The Various Internal Chinese Martial Arts as They Relate to Guangping Taijiquan

Internal Chinese martial arts such as taichi were historically taught behind closed doors, but none were developed completely independently of other practices. To understand taijiquan it is good to have knowledge of the context within which it developed, and this involves knowing about the other internal Chinese martial arts. This is especially the case for Guangping, which is practiced in ways that develop and express qualities of xingyi, bagua and yiquan.

Xingyiquan

Piquan of XingyiXingyiquan is an aggressive art which relies on a great deal of zhanzhuang and linear striking drills to develop internal energy that manifests in the practitioner’s immovable root, explosive striking power, courage and reduced vulnerability to blows.  Xingyiquan (form-mind-fist) was developed from xinyiquan (heart-mind-fist) by Li Luoneng (1807–1888).  Folktales attribute the creation of the precursor xinyiquan to such legendary figures as the Zen patriarch Bodhidharma and the Song Dynasty General name Yue Fei, but the more likely originator of the art is Ji Longfeng (1588-1662AD), who was already a skilled martial artist and accomplished scholar before spending 10 living and studying in a Shaolin monastery.

The most obvious elements of xingyi in Guangping taiji include the forward footwork and elbows near the body in “cannon through the sky” or punching and slashing hands that accompany the Guangping jump kick.

Baguazhang

Bagua Circle WalkingBaguazhang, literally meaning “eight trigram palm,” (referring to the eight trigrams of the I Ching) involves a great deal of circular and spiraling motions.  While the various styles of bagua employ a broad variety of strikes and weapons, the common characteristic of all bagua training is the extensive use of walking in circles in various stances.  The known history of bagua begins with Dong Haichuan (1797-1882) who is said to have learned various practices from mountain Daoists and then developed his practice into fighting abilities formidable enough to get him hired as a bodyguard and trainer in the imperial court.  It is unclear to what degree the art he presented already existed as a practice or was instead his own synthesis of various martial arts and Daoist concepts.

Much of the spiraling arm motion leading with fingers in Guangping taiji are quite similar to some movement in bagua, as does much of the footwork in the bigger turns.

Yiquan

Unlike xingyi, bagua or taijiquan, yiquan doesn’t rely at all on “forms” or prescribed fighting techniques, but instead relies almost solely on practices like that develop and express internal power.

Yiquan was developed by Wang Xiangzhai, a martial artist who studied Xingyi from childhood, proved his ability in countless challenges and then criticized the established methods of practicing internal martial arts for overemphasizing external aspects, like the prescribed sets of techniques that are believed to be effective in fighting.  Wang named his practice “yiquan,” which are the characters for “xingyiguan” with the character for “form” taken out.  The art is also known as “dachenquan (great achievement fist).”

The Universal Post that is practiced along with Guangping taijiquan is an yiquan practice.

Taijiquan

Taijiquan, or taiji, taichi, etc., is well known in many of it’s common forms and is the most commonly practiced qigong exercise around the world.  As xingyi is recognized as linear and bagua as circular, taiji can be described as a series of spiraling movements that flow from one into another.  The power in taiji is developed according to qigong and Chinese medical theories through forms practice and standing meditation, and is supported by other qigong activities and stretching.

Taijiquan, like xingyi, has a history that traceable back to its early development, while the actual origin is commonly explained in legends that are not likely to be historically accurate.

A Daoist monk named Zhang Sanfeng is credited in popular myth as the beginning of taijiquan (and all internal martial arts, for that matter).  According to the legend, he was a master of both Shaolin-based martial arts and qigong, and created the integration known as taijiquan after he witnessed a duel between a snake and a crane.

The more historically reliable account of taiji begins with Chen Wangting.  Legend has it that he inherited the art through the lineage beginning with the above-mentioned Zhang Sanfeng, but it is more likely that he developed taiji through synthesizing his military expertise with Daoist understandings of developing qi and the merdians through which the qi flows in the body.

All contemporary taichi practices trace origins back to Chen Wangting, including Guangping, the art that Yang Luchan, a former servant in the Chen family, kept to himself and his sons while he was openly teaching a simpler form.

For further discussion or for instruction in Guangping Taijiquan, you are welcome to click here to get in touch, or call Michael at 512.791.3296.

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