Shopping Bag

Chang Yiu-chun, Bits & Pieces

By Erle Montaigue

Chang Yiu-chun was my main teacher in the internal arts. I met him down by the docks in Sydney when I was a chauffer and would see this old man practising something that looked like Taiji. Eventually, I plucked up enough courage to get out of the limo and watch, he would not even acknowledge that I was there, not even when I did my own Taiji form in my chauffer's outfit would he even look. After many months I was able to gain his attention by performing some faster forms and this aroused the ego that was still left in him. I then discovered that he was one of only three students of the Grandson of the founder of the Yang style Taiji, Yang Shou-hou, the style that was never changed from what yang Lu-ch'an had invented way back then. I had already been investigating this style and was not too far off at that stage. But Chang gave me much more than just the physical movements, he let me watch him doing 'nothing'.

Again taken from my now fading but readable notes, taken from my brief but greatly informative time with Chang.

Not having the modern day knowledge that we now have from modern science, the old Chinese masters could only say what they felt of were told about. This is how the 'Classics' of Taiji were written, a lot of feeling but not much scientific evidence for what they spoke about. Nowadays, we have access to a plethora of scientific information and when one thinks back to what that old master told us 20 or 30 years back, we are now able to correlate what he said with what is being discovered now.

It's the same with what Chang Yiu-chun told me, sometimes he would speak in what I thought then to be riddles, but what now translates as hard scientific evidence. So we can take what they were talking about then and juxtapose that knowledge with modern science to come up with reasons for being.

Everything that Chang said to me then, I am now able to relate both to the 'classics' and to modern science. I would ask Chang continuously about the self defence areas of Taiji and follows are some of his answers.

You wish to know about self defence, do not look at much movement and flashy techniques, look at this; (he would just stand there, seeming not to change from the position that he was just in), I would say, "Yes?" and he would laugh, "You did not see it?" he would continue, "No, show me again", "I will not, you are not ready yet to see". Nowadays, I know exactly what it was that Chang was trying to show me because I now also show it to my students and they too do not see anything.

Chang was doing exactly what it said to do in the classics, but at a true internal level which is the only level at which to do the classics. If for instance, the classics say that you must 'raise the back' and you actually raise your back physically, then you do not know this classic. If it says that we must 'round the shoulders', and we round the shoulders greatly, physically, then we do not know what this means. If it tells us to 'concave the chest' and we greatly concave the chest physically, then we also do not know what this means. One of Chang's expressions was that we should be like a monkey, "No, like the big monkey" he would say, meaning a gorilla. At that time, I had no idea of what he meant other than to walk around like a monkey! "No, inside". he would say. Modern science now tells us that this is what is meant by the 'C' back and the 'getting of' the reptilian brain. Chang would talk of this area as;

"You must become like an animal, not like the movements of the animal, but inside you must be like an animal (remember, the is answering questions that I have asked regarding self defence), you cannot defend yourself, only as an animal can you properly defend yourself. We do not have claws, we do not have big sharp teeth, we do not have strong beaks, it must come from within. Humans are weak, animals are strong".

Chang knew about the reptilian brain, but could not relay this information in speaking terms, not even in Chinese as it is an internal thing that is very difficult to transmit to others, when I feel the 'back rising' or rather 'the Qi rising up the back', I say to people, "see that", "no" they reply. Of course they cannot see it, it is happening internally, Chang could feel something great, but it did not manifest physically, bar only a slight change in body posture, his back would become slightly curved 'C' back, his eyes would become slightly crazed like a crazy man, at these times I would not go near him because I knew what the consequences would be.

I asked Chang on many occasions who he thought 'had it', i.e.; who knew the real fighting art of Taiji, not just on a physical level, but something else, nor on a bullshit, knock them down without touching them level etc., I meant who else had his ability which I knew at this stage to be great. His answer was always the same, he would say that he did not have ability, but the animal within did. "Look at me" he would say, "can this old body fight!" "Yes, I have seen it fight" I would answer. "Did you see my eyes" he would reply, "It is not me" he would continue.

This gets back to the fact that it was always his body and internal mind that did the damage and not his conscious mind, Chang was not actually harming anyone, it was his sub-conscious mind that did the dirty work.

Chang told me that after Yang Shou-hou, no-one knew real Taiji, many schools were all physical and would pretend that muscular force and body alignment were internal power. Others would teach no more than a dance and would not wish to get their hands dirty so to speak by actually making contact with an attacker. "What would happen to Taiji in years to come", I would ask. His answer was not good.

