Yang Luchan and skill

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Yang Luchan and skill

Postby Josh Young » Wed Sep 19, 2012 10:33 pm

I noted something worth sharing about Yang Luchan that often goes highly understated and potentially overlooked.

Before he was a martial artist in terms of a career he was essentially a servant in a village where hard labor was a way of life. Lots of people seem to focus on the martial training, but the reality may be that one of the most important factors in his skill was in fact his work, having to work hard and long hours with laborious tasks conditioned him far beyond what the practice of Quan would have.

Lots of people have their own myths about him, that he did this or that, that he had some secret forms etc. I have yet to hear of anyone mentioning that he was essentially a laborer. In comparison most career martial artists lack such a background in hard work.

It also makes sense, given how labor can effect the human body, that he would focus on softness and looseness, being as relaxed as possible. Chances are that due to his labor he was incredibly strong for his size, and should have gained a lot of benefit from a very loose emphasis upon martial arts.

I'd suggest to anyone who wants to obtain such skill that the hard work of a laborious job is an element that they should seek out and master. I would also expect that very few of the career martial artists of today have done this. I really think that this aspect of work was key to Luchans skill.
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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby caesar » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:06 am

I also see this as a challenge of nowadays society. People tend to praise the old masters and their way of living and remind everybody how we are lazy today (I'm not referring to you, it's just a feeling I've got from the martial society). But anyway...Yang Lu Chan would've had it a bit more difficult in modern society, where pollution of air and food less nutritive is almost inevitable and hindering any progress to live healthy.

Most labour work in my area requires a lot of flexibility to take shifts that overrun the martial classes happening usually in the evening. And it's also a work that is slowly dying as machines replace doing the same work cheaper and faster.

A huge challenge for people nowadays is to learn to sit straight/correct, and usually the damage is already been developed as a child/teenager, leaning on the crappy school desks from five to eight hours a day.

I'm right now trying to figure out myself, do I want to continue working in the social field (lots of offices and sitting) or go work in something more physical, for example the profession of masseur.

I like your views and especially the part of having to find softness and looseness in everyday life, because working in a field where the contrast is easily felt and seen. Today I had to carry chairs in the office for a conference for tomorrow, I was happy to do it and had a contact to my body for a while. Usually I sacrifice a short while of the lunch brake to go train for a short while to a park nearby...and this has to be done almost secretly because workers aren't allowed to leave the building even on lunch brake...what a great way to encourage the employee to keep him/herself fit and refreshed for the work... ;)


*edited a typo
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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby Josh Young » Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:05 pm

I agree about the difference of modern society and things like work schedules, pollution, food etc.

I just began a very labor intense job, during my lunch break I do taiji just to loosen up and stretch. I've also noticed a difference in the way I do it, although I cannot explain it.

My work schedule has limited my practice time, I am essentially busy for 12 hours a day 5 days a week.

I recall a Chen teacher I worked with sharing that he had to train to reach a minimum standard of physical ability before he could learn Quan. I realize now that someone who had to work very hard for years could easily meet this requirement, but that those who do not must train very hard to reach it. In the Chen case he was required to hold a posture very common to the internal arts and qigong, but he had to hold it low and when tested in his progression of it he had to hold it for 3 hours before his teacher began to teach him Quan. He was allowed to study form and such before this, but was openly told that form had no value without reaching this physical standard and that there was no sense in him learning the system (application methods included) without this.

Why shoot an arrow from a weak bow?
To learn to shoot a weak bow does not make one good at archery.

