The Tai Chi Examiner

A Magical Qigong Moment with Master Zhang Xue Xin

by Violet Li

Master Zhang Xue Xin currently residing in San Francisco, California is a senior US Disciple of Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang of Beijing, China and studied both the Lao Jia (older and traditional) and Xin Jia (new and improved) style of Chen Tai Chi Quan system created by 17th generation Chen family standard bearer Chen Fake and the Hun Yuan system created by Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang.  At 83 years of age both Zhang and Feng are truly among the “Last Dragons” of Chinese martial arts, according to St. Louisan, Sifu J. Justin Meehan who first studied with Feng in 1981 and studied with Zhang ever since 1991 and who is a senior US disciple of Master Zhang and Midwest Regional Director of the USA Feng Zhiqiang Hun Yuan Association under Master Zhang.  “These two Masters practiced diligently and sometimes at risk of their lives during the Chinese Cultural Revolution to present to us the treasure of authentic and traditional Tai Chi Quan (also spelled Taijiquan) so that we would not lose these treasures of Chinese culture and be able to pass them along to future generations,” commented Master Meehan.

As a youth, Master Zhang was very athletic and strong.  First he studied Shaolin and then Shuai Jiao.  He admitted that he looked down upon Tai Chi because he thought Tai Chi was soft and without real fighting ability.  During a personal contest with a student of Grandmaster Chen Zhao-Kui, Master Zhang was not able to throw the person despite his Shui Jiao wrestling background.  Then he realized the true power of Tai Chi.  Even though it was forbidden to learn or practice Tai Chi during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Master Zhang secretly took private lessons at Chen Zhao Kui’s (son of Grandmaster Chen Fake) home and practiced the authentic Chen Style Tai Chi diligently to perfect the art.  Master Zhang also studied with the highest level Chen style masters outside the Chen village, including Feng Zhiqiang and other Chen Style Masters of the time. Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang, who was a senior disciple of Chen Fake, created the Hun Yuan system by distilling the essence of the Chen style Tai Chi with the Taoist Qigong and Xin Yi of Grandmaster Hu Yao Zhen, who was recognized as one of the important Qigong and martial arts masters of modern China. The Hun Yuan system attempts to combine all the original influences of Chinese culture that went into the creation of Tai Chi Quan, including traditional Chinese medical theory, Taoist practice and understanding, traditional Chinese philosophy and internal martial art mastery.

Master Zhang not only practiced the Tai Chi Quan forms, Push Hands and Qigong of Feng but he also mastered the Chin Na (joint locking) skill of Chen Zhao Kui who lived with him on many occasions.  Zhang is credited with being the first to publically teach the intricacies of the Chan Szu Chin Silk Reeling exercises of the Chen system, later expanded on by Feng, to US students.  He also mastered the secret Tai Chi Stick (bang) exercises created be Chen Fake and his son, Chen Zhao Kui for Chin Na and Internal strength mastery.  He has been referred to as one of the “highest level” teachers available in the US.  What strikes most however is his youthful vigor and martial art ability even at the tender age of 83.  He recently completed a 2 day workshop in St Louis where he taught non-stop for 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon and then 3 hours at night on Sat. and then two more 3 hour classes on Sunday.

In the morning of Sunday Oct 10, Master Zhang taught Hun Yuan Qigong.   First he taught the Wuji standing post, which is a still form of Qigong. He repeatedly urged the attendees to relax their body and keep the mind still.  Then, he taught the moving form of Qigong which consists of 12 movements (see the list below).  According to Chinese meridian theory, stillness creates Yin while movement creates Yang.  Master Zhang explained that it is important for a practitioner to practice both the still form and moving form to reach the balance and harmony within one’s body. The moving Qigong follows all Tai Chi fundamentals.  Master Zhang constantly reminded attendees to keep the head suspended (Xu Ling Ding Jing), folding the arm and hands while opening and closing the hands (Kai He Zhe Die) and use Dan Tian (similar to the body “core” concept) to lead the movements.

For those who do not understand Tai Chi or Qigong, they probably will not pay much respect to these movements because all these seemingly simple movements may only appear to be big or small arm circling with the exception that Master Zhang squatted all the way down and stood up gracefully.  The hard part is not just doing them correctly externally, but in knowing how to initiate the movements internally. Master Zhang gave very detailed instruction on how to rotate or move Dan Tian.  Sometimes he allowed students and Tai Chi Examiner to actually feel his Dan Tian movements by placing hands over his abdomen and back to get a clear idea how it works.  It felt like a baby or a ball was inside and turning: sometimes turning right and sometimes left, sometimes in big circles and sometimes in small circles, sometimes it splitting in the middle and sometimes it coming to the center, and sometime moving slowly and sometimes really fast. Those are the Qi movements. He generously shared the information about the meridian system and how each of the movements relates to it and to the various pressure points.  He highlighted the health benefits of each movement as well.

