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The Origin of Sun's Style Taijiquan  

Sun Jianyun

Mr. Sun Lutang began to learn Xingyiquan at 12 years old. At first, he had learnt from Li Kuiyuan for three years; then, recommended by Li, he learnt from Guo Yunshen, who was Li's teacher. When they met, Guo Yunshen found that his inhesion was very high in Wushu learning, much higher than the average people, so he asked Sun to abandon his job (then Sun worked at a writing-brush store run by one of his relations, as a disciple.) and to learn Xingyiquan from him intently. Therefore, Sun Lutang went to Shenxian County, which was Guo's hometown, and then they moved to the West Tomb of the Qing Dynasty (Yixian County, Hebei Province) and stayed there for 8 years, learning Xinyiquan. During this period, he also got the essences from Song Shirong, Che Yizhai, Bai Xiuan (all of them were famous masters of Xingyiquan), and never was engaged in anything but Wushu. As a result, his gongfu of Xingyiquan reached the extreme sublime that was at the peak of perfection. Competing with others, he never failed. He experienced that the highest realm of practicing Xinyiquan was the integration of mind and Qi (vital energy), and then the integration was changed into emptiness. It can be bounder less, if it is enlarged; it can be nothing, if it is lessened. It is nothing but the flow of the real vital energy in the body. No matter what it is, the substance or the methods of Xinyiquan, they are just the different forms, in which the real vital energy changes. Thus, at the sublime of boxing, there is no difference between Xingyiquan, Baguaquan or Taijiquan, without forms or wills, one can do anything as he wants. In the anaphase when he learnt and studied Xingyiquan from Guo Yunshen, he realized that by practicing boxing, one could taste the profound beyond the connotation of the boxing techniques themselves. From then on, he put much of his energy on studying the boxing theory and the understanding of boxing combining with the way of nature. During the process of study, he assuredly found that boxing techniques needed the guide of philosophy and the support of theory. Then he tried opening out the theory of boxing, guided by I Ching (the Classic of Change written in the Zhou Dynasty 11th century - 771 B.C.). Introduced by Guo Yunshen, he went to Beijing to learn Baguaquan from Cheng Tinghua, a famous master of Baguaquan, in the hope of finding out the relation between boxing and the I Ching theory, and furthermore opening out the essence of boxing, by studying Baguaquan that is of close relation with I Ching. After learning from Cheng for several months, his arts of Baguaquan had been excellent and got its essence, tasting of the relation between Xingyiquan and Baguaquan, they complementing each other. Limited by the level of theory at that time, however, his study on the theory of boxing had not completed. A year latter (about 1845), Master Cheng said to Sun Lutang: "I have been taught hundreds of disciples, but no one whose talent is beyond yours, or who studied more hard than you. You and me are alike in temperament. I had taught you all my skills. You are inborn gift for understanding; I believe that you have got the essence. Now, with your skills, no one can be your opponent in the north China. You may go now. " (The Word Daily published in Beijing, Feb. 3rd, 1934). After his learning Baguaquan from Master Cheng, he realized: "One side, the substances of Xingyiquan and Baguaquan are alike, thus, if one who achieved the sublime, he could gain a thorough understanding of the subject through mastery of all relevant material; on the other hand, it was difficult to reach the aim understanding the theory of I Ching perfectly and using it to explain the boxing only by learning boxing itself." Therefore, he made his mind to go over the country on foot, by himself: to wide his eyes, increasing experiences and information, and to find some people who were of accomplishments in I Ching and Taoism. By more than two years' journey, he richened his experiences and got a bump harvest in the theory of boxing, and wrote down many notes. He had met the reclusive Taoists in Wudang Mountain, roaming hermits, and the eminent monks in Sichuan Province and he learnt a lot from them, especially, in I Ching and inner work of elixir of life. The journey laid a solid foundation for his further study on boxing and the establishment of a new school that combines boxing and the way of nature, and gave him rich experiences.

Having come back from his journey, he studied military arts with his gate closed and initiated "Puyang Boxing Society", so as to make research and teaching complement and corroborate each other, and summarized the theory of Boxing. Sun Lutang believed that the substance of boxing was the combination of boxing and natural way. Inner power, being the foundation of all of the boxing, is the various Qi (vital energy) in harmony in the body, and that it goes different directions, combines or changes in the body. Based on I Ching and the classic of elixir, he established the theory of "combining the congenital and acquired Bagua (Eight Diagrams)" and that of "the progress of boxing that takes practicing austerities of the inner elixir as the outer signs". The former reveals the corresponding relation between the harmony and growth and changes occurred in the functional systems in the body and the exterior performing system, and that between the biological field of the body and the field of cosmos. The latter reveals the foundation in practicing boxing in different steps and its substance. Based on his study, he abstracted both Xingyiquan and Baguaquan, and made innovation on them, which produced Sun's Style Xingyiquan and Sun's Style Baguaquan, and both of them are of deep and bright connotation and style - harmony, while harmony is just the substance of Taijiquan. Although he did not learn Taijiquan then, he could understand the substaance of Taijiquan in the aspect of inner works, by his mastering Xingyiquan and Baguaquan perfectly, research of the classic of elixir and I Ching, and his solid inner works that had reached the peak of perfection. In 1912, when he first met Hao Weizhen, a great Taijiquan master, and had a talk with him, Hao was deeply surprised by his achievements on the theory of boxing and said: "It is strange that I have only talked with you for a few words, but your understanding is much better than them who have learnt Taijiquan for decades." (The preface of The Substance of the Boxing, by Chen Weiming) The reason is that they are alike, as for their substance. Through a long period of time research of Xingyiquan, Baguaquan and Taijiquan, he thought it was necessary to develop a new kind of boxing, and his aim was to reduce the crooked road for the practitioners, make them understand the substance of boxing, that is, to practice the pure vital energy in harmony in the body, and perfect inner power, and then reach the realm of combining the boxing with the way of nature.

Sun Lutang believed that Xingyiquan, Baguaquan and Taijiquan were an organic integration of boxing. The relations between them are complementing, amalgamating each other; he compared the relation between them to "the Heaven", "the Earth" and "the Human being". He said: "The three kinds of boxing come from one principle, and then it is divided into three, at last, the three combine into the principle. However, each of them has its characteristic: "Xingyiquan is honest, Baguaquan is that various kinds of techniques go back to one, Taijiquan is maintaining the state of begining and keeping it all the time." Thus, the substance of Sun's Style Taijiquan is that Yin and Yang of Taiji assist in each other and it is soft and suitable; as for as the process of practicing Sun's Style Taijiquan, it is harmony and agile, following the principle that the inner and outer Bagua (the Eight Diagrams) collaborate each other, e.g. syncretism of inside and outside, seeking quietness from actions; all the time, there is appetence that is on the verge of breaking out in the body, which comes from the stance exercises of Xingyiquan; it follows the principle of "application"; as for it actions, we follow the principle "using adverseness in advantage, while using advantage in adverseness.", when standing up, the force should be go up straightly, while falling, the body should be smart; as for as the psychology, it takes no action and maintaining the mind as its substance, and takes seeking harmony from emptiness as its method; as a result, "I do not pursue to conquer others painstakingly, but no one can conquer me because my body is agile and round." From the above, we can conclude that Sun's Style Taijiquan is of three great earmarks: being flexible and harmony, agile and changeable, and firm and fierce.

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