body and being a little more rigid and using the fist form techniques. He thought that was important for people to grasp and understand. Then they can understand and appreciate when the hand and the body changed.
Foundation training was important. You have to understand that Xu Hong Ji was brought up in Taiwan at the time of Japanese occupation. The Japanese had been on the island since about 1910, or so. His family was very prominent and somewhat wealthy and they learned to speak Japanese. They were the Taiwanese people who, in a sense, might have looked pro-Japanese, but they were in the middle. They learned the language and the culture because, "you have to live with the victors." Xu Hong Ji became very fluent in Japanese culture. He trained in Judo and Kendo and some of the other Japanese arts, as well as his family's Chinese arts.
At the time of Japanese occupation, the Japanese were not allowing any of the Chinese to teach their martial arts. Everything that was being taught was behind closed doors because if the Japanese found out there was a Chinese teaching martial, they would get their head cut off. Nobody practiced kung fu out in the open.
At any rate, the foundation you gathered in the martial arts would always contribute to your pursuits as you evolved. He believed in the evolution of classes. At that time very little knowledge of the internal arts could be found in Taiwan. It wasn't until the Japanese were defeated and the Guo Min Dang guys from Mainland China came to Taiwan that some of these ideas were incorporated. At that time Xu Hong Ji saw what Zhang Jun Feng was doing and thought their might be something to it. That is when he decided to leave the solid foundation he had built in the external styles and grow from there. As the bamboo grows, it weathers all the storms. So, he taught that way.
He considered himself a teacher, he didn't want to be called a "master."
If you really wanted to learn and you worked hard, he would teach you. But if you would come there, paid the money, work a little bit, take a break, didn't sweat, and he told you something once and you did not capture what he said and go work it, you didn't learn a thing after that. It was the traditional Chinese way. He taught everything a little at a time. You can only eat a mouthful at a time. Savor that, chew it, digest it, and then you'd get the next one. People, whether they were Chinese or foreigners, if they understood the method, they would be the benefactors.
The first level of learning anything is "style/skin," or form. He taught everyone style first. If you work hard at that and begin to actualize through your efforts, and you follow the correct protocol with your teacher, you are then fortunate enough to get "muscle." "Muscle" is style with some technique added to it, so we have application. It is kind of a technical application for some usage, but it is not at a high level of refinement. If you were fortunate enough to get that level of training, that was good. The last level of training is called "bone;" this is pure application. Whoever Xu Hong Ji trained in that was only known to him and that person, plus the classmates around him at that time. This level is what I received after I paid my dues. I was also the recipient of this specialized training because it was specific to my profession.
The progression was always there, you had to do what needed to be done in order to get the training. He left it up to people. He always used to say, "I give people free." And his meaning was that "I am open." If you didn't like the way he taught, you were free to go see another teacher and see what you learn over there. He was very open, but if you took his methods lightly, you were not taking advantage of the situation. Consequently a lot of Americans who studied over there lost the opportunity. But there are some who did capture it and are now the benefactors.
The bottom line is that if Xu Hong Ji was not the kind of person that he was, no one would have this stuff. Xing Yi would still be closely held by the Chinese or to those individuals who lived with them and subscribed to their code. People have to realize that all the foreigners where very fortunate that the transmitter, the guide, the teacher was Xu Hong Ji. He was a teacher, and that is what Lao Shi means. That is what we all called him. There wasn't anyone who called him Shi Fu. He considered himself a teacher, he didn't want to be called a "master." For Chinese that is kind of unheard of, he was a man ahead of his time. He was the transmitter for Tang Shou Tao because he was willing to teach to everyone who earned the teaching regardless of race. You have to put that in proper perspective.
When he would come to the United States later, there were people who got too hung up on what to call him and what generation student they were and that kind of thing. He taught that the lineage-family system was important so the American students knew where they fit in. Many, however, confused his way of expressing this Chinese concept and got hung up on status, position, title, etc. He said that none of that matters, the thing that matters is the "real training." He said that everyone should forget about the title stuff and call him Lao Shi, and leave it at that. He said, "I
am just a teacher and so Lao Shi is good enough for me." The term "master" never even came up. That was one of his reasons to down play the silliness of titles and generations that some of these people get into. To him the filiality of the family was students working together in the spirit of brotherhood. You developed a heart-to-heart connection with him and you practiced and worked hard. "Younger brother," "older brother" and these generational things were not that important.
What you have to understand though is that to him, the senior students and the guys with the heart-to-heart connection and the guys that were the hard workers had a responsibility to him to be truthful and to teach, to stand up, protect the honor, kick ass and take names, and pass on the art. That was their job. The rabbits of the world who couldn't accept the responsibility were shown the door. When it is time to be the tiger, the tiger has got to come forth.
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