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Yiquan (pronounced yee chuan), also known as Dachengquan, was created by Wang Xiangzhai (1890 – 1963) after a lifetime of practice and research into martial arts. Wang Xiangzhai trained in Xingyiquan under a famous master Guo Yunshen. After Guo’s death, Wang travelled extensively around China looking for top teachers.

As a result of his research into the essence of martial arts, he became convinced that far too much time and effort was spent on learning pretty movements and empty forms. He based his teaching on Xingyiquan but kept simplifying and modifying it to put greater emphasis on mental training rather than outer form.

He therefore decided to drop ‘xing’ (form) – from Xingyiquan and called his new system Yiquan – where Yi means Mind or Intent and quan means boxing.

Yi quan , also known as dacheng quan, is a martial art system which was founded by the Chinese xingyiquan master, Wang Xiangzhai (王薌齋).

History: Having learnt xingyiquan with Guo Yun Shen in his childhood, Wang Xiangzhai travelled China, meeting and comparing skills with masters of various styles of kung fu.

Kung Fu Wall Walking

In the mid-1920s, he came to the conclusion that xingyiquan was often taught wrong, with too much emphasis on ‘outer form’, neglecting the essence of true martial power.

He worked to return to what he felt was the true essence of the art using a different name, without the ‘xing’ (meaning form), and began teaching and practicing accordingly.

The style: Yiquan is essentially formless, containing no fixed sets of fighting movements or techniques. Instead, focus is put on developing ones natural movement and fighting abilities through a system of training methods and concepts, working to improve the perception of one’s body, its movement, and of force.

Another thing that sets yiquan apart from other eastern martial arts, is that traditional concepts, like qi, meridians, dan tien etc. eventually were discarded to make place for new explanations and ideas rooted in Western science, medicine and psychology. Much of this came about due to one of Wang Xiangzhai’s key philosophies, which was that yiquan was a science of martial arts, and that there always would be room for improvement. If new methods or explanations are found that help produce better results faster, they should be adopted.

Yiquan seems to have been influenced by various other arts that Wang was exposed to, include Fujian hèquán and bāguàzhǎng.

Overview: The actual training in yiquan can generally be divided into:

  • Zhan zhuang (站樁) – Motionless postures, where emphasis is put on relaxation, working to improve perception of the body and on developing Hunyuan Li, or “all round force”. Zhan zhuang can also be divided into two different types of postures; health postures and combat postures.
  • Shi li (試力) – Slow moving exercises, trying to bring the sensations developed through zhan zhuang into movements.
  • Moca bu (摩擦步) – Shi li for the legs.
  • Fa li (發力) – Exercises that teach the use of explosive force.
  • Shi Sheng (試声) – Breathing exercises, including shouting (“testing sound”)
  • Tui shou (推手) – (Pushing hands) Shi li with a partner.
  • San shou (散手) – Free fighting practice. (Also known as San Da)
  • Duan shou (斷手) – Fighting techniques, including strikes and kicks.

Schools: Two of the foremost teachers of modern yiquan are Yao Chengguang (姚承光) and Yao Chengrong (姚承榮), twin sons of Yao Zongxun (姚宗勛), whom Wang Xiangzhai appointed to be his successor. Others include Cui Ruibin of Beijing and students of the late Wang Xuanjie. Schools include the Han xing Yuan(韓星垣) School, the Li Jian Yu (李見宇) School and Han xing qiao (韓星橋)School.

Acquiring whole-body strength : This is achieved by practising Zhan Zhuang (Standing Pole) exercises. These are standing postures with the body swaying essentially in a passive manner whilst maintaining a balanced position. The mind is used to create a very calm and tranquil feeling whilst directing attention to different parts of the body as is required.

Maintaining the whole-body connection and strength whilst moving : This is achieved by practising Shi Li (Testing Strength) exercises. These are similar to Zhan Zhuang but the movements of the body are bigger and active, rather than passive. A feeling of moving against a certain resistance is created. Often the stance used is a ‘combat stance’ to practice connection to the ground while shifting weight.

Maintaining the whole-body connection and strength whilst stepping.
explanation: This is achieved by practising Mo Ca Bu (Friction Step) exercises. A feeling of dragging one’s feet through mud is maintained whilst stepping. One can think of it as Shi Li for legs.

Learning to propagate power around the whole body at will : This is achieved by more practice of the previous exercises but also as a result of Hun Yuan Zhuang (Universal Stance) and similar exercises. These exercises are sometimes called Mo Li (Sensing Strength) exercises.

Releasing strength: This is achieved by practising Fa Li (Releasing Strength) exercises. These are similar to Shi Li but practised faster. To begin with, in a soft and relaxed manner, later on with an explosive force. The whole-body connection must be maintained throughout!

Releasing strength in any direction with any part of the body.
explanation: We practise directing the power to any part of our body – so we can use feet, knees, hips, back, elbows, shoulders, hands, head – in fact (nearly) any part of our body for attack or defence. Both Fa Li and Mo Li exercises are relevant here.

Manipulating an opponent : This is achieved by practising Tui Shou (Pushing Hands) exercises. There are only two types of Pushing Hands – single and double, both in a fixed stance and with steps. All the previous skills can be tried and practised with a partner. We have to learn to maintain the whole-body connection whilst being pulled and pushed and also whilst pulling and pushing. In addition we learn control of the centre line, sensing and neutralising opponents’ power.

Augmenting strength using breath control :  This is achieved by practising Shi Sheng (Testing Voice) exercises. Until now the breathing was performed in a soft and natural manner. To further aid the body integration and power production, muscles used in breathing (thoracic intercostal muscles, the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles) and muscles of the lower back are used in Fa Li (Releasing Strength) exercises. Voice is used as an external feedback to indicate how breath is used. Later on the techniques are performed in a voiceless manner