By Ren Qingtao
Han Shi Yi Quan (HSYQ), founded on Yiquan, a great martial art created by Master Wang Xiangzhai in 1930s, has built on the experiences of, and been verified painstakingly by, Master Han Xingqiao (deceased) and his son Master Han Jingchen. It was named Han Shi Yi Quan (or “Han-Family Yiquan”) by Master Han Jingchen in 1990s. The naming was not done by chance, but because throughout the years with his father and exploration into the most basics of natural movements, Master Han Jingchen had redefined the Yi Quan principles and training methods as very different from those developed by Master Wang Xiangzhai, as well as other existing Yi Quan schools. From my personal perspective, the following ideas or concepts from HSYQ are particularly interesting.
What is the nature?
In our vague senses, we all believe that the natural way is the best. For starters, we have to explain what the “nature” is. Talking about nature, what first comes to our mind is the so-called “natural world of plants and animals”. We go to the world of plants and animals, believing we come close to the nature in that way.
Is that so? But, the fact is we are part of the nature, as animals and plants are. Even living in the concrete forest, we never get away from it, for our life is the nature. What we do every day, eating or talking for example, is nature. In a word, we are natural already.
Thus, the nature is never anything that we can have only through imagination or in a secluded life. It is what we do and live as human beings, whether we think it as natural or unnatural.
Now, what is “unnatural?” Our Chinese ancestors said “The sage does things, but never keep them happening in his expected way.” We become unnatural when we try to make things happen as we wish, or when we have defined purposes in doing things. The nature happens by itself and works to the final natural result. It can never be planned, unless our plan follows natural rules.
The sense of or the respect to the nature has long been lost.
The nature recedes as the society progresses. Human beings began to be unnatural when the society came into being. The society is based on contracts. Simply put, it means that a person enters into a contract with another that they will not fight each other, but will together fight the third one. This social contract provides a shelter of police or an army, for example, to keep us away from unwanted dangers.
Moreover, men are clever creatures, as they know and understand natural laws. They intentionally filter out Natural uncertainties and keep the certainties, for they want to make certain everything past, now or in the future. We go to bed in the evening, being certain that the sun will rise as well in the morning tomorrow.
Now let’s take a look at the pure natural world of animals. As dangers are everywhere, animals are always alert and ready to fight. When cornered, they act quickly and fight with a massive power. On the other side, they are timid creatures, and seem to be afraid of even breezes over the grass.
Thus, the society prevents the natural dangers or uncertainties to show themselves. We become certain about things, and ready to see things happen in our expected ways. It is no longer that “Man proposes and God disposes”, but that “Man disposes as long as he knows every detail.”
“Restart or restore our nature”
As discussed above, the nature is our existence, and the only problem is that we have lost the sense of or respect to it a long time ago. Thus, we must “restart or restore our nature.”
Knowing our natural state
We all know something about the state of competition. When are doing a sports match, we jump or run a little to get us ready for the competition. The warming up exercise helps us get into a competitive state, so that we become more responsive than we are at common times. Moreover, we are taught to only be brave or reckless in competitions.
In the real nature world, however, these social rules seem not applicable. To know the natural state, we have to learn from animals. In the pure natural world, animals are in a ready state against possible dangers from anywhere. From the human perspective, they are as brave as timid. They are brave because no animals are willing to be taken by their predator. They are timid because even predators are cautious when catching their prey and because an injury, however small, may mean the eventual death.
The social world is different from the natural one, in that the former has a setup of rules and techniques so that we can readily expect the result, and the latter is full of uncertainties and surprises. Thus, the natural world is not about powerfulness or not, but has its core of terror. The natural fight is a fight of survival, and no party can sustain the loss.
The natural synchronization
We often admire how beautifully some greatest athletes move. We feel awed with their synchronous movements and the results that this synchronization brings. During our learning, we are taught how to move our hands with the waist and legs, in order to create synchronization. In order to be synchronous, we have to use our muscle strengthen to make synchronization.
In the natural state, synchronization is not forced, but happens naturally. As discussed in the previous section, the natural state is centered on terror, which summons up each and every part of our body. When we move this natural state, we see synchronization. Watch how we walk, for example, and how synchronously our arms and legs move in the process. This helps reveal the synchronous size of the natural state.
