Martial Arts

Wudang Kung Fu

The Wudang arts are sometimes referred to as ‘internal’ or ‘soft’ martial arts, as opposed to martial arts like Karate or Shaolin Kung Fu, which are called ‘external’ or ‘hard’ martial arts. The external arts focus on building external strength, are typically offensive, and use isolated body movements. The internal arts work on building inner strength, are typically defensive and use whole body movements.

The focus of training for the internal martial arts is on inner strength or nei jin. Inner strength refers the ability to use the body’s qi or vital energy in coordination with your movements. Instead of always using your body’s strength to overpower the opponent, The Wudang martial arts also teach how to transform and redirect an attack. The internal martial arts also focus on whole body movements, where you learn to put the force of your entire body into a punch or kick. These techniques are grounded in Daoist philosophy. Because an opponent’s hard force is Yang, it must be met with a soft Yin force. Daoist martial teach that you should only use your martial skills when necessary to prevent or stop violence. However, martial arts teach a lot more than how to protect your physical body; they show us our weak spots and push our physical and emotional limits, creating a stronger, healthier body and mind.

Here is a list of some of the most common forms in the Wudang curriculum:

Chinese
Pinyin
English
基本套路
Ji ben tao lu
Basic form
玄功拳
Xuan gong quan
Mysterious effect fist (1-3)
龙化拳
Long hua quan
Changing dragon form
玄真拳
Xuan zhen quan
Mysterious reality fist
伏虎拳
Fu hu quan
Tiger Taming form
两仪玄武拳
Liang yi xuan wu quan
2 Polarities mysterious fist
太乙五行拳
Tai yi wu xing quan
Great primordial unity 5 element fist
武当老八掌
Wu Dang Lao Ba Zhang
Wudang Bagua Zhang
形意拳
Xing Yi Quan
Xing Yi (Form + Intention) boxing

 

Wudang Taiji Quan

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Taiji Quan (T’ai Chi Chuan) is the most popular Chinese martial art in the world. Each day, millions of people worldwide of all ages practice in parks, health clubs, and martial arts schools. Many people today practice Taiji mainly for its health benefits and as a kind of moving meditation. Taiji will develop your balance and rooting, will increase your vitality and longevity, and can help you to prevent and heal injuries and illness.

Taiji Quan means ‘Supreme Ultimate Fist’. This Chinese martial art style is approximately 1,000 years old, but the basic movements and principles are known to be much older according to historical documents, so the origin of Taiji Quan is lost to the mists of time.  Taiji philosophy  is much older than Taiji Quan, and it has existed for thousands of years. The “Taiji diagram” In the west is called the Yin/Yang diagram. Yin and Yang are ancient characters are associated with all complimentary opposites; dark and light, cold and warmth, contraction and expansion… Yin and Yang theory explains the dynamic way in which one thing changes into another, bringing about the phases of nature. Taiji refers to this “great ultimate” process, which makes a balanced and interlocking natural world possible. Taiji philosophy is one of the central concepts of Daoism, which is the study of the Dao, or the Natural Way.

Legend tells that during the 1300s, a Quan Zhen Daoist monk living on Wudang Mountain named Zhang San Feng, witnessed a battle between a snake and a crane, and his recreation of their movements is the origin of Taijiquan. Zhang San Feng is considered by many people to be the patriarch of Taijiquan. At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty in the 1600s, in Henan Province, a militia leader named Chen Wan Ting retired to his hometown, and started teaching martial arts. The use of weapons among non-military fighters was prohibited, and many people at the time were developing new barehanded fighting techniques. Chen Wan Ting is credited as the originator of Chen style Taiji Quan, which most probably was a combination of the ancient Taiji postures and Chen-style kung fu. Taijiquan eventually became divided into family styles as the art was passed down from generation to generation, and many styles exist today.

After the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, many martial artists taught openly and the martial arts flourished. Training manuals were published, training academies were created, and national competitions were organized. However, Civil war had already started in 1927, and it ravaged China until 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded under Communist rule. Several times in Chinese history, all martial arts and religion were outlawed, temples were destroyed, and many practitioners were killed. Many Daoists and traditional martial artists fled to Taiwan, and others hid in the mountains.

The new Communist government saw family-lineage styles as potentially subversive, and instead promoted sport-style martial arts. In 1956, the government called for the homogenization of taiji, and the 24-move form was made the standard. From 1966 to 1976 China went through the Cultural Revolution. In China, this was a time of widespread chaos and social violence. Chinese people were encouraged to “smash the old world” to make way for new changes. Many ancient texts and historical documents were destroyed. Daoism was banned as a superstition, monks were sent out to work, and the monasteries were abandoned or destroyed. Most traditional martial artists and qigong practitioners practiced in secret or fled to the West where the arts began to flourish again.

