“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.” –Thich Nhat Hanh —
We understand that it can be a challenging time for many of us due to the unknown future brought upon us by the pandemic and the grief, anger and frustration accompanying both the peaceful protests over personal suffering and systemic injustices as well as the mayhem of social unrest and violence, too. The sorrow is across the US and around the world. While it’s completely natural to experience negative emotions, and important to recognize and understand them, it is equally important to realize that we can respond with our practice—by noticing all the feelings and how the sensations rise in us, and acknowledging that our emotions are a normal part of our human, biological systems for responding to trauma. The point of recognizing is to remain aware of our oneness, of maintaining unity: with self, others, and environment. As practitioners of an art that aims to recognize neutrality, center, and stillness, we hope to share a few tips that may help in the processing of the inundation of emotions, by finding peace through balanced actions. By cultivating internal awareness, we may find that we can be with changing moments and act from a calm center.
Zhong Xin Dao has a strong reference to dynamic meditation as it is a martial art based heavily on Zen and Tao philosophies. By dynamic meditation, we are referring to a meditative type of mental state while in action. This mental state can be practiced and achieved during any activity. As the basis of establishing this mental state we must put our intention on attention and attempt to be mindful in our actions and thoughts—coming back to our center.
As a beginning we can focus this attention on our breath. We watch our breathing and observe the rise and fall of the breath. We observe the breath in a passive way, not forcing or controlling the breath. The next step is to process emotions in the same way. We observe the emotion as it begins to affect us. We observe the emotion’s state as it rises and falls. In the same way we do not force our breath, we do not force these emotions to come or go, just simply observe and recognize them. It may be helpful to associate the rise and fall of the emotions with the rise and fall of the breath.
MINDFUL ZXD EXERCISES
We suggest practicing the 15 basic exercises or the 21 form, be mindful of every move — bringing the attention to our body. We can be mindful of our environment and be mindful of our physical state. Recognize the changes and be with the moment. Unifying the mental and the physical, balancing the mind and the body to relax.
Our senses are our receiver. That’s why I keep on saying “you feel yourself being touched”; you don’t feel someone touching you.” You receive and feel through touch. On the Point of Contact, you connect.
How do you connect?
Practically speaking, everything comes down to the point of contact. So that’s why first you have to unify your self. Unify yourself means there is separation—there’s more than 1 thing: a minimum 2 things. One cannot unify—you need 2. Same thing: one cannot separate—you need two.
So how can this unify? How can this have a separation and unification? This is the Balance Point. Separation and unification is also a balance point. Work on these two things together—to have this complementary—because this cannot violate that and that cannot violate this. You have to maintain that yin is yin and yang is yang. The front is front and the back is the back. How can my back go to the front and the front go to the back?
Pay attention to each characteristic of the function—this is yin muscle and this is a yang muscle. If I draw the yin—I don’t draw yin to the yang to violate. If you say there’s a separation clearly, then, if I draw the yin here then the yang has to follows.
[Sifu demonstrates the difference between a yin grab and a yang grab.]
If the yang follows, yang is only supporting. If I start with the yang first, if the yang initiates, I stretch with the yang first, then the yin follows. Then the same thing, if I draw first, then the yang follows. There’s no beginning or ending any more. It’s a matter of function: of what leads what, what supports what. It’s a complete cycle.
A complete cycle must have a separation. Without a separation, things will be confused. Without the center of bone supporting, how will the yin yang muscles work? It won’t work. Yes? Because everything also works with pressure. It comes down to different pressure: Day and night have different pressure, hot and cold have different pressure. That’s where the cycle is. Within our body the same. Within our body the yin muscle pressure is condensing; the yang muscle pressure is expanding. So you help the cycle of flow. Sometimes because of the training, body fitness, they train the yin muscle up to here (mid-chest) but it’s too tense. They look fit but practically they don’t have much power.
Q: How would someone know that?
Sifu: Many don’t know. That’s why the theoretical information we provide is important. A lot of people don’t have the chance to even get the right information. Sometimes listening to the right information.
Q: “Aren’t there people practicing ILC also doing it wrong?”
Sifu: Only a small part. More people like ‘body beautiful’/body building better (laughs)
Comment: When something you know is interfering, you have to let go of that view.
