Yiquan (Dachengquan)-A Brief History

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The Origin and Development :

Our system did not have a name in the beginning; the name only came into existence after many years of collective development. It can be thought of as a set of combative skills derived from human beings’ natural and spontaneous actions and reactions. The art  was later developed into the “three old punches” – trample, wrap, and drill. Yiquan 意拳, the earliest name for our martial art style, has never had individual or two-person sets.

Later on, the art became known as Xinyiquan 心意拳, or Xinyinba 心 意把  in the Shaolin Temple.  It began to add one and two-person sets, over the generations, as a way to attract and retain students. Still later, the name Xinyiliuhequan 心意六合拳 came into use because it combines the concepts of the “three internals” (intent, breath, power) and the”three externals” (hands, trunk, legs) together in training.

Finally the name Xingyiquan 形意拳 came into existence. Because many of the martial arts experts of that time were illiterate, our art passes down mainly through oral transmission and direct demonstration. Since “form and intent” sounds almost the same as “moving (one’s)intent” in Mandarin Chinese (形意拳 vs 行意拳), and the fact that dialectic or linguistic differences varies from one province to another, there came to be two difference ways of naming this art.

In the 1920s, Wang Xiangzhai 王薌齋 , Xingyiquan master Guo Yunsheng’s 郭雲深 final disciple, came to the conclusion that Xingyiquan has too many individual and two-person sets (just as other schools do) and much of these sets are lacking in real combat value. Life is short, he thought, why waste valuable time studying that without practical application or benefit?  The best fighters of the past did not study or practice sets anyway!   So, Mr. Wang took everything he knew (Xingyiquan and the best of other    styles  that he was exposed to) and organized it into a set of training procedures, utilizing the shortest time needed to effectively stimulate and “crystallize” an individual’s natural reaction and fighting potentials.  It was designed to be completed in three to four years’ (assuming one trains diligently everyday) time,  unlike other systems where “one cannot leave the door without ten years of training”. He furthermore renamed it Yiquan 意拳 (its original name) to distinguish it from the highly popular Xingyiquan.

Between the 1920s and the 1940s, Mr. Wang built quite a following in Shanghai, Tienjin, and Beijing.  A friend, Zhang Bi, once commented on Mr. Wang’s martial art skills in a local paper, where he described Wang’s skill as “reaching the level of grand achievement”.  Mr. Wang smiled at the suggestion but took no further notice.   Nonetheless, the name Dachengquan 大成拳 (great or grand achievement boxing) or Xingyidachengquan 形意大成拳 took root.  (At a later time, Wang reportedly told his students that “there is no such thing as grand achievement in martial arts; work and strive to improve everyday because there is no limit to learning”).