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WANG YEN-NIEN TALKS ABOUT ZHANG QINLIN (Part 2)

An interview by Sam Tomarchio
Translated by Julia Fisher-Fairchild
(Volume 3, NO. 2, FALL 1995)
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They started off with this. [Laoshi demonstrates the ceremonial gongfu hand gesture.] With speed being the major characteristic of Wan's style, and knowing that his hands were fast, as soon as the hand salutation was made, Wan attacked very, very quickly. There was no pause between bowing and attacking. It was a sudden burst, and so fast that an average person would not even see the punch coming. Zhang Laoshi was a very tranquil person. He was very quiet and held to the principle: from tranquility comes movement (Yi Jing Zhi Dong). So if the opponent does not move, he does not move either. But as soon as the opponent moves just a little, then he arrives first - unlike Wan who was starting fromfast movement, not from tranquility. Before Wan's fist reached Zhang Laoshi's face, Zhang Laoshi already had his fist ready. And... their fists struck. Since Zhang Laoshi's fist was so big (about two times normal), when the two fists came together, Wan's wrist was broken. With a severely injured wrist, and seeing that speed (his specialty) did not work, Wan held up his hands [in the gongfu salutation] and said: gaoming, gaoming (great). After that he retired, not asking for any more challenges.

It all happened very quickly. They did not spend days fighting before the match ended. The very first thing that happened was the last. Meanwhile, the people inside the Yang compound were thinking: Oh, the dust must be flying, Zhang must be bloody or flat on his back. They wondered how badly he was being beaten up. Just then Zhang Laoshi walked back in as if nothing had happened. Everyone looked and said: Wow, it doesn't look as if you two even met [for conclusions]. And they asked: Where did Wan go? Zhang said: He left. He didn't challenge you? they asked. Yes, he did, Zhang replied. How come we didn't hear any noise out there? What noise were you expecting? One punch. One punch and he left. His fists are so fast, how did you manage? Zhang said: I didn't hit him, he hit me. He moved first, I saw that his fist was coming. I just held up my fist, his fist hit mine and his wrist broke. On hearing this, everyone in the compound began to breathe easier. They said, no wonder there wasn't any noise, no dust flying. After this, people had a much different opinion of Zhang Qinlin. And Yang Jianhou looked at him in a different way -- for many reasons he was good material not just because of his physique.

Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan should have been transmitted and taught to Yang Chengfu. But when Chengfu was young (twenties?) he felt that his father's training was too difficult. He left the family compound and tried to get into another school. Everyone laughed at him, saying: your father and grandfather are so famous and you want to come to our school? It was as if Chengfu wanted to forget what family he came from, but nobody would allow him to forget. So he went back to his family and started again. Because this happened. his father felt differently about him. Jianhou wondered how his son could have left in the first place. Something in Jianhou's heart had changed. Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan was not something that was taught to many students. It was taught to just one person -only to one who would keep it and pass it on. Why not teach it to two or more? During the Qing Dynasty, Yang Luchan had become famous, and was invited by the emperor to teach at the emperor's court. Luchan was unwilling to teach his personal martial art to a foreign ruler that he felt was suppressing the country. In addition, Yang was a Han, and the emperor was a Manchu. Yang was not willing to give these invaders his personal art. So he made up another. That became what we now know as the Old Yang style. While teaching at the emperor's court, there were Han people outside the court who knew of him and wanted to learn from him. Yang could not refuse them; they were Han. He also wished to see their gongfu improved. So he taught them as well, but he did not teach his own personal style. If he taught the Hans something different from the Manchus they might think he was trying to form an army and overthrow the government -- which meant he would be beheaded. So he did not dare. Whatever he taught to the Manchus in the emperor's court, is what he also taught to those outside the court walls as well. That is how this idea of '`Michuan" got started. The style taught to the emperor had different names: the "Long Yang" style, or the "Old Yang" style. It has also been called the "Court" style because of where it originated. From that time, nobody knew of Yang Luchan's personal style.

[Back at the Yang family compound] Yang Jianhou knew that Zhang Qinlin had great potential not only from a physical point of view, but now also saw how he had taken on a very serious challenge and had been successful. After that challenge and after Zhang had saved the family reputation, Yang Jianhou took Zhang Qinlin aside and told him to come to Jianhou's part of the compound every night at 3 am to teach him this Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. And so from that time on, Zhang went every night and little by little Jianhou taught him Yangjia Michuan Taijiquan. [Why three to five am? This is the time of deepest sleep and assured privacy, secrecy.] Once Zhang Qinlin learned this form, Yang said to him that it was not for teaching. You follow what we have done (what I have done too), and that means when you accept students, you teach the public form. One day you will find a student who you feel is worthy of this hidden family tradition teaching, and you may teach that person.

Zhang had been successful, had learned everything, his training had been completed. Then Zhang Qinlin left the Yang family compound and moved to Shanxi province.

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