My Apprenticeship with Li Gui Chang by Mao Ming Chun

Apprenticeship

I studied with Master Li from 1989, for ten years in total, beginning in 1989. But, I knew my master long before. In 1973, when I studied the martial arts with Master Yin Lian-zhi at the sports school of Northern Suburbs District, Taiyuan, as one of the top students, I met Master Li  at a tournament. At that time, in his short and tidy black beard, in his black Chinese tunic suit, and wearing old-fashioned round glasses, he sat in the middle of referee seats, working as a head referee. Master Li was always serious in his demeanor, conveying a unique feeling. I was told his skill was quite outstanding.

In one tournament, because the spear I used was big and long, I did not get high scores. After the competition, Master Li asked me: “Who taught you?  Why did you use such as heavy spear?” I told him that Master Ying taught me and that this was the spear I normally trained with. Master Li looked at the spear, deep in thought, saying: “It is not easy to learn the spear, just with strength. Look, your spear is so heavy. You are quite young, but powerful! In training the spear, you have to know how to borrow the strength from the spear shaft. Hey!  You do not understand, even I when tell you.” He shook his head and walked away.

At that time , I did not know what it meant to borrow the strength from the spear - how to borrow strength? This puzzle stayed in my mind until I studied with Master Li. When the examinations for university admission were restored in 1977, I was enrolled into the sports school of Shanxi University through outstanding scores. I systematically studied s the theory of Chinese martial arts - Taiji Quan, Shaolin Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, Whip Stick, and life preservation skill with Prof. Chen Shengfu. In 1982, I was enrolled as a postgraduate candidate of Prof. Chen Shengfu through examinations. During my post-graduate programs, I met with Master Li quite often. Prof. Chen requested us to meet and study with the famous masters of Chinese martial arts in Shanxi province. The first martial artist was Master Li. Then, Master Li lived in the dormitory of Taiyuan Sports Committee in Xinglin district, not a big room. Because I carried the banner of Prof. Chen Shengfu, he treated me very warmly. His wife offered a cup of sugar water to me. Then, I did not understand proper etiquette and sat down asking him directly about his master’s instruction and his disciples. Master Li dealt with me in an off-hand manner: “I have not taught students for a long time. Now, I am not healthy. You see I have to lie down to rest, just saying these words. You should go back, I do not have anything for you.”

I mentioned this to Prof. Chen, after I returned to the school. Prof. Chen said: “You do not understand these martial artists folk. Many of them are strange in their temperament. If you want to understand them, you must have a modest attitude to learn from them, really a modest attitude.” Afterwards, again I went to ask Master Li modestly for advice about the issues on Xing Yi Quan and Tai Ji Quan. He gradually started to explain and enlighten me. Seeing that I had a foundation and an inquiring mind, he asked me: “If I teach you, will Prof. Chen oppose?” I said: “Prof. Chen is very open-minded, telling us to search out teachers and make friends everywhere. If I study with you, Prof. Chen will be surely happy.” Master Li said: “That is good. I will mention it to Prof. Chen, when I meet him.” 

When Master Li organized a training course for Xing Yi Quan at the swimming pool of Shanxi University in 1989, I had more opportunities to meet with him. I went to the swimming pool and saw lots of people standing in San Ti. Previously I had also trained San Ti and did not truly feel and understand it. Upon seeing I was standing San Ti incorrectly , Master Li stood up and showed me his San Ti, which was really outstanding in posture. Skinny as he was, Master Li suddenly transformed into a different person: His head was slightly guided upward, with the body trunk straightened, like a upright old pine tree, but with the whole body as soft and gentle as water and a particularly bright and shining expression his two eyes. I was really shocked. A school brother standing aside said to me: “Master Li thinks highly of you. He never stands San Ti, showing like this to anybody.” I was deeply moved, expressing my intention to learn Xing Yi Quan systematically. Master Li then said: “come and train if you have time,” and presented me with his photo, his name and time signature on its back. This showed he was willing to accept me. From then on, I went to Master Li’s home to study, when I had time.

