The themes in this book—drawn from Chinese history, culture, and martial arts experience—are entwined in a fictional narrative to animate events envisaged to have occurred during the mid-eighteenth century. From the outset, a thin veil separates fact from fiction. Our story starts with a discovery.

 

While conducting research at the Vatican Library on the Jesuit missions in China, two scholars find a folder of papers written in Chinese among documents belonging to Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766), a painter at the royal court in Beijing. The papers turn out to be written by a fellow court painter, Yang Mingbin (c. 1664–1765). Yang’s handwritten essays provide revelations vital for understanding the ingenuity of Chinese martial arts.

 

Yang’s text is organized under sixty-four subheadings. The author elucidates theory and practice methods in a fashion unlike any other writings on this subject. This is a rare early text written during a transitional period for martial arts. It is the time when the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912) was at its peak of cultural splendor and expanding its borders by military expeditions. Cannons and smaller firearms show the Western influence, but traditional martial arts were ubiquitous in the village, province, and national levels.

 

Master Yang offers fascinating reading on all aspects of the Chinese fighting traditions. He places great emphasis on the importance of the “martial arts family” and the role of secrecy in lethal arts. The arts are also adapted for health and entertainment. All reflect an infusion of philosophy and practices from Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. How one thinks affects how one practices martial arts. 

 

Yang describes the qualities associated with different skill levels, from beginner to most advanced. As he does this, we learn secrets that set forth key ways for improving defensive and offensive applications. These topics include body alignment, coordination, spontaneity, naturalness, balance, distancing, relaxation, and power. The same principles apply to bare-hand and weapons practice, as well as martial arts for health. Yang’s learning methodology for studying martial arts can be useful in other areas, as in his work as a master painter at court.

Martial Art Essays from Beijing, 1760 (PAPERBACK)

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  • 5.25" x 8" paperback, 144 pages, 27 illustrations

     

  • Preface x

    Foreword xiii

    1 Sacred Space

    3 Unity in Diversity

    5 Inspiring Factors

    7 Levels of Skill

    8 The Paradox of Movement

    9 Bathing in Stillness

    10 Standing on One Leg

    11 One Step at a Time

    12 Slow versus Fast

    13 Magic Knuckles

    15 Split the Globe

    16 Straight at an Angle

    17 Pushing Distance

    18 Footwork as Brushwork

    21 Shoulder to Shoulder

    22 Practical Techniques, Proper Forms

    24 The Attack Makes the Defense

    25 Sources of Tension

    27 Better Vision

    29 A Monitoring Touch

    30 One Technique, Multiple Applications

    32 Bellow Breathing

    34 Two-Way Tension

    35 No Resistance, No Pressure

    37 Right, Wrong, Variation

    40 Impressive Movements

    41 Mirrorlike Mind

    41 The Martial Family

    43 Daoist Philosophy

    51 Daoist Quest for Immortality

    54 Finding a Master, Finding a Disciple

    55 Physical Connections

    56 The Body’s Architectural Design

    60 Maintaining and Improving Health

    62 The Organic Pattern

    64 Weapons and Empty-Hand Practice

    65 The Teacher’s Effects

    66 The Learning Continuum

    70 Moving from Time to the Timeless

    71 Telltale Signs

    73 Inspiration

    74 Spontaneous Naturalness

    76 Help Your Attacker

    77 Waterways

    78 Seeing Targets

    80 Elbows Moving the Wrong Way

    82 Techniques and Distance

    84 Mental and Optical Illusions

    86 Power Behind the Punch

    88 Principles for Fighting and Health

    90 Explosive Kicks and Strikes

    92 Personality and Personal Style

    93 Solo Routines and Self-Defense

    94 Teacher-Disciple Relationship

    96 Manchu Military

    98 Laws of Boxing

    100 Angles of Defense and Offense

    102 Being Analytical and Intuitive

    103 Pleasing the Eyes

    104 Wave Currents

    105 Meditation: Training the Mind

    108 Martial Ingenuity

    109 Martial Arts, Religion, and Healing

    111 Experiment, Test, Prove

    Afterword 112

    Glossary 116

    Index 117