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Thread: History of Yi Quan

  1. #1

    History of Yi Quan

    Can anybody give me an "In-depth" history lesson on Yi Quan?

    I never really thought about it until recently, and many of it's concepts and ideas are so intruging, logical, and out of the box! It's something unique, yet it isn't really known outside of the Gong Fu world... The idea that it doesn't use qi, yet it is considered an internal martial art is odd. Could it originate from the Muslim side of Gong Fu? Thanks!
    "He who say's does not know, he who knows does not say"

    "True Gong Fu is practicing in the coldest days of winter and the dog days of summer"

    "Don't try, do"

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    Yiquan has a xingyi /xinyi background which Hui tended to practice before it became widespread. Prior to the end of the Qing, Yiquan became prominent and absorbed more folk utility training as opposed to the secretive family styles and how they promoted skillful disciples.

    http://www.yiquannet.com/en/

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackEChan View Post
    Can anybody give me an "In-depth" history lesson on Yi Quan?

    I never really thought about it until recently, and many of it's concepts and ideas are so intruging, logical, and out of the box! It's something unique, yet it isn't really known outside of the Gong Fu world... The idea that it doesn't use qi, yet it is considered an internal martial art is odd. Could it originate from the Muslim side of Gong Fu? Thanks!
    Dear BlackEchan, yiquan has an eclectic history, and this changes from person person. That some yiquan practioners draw elements from Muslim kung fu is clearly true. However, one of the most overlooked aspects of yiquan’s history is its relationship to socialist thought.

    Yiquan’s founder, Wang Xiang Zhai, described yiquan as a way to improve health for the peaceful pursuit of socialism. Thesedays, especially for (some, though by no means all) Americans I suspect, it sometimes seems inconceivable that anyone could genuinely be interested in socialism, so there is, perhaps, a tendency to think that everyone in China was merely being forced to support socialism at the time of the Revolution. This is far from the truth – and very far from the truth with yiquan. Wang was applying Marxist concepts to the development of yiquan at its very core levels – and these cannot be extracted from yiquan. As far as I am concerned, yiquan is the martial art of socialism. Yiquan is an example of Marx’s ‘dialectic’ philosophy applied to physical movement; hence Wang’s strong emphasis on dialectics – and his regular use of this term and concept in Marxist terms.

    The dialectic interplay between stillness and movement, hard and soft, slow and explosive, health and fighting, system and freedom, form and fluidity – amongst many others in Yiquan (such as traditional and modern, internal/external, Chinese and foreign, sport and self-defence) often cause confusion with people who don’t understand dialectics. Dialectics rejects simplistic, singular interpretations of things, arguing instead that many phenomena don’t have one ‘truth’, but are ‘active’ phenomena, consisting of active contradictions even at their very core.

    The idea is that out of these contradictions emerges the next phase of development of a phenomena. This is an ancient idea, represented in yin/yang, and spoken of by Aristotle. Marx applied this idea to society but Wang applied it – or recognised this old truth – in martial arts.

    In my view, most people never really ‘get’ Wang’s ideas because they can’t think dialectically. That’s why on other forums you will hear people argue endlessly about whether ‘yiquan’ represents some sort of ultimate, transcendent ‘essence of martial art’, or whether it is a set system of exercises. In fact, yiquan ‘is’ a dialectic combination of both of these – but people don’t ‘get’ that a dialectic combination is mutually interactive, mutually contradictory, and that it is out of this contradiction that something new and interesting emerges. At least in theory.

    And perhaps the key dialectic contradiction emerges between ‘yiquan’ itself and the individual who practices it. This is key because in reality there is no ‘yiquan’, but only individuals who are enjoying practicing its method. There is no ‘yiquan’ that can be owned by any group or individuals. It only ‘exists’ in terms of the actual level of actual individuals – hence, it is entirely illegitimate for anyone to claim any ‘legitimacy’ beyond their actual level, no matter who they trained with.

    That there is only ‘your’ yiquan, and not ‘yiquan’, and yet there ‘is’ yiquan, is probably the most difficult dialectic contradiction to grasp. But it is also the most liberating and useful in my view. Yiquan practitioners with little knowledge of Marxist thought probably never really get this origin of Wang’s ideas either. I think it is simply a lack of historical awareness firstly of what Marx actually argued, and secodnly of how influential his ideas were at the time - possibly because dialectics is in harmony with some aspects of traditional Chinese philosophy.

    “Qi” is another idea in this vein. Does it means something to you? Then it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, even old Wang. People use this term in different ways anyway – dialectics is far from being merely a Marxist concept; lots of people use terms fluidly. However, part of the socialist aspect of Wang’s thought was the elimination of superstitious thought. He was also interested in eliminating traditional lineage structures – which seems iconoclastic, perhaps, to those who feel that such things are important – but Wang saw that people should be judged solely on their own level, and the only way to do that was to eliminate kudos through lineage and replace it with a modern sporting concept of simple kudos to those who earn it themselves.

