The training program at Yang's Martial Arts Association (YMAA) schools was devised by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. It can be divided into three main sections: External Styles, Internal Styles, and Qigong. All YMAA branches or provisional schools must teach material in at least one of these three categories according to the YMAA training schedule, and all students must pass the qualification tests in order to advance to the next level.
External Styles (Shaolin White Crane and Long Fist) (白鶴﹐長拳, Bai He, Changquan) Shaolin White Crane specializes in hand techniques and short range fighting, while Shaolin Long Fist specializes in kicking and long range fighting. Both are trained in YMAA external styles training, and the techniques of both styles are used in sparring practice.
Fundamental Stances (基本步法, Ji Ben Bu Fa). Stances are the ways of standing designed for different fighting strategies and techniques. There are ten fundamental Long Fist and six White Crane stances that you must learn before you can start learning any sequences. Fundamental stances are the foundation in every style of Chinese martial arts. These stances will be included in the first level of Shaolin training.
Qin Na (or Chin Na, 擒拿). Qin Na (or Chin Na) includes grabbing Qin Na and cavity press Qin Na. Grabbing Qin Na is used to control an opponent without injuring him/her. YMAA trains about 120 Qin Na techniques, and students must learn a number of Qin Na for each period. Qin Na classes and seminars are also offered regularly for those students who would like to become an expert of Qin Na techniques.
Fighting Forms (盤手﹐ 橋手, Pan Shou or Qiao Shou). Fighting Forms (winding hands or bridging hands) are training sets constructed of two or three techniques which allow members to practice with each other and learn effective fighting techniques. Fighting forms help you to build your natural reactions for both offense and defense. YMAA uses many sets of fighting forms for both barehand and various weapons. A YMAA student must qualify with a number of fighting forms in each period.
Fundamental Hand Forms (基本手法, Ji Ben Shou Fa). Hand forms are the ways of holding the hand when it is used for striking. Hand forms also include the methods by which an attack reaches the opponent. They also teach the student how to build his/her root, how to generate Jin (martial power), and how to direct the Jin to the opponent. Every style has its own specific training for hand forms. YMAA uses hand forms from both Long Fist and White Crane.
Fundamental Kicks (基本腿法, Ji Ben Tui Fa). YMAA training includes more than thirty different kicking methods from both Long Fist and White Crane. They teach the student how to use his/her legs for both defense and attack. Fundamental kicks are also the means to develop leg kicking Jin.
Fundamental Training Forms (基本練習, Ji Ben Lian Shi). Once a YMAA student has learned the idea of stances, hand forms, and kicking, he/she will then be taught how to combine them in exercises called Training Forms. YMAA has twelve Tan Tui (Spring Leg from Long Fist) fundamental training exercises which help to build the foundation for YMAA Long Fist. YMAA also uses thirteen White Crane fundamental training exercises which emphasize hand techniques and stepping.
Short Defense (簡易防身法, Jian Yi Fang Shen Fa). Short Defense teaches the YMAA student how to defend himself/herself against a street attack. There are ten basic barehand defense techniques listed in the training schedule which can be used in a variety of applications. A YMAA student must master them in order to pass the qualifications for the second period. After learning these ten techniques, a student is encouraged to create other short defense techniques for further training.
Dagger Defense (匕首防身法, Bi Shou Fang Shen Fa). Dagger Defense is designed for defense in a street fight when the opponent has a dagger or short weapon in his/her hand. There are ten basic dagger defense techniques, and many other advanced ones which the YMAA student must qualify in during the course of the training. After learning these techniques, a student is encouraged to create other dagger defense techniques for further training.
Jin (勁). Jin is the Chinese term (defined as Li-Qi or muscular power-Qi) for martial power. Jin originates in the internal energy (Qi) which is used to greatly increase the muscular power. In YMAA, only those students who have passed the second period will be qualified to receive Jin training.
Sequences (拳套, Quan Tao). Sequences are also called "forms", "routines", or "katas" in some martial styles. A sequence is normally a combination of more than fifteen basic fighting techniques. These fifteen basic techniques can usually be derived into thirty or more advanced techniques. Sequences help the student remember and master the techniques of the style which have been passed down through the generations. Repeated practice builds up natural attacking and defensive movements that the student can use in actual fighting situations. Sequences also train the student's patience, willpower, endurance, and power.
Matching Sets (拳套對練, Quan Tao Dui Lian). A matching set is a sequence that is practiced with a partner. Practicing a matching set lets you experience a situation that resembles fighting. It helps you to develop natural reactions, which are the key to self-defense. In YMAA, you must qualify in many matching sets, including those which utilize various kinds of weapons.
Shaolin Sparring (散打﹐ 散手, San Da or San Shou). Sparring is the training which most resembles real combat with an enemy. Body protection is required in sparring. YMAA sparring is divided into ten stages, from the most basic reaction training to full contact sparring. Sparring training is optional in YMAA training. Only those students who are interested in sparring will take the qualification test.
Internal Styles-Taijiquan (太極拳)
In internal styles, YMAA focuses mainly on traditional Yang Style Taijiquan which originated from Yang, Ban-Hou (楊班候). However, other styles of Taijiquan, such as Chen (陳氏, Wu 吳氏, and Sun 孫氏, will be introduced through seminars with qualified masters. In addition, YMAA will continue to invite well known masters to YMAA headquarters to teach Xingyiquan (形意拳), Baguazhang (八卦掌), and Liu He Ba Fa (六合八法), the other three well-known internal styles.