Sifu: Why is it that many bodybuilders have heart problems. Their muscles aren’t functioning the way nature should be. They build up this muscle then yang pressure and yin pressure become quite the same—there’s not much difference. The heart has to work harder to pump the flow. If he can do his relaxing and expanding, then the pressure is different, like day and night. Like high tide and low tide—that kind of function: because the pressure is different, it helps the cycle. That’s why we use the dan tien 丹田 and ming-men 命門 in the cycle. It helps the function.
“When things become clearer, you can see more.”
~GM Sam Chin
If we can’t flow, it’s because our attention is not there. It’s not strong enough to hold, to be there. You can’t even last 1 second—the mind is already somewhere else. Some thought already pulls you off.
Here’s where our training of meditation comes in. We try to look into our mind to clear the thought, to build up this discipline so we can direct our attention. We can put our attention where we choose. When you can hold over there, you start to became calm, and then you become still. Still means things start to become clear because you can see things clearer.
When things become clearer, you can see more. Your attention can hold more. If it’s not clear yet, attention is very hard to hold. That’s why the meditation, people will use different methods: breathing, counting, if they can’t just watch the breath (if they can’t, they add in counting—1, 2, 3, 4, 5—up to 10 or however many they want to count).
It’s just another method of trying to draw the mind to there first. We say that the mind—the monkey mind—it runs around, so it needs a job to do. As the monks say, ‘give a job for him to do: call him to come and give him something to work on: give him an order. If you don’t give him something to do, he plays around.
A job—like counting or doing something to hold the mind there. So sometimes some people, in Pure Land, will use mantra—will use sound even to listen, to pay attention, to give more things to hold. Some use beads. Some use their hand just to rub. Some circle their thumbs. All these kinds of things—slowly, slowly then you try to drop that off so you can feel the breath more…drop, drop, drop, until it becomes very refined.
Q: “If we just focus on the breath should we also try to make our senses less, like Jiru described?”
Sifu: No, because you are training concentration now. You try to separate things now.
If you can separate that means you can unify. This separation with the attention on separation is so you can unify. They need to focus so still until they separate the feeling of the body—they don’t feel the body anymore, the senses gone: only that one point. They can see: that is where the concentration is—they can see the concentration there—so they know ‘okay, we have been attaining something.’
Sometimes you start to observe, yes, this is what sometimes they say is concentration and Vipassana.
We do Vipassana more. Observing is Vipassana; you do need attention for Vipassana. Right? The problem is—how deep you don’t know. You feel that you can maintain. Especially when we do martial arts; we are very good at observing also. I’ve been training for so many years, we know that we can observe. So, why is it that we cannot go in-depth?
(Moscow Workshop Nov. 2010) Disc 1 of 4 Introductory key points: Recognizing – attention Yi dao, chi dao, li dao. Observe to pinpoint Look for balance, harmony, neutral. Tai Chi Point: to know how to use Balance Point: 3 dimension/fullness/ INNER FEEL: 3 dimensional then all movement is born from here. Now approach this as […]
So, with all this above, then how are we going to get this information?
The truth is changing. If we believe that, according to philosophy, then that means that to be together, with this, then we need to go along at the same speed.
That means we need to change with change together, in order to be together (‘with’), or you’ll be behind or go too fast.
To change to be together that means on this point you must be equal: always have the balance to be equal.
If there’s no balance point you can’t be together. So, the balance point here has the quality of no resisting and no backing off, then you can be together. Here’s how we come up with the balance point—otherwise you can’t be together.
If you can’t have the quality of ‘together,’ then you can’t connect.
If you can’t connect, then you’re not ‘there.’ You fall off, or you project too far. So how can you do this connecting first?
That’s why many people who don’t have the philosophy, or they just train but they don’t know this part, then they don’t know how to approach. That’s why yesterday when we talked about the connect and balance, that is on point of contact. So, every moment is from point of contact—where and how you get information and you act back on that point. If you can’t connect you can’t join, you cannot be with–so then you are not there. If not there, how are you going to get information? That means you can’t flow, you can’t maintain present. So you will fall back, drop back. You drop back and you have no other choice any more—you go back to your past experience, ‘Oh I feel this’, or go back to knowledge: what you have read, studied, gone through your life—what you have read, what you have experienced. All from accumulation. That’s why we call that ‘knowledge.’ But that’s the past experience. So, you want to know this moment, but you can’t. you’re judging form past experience
“Before everything, you are constantly adjusting, constantly balancing to maintain.”