Getting rid of the I-thinking
As mentioned above, we have been taught how to do things. We plan things and results for we believe we would get the result we want as long as our plan is sufficiently detailed. To get the expected results, we even work to get rid of uncertainties or noises that we are unable to control.
As discussed above, we are part of the nature and the nature is us. Thus, the nature is not something we think of, but that which we can only feel and experience. It sounds absurd if one says “I think I am hungry.” We are not hungry until our stomach begins to rumble.
Thus, when we are doing HSYQ exercises, we should never be content with the thinking or perception that we are in the state or doing the right thing. But, we should test our body with the natural responsiveness, terror and synchronization.
The probe into our own self
From the above, we know the nature and understand its working. The next step is to experience the nature with your body physically and mentally. In HSYQ, we explore the relationship between conditions and results, or cause and effect. The conditions can be everything, natural or social, mental or physical, tangible or intangible. What we do is to feel these causes, the process how these causes cause our body to react and how our body reacts to them, and what the result is.
Different conditions lead to different feels. Due to changing time and space, no causes are identical or can be repeated. Thus, the results will be always changing. In other words, if we keep on feeling the same thing, it means we are stuck in a fixed mindset and become unnatural.
This process of probing into our own self often brings surprises to us, as we may notice things we never think of and draw conclusions we never do before. In this process, we are going to see the nature begins to unveil itself before us.
On a few HSYQ concepts
Condensation vs. more condensation
The term “condensation” or “condensed” describes the natural state when all parts of our body are connected in the face of danger. The term “more condensation” or “more condensed” means the natural state when all our body parts become more connected in the face of an immediate danger. These terms never mean to use strength and stiffen.
Form vs. formless
The “form” is postures we see when we move. Since our body is tangible, each and every movement must have a form. The “formless” is the natural state. Whatever form we are in, the natural state is always there.
I-thinking vs. nature
The “I-thinking” is the biggest obstacle in our way to the nature. Because of the way we are taught, we always try to figure out the working of things, hoping to repeat the process in the future. The nature can never be fixed or repeated. The natural state happens and disappears in an instant.
Lifting vs. stiffness
The term “lifting” means to connect the upper and lower parts of our body. It comes from the natural state when we are ready to go. “Stiffness” is when we stand fixed. When we are stiff, we have to finish a two-step process before moving: first we condense our body parts; and second we are ready to go.
Tenseness vs. looseness
From the society-man perspective, tenseness or looseness means that our muscles are tightened up or relaxed. In the natural sense, tenseness or looseness occurs naturally when we turn or stretch our body.
Natural forms vs. unnatural forms
Beginners are often confused with their forms, for they cannot differ between natural and unnatural movements. Here is a tip. Do our forms as if we do in our everyday life. Take the “Ju” form for example. Feel our body feel when we wake up to stretch our back. Keep that feel and raise our arms high up in the air. That is the “Ju” form. It comes so naturally that we never think we are doing it as a martial art form. On the other side, the unnatural form occurs when we begin to think and do what we think the natural form should be.
Using strength vs. not using strength
Using strength means using our muscular strength. When we are using the muscular strength, the muscles and the whole body stiffen, so that we can only move in one direction, up or down for example. Thus, we lose our responsiveness or flexibility to different situations. In order to meet a different situation, for example, when another danger comes from a different direction, we have to spend time loosening our muscles to change to move in another direction.
Not using strength means moving our body and its parts in a natural state. To put it more simply, we never stamp (using your strength) our feet when we are walking. In this process, our body is flexible and responsive, and can moves in any direction. We lose no time in changing directions.
Usual state vs. unusual state
The “usual state” means the natural state that we are in when we sense the danger. The “unusual state” means the natural state that we are in when the danger is immediate and has to be dealt with.
Ren Qing Tao lives in Zhu Hai China. He is a long time student and Credentialed Disciple of Han Jing Chen. He has been with Han Jing Chen for many years and the official English interpreter and translator traveling with him on his trips to the United States. By profession he is an English interpreter and translator for different companies that provide many different products and services. He met Han Jing Chen through his wife who told him about this interesting martial art when she was interpreting for Han Jing Chen’s Japanese students.