THE SCHOOLS, THE MASTERS, THE LINKS AND VIDEOS

 

CAUTION: When browsing through a school’s website, be aware of superlatives and hyperbole. Always read between the lines. When watching videos of these Wudang masters, do not imagine yourself doing what they are doing. Stick with reality. Also, if they have written any informative articles on any aspect of the internal martial arts, be sure to  read them. And, as mentioned at the end of Part II, Daoism and the internal martial arts go hand-in-hand in Wudangshan. Therefore, if your religious beliefs or lack thereof may prevent you from honoring the rules and rituals of a particular school or temple, always check with them directly for any questions you might have before you travel.

Keeping these points in mind, let us begin our rundown of the more important internal martial arts schools and temples in and around Wudangshan.

China Wudang Kung Fu Academy (DaoistKungFu.com), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Chen Shixing. Established in 2007, the schools new 5-star, 16-million yuan facility opened in 2013 and occupies over ten thousand square meters, in a quiet and peaceful environment surrounded by mountains. It is the largest, wholly-contained martial arts school in Wudang with 130 comfortable rooms in a four-level student building with hot water facilities, classic meals mostly vegetarian (usually 80% vegetables, 20% meat), air conditioning, Wifi, spacious yards with ample traditional training equipment, and its very own Taoist Temple. They teach a full range of hand and weapon forms, qigong, and traditional herbal medicine gong, also calligraphy and Mandarin. . Everything that you need to learn more about Chinese culture could be found on the school territory: the Taoist Temple, a clean, up-to-date kitchen, a special hall to practice painting, the Hall of White Tiger Hall, the Hall of Green Dragon- the places that are decorated with Chinese calligraphy, where they practice in case of the poor weather. There is a large room for tea ceremony and a place where you can learn to play traditional Chinese musical instruments. Check website for latest fee changes. Last posted 7600 RMB for single room; 6600 RMB for double room. For Taiji teachers and those who want to be, they have an excellent 6-month certification program for only 40,000RMB double room and 45,000RMB single room. You can extend your stay for 3-months of self-practice at only 4,000RMB double room and 5,000 single room per month.

Chen Shixing YouTube Channel:  China Wudang Kung Fu Academy

Of particular interest:

An Introduction to China Wudang Kung Fu Academy

CCTV Highlights of Master Chen Shixing

Wudang Taiji – Six Basic Skills

Demonstrating Taiji Applications

Wudang Taoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy (WudangWushu.com), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Yuan Xiu Gang. The school is currently in a transition to newer facilities. They are still in Wudangshan just a few kilometers from the old school at YuXu Temple. The new school is near the Wudangshan Stadium and Taiji Lake, which is part of the new Taiji Lake tourism area, the Chinese government’s idea of improving upon Nature by mixing environmental protection with the rich heritage of Wudang culture. Supposedly diverse forestation and landscaping have been completed around the lake. During this transition, new students coming to take part in the Health Class and specific workshops/courses will be directed to the new location next to Taiji Lake as the Academy is fully relocating to the new area. This is one of the largest schools at Wudang. You can also expect the accommodations and food at their new location to be among the finest in Wudang. Both Master Yuan and his coaches are bilingual and teach a full range of Wushu, taiji, qigong, weapons as well as calligraphy, music and Mandarin. And the prices are very reasonable. The Monthly rate for a single with A/C is 8100 RMB ($1265), a single without A/C is 7500 (1172), a double with A/C is 7500 (1172), a double without A/C is 6900 (1078),

Yuan Xiu Gang YouTube Channel Wudang Wushu (Mostly performance and group videos)

Of particular interest:

Teaching a Master Class in Spain

Learning Gongfu from Master Yuan

What is Internal Alchemy? (audio volume low, read subtitles)

Preparing for Meditation

Demonstrating Taiji 28 with international class (the perfect form)

Wudang Daoist Martial Arts Academy (/wudang.academy/learning-with-master-chen-shiyu/), a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Chen Shiyu. School is located at Huilongguan (Returning Dragon) Temple. Huilongguan is the first temple after passing the entrance to the National Park of Wudangshan. Clean, comfortable rooms with hot water facilities, mostly vegetarian (usually 80% vegetables, 20% meat), Wifi available. Both outside and inside training areas with traditional training equipment, a medium-size school usually with no more than 30 students. A full range of hand and weapon forms, qigong, and traditional herbal medicine gong, also calligraphy and Mandarin. Very clean, up-to-date kitchen. Monthly rate for luxury single with separate bathroom 9900 RMB ($1550), standard single 9500 ($1485), single with public toilet 6800 ($1062), double with A/C and separate toilet 7900 ($1235), with public toilet 6900 ($1078)

Chen Shiyu YouTube Channel: Chen Shiyu (Mostly performance videos), A more extensive list here: YouTube Videos:
Master Chen Shiyu

Of particular interest:

Tour of the kitchen facility

Explaining the Principles of Taiji (Mandarin)

Leading a Taiji 13 Class

Wudang Bagua Form

Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy (TaoistWellness.com, a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Gu Shining. The school is located in a picturesque valley below the central tourist bus route between Purple Heaven and Cai Shen Temples near Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33). This is a new website with videos by George Thompson. The old website had some glaring inconsistencies especially regarding prices and the courses thought by Sifu Gu. I cannot say that I am sure the new website has corrected all the inconsistencies regarding his courses. If you have a particular area of study you are interested in, for example, bagua, xingyi, tuina massage or acupuncture, make sure you email ahead to find out if it is indeed available. But, it should be noted that where Michael Weichhart is the most experienced and proficient of the Wudang posters, George Thompson is perhaps the least with only four months of formal martial arts training, yet he talks incessantly throughout the posts on his channel. So, stick with those videos specifically on the Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy channel (See link below).

As noted in Part II, the accommodations are rather Spartan with smaller rooms, mostly doubles, some with A/C some without, a smaller shower building with an Asian style toilet, and one single bedroom with a Western toilet. The facility is adequate for about six or seven students. More than that and it becomes rather tight. The community room is not large enough to hold taiji classes on rainy days. The dining area adjacent to the kitchen is small, and the kitchen can use a major clean up as well as updated remodeling and menu. On the plus side, though Master Gu Shining may not have as extensive a skill set as the other four San Feng Pai masters, it must be remembered that he spent years obtaining a college degree and teaching high school English while the other masters were training. Nevertheless, he is perhaps the most congenial and accommodative of any master at Wudang. Since his classes are very small, only about four to six students generally, he has time to work one-on-one in English with each one. And that should account for something, but perhaps not the 9000 RMB monthly price tag (a substantial increase). Much too much compared to other facilities for a small, shared double with only one outside Asian style shower room, no rain-proof indoor training area, and a kitchen in need of a major clean up and modernization  But for 7000 – 7500 RMB tops, it may just be a good value for a raw beginner.

Gu Shining, Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy Youtube Channel Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy

Of particular interest:

Five Animals Qigong instructional video

Taiji 33 Performance Video with View of training yard

Taiji 33 Back View, performed off-site

Talk on Wudang culture in small community room

Wudang Dao (WudangDao.com) a San Feng Pai facility, 15th generation Master Zhong Xuechao (also called Master Bing). Slightly larger than Master Gu’s facility, as of the 2017 renovation and construction, the school had 7 rooms, without air conditioning. It will be hot during the Summer months, from June to end of August. Rooms have bed, blanket, sheet set and pillow. Students must use public lavatory (most likely Asian style) and shower. Work was to have been completed by September, 2017. Also a long 40-minute walk to the main road to catch the Mountain Tourist Bus. If you need a ride to town, Master Bing drives his car to town twice a day every two to four days.

I do not know if any part of the facility has been upgraded since 2017, but Master Bing has told me that his community room can hold three to five students for indoor practice on rainy days. As I mentioned in Part II, Master Bing has an extensive following in the U.S. and tours America every year generally from January to May. So, he has little need of a much larger facility in Wudang. To make sure the accommodations are adequate, he divides his Wudang schedule into three modules: Easy, Medium and Difficult, and teaches each separately for two weeks with about a 10-day break between modules. Each module will have one form or technique as well as a qigong, foundation exercises and an easy, medium or difficult hike. He limits class size to 12 maximum to avoid overcrowding and to provide individual corrections.

If your own schedule and location work out, you may be able to study with Master Bing at a city near you on his U.S. tour, and then later at Wudang. Master Bing has one of the most extensive skill sets at Wudang as he has been studying martial arts since he was six years-old, first informally with his uncle, Grandmaster Zhong Yun Long, the 14th generation Wudang Master and head of the Wudang San Feng Pai. Then right after high school in 1992, Master Bing began formal study at Wudang.

Master Zhong Xuechao (Master Bing), Wudangbing YouTube channel: WudangBing

Of Particular Interest:

Spontaneous Qigong, Formless Form

Five Animals Qigong with Instructional ending

Taiyi Wu Xing 5 Element Form

Two-person Sword Form in Virgina

Fire and Water two-person sword form

Wudang Gong Fu and Health Academy (Wudang-Academy.com). Xuan Wu Pai master Tang Li Long, a disciple of You Xuan De. At the top of their website, it states: “A small and secluded academy…” So, I would anticipate the school to be exactly that – small and secluded. Although this is the largest of the three Spartan schools, perhaps averaging a dozen or so students. Even their booking site, StudyMartialArts.org, lists this facility as “Spartan.”  According to WGFHA website: “Students should be prepared to meet the simple living conditions here, bunk beds, shared shower rooms and squat toilets, insects and the humidity (especially in the Summer). That just about sums it up. The price is slightly out of line for a triple room – $7500 RMB for 1 month. That is more in line with a standard double room. However, if the teaching is exceptional, then it may well be worth it. But I have no idea if that is the case. The training looks a bit over-the-top to me, but… See for yourself.

Master Tang Li Long, YouTube channel: (WudangAcademy)

Of Particular Interest:

WGFHA Introduction (also on Home Page)

Tang Li Long Promotion

Impressions of our new school (2013)

Forms and Applications

Push hands (tui shou)

Wudang Skill Training (Gong Li)

Wudang Taoist Wuji KungFu Academy (DaoistGungFu.com) – Another 15th generation Xuan Wu Pai master Chen Li Sheng, a disciple of You Xuan De and a graduate of the Chinest Daoist Academy. Wuji Kung Fu Academy is no doubt head and shoulders above most other schools in Wudangshan when it comes to size and comfort. It can accommodate up to 280 students. Despite such the vast size, the website claims that all classes are taught personally by Master Chen, the first student in Mt. Wudang to attend graduate studies at the Chinese Taoist Association. Instead of a dormitory or temple, students are housed at a 4-star Wudangshan hotel, the QiongTai Hotel. The monthly fee is very reasonable considering the 4-star accommodations, 10,000 RMB for a private single room and 8000 RMB for a double room. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how good his translators are. And you will definitely need a good one if you are not fluent in Mandarin. Also, all of his taiji and qigong is painfully slow and IMHO not necessarily inline with most Wudang styles – But you be the judge…

Master Chen Li Sheng, YouTube channel: (Chen Li Sheng)
Of Particular Interest:

An Introduction to Chen Li Sheng

Master Chen’s School in Wudang Mountains

Explaining Internal Basics (If you’re not fluent in Mandarin, go somewhere else)

Teaching Amsterdam students internal taichi (No Sound, No English?)

Teaching Taiji Quan (His translator hopefully is very good. Again, No Sound!!!)

Wudang Dragongate Kungfu School, (Wudang-kungfu.net), 25th generation of longmen pai (dragongate), the 23rd generation of chunyang pai (pure yang energy lineage) and 13th generation of songxi pai (the flowing river lineage) Master Wang Xing Qing. The school has two locations. There is the main school located at the foot of Eastern side of Wudangshan in Plum Valley near Taiji Lake. You can reach it via the public bus #202.  The other location is the school’s Mountain Retreat on Wudang Mountain. The main school has a large training ground and was newly furnished in autumn 2011 with proper western standards such as: western toilets, high-speed internet access, air conditioning and comfortable furniture.

