Who is Guo Shilei (郭石磊) … and where’d he get his ill gongfu skillz?*
(See videos for proof)
According to an excellent interview available on his own site … Guo Shilei began his deeper studies into the Chinese Internal Martial Arts (CIMA) when he was 15. That is when he met his teacher, who is the renowned Shi Chongying (石崇英), a 6th generation inheritor of Ma Weiqi style Bagua as well as a 7th generation inheritor of Yang style taiji. Guo’s own words express his relationship to his teacher the best:
“When I was 15 I met my teacher Shi Chongying and, thinking that my iron arm was already pretty awesome, I asked him to hit my arm. To my surprise, a light touch from him was enough to numb my arm for an entire afternoon. After that experience, I was determined to study neijiaquan (meaning xingyi, bagua and taiji) with [Master] Shi…
My teacher took his training really seriously, a lot of other people thought he was a weirdo. For example, one time he was taking the train with his colleagues, instead of playing cards with the others he locked himself in the toilet to practice his gongfu! Also, my teacher is a bit of a hermit, he very rarely makes public appearances or enters martial arts tournaments, so the only people who know about him are other martial arts masters.”
- Guo Shilei
translated from an article in the Guanzhou Daily
Guo’s skill has been building up quietly for many years. His story is quite interesting, involving the struggle that many martial arts teachers face: attracting enough students to sustain a healthy income, mixing the martial arts lifestyle w/ everyday life, and much more. He is articulate & very candid in the great interview from which that quote is extracted. We’ll revisit Guo’s story in a later post … but for now:
Guo Shilei: Important Concepts In Push Hands & Sparring
For the very brief length of these two videos (<15 minutes!) … this is one of the best introductions to tai chi push hands I have seen anywhere. The concepts are presented very clearly, and the subtitles are excellent.
We are very indebted to whomever translated & added those subs, because they will help even us wai guo ren (外国人) understand young Master Guo’s concepts. Here are some of his concepts that I think are most important to note:
Wen Jin (问劲) or “Asking Energy”
Guo Shilei is one of the few CIMA masters I have heard emphasizing Wen Jin so much. This “energy” or feeling or “quality of touch” is much less discussed than the many more familiar jins of taijiquan & the CIMA, such as:
- tīng jìn (聽勁) :: Listening energy
- péng jìn (棚勁) :: Ward off energy
- chán sī jìn (纏絲勁) :: Silk reeling energy
- etc … there are probably hundreds to consider …
Regardless of its less frequent inclusions into the CIMA conversation, the importance of high attainment in wen jin cannot be overestimated.
In the way Guo speaks of the subject – by my interpretation – the effectiveness of any type of feint one attempts would be governed, ultimately, by one’s attainment in wen jin. In other words, while listening energy (ting jin) is required to comprehend the opponent … it is the proper use of asking energy (wen jin) that allows you to actually successfully attack w/o ending up on the receiving end of a painful counter.
Here are some of the important sayings & Chinese vocab that Master Guo uses to better explain the deep & complex topic of wen jin…
Important Wen Jin related sayings / vocab:
Zhi Shang Da Xia (指上打下) … To “point above & strike below” — this is presented as a type of Wen Jin, in that the feint (a “question”), elicits the opponent’s potential weak points to be attacked (the “answer”).
Bi Shi Ji Xu (避实击虚) … To “avoid the substantial & attack the empty” — this, as another type of Wen Jin, is a bit deeper level of Zhi Shang Da Xia. Rather than use external trickery, Bi Shi Ji Xu is about actually understanding the Yin Yang relationship in the opponent’s body (and exploiting it to one’s advantage). A related vocab, worth noting, is the idea to “da kong” (打空) or hit the empty (see video 1 @ 6:10 for a good example).
5 Steps to Better Internal Power from Master Guo Shilei
(as researched & embellished by me.)
1.) Exercises of the Yao & Kua – All CIMA rely heavily on the body’s naturally strongest areas: the Yao (low back / waist) and Kua (inguinal crease / hip joint). To truly be able to throw the opponent long distances and/or instantly end their ability to continue a fight, it will require many, many hours of training the Yao & the Kua through foundation exercises.
2.) Connecting the Arms to the Yao & Kua Power – From my perspective, this is all about “getting rid” of the arms. As one of my teachers says: “In taijiquan, there are no arms.” Perhaps a more poetic example that clearly articulates this fully integrated “whole body” power is found in the Tai Chi Classics, often referenced here:
The chin (also spelled jin) should be
rooted in the feet,
generated from the legs,
controlled by the waist, and
manifested through the fingers.
3.) Shàng Xià Xiāng Suí (上下相随) :: Upper & Lower in Mutual Harmony – This is one of Yang’s (Yang Chengfu’s) 10 Important Points (#7 – also translated as “Coordinate upper & lower body”). By correctly training & developing the Yao & Kua, as well as integrating the arms to the whole body power, one begins to achieve this necessary objective for any martial arts mastery.
4.) Clearly Perceive the Opponent’s Strengths & Weaknesses – This is closely related to the Wen Jin discussion above. One obvious caveat to perceiving the opponent’s strengths & weaknesses is then being able to skillfully invade & attack the opponent’s weak spot! To see an example (though hard to repeat if you do not understand it), check out video 1 at 5:38, 6:06, and 6:10. Another good way Guo describes this is that the key is in attacking down a path along which the opponent has no balance.
5.) Roll Like a Sphere & Do Not Allow the Opponent’s Force to “Rest” Upon You - The idea here, as Guo explains it, is to keep your opponent’s balance unsettled as if he is trying to rest atop a round ball. I’m not sure whether or not this is the same concept, but I have heard a similar description of the peng jin energy (“ward off”). Put simply, the idea is as if the opponent’s force is a small boat, and that boat is floating on the surface of the big sea (which is you). While the surface of the sea is not exactly a sphere … the effect & biomechanics are quite similar to the rounded body demo’s shown by Master Guo in the above videos.