In 1992, in his 80th birthday party, lots of martial artists and enthusiasts came from various cities of the province cerebrating his birthday. Master Li himself arranged for Prof. Chen and me to sit with him in the same table. At the table, Master Li asked Prof. Chen: “Can I continue to train your disciple?” Prof. Chen was very glad to hear this, saying: “It is our duty to build up his talent. You are a martial artist. I am very relieved, if you train him.” Then, Prof. Chen said to me: “Look! Mao Mingchun. You are really lucky, now that the master that is looking for disciple. You must painstakingly learn, and make your talents known in the field of sports. You must not let Master Li disappointed.” At that moment, I immediately poured glasses of liquor for two masters, on order to pay my respect to them. Master Li said immediately to everyone at the table: “from now on, he is my disciple, and I ask all of you to offer you help to him.” Then, I took a photo together with Master and his wife.

In 1993, Mr. Li Rongchun from Shanxi University suggested that we organize the Taiyuan Tui Shou (Pushing Hands) Association. Master Li agreed with his suggestion and told me to contact with large number of Tui Shou enthusiasts in Taiyuan. Within the year, Taiyuan Taiji Tui Shou Association was formally organized. Master Li was elected to be the president and some of my school brothers and me were appointed by Master Li to be deputy presidents. After the Tui Shou association was organized, I went to Master Li’s home almost every day, managing some business of the association, learning and studying come techniques and discussing some teaching materials. Then, we received a letter from the North American Tang Shou Tao Association, saying about 30 coaches from the Tang Shou Tao Association would come to study Xing Yi Quan and Tui Shou with Master Li. In April of 1994, our group of six to seven people traveled to Beijing and stayed in Beijing Exhibition Hotel. I was in charge of compiling the teaching plan, liaison and simple translation. We trained 28 coaches of Tang Shou Tao Association for ten days and obtained satisfactory results.

After coming back from Beijing, Master Li said to me: “your foundation is not bad, but you do not understand my style. You can only be my disciple and understand our method, after you train proficiently. My expertise is in Southern Shaolin Soft Arts, Xingyi and the whip stick. When Xing Yi, Tai Ji and Ba Gua arecombined, that is real Tai Ji. Otherwise, Tai Ji is empty. In my view, you are basically skillful in those aspects. You only need to process internal regulation, and clearly understand the essence (kernel) of Southern Shaolin and Xing Yi Quan.” He repeated: “you do not need to learn forms, because the forms are made up, while the essence that cannot be made up, is the internal instinct. The key is in how to initiate and control it. At this time, it is first necessary understand San Ti.”

Studiying San Ti with Master Li

Thousands of methods in Xing Yi Quan emanate from San Ti. The following is my understanding in training San Ti with Master Li.

Master Li said: “San Ti, also term San Cai in the old time, San Ti refers to the heaven, earth and human beings. In Xing Yi Quan, it refers to the upper, middle and lower Dantian areas, and refers to the head, hand and foot externally. Before, many people training Xing Yi Quan injured their legs. This is a fact. The reason is that they did not stand San Ti correctly. There are basically two reasons: In Practicing San ti, one must practice standing  for a long time – from 6 months to three years. Many people stood San Ti without inquiring about its principle, just standing there with strength. And the second is that most of them stand in thirty percent and seventy percent weighting. People do not understand that the thirty percent and seventy percent gravity is a single weighting method, a method for practical application of the attacking and defending techniques. It should not be adopted in the beginning of training. In the beginning, it is necessary to stand in a balanced position with slightly big step, namely, equal strength in both legs and the same sensation in both soles. The purpose of this is to train the balance of the body and the balance of internal qi and blood. Without balance of qi and blood, there will be no health. If there is no balance in the body, how could it be possible to change. Therefore, it is necessary to seek balance before looking for changes. Balance is necessary for there to be single weighting. Then success will be possible with single weighting.”

“The key points in standing stake, beside the training based upon the rules and the experience of the ancient people: the most important thing is supposed to focus on the mutual response in the five body parts: vertex, palm, sole, gravity, and center. The vertex should be uplifted. The combination of the five body parts is the essential in standing stake.”

My understanding: I trained San Ti for long time, but I did not have any special sensation, other than feeling very tired in the legs. After I trained San Ti again under Master Li’s instruction, a series of reactions took place inside my body. First, I could train in relaxation: Master Li requested me to stretch out the head, hands and feet in relaxation in standing the stake: with the head uplifted in relaxation for pulling apart every section of the spine column, so qi and blood can flow smoothly in the Governor Vessel, with the palm and sole stretched out, in order to dredge qi and blood in the four limbs to build up internal energy. After training this way for a period of time, I felt warm in the four limbs, sweating in the hands. I felt clear in the ears and bright in the eyes, and I felt more powerful. After having these positive g sensations, I became even more deeply engaged in the study of San Ti. Master Li used to say training is primarily supposed to develop the instinct and potential of the human body. So, I studied the relationship between San Ti and instinct; and how to develop the instinct.

