Wang Senlin demonstrating xingyi’s Swallow (Yan Xing)

Just came back from training for a week with Wang Senlin of Shanghai, who I have mentioned in this blog before. Like most Chinese kungfu teachers, Master Wang teaches and practices in a park near his home every morning. He does his personal practice from 4 – 6am and then from about 6am to 9am is for teaching and supervising students’ practice. Mornings came to follow a predictable pattern:  I would turn up at 6.30 am (lazy Western student!), and after a few warm-ups, would practice Santi for about 45 minutes (changing legs of course), followed by about an hour of Piquan. Around me, Master Wang’s students ran through various elements, or if I was lucky, we would get to see some Za Shi Chui or animals (rarely). During the breaks in training, the more senior students would often stand around smoking and chatting about xingyi or recent gossip, stopping from time to time to offer Master Wang a fresh cigarette. Over the course of the week, I talked a lot with Master Wang about xingyi and also his life history in general. He mentioned several xingyi-related topics which I thought might be of interest to readers, such as:

  • Importance of Pai Da Gong (body-beating exercises) if xingyi is to be used for fighting. In Master Wang’s line, there is a set of pai da gong in which various parts of the body (back, arms, ribs) are struck by a fellow student to increase ability to take hits.
  • Concept of Dui La (opposing forces) in training
  • Guo – ‘Wrapping’ – xingyi shenfa requirement similar to ‘han xiong ba bei’ (hollow the chest, round the back) in taiji
  • Huo Kua – ‘opening up’ the kua. For most people, the kua (inguinal crease) has very limited flexibility, it is almost a dead joint. However, the kua is one of the keys to generating power in xingyi, and so Master Wang teaches his students a couple of exercises to open up the kua. This is the first step to achieving the ‘wringing’ (called ‘ning’) of the waist and kua that is a key part of xingyi power generation.

One of the things I found most interesting was Master Wang’s experience with Sanda. During the early 80s, Master Wang was part of and eventually coached the Shanghai Workers Union Sanda team. He said that at that time, they had no experience with modern protective equipment, and so had to copy it from pictures in martial arts magazines. For head protectors, they used ex-military caps and for the chest they used padded vests with bamboo strips in them. The vests turned out to be a very bad idea as the bamboo strips often splintered under impact. He said the only additional training he did to prepare for these competitions was long-distance running to build stamina. Later on, Master Wang refereed several Sanda competitions in other parts of China which were open to all-comers, and he said that the early Sanda competitions the fights often lasted less than a minute, with many competitors either giving up or being too injured to continue.

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