates aspects of Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua, Tong Bei, Praying Mantis Boxing, Chuo Jiao and Wing Chun and has developed into a new school of martial arts. The internal training aspect, or Qi Gong, was exclusively passed on to me from my teacher, as I was an indoor student. Following years of practice and my own research, I have developed Ba Ji Zhandao, so that the practitioner can attain even more powerful internal strength and more efficient internal breathing, to time in perfect accompaniment with the martial art moves. Other external strength exercises practiced include Tie Sha Zhang (Iron Palm), Huang Long Zhang (Yellow Dragon Palm), and so on.
Ba Ji Zhandao theories
无为不漏法：The method of energy retention and circulation and the creation of a “steel jacket”.
The body has 4 main acupuncture points, namely the Bubbling Well in the feet and the Lao Gong in the palms. To initiate the retention and circulation of energy throughout the body; first, using the mind the practitioner must “close off” the 2 Bubbling Well points (Yong Quan) and the 2 Lao Gong points; following which the practitioner can begin to close off the remaining acupuncture points throughout the rest of the body.
Although one is closing off these points, this is to close off the points to outside interference or incoming energy/power; one must use the heart and mind to focus the concentration on keeping the inner body’s energy gates open to allow the energy to flow through; doing thus will allow the muscles, tendons, sinews, vessels, organs and energy channels to become stronger and more invigorated, until finally your body will feel like it is made from some kind of indestructible material like a diamond or “steel jacket”, that cannot be penetrated by an opponent’s force, yet will enhance the practitioner’s health and longevity.
People practice Ba Ji Zhandao to promote Chinese Kung Fu and to enhance communication among Kung Fu fans around the world and to continue to develop the art and their own practice. It can build your body, health and strength, dispel disease, plus bring you a long life. We are committed to bringing out the true martial, health and curative functions of martial arts and clearing the misunderstanding caused by “flowery but useless Kung Fu”. Ba Ji can also cultivate your willpower, intelligence and health, as well as develop a firm and indomitable spirit.
Ba Ji Zhandao training regimen
Body conditioning and training to make your body flexible and agile.
Gang Yang training (yellow dragon palm, iron palm) is to make your palms deadly weapons.
Post training (“engraving the wooden post”), striking the board, kicking the ball can make different parts of your body strong enough to resist blows and defeat your opponent, enhance your blood circulation and make your body more sensitive i.e. Increasing the sensory perception and awareness, in Chinese this is referred to as “Ting Jing”, that is making the body, even the skin, the limbs, the senses and the visual awareness and all perceptory organs/features more and more sensitive, so the practitioner becomes even more aware of what others are doing or even intend to do.
Palm chop or hack. Every day you should practice palm chops 1000 times to make your body have the qualities of aliveness, agility and elasticity, plus the coiling, explosive power of a spring, additionally, after training your palm will be able to slice through objects.
Practicing Ba Ji Zhandao’s internal breathing, energy and strength (Qi Gong) training for 2 hours everyday, can soon change the overall functions of your body and integrate it into the martial arts so that every part of the body can be as hard as a diamond and every movement can be deadly.
Ba Ji’s Zhandao includes 6 forms, a dagger form, a sparring form, a 2-person sparring exercise, (wrestling and qin na or joint-locking, striking acupoints (Dim Mak) and dislocating the joints) small Ba Ji, large Ba Ji, six big opening, eight big moves, six elbows, broadsword, spear, rapier, cudgel, Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua, Pi Gua, Tong Bei, Mantis forms and so on. After some period of diligent practice, successful students will become accomplished martial artists who can deal with a variety of potentially dangerous situations, plus have great skills to fight with and defeat opponents.