First, in standing San Ti, the legs started to vibrate after standing for several minutes. At the same time, presenting a distending, heating, numb, painful and aching sensation. In that moment, one issue took place. If in standing the position of thirty percent and seventy percent weighting, the vibration came quickly, but lasted for short time. In standing in the position of the balance stake (balanced San Ti), vibration came slowly, but lasted for longer time. By careful sense, I found that periodic change took place in the balanced stake; also periodic change synchronous to vibration. I became extremely excited about it, because I could not find any relevant experiments and explanations in the various texts on sports physiology. At that moment, I sensed that this phenomenon must be very important and significant physiological reaction and training method. Because vibration is periodical, I termed this type of stake as “Taiji Stake” of San Ti, indicating the rising and falling changes in energy, metabolism and body sense. Later, the tests showed that frequency of this muscular vibration in “Taiji Stake” of San Ti was about 7 ~ 10 times per second, close to the natural muscular vibration of 10 times per second, and also close to the meridians wave of 7 ~ 13 times per second.

Therefore, an idea appeared in my mind: could the muscular vibration in standing stake  be used to train the springing and shooting energy, the strength-releasing speed of the leg muscles, and the speed of the fist? The vibration in standing stake is natural and instinctive and is a kind of the physiological reaction of the human body to the motor stimulation. If the main intention and movements are added into the natural vibration, what could happen? By training and experiments, good effects could be produced in the combination of those two, and reaction ability could be greatly elevated, and the strength could be obviously increased, and the coordination of body movement could also be improved. Further, the internal five organs could be stimulated, if training goes internally.

After I told Master Li about those sensations, he was slightly shocked: “you have had these sensations and experiences? I tell you: the spontaneous vibration of the muscle is supposed to train the pre-heaven energy, and that initiated by the mind is post-heaven energy. During the vibration of the muscles in standing the stake, if initiated by the mind, it is the joint training of the pre-heaven and post-heaven energy. You have found it but cannot control it. Only when the pre-heaven energy is trained to react instantly, can it be possible to attack people without sense. In the training, it is necessary to pay more attention to the sensation and reaction of the Diantian, sole and palm.”

As for the development of the instinct and potential of the human body by Xing Yi Quan and the theory of “practicing the fist skill like walking”, walking is an instinctive movement of the human body. Let us study what walking means. By studying the walking and standing method of the chicken, we can understand that what we learn from the chicken legs in Xing Yi Quan is the stability of the chicken in stepping energy, stamping energy and standing on one leg. By studying the relationships between the walking, running and pouncing movements of animals that walk on four legs and the movements of Xing Yi Quan, we can discover that San Ti is like the standing posture of the tiger and leopard, and  Pi Quan is like the walking process of the tiger and leopard.

When we stand in San Ti and bend the body forward for 90 degrees, it looks like the posture of animals walking with four limbs on the ground. Human beings evolved from the ape and the ape evolved from the animals that walk on all fours. The baby’s crawling is very similar to the walking of a small cat or dog. The changes in San Ti - Pi Quan - is very similar to walking of the tiger and leopard. The release of force  in Pi Quan can be viewed as the forward pouncing of the tiger and leopard. In the twelve animals of Xing Yi Quan, the special techniques of the animals walking with four limbs like tiger, monkey, horse and bear were adopted, and with San Ti (the essentials of Chinese martial arts) were summarized and refined through long-term practice. The importance of this is that the movements and postures are very close to the natural, instinctive movements of animals and humans being.

There is a famous saying in Xing Yi Quan: “to strike a person is like walking.” When it is said that one should to return to the state of infancy, it means to that one should crawl naively like baby; in standing, feel like you are crawling. Because the four limbs touch the ground in crawling, every step is real and firm. Therefore, it is said “the fist does not go out in vain and come back in vain.” In Six Harmony Boxing Methods, there is a saying: “a baby’s striking and playing methods must develop naturally.” 