While the school and surroundings look very upscale, I am not certain if I can say the same about Master Wang Xing Qing’s lineage. During the restoration of Wudang Daoism and Kung Fu after the Cultural Revolution, several Longmen (Dragongate) Pai masters guided that process as I pointed out in Part I of The Wudang Experience. Yet, they decided to initiate just two lineage schools, first the San Feng Pai under Master Zhong Yun Long and then later Xuan Wu Pai under Master You Xuan De, because Master Zhong had crossed Northern China to learn and bring back San Feng Pai forms while You Xuan De traveled to Southern China and returned with Xuan Wu Pai kung fu. But Master Wang did not study under either of them. Instead, for whatever reason, he claims that he was raised through the secret guidance of his first master Jia He Xuan, who taught him the old original style of wudang internal martial arts and kungfu. But isn’t that what Master Zhong and Master You brought back to Wudang?  It sounded a bit far-fetched to me especially since I could find no historical details on Jia He Xuan. But if you feel Master Wang is the real deal after doing your due diligence, then go for it. Prices are very reasonable: 8000 RMB for a single, 7000 RMB for a double for one month. FYI: Master Wang apparently does not speak English but uses translators.

Master Wang Xing Qing, YouTube channel: (Wudang Dragongate)

Of Particular Interest:

Welcome to the Wudang Dragongate School

Master Wang teaching Taiji Basics in Russia

Internal Wudang Daoist Kungfu

Constructing a Meditation Platform (good exercise!)

Rooftop Meditation

Basics of Traditional Wudang Boxing

Training in the Mountains

Wudang Dragongate Training Tour

And last but not least, the Mystery Temple. Why do I call it a “mystery?” Well, see for yourself…

The Five Immortals Temple, (www.fiveimmortals.com) Master Li Feng does not specifically claim to be a disciple of any named master but of many anonymous masters. So, right there, some may decide to proceed slowly and read with a sceptical eye. Like Master Wang Xing Qing above, Li Shifu does claim to be a Dragongate and Pure Yang Sect inheritor as well as a High Priest but does not credit any particular master as his teacher. The website states, “Five Immortals Temple is a small and secluded place in the Wudang Mountains of China, welcoming all who seek to shape themselves in the Taoist Arts.”

So, again we have a school that is considered small and secluded…

“Our goal is to produce coaches of a high-standard, masters of medical treatment, and the recovery from illness, people sharing the same path of the Wudang Internal Alchemy practice. Through study, the ultimate goal is to open one’s own Wudang Kung Fu school to instruct Kung Fu, to establish a longevity space, a healing center, to transmit the theories of longevity, to help even more people by easing the pain and suffering of illness, to make people return to naturalness and to co-exist with the harmony of Heaven and Earth..”

And to get your new business going, they offer certification that doubles the non-certified course fee. This may relate more to those with an entrepreneurial spirit rather than those who merely want to improve their kungfu or taiji. But what is unique about the Five Immortals Temple is that they give you a first-hand opportunity to decide if it is right for you.

“Future students can also choose to first visit the temple for 3 days to inspect the conditions, at which time food and accommodation will be free of charge. One must study and take part in the temple’s everyday chores and tasks – for example being in charge of temple halls, lighting incense, sweeping, cleaning, and so on. One to three people are accommodated per room; the diet is vegetarian inside the temple.”

They caution, however: “This place is not a school or martial arts academy, this is a temple and this is a home for a family. This is the only place in Wudang where foreigners can legally lodge and study Taoism and Martial Arts inside a temple. That is why one must respect the temple rules and Taoist precepts. One must be able to endure bitterness, follow the plans and arrangements with discipline, unite and mutually support each other with love, compassion, kindness, as well as understand the concept of gain…”

Master Li Feng (Li Shifu) YouTube channel Five Immortals Temple

Of Particular Interest:

An introduction

Wudang Five Dragons Bagua

Daoist Medicine

Wudang Chun Yang Yang Sheng Gong

 

There you have it, a compilation of the top masters and their schools at Wudangshan. If you are planning a trip to Wudang or think you might like to visit there in the future (And you should because the natural beauty and energy is off the charts), keep an open mind as you view all the links. Don’t expect to have a lay back, comfy stay. After all, this is training, and it was not meant to be a vacation. Instead, see if any particular school or master seems to resonate with you. Remember, this is all about internal kung fu, so listen to your own inner voice and feel what resonates the most with your internal energy.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to write them in the comments area. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

THE END

 

Of all the grandmasters who trained the current generation of teachers at Wudong, 14th generation grandmaster Zhong Yun Long is the most well known and best documented. Not as much is known about You Xuan De and little if any of Jia He Xuan. So, here is a Hong Kong TV documentary “Kung Fu Quest,” that has scenes of the two 15th generation San Feng Pai masters Yuan Xiu gang and Chen Shiyu instructing students. It also has scenes with their master, the head of San Feng Pai ,Zhong Yun Long, teaching Taiyi Wu Xing Quan.

 

Here is another video of both Masters Chen and Yuan with their master, Grandmaster Zhong Yun Long.

 

Finally, Here is a link to a 9-part Wudang Documentary posted by Michael Weichhart’s Wudang Academy.

What You Need to Know

After reading this article, you may be disappointed to find that Wudang is not what you thought it would be. On the other hand, you may be elated to know that it is more than you imagined. In either case, do not let anything I have written either postitive or negative about any school or teacher discourage you from visiting Wudang. No matter which school, master or program you select at Wudang, the very fact that you are standing amid this sacred mountain with its Golden Summit is reward enough for any amount of money you have spent on lodgings and programs. Though the school or program you select may be completely wrong for advancing your goals, nevertheless, in Wudang, you are emersed in Nature, in the Dao. Unless you are addicted to your smart phone or tablet, you have the unparalleled opportunity to go without a car, a TV or iTunes and YouTube, and instead tune into Nature just as the ancient Daoists did thousands of years ago.

Many journey to this mountain every year to take advantage of just such an opportunity. Living close to Nature helps them find stability and clarity in their lives and relationships. Very few places on Earth contain the immense power and energy you will find here if you manage to quiet the chatter. You may even find a qigong course that improves your health or a martial arts master who can advance your taiji and tui shou. And then again maybe you won’t. The mountain with all its rich culture and Daoist traditions welcomes you anyway and offers you the unique chance to find what you have been looking for nearly your entire life – the real you – as long as you approach with an open mind and leave all your expectations back home.

There are many ways to do Wudang. You can just hop a plane to China and then find a connecting flight or a train to take you to Wudang, traveling as a tourist, hunt for a school and a program that will fulfill your aims instead of . Of course, winging it like this can get expensive as you hop from one school to another, spending a night or two here and there or reserving a motel room near one of the large temples and school-hopping during the day. Another way is to do your touring via the internet and YouTube. But either way do your due diligence before you go and decide what it is you want.  Is it qigong or taiji or wushu? Is it hand forms or weapons?  Maybe you are interested in meditation or Daoism and its philosophy. Maybe calligraphy or learning Mandarin. Or maybe you enjoy hiking mountain trails and visiting temples and other historic sites. Or maybe you like to do a little of each. That’s fine as long as you realize what you ultimately want to get out of your trip.

Michael Weichhart is a 16th generation Wudang lineage holder, a disciple of 15th generation master, Yuan Xiu Gang, and has also trained with 15th generation Master Chen Shiyu. Weichhart is a frequent poster of Wudang videos on YouTube and teaches Wudang wushu at his Wudang Academy in Vienna and offers online courses as well. Weichhart’s experience and talent both as a taichi player and videographer are unquestioned. Listen to his knowledgeable remarks on what you should know about Wudang before you go and having the proper mental attitude.

Michael’s Website: Wudang Academy

FIRST THINGS FIRST: HOW TO GET TO WUDANG? The key words here are PLAN AHEAD. If you want to get the best airline deals to China, then you need to book months in advance. It is now early June as I write this, the perfect time to plan for a September or October flight. If you want to travel in the Spring, then book by December or January. If you plan to go in the Summer, book by March or April.

How much will it cost? I have used Cheapo Air (CheapoAir.com) on several occasions for flights to major cities in China and India. By booking several months in advance, a round trip ticket costs between $400 – $500. You can also purchase travel insurance through Cheapo Air for around $30 – $50 depending on which options you take. But don’t book all the way through to Wudang. Instead, book to a major city like Beijing or Shanghai. If you book all the way through, it may cost you more, and you may only have hours to make a connecting flight, no time for sightseeing. So, decide how much time you want to spend in Beijing or Shanghai and what you would like to see. You can book private tours online in any major city in China along with side trips to nearby cities. You can book a hotel through cTrip.com (the Chinese version of trip.com).  Do not use booking.com or hotel.com – quotes are all high end.

Now the next leg of your journey is directly to Wudang. You can go two ways: by train or plane, either of which you will book through cTrip.com. If you plan on taking the train (there are no high speed trains to Wudang), you will have to take a regular train which will take approximately 19 hours from Beijing and about 22 hours from Shanghai. And you MUST book a soft sleeper. They are very comfortable, and you will be able to get your usual seven or eight hours of sleep, unless you are still suffering from jet lag. The cost from Beijing is about $75; from Shanghai about $85 – $90. Or you can simply take a plane from either major city. A 2 1/2-hour flight will cost $98 – $121.

For GROUP TRAVEL PACKAGES, you can book the entire package through Cheapo Air at http://www.cheapoair.biz/group-booking.html. Or RewardsTravelChina.com, E-mail chris [at] rewardstravelchina [dot] com for the best quote in the market for group bookings and corporate travel.

TO SUMMARIZE: first you decide ahead when you want to go. Then book your best deal on CheapoAir.com, Usually that means a flight to either Beijing or Shanghai. But you can also book flights from the U.S. to Xiamen, Wuhan or Xi’an (rail travel from these cities to Wudang are much shorter). Once you have the arrival times for China, figure on at least an hour or 1 1/2 hours to get through Chinese Immigration and Customs. Now decide if you want to spend a day or two or three touring the local sights in your arrival city or save your time and money and go directly to Wudang. Whichever you decide, you will book on cTrip.com. Please note, the plane does not land in Wudang proper but at the Wudangshan Airport which is in Shiyan, a 40-minute taxi ride to the Wudang Residential Area (which is actually considered the Dan Jiang Kou district of the city of Shiyan or Laoyin.)  The taxi will cost between 100 – 130 RMB ($16 – $20). The ride from the Wudangshan train station is much shorter and will cost about half that amount or you can take a city bus #202 depending on the time of day for 4 RMB. (Cheap, huh?)

What is not cheap is the entrance fee to Wudangshan National Geopark entrance gate, 240 RMB (nearly $40 USD) includes 140 RMB Geopark entrance fee and 100 RMB for the Wudang Mountain Tourist Bus. You can take the bus all around the central peaks of the mountain which include Purple Heaven Temple, NanYan Temple and Golden Summit without any additional charges. Keep in mind, there is a three-day limit on your entrance fee/bus pass. If you manage to hook up with a martial arts school, they can usually extend the pass to 3 months. But if you leave the mountain and go back to Wudang Town, you will have to pay an additional 50 RMB for a bus pass to return to the mountain. Or you may want to visit temples and schools on the Eastern or Western peaks of Wudangshan in which case you will have to pay the additional Tourist Bus fare unless you can walk or hike to the school. The 240 RMB entrance gate fee is waived for seniors of retirement age. They just pay 55 RMB for the bus pass. Some schools like the Wudang Gung Fu and Health Academy and Wudang Daoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy are located near the confines of Wudang Town, so you will not have to pay any fee other than local bus fare for visiting them. But eventually, you will probably want to go up the mountain and visit some temples, caves and other historic sights.

OUR SUBTOTAL for travel to this point is $400-500 USD RT airfare to China. $200-240 RT within China to Shiyan or $150-180 RT train fare. $10 – 20 taxi fare. 240 RMB ($40 USD) Wudangshan entrance fee and bus fare. $800 – $980

EXPLORING WUDANG: If you want to look around first on your own and sample several different schools, you will need to book a motel through cTrip.com. Do not use Booking.com or Hotels.com. Their quotes are high-end. If you are looking at schools around Wudang Town, then you can stay at the Wudang International Youth Hostel located at No. 2 Park Road adjacent to the more expensive Laoying Hotel ($34) and near the partially restored Yu Xu Gong Temple. Master Yuan Xiu Gang’s training ground for his Wudang Taoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy has been adjacent to the temple, but they are in the process of moving – more on that later. In any case, you can get a simple but clean room with air conditioning/heating, two double beds and a western style bathroom for about $17 USD/night (less if you book 2 or more nights). They also have an inexpensive cafe and bar with excellent American fare. Their vegetarian pizza is terrific. If you need to get additional RMB, your ATM card will work at the Bank of China directly across Taihe Lu (the main road through Wudang Town) from the hostel.