The complete name of the Hun Yuan system is Hun Yuan Xin Yi Chen Shr Tai Chi. Xin and Yi mean mind and intend.  It is critical that a practitioner pays full attention to the movements while practicing and guiding the Qi circulation within.  Master Zhang earnestly advised attendees to be mindful and listen to the Qi movement. Hun Yuan Qigong teaches the practitioner how gather Qi from the surrounding environment, how to accumulate Qi in the Dan Tian, how to circulate Qi throughout the body, and finally how to merge the energy field of the individual with the energy field of the Universe (thereby uniting Heaven, Earth and Human Being, which is the ultimate goal of Taoist practice)

Since I did not dress warmly, my entire body felt really cold that day.  He asked me to put my hand in between his hands without touching while he was opening and closing them.  He just waved his hands a couple of times.  While his palms were about a couple of inches away from my hand, I felt warmth coming from his hands; and within a second, my forearms felt warm too.  I was totally surprised by this effect.  I turned around and told the attendees what I just experienced.  While I was talking, suddenly I felt there was “static” in my hair.  Before I could even ask myself “what was going on”, my head felt warm; swiftly the warmth traveled down to my neck, shoulders, elbows, fore arms, hands and simultaneously the warm feeling also moved down to my chest, spine, and knees.  Then I heard a voice behind me saying “I am giving you Qi”.  Later I asked others how he did it; I was told that Master Zhang just placed one hand over my head.

It was the first time that I was given Qi.   It is hard to describe how it really felt. It was definitely different than walking up to a fireplace or a space heater. Both heating elements provide the heat but it takes a while for the entire body to warm up and the part of the body which is not close or radiated directly by the heat source may warm up slowly.  During summer time, when I step out of an air-conditioned room into the Sun, my skin may feel really hot but inside my body, it might still feel cold.  The Qi phenomenon was amazing.  The warmth just flew through my body like a current gently, quickly and pervasively.

What is Master Zhang’s secret?  Besides his access to high level teachers and learning while in China, it probably has much to do with his strong self-discipline.  Normally, he practices Hun Yuan Qigong and Tai Chi twice a day: once in the morning right after he gets up for half an hour and the other one in the early evening for about an hour.  Between those times he teaches 6 hours on the weekends at Golden Gate Park and San Jose for group classes and Wed. evening Push Hand classes.  During the rest of the time his days are filled teaching private classes to disciples, private students and also some famous teachers who study privately anonymously.  Even when he is taking a break he is always doing internal exercises often using the Tai Chi stick to exercise his internal engine, the Dan Tian.

Master Zhang not only has the power to give Qi. He also has the power to throw people off.  During Sunday afternoon’s Push-Hands Workshop, he and Sifu Justin’n 18-year old son Jason Meehan pushed hands. Jason Meehan is a Missouri All-Star High School Football Player. He is an inside linebacker.  At 6’3”, he weighs 220 pounds and is all muscle.   According to ESPN 2011 College Football Recruiting, Jason is currently ranked 91 among 475 players nationally.  He also won the ICMAC National Championships for the Adult Heavyweight Push Hands category twice (2008 and 2009).  But after a few rounds of pushing, Master Zhang “borrowing” Jason’s strength, sinking his own Qi, utilizing the Jing from Silk Reeling, and applying a little bit Chin Na skill, crashed Jason down.  It was quite awesome! For more information see Master Zhang’s website at www.Silkreeler.com and view Master Zhang Xue Xin doing the first 5 movements of Tai Chi at YouTube.

12 Form Hun Yuan Qigong Names

  • Lower the Qi and Cleanse Internal Organs
  • Gather the Qi to the Three Dan Tians
  • Two Hands Rub the ball
  • The Three Dan Tians Open and Close
  • The Sun and Moon Turning
  • Circular Extension and Contraction
  • Single Leg Ascending and Descending
  • Double leg Ascending and Descending
  • Belt Meridian Grinding
  • Heaven and Earth Open and Close
  • Collecting Qi to the Dan Tian
  • Health Massage Techniques.
[Violet Li is a Taichi (Taiji) enthusiast and certified instructor. She has taught Taichi to different demographic groups and establishments in St. Louis (AT&T, Mathews-Dickeys Boys and Girls Club, West County YMCA – St. Louis, private studio, senior centers and others). Violet is also well-versed in other fitness regiments. She taught Aerobics and Kickboxing before. She is a certified HeartZone Personal Trainer and a Aerobics & Fitness Association of America (AFAA). You can read more about her writings at http://www.examiner.com/x-57561-Tai-Chi-Examiner. You can reach her by email at Violet.Li@tadi.com ]
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2 Responses to The Tai Chi Examiner

  1. Craig says:

    I wish to say sincere Thank you to all the Taiji players of Chen Style and all extraordinary martial artists, to name but thosewho’s dvds I have bought Dr Yang . KAsida Kim. Chen Zhenglei. Jose Figurero. Chen Erhu. Chen xiawang. zhang ZhiJun. ZHANG XUE Xin.
    a special thanks to Master Malcolm Dean also the author of many books of Chinese medicine and Taiji also many thanks to the People of the republic of China. For Taiji quan.From Craig Lee White. UK.

  2. G. Ericson says:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I have been practicing chen style t’ai chi chuan for several years only emphasizing forms.

    My teacher is moving to Nevada in 03/2017.

    I want to continue learning martial style t’ai chi chuan in, if possible, northwest, Ohio.

    Can you make any suggestions?

    Thank you.

    G. Ericson

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