By Alan Ellerton
We have, in Britain, had a fairly long exposure to and contact with various oriental martial arts dating from the 1900's and 1920's with Ju Jutsu and later Judo. In the early sixties we saw the arrival of Karate and subsequently Aikido. In the seventies and eighties we had Taekwondo, Hapkido, Wing Chun, T'ai Chi (of the mainly exercise variety) and many other styles. As regards the Japanese and Korean styles we have been able to receive training at the highest levels and many world class masters are now based in Britain. But the same cannot be said for the Chinese styles except for a few exceptions. As for Pa Kua, martial artists had heard or read of it but rarely if ever had an opportunity to see or actually learn any of this recondite style.
The situation has, however, greatly improved with the arrival in England last year of Ji Jian-Cheng. For the first time we have had the chance to learn several Chinese
Ji Jian-Cheng, a native of Longquan, Zhejiang Province, is now teaching Pa Kua Chang in Britian martial arts with the emphasis more on the fighting aspect and the traditional virtues of Chinese martial systems instead of the fancy but useless modern wushu we have from time to time tolerated over the past few years. Ji's knowledge and skills of the fighting arts and particularly Pa Kua have attracted a great deal of interest from British martial arts aficionados and teachers.
Ji Jian-Cheng originally learned Southern Kung Fu in Longchuan with his grandfather Chen Xiang-Jin, one of the most respected kung fu masters in South China. Chen Xiang-Jin took up martial arts at the age of 13 in 1912. His family was involved in tree felling and the transportation of logs down the Ou-Jiang river to major cities. Loggers used to attract the attention of robbers when returning with their earnings, so many of them learned martial arts to defend themselves. In fact, the area around the Zhejiang-Fujian border was well known for the martial arts. To become proficient in the fighting arts, Chen was sent to the Mao Shan temple to live and study with the famous martial arts monk Lio Qi, master of Southern Shaolin kung fu. Lio Qi was probably originally a Northerner and a former army officer. Having gotten into some trouble he had fled to the more remote areas in South East China and adopted the name Lio Qi when he became a monk. As well as learning kung fu Chen had to do various jobs in the temple to earn his keep and later had to study Buddhist philosophy. At the age of 20 Chen was going to be ordained as a full Buddhist priest but unfortunately his father died and he had to give up his studies at the temple to return to his home.
Chen continued to practice kung fu and, when able, returned to the temple. He also trained with other masters in the area to further develop his knowledge. Some of the masters he came across were visiting the town of Longchuan to have swords made and while they were there taught kung fu.
Chen also became proficient in Nan Ch'uan and Gang-Rou Ch'uan as well as Southern Shaolin. Eventually Chen was himself recognized as an outstanding practitioner and started to attract students. At the age of 93 he is now regarded as one of the greatest living masters of genuine Southern kung fu.
Ji Jian-Cheng started to learn a little Southern Shaolin and Nan Ch'uan with his grandfather at the age of eight and then at the age of eleven began to train with him on a more serious basis. During the next few years Ji studied Southern 18 Lohan style, Black Tiger, Five Animals, Gang-Rou style, Qi Gong, and weapons such as the staff and sword.
It was not until about 1972 that Ji first came across Pa Kua. He was in Lishui where, one morning, he saw an old man going through his Pa Kua exercises, walking the circle. The movements he saw seemed to be too soft, lacking in power, and, compared to the Southern hard styles, probably not very effective as a fighting art. He
Ji Jian-Cheng with the well known Pa Kua Chang instructor Sha Kuo-Cheng in 1986.
was, however, impressed by the man's mental attitude and graceful fluid techniques.
When he returned to Longchuan, Ji asked his grandfather about Pa Kua and was told that Pa Kua was in fact a very powerful and effective martial art and that within the apparent softness there could be great strength. From this time Ji became fascinated with Pa Kua and its attendant philosophy and theory. He assiduously studied the Yi-Ching (Book of Changes), the Yin-Yang and Pa Kua theories and how they relate to Pa Kua as a martial art. Having immersed himself in the philosophical and theoretical aspects of Pa Kua he hoped one day to find a Pa Kua teacher but in the area he came from there were none to be found.
In 1978 Ji entered the special Wushu instructor's program at Hangzhou University to be trained as a martial arts instructor and national wushu coach of China. There he found a teacher proficient in Pa Kua, Wu Zong Nong. Ji's enthusiasm, natural ability and many years training in other martial arts led him to make remarkable progress in Pa Kua. After some time Wu had to admit that there was nothing more he could teach him and suggested that Ji should, if the opportunity arose, pursue his studies in Chengdu where he knew there to be some highly respected masters of Pa Kua.
But before that he had the good fortune while in Xian in 1982 to meet one of the top Pa Kua instructors in China, Sha Guo-Zheng (Sha Kuo-Cheng). Ji was introduced to Sha, who impressed by his already high level of Pa Kua skill, agreed to teach him. Unfortunately Sha had to leave Xian a few weeks later but managed to teach him every day while he was there. With Sha he increased his understanding of the mental aspects of Pa Kua and the subtleties of Pa Kua movements. Since then Ji endeavored to train with Sha as often as he could sometimes having to travel great distances in China as Sha was in demand in many parts of the country.