To book hotels on the mountain, agaIn use cTrip.com, not Booking.com or Hotels.com. There are several at the small village in the NanYan Temple recreational area like Wudangshan Taiji Hotel (about $40 USD), Jiulong Villa ($52) and Wudang Shenlong Hotel ($20 USD). You can also buy food and other supplies there to avoid the expense of returning to Wudang Town to shop. It is the last Tourist Bus Stop before turning around and driving down the mountain to the town. There are also a few on the road just beyond Purple Heaven Temple like Wudang Mountain Tianlu Holiday Resort ($50 USD) and guest houses as well further along the same road between Purple Heaven and Cai Shen temples like Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33) just up the Hill from Master Gu’s Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy..

SELECTING A MASTER AND A PROGRAM that will work best for you requires the utmost due diligence. Pictures and videos of the various sites may not help. They can be touched up, edited and shot at other sties away from the school grounds. Even watching individual videos of masters performing various forms are sometimes shot in slow motion to give the performance an extra artistic, flowing appeal. Other videos are sometimes sped up to make the performer’s skills seem incredibly super human. You need to remember that Wudang masters began studying martial arts as young children and have been practicing formally for some 20 to 30 years. Don’t expect to imitate them in any way, shape or form. The only reason to watch performance videos is to decide which hand, weapon or qigong form you would like to learn.

As for selecting a particular master and his program, I would suggest you watch their instructional videos rather than performance videos to see how they teach. I have included videos and links in my next blog (Part III) that should help you decide on a master and a program of study.

Another important aspect of chosing a school is language. If you speak fluent Mandarin, then language is no problem. If not, then you must make a decision. Do you want to attend a school where the head master speaks English or it doesn’t matter. For me, it mattered. So, I chose the school with a master who was fairly fluent in english and would be able to teach me what I had chosen to study one-on-one and not through assistants or coaches.

Of the five main San Feng Pai schools, three of their lead masters speak English, namely Master Yuan Xiu Gang, Master Zhong Xuechao, and Master Gu Shining, who is probably the most fluent of the three as he has a degree from Hubei University and has taught English classes in the local high school. As far as I know, Masters Chen Shixing and Chen Shiyu do not conduct classes in English and need translators. I believe Master Tang Li Long of the Wudang Xuan Wu Pai sect may speak some English, but I am not certain. The other Xuan Wu Pai mater Chen Li Sheng does not speak English and requires a translator. The same for Li Shifu of the Five Immortals Temple.

Does the size of the school matter to you? Do you want to attend a school based on its reputation, which will generally have more students? Or, would you prefer a lesser-attended school with much smaller class sizes. Of the San Feng Pai sect, the two largest schools are Master Chen Shixing’s China Wudang KungFu Academy and Master Yuan Xiu Gang’s Wudang Daoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy. They also have the best accommodations. Master Chen Shiyu’s Wudang Daoist Martial Arts Academy is a medium size school at Huilongguan (Returning Dragon) Temple. Another fairly large school with comfortable accommodations is Master Wang Xing Qing’s Wudang Dragongate Kungfu School of the Longmen Pai sect. Located in the Plum Valley near Tai Chi Lake, on the Eastern foot of Wudang Mountain, it is accessible by the local bus so you do not have to pay the entrance fee. By far one of the largest and most comfortable of all the schools is Xuan Wu Pai master Chen Li Sheng’s Wudang Daoist Wuji Kung Fu Academy. Their website states that it can accommodate up to 280 students, most of whom are housed in the four-star QiongTai Hotel at Wudangshan. Abbott Li Sheng Feng’s (Li Shifu’s) non-affiliated Five Immortals Temple on White Horse Mountain is the only place in Wudang where foreigners can legally lodge and study Taoism and Martial Arts inside a temple. It may have slightly fewer students than the San Feng Pai schools due to its more secluded, less visited location. Since it is a mountain temple, you can expect the accommodations to be rustic but still provide a modacom of comfort.

There are three smaller, lesser known schools whose accommodations are spartan – possibly a level or two above camping. The only difference is they provide a mattress (usually not as comfortable as the soft sleepers on a train), blankets and a roof over your head. An Asian style squat toilet and community shower are still better than a hole in the ground but not by much. The larger of these spartan facilities is Xuan Wu Pai master Tang Li Long’s Wudang Gong Fu and Health Academy. Expect to inhabit a three-person cabin or dorm room with bunk beds and community squat toilets. The other two are both San Feng Pai schools. Master Gu Shining’s Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy is located just down the hill from the Hotel 33 (Mountain Villa 33) mentioned above. It has only one single room with a Western style bathroom but no A/C heater. The other rooms are small doubles with A/C and an outside Asian style shower room. There is a small community room with capacity for only one or two persons to practice on rainy days (about 11 or 12 per month). One large plus, the facility is on a very picturesque hillside with tea plants, bamboo and walnut trees. Master Zhong Xuechao’s (Master Bing’s) Wudang Dao Academy is slightly larger than Master Gu’s. The renovation of these older farm buildings was completed in September, 2017. Master Bing tells me that his inside practice room can accommodate three to five persons on rainy days. If you need to get into town, you can usually hop a ride with Master Bing. Otherwise, it is a 40-minute hike to the main road to catch the tourist bus. Master Bing does not have a larger facility since he tours the U.S. the first part of every year from January to mid-May then returns to Wudang Dao for the remainder of the year. His very reasonable prices reflect the less than comfortable conditions but are not indicative of the high quality of training he provides.

What about religious beliefs? While most kungfu and taiji styles have little or no affiliations with religious orders, Shaolin and Wudang are the exceptions – Wudang much more so than Shaolin. Once you visit Wudang, you will find there is no getting away from Daoism and its ties to the internal martial arts. Everywhere you go there are statues, caves, and relics devoted to Daoist saints and immortals, not to mention the numerous temples and ruins spread across the mountain. Even more in line with Daoism are the martial arts schools and temples, where you are reminded everyday that the roots of kungfu and taiji lie in Daoism. This is especially true of martial arts training that occurs within an actual temple like the Five Immortals. Here you are asked to actually take part in the prayers, chants and rituals and follow the rules of the temple during your stay. This may be fine for most visitors who view it as part of their Wudang adventure or perhaps as partaking in a cultural art form. But for some who have beliefs that will not allow them to honor any religion or worship any sort of deity, then you should probably forego the entire Wudang experience. But, if in doubt, always contact the particular facility and ask whether or not their regulations require taking part in Daoist activities.

In the next part, you will discover where to locate a particular school’s website and contact information.

Coming Next: The Wudang Experience, Part III,

THE SCHOOLS, THE MASTERS, THE LINKS AND VIDEOS

The Wudang Myth Exposed

Prior to the Cultural Revolution, Wudang martial arts were practiced virtually in secret. There were no martial arts schools on Wudangshan. There were no students. Only the priests that resided at the various temples were taught qigong, taiji and kung fu – no one else. Then along came Mao Zedong and his Red Guard. All hell broke loose on all of the sacred mountains across China as priests, nuns and monks were murdered or beaten and driven from their temples.

During the 1960’s and 70’s Daoist activity at Wudangshan was almost completely halted. By 1979 when the Cultural Revolution ended, there were no more than 20 monastics living on the mountain.  Most of the Daoists had experienced relocation into labor camps.  Only the eldest ones were allowed to stay in the temples. Many were beaten by the Red Guard, and none were allowed to take on disciples.  Li Cheng Yu, almost 100 years old at the time, escaped beatings by gluing her lips together and sitting on the temple steps in meditation without food or water for three days. Amazed by her skill, the Red Guard let her remain along with a few high-ranking Daoists.

However, many martial artists did indeed flee China and filtered into Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Eventually some made it to the United States as well. That exodus gave rise to a myth with widespread origins which has become quite commonplace in taiji and martial arts circles. Many believe that today’s Wudang kung fu and taiji are newly-invented external styles that may provide health and wellness but have no internal foundation or internal power and bear no relevance to the Wudang lineages prior to the 1960s.

It is the aim of this blog to show that nothing could be further from the truth. (Of course, these critics when they mention health and wellness are only referring to physical health. Wudang Daoists, on the other hand, consider health of the mind and spirit as the ultimate aim of Taiji, but more on this later)

So then, how did this myth get started? Well, let’s back up a few decades.

Since students naturally have a special fondness for their teachers, those with masters, who had fled China, felt as though the very best of the best had left. Appalled by stories from embittered masters who had lost status and wealth, they felt that no master with any skill whatsoever had survived on the Mainland. Either they had been slaughtered on sight, beaten to death, forced into labor camps or had escaped the country. But they forgot to consider that, even in a labor camp, one can cultivate his qi and polish internal skills chopping wood and carrying heavy bags of soil. In fact, their skills may have become more developed than masters in foreign lands who taught students during the day then sat around drinking, smoking and gambling all night.

The truth of the matter is many Daoists had indeed fled their temples, but not all of them escaped to other countries. Many mingled among the farmers and laborers in their hometowns and began working in the fields, others in restaurants and kitchens, and still others in labor camps. Tasks like digging, planting and carrying bags of grains or grinding rice and cooking over a hot wok gave them a chance to secretly hone their skills. Even today Wudang Daoists practice the Convenient Shovel (Fang Bian Chan).

In 1979 chairman Deng Xiaoping 邓小平 established reforms to open up China, which effectively brought an end to the Cultural Revolution and eased the repression of  religious freedom.  This began a slow trickle of Daoists returning to Wudang.  Most importantly for the San Feng Pai sect, Guogaoyi 郭高一 (1921-1996) and Zhuchengde 朱诚德 (1898-1990), both dragon gate (Longmen Pai) masters, returned in 1980-81.

Born in Shangqiu, Henan Province, Guo Gaoyi as a child practiced the rudiments of Erlang Quan and Shaolin Quan. Later, he met high-level Taiji masters, Yang Kuishan and Guo Yingshan, while fighing in the Sino-Japanese war as a teenager. After the war he took vows at a temple in Liaoning Province where he studied Wudang Sanfeng Taiji quan from Yang Mingzhen (杨明真). During the Cultural Revolution he was forced out of the temple and returned to his hometown. In 1981 he entered a temple on White Cloud Mountain (Henan Province), where was ordained as a Daoist under Priest Tang Zhongliang, a Longmen Pai Taijiquan master.  After the death of his teacher, he moved to Wudang Mountain and began teaching.

Master Zhu as a young boy met a wandering Daoist and was accepted as his disciple. In 1932 he was forcibly conscripted into the Nationalist army. In 1939 he was discharged for health reasons and became a Daoist priest. He came to Wudang Mountain looking for his master, who had already passed away. During the Culture Revolution he was assigned to a hard-labor brigade where he chopped wood and carried fertilizer. After returning to Wudang Mountain, he continued his practice and received national attention for his qigong skills.

At that time, the 13th generation leader of San Feng Pai was Wang Guang De 王光德, who also became the head of Wudang Daoist Association once religious practice was legalized in 1979.  Master Wang was a local from the nearby town of Danjiangkou who had been studying under various Daoist masters since childhood – having taken Dragon Gate (Longmen Pai) master Li Cheng Yu 李诚玉 (1885-2003) as a master from a very young age.  Later he studied Gongfu under Xiao Yao Wan 萧耀宛 (1911-1997), the 12th generation head of Wudang San Feng Pai.

These three, Masters Wang, Guo and Zhu became the teachers of the 14th generation of Wudang students, which included a 19 year-old disciple, Zhong Yun Long, who came to Wudang in 1981. Zhong, a native of Huangxi City, Hubei Province, a hotbed of kung fu styles, was no stranger to external martial arts.

In Zhong’s own words from a 2003 Kung Fu Magazine interview with Gene Ching, he explains: “Under my first master, I studied Yue family boxing and Yang family boxing. That’s Yue as in the famous Song General Yue Fei, and Yang kung fu, not Yang Taiji. This Yang was another general from the Song Dynasty. According to legend, all the men in the family were generals that died in battle, so the women of the family had to become generals to defend the country against the Jin invasion. Anyway, I studied with that master for about six years, and then at 18, I went to Shaolin Temple to study for about six months.”