The essence of Ba Ji’s Zhandao: Ba Ji Zhandao has its roots firmly embedded in traditional Daoism, which is the very essence of Han Studies. China is a sound milieu conducive to the development of martial arts. Here, every style and school of martial arts is in full bloom, each with its own respective uniqueness. Ba Ji Zhandao incorporates Ba Ji, Tai Chi, Xing Yi, Ba Gua, Pi Gua, Chuo Jiao, Tong Bei and Wing Chun. Internal breathing, energy and strength are the essence of martial arts, so the better these qualities and components are, the better the martial artist you will be. Inherent within the core of martial arts are also philosophy, military strategy, psychology, scientific theories, the theory of meridian science, Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. All the aforementioned are essential to Ba Ji Zhandao. I have been practicing martial arts for more than 50 years and with overseas students coming from 15 different countries, I am proficient at teaching martial arts in a scientific and efficient way, to allow students to comprehend the material and movements taught.
He was a shooting star – brilliant, breathtaking, rare, and gone too soon. But in his 32 years, Bruce Lee practiced what he preached, reaching a near-perfect physical and mental state few can even fathom. Obviously this took him his entire life to reach; there are ways that we can learn from Bruce’s lessons and mishaps so that we can reach our own self-perfection.
Bruce Lee’s life reads like mythology. There are magnificent stories within his overall story that made him into the legend he has become. The same can be said about fitness; there are lessons within the overall model (we call these lessons “attributes”). But one must start with the overall story – the overall attribute – before one can break things down and focus on the small stories. I am going to call the overall attribute “the Jeet Kune Do fitness ideal”; that is, what makes a JKD practitioner fighting fit overall.
I think to set this in context, we need a story from Bruce Lee’s life and I can think of no better one than the catalyst for Bruce Lee’s split with traditional Wing Chun Gung Fu and the beginnings of Jeet Kune Do. The year is 1964 and the place is Oakland. Bruce Lee is in trouble for teaching non-Chinese gung fu, so he is challenged to a fight with Wong Jak Man, supposedly one of San Francisco’s gung fu champions of the time. The fight begins, Bruce hits Wong, and Wong begins to run around the room with Bruce in hot pursuit. Eventually Bruce catches him, jumps on him and hits him a few times, and forces him to conceded defeat. What was the problem here? There were two main ones, actually. First, Bruce could not apply his techniques adequately to end the fight in any acceptable amount of time, thus the beginnings of his search for better ways (JKD). Second, and most important for this entry, Bruce was exhausted from chasing Wong around the room. It suddenly became very obvious that he needed to improve his fitness level, and fast.
From that point onward, Bruce upped his conditioning routines and the results can be readily seen in any of his movies (notice, too, that his physique improves from one movie to the next, until you see his ultimate physical perfection in Enter the Dragon). Bruce was meticulous in recording his routines, so we are lucky to have many of them still. One will notice while looking through them, though, that his routines evolved over time. The being said, he always had a few exercises he stuck with until his death in 1973, the main one being running (usually with his dog, Bobo). Bruce ran not just for conditioning, but for mental clarity, which was needed more and more as he approached the end of his life. The point here is three-fold: 1. Jeet Kune Do has a focus on conditioning, 2. conditioning is important for both mental clarity and fighting ability, and 3. the forms of conditioning evolved over time.
Fast forward to today and my personal routines, in and out of class, for my overall attribute-building. I always begin class with conditioning routines, usually involving rounds of running with interval exercises mixed in (I will cover this more in a later entry). Personally, I have turned to plyometrics (jump training) for my fitness needs and the results have been astounding. I combine these exercises into intervals, so I may do a set of 3-5 plyometric exercises for 4-5 minutes, take a 30-45 second break, and repeat. I have found this has not only drastically improved my conditioning attributes, but it has also improved my overall physique. That is not to say I don’t run. I still run 3-5 miles (more than that is excessive, in my opinion) once or twice a week if I can. I combine this with bag work and calisthenics and I am currently in the best shape of my life. I can train longer and harder, spar more effectively, and perform techniques with more ease than ever before. Bruce Lee was onto something, but there is no surprise there.
To sum up, overall conditioning is very important in Jeet Kune Do. It should be key in every martial art and to martial artist. Too often martial artists rely on nothing but their training to carry them through, but Bruce Lee found out the hard way that sometimes pure training isn’t enough. We have to supplement and constantly improve and evolve. That is one of the core essences of Jeet Kune Do. Stay fit and fight longer.