In terms of martial arts, the practice of various forms is often considered valid only if the forms can be used for self-defense. They have to have some application for self-defense.
In real life confrontations, it is usually over very quick, not like the movies where the director is making full use of the dramatics. The controlling factors are timing, balance, coordination, strength, speed, stamina, experience and innate fighting ability. There usually isn't time to apply specific applications.
In Liuhe Bafa, the movements are all self-defense movements and as such could be used for self-defense. But they are used to generate qi, energy, or internal work, as described in this issue's cover article. Yun Yin Sen started learning the Yang style relatively late in life then switched to Liuhe Bafa with very positive results for his health. Arthritis is gone; Tuberculosis is gone, etc.
The article describes interesting aspects of internal work, which is what most higher level martial artists aspire to because it optimizes their physical abilities and the way they can deal with life's problems.
The eight methods are a blueprint for internal development and are similar to the internal work in Tai Chi Chuan.
The dividing line between internal work and external work is not that sharp. A person working on the external aspects will to some degree also be working on internal aspects. So will a person who is just working on improving his or her health or doing exercise. The internal work can kick in once a person reaches limitations in their practice.
Yun and George Xu, who was interpreter for the interview, also discuss major mistakes that practitioners make that hinder their progress.
Yun is a relatively short man who appears strong but relaxed. When he does movements, there appears to be a lot of integrated energy. He appears to be one of those people who have found an art that he loves to do all the time. And since he retired in 1994, that's what he has been doing everyday, all day
William C. C. Chen of New York City is one of the foremost teachers in the U.S. and internationally. A student of Cheng Man-ch'ing while growing up in Taiwan, he had a reputation as a fighter and often teaches fighters in New York. He is also a very gentle man and has a loyal following.
He discusses his method of breathing–how it works and what its benefits are. He also acknowledges that other people may have different methods that work for them, but that "All roads lead to Rome." In other words, different methods can get you to the same destination.
One of the qualities of good teachers is that they are able to acknowledge that other people can do things differently and yet get good results.
I have interviewed a number of high-level teachers and asked them about breathing methods. The responses range from just breathe naturally to very complex methods.
In the end, everyone has to explore different methods and choose the one that works for them. And if it is appropriate to choose another method later because of one's experience, then feel free to do that.
Breath is said to be linked to qi, so the matter is doubly important.
J. Justin Meehan of St. Louis was an early contributor to T'ai Chi when it was just a newsletter in the 1980s. He has studied with a number of important teachers, including Chen Xiaowang and Feng Zhiqiang.
In this issue, he writes about the straight sword and its techniques. The Tai Chi sword is very popular in China and has a long historical and romantic history. Many famous Chinese literary figures were swordsmen and swords-women fighting for justice and, not infrequently, for vengeance.
Vincent Chu of Brookline, MA, writes about the interview he had with Liu Xi Ren who is in the lineage of Yang Shao Hou, the older brother of Yang Cheng-fu. Liu discusses three solo forms and their uses and compares them to other Yang style forms.
Although he says that if someone trains according to the 10 points of Yang Cheng-fu, the skill resulting will be good, he also feels that Yang Shao Hou's forms were more geared to martial capability. He says that the forms and the sequences of the forms were the same but the execution was different and, by implication, better.
It is not unusual for martial artists to feel that the forms they have learned are better than the forms that other people practice. Pride is a popular characteristic of many martial artists. Humility is often scarce.
Vincent Chu is the son of Gin Soon Chu of Brookline, MA, who was a disciple of Yang Sau-Chung, the first son of Yang Cheng-fu.
Vincent Chu's said his father always encouraged him to explore for new knowledge and information about Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan and to test his skills.
Over the past twenty years, he has traveled to Hong Kong to visit his father's teacher, Yang Sau-Chung, and also Ip Tai Tak, his father's classmate. In China he met such people as Yang Zhenduo, Yang Zhenji, Yang Zhenguo, Fu Zhongwen, Fang Ning, Ma Yueh Liang, Wu Ying Hua and Feng Zhiqiang.
C. M. Havens of Brooklyn, NY, writes again in this issue about his enigmatic teacher Earnest Gow and the use of disabling finger applications that are said to be part of the Yang style tradition. Havens writes that these are not stiff finger thrusts but are executed with a relaxed hand, "relying exclusively on the whip force that characterizes authentic Tai Chi."
Havens describes Gow's skill and the training methods he used to create skill in his students.
Zhou Lishang of Beijing, China, writes about the Yi Jin Jing, traditional health exercises said to have been created by Bodhidharma in the Shaolin Temple about 500 A.D.
The exercises are a dynamic method to promote the health of the body.•