Next on the list, Wudang: “At 19, I came to Wudang to study formally. Mostly, I studied under masters Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chende. Wang Kuangde also taught me a lot. At that time, Wudang was not as open as it is today. Not everybody could go there to study. They had rigid restrictions on who could be accepted as students.”

Zhong went on to explain what it was like in those earlier years: “Back then, the living standard was very hard. The old masters were very strict. They only taught me in secret at night, so no one would see it during the day. There were no kung fu schools up there. The only people who could learn Wudang kung fu were formal priests. Wudang had very exacting rules about who you could teach and who you could learn from.

“Then, in 1984, the Wudang Taoist Association was founded and that began to open things up. Before that, only the older Taoist priests lived in the temples. Due to China’s turbulent recent history, there was a missing generation. All the masters from the last generation are very old. I am the part of the younger generation of priests to come in. It was the first time they recruited new blood for the Wudang Association and I was among the first recruits.”

In 1985 master Wang, as the head of the Wudang Daoist Association, put out a call for Daoists scattered by the Cultural Revolution to return to Wudangshan. Among the several that answered his call were two famous masters: the Bagua master Lu Zi Jian 吕紫剑 and the Daoist nun and master of eight immortals sword Zhao Jian Ying 赵剑英.  Both returned in 1986.

Born into a martial arts family in Yichang, Hubei Province, Master Lu began training with his mother at age 7. At age 18, he moved to Beijing and studied Baguazhang with Master Li Changye and Xingyiquan with Master Yu Shirong, and finally he returned in Chongqinq, Sichuan Province to study Taijiquan with Master Li Guocao  In the 1920s he served as a member of the Nationalist Party military committee. When the Nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan, like many, Master Lu stayed in mainland China and served in a labor camp. In 1980s he won a number of martial arts competitions, garnering national attention. Then in 1986, he answered Master Wang’s call.

Master Zhao was born on Wudangshan. She was a very sickly child. When she was six years old, a soldier noticed just how sick she was and offered to teach her Kung Fu, an art form that literally saved her life. Though she was a girl and it was uncommon at that time for girls to learn Kung Fu, it was her passion for Kung Fu that shaped her life. She began studying martial arts to improve her health. When she was 15 she became active in war efforts during the Sino-Japanese War. She nursed injured soldiers and taught hand-to-hand combat. In the early years of the Communist Party she lived with her husband in Guangxi Province where she taught martial arts. In 1980, after two decades of silence, she came back to Wudang Mountain and is credited with preserving Wudang’s Taiyi 5 Element form.

Along with Master Wang, Masters Zhu, Guo, Lu, and Zhao were at the core of a renaissance of martial arts activity at Wudang that had not been seen since the fall of the Qing dynasty. Decades of turmoil were ending and a new resurgence emerging. And soon, a new leader would arise.

At the time that he put out his call for Daoists to return to Wudangshan, Master Wang also gave fourteenth generation San Feng disciple Master Zhong Yun Long 钟云龙 the enormous task of traveling around China to search out the different Daoist masters who had fled from persecution during the calamities of The Cultural Revolution and to bring their practices back to Wudang so they would not be lost.  Zhong spent 3 years seeking out and training with different Masters including Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修 in Laoshan, famous for his unbelievable kicks.  A tradition of kicks that remains strong within the San Feng lineage to this day.

(The San Feng Pai Xuan Zhen style, also known as Wudang Northern style, forms the foundation from which everything else stems. This Dark Gate style Master Zhong learned in Laoshan 崂山 from Golden Mountain sect master Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修)

In his Kung Fu Magazine interview, Grandmaster Zhong recounted his arduous three-year trek: “In winter of 1985, the Wudang masters asked me to go down the mountain and spend three years to search for lost Wudang masters and schools. I first studied under Gansu Chen Ye and inherited Wudang Bashenmen (8 Immortals Gate) In spring of 1986, I traveled to Lao Mountain in Shandong and studied Xuanmen Wuxue (dark gate martial study.) That autumn, I went to Zhongnan Mountain in Shaanxi to study Huan Yen Dan Ba (Taoist alchemy) under Gansu Li Yue. I continued my studies on Zhongnan Mountain through the spring of 1987, inheriting Wudang Xingyimen and Baguamen. Then in June I was ordered to return for the first Wudang open tournament.”

Through his travels and training, master Zhong amassed a huge body of knowledge ranging from Daoist martial arts to inner alchemy and healing practices.  In 1989 together with master Wang, Zhong founded the Daoist Association Martial Arts Academy at Purple Cloud Palace, with Master Guo serving as head martial arts instructor and Master Zhu as head qigong instructor.

Why is all of this important? Well, from 1966 to 1979, not only had Wudang lost a generation of experienced Daoist-trained martial artists but also an entire generation of novice recruits. Perhaps, even more importantly, until Master Zhong returned from his journey across China, Wudang had lost decades, if not centuries, of structure. Master Zhong brought back the missing elements to complete that structure and dispel those critics who claim that the new generation of Wudang Daoists replaced that structure with newly reinvented forms.

Taken from Wudang Houston’s Wudang San Feng Pai History, the structure of San Feng Pai is currently composed of the following sets:

First the Martial Set:

  1. Taiji Gate 太极门
  2. Xingyi Gate 形意门 (form mind)
  3. Bagua Gate 八卦门 (eight trigrams)
  4. Baji Gate 八极门 (eight extremes)
  5. Xuan Zhen Gate 玄真门 (the mystic work from Kuang Chang Xiu)
  6. Eight Immortals Gate 八仙门 (Baxian)
  7. Six Harmonies Gate 六合门 (Liuhe)
  8. Nine Palaces Gate 九宫门 (Jiugong)

Tracing these 8 categories, you begin to see the disparate strands that contribute to present-day San Feng sect. Taijiquan comes principally through two dragon gate (Longmen Pai) masters (Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chengde), while Xingyi comes from both northern (Shang Ji 尚济) and southern lineages (Huang Wan Yang 黄万祥).  Bagua comes from another dragon gate master (Liu Cheng Xi 刘诚喜), while Bajiquan is simply comprised of the standard Jing Wu Academy set. Xuan Zhen Gate, also known as Wudang Northern style, forms the foundation from which everything else stems (this style Master Zhong learned in Laoshan 崂山 from Golden Mountain sect Master Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修).  The eight immortals style he learned from a wandering Daoist Gansu Chen Ye 甘肃陈爷 during his travels in Hunan province.  And the last two gates are elaborations of Xingyi and Bagua respectively.

The second Set is San Feng Health Cultivation 三丰养生功

This middle section of the San Feng Pai curriculum is not organized like the first or last sections.  There is a proliferation of health cultivation techniques, from the five elements qigong 五行气功 to standing and seated eight pieces of brocade 八段锦.  There are also classical medical qigong sets like the five animal frolics 五禽戏 and “expelling the old and taking in the new” 吐故纳新.  Aside from this there is martial qigong, like iron body 筒子功, iron arm 铁臂功, iron palm 铁砂掌, iron throat 铁脖功, mystical two-finger skill 二指玄功, and Taiyi Qigong 太乙气功.  Later there are forms of health cultivation which border on inner alchemical practice like the Three Heaven Gate Enlightenment Training 三天门悟性气功 (also known as Tongzigong 童子功).  These techniques were transmitted primarily through Dragon Gate (Longmen Pai) Masters Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chengde.

The Third and most secretive set is the San Feng Elixir Path 三丰丹道

The highest level of San Feng Pai is concerned with the practice of inner alchemy.  Most of these teachings are closely-guarded secrets.  The first step is known as “establishing the foundation,” 筑基 and it is divided into the following parts: regulate the body  身體要正常, engender sufficient energy 能量(陽氣)要充足, purify the heart and lessen desires  清心寡欲.

After this, one begins the practice of refining the heart 練心, which has two parts.  This is followed by regulating the breath 調息, which has three methods, the last of which is turtle breathing 龜息.  At this point one is ready to begin training in cosmic circulation method 周天運行法.

In training the cosmic circulation method one begins with small cosmic circulation 小周天, which has two sections – collecting the medicine and leading it to the stove 采藥入爐 and regulating the fire timing 調理火候.  After the creation of the small medicine 小药, the fruit of the above practices, one proceeds to large cosmic circulation 大周天, which has several parts. Through this practice one moves on to embryonic breathing 胎息, after which he or she can begin the second phase of the inner-alchemical enterprise.

So, you can see from the above training and structure, Wudang Taiji and Kung Fu are focused on developing internal power as opposed to purely external force. As for health and wellness, there is so little here that most outsiders can begin to comprehend. It is the ultimate aim for Daoism and Taiji to unite and bring about the total union of the body, mind and spirit, which includes all six individual energy bodies and two universal ones. Until that is accomplished, one’s Taiji, even though at a very high level, is not complete.

It is important to understand Master Zhong Yun Long’s thoughts on this final point since, as the 14th generation leader of San Feng Pai, he had the responsibility of training the 15th generation of disciples who would become the current masters of Wudangshan like his nephew Zhong Xuechao, who began informal study with his uncle at the age of six then formal study at Wudang after high school in 1992, Yuan Xiu Gang, (Shi Mao) Wudang Daoist Traditional Internal Kung Fu Academy at Yao Ling, Chen Shiyu, The Wudang Daoist (Traditional) Martial Arts Academy at the Temple of the Returning Dragon (Huilong Guan 回龙观), and Gu Shining, Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy, to name a few.

In his Kung Fu Magazine interview, Master Zhong explained it this way: “Wudang kung fu is one of two main streams of Chinese martial arts. Shaolin kung fu is famous for its strength and explosive power, its external power. Wudang kung fu is exactly the opposite. Softness or yin power is used to overcome hardness. Stillness overcomes motion. Four ounces overcomes 1000 pounds. Of course, it also has a hard part. There is external power. Wudang forms appear soft on the outside, but internally it is really hard. By hard, I mean qi, because internal forms cultivate qi. When you train in this, the qi is very strong and becomes hard inside. But on the outside, touching and seeing it, it is very soft. It’s also like lightning when it comes – fresh and electric. When it explodes, fajin (explosive power) is like thunder.

“These days, mainstream Wudang focuses on Taiji. But Taiji is the big brother, so to speak. Beneath Taiji are three concepts: Liangyi (literally “two gifts” but it can be analogous to “heaven and earth”), Taiji (literally “grand utmost”) and Wuji (literally “void utmost.”) We say Zhang San Feng absorbed a hundred different styles. He took these specific styles, ideals and philosophies and focused them on the life nourishing culture that is Taoism to invent internal martial arts. According to Taoist beliefs, from Wuji arises Taiji, from Taiji arises Liangyi. Liangyi became sixiang (literally “four elephants” – this represents the four pillars or forms) and this created Bagua (eight trigrams, same as used in I Ching divination). From this we say ‘one created two, two created three, three created ten thousand.’ This philosophy is the foundation of internal form. That’s why Liangyi, Taiji and Wuji are all under the Taiji umbrella.

“Yin and yang combined together in balance creates Taiji. When you separate yin and yang, we call it Liangyi. Liangyi separates the hard and the soft. Put them together and they become Taiji. Within the taiji is the Tao of life nourishing culture. Before, I said that Zhang San Feng absorbed a hundred styles and mixed them with Taoist life nourishing culture. What is really meant by this is that our style has combined the methods of tuna (breathing methods), daoyin (stretching techniques), caibu (collecting and nourishing) and hunyuan (akin to qigong). Now under Taiji there are three different levels, first Liangyi, then Taiji, then Wuji. But if you talk about the form itself, it also has different levels. First is tuna, the breathing method, second is caibu, collecting and nourishing, and third is called hunyuan. Hunyuan means combining yin and yang, so it’s an internal meditation method. These three levels comprise Taijiquan technique.

“We use internal power to support external movement. Through many years of study, Wudang has developed many internal forms. In different periods, each form had a different creator. And each creator had his own basic form to base the foundation of his style. At Wudang, we have a basic entry-level form called Wudang changquan (long fist) but this is not like Shaolin long fist. It trains the stances, hand techniques and body techniques, combining all of them together.”