~GM Sam Chin
But if you can FLOW and be together, then you’re not judging: and the conditions REVEAL—because you are together. The conditions show you. This is part of ‘the Nature Speaks Itself.’ Every moment, every second what you come into contact with the nature is speaking, displaying, is showing, but we can’t see. Often we don’t have that kind of concentration: to hang on to flow along until we get so stable. That’s why we call it STILLNESS: it’s so stable, then the clarity comes.
RECOGNIZING ENOUGH, KNOWING ENOUGH
So stable is that maintaining, so stable that with any change, we know. Change is action. Not to change—to maintain—that’s balance. To keep on balancing means keep on changing. That’s how you know from there. Because your ‘changing to balance’ is the action. Is it too much, too little?—you just need enough, just right enough to balance: too much or too little you can’t balance. That’s why we ask ‘what’s too much, too little—what reference do we base it on?’ We base it on that balance: to maintain balance all the time. If it’s too much, you go off and can’t maintain—too little also. Just RIGHT to be balanced. And that balancing keeps on changing. Under the main base the characteristic of nature is change. That’s why I keep on reminding students telling you guys to maintain: change: because maintain is change; you need to change to maintaining. Stable—many can’t be ‘stable.’ You must ‘change with the change’ to be stable because the nature’s characteristic is change. Here is where the tricky part is.
RIGHT UNDERSTANDING, RIGHT ACTION
Before everything, you are constantly adjusting, constantly balancing to maintain, then from here you get able to connect. Able to connect means you get the right information—then the right understanding. Then with right understanding you can act with right [appropriate] action. Then you do it an act with what is most appropriate. Not form you thinking about but about what condition displays—this is what is called doing the right understanding, the right action. But normally we cannot. Sometimes we fall off. That’s why we have to follow the rules, the precepts: follow this, follow that.
Q: if you have an opponent/partner…. we want to stay neutral…is that the point?
Sifu: Yes, from staying neutral you know. You ‘know’ from neutral. Not only attack—everything you come in contact with. I’m taking this cup: there’s a balance there: too much or not enough I can’t pick it up. Too much, maybe water spills out. Yes? How I hold it, there’s also a balance. I don’t want to use too much force to hold: too little I can’t pick it up. ANYTHING you touch there’s something there. To get the right information, to get the right information. We say there’s a circle with center. You want to touch with 90 degrees. Is it round? is it square? You touch—you know it’s round. Or you know a different angle—you KNOW. You are there to balance it, with that angle you know things, you see. That’s the neutral approach of direct.
There’s a story I was talking about with this 90° touching, with Sonjue, she’s an acupuncturist, and she talks about how at the beginning of training, she had some difficulty reading the pulse, but after understanding the 90° she can listen more clearly—because 90° to the center is the most direct. You understand?
EVERYTHING YOU APPROACH, WITH TOUCH, MUST BE DIRECT—90° TO THE CENTER
Anything that goes 90° to the center is the most direct information you can get. So, everything you approach, when you touch, IS DIRECT. Then from 90° there you can move to 45 or go to 90° to move 20° or to however many degrees you want, but you must HOLD the 90° first to move.
So, now we find out that our attention is not ‘pure’ you can say: not stable. And why not? Because we have accumulation of too many other things that keep on opening up to disturb us. But for me, because I train martial arts, I can make it so simple in a way that there’s nothing to train. Because I don’t want you to think you’re ‘creating’ something—because it’s already there. What’s there to train? You only try to train to GET YOUR ATTENTION there, clear. If your attention isn’t clear it’s because there’s rubbish blocking that’s all. Only if you have nothing to disturb you then you can stay there and get clear.
