Foshan Yongchunquan is not another kind of Yongchun or Wingchun Kung Fu. It is about Yongchunquan from Foshan, and an attempt to investigate the various technical development of Yongchunquan in Foshan. It is not uncommon for some teachers to follow the Hong Men practice of making their students to take deadly vows not to disclose their secrets to any outsider. Foshan Yongchunquan follows the tradition of Chin Woo Athletic Association, which believes in open teaching, to promote and develop this unique art of fighting once flourished in Foshan.
There are many Foshan Yongchunquan Associations around the World affiliated with Foshan Chin Woo Athletic Association’s Yongchunquan Research Activity Center.
The origin of Yongchunquan is some what perplexing due to historical reasons (Yeung, 1999), however from a technical point of view its development from Shaolin Martial Arts makes very good sense. The followings are identifiable features in Yongchunquan:
Yongchunquan is a unique development from Southern Shaolin Martial Arts and is complementary to conventional Shaolin Martial Arts
Yongchunquan bears certain similarity to other Southern Shaolin Martial Arts such as Hequan (Crane Boxing), Hongquan (Hong [Family] Boxing) and Nan Tonlongquan (Southern Mantis Boxing)
The training method of Yongchunquan resembles the internal training of Shaolin Martial Arts.
The routines of Yongchunquan are exercises to supplement traditional Shaolin Martial Arts rather than a unique development of styles
The wooden dummy techniques are clearly incorporating all kinds of Shaolin techniques rather than just those in its routines
The development of loose hand techniques is encouraged within the system
The weaponry of Yongchunquan is accommodating the popular weapons of the region rather than designing its own weaponry
The development of sticking hand exercise is unique in Shaolin Martial Arts
No one would question the Shaolin origin of Yongchunquan for very simple reason because it looks Shaolin. The hand techniques are very standard Shaolin fists, palms and elbows, etc. The use of Qiao (bridge) hand, which is the fore part of the forearm, which is typically Southern Shaolin (Zhongguo Wushu Baikequanshu, 1998, pp. 229–231). The Erzi Qianyang Ma, in Cantonese it is the “Yeejee Kimyeng Ma”, which means two characters clamping the groin stance, which seems a little different but it is identified as a kind of Southern Shaolin stance to protect the groin (Zhongguo Wushu Baikequanshu, 1998, p.186). The turning of the stance to the side also seems to be different but it is a kind of Shaolin footwork called Nian Jiao (Zhongguo Wushu Baikequanshu, 1998, p. 220). It mean roller foot, a Shaolin footwork for ground fighting, which standing like a Chinese character 8, using the heel or the sole as axial to turn inward or outward, or use the front part of the sole as axial to move the heel inward or outward.
The body posture of Yongchunquan is consistent with other Southern Shaolin standards of head and neck straight, sinking of elbows, unload the shoulders so to speak, restrain the belly or abdomen, and hold back or restrain the buttocks (Zhongguo Wushu Baikequanshu, 1998, p. 232).
Yijinjing (Zhongguo Wushu Baikequanshu, 1998, p. 367), means the text of reverse tendon, which is the classical Shaolin method of internal training. May be the name has says it all, as it was to stretch the tendons to the extreme by twisting the body into the reverse position. The initial training in the routine Xiaoniantau (little idea or small thought) can be traced back to the methods in the Yijinjing. Some teachers insisted that only at least four years of training in the Xiaoniantau can produce perfect hands. Of course this does not imply that they will only teach Xiaoniantau for the whole four years but it is the basic training one should practice daily and under constant correction and guidance of the teacher.
The teaching methods in Yongchunquan are really focus on the practice of Xiaoniantau, and then the other routines, sticking hand exercises and loose hand techniques. Some teachers do not even bother with dummy techniques and weaponry in fear of the lost of flexibility with students’ hands. This is contrary to some teachers, who make their students punching sand-bags and dummies very early in their training program. As this will generate very stiff forearm movements which will be a stumping block for achieving good results in coordinating the total bodily movements. There are many repetitive movements in the routines, and most of the movements are very basic. The purpose is aiming at training rather than a combination of various techniques. The assumption is that some of the movements within these routines are difficult and different routines emphasized different features of Yongchunquan. These routines can be consider as very simple but contain certain difficult features like centerline, springiness in the limbs, springiness of the hip joints and ribcage, etc., which just require practice for a certain period. May be these routines can be learn in four days, but four years to master them, and a life time to polish them.
There is a saying in Yongchunquan that “one should seek and improve the skills from the mirror and dummy after the completion of learning from the teacher”. In a way the dummy is for the development of skill rather than just a training tool to harden the forearm for example. Most students practiced on the dummy too early in their understudies will have a tendency to move the arms away from the centerline, which created an opportunity for the opponent to slip through. Furthermore, they also have the inclination to tend toward their center of balance, which is easily overbalanced during practice or fighting. The dummy techniques are under constant improvements, and it is not surprise to see different variations. There is also the Northern Mantis Boxing variation, which was developed form the Shaolin Yongchunquan. The Yongchun dummy techniques are basic Shaolin Techniques, but it is difficult for the application of sticking and following. May be this is why attempts are made to develop the bamboo dummy and others with springs, etc.
The development of loose hand techniques can be considered to be a favor pastime of the practitioners. Different teachers of Yongchunquan have different developments in loose hand techniques, just like dummy hands. Some schools have gone to the extreme in concentrating on loose hand and dummy techniques rather than routines, may be the development of Yongchun Sticking-hand Competition will facilitate this development.
The weaponry of Yongchunquan is very basic, it is for practical application rather than for performance compare to various routines available in other systems of Southern Shaolin Martial Arts. It is not surprise to find that the Six and Half Point Rat Tail Pole has six and a half basic techniques, which is quite sufficient in fighting between boats. There was some improvement by combining these basic techniques and practice in different directions. Some claim to have Tiger Tail Pole and many more, but mostly are favor routines taught in Foshan and nearby regions. The double knives of Yongchunquan consist of only simple practical applications, these techniques have nothing like the fancy butterfly double knives routines in Hongquan for example. The features of the Yongchun knife are the thick bladed like a bone chopping knife, finger protector and a hook. It is not very difficult to workout these features are very useful in close up fighting within confined area like onboard a boat. In fact the pole and knives are unique and popular weaponry amongst the boat people in the Foshan and Zhaoqing regions of Guangdong Province. It was said that teacher should not tell the secret of the knives until he or she is absolutely sure that the student is virtuous because the application is too deadly. May be this is not important any more because more deadly weapons are already in existence.
The development of sticking hand techniques is unique in Shaolin, as there is no other Shaolin art has such specific sticking techniques. There were some suggestions that it may be influenced by Taijiquan’s pushing-hand exercise since Taijiquan is a much older art than Yongchunquan. It is possible but the techniques and fighting strategies are certainly very different. May be sticking-hand also embraced the idea of stick and follow in initial contact, but the method of neutralization is very different. It is a different set of techniques, such as turning to the side, lifting of the elbow, guarding the centerline with the elbow, etc. These techniques are more mechanical like releasing a spring rather than redirecting a force by different bodily mechanics in generating a circular path.
In any case it is rather a foolish attitude to confine a certain art to limited set of techniques, as the ultimate aim of any martial art is fighting to win. This will require the deployment of everything and development of new ideas to achieve that end. Therefore, Foshan Yongchunquan is not only advocating that it is Yongchunquan from Foshan but encouraging the improvement of Yongchunquan by all means. The different schools or branches of Yongchunquan from Foshan are just different developments, their intermix with other arts could be accidental or intentional.