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 ~

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Chinese Internal Martial Arts Master B.P. Chan

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at Kenneth Cohen's QiGong Healing website, as a remembrance of one of his teachers, B.P. Chan. The full post may be read here.

On March 17, 2002, B P. Chan, one of the first generation of qigong teachers in North America, passed into spirit. Chan, born on May 30, 1922 in Fujian Province, China, lived for many years in the Philippines, and, finally, moved to New York City, where he lived for the rest of his life.

When Chan arrived in New York City in 1974, he planned to stay for about six months, long enough to teach a basic course in Bagua Zhang, one of the “inner martial arts” (nei jia quan) related to Taiji Quan, at the studio of his friend and colleague, William C. C. Chen. Not wishing to miss the rare opportunity to study with a teacher and person of Chan’s caliber, students flocked to his classes. Six months later, he decided to “visit” a bit longer, to teach the next level of Bagua Zhang, as well as an introductory course in Xing Yi Quan and Chen Style Taiji Quan. Within a year, he had decided to remain in the United States.

Chan began studying Chinese healing, contemplative, and martial arts as a young child. He learned Taoist meditation and qigong from monks and masters at the An De Guan (安德觀 Monastery of Peaceful Virtue), not far from his home. At age 11, Chan began training in Northern Shaolin Boxing with Master Lian Dak Fung, and not long thereafter learned Taiji Ruler Qigong 先天氣功太極尺 from Lui Chow-Munk, a direct student of the system’s greatest proponent, Zhao Zhongdao. 

He also studied with the famed Master of Wu Zu Quan (Five Ancestors Boxing 五祖拳) Chen Jingming 陳景銘, from whom he learned Fujian White Crane Boxing, Standing Meditation (Zhan Zhuang), and various qigong techniques. Chan was deeply connected with the tradition of Sun Lutang 孫祿堂 through his training in various arts (most likely Xingyi Quan 形意拳) with Sun's famed disciple Zheng Huaixian (1897-1981) 鄭懷賢. 

In the Philippines, he continued cultivating the Tao and learning Bagua Zhang and Xingyi Quan with Liang Jici 梁紀慈 (Leung Kay-Chi in Cantonese), with whom he taught for many years. I have also heard from some of Chan's other students that Chan may have learned Xingyi Quan from Chow Chang-Hoon, though I was unable to corroborate this during his lifetime.

Chan probably had other teachers as well, including combat instructors in the military. He knew and taught Yunnan Consecutive Step Boxing 雲南連步拳, which was part of standard training for Nationalist troops during the Second World War. I have pieced these details together over the years, through bits he shared, conversations with colleagues, and research. Chan rarely spoke about his background. He was an incredibly humble and honorable man who did not wish to attract attention or admiration; nor did he seek fame because of his lineage. He taught qigong and martial arts out of love of the arts and in a spirit of service. 

Chan was an avid reader and deep thinker. He especially admired the book "A Study of Xingyi Quan" 形意拳學 by Sun Lutang 孫祿堂 and often, during private classes, quoted passages from it. He also loved the inner martial arts writings of Jiang Rongqiao 姜容樵. Chan was constantly refining his practice and teaching style.
A biographical sketch gives little indication of the extraordinary range of B. P. Chan’s skills. When I lived in New York City during the 1970s, he was teaching classes in Yang and Chen Style Taiji Quan; Bagua Zhang; Xingyi Quan; Yunnan Boxing; Taoist Meditation; Taiji Ruler Qigong; Lying Down Qigong (Wo Gong); Standing Meditation, and more. Yet, Chan was no dilettante. He had a comprehensive understanding of the systems he taught, and when students were ready, he organized intermediate and advanced level classes. Xing Yi Quan students progressed from the Five Element Exercises to the Twelve Animals, to fluid “linking forms” that combined elements and animals in graceful choreography, and, finally, to two-person martial application sets.

Similarly, the Taiji Ruler course included multiple levels of training. At first students learned gentle rocking exercises in which the hands make vertical or horizontal circles, designed to build a strong reservoir of qi in the dan tian. Later they learned the rarely-taught advanced techniques, such as the Taiji Ball. While standing, the student holds a stone or wooden ball between the fingers or palms, several inches in front of the dan tian. This develops qi and strength. Or he or she rolls the ball on a table top to develop tactile sensitivity and “listening” (聽勁) ability– a student who can “listen,” that is sense energy, can feel blockages and detect illness in the body and, in the martial arts or other sports, can anticipate an opponent’s moves.


PeterD said...

Interesting and almost complete, there is no references to astrology, qi is deeply tied to understanding this art, along with herbs and diet. Westerners look at an old CHinese character and do not realize it is often 2 or 3 layered on top and pulling them part in the right order reveals hidden secrets. My master showed me this, then demonstrated it to me.

Rick Matz said...

Peter, thanks for visiting. Do you have an example about the Hanzi? I welcome guest articles.