Learning and Understanding Internal Martial Arts

Learning and Understanding Internal Martial Arts

Grasping the essence of internal martial arts is something that may happen along the way of endless physical and mental concentration practice. Today I want to bring the principles of internal martial arts closer to practitioners. There are not many martial arts schools (even in China) which are knowledgeable in this topic.

The Fundamentals

Everyone may practice internal martial arts, but one must understand that it is also a way of living. In internal martial arts, we cultivate Qi through different exercises in Qigong, Gongfu, and Taiji. As every person comes with innate Qi (Yuán Qì (元氣) the way of internal martial arts seeks to preserve this and cultivate Qi further along with practice. Degrading this Qi with a wasteful way of living goes against the teachings of internal martial arts, too much stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, depression, sickness and much more can negatively affect our Qi. Ignoring the way of life and stressing your mind and body with internal martial arts is not considered a good way to balance out your issues in life, to successfully practice internal martial arts one must change his way of life.

The will influence the universe, all within and around it, learning from the universe is what Daoists do, this includes the way of nature and the way of Dao. As Christians say “Thy will be done” we can only accept the reality that is real to us. The internal practice does solve all problems through the right focus. If you can accept yourself, there is a possibility to achieve your will. While the border between belief and understanding might appear slim at first, a similar method is often used in our modern western world by psychologists and other professionals. It is the responsibility of the master to guide his students to understand this principle for practical use.

The Reality

As all these theories sound nice, the reality looks different from what people can imagine without the experience in internal arts. Nobody who is professional will ever attempt to teach you internal principles without the fundamental knowledge. Learning who you are, how to stand straight, how to walk, how to be aware and letting intuition guide your consciousness are some of many things one have to learn before attempting to grasp the essence. Every individual is a self-developing system, a microcosmos, a part of the whole – a part of the Dao.

Power needs a direction, without direction it becomes empty – since power without purpose is insignificant. Emptiness becomes stillness since stillness without being empty is non-existent. Someone who can consciously change his existence according to Yin and Yang (Power and Empty) is a Taiji practitioner, one who can subconsciously adapt from Yin to Yang and vice versa is considered a master. Within this adaptation, we find the balance, the directed movement and defined concentration between the hard, powerful, and the soft and empty.

Back to the Roots

It is critical not to skip necessary steps in the natural order, as this natural order is what defines our physical and mental order in which we can build up Yin and Yang. Shifting the weight from one leg to another before attempting to step in a direction, being connected with the earth and rooting each movement in a spiral motion to direct power in a narrow focus, is what defines Taiji with its natural order. When our eyes are clear so is our nerve system, when we breath longer we can remain calm yet powerful like in a sea of energy – that is our source to remain calm. The whole interaction between Yin and Yang is never forced but processes naturally by pure intention.

As our interaction becomes smaller our horizon widens and with a slower change we experience and learn. Interact with Yin and Yang wholeheartedly by focusing on a much smaller scale the interaction becomes not more insignificant but the opposite, the paradox of our cosmos. Like an onion we reach the center with each layer and familiarize ourselves with that what we call harmony, letting ourselves guide by small announces and processing all of them subconsciously. The minimalist is a maximalist in his world, experiencing the enjoyment which is unknown to others.


It ‘s hard for people to let go. Practicing eagerly and letting everything go, entrusting everything to the natural order, is not an easy thing to do. Grasping the truth with all your might and letting it go without a second thought are the fundamentals of nature. Unable to accept change leads in new conditions to personal interference. The fear of losing control or not being in control is an indication of going against the free will.

The internal martial arts are substantial to our very existence, for our self-development and cultivation. Never skipping a day of practice as it is food and drink to nourish us. Finding enjoyment in existing and a way to exist with each movement. Yin and Yang are eternal, as we change ourselves we define its value.


The beginning is the starting point to come back to, to realize your changes. Revisiting and re-questioning the fundamentals to achieve greater knowledge is the way of a master to learn from his students, as all development is connected to the origin. Flat is the path of the mountaineer as he walks the mountains in the same manner as ordinary people walk in the streets – we change as our reference system changes in value.

Wudang Tai Yi Wu Xing Quan

Wudang Tai Yi Wu Xing Quan

Wudang martial arts on Wudang Mountain today are a compilation of remnant bits and pieces from around China. One of the boxing methods considered pure and representative of the Wudang System is known as Taiyi Wuxingquan.

Taiyi Wuxing Quan

Taiyi Wuxing Quan (太乙五行拳) or in its full name  “Wudang Taiyi Qin Pu 23 Postures” (武当太乙擒扑二十三势) or Liangyi Quan (两仪拳), this set of Wudang Practice was practiced and popularized by Aisin Gioro Pu Xuan (Jin Zitao), who studied at Zi Xiao Gong (Purple Palace) and was taught by Daoist Priest Li Helin (李合林, 16th Generation of Wudang Long Men Division, disciple of Xu Benshan). It is also said that the set was created by 8th Generation Wudang Long Men Master Zhang Shouxing (张守性) in the Ming dynasty during the Hongzhi years (1487-1505). He is said to have based the style on the integration of Hua Tuo’s Five Animal Frolics and traditional Taoist DaoYin exercises.  While good for health cultivation it is also a specific method of combat. Taiyi Wuxing Quan emphasizes the neutralization of power, using leverage and balance towards incoming force, applies grappling and vital point cavity striking together to overcome opponents.

Aisin Gioro Pu Xuan (Jin Zitao, 金子弢)

Jin Zitao was born on the 26th July 1906 in Beijing (Xuanwu Gate) to the Royal Manchurian family. He was six months younger than Pu Yi (Better known as the Last Emperor) and a year older than Pu Jie. His mother was from the Mongolian Noble family and one of the royal concubines. Jin Zitao would see his father only once or twice a month. In 1910, he was allowed into the palace of the Empress Dowager where he resided for more than three years as the study companion to Pu Yi. He returned to his mother side in 1914 (9 years old).

Unfortunately, his character was not stern to function as an imperial official, and after gaining a post, he found it very challenging. He resigned from his position and was rejected by his wife, with constant conflict and left in 1916. He traveled with his mother and carer across Tianjin, Shanghai, Yueyang, Lanzhou and Hangzhou visiting relatives along the way. His mother and carer then passed away. In 1924 he got married but soon after he was cheated in business suffering economic setbacks, while his wife died giving childbirth. After such a tragic and depressed life, he wanted to become a monk or hermit and in 1929 ended up on Wudang Mountain. He studied boxing and learned more about Daoism.  Afterward, he continued practicing daily his Taiyi Wuxing Quan. In 1938 he converted to Daoism. After the founding of New China, he was hired as a technical assistant to the Shanghai Yue Opera, also imparting martial skills as well.

Taiyi Wuxingquan returns to Wudang

Jin Zitao is said to have learned the Wudang Taiyi Wuxing Boxing during his short stay (~ 7 months) at Wudang in 1929 under the guidance of Li Heling (1898 – ). It was not until 1980 that the world would see the demonstration of this unique boxing method at the National Wushu viewing, emulating and communicating Congress in Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province. Before that occasion, many had heard of Wudang boxing, but few had seen it. Jin Zitao became more well known as a result afterward.  In the 1980’s Jin Zitao travelled to Wudang for a few weeks each time to teach the local (wider Danjiangkou/Shiyan area) martial artists there, of which Zhao Jianying and Yang Qunli, who became well-known inheritors of the Skill and in many cases cared for the training of the group whilst Jin Zitao was away. The group consisted predominantly of Coaches from Hubei Province.   Jin Zitao also taught students in his hometown (Huzhou, Zhejiang Province) which included local enthusiasts such as Fei Shengxiang and some from more distant areas such as Shanghai. In addition to Zhao Jianying and Yang Qunli, other martial artists had learned the method. In many cases, while Jin Zitao was not at Wudang, Zhao Jianying and Yang Qunli would take care of the groups with intensive sessions when Jin Zitao visited. Fei Shengxiang was a student of Jin Zitao in Zhejiang who studied many martial arts and was a part of the Zhejiang Provincial Wushu Team.

M. Zhao Jianying (1929-2011) was a significant contributor to Wudang martial arts. She was a key proponent of Taiyi Wuxingquan and taught very many followers during her lifetime. M. Zhao as a child suffered severe illness. One day a soldier noticed her bad health and offered to teach her martial arts to strengthen her body. She studied Hong Quan and got her body back to health. In 1980 at the National Wushu gathering, she met Jin Zitao and became his student acquiring full knowledge of Taiyi Wuxingquan and its associated exercises/methods. She also learned Bagua and Xingyi from Sha Guozheng and Lu Zijian, in addition to various weapons sets such as Taiji Sword and 8 Immortals Sword. Her son, Tan Xianping is also a well-regarded practitioner today.

Details of the Taiyi Wuxingquan 

The key set consists 23 postures/methods  (25 including start and ending), with about 81 movements. There are small delicate circles worked throughout at compact, slow and precise manner.