Q: But if attention is there, you still have to know what to DO about it…
Yes! That’s why we give you instructions to hold over there. Why can’t you hold? Rubbish comes, thought comes. So, you look at it and let it drop off. That’s why we talk about ‘letting go’—and come back. You must have a reference to come back to reflect on here, or else you won’t know. You have a reference to reflects what comes over there but that moment you are also training the present moment—because you are trying to see what’s happening at that moment that draws you off: that draws you off, come back. If you can’t see what’s happening—it draws and you’re gone.
Q: What about the path of self-unification? Is it important to touch the point to be aware, but then we ourselves is not balanced, or if I pay attention to point but I myself am not balance?
Sifu: Then you yourself are not balanced. That’s why you must have self-unification first. Unify yourself first. This is simply to say there’s a point of contact where you stand, you sit… every point of contact starts with you. Point of Contact needs 3 things: object, subject and conscious. If conscious or anything isn’t there, there’s no contact. If eyes don’t have Subject, Object and Consciousness, the eyes won’t see. The point of contact isn’t’ there. The touch you won’t feel if conscious not there. If you’re not conscious you won’t even feel that your shirt is touching you. Your shirt is always touching you but something you don’t feel—why not?
Recognizing the Neutral Point of Direct:
The Path of Wisdom
GM Sam F.S. Chin Viewpoint Talks
Transcript 2019 MABA RETREAT
Mid-America Buddhist Association (MABA)
Augusta, Missouri (July 27-Aug.3, 2019)
Friday morning, August 2nd
For me, the most important message is that we talk about wisdom. What is wisdom? It comes down to having people get the right understanding. People will ask, what do you mean by right understanding? Where right understanding comes to is what kind of reference do you use? So we try to teach the reference of nature, from what is happening. Then, your understanding comes from where? It should come from the moment of recognizing through what is happening—through harmonizing, through balancing—that kind of understanding. You can have that to see things, then what you see and know will help you to make the right move. It all comes down to having the right move. How do you make a right move? Yes, it’s about coordination, timing, spacing—based on what?
“That’s why present is only FLOW—the balance point. Follow is not correct; follow is one step behind. ~GM Sam Chin”
What is nature? It all comes down to what is knowing and how you know—knowing is the most important point. From knowing you have everything. Depends on what you want. (If you want to get rich, if I want to be peace of mind—then you know what to do—because of knowing. Right? The problem is—what is right knowing? Where is the right information and what do you mean by right information? This is where the skill is.
This is what is nature—what is happening in this world: with ALL things happening. Why do things happen that way? You can ask this question to everyone. Everyone will say their own perspective: ‘oh this is how I approach’, this is my viewpoint.
What quality and conditions are needed to get access to the right viewpoint? THIS is what I’m trying to teach. What is the approach, what is the condition, what references do you use to answer this? The problem is—how many people even know how to ask this question? (Next time it will be part of what students need to write. At student level 9, students will need to write the answers to these questions.)
Everything is based on what is your reference or what philosophy do you use—and what is the reference of that. What other conditions do you need? How do you apply your philosophy into your practice? Other martial arts may not understand the conditions; what conditions you need. What kind of qualities do you need to approach? They may say ‘you need to do something directly’, but they don’t talk about how or teach about it.
CONNECTING AT THE POINT OF CONTACT – CONDITIONS, FUNCTIONS, APPROACH
That’s why I talk about contact-ing: the moment of Point of Contact. If they aren’t taught about it, they don’t even know how to connect at point of contact—and how I’m going to connect that. That’s why yesterday’s talk emphasized about Point of Contact, the moment of contact and how to recognize it. If you don’t even connect, then how can you be in the present moment? You cannot? You can’t even have some requirements to be in the moment. How can you be in the moment if you can’t even connect? The subject is not there for you to study. There are requirements and conditions to be in the moment. Now this morning Jiru talked about things in this way, too.
(Comment: what’s so obviously different about the way you teach is everything comes down to real feedback, no hypothetical. You talk about the structure…)
Sifu: Because I talk about conditions, functions, approach—the concrete observables. What kind of concept do you need? Some other martial arts do have similar philosophies, but when it comes to action, the philosophy and action doesn’t connect. Why don’t the philosophy and action not connect? When you come to training the words have to connect to the philosophy. The words of instruction. Nature itself is like this: you must merge…All these kinds of references typically are not being shown or taught. Even open and close. I’m closing but you don’t know when to start to close. You can see in the teacher: if they learn from books yes they learn something, but how to put it into USE often is not there.
