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 ~

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Evolution of Tang Shou Dao Xingyiquan

Below is an excerpt from the Kingdom Warrior Academy blog about the evolution of the Tang Shou Dao school of Xingyiquan. The full post may be read here.

When I started in the internal arts, I began in the Shen Long TST lineage. I didn’t really know a lot of the unique history of the lineage, and I was curious. I asked my teacher questions, his teacher questions, and searched voraciously to learn as much as I could about the origin of this lineage of which I was now a part.

I found the TST line to be unique, it had clearly gone through an evolution of sorts that set it apart from the typical Xing Yi Quan I was seeing online and represented in books. It was subtle, mostly. A larger emphasis on the rear step to root the power, scaled down movements in terms of size to emphasize shorter power, a tighter fighting guard in the san ti shi, and some unique waist mechanics to create the power. But it also possessed some things that no other line of Xing Yi in the world had… the 8 step forms.

There were 5 forms that were used as introductory forms in the TST line, specifically the Shen Long TST line. Namely:

1. Babuda
2. Balienshou
3. Bashou
4. Batangquan
5. Meihuatui

There were a few others that were unique to this line as well that did not clearly scream that they belonged to the art of Xing Yi Quan specifically. The TST line was unique in a number of ways that I will just list:

1. the addition of forms not found in other XYQ lineages
2. the way it was organized
3. it combined the three big internals (xing yi, ba gua, and tai ji)
4. the use of uniforms and belts (sashes)

While there were other lineages that also taught all three arts, none of them did it the way that the TST line did, or not so I was aware in all my research.

The first question I wanted to know was what happened to bagua and taiji? You see, historically all three had been in my lineage, but now only the one art was. I found out that my teacher’s teacher had never learned the other two from his teacher (Xu HongJi) before he had died. After a while, I realized that in all my research – I had never found a student of Xu HongJi who had learned either Ba Gua or Tai Ji from him. It made me wonder if Xu had even learned those arts from his teacher, Hong Yi Xiang.  Alas, I will probably never know the answer to that question. My gut says, probably not, or not in their entirety.  But either way, I do not believe he chose to incorporate them into his schools curriculum. I was told by one student of Xu that Hong was not given permission to teach the BGZ or TJQ from his teacher, Zhang Jun Feng. I will circle back to this point later.

Let’s go back in time to the early 1900’s. Tian Jian, China was a popular place for the internal stylists to live and teach. We know that Gao Yi Sheng lived there, as did Li Cun Yi. They were the primary source of knowledge for Zhang Jun Feng, who was a merchant that studied privately with these two men. He learned Hebei Xing Yi from Li Cun Yi and what would later be termed Gao style (a Cheng style) Ba Gua from Gao Yi Sheng. Somewhere along the way, he learned Wu-Hao (a Yang derivative) style Tai Ji, but we don’t know from whom. In 1948, he was forced to leave China because of the Communist revolution. He settled in Taiwan with a large number of other Chinese immigrants. He didn’t have much luck with his business, so he fell back on teaching the martial arts, as he had gained some attention for his skills. He opened up the Yi Zong school, a name given to his line of Ba Gua from Gao Yi Sheng.  Doctor Kenneth Fish trained with him some time after that and reports that he taught BaShou and BaShi at that time, so we know that those 2 forms pre-dated the TST formation. From other research it was clear that many lines of Xing Yi taught a form called Bashi so that one was even older than Zhang himself. I have not found any other lineage of Xing Yi or Ba Gua that teaches Bashou, and it is a clear fusion of the Xing Yi animals and the linear Gao forms, so it is likely that it is post Gao Yi Sheng, maybe even a creation of Zhang himself.

Zhang became quite successful at teaching the martial arts, even training the Taiwanese President and some of the military commanders of the time (this becomes relevant in my Ba Gua lineage which I trained in much later). He eventually began training three siblings. Hong Yi Xiang, Hong Yi Mian, and Hong Yi Wen. Each one of them were either given a specialty by Zhang or just grew into them organically. Yi Xiang was the Xing Yi guy, Yi Mian Ba Gua, and Yi Wen Tai Ji. As far as I know, Yi Wen never taught much, if at all. But Yi Mian and Yi Xiang both taught (together and separately, I believe). It is my understanding that they all learned all three arts. At some point in time, Hong Yi Xiang began his own school, Tang Shou Dao (Tao). Literally it means “Chinese hand way”, I find it hard to believe he was not referencing Karate, which originally translated the same way before Funikoshi changed it to “empty hand way”. Hong was known to have a great appreciation for the way the Japanese arts were taught, and supposedly it was a trip to Japan that inspired him to organize his curriculum the way he did. He even borrowed the uniforms and belts as well as many exercises for conditioning.

When Hong created the TST, he was apparently very rigid in the way he progressed people through the material, at least that is what is believed if you watched the BBC documentary on him. I believe he relaxed this significantly later in his life, if not abandoning it completely eventually.


No comments: