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TitleWang Xiangzhai Discusses the Essence of Combat Science
TagsTai Chi Further Education Philosophical Science Teaching And Learning
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Table of Contents
                            An Interview with Wang Xiangzhai
                        
Document Text Contents
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A few days ago, Mr. Zhang Yuheng repeatedly made some comments in newspapers. Fearing that
people of different circles have not clearly understood his meaning, and thus have had some
misunderstandings, I wholeheartedly want to let people know what I have in mind. My remaining years
are gradually waning away, life itself is enough, there is no room for fame and gain to occupy my mind,
thus I am so anxious to, while this body of mine has not yet decayed, join forces with prominent
compatriots to advocate the full development of natural instincts and martial virtue, and get rid of
heresies. I do not want to be praised in vain, like those deceiving the public in order to gain fame.

[2] Interviewer: What is the basis of combat science?

Wang Xiangzhai: What is, after all, the basic principle of combat science? Different people have
different answers to this question, but studying boxing routines, forms of movements, fixed techniques,
and training hits and beats, all fall into the category of superficial, and although the boxing routines and
forms of movements have been popular already for a long time, they are, indeed, extremely harmful to
the people.

[3] Interviewer: ‘Xingyi’, ‘Taiji’, ‘Bagua’, and ‘Tongbei’ are considered to be schools of internal
boxing, what are the differences of all these branches?

Wang Xiangzhai: People often say that ‘Xingyi’, ‘Taiji’, ‘Bagua’ and ‘Tongbei’ are internal styles, I do
not know how the names of internal and external came about, so I cannot comment on that. By
observing the past famous masters, one can see a part of it though.

The original ‘Xingyi’, and the ‘Xinyiba’ and ‘Liuhebu’ of Henan province, are of the same school.
When tracing the lineage of Mr. Li Daidong (who was known as Old Dai) of Henan , you can find out
that he is Mr. Li Zhihe's great-grandson, Mr. Li Zhihe was the teacher of the old gentleman Dai
Longbang. The Yuan family of Jiyuan in fact followed the school of Mr. Li , although they named the
art differently. Mr. Dai, although he changed the name ‘Xinyi’ into ‘Xingyi’, was not in contrary with
the original meaning, and in that boxing the word ‘boxing’ carried the meaning of most faithfully
adhering to it.

One should know that the original ‘Xingyi’ completely lacked the training method of the twelve forms,
but the whole body was meant to express the essence of all these twelve forms. It did not have the
theory of the mutual promotion and restraint of the five elements, there were just the five elements
representing five kinds of forces. It did not have any fixed techniques, boxing routines or forms of
movements either. I remember well the words of my late teacher about the five elements: Metal means
the strength contained in the bones and the muscles, the mind being firm like iron or stone, being able
to cut gold and steel. Wood has the meaning of the bending but rooted posture of a tree.

Water means force like the waves of the vast sea, lively like a dragon or a snake, when used, it is able
to pervade everything. Fire means strength being like gunpowder, fists being like bullets shot out,
having the strength to burn the opponent’s body by the first touch. Earth means exerting strength heavy,
deep, solid, and perfectly round, the qi being strong, having the force of oneness with heaven and earth.
This is the syncretism of the five elements. It has nothing to do with one technique overcoming another
technique as the modern people claim. If one first sees with the eyes, then thinks of it again in the
mind, and then launches the counter-attack towards the enemy, it is very seldom that one will not get
beaten up.

‘Bagua’ was originally known as ‘Chuanzhang’. In my childhood I met Mr. Cheng Tinghua, I

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brilliance in the Warring States Period (403 BC - 221 BC), and gradually advanced and evolved.
During the times of the Tang and Song dynasties, boxing started to turn into technical skills and
different styles started to evolve. During the Yuan, Ming, and early Qing dynasties, the different
schools were most popular.

There were very many practitioners, and only because their strength, skill, and attainments were
different and some being wise and others stupid, boxing broke into different schools, each claiming its
teachings as correct. Those schools are namely what are now called the various styles. During the
reigns of Kangxi and Yongzheng of the Qing dynasty (1662 - 1735), firearms were not yet prevalent.
The emperors feared that the martial arts would be used against the government, therefore they wanted
to destroy them for good and so that they could never recover.

