Understanding the Yi Chuan Method

Master Fung pushing hands with a student

Student: What first attracted you to Yi Chuan?
Master Fung: Yi Chuan's theory and approach is very similar to what I learned in Hop Gar even though their respective training methods are different. In each the goal is to develop oneness or 'Hunyuan' strength as the foundation for health and martial arts. This is done through single movement practice until the gestures are linked inside and out.

Student: I thought Hop Gar consisted of numerous sets and exercises.
Master Fung: My Hop Gar lineage emphasizes single movement practice with supplemental exercises to build and use strength. Forms or other choreographed routines are merely arrangements created by different teachers to help their students. They are not core to the method.

Student: Do you still teach Hop Gar today?
Master Fung: Of course! It's already incorporated within my teaching method.

Student: I thought you taught Yi Chuan?
Master Fung: I do, but you can say my Yi Chuan has a strong Hop Gar flavor.

Class in San Francisco

Student: I don't understand.
Master Fung: Yi Chuan and Hop Gar are basically trying to do the same thing, develop Hunyuan (whole body) strength as the basis for health and martial arts. While the exercises, routines and training methods may look different on the outside they serve the same purposes.

Student: I don't remember learning Hop Gar in class?
Master Fung: That's because I have integrated it into my teaching method. Chuen-Pao-Cup, the shoulder stretching routine and many of the casual strength training exercises come from Hop Gar. Jam Jong, sensing Strength and Jow Bo are typical Yi Chuan exercises. Even though they come from different arts they have common origins as exercises to cultivate, train and deploy Hunyuan strength. The arts seem different because each uses its own unique set of ideas and concepts to convey the meaning.

Student: So by integrated you mean much more than added, right?
Master Fung: Yes, it took me more than twenty years to fully integrate my Hop Gar and Yi Chuan. Bit by bit I had to address each apparent contradiction in theory and method. Eventually I realized that while each art had its own distinct flavor, they were both built with the same basic ingredients. Now I can explain Yi Chuan using Hop Gar theory and train Hop Gar mechanics with Yi Chuan exercises. Today I don't even bother distinguishing which route or shape came from which method. I just teach them within the overall Yi Chuan categories without distracting students with fanciful names and mystical origins. Whatever the shape and whatever the method, as long as you stay within the perimeter of developing Hunyuan strength, you won't be too wrong.

Yi Chuan Footwork

Student: You've described Hop Gar, Yi Chuan, Mok Gar, Dragon Style, Tongbei and Tai Ji as having influence on your development. Can you give me an idea of what each has contributed to your understanding of Kung Fu?
Master Fung: Hop Gar is really my foundation. I was fortunate to have a teacher that taught me very directly. From him I learned that real Kung Fu is holistic in its approach to health and self-defense. I also learned that a fighting art must be practical. Hop Gar is well known for its fighting prowess so I learned that no matter how esoteric or bizarre a training method might be it must, in the end, contribute to success in combat. Mok Gar is another very effective fighting art. Of particular value is its use of small circles to deliver rapid and dynamic hand techniques and its kicking method. Dragon Style on the other hand emphasized the undulating body movement and changes necessary for each movement to have power. Tong Bei teaches how strength comes through the back and helps to develop more elasticity in the strength. I also like its no-nonsense approach to footwork. Tai Chi helped me deepen my level of relaxation and I find the form fun to practice with. Of course I could say a lot more about the styles but that should give you the gist of it.

Student: Why do you call your art Yi Chuan when you could teach several different arts or even start a new one?
Master Fung: Good question . . . I've considered changing. I could call it Hop Gar - Yi Chuan to commemorate my integration of the two arts. Or I could use a new fancy new name and develop my own theories, principals and routines, but I don't see the point. What I'm teaching is actually very old, not new. Besides, it's had so many names already, what good is another one going to do? I'm teaching my understanding and integration of Yi Chuan. That's good enough for me.

Master Fung teaches a "dragon stance" to a student

Student: So what does Yi Chuan bring to the table that made you decide to adopt its theory and methods as your primary teaching framework?
Master Fung: Your great-grand teacher did something very bold when he created Yi Chuan. He took what was a closely guarded secret and made it central to the practice and openly declared its purpose. At the time it was typical for teachers to be highly selective about handing down the keys to real Kung Fu. In many lineages the skill itself was lost, replaced with forms, exercises and myth. Master Wang Sheng Chai, after learning intensely from childhood and traveling extensively to visit and learn from various masters, founded Yi Chuan in opposition to this trend. Master Wang included not a single fixed form or routine into his method. Rather, he took the essence and formerly secret methods he learned during his lifetime and condensed them into a direct method for developing Kung Fu. Yi Chuan is a gift to martial artists, a way to put aside much of the misplaced tradition and superstition hindering practitioners of all styles and train in a more clear and direct way.

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