About Chaquan

   Chaquan is a very old martial art. Through historical documents, it can be traced back to the Tang dynasty (618 – 906 A.D.). According to such documents Chaquan by that time was already well developed by the militaries of the central Asian plains and used extensively the by the Caravan Guards of the ancient “Silk Road”. It was during the early Tang Dynasty, when China could not defend its borders, that it invited these fighters and armies to help. They succeeded easily and the martial art of Chaquan, and many other things from central Asia, became adopted as Chinese.

Chaquan established a designation of martial arts called “long fist”. This is because the arms and legs move in an extended manner. The whole body is continuously mobile. The idea is to use the flow and momentum that is generated by the unified movements of the entire body to generate power. The whole body becomes a fist – “long fist”.

It seems amazing that principles such as this, determined so long ago, are only recently understood by science. For example, Verkhoshansky in “Supertraining, 1990”, a staple for training of high-performance athletes explains that, ‘only when the joint angles of the limbs are mostly extended can the power of the entire kinetic chain (including the torso) be expressed fully at the extremities’. To be clear, this very succinctly describes the signature method of power generation used in Chaquan and its family of styles. There is nothing similar any other martial art. It is unique and ultimately effective.

Our Chaquan curriculum comes to us through the following path. Yu Zhensheng, the main “long fist” instructor at Huang Pu Military school in the 1930’s taught the entire art to Xu Gongwei, who in turn taught it to John Spak, the founder of the “Fists of Mystery and Truth” Kung fu School. It is this curriculum that is being presented here.

Fists Martial Arts – Our Program

At “Fists of Mystery and Truth” we cover all aspects of the Martial Arts (striking, grappling, throwing, groundwork). This is distinctly balanced with an emphasis on building exceptional fitness and character. There is not a better or more developed program to be found anywhere.

Moreover, our program has 3 fully developed characteristic practices,

(1) ESSENCE – Solo training for agility and structure, power development, growth in mind body and spirit.

(2) INTERACTION – Combative partner work with applications and strategies.

(3) INTEGRATION – Real-time combatives, sparring, and generalization of experiences applied to everyday life.

Each of these practices can be a lifetime of work on its own and it is often taught that way, but a fully balanced practice of all of these combined is the traditional path. We follow this traditional path with a modern mind.

John Spak – Martial Arts Background and Training

Martial Arts Background and Training – Instructor Lineage

First, I would like to say that the really great teachers that I’ve met have never boasted about their Kungfu lineages although it was usually no secret. In fact, most would prefer to not even tell a student what style was being taught for a couple of years. The reason? Well, it’s because instead of working hard to excel, many students will just assume that since they study Shaolin, or Baguazhang, or that since their teachers were so accomplished that they will also be so accomplished. But skill is never gained simply by association, and they wanted their students to excel. I feel the same.

However people are curious, so here is a bit about my martial arts background. I also have many stories to tell of martial arts adventures, competitions, trophy’s won, awards, etc. but maybe more on that another time. This is just about the teachers I’ve studied with.

There are four Masters with whom I had the honor of becoming an advanced ‘indoor’ apprentice . There are others too whom I learned from, and whom I respect very deeply, but  did not learn a large part of their systems. See the list (of the 4 major teachers) below.

 

Mark Chan (Chan Wa) – Tiger, Dragon, Snake, Crane, Leopard (Shaolin)

This was during the period between the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties.

 

Wang Wenshi – Baguazhang,  Xingyi, Yang Taiji,  Bagua-Taiji,  Hua Chuan

This was during the period between the mid-eighties to the early Nineties

 

Xu Gongwei – Cha Chuan, Baguazhang, Wu Taiji

This was from the period between the early Nineties and his death in 2003.

I was Xu Gongwei’s principle Cha Chuan student. His principle student only because I was lucky enough to live near to him and he could teach me year round. I learned his entire Cha Chuan system, excluding weapons. Of Cha Chuan’s weapons I only learned the spear, the sword, the staff, the kwan dao, and the broadsword.  He also had a few advanced students in Montreal, Toronto, and Mexico that he would spend a month out of every year visiting and teaching. He also had an advanced student in Australia.

Master Xu was accomplished at other martial arts as well – most notably for Chen Taiji. He studied Chen Taiji as a personal student of Chen Zhao Kui. Master Xu hosted Master Chen in his home for many years. This because Master Xu also practiced Chinese Medicine and had treated Chen Zhao Kui for a serious illness. Master Chen taught him Chen Taiji to show his appreciation. Master Xu knew many forms of Chen Taiji.

In 1928, the former Chinese government established the “Central Martial Arts Academy” in Nanjing . The head, Zhang Zhe Jian, invited many famous martial artists to meet and teach there. The list of instructors includes Xing Yi Master Sun Lu Tan, Taiji master Yang Ten Pu, Tong Bei Master Ma Yin Tu, Pi Qua master Guo Chan Shen, and Cha Chuan master Yu Zheng Shen.

