Wudang martial arts on Wudang Mountain today are actually a compilation of remnant bits and pieces from around China. One of the boxing methods considered pure and representative of the Wudang System is known as Taiyi Wuxingquan.
Taiyi Wuxing Quan
Taiyi Wuxing Quan (太乙五行拳) or in its full name “Wudang Taiyi Qin Pu 23 Postures” (武当太乙擒扑二十三势) or Liangyi Quan (两仪拳), this set of Wudang Practice was practiced and popularized by Aisin Gioro Pu Xuan (Jin Zitao), who studied at Zi Xiao Gong (Purple Palace) and was taught by Daoist Priest Li Helin (李合林, 16th Generation of Wudang Long Men Division, disciple of Xu Benshan). It is also said that the set was created by 8th Generation Wudang Long Men Master Zhang Shouxing (张守性) in the Ming dynasty during the Hongzi years (1487-1505). He is said to have based the style on the integration of Hua Tuo’s Five Animal Frolics and traditional Taoist DaoYin exercises. Whilst good for health cultivation it is also a specialized method of combat. Taiyi Wuxing quan emphasizes the neutralization of power, using leverage and balance towards incoming force, applies grappling and vital point cavity striking together to overcome opponents.
Aisin Gioro Pu Xuan (Jin Zitao, 金子弢)
Jin Zitao was born on the 26th July, 1906 in Beijing (Xuanwu Gate) to the Royal Manchurian family. He was six months younger than Pu Yi (Better known as the Last Emperor) and a year older than Pu Jie. His mother was from the Mongolian Noble family and one of the Royal concubines. Jin Zitao would see his father only once or twice a month. In 1910, he was allowed into the palace of the Empress Dowager where he resided for more than three years as the study companion to Pu Yi. He returned to his mother side in 1914 (9 years old).
Unfortunately his character was not stern to function as a imperial official and after gaining a post he found it very challenging. He resigned from his post and was rejected by his wife, with constant conflict and left in 1916. He travelled with his mother and carer across Tianjin, Shanghai, Yueyang, Lanzhou and Hangzhou visiting relatives along the way. His mother and carer then passed away. In 1924 he got married but soon after he was cheated in business suffering economic setbacks, whilst his wife died giving childbirth. After such a tragic and depressed life, he wanted to become a monk or hermit and in 1929 ended up on Wudang Mountain. He studied boxing and learnt more about Daoism. Afterwards, he continued practicing daily his Taiyi Wuxing Quan. In 1938 he converted to Daoism. After the founding of New China, he was hired as a technical assistant to the Shanghai Yue Opera, also imparting martial skills as well.
Taiyi Wuxingquan returns to Wudang
Jin Zitao is said to have learnt the Wudang Taiyi Wuxing Boxing during his short stay (~ 7 months) at Wudang in 1929 under the guidance of Li Heling (1898 – ). It was not until 1980 that the world would see the demonstration of this unique boxing method at the National Wushu viewing, emulating and communicating Congress in Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province. Prior to that occasion many had heard of Wudang boxing but few actually had seen it. Jin Zitao became more well known as a result afterwards. In the 1980’s Jin Zitao travelled to Wudang for a few weeks each time to teach the local (wider Danjiangkou/Shiyan area) martial artists there, of which Zhao Jianying and Yang Qunli, who became well known inheritors of the Skill and in many cases cared for the training of the group whilst Jin Zitao was away. The group consisted predominantly of Coaches from Hubei Province. Jin Zitao also taught students in his hometown (Huzhou, Zhejiang Province) which included local enthusiasts such as Fei Shengxiang and some from more distant areas such as Shanghai. In addition to Zhao Jianying and Yang Qunli, there were other martial artists that had learnt the method. In many cases whilst Jin Zitao was not at Wudang, Zhao Jianying and Yang Qunli would take care of the groups with intensive sessions when Jin Zitao visited. Fei Shengxiang was a student of Jin Zitao in Zhejiang who studied many martial arts and was a part of the Zhejiang Provincial Wushu Team.
M. Zhao Jianying (1929-2011) was an important contributor to Wudang martial arts. She was key proponent of Taiyi Wuxingquan and taught very many followers during her lifetime. M. Zhao as a child suffered severe illness. One day a soldier noticed her bad health and offered to teach her martial arts to strengthen her body. She studied Hong Quan and got her body back to health. In 1980 at the National Wushu gathering, she met Jin Zitao and became his student acquiring full knowledge of Taiyi Wuxingquan and its associated exercises/methods. She also learnt Bagua and Xingyi from Sha Guozheng and Lu Zijian, in addition to various weapons sets such as Taiji Sword and 8 Immortals Sword. Her son, Tan Xianping is also a well regarded practitioner today.
Taiyi Wuxingquan has been adopted by the majority of the Wudang Schools. and is one of the most representative of Traditional Wudang methods. I still recall my few weeks in Danjiang Kou in 2003, when I first studied this little boxing method. In 2014 on another of my Wudang journeys, my colleagues were studying the Taiyiwuxing method with Yuan Xiugang and it reminded me of its simple beauty, so thought to write this short overview.
Details of the Taiyi Wuxingquan
The key set consists 23 postures/methods (25 including start and ending), with about 81 movements. There are small delicate circles worked throughout at compact, slow and precise manner.
