Through a friend, I was recently introduced to Sam Chin’s I Liq Chuan. First impressions are that it has all the hallmarks of an internal art – namely the emphasis on power through relaxation, the importance of the mind/intent, sensitivity/sticking, etc. However, what struck me even more strongly was how well-thought out and structured the I Lik Chuan training methodology is.
My general experience of the CMA (YMMV) is that while many arts have amazingly good material, the majority of the teaching of CMA tends to be very haphazard and ad hoc. The master teaches the student what he thinks the student needs (or, in more cases, what he is willing to reveal). Two students learning from the same master at the same time will probably learn the same things overall, but in a different order and with different emphases. The result of this is that when they themselves come to teach they also teach in a haphazard manner. Put charitably, this is termed ‘tailoring to the individual’ (yin cai shi jiao). However, my experience is that the lack of a systematic teaching method leads to divisions and disagreements between students, especially when they in turn start to teach, with the result that students effectively have to relearn much of the syllabus if they change teachers, even within the same style or branch. The best example of this is the 4 Buddha Warriors Attendant from Chen style taiji – despite the fact that the 4 men studied from essentially the same teachers during the same period, students of, say, Chen Xiaowang’s variation, will have to essentially relearn the form if they switch to studying from someone in Chen Zhenglei’s line, and so on.
What I like about I Lik Chuan is that, not only is the system standardized in the way it is taught, but also (a) it focuses on training body skills (which I would argue are the core of the art) rather than plunging straight into a form, and (b) the syllabus sets out very explicitly what skills each exercise is training. From the explanation of the principles of the style given out to students and the little I Liq Chuan my friend showed me, I Lik Chuan’s 15 Basic Exercies get right to the core of the body skills that we associate with high level internal martial arts – whole body connection, the different mechanisms for power generation (spiralling power, opening and closing of the various bows of the body), and how to absorb and project the opponent’s force.
Other styles, take note.