China 2009 - Zhuhai

The chief instructor of A.C.K., Doukas Dimitris and his student Divanis Giorgos, visited South China, and in particular Zuhai, in Guanzhou province.
There, they met Master Niu Sheng Xian, teacher of Nei Jia Quan, in order to continue their practice in the martial arts of Xing Yi, Ba Gua  and Tai Ji Quan.
Master Niu Sheng Xian was born in Hebei, China, in 1938.He has conquered the 8th level in Chinese Martial Arts.
He inherited the traditional knowledge of his family and, since his childhood, he was trained by his father, Nio Jinbao, in the Taoist Technique for health preservation of the Dragon Lineage. In 1959, he met Master Li Tien Ji, to whom he “bowed”, and became his student.
During the Cultural Revolution, Li Tien Ji stopped teaching. In 1975,
Master Niu started to study with Master Li Tien Ji the arts of Xing Yi, Ba Gua, Taiji and Wudang Sword, while he stayed with him, looking after him until his death, in 1996. Master Niu has conquered the highest level in these arts.
This time, the conditions were harder, as the temperature in the area was very high, which combined with humidity, made the everyday life unbearable. At the end of our stay, we witnessed a tropical hurricane. The morning training was indeed very early in the morning, starting at 5.30 a.m. and ending at 9 a.m. with a lot of sweat. We were spending the rest of the day along with the koun tiao (ait condition).
In the afternoon, the training was from 6 to 9.30 p.m. and then we had to race to find an open restaurant. The Chinese have the “bad habit” to eat their last meal at 6, so after 9 it is hard to find an open restaurant.
This time, our curriculum was PHD level, as Master Niu told us. After revising everything we had learn during the previous years, we passed to the “main course”.
In 1956, the Great Master Li Tien Ji, developed, among other, the 66 movements Taiji. He created this taolu for the practice of the advanced trainers of Taiji. The base for the 66 movements is the style of the Yang family, but it also includes elements of the Wu, Sun and Chen styles, as well as from Xing Yi and Ba Gua.
In parallel with the taolu, Master continued to teach the “pushing hands” of the Yang Family.
Three forward, three backwards, three forward, two backwards, Da Lu etc, help the trainee to develop a better sense of his centre while moving, and make the lesson more lively and interesting.
In the afternoons we trained at Ba Gua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan. This time, we completed the “8 Great Palms” of Ba Gua and we fathomed its theory. We were also taught Long Xin Gien, which is beautiful taolu for sword, developed by the great Master Hao En Guang. This taolu combines the refined walking of Ba Gua with the explosive power of Xing Yi.
At Xing Yi Quan, we first practiced Za Shi Chui, which is an advanced taolu, and then Zhong He Xing Yi, also known as Zhong He Da Lian Huan (Big Continuous Chain). Li Tian Ji created this taolu during the 50s for the advanced students.
This taolu overcomes the weaknesses of the oldest ones, combining the five elements, the twelve animals, Wi Xing Lianhuan, Bashi (eight forms) and Xierhongquan (twelve great strikes). Since its development, Zhong He became the standard for the future progress of Xing Yi, as all the families created similar taolu of “big continuous chain”.
From Li Tian Ji students, only Niu Sheng Xian and three other teachers, Zhang Wen Guang, Liu Wan Fu and Zhang Tong, can be said to have correctly learnt and are able to perform this taolu.Anyone else who can perform this taolu has learnt it from these four teachers.

The only one who can claim to represent the authentic Xing Yi style of Li Tian Ji is Niu Sheng Xian.

In Zuhai we stayed and were apprenticed by Master Niu for 30 days. Our relationship with the teacher became deeper, as the everyday practice increased the mutual respect, esteem and love.
The 72-year-old teacher is a source of inspiration for us, as in him we see an expert both in the “old way” of Chinese martial arts practice and in the “new way” that dominated after Mao came into power and Wushu entered the Universities. His historical knowledge is priceless. Many of the “myths” around Taiji Quan were shaken down after talking with him, and many “dark” points were illuminated. In his brain are kept infinite names and lineages, stories of teachers, styles, secret recipies and “magic” techniques.

Along with the blessing to teach his Kung Fu, we took his assurance that he will visit Greece soon, so that the practitioners of the “internal arts” in our country will get the chance to meet and learn by this great Master.