Grandmaster Zhong  stated that he mainly focuses on Taiji and explained that Wudang Taiji consists of 15 forms. From there it branches out into 18 weapons.

Back in 2003, Master Zhong had a final message for his readers, a message that is still very relevant today, and one, which all those critics of Wudang Taiji should take to heart:

“I want to send a message to the readers that Taiji is not just the Taiji form itself, because it is misleading in the world today. People talk about Taiji and think Taiji is just the form. But as I told you, it’s not just the form. It’s the three main concepts, Liangyi, Taiji and Wuji. Not only are these in the form, they are the philosophy of daily life. Not only are these the daily philosophy, they are Taoist culture. It’s our ancient culture, our ancestor’s culture. The form you learn is not just for self defense. It can also help you develop your intuition and your hidden potential. When you learn this – the style, the form or the internal technique – it can also help you slow the aging process and enjoy a longer, more prosperous life. Wudang Taoist culture is not only in martial arts, but also in learning qigong and nourishing life. This is very important. Wudang Taoist culture is a treasure of our ancestors and our nation. Now Wudang Mountain has opened the doors. Not only me but all the masters of the mountain are willing to share this treasure with the world.”

For further reading, here is a list of sources that I used for this blog:

The Chief Priest of Wudang Mountain by Gene Ching, Kung Fu Magazine, Sep/Oct 2003. View Here

Wudang San Feng Pai History, View at WudangHouston.com

The Truth About Wudang History, View at Daoistgate.com

Old Wudang Masters, View at innersecrets.at

Wudang Teachers, View Here

(Note: For Chinese readers, the Chinese version follows below)

Like many Chinese martial arts, Zhaobao descends from a tradition of secrecy that has just begun to open up to the general public. The lineage left Zhaobao town around 1937 during the Japanese invasion. Japanese troops had made it all the way to Henan Province where Zhaobao Great Grandmaster Zheng Wuqing was a combat instructor for the Guomindang. Zheng was a martial brother of a noted warlord, Feng Yuxiang (冯玉祥) who helped him escape to Xian. In comparison to the small town of Zhaobao, Xian was gigantic. Here, Zheng taught for six decades before passing away at the age of 91, spreading Zhaobao Taijiquan to countless new advocates. Zheng’s successor, Song Yunhua, came from the opposite side of China, Shandong Province, when he was only three years old. His father was a college professor and they both trained together, making them of the same martial generation. That is somewhat unusual in Chinese martial culture where Confucian hierarchy reigns supreme; a good father is always held above a good son. Song’s father objected at first, but Zheng could see that the son had talent, so he convinced the elder Song to overlook the situation. The Song family were wealthy scholars who escaped persecution when the communists came by willingly giving up their businesses and turning over their assets. They managed to keep their mansion and Grandmaster Zheng came to live with them there.

(This is Song Yunhua (from Shandong) successor to 10th generation Zhaobao Great Grandmaster Zheng Wuqing and Grandmaster Wayne Peng’s sifu. Notice the 10-finger Linking forms for qinna half-way through the video.)

 

 

 

Like Chen, Zhaobao Taijiquan has both fast and slow rhythms. However, Peng says that the other styles tend to be more circular, while Zhaobao is more spherical. Where the other styles might move along the same plane, Zhaobao moves in a three-dimensional fashion.

As a former combat trainer for both the military and the police, Master Peng has a more extensive history of sparring than most Taijiquan masters. He was born in Xian in 1968 and boasts that the city’s proud history gives its citizens an innate love of the martial arts. He began his training at age six and studied four different Kung Fu styles: Fanziquan (翻子拳), Sanhuang Paochui (三皇炮锤), Tantui (彈腿) and Zhaobao. He began studying under Grandmaster Song in 1975 and became his disciple in 1980.

Peng always loved fighting, so by 1984 he was very active in Sanshou (free sparring 散手). Back then, Sanshou had not been adopted by the government-sponsored Chinese martial arts associations, so it fell strictly under the auspices of the Chinese military. Peng fought on a military team, as all of those early Sanshou competitions were only military back then. He captured two consecutive Sanshou titles at the National Wujing Competition (wujing means “armed police” 武警). In 1987 he won the 56K title, and the following year he won the 60K title.

After that, Peng followed his master to Hong Kong as an assistant coach. Song had chosen the scholarly road after his father and become a professor at Xian’s illustrious Northwest University (西北大学). He moved to Hong Kong for a while and taught Zhaobao there where it spread throughout Southeast Asia. In 1990, Song authored the first book on Zhaobao. Peng spent some five years following Song in that region. He travelled all around Southern China to teach and was often confronted with the attitude that Taijiquan has no fighting ability. Consequently, he was tested a lot. Peng also went to Thailand, where he decided to stay for a while longer to teach Zhaobao and study Muay Thai. Peng says that even today in Hong Kong there are four Zhaobao schools, all run by teachers that are older than him. One is by the horse track in an affluent area; the other three are converted Karate schools. Even with Hong Kong’s diverse martial arts community, Zhaobao won over a lot of converts. Peng attributes this to the power of Zhaobao qinna.

Peng always loved fighting, so by 1984 he was very active in Sanshou (free sparring 散手). Back then, Sanshou had not been adopted by the government-sponsored Chinese martial arts associations, so it fell strictly under the auspices of the Chinese military. Peng fought on a military team, as all of those early Sanshou competitions were only military back then. He captured two consecutive Sanshou titles at the National Wujing Competition (wujing means “armed police” 武警). In 1987 he won the 56K title, and the following year he won the 60K title.

After that, Peng followed his master to Hong Kong as an assistant coach. Song had chosen the scholarly road after his father and become a professor at Xian’s illustrious Northwest University (西北大学). He moved to Hong Kong for a while and taught Zhaobao there where it spread throughout Southeast Asia. In 1990, Song authored the first book on Zhaobao. Peng spent some five years following Song in that region. He travelled all around Southern China to teach and was often confronted with the attitude that Taijiquan has no fighting ability. Consequently, he was tested a lot. Peng also went to Thailand, where he decided to stay for a while longer to teach Zhaobao and study Muay Thai. Peng says that even today in Hong Kong there are four Zhaobao schools, all run by teachers that are older than him. One is by the horse track in an affluent area; the other three are converted Karate schools. Even with Hong Kong’s diverse martial arts community, Zhaobao won over a lot of converts. Peng attributes this to the power of Zhaobao qinna.

Peng asserts that there are two forms of Push Hands (tuishou 推手) in Zhaobao Taijiquan: one for health and one for combat. The health version is just for the students to learn balance and flow. The combat version is further divided into two flavors. In public, such as at tournaments, Zhaobao follows the general rules and regulations that Chen style implements for competitions. In private, Zhaobao permits a lot more qinna techniques during Push Hands, many of which aren’t allowed in competitions. Zhaobao also includes Sanshou, and Master Peng claims that Zhaobao was the first Taijiquan style to participate in that. When it comes to Taijiquan practice, Zhaobao fighters espouse the philosophy of sanheyi (three are one 三合一). The three elements are Forms (taolu 套路), Push Hands and Sanshou.

Excerpts reprinted from Kung Fu Magazine

http://www.kungfumagazine.com/magazine/a

(Master Peng has a school in Milpitas where he resides. He also has a local branch at 275 South C Street Tustin,‎ CA‎ 92780)…  (714) 656-8660 (714) 730-7853  http://www.zhaobaotaichi.com/

Be sure to check out Master Peng’s video page…Master Wayne Peng Present Forms

 The Chinese Version follows…

目前第12代赵堡大师彭羚
31.十二月2017 · 写评论 ·分类: 未分类
像许多中国的武术一样,赵宝宝从刚刚开始向公众开放的保密传统开始。 1937年左右,在日本入侵期间,这个血统离开了赵堡镇。 日本军队已经到了河南省,赵堡大校长郑武清是国民党的战斗指导员。 郑是一位着名的军阀的兄弟,帮助他逃到西安的冯玉祥(Feng Yuxiang)。 与赵堡这个小镇相比,西安是巨大的。 在这里,郑教了六十年,然后在91岁逝世,把赵堡太极拳推广到无数新的倡导者身上。 郑的继任者宋云华,刚刚从中国山东省的对面,他才三岁。 他的父亲是一名大学教授,他们都一起训练,使他们成为同一代军人。 在儒家统治至上的中国军事文化中,这是有点不寻常的; 一个好父亲永远在一个好儿子之上。 宋的父亲起初反对,但郑可以看到,儿子有天赋,所以他说服了宋老,忽略了情况。 宋氏家族是富裕的学者,当共产党人愿意放弃业务并转移资产时,他们逃脱了迫害。 他们设法保住了他们的豪宅,郑主任和他们住在一起。

(来自山东的宋云华接班人,第十代赵堡大校长郑武清,彭师傅的师傅,注意中途通过视频的十指连接形式。)

如同陈,太极拳的快节奏和慢节奏。 然而,彭说,其他风格更倾向于更圆,而赵堡更加球形。 其他风格可能在同一架飞机上移动,赵堡以三维的方式运动。

作为军事和警察的前任作战训练师,彭师傅比大多数太极拳大师有更广泛的陪练史。 他于1968年出生于西安,并自豪地宣称,这座城市的骄傲历史赋予其公民对武术的天生爱好。 他六岁开始训练,研究了四种不同的功夫风格:翻子拳,三皇炮锤,弹腿和赵堡。 他于1975年开始在宋大师学习,并于1980年成为他的弟子。

彭一直喜欢战斗,所以到1984年,他在散手方面非常活跃(散手)。 那时候,散手还没有被政府资助的中国武术协会所采用,所以严格地在中国军队的主持下。 因为所有那些早期的散打比赛都只是当时的军队而已, 他连续两次在全国吴京大赛中夺取了散打冠军(吴京的意思是“武警”)。 1987年,他赢得了56K的头衔,第二年他赢得了60K的头衔。

之后,彭先生跟随他的主人到香港担任助理教练。 宋以后,他选择了学术之路,成为西安大学西北大学的教授。 他搬到香港一段时间,在那里传播了整个东南亚地区的赵堡。 宋代在1990年撰写了第一本有关赵堡的书。 彭在那个地区跟着宋继续了五年的时间。 他走遍了华南各地教书,常常面临太极拳无战斗的态度。 因此,他被测试了很多。 彭还去了泰国,他决定再留一段时间去教书签和学习泰拳。 彭说,即使在今天,香港也有四所赵堡学校,都是由比他年长的老师来经营的。 一个是在富裕地区的马轨道上; 另外三个是空手道学校。 即使在香港多元化的武术界,赵堡也赢得了很多信徒。 彭将这归功于赵堡秦娜的力量。

彭一直喜欢战斗,所以到1984年他在散手中非常活跃(散手散手)。 那时候,散手还没有被政府资助的中国武术协会所采用,所以严格地在中国军队的主持下。 因为所有那些早期的散打比赛都只是当时的军队而已, 他连续两次在全国吴京大赛中夺取了散打冠军(吴京的意思是“武警”)。 1987年,他赢得了56K的头衔,第二年他赢得了60K的头衔。

之后,彭先生跟随他的主人到香港担任助理教练。 宋以后,他选择了学术之路,成为西安大学西北大学的教授。 他搬到香港一段时间,在那里传播了整个东南亚地区的赵堡。 宋代在1990年撰写了第一本有关赵堡的书。 彭在那个地区跟着宋继续了五年的时间。 他走遍了华南各地教书,常常面临太极拳无战斗的态度。 因此,他被测试了很多。 彭还去了泰国,他决定再留一段时间去教书签和学习泰拳。 彭说,即使在今天,香港也有四所赵堡学校,都是由比他年长的老师来经营的。 一个是在富裕地区的马轨道上; 另外三个是空手道学校。 即使在香港多元化的武术界,赵堡也赢得了很多信徒。 彭将这归功于赵堡秦娜的力量。

彭说,赵堡太极拳有两种推手形式:一种是健康的,一种是战斗的。 健康版本仅供学生学习平衡和流动。 战斗版本进一步分为两个版本。 在公开场合,比如锦标赛,赵堡遵循陈风的比赛规则。 在私下里,赵宝允许在推手中使用更多的琴纳技巧,其中许多技巧在比赛中是不允许的。 赵堡还包括散手,彭师傅声称赵堡是第一个参与太极拳的人。 谈到太极拳的实践,赵堡战士秉持三合一哲学(三合一)。 三个元素是形式(套路),推手和散手。

(彭师傅在他所居住的米尔皮塔斯(Milpitas)有一所学校,他还有一个当地的分支机构, 位于 加利福尼亚州塔斯廷市 南C街9号275号 …(714)656-8660(714)730-7853

转载自“功夫杂志”

This guy Bill Harris has been bombarding with emails urging me to join his Brain Club, designed to increase one’s chances of success. Finally, I decided to reply to his last email with this…

Dear Bill,

For all your time and money and, above all, your observations, you missed the most important aspect of life, of a life well-lived. You don’t need your “Vital 5 Tools.” You just need One and only One. That is to realize that nothing in life is “lasting.” There is no lasting success or lasting happiness or lasting relationships. These are all things we experience, and no experience lasts forever or even a lifetime for that matter. By telling your readers and subscribers that, if they join your Brain Club, you will help them get “lasting” whatever, you are merely holding out the carrot before the horse, so they can haul their tool cart up the road and feel it getting heavier and heavier as they add more and more tools.

