Zhong Ding Martial Arts
Master Liang He Ching
5th May 1938 - 1st July 2007
Master Liang He Qing is exceptional for a number of reasons. Not only does he see no conflict between the practice of internal and external martial arts but he continues to practise a wide range of both. In his late fifties, he has been practising martial arts for four decades and his daily training schedule is such that many younger men would find it difficult to follow. Master Liang gets up at 3am, seven days a week, and spends the two hours between three and five in his own practise. Then at five he teaches a class on a grassy playing field by the banks of the estuary of the river Muar. During the rest of the day he practises as and when time allows before going out to teach again in the evening. His work as a traditional Chinese dentist allows him plenty of time to practise in between patients. In fact, Master Liang is a living epitome of one of his favourite pieces of advice, “gong fu is part of everyday life”. When he reads the newspaper he does so in a “standing post” posture; when he watches the television he practises his chin na grips on a piece of sandalwood; and before he goes to bed he strikes a wooden bar which protrudes from the wall over his bed, practising a whole range of striking and “bridge arm” moves.
The first art that he trained in was Hainan boxing; at the time this was the only art he had access to as he is Hainanese. Then he moved on to train with Master Song Sao Bo, a Cantonese master of hong quan. Song learnt in a direct line from the famed Wong Fei Hong, who is often described as being a kind of Chinese Robin Hood who lived in Canton province at the turn of the century. Song learnt from Lam Sai Wing, one of Wong’s most famous students who was responsible for taking the art to Hong Kong. Master Liang stayed with Master Song long enough to become one of his most senior students. Granted his teaching certificate by Master Song, he began teaching hong quan throughout Johor State. In the ensuing years he took every opportunity to learn whatever he could, eventually spending a number of years training with Master Yang Ching Feng, a graduate of the Xiamen Jing Wu school. From Master Yang, Liang learnt the “big three” of the internal arts: tai chi, ba gua and xing yi. He also learnt a lesser known internal form, wu ji quan. As he learnt and to this day continues to practise so many different styles, he has designed for himself a rigorous and systematic training schedule whereby he works on particular styles on different days. In this way he is able to identify and improve on the particular characteristics of each system. “Chinese gong fu is very simple,” he is fond of repeating, “There are no secrets. The only thing that you have to do is to continue practising. Each style has its own unique flavour, characteristics and benefits; once you have identified these then you only have to train them.” When learning tai chi from Yang Ching Feng, he learnt only traditional Yang style, a 72 step fast form and san shou A, B and two-person forms. Master Yang did not teach pushing hands because he himself had not learnt it. Despite this Master Liang is still able to make extremely efficient use of his tai chi chuan. This bears out what Master Lau Kim Hong once said; that you could acquire tai chi’s fighting skills through learning only form and applications but that pushing hands makes the process much quicker. Master Liang points out that when he first started training there was no freestyle sparring practice, although later on, on his own classes he allowed senior students to do so. The results, however, were less than satisfying, for inevitably there were injuries and often the students got so carried away that the resultant fracas in no way resembled the art they were supposed to be practising, making the whole exercise rather pointless. So it was that he returned to a method more closely resembling his own learning experience whereby the students practised a response to a single attack, gradually adding on additional attacks and counters until a whole sequence of moves could be practised at increasing speed and power. Master Liang is adamant, however, that form training alone is not enough. “Training form and training gong fu are two different things,” he asserts,”and require different training methods.” The essence of tai chi chuan, Master Liang feels, is the ability to achieve “song”, and through “song” to develop “jing” or applied power. This jing may be manifested in many different ways. These are most clearly expressed in his Yang style fast tai chi form. This Master Liang learnt from Yang Ching Feng who learnt it from his teacher Liu Jian Chuan. Liu Jian Chuan had trained directly with Yang Cheng Fu in Shanghai and earned his living as a bodyguard. Like the san shou solo and two-person forms, leading current-day exponents of the Yang family system deny that the fast tai chi is a legitimate part of the Yang style curriculum. Whatever the truth concerning this form’s provenance, there is little doubt as to its efficacy in training both the development and expression of power. Through practise the student learns not only how to generate power but also how different kinds of power may be used in different movements. Coupled with these movements is the same kind of explosive breathing used by exponents when practising the nei gong exercises. All-in-all there is a wealth of information contained in this form, although at first sight this may not appear to be the case. Training with Master Liang teaches many important lessons but perhaps the one that he stresses the most is that anyone can acquire the skills of Chinese martial arts but only if they train hard. This is the attitude that he has always kept, namely that if the teacher can do something then it is also possible for the student to do the same.