Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Bruce Lee and Yiquan

I had read that along with Wing Chun, Bruce Lee had had some instruction in Taijiquan while he lived in Hong Kong. I was not aware of his ever training in any other martial arts while in Hong Kong.

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Be Not Defeated by the Rain, which gives the background, and history of a master Liang Zi Peng, who reputedly taught Bruce Lee Yiquan. The full post may be read here.

The Story of Liang Zi Peng and Bruce Lee
When Bruce Lee was in Hong Kong he had studied Choy Lay Fut with Chen Nian Bo and studied the Jing Wu sets and Tan Tui with Xiao Han Sheng, studied Wing Chun with Yip Man and last of all had studied Yiquan with Liang Zi Peng.
At that time Liang would teach in King's Park in Ho Man Tin, walking along the path stopping at each student he would correct them in sequence.
At that time Lee's father Lee Hoi Chuen who was a famous opera singer, was also practicing in the park and studying Taiji under Liang and was on a friendly basis with Liang. He knew Liang was good at fighting and one day said to Liang: "My son has just come back from overseas and loves kungfu, please instruct him." Later he took him to the park to see Liang, and Liang saw that this young man was eager to learn, and asked him to stand in zhan zhuang while Liang was discussing boxing and fajin with the other students and throwing them into the air. Thus Bruce Lee was able to appreciate the power of Yiquan. 
When Liang taught, he did not care about the forms, but was intent on imparting the principles, first one had to have the frame and then have explosive power. He encouraged his students to study the manuals, to understand the principles and improve their cultivation. He told them to avoid the streets, the brawls and fighting, and stressed that boxing was one of the arts of China. Liang taught all sorts of people, whether you studied Taiji or Southern Styles, he used the principles of Yiquan to correct you, while explaining the applications at the same time and used your own movements to throw you backwards. He was much different from many teachers at the time who only taught the forms and not how to apply the movements.  
This enlightened method which encapsulated all forms of boxing, and was able to knock people down like breaking mountains and pouring out the sea, and throw people back several feet, greatly shocked Bruce Lee and expanded his horizons. 
He stated that he taught according to Wang's principles and was doing away with the feudal relationship between teacher and student.
He stated that when You Peng Xi was learning from Wang in Shanghai, he asked him to call him "Mister Wang", and not "Sifu Wang" for he wanted the martial arts to be popularized,  and to enter into modernity. So at that time Master You also asked his students to call him "Mister You." Thus when Liang was in Hong Kong he forbade his students to refer to him as Sifu, saying that in the north "Sifu" was a term that one used for taxi drivers, cooks, contractors. It was polite term for skilled manual labourers. Calling him Mister Liang, removed the distance between student and master and also did away with the embarrassment for those who came to study who were masters in their own right.
As Liang had his own profession, he did not accept fees for his lessons. He came across as a fashionable and upper class person, and always wore a suit with a tie when he went out. When teaching he wore a white long sleeved shirt with gold rimmed glasses, and looked like a scholar. This was for Bruce a world away from the lower class teachers, dressed in their singlets, who were always swearing and never far away from alcohol and cigarettes.
Bruce also often went with other students to Liang's house, which was on number 18, Austin Road in Jordan. Liang loved to move, and before they could make themselves comfortable, Liang would ask them to get up and move and do zhan zhuang. As soon as he touched them, he pushed them onto the sofa. Lee was intoxicated by the speed at which his hands shot out, without being able to settle he was already flying backwards and seeing stars.
Liang told Lee that he had been taught by You in the same way. First he had to give up each movement of the external styles, and begin again from zhan zhuang, converting the muscular resistance into true jin, before he could reach the next level of martial arts. Just like a glass which is full, if you pour more water into it, it will overflow. If you drink it, it is muddly and unclear. It is imperative to pour out the originally polluted water, before one can pour in the clear water. In order to understand the philosophy, one has to study the classics, of which Zhuang Zi and Lao Zi were the best.
When Liang came to Hong Kong, he brought along many martial arts books, he loved to read martial arts manuals, and would correct them using a red pen. He gave two books Ortohodox Zimen Style  《子門真宗》 and Chen Naizhou's Boxing Manual 《萇乃周拳譜》to Bruce, telling him to study them diligently. Eventually Bruce returned to the United States and never returned the books.


Ling Seto said...

I know for a fact that Bruce Lee studied with Han Xingyuan for a brief period of time. My teacher, Francis H T Chan was present with another student(?) who later left for SE Asia.

I had teachers from both the Liang and the Han traditions.

Rick Matz said...

Thanks for visiting!

Please check out Mr. Seto's book: