As the Head of Physical Education for the People's University of Beijing Professor Li Deyin's influence on Taiji and martial arts is great. Last time, Professor Li Deyin talked about his background in Taiji and his methods, r hopes and plans for its development throughout the world. In this final part, he talks of his other skills and philosophy of the martial arts.
Qi Magazine: I understand that you studied Shaolin, Xingyi, Bagua and Taiji. Many people say that Xingyi, Bagua and Taiji are similar, and Shaolin is a little different. Do you agree?
Professor Li: In the past people say that Xingyi, Bagua, Taiji are Neijia quan (internal), whilst Shaolin is Waijia (external), but this categorisation is not very rational. Even the famous martial artist Sun Lutang said it was not really right to use this distinction. Strictly speaking, neijia should emphasise " Yi (mind) or Qi (energy), where as waijia should emphasise Li (strength) and speed. But doesn't Xingyi use strength? Doesn't Bagua use speed? Taiji says when you store, it is like drawing a bow, when you release, it is like shooting an arrow - powerful and strong. Also, there
are many sayings in Shaolin regarding how you should train your qi. So they are the same. All Chinese martial arts emphasise internal and external.
There is another distinction, that neijia are supposed to defend, while waijia like to attack. But this is not right either. Xingyi, which is called neijia, like to attack. They say "Don't hesitate, just attack". They also
say, "When you start, it is as fast as the wind. When you hit your opponent, even if they fall down it is still too slow".
Taiji has a totally different emphasis, they say "You don't move, I don't move. You move, I've already moved". They also like to give the opponent space so that they can be drawn into your trap, and use softness to overcome hardness. This is also classified as neijia quan. Therefore the methods and techniques a martial art uses depends on the situation of the attack. It's a bit like the World Cup. We like to say that certain teams are better at attack, or others are better at defence, whilst another has a strong midfield. But all teams at that level are good at all aspects of play, and it is not so easy to make broad generalisations.
Sun Lutang has a saying "Quan wu quan, Yi wu yi". This means when you fight you should not consciously use a particular style of fighting, and you should not consciously respond to your opponent.
However I'm not saying all styles of martial arts are the same. Of course there are differences. Some martial arts emphasise a bit more on the speed, strength and accuracy, while others will emphasise yi and qi a bit more.
"Di Qi means to bring up the Qi. Tuo Qi means to hold the Qi. Jiu Qi means to gather the energy"
For example in Xingyi we have the 12 animals. This does not mean that we have to imitate exactly what the animal does. You only have to take the inner meanings of the animal's attack and the animal's way of movement. For example in the monkey form, we adopt the speed and flexibility of the monkey, like jumping, going forwards, but not actually acting like a monkey. So you can see you never take on the entire personality of the monkey, but just emphasise certain aspects that are appropriate to our training.
Therefore if your training tends to emphasise strength, speed and power, then these martial arts are known as waijia, or external. The martial arts that emphasise the yi, the qi and co-ordination, we can then call them the neijia, or internal.
How about body requirements? For example Taiji has certain sayings like, "songkua,yuan dang", that tellyouhow you should hold the body. Can you classify the martial arts according to the way you hold your body posture?
Xingyi and Bagua in this respect are very similar to Taiji. In this sense, Shaolin is a little bit different. Shaolin is a lot more tense and straight. Xingyi and Bagua tend to be a lot more rounded. Shaolin tends to emphasise Di Qi, or making the qi rise. Xingyi, Bagua, Taiji tend to emphasise Chen Qi, or lowering the qi.
However you must bear in mind that Shaolin has four techniques: Di, Tuo, Jiu, Chen. Di Qi means to bring up the Qi. Tuo Qi means to hold the Qi. Jiu Qi means to gather the energy before fali (issuing strength). At the end we have Chen Qi, which is to lower the Qi, so it is the same as the other martial arts.
So Shaolin uses the Qi in different ways, including lowering the Qi, whereas Xingyi/ Bagua/Taiji tend to emphasise following the Qi as the most important technique.
How did you teach your daughter?
When she started high school, as well as teaching her at home, I brought her into the University to train with the Beijing Wushu team. She also travelled around China with me to teach and learn. Before she started high school, I started getting her interested in martial arts by taking her to Wushu competitions. Rather than forcing her to train all the time, I tried to cultivate an interest in the martial arts in her. When she learned, it was a lot easier. You didn't just have to study with one teacher, and the training did not have to be so severe. It could be fun as well.
When she got into University, I was able to help her get into the Wushu team of that University, so she trained with a lot of different people. She had the opportunity to train with a lot of top class athletes and gold medallists. She also competed successfully in a number of competitions herself.
Every year when I visit her here, I force her to train. From my Grandfather, through my father, and now on to Fei (my daughter), the philosophy of practising together is passed on. It is like a hobby or interest for us all to practise together. In Chinese tradition at times like New Year when they get together, families like to play Mah jong. However when our family gets together, we practise martial
Did you do a lot of pushing hands?
From when Fei was very young, we did a lot of pushing hands. Our family's philosophy was: it doesn't matter if you are the father or the child during pushing hands; if you win you win, if you lose you lose.
Professor Li, do you have anything else you would like to add?
There are two reasons why I have come to visit the U.K.: firstly my aim is to make British people love Chinese Wushu like the Chinese people love football. Secondly, I would like my daughter to carry on the tradition and be the fourth generation of our family to teach martial arts.
interview by Daniel Poon & Sheila Waddington
He was my hero when I was young. When I was eleven, my father took my whole family to see his movie "The Big Boss". I was so impressed by him. He was so real, so powerful and so charismatic. He was Bruce Lee.
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