Gao Yi-Sheng Branch ~ Cheng Style Baguazhang
Part 1 of 7.
穿掌 Chuan Zhang ~ Piercing Palm :
Compiled by Bradford Tyrey
Below is a compilation of Cheng style ~ Gao branch baguazhang information that came from Liu Xing-Han, Madam Sun Jian-Yun, and several of the students under Master Liu Feng-Tsai in Tianjin, China, during the late 1980s. Liu was Gao Yi-Sheng’s last student alive in China who taught the traditional training sets. Some of Liu’s students often came to Beijing to study with Master Liu Xing-Han of the Cheng style ~ Liu Bin branch in which Sun Lu-T’ang was also a student (under both masters Cheng and Liu Bin). Liu Feng-Tsai and Liu Xing-Han were friends who often served together as celebrated dignitaries at national martial arts events in Beijing. In Liu Xing-Han’s class it was not uncommon for us to see and learn the practices of Sun Lu-Tang, Gao Yi-Sheng and Liu Bin that were being demonstrated and shared, all finding their common roots from Master Cheng Ting-Hua. Some of the notes and explanations shared in the classes of Liu Xing-Han and Liu Feng-Tsai that I attended and recorded are presented below as a reference of traditional Gao teachings. Bradford Tyrey
First of Seven Principal Hand Methods
穿掌 Chuan Zhang ~ Piercing Palm
Master Liu Xing-Han taught that 穿Chuan was the first of seven principal hand methods taught by Master Cheng T’ing-Hua. These seven methods, along with their deeper meanings, were shared by Cheng with many baguazhang practitioners which included Liu Bin, Sun Lu-T’ang, and Gao Yi-Sheng, to name a few of many.
Master Liu explained the following regarding Master Cheng’s direct teaching of 穿chuan to Liu Bin and Sun Lu-T’ang:
“The concept of ‘to pierce into or through’ portrays but one fragment of the understanding of 穿chuan. Its meaning is like that of a snake slinking into a cavernous hole. One’s arm is the snake; the hole being the adversary’s defensive posture that must be sharply pierced through and skillfully entered into. One moment it is as if chiseling into the wall of a cave, the next moment like putting one’s hand through the arm sleeve of a silken garment. Chuan is to be exact and fearless, the blending of harshness and suppleness, and the mingling of both kai (to open) and he’r (unite).”
To more fully understand 穿chuan it is important to learn the diverse meanings of this written character during the 1800s, the days in which Tung Hai-Ch’uan and Cheng T’ing-Hua were practicing and teaching baguazhang. These meanings were explained by Liu Xing-Han, Madam Sun Jian-Yun (Sun Lu-T’ang’s daughter), and students of Liu Feng-Tsai. Below is a brief compilation of their explanations:
穿Chuan is composed of the radicals: cavern (hole) and tusk. These two radicals form together to infer that a creature (generally acknowledged to be that of a rat), with tusks (teeth) gnaws through walls to create caverns in which to take shelter and lurk about. This is the action of ‘to dig and bore into through constant effort.’ When the hand is put into use martially chuan further means ‘to insert with a stretching forward action,’ as if to perforate an object and then widen the hole through simultaneous boring and twisting. Further, 穿chuan can mean either ‘to run upon an object, as if running across a suspended bridge’ or ‘to run through an object, as if running through a narrow tunnel,’ both requiring great care and effort. Should the hands be used to strike in a piercing fashion toward the adversary’s body then, 穿chuan refers to caverns (acu-points) that are to be struck in a lethal manner.
In many of Madam Sun Jian-Yun’s neijiaquan classes, 穿chuan was taught in many ways, according to her father’s [Sun Lu-T’ang] teachings. She initially taught us chuan as a secular method, specialized in its application according to whether we were practicing taijiquan, baguazhang or xingyiuan. Each art emphasized the method of practice and application in a somewhat different manner while still adhering to the correct essence of 穿chuan. For example, Madam Sun explained that her father would teach only a single method chuan during an entire week, however he would expound on that specific method as applied to the three arts [taijiquan, baguazhang and xingyiuan]. Following this, he would teach as his teacher, Cheng T’ing-Hua, had, that having been to teach how 穿chuan was taught once attached to 劈p’i (splitting), thereby creating the specialized methods of 穿劈掌 chuan p’i zhang (piercing-splitting palm) and 劈穿掌 p’i chuan zhang (splitting-piercing palm). Though each method is similar, it is the first character in each set that is regarded as the mother; the second character is the child which hides its essence within the mother’s womb, yet provides a hidden strength and skill drawn upon by the mother.
Gao Yi-Sheng, according to Liu Xing-Han and Liu Feng-Tsai, was famous for demonstrating the skill of 穿崩掌 chuan beng zhang (piercing-collapsing palm) at public gatherings and boxing matches. There Master Gao would have his most muscular students attack him at which time he would apply 穿崩掌 chuan beng zhang with such skill, using both linear and circular baguazhang methods, that even his students were astonished at their teacher’s ability to issue great force from even slight, concealed movement. Master Gao had explained that after many years of practice and receiving secrets passed to him by a traveling monk, he had attained the ability to unite methods within baguazhang with those contained within xingyiquan, hence his accrued skill of 穿崩掌 chuan beng zhang (piercing-collapsing palm) and 穿崩拳 chuan beng quan (piercing-collapsing fist).
Conclusion of Part (1).
Bradford’s baguazhang books and others are found at www.lulu.com;
type in Bradford Tyrey in the Search Box.