Making connection

I was talking to S over dinner a couple of weeks ago, and mentioned Master Yao’s birthday party. She commented that the sense of belonging we have in our respective schools is actually one of the nicer parts of living in China; generally speaking, we’ll always be foreigners and never really accepted. She speaks Chinese at native level, though, unlike me, so it is easier for her. At Master Yao’s school, for much of the last year I’ve often been the only foreigner in class; if there have been others, they’ve only been visiting. While I was taking a break from class, though, a couple of new people arrived – a Russian who works as a translator, and a Frenchman who’s an academic at Tsinghua. They will both be in Beijing for a long period, and we all live or work in the same area, so we hope to catch up outside class as well. It’ll be good to have people to chat to about all this!

The Frenchman was an unwitting comedy act the other day; Master Yao wanted to demonstrate an application of ‘Xiong Long’, one of Yiquan’s signature postures. He used it as a throw to break out of a bear-hug from behind; the French guy, unaware of what was coming, flew to the ground in a most elegant manner, and with a very surprised expression ๐Ÿ˜‰

We’ve been doing a lot more work on fuan shili. In yiquan, the knee doesn’t go forward as far as it does in taiji. In this posture, the forward shin should essentially stay vertical. I find this difficult – my knee keeps going forward as far as you might see it in Yang taiji, never further than the toes, but it’s too far as far as yiquan is concerned. I know exactly why this is; it’s because I’m not opening my kua enough, or in the right direction. Master Yao showed me what I should be doing, and I’m working on it. I’ll get it eventually, but at the moment I have to think too much about it, rather than it being in muscle memory. What was interesting was that as I was repeating it over and over, I finally felt the force coming from the rear leg in a spiral. I remember seeing this in one of Mantak Chia’s taiji books, which I bought in Singapore a few years back, and was wondering then how you did it. Heh. I must say that I’m learning a heck of a lot through yiquan, much of which is the same as taijiquan; I’ll agree once more with Tabby:

If you do (most types of) Tai Chi with the same slowness and precision and concentration of Yi Quan’s zhan zhuang, mo jin, and shi li work, it would come to much the same thing. So normally I would say, along with Master Yao, that Yi Quan and Tai Chi are variants on the same theme and it’s just personal choice if you enjoy long standing and hard sparring go with Yi Quan, while if you like the relaxed form practice and push hands go with Tai Chi.

For various reasons, I’m tending more towards yiquan now!

Anyhow, I see that once again I’m talking about structure. In a recent post I agreed with Scott Phillips regarding the big muscles of the back. Why? Because my own experience confirms it. As yiquan practice has changed my posture for the better, I have felt these muscles become more important, and have used them more and more. I also agreed with Rick regarding fascia. Again, my own experience suggests that this is true. I agree with it because I have felt it. In the ongoing debate (and it seems to have become one, since apparently emails are being exchanged, with some passion it seems), Tabby is dismissing this, using an electric shock as an analogy for taiji power. This I have not experienced. I’m not disagreeing, or contradicting him. Not at all. I’m just saying that it’s outside my experience so far.

However… In the same post that I refer to above, there’s this:

I don’t blame people for practicing other things. They may have other goals, but even more central point – it’s just too difficult to do it the BL 5-principle way. It’s frankly almost impossible to get it even with sustained correct teaching and dedicated personal practice. Still very likely you will miss it. It’s only by accident that I stumbled over it.

It seems that I never will get it ๐Ÿ™‚ Ah well. I’ll keep on practising and learning the way I’ve been doing it. It’s slow, but it seems to get results. No point discussing or debating it any longer. However, I would be very interested in reading more about that accident.


  1. i think the problem is people are putting the cart before the horse so to speak; people figure that if the structure is correct the energy will be there. the truth is that when the correct energy is present the structure (regardless of its shape) will coalesce to transmit that energy.


    1. Hmmm. Interesting idea; I don’t think I necessarily agree, but I’ll think it over and come back when I’m not in a hurry….


  2. Hi Emlyn, i’ll like to hear the differences of Yiquan vs Taijiquan from someone like you who had learnt both arts.


  3. Frankly speaking…. I don’t feel qualified to make that comparison. There’s a huge overlap between them, and yet they are very different arts. I can’t answer your question in any concise form; I may try to write a blog post about it, but I would need to think about it a lot. Essentially, I don’t think I have studied either of them in sufficient depth.


  4. Hi Emlyn, or how about describing your teachers of both arts? What do you think and feel of their skills when you were having contact with them? This will be a very interesting blog post to read. By the way, i had a great time reading your blog about your past experiences. Thanks a lot.


  5. hi again. let me try using an analogy using wind and a sheet hung on a clothesline. the wind is energy ‘deforming’ the sheet as it gusts through space. over-emphasis on structure is mistaking the shape the sheet as being the wind (or energy) itself.

    if you have the correct energy, the structure will naturally occur. the converse though, is not necessarily true.


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