In walking, the animals of four limbs always touch the ground at three points. In order to maintain balance, the lower back and tail turn naturally. When the human stands and walks, the center of gravity is high. Although the two hands do not touch the ground, the arms still wave forwards and backward, like the movements of the two forelimbs in walking of. When  animals walk, the rear foot of the same side always replaces the front foot of the same side, and the front foot extends forward, to walk alternatively at the left and right side. When the tiger and leopard run quickly or pounce on their prey, after the two rear feet land on the ground simultaneously, the front two feet land on the ground simultaneously; and four limbs land on the ground in turn in normal running and walking.

In Xing Yi Quan, there is such saying that “only when the hand and foot arrive at the same time, is there real skill. The hand and foot arrive in separation, in walking, running and gathering force. The hand and foot arrive together, in galloping, pouncing and releasing the force. The basic original form of San Ti is smooth step and twisted step. The smooth step is suitable for straight force, like Beng Quan, and the twisted step suitable for curved force, like Heng Quan.

San Ti is the foundation for attacking skills and movements of Xing Yi Quan, and all the movements in Xing Yi Quan come from this basic posture, so it is said that “all methods come from San Ti”. San Ti includes the basic principles of the stepping forms, body forms and hand forms in Xing Yi Quan. San Ti is not only a posture for both attack and defense, it also can powerfully strengthen the body, expel illness and prolong the life. By standing in San Ti, it is possible to regulate the balance between qi and blood, and regulate the coordination of the nine major sections of the whole body. Therefore, it is a basic method for training internal and external “six harmonies”.

The intensity of the movements is maximal in standing San Ti with gravity of front thirty and rear seventy, and less in standing with gravity of front forty and rear sixty, and even less with gravity of front fifty and rear fifty. There is also a form with the  front bow step. There are different demands and functions in each standing posture. All of them need to be trained.

There are four phenomena in Xing Yi Quan: chicken leg, dragon body, bear shoulder and tiger holding the head. Therefore, in standing San Ti and practicing Pi Quan, it is necessary to sense their respective and interesting implications.

Master Li on Taiji

Returning back to Taiyuan after teaching the coaches of North American Tang Shou Tao Association, Master Li called me to his home, saying: “The American students want to learn Tai Ji Quan. The 88 forms are too long. I wrote down 45 forms, derived from the main movements of 88 forms.” The following are the names of 45 forms written down by Master Li.

1. Preparation.

2. Stance.

3. Walk forward and hold the sparrow tail in the right.

4. Single whip.

5. Uplift the hand.

6. White crane spreads wings.

7. Left pulling knee with twisted step.

8. Play Bi Pa with the hand.

9. Left and right pulling knee with twisted step.

10. Play Bi Pa with the hand.

11. Walk forward to move, block and pound.

12. Like blockage and like closure.

13. Cross hand.

14. Hold the tiger back to the mountains.

15. Grab the sparrow tail sideways.

16. Look at the hammer underneath the elbow.

17. Roll the humerus backward.

18. Left and right oblique fly.

19. Uplift the hand and advance the posture.

20. White crane spreads wings.

21. Left pulling knee.

22. Needle on the bottom of sea.

23. Flash the whole arm.

24. Turn the body and throw the hammer.

25. Walk forward to move, block and pound.

26. Walk forward and hold the sparrow tail in the right.

27. Single whip.

28. Cloud hand.

29. Single whip.

30. High exploring horse at the left and right.

31. Separate the feet leftward and rightward.

32. Turn the body and stamp with the left foot.

33. Left and right pulling knee with twisted step.

34. Walk forward and pound with the hammer.

35. Turn the body and white snake spits the tongue.

36. Walk forward to move and block.

37. Stamp with the right foot.

38. Crouch the tiger at the left and right.

39. Turn the body backward and stamp with the foot.

40. Strike the ears with two fists.

41. Stamp with the left foot.

42. Turn the body and stamp with the right foot.

43. Walk forward to move and block.

44. Like blockage and like closure.

45. Cross hand.

Master Li said: “I have given you a subject, a subject for examination, and also a research project. You need to carefully study the special points in Xing Yi Quan and Ba Gua Zhang, and you’d better put those important points into the 45 forms. Earlier, Sun Lu Tang compiled a kind of Tai Ji Quan, called Moving Step Tai Ji Quan, based upon the footwork of Xing Yi Quan. We also should be innovative and  compile them scientifically. Now, there is so much knowledge compiled not good than our predecessors?” Master Li said: “this art was termed Xin Yi (heart and mind) and Xing Yi (form and mind)”, and we have Xin Yi (new intention). 