Therefore they started to influence the people to think highly of the civil arts and look down upon
everything martial. On one hand they advocated flying immortal swordsmen and taught the mystical on
purpose, on the other hand they praised the boxing forms and fixed techniques in order to lead the
martial arts astray. The middle road and the great Tao could not be asked about, and they used opera
and storybooks to serve as their tools of propaganda. Furthermore they made the people who practiced
martial arts to be despised by the scholar-bureaucrats, so the situation went from bad to even worse. All
kinds of ugly performances emerged, what a great pity and tragedy.

Luckily our combat science predecessors secretly had successors, and they succeeded in having a
gleam of light survive. Although training halls were set up all over the country to advocate the martial
arts during the last twenty years, the more they were advocated, the sooner they would be lost, never
being able to return to the right path of combat science. In fact, learning boxing is not difficult, but
because the brains of the ordinary people are tormented by the storybooks, and furthermore, because
the boxers of modern times mostly do it for living, the combat science is completely at loss. Even if
some people are conscious of that, they are still too ashamed to study from others, and thus have no
way out.

During the last half of the year, the other boxers have come to me to compare their skills in combat. I
will not point out who they were, in order to let them keep their ways of making a living. Now they
mostly understand that they were wrong, but why do they not agree to come and discuss the martial arts
openly, and furthermore, why are they not willing to compare their skills in combat, in order to improve
their learning? On the contrary, they go against their conscience and claim others to be wrong. They do
nothing but secretly create absurd tales, and still they pretend being ignorant of those tales. What do
they do that for? As for the non-professional martial artists, they want to become mysterious boxers by
creating these tales, being like theatergoers not well versed in drama, they are not able to do anything
but throw punches at random to show off their skills.

That is really something to be despised. In case my words are considered erroneous, can the non-
professional boxing students agree to grant me instruction? Furthermore, I wish to have small friendly
tests of skills in combat, and even if the people who come to me have no martial skills at all, I will not
insult them, and I will not tell about them to other people in order not to harm their business. If one
cannot come to visit me to grant me instruction, then please tell me the place and the time, and I will
come to pay my respects on time. If one has even a tiny strong point, I will do my utmost to give him
publicity, and if one has no strong points at all, I will keep my mouth shut. If one always considers
oneself as a top boxer behind closed doors, that is not worth a penny.

[9] Interviewer: I have heard your discussion pointing out the right path of our national arts. You

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have introduced something new, and a fresh approach in seeking the good of everyone pursuing
the same things, but I think you went a bit too far in some of your critique towards ‘Taijiquan’.

Wang Xiangzhai: My understanding of the Tao is still shallow, I do not dare to say that I have
introduced something new, I just follow and spread the tradition of the predecessors, nothing more.
There are many more things, but I feel embarrassed to say them because I have many good friends
practicing ‘Taiji’. Also, this boxing is less abused than most of the others, and has more sensible
practitioners, thus I freely criticize it. I would have already stopped discussing about it a long time ago
otherwise.

Talking of criticism, I am afraid that among the ‘Taiji’ practitioners, those who will never understand
combat science are fearfully many, and those who are far from being learned masters are even more
numerous. In my childhood I heard of the fame of the Taoist Zhang Sanfeng. Having grown up, I
traveled all around the country, so I know that among all the schools of boxing, ‘Taiji’ has the biggest
amount of practitioners. I had already been doubtful of this boxing for a long time. I heard this boxing
was handed down from Mr. Zhang Sanfeng, thus I had despised Sanfeng for a long time. Later I read
the collected edition of Mr. Sanfeng’s teachings, and began to realize that he had advanced all along the
great Tao.

He had already gone deep into the Sea of Law and profoundly realized absolute truth. However, I even
more deeply believe that such boxing was not handed down from him. Actually, if it was or was not
does not matter at all, because, even if one was the descendant of Sanfeng, one is not worthy to talk
about his art if one has not gained its essence. I do not know who were the successors of Mr. Sanfeng,
but I suppose they were inferior to Sanfeng. If they had been capable, why would they have misled
others? Whether the teachings gained by the students are true or false is the key.

