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Chun Yuen Quan
Chun Yuen Quan is a martial art skill that is also very good for health. The lineage was originally from the Northern Shaolin tradition but after time, it passed down to the Chinese opera where it actually retained its traditional elements. My Sifu, Wu Chun Yuen, learned the skill from Master Wang Ping who acted as a general in the Beijing Opera.
Grandmaster Wu Chun Yuen was a true martial art gentleman and his skill level was very high. He was also a very humble person and loved the martial art skill that he practised every day.
Master Wang, because of his opera training, was very flexible and light. However, due to the sensitive times in which they lived, they could not always practise openly. So Master Wang devised ways to help his student, Wu Chun Yuen, to practise without it being obvious that he was doing so.
Instead of practising with a sword and long tassel, they might only use a stick with a long string. However, this in no way stunted Sifu's skill and he developed to a very high level that not many people can reach.
Beijing Opera History
It is said that Beijing Opera developed from 1790 from the influence of opera troops from Anhui and Hubei Provinces. In the past, operas were performed outside or in tea houses where it was very noisy and so the singers had to develop ways to transmit voices above the din of the crowds. As a result, they cultivated a very high-pitched way of singing that would pierce the noise. They wore ritualised costumes and makeup that instantly identified them as either a hero, villan, young lady, older lady, clown, etc. In the past, though, even ladies' roles were traditionally played by men.
The opera players also developed highly exaggerated movements that could be seen even in the dimness of oil lamps and at the back of the crowd whilst creating an atmosphere that would portray the story for the viewers.
Some of the actors would play the role requiring knowledge of martial art skill. Unlike opera singers in the West, the traditional Chinese opera required the performer to be able to be very flexible and fit. The training was very physical and disciples would begin their training at a very young age. In the past, parents would give their children over to the care of the Opera Sifu and they would live, travel, sleep, eat and train for many years with that opera troupe.
This was also a way of being able to train real skill without creating suspicion in the government. Some of the opera players would even be required to protect their troupe from bandits whilst travelling. So the martial arts that have been passed down in the Chinese opera school were well preserved and not diluted.
Grandmaster Wu Chun Yuen
Grandmaster Wu passed away in February 2003 at the age of 77. Michael Tse says, "It was very hard to lose Wu Sifu as I felt him to be like my second father. He was always so happy to see me when I visited and would invite me to have dinner with him and his family. He enjoyed teaching me as he knew I loved the skill and every teacher is happy to know that their skill is being passed down to someone who cherishes it. His posture when doing forms, particularly the staff and sword, is the most perfect I have ever seen. Aside from his high level skill, he was a very happy person and was very warm hearted and generous."
"When Wu Sifu passed away, I wanted his name to be remembered - not just his skill. Although the skill he taught originated many generations ago from the Northern Shaolin tradition, it had also been connected with the Beijing Opera. It is easy to see some of the opera attitude on the bare hand forms but particularly the sword forms with their long tassels and the knife forms, with its extra long flag. Chinese opera relies a lot on the colourful props and exaggerated movements to create the story and atmosphere. However, operatic actors actually learned traditional art forms and so in some ways, this helped to preserve many of the traditional elements of the skill."
Michael Tse continues,
Good for Health
Chun Yuen Quan is very good for health and will make the body light and flexible. As we get older, it is very easy to become heavier and lose some mobility. However, when the channels in the body are open and the Qi can flow without obstruction, the body will feel light, just like a child's. Chun Yuen Quan helps to bring up this very strong body circulation and Qi.
Michael Tse says, "In the beginning, some people may find the movements a little bit challenging as there are many up and down movements as well as lots of stretching postures to help open the chest and make the spine straight. But with all good skill, there are different levels of practising. In the beginning, just practise in a gentle way and then later, when more healthy and strong, you can try to challenge yourself a bit more."
Any good skill can be practised even when a person is older not just when they are young. Chinese say, "Good skill is for life." Today, this concept is hard for people to accept as they are used to many sports where only young people can stand the training and even then they, too, can have injuries. With Chun Yuen Quan, however, if you practise in the right way and with the right attitude, your body will only get more and more healthy, no matter what your age.
Michael Tse says, "I know that society needs this kind of skill as it is easy to have a Yin body because of too much working on the computer or in the office. Even children spend more and more time indoors instead of playing outside doing more physical things."
"When we do not challenge ourselves enough, our bodies will only become weaker and weaker and then so does our immune system. It is easy for even a cold or flu to become something very serious. When our immune system and internal organs are healthy- when our external body is strong but flexible, then we can manage all kinds of situations, even serious illness. Chun Yuen Quan also lifts the spirit and will make you feel very good."
What Will I Learn in Class?
Xing Shou & Great Sadness Gong
Two of the beginning forms in the Chun Yuen Quan syllabus which you will learn is Xing Shou and Great Sadness. Xing Shou means "Style Hand" and helps to establish many of the Chun Yuen basics postures that are used throughout the system.
Great Sadness Gong works on coordination and for the lungs, helping to release stagant Qi. It also teaches you the basic principles of good posture, corodination and a light body. It is a great for ridding the lungs of any stale Qi as well as benefiting anyone suffering from depression, asthma or other breathing problems. It will also help to improve posture and flexibility.
The staff is a light and flexible weapon and is enjoyable to handle, even if you have never practised with a weapon before. The staff is a very typical Northern Shaolin weapon and in the past was often carried by traveling monks from the Shaolin temple.
Today it teaches us how to use our bodies and improves our coordination, balance and improves our energy. It generates a lot of internal heat and so those people suffering from damp and cold conditions, such as athritis, find great benfit in the form. Plus it is great fun.
Other Chun Yuen Forms
Bare-hand forms are very good to bring up very strong Qi in the body and will also help to develop lightness and good circulation. So if you find you are always cold, tired with not enough energy, then you need to find a way to bring up more Qi and blood in the body. Chun Yuen Quan is a very quick way to bring up good health and heat in the body.
Michael Tse say, "Since meeting Wu Sifu in 1989, he has taught me many forms including the Damo staff, Plum Blossom Spear, Nine Section Whip as well as many bare handed forms including Miju Quan, Erlian, Xing Shou, etc.
He has also taught me both the single and double tasselled sword forms and the short fighting stick. There are several long-tasselled sword forms in Chun Yuen Quan but the Green Dragon and White Crane were two of Sifu's favourites."