    I know this doesn’t precisely answer your question – however, if what you were getting at was that yiquan rejected qi because of Muslim origins then that’s not true. Wang rejected traditional notions of qi later in life because of a drive to modernise martial art into a dialectic science. However, individual Muslim or other religious practitioners of yiquan might find that this is very usefully in harmony with their religious views. Hope that helps.

    I should say, of course, one need not be a Marxist to practice or enjoy yiquan - this is just an historical and time-specific aspect of its philosophical development; one often overlooked.
    Last edited by Miqi; 04-12-2013 at 05:49 AM.

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    For those who find this difficult to accept.... This article partly discusses the importance of dialectical materialism in yiquan:

    http://www.yiquannet.com/en/Article/...?ArticleID=131

  5. #5
    WOW, that's allot of stuff, but I enjoyed it! I was kinda looking for the origins of the martial art, whether it has to do with Shaolin or Wudang, etc.

    But, what you posted was good enough. At least I now know a ton more of yi quan than I did before. All this yi yang concepts of dualism really boggle my mind, and I prefer very simple things (which is how interpreted yi quan when I first came across it).
    However, I guess that's the whole point. I'm too lazy to think hard and deep about the entire philosophy, and when I do, it creates anxiety and stress because of all the things that I have to remember and know of (even though I shouldn't be trying to remember anything {you can see where I'm getting at}, trying is against
    "nature" and harmony ).
    So if I interpret what you're saying correctly, a proper yi quan practitioner wouldn't or shouldn't judge me by my lineage, how I learned "my" yi quan, or how authentic/legitimate it is?
    "He who say's does not know, he who knows does not say"

    "True Gong Fu is practicing in the coldest days of winter and the dog days of summer"

    "Don't try, do"

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    I would say that any CMA that looks to the period after the Republican era and even pre Nationalist mainland, that much of CMA and qigong has been propped up by Marxist propaganda as a way to renew the art but that is not the true art.

    The base of yiquan was xingyi/xin yi and the originator in one of his books has always stated that it is the end result that is the true reality of any art. I am not talking gymnastic nandu or other stuff. The neigong of xingyi /xin yi has always been far more advanced to other CMA and that template was the forerunner of the CQB that was taught by the Chinese military. Marxism has nothing to do with yiquan but I am sure it is an excellent read if one has interest

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackEChan View Post
    WOW, that's allot of stuff, but I enjoyed it! I was kinda looking for the origins of the martial art, whether it has to do with Shaolin or Wudang, etc.

    But, what you posted was good enough. At least I now know a ton more of yi quan than I did before. All this yi yang concepts of dualism really boggle my mind, and I prefer very simple things (which is how interpreted yi quan when I first came across it).
    However, I guess that's the whole point. I'm too lazy to think hard and deep about the entire philosophy, and when I do, it creates anxiety and stress because of all the things that I have to remember and know of (even though I shouldn't be trying to remember anything {you can see where I'm getting at}, trying is against
    "nature" and harmony ).
    So if I interpret what you're saying correctly, a proper yi quan practitioner wouldn't or shouldn't judge me by my lineage, how I learned "my" yi quan, or how authentic/legitimate it is?

    Hi BlackEchan,
    As regards your question, the reality of Chinese martial arts is that people will judge your ‘lineage’. That is clear from countless threads about such issues on various forums. Everyone, including myself, is always interested in who people trained with – but my coach told me once that “if you can do it, you can do it” meaning that it doesn’t really matter where you learned something from if you can actually do it. (I have to say, though, he did believe one pretty much always had to have a good teacher). One of Wang’s students, Kenichi Sawai, said that it is possible to learn something even from a photograph. Personally, I think a good teacher is important – but in many ways how much time you spend practicing on your own is what makes the difference. The essence of yiquan is you – unfolding your natural ability; again another ‘dialectic contradiction’: yiquan is, in theory, a contradiction between something natural and something learned.

    In the Chinese martial arts world people will ‘judge’ you anyway. That can be healthy or it can be crass. Personally, I would say just hold fast to the idea of improving your level.

    Yiquan’s origins, in terms of Wang Xiang Zhai’s ideas, are very eclectic, drawing on different aspects of taiji, white crane, xing yi, bagua, western boxing and other elements that Wang thought were useful. Each practitioner however has their own interests, skills and natural capabilities which influence the development of their own expression of yiquan. However, the basic, core exercises of standing pole, slow movement, explosive movement, are intended to create a ‘whole body connectivity’ which can be applied to different techniques and which usually gives a certain ‘flavour’ to yiquan movement. Another ‘dialectic contradiction’ is between what yiquan ‘was’ and its adaptation to what is now. New ‘problems’ face martial arts thesedays – such as the problems’ of grappling, the development of western boxing, the growth of MMA or even how to develop simple self defence programmes. Wang hoped that yiquan would adapt to and learn from new developments and needs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mawali View Post
    I would say that any CMA that looks to the period after the Republican era and even pre Nationalist mainland, that much of CMA and qigong has been propped up by Marxist propaganda as a way to renew the art but that is not the true art.

