Most martial arts systems start by teaching new students basic techniques. Stances, blocks, punches, kicks, break-falls, joint locks and other techniques are practiced and improved through repetition.
Yi Chuan is different; in that, the method clearly asserts that it has no fixed forms, no fixed rules and no fixed techniques. How can this be?
Much has been written about Wang Sheng Chai, the founder of Yi Chuan and his rational for devising his unique approach to developing martial skill. Often referred to a “Old Man Contradiction” Master Wang realized that adherence to fixed forms, rules and techniques was preventing students from discovering the latent capacity of integrated strength they all naturally possessed.
In an effort to combat this trend Master Wang did something with his system that was certainly controversial. He took the core practice of standing the stake (also known as Zhan Zhuan or Jam Jong), which was traditionally only taught secretly to a few ‘indoor’ students, and taught it openly, even to beginners.
Mater Wang understood that internal kung fu is based on leveraging the tensional integrity or tensegrity of the human body. The ancient practice of standing the stake is designed to repair and strengthen the body’s tensegrity. Putting zhan zhuang training at the core of Yi Chuan meant that the development of tensegrity and the integrated strength that results from it took priority over techniques, forms or shapes. Further, it meant that the techniques, forms and shapes used by Yi Chuan are means to utilize integrated strength for self defense.
In Yi Chuan we have lots of rules, forms, shapes and techniques. The key is not to mistake them for the results we are looking for. Being able to maintain tensional integrity and defend oneself using integrated strength is the goal, the art of Yi Chuan. Standing the stake is the process of getting directly in touch with the structure of our body, to learn by experiencing oneness and develop through applying that feeling state to self defense. That is why Yi Chuan puts standing first.