A checklist

Well, it’s been an interesting week. I’m skipping my class yiquan class today as I have a pile of work to clear, plus I’m feeling under the weather. I went yesterday, though, and on Wednesday night, when H. came along as well. On both occasions I got the chance to take part in a lot of tui shou, and I have the muscle pain and bruises to prove it….

All I can say, really, is – at last! Sorry to keep banging the same drum, but Master Yao Chengrong’s Zhong Yi Wuguan is finally providing the mix of neijiaquan development and application that I’ve been searching for over the last few years. During the sparring sessions, I’ve been trying to apply the understanding of internal power as I’ve come to understand it… and basically I’ve been getting wiped out! Hahahaha, I’m not discouraged, though 😀 It’s only convinced me that the theory is correct; now I need to learn how to apply it correctly. Anyway, here’s a short checklist of things that I’ve been mulling over.

Muscle strength
I don’t have much of this! I need to work on this area, but I think that if I carry on sparring, I’ll develop strength fairly quickly. Although I do need to get stronger, I’m not too fixated on this. A number of the other students are significantly stronger than me, but I can hold my own when I get other things right. So let’s move on…

Aerobic fitness
Endurance, keeping my breath… I’m not doing too badly here, but I want to improve a lot. In yiquan, there’s a strong emphasis on finishing the fight quickly, but it’s not good to find yourself gasping for air when an opponent’s on the attack so… In the past, I built up a lot of aerobic fitness through bagua circle walking, and I’m hoping to repeat that – especially now that spring is here. The Siberian wants to start early-morning jogging around the Houhai lakes, so if we can drag ourselves out of bed in the morning I’ll start circle walking while she jogs…

Body weight
Like I said, a lot of the other students are significantly stronger than me. However, I’ve noticed that I can sometimes uproot them when I get my body mass moving correctly. It’s giving me more understanding of what the ‘yiquan dance’ is really doing:

This is definitely something I need to work on.

Speed and reflexes are one of my biggest problems at this point – both in the sense that I create openings but don’t attack through them fast enough, or I don’t see & react to incoming attacks. Hence the bruises… Again, though, this should improve with practice…

I’m not doing too badly with this; I am improving in my ability to maintain contact with my opponent, and to respond to changes in force and angle with changes of my own that do quite well at neutralizing quite a few attacks.

MUCH room for improvement here…. and yet I’m much better than I was. In terms of resisting yiquan’s “spinning and off-balancing” techniques, once I get more relaxed, I’ll be less vulnerable to such attacks. Even now, over a few sessions of tui shou I can see that when I actively focus on relaxing, I get much less fatigued, I am better balanced, and can take the power out of incoming shoves and punches (to some degree, at least). I’m also seeing that this softness is why systema is so effective, and why ‘proprer’ taijiquan is respected by many as the supreme martial art… Also, and I don’t want to get all Mantak Chia about this, why studying internal martial arts can make one a better lover…. Hehehe, anyway not to be too provocative, so let’s move on…

I’m being a bit learning-handicapped here. Yiquan’s curriculum is, I realize more and more, extremely well structured in the way it takes a basic move with health benefits, develops it into a ‘testing-force’ exercise, and then takes it further into becoming a combat application. I’ve gained a huge amount from the first stage, in terms of relaxation, softening, opening up the joints, and improving my balance and posture. As I don’t have good Mandarin, I’ve done this by observing Master Yao carefully and copying what he does. Since starting the sparring, I’ve begun to realize what I’ve been missing from his explanations, ie how these movements are used in combat. Luckily, I’ve been training with really nice sparring partners who’ve seen that I haven’t understood this, and have taken the trouble to point it out to me and show me what I should be doing. It’s another of the things I like about the school, this openness and willingness to help each other develop.

Interesting… Yiquan doesn’t focus on qi at all, in terms of its training methods. However, having studied taijigong with Nam Wah Pai in Singapore – who are very focussed on qi – I can see that the techniques have much in common, and that one benefit of yiquan training is to allow the qi to move freely. I think it was Tabbycat who posted recently about taijiquan ‘masters’ who can feel their qi, but are still stiff and easy to throw around… I suspect that once you’ve got the softness and relaxation cracked, you’ll be able to feel the qi very strongly… Perhaps at some point in the history of their training, some people got focussed on the diagnostic tool rather than on the real aim of the training…

To cut a long story short…. I’m having a great time with my training at the moment, and I think that yiquan is really helping on many levels. I need to work for a while on the issues I’ve mentioned above, and then I can start working in meditative techniques during the ‘health’ exercises. I’ll be working on adding insights from the Ryabko/Vasiliev systema model as well. After that, I’ll be able to go back to taiji and bagua ready to take them to a higher level than I could before….

On other, unrelated topics:

  • I hear that Master Zhou Yue Wen has moved back to Shanghai after several years in Singapore. When I get back to training with baguazhang, I may well make the effort to get down there occasionally if I can track him down, as I really like his bagua style.
  • If you’re interested in yiquan, I see that Master Yao Chengguang’s disciple Andrzej Kalisz has put a couple of books on lulu.com for free download
  • Hehehe, sometimes I’m proud to be Welsh 😉


  1. Nice, Emlyn! Sounds like you’ve hit a fortunate groove in training. Keep up that circle-walking . . . you don’t just want to stand around in your practice (please forgive the awful pun).



  2. Master Zhou has relocated back to China…. Haize, one less ba gua teacher in Singapore. Your training sounds really interesting … and motivating.


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