Me and Ven. Jiru are slightly different. We are practitioners: we want to see how it works, how it functions—then it comes down to there’s no more words. How can we get that across? When action/re-action, you must have the right information first: the right information to understand what is the present condition. What are the tools to get the right information? If you don’t have the tools to get this, then you don’t know how to start, how to approach the situation. If you can’t understand the situation, how will you start to get the right information? What tools.
That’s why it comes down to being present in the moment. Be in the present with that moment. It’s so tough, they don’t even know what that means. What kind of moment is that? What we try to understand is this first. The moment of things; anything by itself is called its nature.
Tao talks about change is the characteristic of nature—that as a base: change. So no matter what you say, you know you must be changing along with it. “Change with the change’ to know the truth. If you cannot do this. This means you must flow not follow. Flow means TO BE WITH. To flow that means the balance point. That’s how it starts, you see? Here is the right information that I can get. But to get that information what kind of quality do you need to be there order to flow? Only knowing, you cannot. That’s why the mind must be sharp. That’s why we need to learn Samadhi concentration. Or else you see you touch, and in one split second, you touch—and you’re gone already. You don’t have the penetration power—that means you don’t have the ability to access the information from directly. You’d touch it and if you relate it to past memory to feel, this is the steps that 99% of people do and call it the ‘present.’ But in Tao and Zen this is not the present.
Q: So the reference of yin and yang is just to observe the change?
Sifu: Well, yin and yang is just one thing. When Buddhism talks about cause and effect and yin and yang it’s 2 different things. Yin and yang is not cause and effect. But this yin and yang is the complementary—it’s the function. HOW WE WORK WITH THAT to balance that function; to harmonize the moment with that yin yang—it’s a balance. How the 2 things function in order to be in harmony and in balance. So if you can work with harmony and function and yin and yang and CAUSE, then the cause will be good. You will know what’s happening because of cause and effect: if you can balance things on a cause, then it’s a good cause: so you are doing the right (appropriate) thing only.
So everyone has a different way—this is a lot of the missing part of others’ philosophy when they come to training. (Some say, ‘oh yes, I’ve learned Tao philosophy—but when it comes to training, it’s a different thing). If the instructions and their concepts aren’t connecting, they can’t understand the conditions and quality of the approach and what you need in order to give the right instruction. If the instruction is wrong, you’re pointing your student’s mind in a different direction. That’s why I’m very careful with the words to tell students how to work on things. I don’t tell them to ‘think’ or to ‘imagine’; I tell them very directly. So in order to have things work, you see, to be with the moment—you must be THERE first. Simple to see if you’re not there: imagining is not “there’, thinking is not ‘there. You can understand some of the effort of the action—but if you’re thinking you aren’t there—so how are you going to work with this moment if you’re not there?
What is the condition, quality, characteristic of “BEING WITH” first? That’s why tai chi talks about we can’t resist, we can’t back off. If you resist it means you aren’t there. You only feel this, but you have an idea that comes in to block it out already—or you run away. That’s why present is only FLOW—the balance point. Follow is not correct: follow is one step behind.
RIGHT UNDERSTANDING IS THE VIEWPOINT
Just now we were talking about the message of how we would approach an article to explain our approach, that kind of thing—you see—and what is the most important thing to get across, to share with people with ZXD—and what’s unique about how we do it. To me, what’s important to get across is the Right Understanding. Right Understanding is the viewpoint. What do I mean by that—when everyone has their own understanding.
Q: You can say it, but need to feel it. I understand what you’re saying, except when I try to do it.
Sifu; what kind of philosophy do you use for the right understanding. Everyone uses a different philosophy for something. When WE train we use the philosophy of Tao and Zen, and even Confucius. Right, to get the right understanding from there—based on the nature itself. To get this right understanding from there. Just understand the way things are. That’s one part. Then how can you access… that’s why we are teaching this. OK, I want to get this right understanding—HOW?