"In the years to follow, there will be no Taiji, only a shell of movement with many saying that they are the real masters only to gain fortune. I have seen my art grow smaller and smaller so that now there are only three that I know of who know the real Taiji from Yang Shou-hou. I am teaching you, but I will never know if you will teach yourself from what I have given you".

"How can I teach myself".

"By just doing it and seeing how I do it, this is the only way. When I was younger, I would see things and would think that I would never know this. My teacher told me that there is no possible way that he could ever teach me the final steps, take me through that final door, and so I thought that I would never know. Now, I am in the same position as my teacher and I feel helpless to show you. I can only hope that what I have shown you already will grow inside and some day you too will know".

Now, I am trying to relay that final knowledge to others, trying to find a way where Chang and Yang could not. And I am having some little success with a superior knowledge of the English language and basic communicating skills. I think that I learnt more from Chang by his just being there, and allowing me to 'feel' sub-consciously, that internal strength and how he caused it to come out.

Chang knew that the self defence art of Taiji was not a physical art but rather a mind art. We learn all of the physical things which take many years themselves, so that we are able to have the body requirements of a sure footed animal, then our reptilian brain takes over and does all the rest for us. Because we are not animals, and do not have animal weapons, we must use certain techniques and points on the human body as our weapons. Once we have learnt this, we then allow the inner mind to take over and do the rest. We have certain body postures to help us to get into this mode and we have the learned 'way of doing things' from our forms, katas, kumite and other two person training methods to give us the physical requirements to keep up with what our reptilian brain is trying to have our body do.

"If you try to use techniques, then you are being human, and humans cannot fight. Techniques are human things, dogs do not have techniques, a shark does not have technique, an eagle does not have technique, only humans have technique and so we are beaten when we have technique. Animals just be. They are just doing what they have been told to do, we, do what we think we should do, we try to use techniques and then we lose the ability to adjust our body to what is happening to it. If we are attacked to the face, we immediately try to cover up using our hands. A dog does not have hands and so it bites our nose. We should make our hands be like the dog's mouth, they should bite the attacker's nose off, but we cover up, we do not wish to fight, we are not animals. When we become like an animal, we do what has to be done and don't even think about it after. Things happen too fast for technique."

"Are there any techniques that you like" I would ask.

"No, we should not use technique, have you not been listening? When we use technique, the foot does this, the hand does this, the legs do that and the body never really moves as a whole. When a dog is attacked by another dog, it does not use its paw to block the oncoming attack, but rather moves its body, not to get away from the attack but to get into a better position to attack the neck! It causes the attack to tell it what to do. If we are continually thinking of doing techniques, then we are only using portions of our body and not the whole body as an animal does. Look at the snake, one form whom I have learnt much, you touch it and it does not move only that portion of its body, the whole body from head to tail moves together, before you know it, it has wrapped itself around your arm, then around your other arm then it bites you. We should also do this. When we are attacked, the attacker should see that we are there, but when his fist reaches us, we are not there but we have attacked him instead."

Erle "But how do I get to there".

Chang "You do everything that I have shown you and if you are ego less enough, then it will just come."

Erle. What then is the most important part of my training?

Chang. It is all important but at some time, you will find that some parts become more important to you. When you 'know' the forms, the fa-jing forms then become more important to you because you do not know them as well. Then as the inner part of you becomes to be more prominent, you will not wish to practice any more the physical, but you must, at this time you must.

Erle. But I see you practice hardly any movements, is this because you know it all?

Chang. I do not know the internal and you cannot see the internal, it is much more difficult to train than the mere physical. I hear people saying that their teacher practices the pure Taiji because he learnt it from the son of Yang Cheng-fu and he must know the correct movements, I hear others say that the posture of 'brush the knee' must be done with the hand in such and such a position. These people do not know Taiji, they cannot, if they did then they would not be talking like this as they would know that the ultimate is to become almost purely internal when there is none or little external movement. At this stage you cannot say if he is doing it better than him, because you cannot see what they are doing.

Erle. But surely there is a correct way to do the forms in the beginning?

Chang. Yes, you do it the way that Yang Lu-ch'an did it, like Yang Shou-hou did it, this way you have a better chance of obtaining the internal. There are some people who do not even need any training, they are already internal.

Erle. Who!

Chang. Lao Tse, Budda, Jesus, and that man I saw yesterday with the hammer.