Primordial first Qi; Activate the rotation of the Universe (Qian Kun) (opening) | 混元一氣，旋轉乾坤
1. White Ape Comes out of its Cave; Two Peaks Bow to the Sun | 白猿出洞，雙峰拜日
2. Rein in at the Top; Lift the Cloud Under the Sea | 懸崖勒馬，海底頂雲
3. Dragon in Confusion; the Thunder Chops the Mountain | 蛟龍溟蒙，雷劈山洪
4. Rhinoceros Looks at the Moon; Turn Around to support Heaven | 犀牛望月，轉身托天
5. Green Lion Embraces the Ball; Springs from Nian Ting | 青獅抱球，閃耀金庭
6. Leopard Raises its head; Surprising the whole World | 豹子含美，仰頸驚林
7. Roc Spreads its Wings; All the Beasts are Panic Stricken | 大鵬展翅，群獸震驚
8. Spotted Deer Picks the Herbal Medicine and Lowers its Head To Drink in the Stream | 花鹿采芝，俯飲清泉
9. Yellow Serpent at the water’s Mouth Provokes the Great Beasts | 黃蟒含津，戲引眾猛
10. Capers Rolls About; Waves Rushes to the Heaven | 鯉魚打挺，波浪滔
11. Hawk Searches for the Mountain and Catches the Chickens | 雄鷹探山，雙擒雞群
12. Immortal cranes Flying in the Air and Dancing through wind and clouds | 仙鶴騰空，飛舞風雲
13. Golden Monkey Steals the Fruit ; Alchemy Overturns the Fire | 金猴竊丹，爐火皆平
14. Whale and Crocodile Reach the Moon; The Sea is Calm | 鯨鱷探月，波平浪靜
15. Black Bear Turns its Palm and Surprises the Whole Forest | 黑熊反掌，威震森林
16. Slip out of a Predicament like a Cicada Sleuthing its Skin; Drunkard Lays in the Pond | 金蟾脫殼，醉臥瑤池
17. Magpie Perches on the Branch and Stands on the Moss | 喜鵲登枝，寒立梅蔭
18. Dragon Returns to the Sea; Keep Calm in the Inner World | 蒼龍入海，意守心寧
19. Wild Horse Shakes its Main and its Fear Character Increases | 野馬抖鬃，烈性飛騰
20. Mysterious Monkey Returns to the Cave and Keeps calm | 神猿入洞，性歸心田
21. Colorful Phoenix is in the Air and all the Birds Sing | 彩鳳淩空，百鳥齊鳴
22. Crouching Tiger lies on the Sacrifice Platform On Guard | 伏虎靈台，永守黃庭
23. Embrace the origin (hold the Jin Dan) focused, Real Qi is expressed| 抱元守一，正氣共存
Combine the Stationary and Motion; Reverse the Universe (Qian Kun) (closing) | 動靜結合，反轉乾坤
The Five Elements (Wuxing) of Taiyi Wuxing Quan
Within Wuxing Quan, the five elements are emphasized such that:
From White Ape exits cave until Rein the Top belongs to Metal (Jin) ; From Dragon in confusion until Roc spreads its wings belongs to Water (Shui); From Spotted Deer Picks the Herbal Medicine until Eagles flying in the air and dancing belongs to Wood (Mu); From Immortal cranes Flying in the Air until Black Bear Turns its Palm belongs to Fire (Huo); From Cicada losing skin until Dragon returns to the sea belongs to Earth (Tu).
Further the Five elements are applied to the basic directions such as forward, backward, left, right and centre which in turn relate to stepping techniques such as entering, exiting, veer left, veer right and maintain the centre. The organ relationships of the Five elements are also applicable (Spleen, Heart, Lungs, Liver and Kidneys).
Combat Strategy of Taiyi Wuxing Quan
In stillness the foundation is sourced, It is softness which is they key shape, Spirit is held and the Intention is steadfast ; In Stillness so movement originates, It is softness that overcomes hardness, Focused on Intention not focused on muscular strength ; In movement still seek stillness/calmness, Within calmness seek movement, place emphasis on Intention not on the shape ; Intention, Qi, Jin (power) and Shape. Heart and the breath pursue each other mutually, Apply transformation/neutralizing Power rather than hard resistance ; Right position is a matter of extreme precision within a few inches, Movement would emphasize grappling/locking and sealing of the breath.
Special points on Practicing Taiyi Wuxing Quan
The body should sink into place, the frame should be compact and tight; Waist follows the hips in turning, shoulders and hips are mutually matched; Both hands rounded in embrace, feet move in arched (curved) lines; Gentling twining cotton, move in circular motions with softness; Move like a snake, soft like silk reeling.
Cultivating Health through Taiyi Wuxing Quan
Breath is natural, whole body relaxed and loose. Heart is calm whilst the mind is aware. Spirit is risen and actively alert; Internal and External combine, part by part they are interlinked. Apply the Yin and Yang cycles of movements, the body method remains in central equilibrium ; If intention arrives, Qi will arrive, Qi moves with the intention. As everything combines the spirit shall be nurtured ; Mysterious eight channels are activated through the whole body. Taiyi Wuxing its most important aspect is on Health Cultivation.
It could be said that since GM Jin Zitao stayed at Wudang for only 7 months, the Taiyi Wuxing Quan might be considered basic. With so many followers and practitioners today, many which are more modern in interpretation one may overlook the beauty of Taiyi Wuxing Quan. However, the secrets of the method lie in understanding the principles, applying them in practice and researching the combat and health nourishing benefits in details. Then just like GM Jin Zitao one may grasp the beauty of Taiyi Wuxing Quan which would allow its sole practice for a lifetime.