Moreover, nowadays the practitioners of this boxing are different from each other and the theories vary.
It is all random and false! I remember that Mr. Sanfeng said: Leaving one’s own body is wrong, but
clinging to one’s own body is much worse. ‘Taijiquan’ has one hundred and forty or fifty postures, is
there any posture or method that is not being clung to? What are these postures for? Moreover, the
spirit is firmly bound and cannot be liberated. It is indeed harmful to the freedom of the nerves, the
limbs, and the trunk. Remembering how wise Mr. Sanfeng was, he should not have gone so far as to
hand down ‘Taijiquan’ that is so improper.

Discussing the wordy content of the ‘Theory of Taijiquan’, the single and double weighting and even
weighting, and all such profound things are also nothing more than a part of the rudiments of combat
science. May I ask the famous ‘Taiji’ masters to examine their conscience, whether there can be even a
single posture or method in accord with the theories of this boxing guide? Since they claim it to be
supreme combat science, why does it not produce any results in practice? Furthermore, the practitioners
of this boxing believe that they can gain good boxing skills with superstitious practices. This is even
more absurd.

Even if all the methods of this boxing would excel over the others, and the skills would tower above the
ordinary, there is no doubt that it would still be wrong on the spiritual side, and besides, that is not the
case. Although ‘Taijiquan’ is practiced by a huge amount of people, which has given it much publicity,
the sensible people have long known that it has collapsed of itself. Perhaps there was something
improper in my words, I really hope that the other martial artists will question me without any
hesitation, if there is someone who can instruct me, I will sweep the pathway to welcome him.

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sees that, he will feel sick for ten days. That is terrible, such a person cannot comprehend boxing for
life.

[26] Interviewer: Your purpose is studying truth and developing the martial arts, why were there
so few visitors? Can you think of a reason?

Wang Xiangzhai: It is very difficult to find an answer for this. According to my conjecture, in the
martial arts circles of our country there are no doubt many wise ones, but the unworthy ones are
especially numerous. Everyone studying a certain style of martial arts, assiduously practices for many
years and flatters oneself by claiming that one alone has accomplished the profound skills, and then
calls oneself the successor of that school. This way one will even be respected by the society, so one
can solve the problem of making a living at the same time. Once such people are told to abandon all
their learning and start studying from the beginning, it is really intolerable for them.

Perhaps their way of making a living would also be affected by that, thus they consider their personal
advantages and disadvantages, and notice that the disadvantages would be huge, therefore it is no
wonder that the visitors were so sparse. The most unfortunate thing in the end is that there are some
ignorant people, who do not dare to measure or discuss right and wrong, and thus just make gossip at
random, making irresponsible remarks in order to hide their weak points. The people in our society
trust them and the people who have been deceived by them are really numerous, this is a great pity. If
we do not wipe out this obstacle, the martial arts of our country will hardly have any hope of a quiet
and great progress.

[27] Interviewer: Sir, you are the forerunner in the martial arts, and you are holding the decision
in your hands. Furthermore, I hope you will keep on working with perseverance, then the martial
arts will surely have no difficulties in seeing the days of glory and progress.

Wang Xiangzhai: Your words touch me deeply, naturally I shall do my utmost. Success or failure,
praise or blame, I do not dare to care for them. There is only one goal, namely to solve the question of
how combat science can advance. Therefore I tell other boxers here: originally combat was just a minor
skill, but the ordinary people mostly judge one’s boxing skills by the relative superiority or inferiority
in combat, therefore there are two research methods.

If one is willing to research the suitability of each action, then I immensely welcome him. If one wants
to enter into combat or do push-hands, they are both fine as well. The scope of researching combat
science is extensive. If the amount of visitors will increase, then there will be no dilemma. If the visitor
has even tiny strong points, I will certainly do my utmost to blazon forth and praise him. If he has no
strong points at all, I will certainly say nothing, because even talking cannot make him understand. I
really hope that the visitors will test me with difficult questions to the best of their abilities, in order to
compare experiences with each other, aiming at the progress of combat science, everyone pursuing the
same way with me, all should shoulder the duty to develop combat science.

This important prospect should definitely not be weakened because of personal reasons, if it can really
benefit the general interest. Even if one has to suffer any personal sacrifices, one should still give up
something small to achieve something great. I maintain this determination, if combat science can
thereby progress, it would not only be an individual gain, but also the whole world and our descendants
would benefit greatly.

The reporter and Mr. Wang finished their conversation, and because it was already late, they bid

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