Perspectives in Yi Chuan Training

Master Cheuk Fung describes the appropriate usage of space and time.

Student: Yi Chuan seems to have grown in popularity in recent years, how do you think its handling its popularity?
Master Fung: There is good and bad. Certainly there are more practitioners and many of the basic practices are being adopted by practitioners of other arts. There are many more teachers and material available now, including books and videos. Seminars also seem more popular with teachers traveling around giving workshops to groups. However, with this popularity comes many opportunities for practitioners to be led astray. Self-taught and seminar-taught teachers abound claiming skills and lineage they don't really have. Various branches argue over who's Yi Chuan is more authentic and who the Founder's real heir was. Yi Chuan theory and methodology is being irresponsibly mixed and matched with theories and practices from other arts to the point where all essence is lost. I could go on.

Student: How important is lineage to you?
Master Fung: That's a tricky question. On paper lineage can show that you had contact with people known to have taught the skills you claim to posses. It becomes much less important if you posses the skills themselves. Lineage may give you access to the all the theory, methods and techniques you may need to study but does not provide the time, patience, fortitude and commitment it takes to really get it. Teachers who posses method devoid of skill have no method at all. Lineage, the real lineage, is the content of the art. He who has the achievement of the art has inherited the legacy of the lineage. Sometimes one will teach one, sometimes one will teach many, sometimes many will teach one. The skill can skip a generation, be lost and rediscovered. It can be discovered by people who understand it and by people who don't understand it. The skill is part of the natural human potential but must be trained to be useful. So how important lineage is to me just depends....

Master Cheuk Fung talks about the spirit of liberation.

Student: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about Yi Chuan?
Master Fung: You've been around Yi Chuan circles for a while now, what do you think people don't get?
Student: Let me think for a moment. First I would say the idea of Hunyuan strength is very misunderstood. You've talked a lot about the qualities and characteristics of Hunyuan strength but its really difficult to grasp how different using it is until you have first hand experience. Having your own strength used like a handle to throw you around changes your perspective of what effective strength is.

Master Fung: How has your perspective changed?
Student: When you began teaching me my mind was fully rooted in the idea of force equals mass times acceleration. Even when I got more consistent in linking my frame I could barely keep from using it as a battering ram because I was holding on to the wrong idea of Hunyuan strength. It was really your patience and the patience of everyone kind enough to play 'shove-hands' with me that got things turned around. Now I understand that Hunyuan strength appears when the frame is sealed and balanced within itself. When I was younger I spent many hours in the gym weight training. One of the things I liked about heavy exercises like squats or dead lifts was how the weight compressed me and gave me leverage to squeeze and stretch muscles that didn't get much use in everyday life. The heavy weight basically sealed my body against the ground allowing me to access a much greater percentage of my total strength during the exercise. With Hunyuan strength the same basic thing is happening, except, instead of my frame leveraging against the weight on the barbell it leverages against itself and the strength of the opponent. This way the frame stores energy like a mousetrap, all wound up and ready to spring.

Master Fung: Good, what else do you think is misunderstood about Yi Chuan?
Student Another big one is the idea that Jam Jong or even Yi Chuan is about standing there with your arms in the air until something magic happens. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for deep relaxation but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the method. There is tons of work, effort, sweat and pain involved in forging the frame and elongating the orbits. Jam Jong is a huge category of study and should not be reduced to a few hugging the tree postures that are held for a while.

Master Fung: I'm sure responsible teachers will guide their students in the appropriate manner for their level. What else have you noticed?
Student: With all the material available on-line today I think there are a growing number of people who think they can teach themselves with the help of that material. Before becoming your student I had read most of what was available in English on Yi Chuan and thought I was practicing the Jam Jong. It only took a few moments of you adjusting my posture for the first time to find out how far off I was. Books, videos and other material can be great resources but are no substitute for hands on instruction. Books only offer intellectual feedback whereas a good teacher can help guide you through some of the hardships of training. In my own practice I have experienced pain, numbness, shaking, intense sensations of heat and sweating. Without your guidance I would not have known how to respond and likely would have given up the practice.

Master Fung: Yes, teaching yourself can be very difficult. Anything else you would like to add?
Student: The role of energy or chi is also very misunderstood. To me its unfortunate that so many people get sidetracked by beliefs, dogma, hearsay and misinformation. I know I did. When I started learning from you I had all kinds of fancy ideas of what Chi was and how I could use it to beat people up. Over the years you have taught me to let go of those misconceptions and experience energy in the way a fish experiences water. In that time my idea of chi has transformed from it being a elusive supernatural substance that should be mined and horded like gold into a metaphor for how I function as a living being. Spirit, thought, intent, bio-electric signals and chemical reactions and the physical strength they cause to manifest are all energies that are transforming to create our very existence.

Master Fung: Now you seem to understand it better. Keep up the good work.
Student: Thank you Sifu. On behalf of myself and my fellow students I would like to thank you for taking the time and effort to covey your thoughts to us in this format, to be sure we will be digesting them for some time. Your ability to strip concepts from different arts and traditions down to their essence and teach from the perspective of what unites Chinese martial arts instead of what separates them is truly profound. Bit by bit you have helped so many of us replace our martial arts fantasies and misconceptions with some real understanding.

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