Yu Zheng Shen also taught Cha Chuan at the “Huang Pu Military College” during the 1930’s.  The “Huang-Pu Military College” was the top military academy in China after the end of the Qing dynasty.

Master Xu was one of  Master Yu Zheng Shens closest indoor disciples. He learned the entire Cha Chuan system from him.

Master Xu was also a close indoor disciple of Zhou Yifan.

Master Zhao Yifan was an “Imperial Bodyguard” (along with Yin Fu and his students) under China’s Empress Dowager, Cixi, since his early twenties. After Zhao’s retirement as a bodyguard he taught martial arts and practiced healing arts in Shanghai. Master Xu Gongwei inherited Baguazhang, Xingyi, Wu Taiji, and Chinese Medicine  from Zhao Yifan.

 

 

Yang Guotai – Baguazhang

This was from the mid-nineties until his death in 2012.

Yang, Guotai learned Baguazhang from Xu Zhenbiao, who was a student of Liu Shikui (Liu Bin’s son) and Wang Wenkui (one of Liu Bin’s top students). Liu Bin was one of Cheng Tinghua’s first students. Cheng Tinghua had no official indoor students as he died at a young age himself. But Cheng Tinghua was one of Dong Haichuan’s top students and shared his knowledge freely. I was Yang Guotai’s second student upon his arrival to Vancouver. Aside from standard Cheng style Baguazhang he also taught me his striking and combat skills.

 

 

I continue to teach, research, and train Cha Chuan and Baguazhang daily.

No Time for Exercise – How to fix it!

Exercise. Everyone knows they should get more, yet many of us feel that we just don’t have enough time for it.

Kung Fu to the rescue.  How?  It’s because Kung Fu is an energy cultivation practice.  To be precise, it is a well-defined system of practices that keeps you healthy and fit, it clears your mind, and instills you with a kind of calm and powerful confidence that puts you in a place where you can take on the world and win.  You become more effective at everything you do without getting tired and stressed.  A full and busy day with loads of energy left over. Imagine that!  And yes, after all is said and done, leaving you with time left over in your day.  Problem solved.

Our system of Kung Fu (at Fists of Mystery and Truth) consists of a series of physical movements (forms) that enhance your bodies strength, range of motion, agility, reflexes, and quickness. It does the same for your mind too.  It has to – you can’t do anything physical without your mind creating the conditions within your body to do those things first.  Neither your mind nor your body can do any of the above without energy.  Energy comes from a combination of nourishment, health, and emotion.  Emotion is closely related to spirit.  Spirit is something that is in part inherent within us and in part something that we can cultivate consciously.  So there you have it.  A practice of Mind, Body, and Spirit.  Our Kung Fu is a system of very specific and detailed methods for building these up in balance. It took hundreds of years for this practice to develop.

Our Kung Fu is taught as a martial art and it is very effective.  But it’s important to understand that the fighting methods of the art are just a part of the whole picture.  Martial art requires self-honesty, earnest engagement, careful exploration, respect for yourself and the world around you in a way that very few things in life do.  It’s the perfect environment for exacting a balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.

I have spent more than 40 years learning, practicing, and researching Kung Fu. I am on a mission to share this art and science with all who could benefit from it.  So, let’s get started! Let’s get energized, healthy, and become unbeatable! Are you in?

Baguazhang and the Physics of Yin and Yang

One day during a session with my Sifu, I commented that the sequence of movement we were training was like Yin and Yang. He replied, “Everything is like Yin and Yang”. To which I replied, “ I suppose, but I really see opposite forces at play here.”

I recall his subdued yet emphatic response which was, “No, no, no. Yin and Yang are not opposites and you will never understand if you see it that way!” Ok. So now I was really confused and asked him to clarify. He nodded and said, “Ok”.

So I followed him as he walked around the park. Weird. We just walked all over the place – and I’m starting to think this must be some kind of Zen lesson or something that I won’t understand maybe forever. Then he spotted a rock out in the open and motioned me over to observe it. He said, “This, with the Sun. This is Yin and Yang.”

I saw that the Sun-facing side of the rock was bright, and the opposite side was dark. So I said, “Right, bright and dark – opposites.” He shook his head somewhat disappointingly and replied, “No…  Sunlight – both sides under the same Sun. The rock – both sides, the same rock. Each side can absorb and reflect light just the same as the other.” This last part was the crux of the matter. ‘Each side can absorb and reflect the same as the other.’