Fortunately, for those martial artists who remained in China, the suppression of traditional teaching was relaxed during the Era of Reconstruction. Thanks to the continued effort of martial artists outside China, and the perseverance of Chinese martial artists, the traditional arts are beginning to flourish once more. A new generation of Daoists is struggling to recover our traditions and preserve the Daoist arts.  Today, the Daoist temples of Wudang are still active. Every morning and afternoon at Zi Xiao Gong (Purple Cloud Palace), Daoist monks and students gather to read scripture to the accompaniment of traditional music. They learn about Daoist history and philosophy and practice traditional meditation techniques and martial arts.

Physical exercise is an essential part of the Daoist lifestyle. While the mind and the body’s vital energy (known as Qi In Chinese) can be trained through meditation and breathing exercises, the bones, muscles, and tendons must also be trained. The Internal martial arts of Wudang Mountain specialize in training the mind, body, and spirit simultaneously. Because they incorporate Daoist breathing, and meditation techniques into the martial arts, these practices can also be used for healing. The Internal martial arts emphasize developing the Qi energy within the body rather than on only building up the external muscles. This abundant Qi is then circulated through the body within the relaxed and soft movements of the Wudang arts. The more relaxed and flowing the body is, the stronger your Qi circulation can be led to support your martial art technique, and the more power you will manifest.

Cultivating the Qi energy within your body is an art which gradually develops over time and effort, through your practice of Meditation, Qigong, Taijiquan, and other Internal martial arts. The body’s energy should feel heavy so that your center of gravity and the origin of movement is low within your body. It is also important that throughout the Taiji form, your movements must follow your Qi. Your body’s energy, breath, and intention must all be in harmony with your movements. While other martial arts may use the force of a single arm or leg, Wudang Taiji teaches us to use whole body power, where the entire body is used as a single unit.

Overcoming Hardness with Softness

However, in order to practice Wudang Taijiquan accurately, it is important to learn the purpose and application of each movement, which will be instructed later, one by one. When the soft and flowing movements of Wudang Taiji are performed at full speed, each movement has a martial art application, usually specializing in striking vulnerable acupuncture points, and dislocating your opponents’ joints. The principle of “overcoming hardness with softness” means that the practitioner does not rely on the use of brute strength to defeat the opponent. Wudang Taiji practitioners wait to use an opponent’s own strength and momentum against them. This idea of ‘waiting until the proper moment’ is rooted In the Daoist theory of “Wu Wei”. “Wu wei” is often translated as ‘non-action’, but this concept doesn’t mean that you aren’t supposed to do anything at all. It means waiting to do something until the time when your action will be the most effective, and then acting in accord with the “Dao” – the laws of nature.

By learning to attach and adhere to an opponent, a Wudang Taiji practitioner can sense the opponents’ intention, and then neutralize and redirect the incoming force with a skillfully applied counter-attack at the proper moment. By keeping the body soft and relaxed, you can respond and adapt to problems faster than one that is hard and tense. Though water is soft, it can carve stone and flow around any obstacle.

As it was written in the Dao De Jing in the 4th or 5th century BC:

天下莫柔弱於水。
而攻堅強者,
莫之能勝,
以其無以易之。
弱之勝強。
柔之勝剛。
天下莫不知莫能行。

There is nothing softer and weaker than water,
And yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and strong things
For this reason, there is no substitute for it.
All the world knows that the weak overcomes the strong and the soft overcomes the hard.
But none can practice it.

(Chan 1963)

Whether you are practicing for self-defense or your health, your body and mind should be relaxed, calm, and centered. Taijiquan practice will transform your body and mind, and the more you practice, the more profound its effects will be. In Chinese we talk about the processes called “nei wai he yi 内外合一”. This literally means that the Inner and outer will be harmonized. The inner and outer refer to the mind and body, as well as the individual and the outside world. While we usually think of these things as separate, they are actually part of a greater totality, which exists in harmony. Through your practice of Taiji quan you can become a more balanced person, and bring serenity to all aspects of your life.

Read more about the benefits of Taiji Quan >>

Wudang Weaponry

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Traditional weapons forms are an important part of the Wudang martial arts curriculum.  After basic conditioning and simple hand forms are learned, a student can train weapon forms as another way to develop strength and agility.

Watch what these arts look like on our YouTube channel >>

Wudang sword is famous throughout China. In Daoist rituals, swords are often wielded as symbolic weapons to subdue evil forces. Traditionally swords were given to traveling Daoists to symbolize cutting away their attachments to the material world. In Daoist qigong practice, when energy is gathered and moved throughout the body, it is described as a sword opening the body’s energy pathways. In Daoist practice, the sword is not seen as a tool for killing enemies. It is a symbol of justice and righteousness, and represents the discipline used for conquering ignorance, reckless passion, and aggression.

The Ancient Sages

There are three Daoist sages that are commonly associated with the sword, Lu Dong Bin, Zhen Wu, and Zhang San Feng. Lu Dong Bin (呂洞賓) also known as the “Sword Immortal” was the most famous of the Eight Immortal Daoist sages of the Tang Dynasty. His legends are recorded in the “Chronicles of Ancestor Lu.”

Lu Dong Bin (呂洞賓) It is said that when Lu Dong Bin traveled through the mortal world, he would disguise his sword into a beautiful woman, who traveled by his side.

Zhen Wu (真武祖師) The second sage associated with the sword is Zhen Wu (真武祖師). Zhen Wu is the patron saint of Wudang Mountain; his name means “Perfected Warrior.” Zhen Wu can be recognized by his long, unbound hair and bare feet, as well as by the armor he wears underneath his Daoist robes, and the sword he carries. Zhen Wu is said to have been a prince who lived and attained enlightenment on Wudang Mountain.

Zhang San Feng (張三豐) According to legend, Zhang San Feng (張三豐) drew inspiration from Zhen Wu and created sword techniques to protect the Dao and fight evil. Originally shared within the Daoist community, the Wudang style of swordsmanship has passed down through the ages and is now accessible to the outside world.

Some Sword History

The history of the sword traces back to the time of China’s Yellow Emperor. In his Ming Dynasty work, the Famous Sword Classic, Li Cheng, Xun quotes an earlier manual called The Records of the Emperor’s Movements East saying “The emperor cast a weapon in copper from Mt. Shou, and engraved it with constellations and ancient characters. On Mt. Lu he used this weapon to defeat Chi You, and named the weapon “jian” meaning “sword.”

Warring States Period

Sword technique and theory can be traced back to the Warring States Period (475-221B.C.) when wars were frequent, soldiers fought on foot and horse, and the rise and fall of a kingdom was determined by the skill of its warriors. From this time period, we have a sacred text which tells the stories of the Daoist philosopher, Zhuang Zi. A chapter in the Zhuang Zi called “Delight in the Sword Fight” tells of a King Zhao, who loved the sword, and recruited 3,000 swordsmen who would spar with each other day and night. Although hundreds were killed, King Zhao was pleased. Although the king’s actions were reprehensible, this story reveals that sword training has been popular for thousands of years.

Qin and Han Dynasties

During the Qin and Han Dynasties (221-220 B.C.) the sword reached an unprecedented level of development. The emperor, civil and military officials, high-ranking officers, and scholars all regularly wore swords. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.) scholars were referring to the “Three Great Arts,” painting, poetry, and the sword.

Swords were worn as a cultural symbol to express the status of the wearer. Later came the invention of gunpowder and the tools of modern warfare. While historically it was considered the most valued weapon on the field of battle, the role of the sword has changed over time. Thousands of years later, the sword is still seen as a manifestation of strength, power, privilege, and ability.

King of the Short Weapons

Practicing the sword is an essential part of Chinese martial training, and sword is the weapon that martial arts students like the most, but behind this one weapon there are many types of sword forms, and every martial arts lineage has their own basic principles and training techniques. But for all styles, the first step to practicing the sword is to understand your weapon.

The sword is the king of all weapons. The traditional Chinese saying, “100 days of bare hand, 1,000 days of spear, 10,000 days of sword” places mastering the sword as the highest achievement in martial arts. Like other weapons, the sword can be used to lengthen the range of your movements and increase your strength and force. However, the sword demands an unparalleled level of skill. Unlike other weapons which use brute force to clash and overpower, when wielding a sword your attacks must be precise, and your movements light and quick. But as demanding as the sword can be, if you can persevere with your training you will be rewarded with a faster response rate, endurance, flexibility, and a calm, focused mind.

Wudang Sword Style

From ancient times, Wudang Mountain has earned prestige for its sword practices. In kung fu legends, Wudang is associated with the sword just as Shaolin is associated with the staff. There are several different Wudang sword forms including the Tai Yi Daoist Sword, the San Feng Taiji sword form, the Eight Immortals’ Sword, the Changing Dragon sword, which all come together to form the Wudang style of swordplay.

Wudang sword is similar to the other martial arts practiced on the Mountain. All are internal style, which avoids direct clashes with the opponent and instead relies on quickness and rounded movements that block attacks and borrow the opponent’s power.

The characteristics that define Wudang style make it a perfect match for the sword. Swords have flexible blades which are not meant to meet force with force; instead, a swordsman should deflect and redirect blows before moving to strike. The nature of the weapon lends itself naturally to the principles of the Wudang arts, and combination, the style, and the weapon both reveal their greatness.

Wudang Xingyi Quan

Xingyi Quan

Xing Yi Quan (形意拳-Form & Intention Fist) is one the three famous Chinese internal martial arts, along with Taiji Quan, and Bagua Zhang. It is also called Xing Yi Quan (行意拳-Path & Intention Fist), Xin Yi Quan (心意拳- Heart & Intention Fist), or Xin Yi Liu He Quan (心意六合拳-Heart, Intention, & Six Harmonies Fist). The roots of the style can be traced back to the early Qing Dynasty Shanxi Province and a man named Ji Ji Ke (姬际可). According to legend, Ji Ji Ke was very skilled in the Six Harmony Spear Style (Liu He Qiang Fa 六合枪法-), when he came upon Yue Fei’s “Manual of Wu Mu Fist” (武穆拳谱). Based upon the theories he studied within this book, Ji Ji Ke adapted his spear style into a fist style which was also heavily influenced by Bodhidharma’s philosophy that any change must come from the heart, and the Daoist influences of Yin/Yang, Five Elements, and the Dao Yin Qi Gong (导引气功) health preservation theories of Daoist priest Zhang San Feng(张三丰). This combination is considered to be the basis of Ji Ji Ke‘ Heart, Intention, & Six Harmonies Fist (Xin Yi Liu He Quan 心意六合拳-). Over time, Xing Yi Quan evolved out of Xin Yi Liu He Quan.

Xing Yi Quan uses the 5 elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth) to represent 5 different striking methods:

劈 (Pi = Chopping)

The movement of Pi resembles that of an ax; it represents the Metal element, Lung organ, the nose, skin, and hair; it counters Pounding/Crushing and leads into Drilling.

崩 (Beng = Pounding/Crushing)

The movement of Beng resembles that of an arrow; it represents the Wood element, Liver organ, the eyes, and the sinews; it counters Crossing and leads into Cannon.

钻 (Zuan = Drilling)

The movement of Zuan resembles that of lightning; it represents the Water element, Kidney organ, the ears, and the bones; it counters Cannon and leads into Pounding/Crushing.

炮 (Pao = Cannon)

The movement of Pao resembles that of a cannonball; it represents the Fire element, Heart organ, the tongue, and the blood vessels; it counters Chopping and leads into Crossing.

横 (Heng = Crossing)

The movement of Heng resembles that of a spring; it represents the Earth element, Spleen organ, the mouth, and the muscles; it counters Drilling and leads into Chopping.

Ten-Animal Form

Xing Yi Quan also contains forms that mimic the fighting techniques of animals.

The original Ten-Animal Form included:

龙 (Long = Dragon)
虎 (Hu = Tiger)
猴 (Hou = Monkey)
马 (Ma = Horse)
鸡 (Ji = Chicken)
鹞 (Yao = Goshawk)
燕 (Yan = Swallow)
蛇 (She = Snake)
鹰 (Ying = Eagle)
熊 (Xiong = Bear)

Later a martial artist named Li Luo Neng(李洛能) added the Water Strider (鮀 Tuo) and Ostrich (鸵 Tuo) to the Ten-Animal Form, making a total of 12 animals. With this addition, Xing Yi Quan differentiated itself from the styles that preceded it. Although most of their theories and applications remain the same, the addition of the later two animal styles made Xing Yi Quan more comprehensive.

Wudang’s Xing Yi Quan, although based upon the theories of Xing Yi Quan, has a greater focus on health preservation and the inter-relationships of the Five Elements. This increases its adaptability and makes the practice and application of Wudang Xing Yi Quan more dynamic. Body movements. The movements include : Dodging (闪 Shan), Turning (转juan), Pouncing (腾teng), and Shifting (挪nuo). Since Xing Yi Quan is simple and practical, strength can be developed quickly. In application, the attacks are well coordinated with the footwork; such that each step can manifest as an attack, and each attack corresponds to a step. Within a defense, there is an attack; and within an attack, there is a defense. Attacks can be singular and direct, or continuous and unrelenting, like lightning.