Bagua, Xingyi, & Taiji
The name neijia quan refers to the "internal school" of Chinese martial arts, which has as its primary members the arts of Bagua Zhang, Xing Yi Quan, and Taiji Quan. Each art is influenced profoundly by Taoist philosophy and is a complete practice in of itself, but many schools offer training in all three systems as they share common ideas and principles. I practice internal martial arts as taught in North American Yin Cheng Gong Fa:
- Bagua Zhang (八卦掌) is known for its smooth and fluid nature, giving practitioners the ability to change spontaneously in response to an opponent's actions. Elements of its curriculum include the Mother Palms (Ba Mu Zhang) and Big Palms (Ba Da Zhang) of Cheng Ting Hua, Circular Bagua of Yin Fu, and Linear Bagua of Liu Dekuan.
- Xing Yi Quan (形意拳) is known for its stability, giving practitioners an ability to express sudden and explosive power. Elements of its curriculum include San Ti Shi, 5 Elemental Fists, 12 Animal Forms, 10 Step Elemental Linking Form, and the Mixed Skills Form of Hebei Xingyi Quan.
- Taiji Quan (太極拳) is known for its relaxed character, giving practitioners the ability to off-balance an opponent at first touch by borrowing their force. Wu Style Taiji Quan is known for its focus on combative effectiveness. Elements of its curriculum include the 37 posture Wu Taiji Quan form of Wang Peisheng, Fixed Step Push Hands, Free Step Push Hands (Tuai Shou), Da Lu, Neigong, Intercepting Hands (Jie Shou), and Dong Gong.
YCGF preserves an extensive weapons practice centered around the sabre (one and two-handed dao), straight sword (jian), and spear (qiang). This includes basic drills, solo forms, and partner practices drawn from Bagua, Xingyi, Taiji and Tongbei.
Ba Gua Chun Yang Jian (八卦純陽剣) or "Bagua Pure Yang Sword" is a straight sword (jian) form likely arranged in the 19th century by Liu Dekuan. Chung (純) can be read as "pure" or "completely" or "entirely" and Chun Yang (純陽) is a reference to Lü Dongbin (呂洞賓) who is revered as one of the members of the group known as the Eight Immortals, and is commonly depicted wearing a sword. Lü Dongbin's literary name is Chunyang Zi (純陽子) or "Master Pure Yang", which is what the form's name derives from -- pure, complete, entirely transformed.
Shíbā Jie or "Eighteen Interceptions" is an extended Bagua practice performed with the one-handed willow leaf saber. It was a favorite practice of Ma Gui, student of Yin Fu, and is a deep and rewarding practice performed while walking in a circle that helps improve a person's baguazhang. It contains many interesting tactics for use against the spear.
Tian Gang Dao of "Thirty Six Star Saber" is a practice of the long sabre (miao dao) passed down within Baiyuan Tongbeiquan. It has 36 techniques taught in 13 sections and dates from the mid 18th century. YCGF's Tongbeiquan lineage includes Li Shusen (1902-1975), who trained with Li Zhendong (1882-1977). This Tian Gang Dao form is the form taught by Li Zhendong, who taught members of the Chinese 29th Army sword skills during the Sino-Japanese War.
Tong Bei Dao
Wuxing Jian & Dao or "Five Element" sword and saber are simple, direct, and effective methods of using the straight sword and saber within the context of Xingyi Quan. In Xingyi, a much heavier jian can be used than in Taiji, where subtletly and fluidity are prioritized over power.
Taiji Spear practice is an excellent way to develop stability, posture, and power. The experience of relaxing and maintaining internal integration of the mind and body when moving an eight pound wooden spear is something that has to be felt to be understood. Understanding how to relax and remain smooth, yet focused, while manipulating such loads is at times a daunting task, but the repetitive nature of the practice calms the mind even as the body fatigues. Internal martial arts carry their own specific body method governing how you respond to force, how you organize your body, and how you issue force of your own. You need to make sure internal ideas are expressed correctly in your practice. The spear is an excellent vehicle for doing so.