This chapter, “王春清校長與曾歷強師傅談意力拳 / Principal Wong Chun Ching and Sifu Chin Lik Keong Discuss I Liq Chuan” is from the book 武林名師專訪集 / Wu Lin Ming Shi Zhuan Fang Ji (Compilation of Interviews from Famous Martial Arts Masters), by 黄煜玲 / Wong, Yoke-Leng. Published: Petaling Selangor, 1979. pp-pp. 17-20.
(View a PDF of the original Chinese here.)
English Translators: Jeffrey Wong, Chen-dao Lin
In a recent year, our area (Malaysia) newly formed a martial arts association, named “I Liq Chuan Association”; this newly organized martial arts group is currently speeding up its activities. Under the promotions by a group of enthusiasts, it is plausible that given some time, branches will be set up in different places; then, it may become one of the most popular Chinese martial art systems.
What is I Liq Chuan? According to this association’s Vice President Wong Chun Ching and Head Instructor Chin Lik Keong, and as its name suggests, this martial art is an expression of a combined utilization of one’s mental awareness and physical strength, and is a type of internal martial arts style. This style of martial art shared close origins with Xing Yi Quan and Tai Ji Quan. Head Instructor Chin has learned from Master Lee Kim Chow and other Chinese martial arts. He then integrated the essence of various styles. He also formed the I Liq Chuan Association with a group of martial artists who shared the same goals and visions.
The VP of the association Wong Chun Ching is also a principal of an English school in Kampung Pandan Village in Malaysia, but he is very enthusiastic toward Chinese martial arts, and loves to study them as well. One of the association’s training halls is located in his school’s gymnasium. According to Mr. Wong, Lee Kim Chow studied under second generation disciple of Zhang San Feng [Translator’s note by Jeff Wong: this has to be a mistake, or it’s not possible because ZSF is probably from about 700 years ago if he even really existed.] So the art also shared some lineage with Wu Dang style. In related legends, during the Ching dynasty (1636-1911), residents from the Feng Yang area (mideastern China), some of them martial art experts, had to leave their hometown to make a living due to hardship and poverty there. Many of their methods of making a living included performing their arts in the streets, so at that time they were called the “nomad tribe”, and have no specific style names, but some people also referred to them as “Feng Yang clan”.
The “I” in I Liq Chuan is one’s awareness in the brain, sent from hands’ sense of touch to the brain, and uses such “Yi” to provide power, and then spread to each joint in the body.
Focus on Sticky Hands, Change Accordingly
Mr. Wong said I Liq Chuan emphasizes sticky-hands practices. The so-called “sticky hands” can also be called “push hands”. The “I” in I Liq Chuan is one’s awareness in the brain, sent from hands’ sense of touch to the brain, and uses such “Yi” to provide power, and then spread to each joint in the body. So the awareness controls the usage of the force, and enables it to achieve accuracy. I Liq Chuan is based on one’s natural abilities, and allows the practitioner to freely obtain development and can change according to the conditions. I Liq Chuan can defeat an opponent’s defense, and can conquer the foe’s strength. If you cannot grasp this art’s principles, it is not easy to know the inner secrets.
I Liq Chuan does not have many forms. Most crucial is learning sticky hands. After having a good foundation, then one can learn the forms. The important forms include Butterfly Palms and Nine-Point Hand et cetera. A high level expert from the association, Liu Zhao Nan (Lau Siu Nam), performed in their training hall these two forms which aimed to develop one’s internal power. The performer fully displayed the two forms’ best qualities. These were must-learn forms for I Liq Chuan’s power training.
The head instructor, Sifu Chin Lik Keong, said I Liq Chuan does not have fixed techniques, it is a style of freely developed martial art, but heavily focused on hip rotations, hand methods, and footwork, especially when both partners stuck their hands together. It is important to win with unorthodox attacks, using joint locks and throws to defeat the opponents. To control an opponent, one must cause the opponent to lose balance, then the hip and waist must be strong and have sufficient power, so that even with minimal movements can disturb opponent’s balance. When the opponent loses support for balance, his punching or kicking will not be easy. So we say our martial art has no fixed techniques; most importantly, we must concentrate and be mindful, then it will be possible to change according to the situations to control the opponent.
Because the learning methods of I Liq Chuan have no fixed techniques, sticky hands training is most common, which starts from simple to complex, and that is where it differs from other martial arts’ training methods. Other arts can practice the same particular technique in groups; I Liq Chuan can only be taught and learned individually. The student’s talent and ability for comprehension are very important, because this art is formless, and depend on the person’s awareness to utilize power. They do not focus on stagnant stances, but rely on frequent practices, gradually becoming familiar to the sensitivity on touch, then at the instant of contact with an opponent, one can naturally defeat motion with stillness.
Mind, Energy, and Power Unified as One
During a demonstration with Coach Chin and one of his students Heow Man Cheun (Hou Wan Quan/Jimmy Heow), they proved I Liq Chuan, although a formless art, but in application there is a certain method. His student Heow Man Cheun won the B group championship in the 1975 National Karate Open competition. According to him, he said he has only learned I Liq Chuan, and never learned Karate, yet during the competition he must obey Karate rules to win points. He believes I Liq Chuan is best for use in joint locks. If gloves were not required, it would have been more convenient to apply various hand techniques.