That strategic map you speak of is fine – as long as it is a map of the terrain and not a road map. We don’t need to set goals and map out a route to attain them. If we do, either of two things will happen. We will fail to reach that destination and suffer disappointment, or we reach it and discover it was not what we thought it would be, and any satisfaction will soon dwindle. Nothing to do then but set out for a new destination and load up that cart again with more tools.

I fail to see what the problem is, Bill. Why does anyone need a Brain Club? What they need is a Brain – or at least half of one – period! Every human on the face of this glorious Earth is already a success. Think about it. Out of the trillions of life forms across this Universe, out of the gazillion sperms and eggs floating in seminal fluid, one miniscule sperm fertilized one miniscule egg, and you were born. That, my friend, is quite a success.

Just think! You can get up in the morning, take a deep breath of fresh air and watch a true miracle – a Sunrise. You can hike up a pine-scented mountain or stroll along a sandy beach and watch the waves roll in and vanish, like life itself, reminding you that nothing lasts forever. Or you can sit in a park and listen to the laughter of children playing, maybe even your children or grandchildren. You can visit a temple, church or mosque and say a prayer of appreciation simply for being alive. You can watch a spectacular sunset across the sky and view the moon as it rises. See the stars coming out, their twinkling light finally reaching the Earth after a journey of thousands of light years. Truly another miracle if ever there was one. And best of all you are alive to see it. If that’s not a success, I don’t know what is.

You want to put people on that “Cutting Edge.” The only problem is that Edge is on your “Black Hole of Disappointment.” Nothing like falling into an oblivion of misery and depression. So stay away from edges. Walk on solid ground with Mother Earth beneath your feet, take a few deep breaths and – above all – don’t worry. Don’t worry if you don’t get that additional five percent on your investments or if Congress doesn’t pass tax cuts or if they do away with or don’t do away with Obama Care.You don’t need to buy an AK-47 and join a militia like so many fools did because they were worried President Obama would try to take over the nation and become a dictator. Believe me, your fears are much worse than Reality.

So take that map of the terrain and go in any direction you want. Just remember, even if you were to die tomorrow, if you truly appreciate life with each breath you take today, you can never have any greater success. You are the Miracle of Life!

As Tai Chi players we are fortunate to participate in a practice which most exemplifies Nature and the Tao. From mimicking the natural postures of animals to following the movements of planets, Tai Chi forms bring us a certain connection to the intrinsic elements that comprise all of creation and, thus, to the Creator, the Tao.

However, to truly appreciate this special relationship, it is essential that we master the principles of Tai Chi. This does not mean that we must become recognized masters with students in twenty countries, a pageful of Amazon DVDs for sale and interviews in martial arts magazines and on TV and internet talk shows. It does mean that in the very lotus of our hearts, we know with all due humility that we have mastered those principles and feel humbled by the immensity and magnificence of this creation which most merely take for granite.

As true masters, we marvel at the wonders manifested and intricately entwined by the Creator for all to enjoy. But how does one become a true master of Tai Chi and, thus, Life, itself? The answer is simple: by advancing from being a piece of creation to being a Creator, whole and complete. While that answer is simple, the process is not. It involves organizing your mind, which, for many, is mind-boggling in itself.

However, the truth of the matter is simply this: organize your mind in the relentless pursuit of a goal, and your emotions, your physical body and your energies will all follow suit and align with your mind in that very same pursuit.  Once that is accomplished, you need only to keep striving toward that goal with no thought of its possibilities. Leave the possibilities and impossibilities to Nature.

In the following video, yogi and spiritual master Jaggi Vasudev clearly points out how this organization of the mind can be achieved. You can create a joyful, peaceful and loving world for yourself and others through mastery of the principles of Tai Chi.

The main points explained in the video include:

  • Moving from a compulsive state of action to a conscious one.
  • Leaving the possibilities and impossibilities to Nature.
  • It’s not possible means “I don’t want it.”
  • Not being dissuaded by past experiences.

In the Tao de Ching, Laozi states that Nature (Tao) has two qualities – Yin and Yang. However, in the Vedas of Hinduism, which pre-date the Tao de Ching, and particularly in Advaita Vedanta, Nature (Prakriti) is given three qualities or gunas. Two of these gunas correspond to the Chinese Yin and Yang.

Tamas, often translated as inertia or passivity corresponds to Yin, and Rajas, often translated as activity or as passion, corresponds to Yang. Then there is a third quality, the most important one, Sattva. So, is it possible that Laozi missed this vital aspect of Nature?

First of all, what is Sattva? According to Vedanta, Sattva is that quality which is drawn towards Dharma, the order and harmony that makes life and the universe possible. In terms of the Tao, Sattva is the quality that manifests harmony with Nature.

A sattvic person is one who is in balance. Their life is holistic, constructive, creative, positive, luminous, peaceful and virtuous. It is one of equanimity, dispassion and discrimination.

A Rajas or Yang person is full of activity, bustling and often passionate of some desired goal, good or bad. Oftentimes, they are self-centered, egoistical or narcissistic and driven to a fault. A Tamas or Yin person is imbalanced, disordered, and chaotic. They are often anxious, impure, destructive, delusional, dull or inactive, apathetic, lethargic, violent, vicious, and ignorant.

In any one person, a mixture of these qualities has coalesced over the years so that the one quality predominates. To what extent is a matter of degrees. However, this mixture does not pervade through the body, itself, but rather is confined to the mind.

Gross matter, which comprises everything from minerals and rocks to plants and even our bodies, consists of varying amounts of the five elements – ether, air, fire, water, earth – in their grossest forms. If you look at a rock or a dead log, you will notice that it is not conscious because gross matter cannot reflect consciousness.

In that regard, there is little difference between our bodies and a rock. Without the reflection of consciousness, these bodies could not move. Hence, we have expressions like “falling asleep” and “sleeping like a log.” Without waking consciousness to support them, our bodies, which are basically inert (Tamas/Yin) will collapse and become heavy and difficult to move like a log.

Once consciousness leaves the body altogether, the body is no longer pliable but conforms to its original rock-like stiffness called “rigor mortis” in as little as four hours. At this point, just as in the deep-sleep state, the body is completely Tamas or Yin. In other words, the Rajas or Yang quality does not and cannot exist without consciousness.

That brings us to the human mind. Unlike our bodies, our minds are comprised solely of subtle matter, not gross, that is, the five elements in their subtlest form. This is the Sattvic quality. Some may call this quality energy, some may call it spirit. The important point here is that, when first born, our minds are comprised totally of this subtle matter or Sattva. But as we grow and our relationship with the world and all its objects increases, our desires and ambitions increase. We begin to dwell on seeking objects and pleasurable experiences. We resort to manipulating and controlling others. Gradually that Sattvic quality of mind becomes tarnished with Rajas and Tamas until one or the other predominates.

Switching back to the Tao and particularly Tai Chi and the internal martial arts, there is a third quality, a pure form that, although affected by Yin and Yang, is superior to either one. Laozi alludes to it in Chapter 42: “Out of Tao, One is born; Out of One, Two; Out of Two, Three; Out of Three, the created universe.”

The One of which Laozi speaks, often translated as ‘being,’ is Sattva – pure being – the original state of our Minds. In Mandarin, Sattva equates to Sung, often incorrectly translated as Relax. So, the three qualities – Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas – in terms of Tai Chi correspond to Sung, Yang and Yin respectively.

Our original Mind was a clean slate, pure being, before Maya (the illusory power of the Tao or Brahman) corrupted it with Yang and Yin, which correspond to Maya’s two abilities of projection and veiling respectively.

If we look at the Tai Chi symbol, we see Yang in one half and Yin in the other, but where is Sung – the equanimity, the serenity and beauty of pure being? It is the background veiled by Maya, which has superimposed Yang and Yin or Rajas and Tamas upon it.

In Tai Chi training, it is important to note that the body for its part will always remain Tamas or inert. Attempting to make the body Sung – balanced, calm, unaffected – is useless. It is the Mind that must be Sung. The Sattva or Sung quality, which is superior to either Yang or Yin, must transcend both. However, in Vedanta, the verb ‘transcend’ does not mean to separate from or go beyond. Instead, ‘transcend’ means to remain unaffected by any phenomena, whether pleasurable or painful. In Tai Chi, one must stick with an opponent as one and not two and remain unaffected by winning or losing.

Of course, this perception is not easy as Yang Banhou writes in Explaining Tai Chi Principals: “If there is activation and perception, there will be action and realization. If there is no activation or perception, there will be no action or realization. When activation is at its height, action is initiated. When perception is fully lucid, there is realization. Action and realization are the easy part. Activation and perception are tricky.”

For those who still believe that the body, itself, is active, alive, I offer this from Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha, expanding on Yang Banhou’s premise: “Many do not know that the body itself is designed and shaped by the mind, meaning Consciousness, which animates and activates the body right from the beginning. It animates every cell, which is otherwise inert, insentient. In fact the mind is ‘the maker and ruler’ of the body. That is how we have a complex variety of involuntary functions in the body, all of which ceaselessly go on, without our knowledge or interference from us.”

How exactly does this happen?

According to Kundalini and Hatha Yoga, human life actually begins in the Astral Body, the same subtle matter that comprises the Mind. The energy that descends along the Sushumna, the hollow column of the Astral spine, creates the gross physical body from the conception of the original primal cell in the womb and sustains the physical body through all the stages of life but remains in the Astral Body. It brings Prana (Qi), life energy, through the two nadis (channels) on either side of the Sushumna. The Ida on the left has a cooling or inhibiting (Yin) effect while the channel on the right, the Pingala, has a heating or stimulating (Yang) effect. The Sushumna, itself, is empty or Sung.

All three run from the root chakra (energy center) in the perineum and end at the Agnya chakra or third-eye in the mid-brain area of the Astral body. Therefore, an erect spine is necessary for this energy to move properly in yoga, tai chi and meditation.

So, how does it happen that the intellect and ego-sense feel that we are the body?

In the ancient text, Yoga Vasistha, Sage Vasistha explains to his Avatar disciple Sri Rama exactly how this takes effect using common spices as an example:

“O Rama, the infinite consciousness becomes aware of the pungency of the chilli: and this gives rise to the ego-sense, with all its differentiation in time and space.

“The infinite consciousness becomes aware of the savor in salt; and that gives rise to the ego-sense with all the differentiation which seems to exist in time and space.

“The infinite consciousness becomes aware of the sweetness in sugarcane; and thereby arises the awareness of its particular characteristic.

“Similarly, the infinite consciousness, being the indwelling omnipresence, becomes aware of the nature of a rock, a mountain, a tree, of water, of space and thus self-consciousness or individuality arises.

“Thus the natural combination of atomic particles and molecules (which is indwelt by consciousness) apparently acts as a dividing wall, thus giving rise to the divisions of ‘I’, ‘you’ etc., and these then appear to be outside of consciousness as its object.

In fact, all these are but reflections in the consciousness which, becoming aware of them within itself, bestows upon them their apparent individuality.

“Consciousness tastes itself, the awareness being non-different from consciousness: and that appears to give rise to the ego-sense, etc., naught else.