Master Li’s comments encouraged me greatly. I researched many things and studied Xing Yi Quan, Tranquility-Skill Threads-Entangling Tai Ji Quan (Jin Gong Chan Si Tai Ji Quan), Wu Style Tai Ji Quan, Ba Gua Zhang, and Shaolin Soft Arts. Through repeated compilation and revision over five years, the manuscript was preliminarily finalized. After demonstrating for Master Li, Master Li commented: “it is okay. You need to consider the frame, intensity, energy and force, speed and smoothness; whether you are able to separate the true and the false, and have the energy burst forth instantly; can the 45 forms be practiced faster than Xing Yi Quan, and are the various body parts more smooth, active and changeable?” 

After hearing all this, my head was spinning. How could it be possible to practice with such high demands, and to have them all included into 45 forms? Master Li enlightened me: “The frame should be reasonable and the accumulated energy should be full and perfect, like stretching a bow, and the energy should be shoot out like an arrow, when it is needed. The Dantian is a round ball without a terminus. How could you change it into two appearances, four images and eight trigrams? The force should be intensified from looseness, and the key is the internal intensity. Do not show it in hands. Once it is smooth and active, it is fast in speed. Where are a thousand units of weight? Where are four units of weight? Once you find it, you can speed up as you want. At that moment, it does not matter if it is Tai Ji Quan, Xing Yi Quan or Ba Gua Zhang, and you can change the speed and energy as you want. Do not forget the circle of the Southern Shaolin soft art.” 

Then I worked everyday on the research subject given to me by Master Li, continuously testing  and continuously  improving. When, just after making some progress, I needed his instruction and guidance, I was shocked with endless sadness by the news Master Li passed away. Ten years have passed and his voice and expressions still frequently appear before me. Certain progress had been made in the subject left over by Master Li, but it is still far away from his demands. We (myself and the other disciples) must unite closely, study jointly, make progress together and follow the expectations of the ancestors to pass down Chinese martial arts.  

In memory of Master Li with this article | 2010-5-20
(Translated by Huang Guoqi)


拜李桂昌为师

1989年跟李师父学拳,共十年左右。但认识师父却是很早的事。1973年间,我在太原市北郊区少体校跟银连志师父练拳,是北郊区武术队的主力之一,在比赛场上经常见到李师父。那时他留着短而齐的黑胡须,穿着黑色的中山装,戴着老式的圆眼镜,坐在裁判席中间,任裁判长,李师父神情总是严肃的,给人一种与众不同的感觉,并听师长们说他的武功相当了得。

有一次比赛,我使的枪又粗又长,得分不高,赛后李师父问我:“谁教的你?为甚拿这么重的枪?”我说是银老师教的,平时就拿这杆枪练。李师父看着枪若有所思,说:“枪可不是好练的,光有劲还不行,看你的枪这么重,小小年纪还有把子劲!但练枪是能不能借杆子的劲。嗨!说了你也不懂。”摇了摇头走了。

当时我也不懂什么是借杆子的劲,怎么借?心中留下了个问号。后来随李师父学习才明白。1977年恢复高考,我以优异的成绩考入山西大学体育学院,拜陈盛甫教授为师,系统地学习了武术理论和太极拳、少林拳、八卦掌、鞭杆,养生术等。1982年又考上了陈盛甫教授的武术研究生。在读研究生期间才经常接触李师父。陈盛甫教授要求我们对山西省知名武术家做一个大面积的拜访学习,我拜访的第一个武术家就是李师父,那时李师父还住在太原市杏花岭体委的宿舍,房屋不太大,我打着陈盛甫教授的旗号,所以对我很热情。师母给我倒了一杯白糖水,我当时不懂规矩,坐定后就直接问李师父的师承及所授弟子的情况。李师父哼哼哈哈地应付我说:“早就不教学生了,现在身体不好,你看我这说几句话就得躺下休息,你没什么事就回去吧。”