This information—receive this information. First, to receive the information you must be THERE. TO be there you must be able to connect [student: I feel pre-kindergarten—if someone doesn’t have a body tied up…they’ll never get it]. No, first of all, some of this information you MUST understand theoretically first. And consider: do you accept this one first? If you’re not accepting, then how are you going to approach this. We say ‘you must be convinced’ first. Then, if you’re convinced then you can go on to ask HOW …But first, does it make sense to you or note?
Based on the philosophy of Zen and Tao the characteristic is based on change—the nature is always changing. And Zen is the same: impermanent. Do you agree or not? If not, your mindset doesn’t change. Then you have to explain…what is change. Everything changes—sometimes it changes too slowly that we can’t see, because it’s so solid…do you understand how solid it is—it’s still not one. There’s not ONE solid entity. Do you agree or not, you see? Because under Buddhism and the 3 characteristics of Existence: of Impermanent, Suffering, and No self—the most important thing first.1 No one solid entity. No ONE thing: They all come and go—it’s all by conditions that form; it’s the condition that must be there. If the condition isn’t there, it won’t combine—it will separate. You need certain conditions (to separate or absorb) and Tao talks about the way borns one, one that borns two, two that borns three—and everything from there (the tai chi symbol that separates: it’s two). But this kind of philosophy, first you have to see: do we agree or not? If you don’t agree, then you can’t go further anymore. Only if you want to see if it works this way or not (consider the computer world: 1 or 0—like yin yang: the hardware separation is only 1 or 0). So, okay, science can prove that yin yang can do so many things…
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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.
To understand the three dimensions, you must understand each plane of the three dimension in order to under the spherical: how these relate as one spherical.
That’s why the training of the 15 basic exercise has different dimensions, different planes: to understand the limit of each plane: to understand how each plane transforms into the another plane, so they can integrate into the three dimensions. three dimensions that we put it into the bobbing exercise and absorb-project, condense-expand, then into one big spherical energy: that itself is six energies and three dimensional planes.
With the six energies of three dimensions here we learn to make stepping, to move while still holding these six energy and three dimensions; we learn to step and learn to kick and learn to release of throwing the hands and you can punch. That’s why the first ten exercises are to get the core of the six energies and three dimension. Then with that, you start to move: see if you can maintain the six energies and three dimensions. Actually that’s level one and level two.
Because with the core, kicking and everything there, then we do it into the continuous movement with the 21 form, with six energies and three dimensions.
That’s why sometimes we call it a zhan zhuang movement, a “fullness” movement fullness form, a zhan zhuang form, like a standing posture form, because of the fullness, with-the action of continuity.To be able to understand to keep our attention with the action; to learn the continual movement of “yi dao, qi dao, li dao“; that means attention must be there, the energy must be there, then the movement.
That is level three. Then with that, what I mean is the level of three can go that high. Of course, there’s a minimal requirement, now what we grade you guys now is you understand the movement, you understand this and that, ok.
You have the minimum requirement to go ahead. Now you know: you have the syllabus this quality now, this criterion now to go higher. So every level now keeps on processing [advancing], keeps on going up.
Then, in level four, with continuity and everything, and unifying, then you must have the coordination to produce power. That’s why we do the fajin exercise on level four: able to produce the power, alright.
GM Sam Chin shows a modified butterfly form in Moscow with explosive power May 2005
Curriculum of I Liq Chuan – Levels 5 & 6
Level 5 – Spinning Hands
In level five, you are training on point of contact, right. To see the point of contact that you are unifying with the opponent, but through unifying with the opponent there is a flow: flow, fend, roll and pivot. You must understand what is flow.
Flow is a process where you reach in to merge in to be with the opponent to maintain the present, to produce a fending force, a peng energy. A peng energy starts with meeting force: you start to meet on Point of Contact.
So attention must be there to really MEET the point of contact: meet the point of contact on contact until you see yourself as a cross.
A cross is a simplification of three dimensions: first start with cross.
With that cross, with that fullness, you bring that ball, like a three dimension ball you carry it along with you to go along the opponents point of contact, the changing point of contact: like you’re holding a ball to change the point of contact.
Holding the fullness, you’re holding the fullness to change the point of contact. So every point of contact has fullness itself. But of course you need to understand what is fullness, recognize what is fullness.