“The crystal of this infinite consciousness reflects its own light of consciousness which is present in all these combinations of atomic particles: and they then gain an apparent self-consciousness and think ‘I am’ etc.

“In reality, because the inner awareness in all these combinations is non-different from the infinite consciousness, there is no subject-object relationship between them: hence one does not experience the other, gain the other, or change or modify the other.”

In short, Sage Vasistha is explaining that what you think you are experiencing as your body is actually your mind. Just as your mind creates your body and the bodies of others as well as an entire world of objects in nightly dreams, so to the Mind creates your body and the entire world of apparent people and objects in your waking dream.

The Taoist sage Zhuangzi simplifies this even more: “The effect of life in society is to complicate and confuse our existence, making us forget who we really are by causing us to become obsessed with what we are not.”

Remaining aware that we are not what we think we are and not what society has told us we are, the Sung Mind does not try to balance yin or yang. Trying to do anything causes the Mind to be overly yang/rajas, and therefore yang/rajas will predominate in the Pranic (Qi) energy field causing the body to be predominantly yang/rajas. Trying not to do anything will result in an overly yin/tamas Mind, and yin/tamas will predominate in the Pranic energy field and thus in the body.

However, there is no need to adjust or harmonize yin and yang energies. If the Mind is predominantly Sung, yin and yang or rajas and tamas will be in harmony naturally.

Just look at an infant’s body and its movements. The body is soft, supple. The limbs are perfectly connected in movement. Why? Because the Mind is Sung. There is no thought of trying to adjust its yin or yang. All is simply natural. The harmonic movement of yin and yang is altogether natural, as it is in a newborn, when the Mind is Sung,.

A baby is completely at ease and gets the best of what Nature endows. She does not have any inhibitions or fears like an adult. She moves naturally and learns naturally. When she learns a language, she is totally attentive, immersing herself in the sounds, tones, and sights around her. When she learns to swim, she lets go and floats; allowing the skills to come to her as if second nature. She learns quickly, because she does not know she is learning and has no intention to learn. She is merely enjoying life and attending to its many wonders around her, curious, having fun, enjoying the process. She has not yet learned from her elders that learning is supposed to be tedious.

In Chapter 10, Laozi implores: “Can you gather your vital breath and yet be tender like a newborn baby?”

See how a baby breathes! The air goes right to the tummy, and she inhales in a full capacity for every breath. See how a baby laughs! It comes all the way from her heart. So does the way she cries. Nothing stops her from expressing her true feeling. This was your original Sung nature before life in society, as Zhuangzi observed, “complicated and confused our existence.”

In Chapter 55, Laozi describes how this idea of Sung, which Plato refers to as Virtue, is our original nature or true essence – the essence of a new-born child:

“Whoever is filled with Virtue
is like a new-born child.
Wasps and scorpions will not sting it;
snakes and serpents will not bite it;
wild animals will not attack it;
birds of prey will not swoop down on it.
Its bones are soft, its sinews tender,
and yet its grip is firm.
It does not know of male and female union
and yet its organ stirs;
its vital energy is at its height.
It cries throughout the day
and yet is never hoarse;
its harmony is at its height.
To know harmony is to know the eternal.
To know the eternal is to know enlightenment…”

Then Laozi warns us against aggressive behavior and disharmony between our emotions, our desires and our inherent Nature…

“(But) To speed the growth of life is an omen of disaster; 
to control the breath by will-power is to overstrain it;
to grow too much is to decay.
All this is against the Dao
and whatever is against the Dao soon dies.”

Thus to bring about a Sung Mind one must connect the Spiritual Heart or the Heart-Mind in Tai Chi like that of a child. That means the intellect and the emotions are completely at one with their purpose or intent. No matter what you are doing, the intellect and the emotions must be totally together. You cannot be washing dishes and daydreaming about that new smart phone you want to purchase. You cannot be doing your tai chi form and thinking about a problem at the office. Like the young child, you must be totally focused and intent on what you are doing, completely immersed.

In other words, make your life a meditation, and your Spiritual Heart will remain connected. And, when it comes to meditation, whether seated or standing (Zhan Zhuang), you should have but one purpose, one intent – Abidance in your true Nature. If you can abide in your true Nature while meditating and then carry that over into your tai chi or martial arts practice and eventually into your everyday life, then your mind will become Sung, and Sattva energy will prevail at all three levels – the physical, the mental and the spiritual.

Simply follow As Laozi instructs in Chapter 19:

 “Reveal thy simple self,
Embrace thy original nature,
Check thy selfishness,
Curtail thy desires.”

Thus, there will be motion in stillness and stillness in motion. Yin and Yang will be in perfect balance while you abide in that peace, that beauty, that essence which is your original Nature.

 

Vedanta Meets Lao Tzu

“Despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, we remain prehistoric, Paleolithic paradigms ignorant of the Einsteinian universe around us.”

In Memory of Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1930-2015)

Millennia ago our ancestors truly believed that they lived on a solid, flat piece of land that stretched over vast distances. Yes, there were hills and mountains, but essentially the Earth appeared stretched straight out. And, if you ventured far enough, you would drop into oblivion.

They also believed that the Sun, stars and planets revolved around the Earth. They noticed that objects like leaves on trees always fell down, never up. It was simply natural, they surmised.

Today, we know so much more about our planet and its place in the Universe. We know that most of the notions held by our ancient ancestors have been scientifically disproven. Nevertheless, when we rise from bed in the morning, we experience this world and the Universe in the same exact way that ancient peoples did.

We look up at the Sun and see an orange ball rising overhead and never give a thought to the fact that it is the Earth which is moving and circling the Sun. We get into our cars and drive along flat stretches of freeway without ever considering the fact that the Earth is actually round, even though we often refer to it as “the Globe.” But as we walk or drive along, the Earth is as flat to us as it was to our ancestors ages ago.

We see leaves falling and streams and rivers flowing down hillsides and mountains and never give any thought to gravity. As we move about our planet on foot, in cars, trains or planes, we feel that the Earth is still, motionless. We never consider it spinning around that orange ball in the sky at a tremendous speed. In all our hectic, helter-skelter movement, we fail to realize that we are pinned inside an encapsulated, pressurized, electromagnetic rock that is spiraling through the cold darkness of space.

Our everyday awareness of the world around us has not changed since the beginning of human history. If we still sense this everyday apparent reality exactly the way our ancestor did, how then can we expect to sense the true reality of non-dual limitless, unchanging Awareness? Or, as James Swartz (Ramji) asked in Essence of Enlightenment under the heading of Self-inquiry: “How does the identity I have right now jibe with my identity as awareness?”1

Well, I suppose it doesn’t jibe. But then again why should it? Instead of decrying this confusion, let us praise it, for it attests to the absolutely brilliant mystique of Maya (ignorance), which has not only clouded over who we truly are with an apparent reality of suns and planets and entire galaxies in a stark, macrocosmic dance of immense proportions. But astoundingly, Maya has clouded over that apparent macrocosmic reality with yet another thick fog – a beautifully vivid microcosmic dream of a still and motionless world.

The effect then is this: Despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, we remain prehistoric, Paleolithic paradigms ignorant of this Einsteinian universe in which we find ourselves.

Since the discoveries of science have done little to snap modern everyday man out of his dream world, let us then return to the ancients to see what kind of remedy they might suggest.

Let us go back 2600 years to Lao Tzu in China and the popular Tao de Ching and superimpose his contemplative findings over the teachings of Vedanta, a system of knowledge presented to the Rishis of Northern India, a thousand or more years prior to Lao Tzu. Thus we can equate Lao Tzu’s Tao, the Unmanifest, with Paramatman or Brahman (the Absolute; limitless, changeless Awareness). Teh, Tao manifested or embodied, equates with Brahma (without the final ‘n’), God the Creator, also called Isvara. Maya (Ignorance or Illusion) is a power in Awareness (Brahman) that gives Awareness the ability to create. When it is associated with Maya, which it controls, Brahman becomes Brahma or Isvara.

James Swartz explains: “When ignorance or Maya does manifest, Isvara in its capacity as a creator appears, followed by the apparent creation, the world of sentient beings and insentient elements…”2 As Lao Tzu puts it: “the ten thousand things” or simply Nature.

In essence Swartz and other Vedantists agree with Shri Adi Shankaracharya, an eighth century sage, who reinterpreted Hindu scriptures and revived the Upanishads and especially Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta. In his reinterpretation of scriptures, Shankara described God (Isvara) as an effect of Maya (illusion or ignorance) and therefore not the Supreme Brahman (The Absolute). In other words, Shankara established Brahman (The Paramatman) as that which is before and beyond God or Brahma (Isvara).

This is exactly what Lao Tzu was hinting at in Chapter 4: “I do not know whose son it is. It might appear to have been before God.”3

In Chapter 1, Lao Tzu states one of the main qualifications that Vedanta stresses in preparation for Self-inquiry, namely, Vairagya or Dispassion. “Ever desireless, one can see the mystery; ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations. And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.”4

Both Vedanta and the Tao de Ching stress feminine qualities as the gateway to understanding the mystery of who we are. For example, in the Gita Dhyanam (hymn of praise) that opens the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Dayananda Saraswati translates it thusly:

“Om. Goddess Mother Bhagavadgita! I repeatedly invoke you who were taught by Bhagavan Narayana himself for the sake of Arjuna , the son of Prtha (Kunti), (you who were) faithfully collected and reported by the ancient sage, Vyasa, (and placed) in the middle of the Mahabharata, (you who are) in eighteen chapter, you who have the nature of showering the nectar of non-duality, and who is the destroyer of the life of becoming (samsara, rebirth).”5

In this opening hymn, the Bhagavad Gita is likened to a goddess, a Divine Mother who presents a manual of instruction for attaining self-realization and stopping the cycle of rebirths.

In Chapter 6 of the Tao de Ching Lao Tzu expresses the same solution:
“The spirit of the Valley never dies. It is called the Mystic Female. The Door of the Mystic Female is the root of Heaven and Earth.”6

In Chapter 10: “In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven, Can you play the part of the Female?”7

In Chapter 28: “He who is aware of the Male But keeps to the Female Becomes the ravine of the world. Being the ravine of the world, He has the original character which is not cut up, and returns again to the innocence of the babe.”8

Here the Male refers to the physical body while the Female refers to the Mind or Subtle Body as it is called in Vedanta. Original character which is not cut up is Paramatman (The Absolute, the Primordial Self) and its reflection exists within the deepest part of our Subtle Body, referred to as the ravine of the world when the Mind is calm and not conflicted with distracting vasanas (tendencies).

The ability of feminine energy to realize the Self is further emphasized in the story of a royal couple, King Shikhidhvaja and Queen Cudala9 from the Yoga Vasishtha, an Advaita Vedanta text. The couple was so greatly devoted to each other that they seemed like one jiva (an individual person) in two bodies. They did everything together including studying spiritual texts from which they concluded that only self-knowledge could enable one to overcome sorrow.

However, the Queen alone constantly continued her contemplation on the means of self-knowledge:
“Now I see myself and enquire ‘Who am I?’
“How could ignorance of self, and delusion arise?
“The physical body is surely inert and it is certainly not the self. It is experienced only on account of the movement of thought in the mind. “10

She proceeded deeper into self-discovery, finally realizing her true nature. The King, noticing his wife’s radiance, asked her to explain how she attained self-realization. She told him that she remained rooted in Truth and not appearances. But the King, a typical paternalistic type, did not understand that her words signified a higher consciousness. So, he dismissed her teaching and called her “childish and ignorant.”11

Although this story illustrates how male chauvinism has discredited females throughout the ages, the important point here is why Queen Cudala became self-realized and the King did not.

The key rests in the conclusion of the story: ” After enjoying the pleasures of the world, because he was the foremost among kings, after having lived for a very long time, he attained the supreme state, because in him there was but a little residue of satva.”12

Maya is composed of three energies or gunas. Two of them, Rajas and Tamas, keep us identified with our physical bodies and attracted to seeking pleasure or happiness from worldly objects rather than from within. Sattva guna on the other hand is a more feminine energy that calms, purifies and reveals while Rajas energy often excites and accelerates and Tamas, a grounding energy, often decelerates into lethargy.