Store/gather up Jin like drawing back a bow, emitting jin (fajin) is like releasing the arrow
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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby Sanfung » Tue Sep 25, 2012 4:35 pm

I used to be pretty sedentary, and I was quite overweight several years ago. One of the major things that changed that even before I started training was getting a job on a farm. I farmed for about four years before and during my college time. It was grueling work, and it helped me to take off a lot of the excess girth that I picked up while I was working on the farm. Josh, I didn't see what the job you started was. I'm sorry if I just missed that. Otherwise, would you mind sharing the nature of your work? I'm just curious. A lot can be learned through difficult labor. As well as the fitness attributes, there's so much to be valued when you look down and see the fruits of your hard work. You definitely appreciate things more when you have to work for them. If something is just given to you, you'll never really learn to appreciate it.
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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby Josh Young » Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:05 pm

I've been called a landscaper recently, but it is more than that, concrete work (breaking ,setting pouring, mixing etc) cleaning up yards, weeding, digging.

I've helped build a fence and a repair a retaining wall, install drip line etc. Lots of different things.
It is the hardest i have ever worked. My blisters from starting are almost healed. Sometimes I wake up very sore.

It is teaching me a lot of things.
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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby Sanfung » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:09 am

That sounds like a lot of work. In fact, it doesn't sound too far off from a lot of the things we've brought up thus far. I don't people really appreciate the effort that so many individuals put into keeping the world running the way that it does. Even if you aren't always feeling too appreciated, I'm sure you can take a lot of pride in what you're doing.

When you say that Yang Lu Chan had a difficult job earlier in life, you mean planting his father's field, right? I ask because the work that he did at the Tai He Tang Pharmacy certainly wasn't a walk in the park either.
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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby fazhou » Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:37 am

This post fits in nicely with the question that I posted awhile back about "body condintioning". It seems that there are two different camps, as it were, concerning body conditioning and the efficacy of Taijiquan. One group believing that "working out" creates unnecessary tension in the body and subsequent blockages (chi? jing?). The other group maintaining that body conditioning makes for a sound base to start from. I'm sorry that I can't be more specific in relation to these schools of thought , only that I have noticed several times various sources claiming one idea or the other. It seems to me that some of these ideas may be both cultural and generational. Cultural meaning that most Masters would probably look at the (traditional) Western idea of working out (body building) as being not conducive to "sung". And generational because of the way labor is done today compared to 100 years ago, sedentary lifestyles (almost unheard of 100 years ago).At any rate, hard physical labor would definitely classify as body conditioning in my book. It seems obvious to me now that in order to practice Taijiquan proficiently and skillfully, your physical body needs to be well tuned. I think, although i'm far from this ideal, that it is very possible to be physically fit as a result of conditioning exercises and able to maintain a state of "sung".
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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby Josh Young » Thu Sep 27, 2012 8:04 am

When you say that Yang Lu Chan had a difficult job earlier in life, you mean planting his father's field, right? I ask because the work that he did at the Tai He Tang Pharmacy certainly wasn't a walk in the park either.


I was writing about his work as a "servant" at Chen Village. They owned a pharmacy but owned land too and farmed. Life at Chen Village was very hard in the farming season. I can provide more info on my understanding of this later, but have to go to work now!
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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby Dvivid » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:41 pm

It relates also to the important part of the Bodhidharma story, in which he arrives at Shaolin Temple and finds the monks there to be physically weak with poor posture. (Once he is allowed into the building...) He teaches them physical exercises, muscle/tendon changing qigong (Yang). This is prerequisite for bone/marrow washing (Yin).

Internal power and skill replies upon a healthy and strong body. Fat is a poor conductor of energy; in fact it acts as an insulator. Well-conditioned muscles, tendons, and fascia are good conductors of energy.
"Avoid Prejudice, Be Objective in Your Judgement, Be Scientific, Be Logical and Make Sense, Do Not Ignore Prior Experience." - Dr. Yang

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Re: Yang Luchan and skill

Postby Josh Young » Thu Sep 27, 2012 10:11 pm

I completely agree!

This work is developing my body, my mind and my spirit.

It does this through pushing me, but It is working.

All things are connected, mind, body, spirit. Becoming sore in one can make you sore in the other, but as I develop I wake up in better shape (in every aspect) each day!

I'm becoming happier than I have ever been.
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