In 1983 Ji, as a professional martial arts instructor, was sent by the government to study at the famous
Chengdu Martial Arts Institute. While there he became the personal student of Wang Shu-Tian, a well known instructor of Hsing-I and Pa Kua. Wang was originally taught by the great Sun Lu-T'ang and subsequently by Sun's student Zhen Huai-Xian (Cheng Huai-Hsien). With Wang, Ji studied Sun Lu-T'ang's style of Hsing-I and Pa Kua. It is Sun's Pa Kua form that Ji has been teaching while in England.
In addition to Hsing-I and Pa Kua, Ji has studied other internal styles such as T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Yang and Chen styles) and Ba Ji (Pa Chi). He has been a full time martial arts coach for 10 years, national judge and referee, and was recently made associate professor and Director of Wushu at Hangzhou University. In 1990 Ji spent 9 months in Russia as visiting professor at the Moscow Institute of Physical Education. As well as other martial arts he taught Pa Kua in Moscow and Tashkent. In 1991, I arranged for him to come to England as Chief Instructor of the T'ai Chi and Wushu Association of Great Britain. During the past year he has been teaching T'ai Chi, Hsing-I, Pa Chi, Shaolin Ch'uan, and qigong. He has contributed greatly to the development of Pa Kua through his classes and seminars and this year co-operated with one of Britain's most highly respected martial arts authorities and publishers, Paul Crompton, on the production of the first Pa Kua instructional video in Europe.
Copyright: Alan Ellerton 1992
Ji Jian-Cheng posses with Alan Ellerton and Paul Crompton after one of their training sessions at Reading University
Editor's Addition: About Ji Jian-Cheng's Sun style Pa Kua Chang instructors
Sun Lu-T'ang's style of Pa Kua Chang was taught by two different teachers at Ch'eng Tu Physical Education University in Sichaun Province. One of the Pa Kua Chang instructors at the school in Ch'eng Tu was Wang Shu-T'ien. Wang was born on May 16, 1918 in Hebei Province. He started studying kung fu at the age of 7 from Chu Kuo-Fu, a renowned Hsing-I Ch'uan instructor (see article on page 13, Vol. 2, No. 5). In 1928, the year the Central Martial Arts Academy in Nanjing was established, Wang went to Nanjing with his teacher and received instruction from Huang Chih-Ping, Wu Yu-Kun, Chiang Jung-Ch'iao and Yang Ch'eng-Fu. When he was 15, Wang went to Chang Sha in Hunan Province to receive technical instruction at the 4th Army Military Training Area. While there he studied martial arts from Chu Kuo-Chen, Chu Kuo-Fu's brother. Additionally, he learned Shuai Chaio from Ch'ang Tung-Sheng, Hsing-I from Ma Yuan-Chi, and Tung Pei Ch'uan from Lin Tsun-San. In 1932 Wang became the children's instructor at the Chang Sha Kuo Shu Academy.
In 1939, Wang traveled to Sichuan. He first stayed in Chung King and then later went to Ch'eng Tu and took up residence. In 1960, Wang and Cheng Huai-Hsien were placed in charge of the martial arts training at the Ch'eng Tu Physical Education University.
Cheng Huai-Hsien was Ji Jian-Cheng's other Pa Kua Chang teacher in Ch'eng Tu. Cheng (1898-1982), who was skilled in Pa Kua, Hsing-I, and T'ai Chi, was from Hsin An County in Hebei Province. He began his martial arts training at the age of 12, first learning Shaolin. When Cheng was 20 he went to Beijing and a senior classmate of his from Hebei introduced him to Sun Lu-T'ang. Upon introduction, Sun agreed to teach Cheng. At the time, to become a formal disciple of a well known teacher such as Sun Lu-T'ang the student was required to go to the teacher's home bringing him gifts of meat, wine, candles, and incense and kow-tow on the floor as the gifts were presented. Cheng followed the custom and Sun accepted him as a formal student. Cheng studied with Sun for four years, learning Pa Kua, Hsing-I, and T'ai Chi.
When Cheng was 25 years old, by way of introduction from Sun Lu-T'ang, he began to study with Wei Chin-San a famous Fan Tzu Ch'uan instructor. In addition to martial arts, Cheng learned osteopathy and bone-setting from Wei. When Cheng was 27, he went to Nanjing to look for Sun Lu-T'ang. Sun found Cheng a job teaching martial arts in Shanghai at Yang Chang Elementary School. During the war with Japan, Cheng went to Sichuan Province and taught at the Ch'eng Tu military academy. After the revolution, he treated people's injuries and taught kung fu. In 1960, he was appointed head instructor at the Ch'eng Tu Physical Education University.
One of Ji Jian-Cheng's Sun style Pa Kua Chang teachers, Cheng Huai-Hsien, is shown above (back row on the right) with the famous T'ai Chi Ch'uan instructor Wu Tu-Nan (center). (Although it has not been confirmed, Ji's other Sun style instructor, Wang Shu-T'ien, is probably the man in the back row on the left).
Three Generations in the Sun Style "Great Python Turns its Body" posture. Sun Lu-T'ang (Left), Wang Shu-T'ien (Center), and Ji Jian-Cheng (Right).
Was this article helpful?
5 MARTIAL ARTS Books KARATE Bruce Lee TAEKWONDO. Learn BRUCE LEE'S MARTIAL ARTS SECRETS! 5 Great eBooks! If you are interested in Karate, Taekwondo and other martial arts then this is the package for you. There are five different e-Books, each packed with information. You will get 5 martial arts books in 'PDF' format