  1. Primordial first Qi; Activate the rotation of the Universe (Qian Kun) (opening) | 混元一氣,旋轉乾坤

  2. White Ape Comes out of its Cave; Two Peaks Bow to the Sun | 白猿出洞,雙峰拜日

  3. Rein in at the Top; Lift the Cloud Under the Sea | 懸崖勒馬,海底頂雲

  4. Dragon in Confusion; the Thunder Chops the Mountain | 蛟龍溟蒙,雷劈山洪

  5. Rhinoceros Looks at the Moon; Turn Around to support Heaven | 犀牛望月,轉身托天

  6. Green Lion Embraces the Ball; Springs from Nian Ting | 青獅抱球,閃耀金庭

  7. Leopard Raises its head; Surprising the whole World | 豹子含美,仰頸驚林

  8. Roc Spreads its Wings; All the Beasts are Panic Stricken | 大鵬展翅,群獸震驚

  9. Spotted Deer Picks the Herbal Medicine and Lowers its Head To Drink in the Stream | 花鹿采芝,俯飲清泉

  10. Yellow Serpent at the water’s Mouth Provokes the Great Beasts | 黃蟒含津,戲引眾猛

  11. Capers Rolls About; Waves Rushes to the Heaven | 鯉魚打挺,波浪滔

  12. Hawk Searches for the Mountain and Catches the Chickens | 雄鷹探山,雙擒雞群

  13. Immortal cranes Flying in the Air and Dancing through wind and clouds | 仙鶴騰空,飛舞風雲

  14. Golden Monkey Steals the Fruit; Alchemy Overturns the Fire | 金猴竊丹,爐火皆平

  15. Whale and Crocodile Reach the Moon; The Sea is Calm | 鯨鱷探月,波平浪靜

  16. Black Bear Turns its Palm and Surprises the Whole Forest | 黑熊反掌,威震森林

  17. Slip out of a Predicament like a Cicada Sleuthing its Skin; Drunkard Lays in the Pond | 金蟾脫殼,醉臥瑤池

  18. Magpie Perches on the Branch and Stands on the Moss | 喜鵲登枝,寒立梅蔭

  19. Dragon Returns to the Sea; Keep Calm in the Inner World | 蒼龍入海,意守心寧

  20. Wild Horse Shakes it’s Main and its Fear Character Increases | 野馬抖鬃,烈性飛騰

  21. Mysterious Monkey Returns to the Cave and Keeps calm | 神猿入洞,性歸心田

  22. Colorful Phoenix is in the Air and all the Birds Sing | 彩鳳淩空,百鳥齊鳴

  23. Crouching Tiger lies on the Sacrifice Platform On Guard | 伏虎靈台,永守黃庭

  24. Embrace the origin (hold the Jin Dan) focused, Real Qi is expressed| 抱元守一,正氣共存

  25. Combine the Stationary and Motion; Reverse the Universe (Qian Kun) (closing) | 動靜結合,反轉乾坤

The Five Elements (Wuxing) of Taiyi Wuxing Quan

Within Wuxing Quan, the five elements are emphasized such that:

From White Ape exists cave until Rein the Top belongs to Metal (Jin) ; From Dragon in confusion until Roc spreads its wings belongs to Water (Shui); From Spotted Deer Picks the Herbal Medicine until Eagles flying in the air and dancing belongs to Wood (Mu); From Immortal cranes Flying in the Air until Black Bear Turns its Palm belongs to Fire (Huo); From Cicada losing skin until Dragon returns to the sea belongs to Earth (Tu)

Further, the Five elements are applied to the basic directions such as forward, backward, left, right and center which in turn relate to stepping techniques such as entering, exiting, veer left, veer right and maintain the center.  The organ relationships of the Five elements are also applicable (Spleen, Heart, Lungs, Liver, and Kidneys).

Combat Strategy of Taiyi Wuxing Quan

In stillness the foundation is sourced, It is softness which is the key shape, Spirit is held, and the Intention is steadfast ; In Stillness so movement originates, It is softness that overcomes hardness,  Focused on Intention not focused on muscular strength ; In movement still seek stillness/calmness, Within calmness, seek movement, place emphasis on Intention not on the shape; Intention, Qi, Jin (power) and Shape. Heart and the breath pursue each other mutually, Apply transformation/neutralizing Power rather than hard resistance; Right position is a matter of extreme precision within a few inches, Movement would emphasize grappling/locking and sealing of the breath.

Special points on Practicing Taiyi Wuxing Quan

The body should sink into place, the frame should be compact and tight; Waist follows the hips in turning, shoulders and hips are mutually matched; Both hands rounded in embrace, feet move in arched (curved) lines; Gentling twining cotton, move in circular motions with softness; Move like a snake, soft like silk reeling.

Cultivating Health through Taiyi Wuxing Quan

Breath is natural, the whole body relaxed and loose. The heart is calm while the mind is aware. Spirit is risen and actively alert; Internal and External combine, part by the part they are interlinked. Apply the Yin and Yang cycles of movements; the body method remains in central equilibrium; If intention arrives, Qi will come, Qi moves with the intention. As everything combines the spirit shall be nurtured; Mysterious eight channels are activated through the whole body. Taiyi Wuxing its most important aspect is on Health Cultivation.

It could be said that since GM Jin Zitao stayed at Wudang for only seven months, the Taiyi Wuxing Quan might be considered primary. With so many followers and practitioners today, many which are more modern in interpretation one may overlook the beauty of Taiyi Wuxing Quan. However, the secrets of the method lie in understanding the principles, applying them in practice and researching the combat and health nourishing benefits in details. Then just like GM Jin Zitao one may grasp the beauty of Taiyi Wuxing Quan which would allow its sole practice for a lifetime.

Source: taipinginstitute.com

Tai Ji Cloud Hands Internal Relation Explained

Tai Ji Cloud Hands Internal Relation Explained

Master Ziji explains Tai Ji cloud hands practice and how the internal focus is related to the external movement. Also, an important aspect is the head and feet relation and how it influences your up and down movement. This fundamental knowledge is necessary to further advance in the internal arts.

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