I recently received my copy of Authentic Xingyiquan by Gong Zhong Xing, translated by Franklin Fick.
Mr. Fick is the proprietor of the Spirit Dragon Institute and has translated the book from one of his teachers into English. “Authentic Xingyiquan” is available both at Shen Long Publishing and Amazon.
Mr. Fick was kind enough to take the time to provide a little more information to the readers of Cook Ding’s Kitchen.
Could you tell us a little of your background?
I was born on the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. I started training martial arts when I was around 11 or 12 years old. I fell in love with the Chinese Internal Martial Arts early on. I took my first lesson in Taiji Quan when I was 13 or 14 years old and I knew it was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I have had the good fortune to have been able to learn under several very skilled teachers and also study Taoist cultivation. My interests also led me to completing a degree in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Would you give us a brief biography of Gong Zhong Xiang?
Master Gong was a disciple of Master Chu Gui Ting. From Master Chu he learned Taiji Quan, Xing Yi Quan, Weapons, etc. Master Chu is very famous in the world of martial arts. You can search the Internet and come up with lots of stories about him. Most of the stories illustrate his high level of skill but also his morality. Master Chu was a top disciple of Taiji Grandmaster Yang Chen Fu and also a top disciple of Xing Yi Master Li Cun Yi.
Master Gong was also a disciple of Bagua Master Wang Zhuang Fei. Master Wang was a student of Gong Bao Tien.
Much more detailed information is found in the book
What was it like training under him?
Classes were held on weekends in the park. Basically the classes were self study. You practiced what you were working on either by yourself or in a small group and Master Gong would come around and offer corrections or further instruction as needed.
So on a typical class day, I would arrive at the park in the morning between 9 and 9:30am and start by stretching, warming up, chatting with other students as they arrived, and then start practicing. When everyone was at the park, people usually broke up into small groups depending on what they were working on: Taiji, Xing Yi, Bagua, Weapons, Qigong, Push Hands, etc. Master Gong would observe and go around giving corrections and teaching new material. Then near the end of the training day, he would gather everyone together to practice one round of the Yang style Taiji Long Form (even if people were not studying this- he would tell them to just follow along). Then sometimes we would all chat for a bit and then it was time to go home. On a typical day class would end somewhere between 12:30-1:30 in the afternoon.
So it was a very informal setting but at the same time it was up to you to put in the work to advance. If you put in the work you would get corrections and learn new material. For example when I started learning Xing Yi from Master Gong, he showed me San Ti Shi and that is what I had to practice. So everyday (Sat and Sun every week) I would stand in San Ti Shi from about around 9:30 to about noon when it was time for everyone to do the Taiji Form. Of course during this time I was switching legs and taking breaks, but basically my day consisted of San Ti. Master Gong would come over and give corrections sometimes but mostly it was me just standing there. So I stood there for about two and a half or three months before I learned the first element (Pi Quan).
For someone to come to the class they would be interviewed my Master Gong and he would decide if he wanted to teach them or not, so not everyone was accepted to learn. He is a very traditional teacher. I think to excel in this type of learning environment is it necessary for the student to be very motivated and to also have an understanding of Traditional Chinese culture.
Among the teachers that you've had, what is it about GZX that stood out to you?
I am not very comfortable to answer this question. I would not like to compare my teachers with each other. I am thankful to each of my teachers and cherish the relationship that I have/had with them. Because of them I have the understanding and skill that I have today. Each of them made invaluable contributions.
I can tell you some of the things that impressed me about Master Gong. He excelled at many things in his life including business, martial arts, and calligraphy. He related his daily schedule to me once and it made me feel very lazy. In my relationship with him he was always meticulous in giving me corrections, answering questions, and passing his knowledge to me. I feel that I am very fortunate to have him as my teacher.
The book is over 300 pages long in translation. There is quite a bit of material. Does the book represent all the empty hand forms of his system of Xingyiquan?
Yes, this book represents the bulk of this Xing Yi system. In addition to what is covered in the book there are two Xing Yi weapons forms: Liu He Jian (Six Harmony Straight Sword) and San He Dao (Three Harmony Broadsword). These are usually only taught to indoor students. We will be releasing some demonstration DVDs soon that will not only cover the Xing Yi open hands forms but also the weapons forms as well.
I feel that I should mention that although Master Gong is a very traditional person, I feel that his true motivation in writing this book was to really share his Xing Yi system with the world. He was very open in writing about the details of his system.
Please describe the work that goes into translating a book like this. How long did it take?
I think to translate something like this it is really important to know the subject matter. A good grasp of Chinese is not the only thing needed. We were working on this translation project for a number of years. It could have been done a lot less time if we were able to devote the necessary time to the project. I guess I can say that the reason it took so long to get this translation finished was because life kept interfering.
Is Master Gong still teaching?
Master Gong is currently retired from actively teaching.
At the end of the book, GZX introduces the BGZ that he teaches. Would you say a few words about his BGZ?
His Bagua is very unique. It comes from Wang Zhuang Fei. Master Wang learned directly from Gong Bao Tien. From what I understand, Master Wang's family was very wealthy and he did not have to teach to earn a living.
It is a very good style. I witnessed my kung fu brothers training it and the basic training advanced their skill very quickly. The basics consist of walking the circle with what other styles call a crane step, where the foot is lifted up and then stepped forward, while holding static upper body positions, the eight mother palms demonstrated in the book. This practice transforms the body very quickly.
After this the student moves on to learn the 64 palms on the circle, eight forms for each of the eight animals. And, latter there is more advanced training such as the black dragon form, piercing palms, and big and small nine palace walking.
It is a very large system. One of the DVDs that we will be releasing soon is of Master Gong demonstrating his system of Bagua.
Do you have any new projects coming up?
The projects that I have planned will take me years to complete. It’s more of an issue with finding the time to get the work done than anything else.
I think the thing that will most likely interest your readers will be our most current project. We will be releasing a set of 4 DVDs of Master Gong Zhong Xiang demonstrating his arts. These videos were shot in Shanghai in 1986 so the picture quality is not blue-ray standard but the material demonstrated is first rate. The disks will cover Master Gong's Xing Yi, Bagua, Taiji, and Weapons Arts. These DVDs will be released with the original Chinese language narration, but they are demonstrations and are not teaching DVDs so this should not be an issue.
In addition to the DVDs previously mentioned we are continuing to document Traditional Chinese Martial Arts and Qigong with instructional videos and I also have several large book projects that I have been working on with topics that include:
Nei Jia Quan Volume One: Nei Kung - Essential Exercises for Developing Internal Power
Practical Taoism: The Chinese Way to Health, Longevity, and Immortality
And in the future you might see some more translations as well; maybe.