Taiji Qigong (太極氣功). Taiji Qigong is designed to help the beginner to feel and understand Qi, and also to learn how to use the concentrated mind to lead the Qi so that it can circulate smoothly. Practicing Taiji Qigong exercises can significantly improve one's health. In addition, Taiji Qigong is the key which helps the Taiji practitioner learn how to use the Yi (i.e., wisdom mind) to lead the Qi to energize the physical body for maximum efficiency.
Taiji Sequence (太極拳套). There are many different styles of Taiji. In YMAA you must learn the traditional Yang Style of Taijiquan, which has 113 (or 108) forms. It is believed that the Taijiquan which YMAA practices originated with Yang, Ban-Hou. After many years of practice, in 1997 YMAA completed its assimilation of traditional Chen Style Taijiquan into its regular internal training schedule. The Chen Style Taijiquan in YMAA was passed down from Master Liang, Shou-Yu (梁守愉). Master Liang, Shou-Yu learned his Chen Style Taijiquan from Grandmaster Gu, Liu-Xing (顧留馨).
Taiji Stationary Pushing Hands (太極定步推手, Taiji Ding Bu Tui Shou). The purpose of Taiji pushing hands training is the same as that of the fighting forms in the external styles. However, Taijiquan emphasizes sensitivity to touch (i.e., listening) (Ting), understanding (Dong), following (Sui), sticking (Zhan), and adhering (Nian). In stationary pushing hands you must learn many fundamental techniques, such as single pushing hands and double pushing hands. These incorporate the energies of wardoff (Peng,), rollback (Lu), press (or squeeze)(Ji), push (or suppressed by palm)(An), pluck (Cai), rend (or split)(Lie), elbow (Zhou), and bump (Kao). In addition, other advanced pushing techniques, such as coiling, controlling, borrowing, leading, and neutralizing Jins are trained. In YMAA stationary pushing hands training, there are four basic neutralization patterns which a pushing hands beginner must learn. Next, he/she will begin double pushing hands training, which includes six different training patterns. Normally, these trainings are used to introduce four basic Taiji Jin patterns: Peng, Lu, Ji, and An. An international training routine has also been absorbed into YMAA training and is simply called "Peng, Lu, Ji, An training." Next, a student must learn the other four basic Taiji Jin patterns, Cai, Lie, Zhou, and Kao. Again, this includes two basic training routines, one is from Dr. Yang and the other is an international routine. These routines are commonly called "Da Lu", "Lu-Ji", and simply "Cai, Lie, Zhou, and Kao." YMAA has its traditional "Da Lu" training, even though an international training routine has also been absorbed into the YMAA training and is called "Cai, Lie, Zhou, Kao training."
Silk Reeling Taiji Symbol Training (太極圈纏手練習, Taiji Quan Chan Shou Lian Xi). Silk Reeling Taiji Symbol training is the foundation of the Taiji Pushing Hands and Sparring. This training includes two portions: the Yang symbol and the Yin symbol. A student starts with Yang symbol, solo practice first, then with a partner. Begin with stationary practice, then move to forward and backward. After a student is able to move forward and backward with closed eyes, he or she then starts the parallel walking training. Finally, he or she will complete this symbol with the Bagua walking. When a student has mastered the Yang side, then he or she should learn the Yin side and follow the same training procedures. When these two Yin and Yang symbols are mastered, a student will be able to change his or her techniques smoothly and easily and apply them in the Pushing Hands or Sparring.
Taiji Fighting Set (Taiji San Shou Tui Lian). The Taiji fighting set was designed so that two people could practice together in a situation resembling actual fighting. The main purpose of this training is to teach the student how to step and move his/her body into the most advantageous position in combat. Naturally, it also teaches the student how to avoid being channeled into a disadvantageous situation. The student needs to have practiced stationary pushing hands first, so that he/she can combine that experience with the fighting set to make the techniques come alive.
Taiji Moving Pushing Hands (太極動步推手, Taiji Dong Bu Tui Shou). Taiji moving pushing hands is the training before Taiji sparring. In moving pushing hands, the student must use stepping strategy with the techniques learned in stationary pushing hands and the fighting set. Students who have reached the level where the opponent cannot set them up, and can use their own techniques skillfully, have completed the basic training for sparring.
Taiji Free Sparring (太極自由散手對打, Taiji Zi You San Shou Dui Da). In YMAA, barehand Taiji sparring is one of the final goals of instruction. In Taiji sparring, striking techniques come out of the sticking and adhering. Body protection is required for this training.
Taiji Sword (太極劍, Taiji Jian). Taiji sword is used to train the student's Qi to a higher level. In fact, the theory of Taiji sword is much deeper than that of barehand Taijiquan, and the techniques are also much more difficult to train and master.
Sticking Taiji Sword (太極劍對練, Taiji Jian Dui Lian). Sticking Taiji sword training is similar to Taiji stationary and moving pushing hands training. It helps the students to extend their feeling and sensing beyond the body and out to the tip of the sword. This training is very important for those who wish to learn Taiji sword sparring.
Taiji Saber (太極刀, Taiji Dao). Taiji Saber is another short weapon which trains students in the skillful coordination of the physical body with the Qi body. Like the sword, Taiji Saber also has sticking training.
Taiji Staff (太極棍, Taiji Gun). The staff is the first long weapon in Taiji. The principles of feeling (listening), following, sticking, and adhering remain the key to the training. Taiji staff also has two-person sticking training.
Taiji Spear (太極槍, Taiji Qiang). The spear is called the king of the long weapons. It is considered the highest level of Taiji training. In Taiji spear training, students train to extend their sense of feeling and to direct their Qi to the head of the spear. This enables the student to feel (listen), follow, stick and adhere to the opponent's weapon. Sticking Taiji spear is also part of the training.