我回到学校,跟陈教授谈起这事。陈教授说:“你不了解民间的武术家,他们大多有古怪的脾气,你要了解他们,就先要有虚心学习的态度,一定要真真的虚心才行。”后来我又去虚心地向李师父讨教形意拳和太极拳的问题,他渐渐地开始给我讲解和开导。他见我基础还好,也爱动脑筋,就问我:“如果我教你的话,陈教授反对不反对?”我说:“陈教授特别开通,让我们多方寻师访友,我如跟你学习,陈教授一定会很高兴的!”李师父说:“那好,待我见了陈教授跟他说说这事”。

1989年,李师父在山西大学游泳场开办形意拳培训班,我接触他的机会多了,去了游泳场,见很多人在站三体式。我以前也站过,没觉的怎样。李师父见我不以为然,就起身站了个三体式给我看,果然气势非同凡响。李师父仟瘦的身体,一下子像变了个人似的:头部微微领起,躯干正直,整体像一棵挺拔的古松,但周身又绵软如水,尤其是两眼炯炯有神,我看了异常吃惊。旁边的师兄对我说:“李师父这是看重你,从来不这样站三体式给人看。”我心里也很激动,表达了想系统学习形意拳的心情。李师父当下说:“有时间就来练吧。”并送给我一张他的照片,背面还签了名和时间,以此表明愿意接受我。从此我有时间就去李师父家请教学习。

1992年,李师父过80大寿,祝寿的有来自全省各地很多武术家和爱好者,李师父亲自安排陈盛甫教授和我与他同席,席间李师父向陈教授提到:“你这个弟子由我再培养怎样?”陈教授一听非常高兴,说:“培养人才是大家的事,你是武术专家,你来培养我放心!”然后陈教授对我说:“明春你看,现在是师寻徒啊!你很幸运!以后要认真刻苦地学习,还要多思考,发挥你学体育专业的特长,不要辜负李师父的一片苦心”。我当即为两位师父斟酒,一一敬过。李师父当即对全桌的人说:从今起他是我的徒弟了,你们要多多帮助啊。”后来又与师父师母合影留念。

1993年山西大学李荣春先生倡议成立太原市推手联谊会,李师父同意并嘱我们多方联系太原市推手爱好者,年内正式成立了太原市太极拳推手协会。李师父任会长,我和几位师兄被李师父推任为副会长。成立了推手协会后,我几乎天天去李师父家,一方面是办一些协会中的事,另一方面就是学习和研究技术,讨论教材等。这时接到美国唐手道协会的信,说有近30名唐手道协会的教练要来跟李师父学习形意拳和推手。19944月我们一行67人到了北京,驻北京友谊宾馆,我负责编写教学计划,联络和简单的翻译。对唐手道协会的28名教练,进行了10天的教学和训练,收到了满意的效果。

从北京回来后,李师父对我说:“你的基础不错,但还没有真正入了我的门,你练好我的拳才是我的弟子,也才真正理解我们的东西。我认为我的好东西一是南少林柔术,一是形意,一是鞭杆。形意、太极、八卦三个放到一起才是真太极,不然太极是空的。依我看你这几方面都有基础,只是需要对内进行调理,对南少林和形意拳核心的东西进行清底”。他又说:“拳架你不用多学,因为拳架都是人们编的,但核心的东西可不是编出来的,那是内在本能的东西,关键是怎么调动出来,怎么控制它。从现在开始先解决三体式吧”。 

跟李师父学三体式  

形意拳万法出于三体,以下是跟李师父练三体式的体悟。

李师父讲:“三体式,古称三才式,三体式指天、地、人。在形意拳是指上、中、下三丹田,在外是头、手、足。过去练心(形)意拳的,练坏腿的不在少数,这是事实,这是三体式没有站对的原因。基本原因有二:一是站的时间太长,多则三年,少也有半年;且多不问原理,只是一个劲儿的站。二是三七桩站得多。人有所不知,三七桩乃是单重法,是技击实用的方法。但在初练时不宜取,初练时应站步子稍大的平衡桩,即两腿平均吃力,两足心有同感,这是练身体的平衡和内在气血的平衡。没有气血的平衡就没有健康,没有身体的平衡何从变化?所以先求平衡后求变通,由平衡而单重,由单重到成功”。

