My Experience with Han Shi Yiquan

Matthew Valle

When I discovered Han Shi Yiquan I thought it was a similar stepping-stone on the journey of martial arts I had already found myself. I learned Wing-Chun Kung-Fu for two years and during that time was introduced to Tai-Chi and a mixture of other ‘internal’ arts. Wing Chun was initially new and exhilarating to me because I had not been involved in combat sports before and I enjoyed training to become stronger and the rush of sparring. Tai-Chi introduced the idea of ‘softness’ and using internal strength to make the techniques work. Up to that point  these styles fit into my existing paradigms of what martial arts were. Even as a westerner I had been introduced to ideas of qi energy and amazing feats of Shaolin monks so the accomplishments of the internal artists were impressive but not incredibly far-fetched. What I discovered was that Han Shi Yiquan was much different from what I had previously learned and introduced information about the state of my body and my life that was foreign to me.

There is an analogy that Master Han used recently that touches on the difference between Han Shi Yiquan and other arts and that is the” wild horse” and the “warrior horse”. Traditional martial arts teach how to be the “warrior horse”, to fulfill our desires to be strong, valiant, and victorious. This is not what Han Shi Yiquan teaches.  It teaches how to be the “wild horse” that has no pre-conceptions of what he should be, and is only himself.

On two occasions I have heard Master Han ask a different question with the same answer, the questions were: What is the most beautiful thing in your life? And what is the most terrifying thing in your life?  In both cases the answer was ‘the unknown.’ The element that distinguishes between the warrior horse and the wild horse is the common denominator between all natural lives and that is the feeling of the unknown. In Han Shi Yiquan we grasp this feeling in order to restore our natural life that we have lost by living in society. The feeling that anything can happen makes the body light and the joints supple, it is invigorating, as if preparing to move in any direction, at any moment, unaware of which direction the danger will come.

We only need to look at the difference between a domesticated animal (ourselves) and a wild animal to know that there is something fundamentally different between them. I can say that through all the mysticism I have read and different disciplines I have been exposed to I am incredibly happy to find an art that allows me explore myself in this way that is so simple but also something I could have never imagined.

Like many people, I came to Han Shi Yiquan from a traditional martial arts discipline in order to enhance my fighting ability. After what I have written however, it almost seems contradictory, why would one who wants to know how to fight train to be natural? If the purpose of the art is to seek the natural state then why are Yiquan practitioners such as Wan Xian Xai famed fighters? When we frame this in a martial perspective, it is natural to fight as animals must fight to protect their life, therefore fighting is a natural state and martial movements are natural.  We must make this distinction, it is not necessary to give up societal goals, but that occurs when we do Zhan Zhuang, which restores the natural state, and nothing else.

With intentions of honesty,

© Matthew Valle     2015