    The base of yiquan was xingyi/xin yi and the originator in one of his books has always stated that it is the end result that is the true reality of any art. I am not talking gymnastic nandu or other stuff. The neigong of xingyi /xin yi has always been far more advanced to other CMA and that template was the forerunner of the CQB that was taught by the Chinese military. Marxism has nothing to do with yiquan but I am sure it is an excellent read if one has interest
    Dear Mawali,
    Thanks for the input but I’m afraid you’re quite off base there. Even the site you linked to discusses yiquan's relationship with historical materialism.

    I can understand people thinking that martial artists in China just ‘bolted on’ some Marxist terms to survive in a Communist regime, but in this case that is simply, factually, and demonstrably incorrect. Dialectics is the core idea in yiquan. In fact, without it, there is no yiquan ‘method’ at all.

    The piece of the puzzle that people are usually missing is that when Wang was young, dialectical materialism was a very influential idea, and it probably seemed much more in harmony with Chinese philosophy than dialectical materialism's contemporary rival, positivism. Positivism doesn't have this sense of contradictory forces at the centre of important phenomena, which Wang adapted as the key yiquan concept. This comes directly from Marx.

    It could be, of course, that the whole idea of dialectical materialism, and/or its application in yiquan is a failure. But the idea that Wang didn't adopt dialectical materialism into yiquan is simply factually untrue, as is the claim that he did so simply as a sop to communism.

    And if it were that dialecitcal materialism is only in yiquan as some kind of attempt to fit in with communism, then yiquan has a real problem because without the dialectical method then yiquan is nothing but an early form of Jeet Kune Do. And we would also have to abandon pretty much everything Wang and Yao Zong Xun wrote about yiquan and its training methods - which, again, would just leave a kind of JKD. Part of the problem thesedays is that few people really know what 'dialectic materialism' is, hence, they don't recognise its adaptation in yiquan.

    Still - the world is big enough for us to have different views on this; but myself, Wang and the Yaos are all arguing that dialectics IS the essential concept in yiquan. Hope that helps. Thanks for the discussion.
    Last edited by Miqi; 04-13-2013 at 08:23 AM.

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    Thanks Miqi!

    Some great points! Mao infused Marxist rhetoric as a counterbalance to the superstitious and often lack of forward thinking when he took charge. As a result, and in order to be seen as the New Era, many teachers (CMA) took to also couching their training in these terms. It was part of getting rid of the old and bring in the new. Mao was far more skilled in this level of education because he lack the "native training" of his counterparts. Many of the rhymes associated with family methods utilized this 'double meaning" as a way to throw off the new while still keeping the old.

    My closese reference is this seminal work by David Palmer, where one sees the strategy of Marxist propaganda taken to odd levels and how people dealth with 'change'.

    Qigong by Palmer, David Body Science and Utopia in China
    http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-S...eywords=qigong

    One's learning of yiquan SHOULD HAVE NOTHING to do with political ideology. Skilll gained through diligent practice is the end result and always should be. Wang did borrow, what he considered intrinsic features of other style ONLY because what he saw, in the mein, was not reflective of true skill in any art.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mawali View Post
    Thanks Miqi!

    Some great points! Mao infused Marxist rhetoric as a counterbalance to the superstitious and often lack of forward thinking when he took charge. As a result, and in order to be seen as the New Era, many teachers (CMA) took to also couching their training in these terms. It was part of getting rid of the old and bring in the new. Mao was far more skilled in this level of education because he lack the "native training" of his counterparts. Many of the rhymes associated with family methods utilized this 'double meaning" as a way to throw off the new while still keeping the old.

    My closese reference is this seminal work by David Palmer, where one sees the strategy of Marxist propaganda taken to odd levels and how people dealth with 'change'.

    Qigong by Palmer, David Body Science and Utopia in China
    http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-S...eywords=qigong

    One's learning of yiquan SHOULD HAVE NOTHING to do with political ideology. Skilll gained through diligent practice is the end result and always should be. Wang did borrow, what he considered intrinsic features of other style ONLY because what he saw, in the mein, was not reflective of true skill in any art.
    Hi Mawali,
    Thanks for the insight and useful link. I absolutely agree - one's level in yiquan, or in anything, is simply what you've achieved, regardless of who you are, what you believe, where you're from or who you trained with.

    I also agree that yiquan is nothing to do with any particular ideology. The idea of a 'dialectic contradiction' is one part of Marx's thought, but is not necessarily connected with his wider socialist thought, nor did Marx invent the idea of dialectics. Personally, I suspect a lot of Chinese people, including Wang, simply recognised something that was already well known in Chinese philosophy when they heard of the new 'western' idea of opposites in contradictory interplay called 'dialectics'. Far and away more important is what that actually achieved in practical terms.

    Wow - thanks for the almost unique experience of a useful, friendly and informative internet discussion!

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