“关于站桩的要领,除了要按古人的经验和规矩练习外,最重要的是注意五心相互感应,五心是:头顶心、手心、足心、重心、中心。头顶心上顶。五心合一处乃是站桩的精义”。

我的感悟:我三体式也站了不少,但以前只觉的腿很累以外,并没有其他特殊的感觉。在李师父的指点下重新练习三体式后,身体内外开始发生一系列的反应。首先是放松练习:李师父要求我在站三体式时,头、手、足均要展开,边展边松:头向上松顶可以将脊柱节节拔开,使督脉气血通畅;手足心的松展,可以将四肢气血打通,增长内劲。这样经过一段时间的练习即感到四肢温暖,手心出汗,耳清目明,轻劲有力。有了这样种好的感觉,我更加痴迷于三体式的研究。李师父说:练形意拳很多是开发人体的本能和潜能,我就琢磨三体式与本能是怎样的关系,怎样开发本能?

首先站三体式,站到几分钟后两腿即开始振动,同时产生发涨、发热、发麻、发痛、发酸等感觉。这时发现一个问题,如果是三七桩,振动来的快,但坚持的时间较短;如果是平衡桩,则振动来得慢,但是可以持续较长时间。经过认真体认,发现平衡桩有周期性的变化,感觉上也有与振动同步的周期性变化。我对这一点产生了极大的兴趣,因为翻阅运动生理书籍,找不到相关的实验和说明。这时意识到这种现象可能是非常重要并且非常有意义的一种生理反应和训练方法。由于振动是周期性的,所以我将这种桩称之为三体“太极桩”,以表明在站桩过程中有能量、代谢、体感等多方面的涨落变化。后来测试这种三体“太极桩”的肌肉振动频率约每秒7——10次,与肌肉固有振动频率每秒10次接近,与经络波每秒7——13次也接近。因此产生一个想法,能否利用站桩时的肌肉振动,训练丹田的弹射劲?还有腿部肌肉发力的速度?发拳的速度?站桩时的振动是自然的、本能的,是人体对运动刺激产生的一种生理反应,在自然振动的同时如果加上主要的意识和动作会怎样?经过训练和实验两者结合能产生良好的效果,反应能力大大提高,力量明显增长,身体运动的协调性改善。进而往内练,五内皆可以被引动。将这些感觉说与李师父时,他略显惊讶地问:“你有了这些感觉和体会?我告诉你:肌肉自发振动是练先天劲,用意引发是后天劲,在站桩肌肉振动时加意念引发是先后天劲的合练,你找到了但还不能控制,要练到先天劲有感即应,才能做到击人于不觉。在练时多注意一下丹田、足心、手心的感觉和感应”。

谈到形意拳开发本能和潜能,形意拳有“打拳如走路”之说。走路是人的本能运动,那么先好好研究一下走路是怎么回事?经过对鸡行、走、站的研究明白了形意拳要学鸡腿的原因是取鸡行走时的踩劲、蹬劲、独立时的稳定。通过研究四肢行走动物的走、跑、扑等与形意拳运动的关系发现:三体式像似虎豹的站立姿势,劈拳好似虎豹在行走的过程。当我们站好三体式后,向前弯腰90度,即像四肢着地行走的动物姿势。人是从猿人进化来的,猿人又是由再低一级的动物进化来的。婴儿的爬就很像小猫小狗的走,三体式的变化——劈拳就很像是虎、豹的行走,劈拳的发力可以看作是虎、豹的前仆。在形意拳十二形中吸取了虎、猴、马、熊等四肢行走动物的特技,并在长期的实践中总结出了三体式这一武术运动中的精华。它的合理重要性就是体现在这个动作姿势最接近人(动物)的本能动作。形意拳有句名言“打人如走路”,要求返还到婴儿状态,那极有可能就是像婴儿那样天真地爬,只不过是站着爬。由于爬的时候四肢均着地,每一步都实实在在,所以有“拳不空去也不空回”要求。形意拳谱《六合拳法》中有:“悟得婴儿玩打法,天然是生成。”四肢动物在行走过程中,总是以三点着地的。为了保持平衡,腰胯和尾巴自然的扭动。人直立行走后重心偏高,虽然两手不着地了,但仍有两臂前后的摆动,如爬行动物行走时两个前肢的动作。动物行走时,总是以同侧的后足代替同侧的前足,前足前伸。这样左右交替进行行走。虎、豹在快速奔跑或瞬间扑食时,总是后两足同时着地之后,前两足再同时着地,一般跑和走是四肢依次着地。形意拳中有手脚齐到方为真之语,手脚分至是走、跑、畜力,手脚齐到是奔、扑、发力。三体式基本原型是顺步和拗步的,顺步适合于直线力,如崩拳;拗步适合于弧线力,如横拳。