Then, with the fullness here, on the point of contact of fullness, you must be able to propel to produce the pull push energy from there. By understanding of fullness, then you start to pivot: changing the polarity to do the pull, to do the push. Hanging onto the center so that you can produce pull push by using the 3 dimensions: horizontal pull push, saggital pull push, frontal pull push. Right. That means flow, fend, roll, pivot on 5th level, but without stepping.
Curriculum of I Liq Chuan Level 6 & 7
Level 6 – Range, Section, Footwork & Kicking
When it comes to level six, you hang onto that principle strong enough you must be so strong that your attention must be there so that when you start to step, start to kick, start to do all different exercises as you’re changing the center, so that these 4 (flow fend roll and pivot) can keep up: that you don’t lose these four qualities.
But before that, of course you have the “13 Points”, the “Five Mechanisms” there, so that you don’t lose these. Once you lose these that means, what makes you lose?
Because you drop back to habit. Normally, because you lose something, you’ve dropped back to a different habit or your mind has been disturbed by a different thought. So until you can hang onto these flow fend roll and pivot, these principles that action follow your action, how you move and do action here, you need to adjust the movement: to align to these principles.
When the principle tries to go off, you need to adjust yourself to keep that principle there; if you adjust yourself, that means you are moving to adjust. When you’re adjusting and moving yourself to keep that principle there, to hold there that means that action is right.
It’s not through thinking I should move this or I should move that, no more. It’s because I’m seeing this principle and I’m trying to maintain this principle that my actions have to adjust to this to maintain that. My actions have to support the principle.
When the action supports the principle, the action is correct. Understand?
So, if you can do this, that’s what I call “you cannot think any more”; the thinking process is less now, the habit is less now because you have to back up this principle.
So you can hang onto this principle now. You can hang onto this principle and reverse that: hanging onto that principle tells you what to do.
This means that the principle is a guideline no, it guards you and protects you now. So, in this sense. When you reach this point I say it’s “a point of no return”. It means you are starting to melt off your old habits already. That means the melting pot starts to melt all other things already: so now it’s only principle now.
All these transitions you need attention; the higher you go you need more attention. So slowly all things melt off. The training itself is that you must have the right understanding to approach. If it’s not, you can never, never understand. You can never be there.
Because you cannot think. Once you think and fall back into thinking you’re not with that principle enough. Understand. You guys follow me now?
Alright. That’s why we say when it comes to level six, its so hard. Because its “yes” or “no”, you cannot be “maybe”. You cannot maybe anymore.
Level five is like this: you cant maybe any more. Are you there or not there? If you’re not there, you’re not there. That kind of thing, you see. That’s why level one to level four, you’re still okay.
When it comes to level five, “Yes” or “No”. If you can’t produce the fullness, you can’t pivot, I can’t say you can, because you cannot: because you’re not there. Yes? You see.
When it comes to stepping in level six, with flow, fend, roll, and pivot. When you first start to step: OK every principle breaks off, so how can you say it’s “yes, it’s there”? Its not. No way it can be “yes.” Unless you keep on stepping and keep on moving and you still have that thing (attention/ connection) over there, then yes. Or no. Alright?
This is what I want to tell you guys you must understand: the curriculum, the criteria, because as students go further and higher, as an instructor what to see, what to grade, what to look into, what to train, how mental should be. Alright?
I talked up to here, up to level six.
Level 7 & 8 Sticky Hands
“You cannot control on defense; you can only control on offense.” ~GM Sam Chin
There’s level seven, level eight. Each has its quality.
Level seven, because it’s flow. When it comes to flow same flow: flow means maintaining the point of contact, maintaining that you can keep the point.
Because sticky hands is to keep the point, that you can keep 90 degrees direct to the center for maximum to control and maximum to control is also maximum you can read. Anything that is direct, it’s the maximum information; if it slightly slides off, less information.
So you must be maximum there to get the flow, to change with change, to maintain over there.
There’s a flow. “Flow” with “fend”: because fending from here is not only building one ball of defense here; you must also have a shield, have a shield that the opponent cannot penetrate. Moving with a ball that they cannot penetrate because on here you must understand center-to-center: that means that you can meet his center, that means stop him. Stop him from hitting.