Then he continued to explain that the side facing the sun was receiving all the light it could absorb (think infra-red spectrum) and was transforming the excess into reflected light(heat). And that the side that faced away from the sun was also absorbing all the light it could absorb but conditions were such that it could absorb more and reflect less of it. The very same processes on each side – but we observe differing states of Yin/Yang on each side. He explained that Yin and Yang cannot truly be separated. Yin is the observation of a state of “absorptive transformation ” and Yang is the observation of the state of “reflective transformation”. They are just aspects of a single process and not opposites – In fact, neither could exist without the other. This process of transformation is a part of everything that exists. Something is absorbed and then transformed.

For example you eat some food and your body absorbs it then transforms it into growth and energy. That’s a Yin and Yang process. Or as another example, somebody kicks a football and the football absorbs that energy and transforms it into an energy that pushes back against their foot and the ball flies away. That is also a Yin/Yang process. Ha, it turns out that Newton’s second law of physics is just another expression of a Yin/Yang process! Speaking of physics, there is an ancient book that actually defines all the possible absorption/transformation (Yin/Yang) processes in our universe of existence. It is appropriately called, “The book of Changes”, or “I-Ching”.

In “The Book of Changes”, there are eight families/containers of change (“Ba Gua”) that form the basis of this science. Our martial art  can be understood as one that uses these concepts of transformation to create powerful and agile movements that are useful to us, and at the same time defines a means to understand and control the power and agility of the world around us.

I have to say that to this day I am still amazed that at some time in the distant past some society was able to quantify this fundamental knowledge – and develop a deep and meaningful understanding of how to apply it too. Who could have been so advanced so long ago? Where did they go?

 

Baguazhang and the Sword Polisher’s Wisdom

This is a story that one of my Sifu’s shared with me a long time ago. It is a short story and it goes like this…

 

‘   A sword is just a blunt piece of steel to begin with. To make a sword you first have to develop the rough shape of the blade and then grind an edge onto it. To get to this stage of development traditionally takes a lot of hard work and is done using very course grinding materials. And although it begins to look like a sword, the edge is not yet sharp and the sword is not too useful. You have to be careful at this time, because if you continue to grind it with these course methods you will grind away the steel until it becomes too weak to be a sword at all. So you have to change the sword-making method. At this time you have to use very fine polishing materials to sharpen and then maintain the edge of the sword you’ve created. Here you have to use softness, very refined motions, and diligent care – The sharp edge is the prize you seek.

So what you have to know clearly, is that if you didn’t first sweat and toil to grind the sword’s shape and rough edge into the blunt steel to begin with you would never have an adequate blade to sharpen – you would really have no sword at all.

The opposite is true as well. The blade will never be sharp, or last very long, unless you learn the secrets of how to polish a refined edge on to it – without this, the sword would never cut.‘

 

The Sifu left it at that. When you examine the origins of Baguazhang, you can see how this model fits Dong Hai Quan and his development of Baguazhang. The shape of the sword and it’s rough edge came from his many years of Longfist training. The sharpness that he became famous for came from the refined turning methods he developed (or maybe learned somewhere) in order to polish and maintain it. It explains a bit as to why Dong always taught Longfist to his students as a pre-requisite to what he called Turning-Fist (what we now call Baguazhang). Yin Fu, one of Dong’s disciples did the same. Actually most of Dong’s direct disciples carried on this tradition from as far as we can tell. It seems essential to do the same if we want a degree of the same results.

 

About Us…

Our mission is to spread the benefits of Kung fu to as many people as we can!  Enjoy health, happiness, personal safety, and peace of mind.

Join us and explore the mystery, invention, pragmatism, and beauty of these martial arts for yourself. Its healthy, rewarding, and fun.

What is Kung Fu…

   “A mystery. It cultivates longevity and the essence of life. It fortifies composure and well being. Aligns thoughts, emotions, perceptions, body, and actions with a higher manifestation of ones self. It is an elixir for personal strength. It is peerless self defense. It is a path.”

   “It resonates deeply. It enables absolutely. Wise people invest great time and effort into its practice. All should know it, but somehow it seems to choose. Will it be you?”

The “Fists of Mystery and Truth” club in Surrey/Vancouver

In our Martial Arts Program we strive, through evidence based research,  to instill similar training practices and traditional knowledge as was known by the  legendary masters of the past. We build on that.

The reason for this simple – we think it is essential to have and to understand the complete training method in order to reap similar results.

For example “Baguazhang” at our club is taught in conjunction with “Longfist” just as Dong Hai Chuan, the creator of “Baguazhang”, did. This builds power, agility, and a range of motion that you just can’t get in any other way.

You can Depend on Yourself to Defend Yourself…

 Fill your life with fitness, strength, agility and confidence.

Classes are currently held in Surrey and Vancouver.

Send email or call (604) 786-0874 for more info – or attend a free meetup in person. I look forward to meeting you!

Sifu John Spak

Fists of Mystery and Truth Email Link