三体式是形意拳技法和动作的基础,形意拳的所有动作都离不开这个基本姿势,有“万法出于三体式之说”。三体式中包含了形意拳步型、身型、手型等一系列的基本要领。三体式不仅是一个攻防兼备的姿势,站三体式还具有强健体魄,祛除疾病和益寿延年的巨大作用。站三体式可以调整气血的平衡,调整周身九大节的协调贯通,是训练内外“六合”的基本方法。

三体式的前三后七步运动量最大,前四后六步次子,前五后五再次子,还有前弓式步,每一种站法均有不同要求和作用,但均需要训练。

形意拳有四象的要求:鸡腿、龙身、熊膀、虎抱头。在站三体式和走劈拳过程中认真体会,三者各有其旨趣。

李师父讲太极  

从北京教北美唐手道协会武术教练班回到太原后,李师父打电话将我叫到家里,对我说:“美国学生提出要学太极拳,88式有些长,我写了个45式的名称,是从88式中抽取的主要动作”。下面是李师父写得45式动作名称:

1、预备式。2、起式。3、上步右揽雀尾。4、单鞭。5、提手。6、白鹤亮翅。

7、左搂膝拗步。8、手挥琵琶。9左右搂膝拗步。10、手挥琵琶。11、进步搬拦捶。12、如封似闭。13、十字手。14、抱虎归山。15、斜揽雀尾。16、肘底看捶。17、倒卷肱。18、左右斜飞。19、提手上势。20、白鹤亮翅。21、左搂膝。22、海底针。23、闪通臂。24、转身撇身捶。25、进步搬拦捶。26、上步右揽雀尾。27、单鞭。28、云手。29、单鞭。30、高探马左右。31、左右分脚。32、转身左蹬足。33、左右搂膝拗步。34、进步栽捶。35、翻身白蛇吐信。36、进步搬拦。37、右蹬脚。38、左右伏虎。39、回身蹬脚。40、双峰贯耳。41、左蹬脚。42、转身右蹬脚。43、进步搬拦。44、如封似闭。45、十字手。

    李师父说:“题目给你了,相当于一个考题,也是研究项目。要认真研究一下形意、八卦等拳的特点,最好把它们的好东西都放到45式里。以前孙禄堂编了一个太极拳,叫活步太极,取的就是形意拳的步法,咱们也要有创新的劲儿,敢于编、科学的编,现在有这么多知识难道还不如前人编得好?”李师父说:“以前有‘心意’‘形意’咱们是‘新意’”。李师父的话给了我很大的鼓励,我查阅了大量资料,研究了形意拳、静功缠丝太极拳、吴氏太极拳、八卦掌、少林柔术等。编了改、改了编,历时5年多才初步定稿。演练给李师父看,李师父看了以后说:“编得还可以,你要考虑功架、松紧、劲力、速度、圆活,你能不能把腰腹部的虚实分开?能不能把劲儿一瞬间爆发出来?能不能把45式练的比形意拳还快?能不能全身各处都圆活能化?”我当时一听就头大了,这么高的要求怎么练?而且全都要装进45式拳里。李师父启发道:“功架要合理,蓄劲要圆满,像开弓,需要的时候劲就像箭一样能射出去。丹田是圆的无极球,你怎样把它化为两仪、四象、八卦?力由松而紧,关键是里边的松紧,不要显现在手上,圆活了就快了。什么地方是千斤?四两在哪儿?你找到了就可以随心所欲的快了,那时无所谓是太极还是形意、八卦,可以随意变化速度和劲力,别忘了南少林柔术的环”。

    在我日日痴迷于李师父交给我研究的课题,不断试验、不断改进,刚取得一点点进步的时候,再需要向他请教、需要他指导的时候,突然接到李师父去世的消息,心中无限感伤。十年过去了,他的音容笑貌仍常常一幅幅的浮现在眼前,李师父留下的课题已经取得一定的进展,但是离要求还差的很远,我们需要精诚团结,共同研究进步,不辜负前辈的期望,将武术国宝传承下去。

    谨以此文纪念李桂昌师父。 

 

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