Thus, Queen Cudala’s subtle body or mind had a predominance of Sattva over Rajas and Tamas, and she was able to assimilate and actualize the knowledge of the true Self. Since the King had a predominance of Rajas guna, he flitted away a long lifetime, ten thousand years, trying to enjoy the pleasures of the world, which blinded him to his real nature. His long life symbolizes many rebirths on the wheel of samsara before attaining enlightenment.

Vedanta teaches that there are four qualities necessary to qualify us for the intense Self-inquiry that Queen Cudala symbolizes: Discrimination (Viveka), Dispassion (Vairagya), Discipline, and a Desire for moksha (freedom). All four of these qualities are also interspersed throughout the 81 chapters of the Tao de Ching.

But how do we realize this greatest of mysteries when Maya’s Ignorance keeps us from even recognizing the apparent reality of the relative world around us?

By cultivating Sattva, the feminine, creative energy, as advised by both the Vedantists and Lao Tzu.
Sattva enables us to rise above the ignorance of Maya, which uses Rajas to project illusion and Tamas to conceal our real identity, but Maya will also reveal when Sattva predominates the Subtle Body.

Thus, if we look to Vedic cosmology for a particular deity that personifies creative intelligence along with an abundance of Sattva energy and the four qualities necessary for Self-inquiry, the Goddess Saraswati stands out.

Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge as well as Music, Arts, Wisdom and Learning. She is considered the creative intelligence and shakti (power) of Brahma and represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. Her name means “essence of one’s Self.” Thus, she leads one to the essence of self knowledge. Known as the Mother of the Vedas, her name has evolved over time to mean “knowledge that purifies.”

saraswati small

Saraswati is often depicted dressed in pure white and seated on a white lotus, the symbol of Supreme Reality. This means she is rooted in Supreme Reality and engenders supreme knowledge and truth. Her iconography is typically in white themes from dress to flowers to swan – the color symbolizing Sattwa Guna or purity, discrimination for true knowledge, insight and wisdom.

Her four arms denote her omnipresence and omnipotence – the two front arms, the physical world and the two back arms, the spiritual world. The four hands represent the four elements of the Subtle Body – mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi), the conditioned consciousness (chitta) and the rear left hand, the ego (ahankara), which holds a rosary, signifying meditation and contemplation, leading to samadhi or union with God. This indicates that true knowledge acquired with love and devotion melts the ego and results in liberation (moksha) from bondage to the physical world.

She plays the music of love and life, on the Veena, an expression of knowledge that creates harmony. Her swan symbolizes spiritual perfection, transcendence and moksha (liberation). It has the ability to drink pure milk alone from a mixture of milk and water, which symbolizes Viveka, the ability to discriminate between right and wrong, good and evil and between essence, reality (Satya) and apparent reality (Mithya).

There is a peacock, which represents unpredictability, anxiously waiting to serve her. But Saraswati chooses the Swan rather than the peacock as her carrier, signifying that one must overcome fear, anxiety and indecision in order to acquire true knowledge.
By renouncing the fruits of one’s actions and devoting oneself to Saraswati, one can call upon her prior to meditation and Self-inquiry, to open “the door of the Mystic Female” and reveal the root of all creation, the gateway that leads to moksha.

Calling upon Saraswati, we are activating the Sattva Guna within our Mind, the Subtle Body, and prompting the Mind to turn inward to discover that door, that gateway.

And what exactly is that door?

Ramana Maharshi called it the “I-thought.” Queen Cudala called it the “I-idea.” Both used Self-inquiry – ‘Who Am I?’ – to uncover the “I-thought.”

And its exact location? Not the physical heart or any other physical location as Ramana Maharshi often pointed out.

The I-thought is our mental/emotional reset button deep within the Subtle Body. It brings about an entire factory reset, if you will, better known as self-realization. And where exactly is this reset button?

Look at your smart phone, a product of thousands of years of human ingenuity. Where did the evolved human consciousness decide to place that reset button? Mine is located in the Privacy setting. And where is the Privacy setting in our Subtle Body? It is where we store our most intimate, darkest secrets about ourselves – “the ravine of the world” – my particular world. That reset button is buried under all those Tamasic fears and memories that we are most ashamed of.

Let Saraswati’s Sattva energy remove those Tamasic elements and reveal the I-thought, the gateway to the knowledge that enlightens us.

maa-saraswati

Before meditating or beginning Self-inquiry, one can invoke Saraswati’s aid with the following prayer:

May Goddess Saraswati, who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon, and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops; who is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose beautiful arm rests the veena, and whose throne is a white lotus; who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect and fill me with your Sattva energy. May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and, above all, my ignorance in order to reveal my true nature – Om Saraswati.

Before beginning any creative activity such as music, dance, art, writing, public speaking or tai chi, you can invoke Saraswati’s creative energy with this prayer:

May the goddess of speech and skillful art enable us to attain all possible eloquence, she who wears on her locks a young moon, who shines with exquisite lustre, who sits reclined on a white lotus, and from the crimson cusp of whose hands pours, radiance on the implements of writing, art, music, dance and other skillful means produced by her favor.– Om Saraswati.

And a word of warning: be careful driving north on Interstate 5.  If you go far enough, you could fall off the face of the Earth.

Footnotes:
1. Essence of Enlightenment, James Swartz, p. 175
2. Ibid. p. 185
3. Tao de Ching, Lao Tzu, Chapter 4
4. Ibid. Chapter 1
5. Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, p 1
6. Tao de Ching, Lao Tzu, Chapter 6
7. Ibid., Chapter 10
8. Ibid., Chapter 28
9. Yoga Visastha, Swami Venkatesananda,Section VI.1, Chapter 77
10. Ibid., Chapter 78
11. Ibid., Chapter 80
12. Ibid., Chapter 87 – 110

Benjamin Pang-Jeng Lo began his studies with Cheng Man Ching in 1949 in Taiwan.  Although many famous disciples like T.T, Liang, Robert W. Smith, and William C.C. Chen followed, Ben Lo was Professor Cheng’s first major disciple and one of his most prominent.

Master Lo was in school at the time and was very weak.  He said he could hardly walk up stairs or cross a street without gasping for breath.  So, he sought out Professor Cheng who was a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner.  While treating his condition, the professor suggested that Ben take up tai chi to make his system strong enough to absorb the herbal medicine he was taking.

After his condition improved, Ben continued his studies with Cheng Man Ching until the Professor moved to New York.  Then in 1974, Ben got a call to join his teacher and help him promote tai chi among American students.  Ben promptly gave up his position with the Taiwanese government and moved to the United States.

He eventually settled in San Francisco where he established his school and where he still resides today at the age of 87.

Hsien Yuan Chen, who leads a small Cheng Man Ching group at Smith Park in San Gabriel, and I drove up to San Francisco to have dinner with Master Lo.  A steep stairway ascends from the garage at street-level to his two-story row home above, which is just a few blocks from Point Lobos and the Cliff House in the northwest corner of the city.

As one might expect, there was a black and white photograph of the Professor with a 25 year-old Ben Lo on the mantle along with calligraphy and Chinese paintings on all the walls.  Stacks of notebooks and photo albums and video racks filled with DVDs were stuffed into the small living room.

Although at 87 his walk is a little wobbly, Master Lo’s spirit, nevertheless, is very much intact and quite infectious.  His internal peng (ward off) energy has not diminished either.  After looking at my form with some displeasure, he proceeded to let me feel his energy.  No matter which way I pushed, I could not uproot him.  Yet, when it was his turn to push, with hardly a touch, my toes were uprooted, and I found myself bounced away.

Ben reiterated Professor Cheng’s five principles or integrities which summarized the tai chi classics: relax, maintain your center, shift your balance (yin and yang), turn your waist (all movements are generated from the waist), and your hands should resemble “beautiful ladies’ hands.”  Ben also added a sixth principle, which is to perform all five integrities together when we do our form.

That fifth principle “beautiful ladies hands” is perhaps the main point of contention among Yang tai chi practitioners.  Most of the Yang stylists descended from Yang Chengfu hold their hands in the “tiger mouth” position with the thumb separated from the fingers.  If the hand is relaxed, then the “tiger mouth” is not an issue.  But Master Lo told a story of an ancient general to illustrate how the “tiger mouth” position can be detrimental if the hand is rigid.

The wayward thumb represents a loose nail on a horseshoe.  The nail gets caught on a rock and is pulled off, the shoe is displaced, the horse stumbles and falls and the general is killed.  The army is defeated, and the war is lost – all because of a loose nail.  Or, in the case of some Yang practitioners, a rigid hand with an extend thumb.

Actually, the idea of “ladies hands” exists in Zhaobao, an early tai chi form which predates Yang style.  Some have even named Zhaobao, the “Fair Lady” form.  Professor Cheng, a scholar as well as an expert in internal energy flow, was simply using what the ancients had known centuries before.   The forearm, wrist and hand held relaxed in a straight line like a lady reaching out actually increases the flow of energy to the fingertips.

Master Lo pointed out that the Professor insisted all beginners incorporate “beautiful ladies hands” into their form to increase the flow of qi and improve its circulation.  Once a student has reached a higher level and increased the qi circulation, the hand can be held in any position as long as it is relaxed.

Ben Lo considers himself on a very low level when compared to Cheng Man Ching.  This is not unusual considering Chinese culture.  It is a matter of deep respect for one’s teachers.  The Professor considered himself on a very low level when compared to his teacher, Yang Chengfu, even though he later reduced the Yang form from 108 postures to 37.

Some say the difference between the Yang and Cheng forms is much more than a reduction of postures but a change in basic fundamentals.  In any case, that is a topic best left for another time.

All in all, the trip was well worth the drive up north to visit with Master Lo and hear him relate the details of his relationship with Cheng Man Ching.  It reinforced my realization that taijiquan is not just an exercise but a way of life to be lived every day to the ultimate.

 

The inspiration for this article came from a discussion I had with one of my Zhaobao brothers.  After practice the other day, we had a conversation about the terms substantial and insubstantial.   We both knew what the terms meant basically.  But did we truly understand the concept at their root?

This very same question can be asked of many terms in Tai Chi such as sung (often translated as relax), yin and yang, heavy and soft, yielding and following, and many more

As it turned out, we both agreed that we did not truly understand substantial and insubstantial, and that was actually a positive not a negative.  So, the title of this article is probably somewhat misleading as I am really writing about NOT understanding Tai Chi as a positive step toward making further progress.

That may seem contradictory as are many of the terms in both Tai Chi and Taoist philosophy, but bear with me and I will explain.

As fate would have it, the next day after our discussion, I sat down to do some meditative reading and came across a passage by Foyan Qingyuan (1067-1120), a notable Chan master during the Sung dynasty when Buddhism flourished in China.

The minute you fixate on recognition that ‘This is it,’ you are immediately bound hand and foot and cannot move around anymore.

So as soon as it is given this recognition, nothing is right, whatever it may be…

It’s like making a boat and outfitting it for a thousand mile journey to a treasure trove; if you drive a stake and tie the boat to it before you jump in and start rowing, you can row till kingdom come and still be on the beach.  You see the boat waving this way and that, and you think you are on the move, but you have never gone a single step.

Tai Chi like Zen Buddhism or Taoism is a lifelong journey that changes daily.  The moment you say to yourself or a teacher tells you that ‘This is it; this is the point,’ all is lost if you buy into that.

Like the I Ching, in the foundation of Tai Chi, there are no points of recognition or understanding, only changes.  The moment you truly believe that you understand, you have driven a stake into the ground and bound yourself hand and foot, tying up all progress.  Your journey has unfortunately come to an end.

Not only students but instructors especially should remember this fact.  It is a great responsibility to have the honor of teaching Tai Chi, an honor and a privilege that many instructors take lightly.

For a few it is a matter of greed.  Once they have received permission to teach from their sifus, they are off to the bank, like college graduates, to make up for all the time and money they spent learning their skills.

For some, their road to mastery is blocked by ignorance.  They ask their students to join them on their journey not realizing their boat is still tied to the dock.

Both types make the mistake of resting their laurels on the teachings they have previously received, believing their knowledge of the fundamentals is complete.

The Bottom Line: No matter how many years you have been practicing, no matter how wonderful your master and grandmaster, no matter how many workshops you have attended or given, don’t think you know it all.  There is always more to learn – much more than you can ever imagine.