I Liq Chuan sticky hands and Tai Chi’s push-hands both focus on the path of the power on the hands. Sticky-hands is also called “Jip Sao” or Receiving (or Connecting) Hands. In this martial art, as soon as the opponent moves, there is an opportunity to connect, then find an opening or weakness by which to control the opponent. If the opponent tries to strike first, I Liq Chuan’s hand will not give the opponent any way to punch, then this affords the opportunity to connect with opponent’s hands. I Liq Chuan often maintains physical balance points, because the body must maintain balance to allow punching and kicking with power. But in order to not lose center of mass during movements, it will rely on mental and physical control and balance, while the stance requires “a bow in the front, and an arrow on the back.” This must rely on expanding the chest and folding the stomach, unifying the mind, energy, awareness, and strength as one, to attack and defend freely, all while the extremities change without stoppage. So the power is in the wrists, and then energy is at the finger tips. The movements are natural, but the mind is still, and breathing is comfortable; all the extremities can move agilely to defeat the opponent by taking advantage of the foe’s unreadiness. I Liq Chuan moves with the entire body in a balanced manner, expressing an inward attention and creating an outward power. The power is born from attention. The agility of the extremities depend on whether the mindfulness is swift. When the mind, energy, and power are unified, the movements are free.
Since I Liq Chuan (意力拳) and TaiJiQuan appear probably to share similar origins, practicing I Liq Chuan requires the internalization of thoughts and concentration of the mind. Practicing “I/Yi” (意) will provide good training for the brain as well as promote agility and nimbleness of the central nervous system. Improving these abilities will sharpen adaptability to different environments. The goal is to respond to changes at will upon contact and be able to manifest power or “Li” (力) through energy or “Jin”( 勁). Therefore, “Yi” and “Li” complement each other. When training reaches a certain level, it is possible to cultivate superior qualities of perseverance, durability, sensitivity, calmness, and concentration in the practitioner.
During the I Liq Chuan demonstrations, one can observe that this style emphasizes stillness within movements as well as movement within stillness, at times using “Yi” and not “Li”, which is like transforming from “WuJi” to “TaiJi”. Since there are no fixed moves in sticky hands and the practice’s main aim is to control the opponent’s center of gravity, it is most important to use “Yi” to manifest “Li”. The key to achieve an excellent level of internal energy is through each individual’s own dedicated practice; it takes hard work to be able to unify one’s own body parts and movement. Beginners may feel that there are not that many variations in these movements; that is because the practitioner has not fully grasped the intricacies. Over time with in-depth studies, one may understand the subtleties and be able to use “Yi” to manifest “Li”.
The characteristics of Chinese internal martial arts are all quite similar in nature; TaiJiQuan, XingYiQuan, BaGuaQuan, DaChengQuan (Yi Quan) and I Liq Chuan are fundamentally alike in the deployment of “Jin” and utilization of “Yi”. Therefore, many Chinese martial arts enthusiasts cross-train other styles. These martial arts pay great attention to the coordination of hands, eyes, body and movements. I Liq Chuan pays particular attention to the deployment of “Qi” (氣) and posture of the body during sticky hand practices. This is the same concept as TaiJiQuan’s classic phrase “suspend the crown” and “tuck in the chest and raise the back”. The “I/Yi” in I Liq Chuan incorporates thoughts, awareness, and mind. I Liq Chuan emphasizes the ability to fully “utilize Yi”; therefore, when deploying “Yi” correctly, “Li” is moved at will without obstruction.
At a higher level, I Liq Chuan is all about “Yi”, not physical movements, the true return to simplicity.
Softness can Overcome Hardness; Hardness and Softness Check and Balance Each Other
Mr. Wong Chun Ching says that I Liq Chuan’s practice focuses on “Yi”; it uses “Yi” to harness “Li”, transforms “Li” to “Jin”, overcomes hardness with softness, with complements of softness and hardness. This art practices sticky hands primarily. The sticky hands practice stabilizes stances and therefore practitioners cannot be easily moved. This includes the circular and spherical movement of hands and body, looseness in motions, and utilizing the skin’s sensation to practice “Yi”. The result will be the unification of mind “Yi” and body to be adaptable in any situation.
He also says training various parts of the body to use circular motions to deflect on-coming force and affect the opponent’s center of gravity is key to the practice. Combine this with concentrating in order to achieve the “know thyself and know thy enemy” level. As for the cultivation of “Jin”, it comes from the continuous spiral rotation of all the joints: fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, waist, hip, knees and ankles to produce the internal “Jin”. From loose evolve to the mindful suppleness, eliminate the original rigidity and hardness; then a new force, “Jin”, is cultivated. Though, be aware that there are localized “Jin” and the systemic “Jin”.
He continues to explain that I Liq Chuan’s movements pay particular attention to the precision of spacing, timing, and angles. Small discrepancies may lead to large errors. Being able to combine concentration of the mind and the skillful usage of “Jin” is the key to attain all the practical functions of stick, jam, lead, extract, release, seize, lock, kick, strike, throw… etc. At a higher level, I Liq Chuan is all about “Yi”, not physical movements, the true return to simplicity.
I Liq Chuan is an internal style. All internal styles emphasize some form of sticky hands practice. Sticky hands exemplifies much of the internal style’s strengths and merits. Sticky hands is similar to TaiJi’s push hands, and is a type of training in Chinese martial arts that integrates many practical applications including kicking, striking, throwing, and grappling. When applied in practice, it is highly effective in nullifying opponents.