A few weeks ago I visited a temple in Hangzhou province that honours one of China's most revered generals. Yue Fei (1103-1142) lived in the Southern Song dynasty and his life is remembered as one of the country's greatest examples of filial piety and heroic patriotism. He has been credited as the creator of a number of martial arts including Fanziquan and Chuojiaoquan, but the two styles most associated with Yue Fei are Eagle Claw and Xingyiquan. One book states Yue Fei created Eagle Claw for his enlisted soldiers and Xingyiquan for his officers.
Groomed from birth to be a warrior and to do great service for the country, his mother famously had the four characters "jin zhong bao guo" (serve the country loyally) tattooed on his back as a constant reminder to never forget his duty.
|The youthful Yue Fei learning the martial arts under the maxim - "Learn Diligently, Practice Bitterly"|
A mural on one of the temple walls caught my eyes. The image depicts Yue Fei training his martial skills under the four character idiom, "learn diligently, train bitterly" (qin xue ku lian). This maxim is often used by people practising Chinese traditional arts whether it be music, calligraphy, martial arts etc... The best learning process being the combination of knowledge and action.
At our recent camp with GM Chen Xiaoxing we trained alongside a quiet and serious person named Chen Hong. I first met him at last year's Chenjiagou Taijiquan School branch instructors' course. He's one of the very first group of students to train full time in the Chenjiagou Taijiquan School when it opened in 1983. More than three decades later he trained alongside our group and a new crop of Chinese students. Each time Chen Xiaoxing explained or demonstrated a movement, Chen Hong observed intently, and then took himself off to a quiet corner and worked on whichever point had just been explained.
|Lt-Rt Davidine Sim, Chen Hong, David Gaffney|
Our training trip to Chenjiagou is for the purpose of deepening knowledge and embedding skill. The training curriculum invariably focuses on training the fundamentals (standing pole and reeling silk exercises) and the gongfu form (Yilu) under the watchful eyes and guidance of one of the most highly skilled masters of taijiquan. Most experienced students find this training to be demanding but invaluable, and make many return visits to do the same. The inexperienced and less discerning ones may view the training as repetitive and monotonous and become impatient for more entertaining items. They have no insight into their own lack of skill and think that knowing movement patterns equals proficiency.
The maxim on Yue Fei's temple struck a chord - learn diligently and train bitterly! There are no short cuts in learning the traditional art. First be clear of the correct training method. Then drill it into the body. What is required is serious, disciplined study alongside focused repetitive training.
|At the tomb of legendary General Yue Fei|