That means the movement turns into more precise now. Because you stop, you cut, you stop your opponent with fullness. If you want to control, you still need to control the point, but it’s more free action now.
Now, control: what is control?
Because fend is defense, so when it comes to control you must understand what is offense.
You cannot control on defense; you can only control on offense.
So, in order to control on offense, you must know where is the half line. On level five and Level six, you are still maintaining the defense of meeting: keep on meeting, meeting, meeting to see the relationship of the line from point to the feet and to all the centers: center to center and to all the centers, that’s still on level five and level six: keep on meeting, meeting. (But under Instructor Level 3 there’s something different; I’m not going to talk about that). But on level seven, under control, you must pass the half line to pass the offensive, so for your opponent to hit you, he must neutralize your offensive in order to get into you, so you must always be one step ahead to control. Alright.
Of that control, of course, you are sticking to the hand and also must understand all the centers themselves: center-to-center.
Quarters and Cycles: Understanding the Straight and the Curve
With the centers reference then you understand the open close; the empty full; and the movement—the direction from the four quarters: how to move from which of the four quarters. There’s four quarters see: upper lower, left right—how this cycle turns and goes through which quarter to which quarter, so you can cut—understanding the straight line and the curve: like how you drive a car to make a corner: how you cut the line in order to be starting. No doubt it’s a curve but you want to make it straight. If it’s too straight, you want to curve.
So now today’s training, I’ll try to talk about FULLNESS point.
Fullness point is also one point; it has the highest point of meeting. Of the meeting point. Fullness you can say is how you meet; more like sometimes people will say it’s a fulcrum point; fulcrum point is a fullness point.
Why is it FULL?
Because this point is directly from the center. Directly from THIS center to meet on this center: to be one line 90 degree is a fullness point, it’s a highest point. Any ball, any circumference you touch, you say this is the highest—to where? To the center. Because I touch it, it’s the highest…if I’m not touching these 2 sides are lower already: any point I touch is full…but if it’s without the reference to the center it’s wrong.
Because it’s the diameter line also. This fullness is also the fullness point that I touch. That means if my hand is this way and I touch this way—this is not the furthest—how to consider furthers? It means my circle comes from here: my fulcrum part is here… on point of contact. Because you have to adjust at this point of contact, this is not the furthest because my center is her; I need to adjust my c-7 back to here to adjust.
If the point is here, then this is not the furthest. Understand? Unless I move the point or if I move myself behind it—if I move my mass behind it, then this point is also pointing at the opponent’s mass: that is the fullness in one line. You can say this is all physics. You can use science, math physics to explain this.
How are you going to train that?
It’s to maintain the fullness: to MAINTAIN the fullness so that everything adjusts to maintain this. To maintain this—to be fullness, then fullness itself must have a quality: must have conditions to be full.
A center must have a condition to be a center. A center must have its own quality and properties to be a center that’s why a center must have left right up down forward back center is a junction point. FULLNESS? -the same.
It needs conditions to be the fullness and you need to maintain the conditions to keep the full. You must OBEY that. you can’t think that—no, you cannot. In a way, it means you have no thinking—if you think that means you relate back to your past and try to adjust that. NO—it’s based on meeting, reflecting direct. That you need to support this fullness. That’s why in Tao talks about if you can hold onto the circle with center—hold over there—everything will align over there. If you can hold over there. No other way. If you can’t, the conditions separate, the conditions are not formed, then the things aren’t formed.
Everything is the same in life—with things happening. Everything’s the same. You need the condition.
Condition isn’t here, you can’t uphold something there—things will break down. In Zen, we say, if condition are there, things come by; if conditions is not there, they’ll fall apart. So, things come and go.
If you don’t recognize the condition things will not be maintained. You want to be clear, you must have the conditions. You want to be peaceful, you must have the conditions. Every has conditions—can your recon the conditions. That’s why we talk about cause and conditions. To see the conditions is not that easy. Normally we JUDGE on the condition, we don’t see the condition. Even just to listen to this talk you need the condition to be able to listen or you think ‘ah, this is just rubbish.’
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