Internal Martial Arts

In 2004, after I received my final teaching license in modern jujutsu, I was introdued by Ellis Amdur to Bob Galeone, a Karate and Aikido teacher who had learned Gao Bagua from Allen Pittman and Paul Cote in the lineage of Hung Yimien, a student of Zhang Junfeng. I began training in Gao Bagua with Bob Galeone in late 2004 and subsequently received feedback on my training from Paul Cote and also Su Dongchen during his Essence of Evolution seminars in Minneapolis, and Bob's permission to teach my long-time jujutsu student Ben Lawner the art.

In 2005, while visiting the Gassan Dai Jinja ( 月山大神社 ) shrine on Mt. Haguro in the Dewa Sanzan ( 出羽三山 ) area of Yamagata Prefecture, and the Hagurosan Kōtakuji Shōzenin ( 羽黒山荒沢寺正善院 ) in Haguro-machi, I decided to commit my full efforts towards learning Chinese Internal martial arts, even if it meant giving up teaching modern jujutsu regularly. I decided also to explore classical Japanese swordsmanship. These decisions required resigning from the jujutsu organization I was a member of and starting over as a beginner. I can say without reservation, ten years later, that doing so was well worth the effort.

In 2006, Bob introduced me to Paul Cote and his teacher Zhang Yun, initially in the context of Wu Style Taiji Quan. Small world -- my initial high school friend who introduced me to the idea of Bagua was the college roomate of one of Zhang Yun's senior students, Clayton Shiu. I began training in the North American Yin Cheng Gong Fa (YCGF) organization in earnest, receiving instruction in the traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts of Bagua Zhang, Xingyi Quan, and Taiji Quan. I first studied Wu Style Taiji Quan with Paul Cote, and when my jobs changed and work schedule increased, shifted to visiting Shifu Zhang Yun in Pittsburgh, PA, periodically for training. Initially I focused on learning Hebei Xingyi Quan from Zhang, but over time received instruction and corrections on my Bagua and Taiji as well. I am making sure to put in a strong effort into learning classical Chinese weapons preserved in YCGF.

In September 2015, I was very honored and fortunate to be accepted as the 40th chair lineal disciple and indoor student of Zhang Yun, himself a student of the late Grandmaster Wang Peisheng. I was very grateful that Paul Cote and Clayton Shiu served as my sponsors into the group. I continue my current practice in Seattle, Washington, and return to Pittsburgh periodically for further training.

My current martial arts practice is focused on the internal martial arts of Bagua Zhang, Hebei Xingyi Quan, and Wu Style Taiji Quan as taught within the North American Yin Cheng Gong Fa (YCGF) organization. I am a formal student of Shifu Zhang Yun, who trained extensively under the late grandmaster Wang Peisheng in Beijing.

Bagua Zhang, Xingyi Quan & Taiji Quan

Bagua Zhang ("Bagua") is known for its smooth and fluid nature, giving practitioners the ability to change spontaneously in response to an opponent's actions. Elements of the 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. Mark's training is focused primarily on Yin Style Bagua.

Xingyi Quan ("Xingyi") 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 ("Taiji") 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, Da Lu, and Neigong.

Partial Lineage Diagram of martial arts taught within Yin Cheng Gong Fa.
Dotted lines indicate summarizing several generations.

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.

Traditional Chinese Weapons

There are several traditional weapons that are practiced in Bagua, Xingyi, and Taiji. These include the straight sword, one-handed sabre, two-handed sabre, and spear. Below are descriptions of some of the practices we maintain.

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.

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.