It is never merely because they are the sons of Yao Zongxun, great master of Yiquan, that Yao Chengguang and Yao Chengrong gained their fame. Born in 1953, these two brothers began to learn fist art at the age of nine, with their father as their teacher. Living in the atmosphere of orthodox Yiquan from the very beginning of their life, they were deeply influenced by what they saw and heard, and their every move and act were like those of a Yiquan practitioner. In addition, they were born bright with natural endowments. Thus, at a very young age, they had been among the favored students of Master Yao. In 1982, in the National Martial Arts Contest of Sanshou, with Yiquan skills, Yao Chengguang knocked down a quite famous martial artist in a short moment of 47 seconds. He displayed the power of orthodox Yiquan as well as his own gallant demeanor as the heir of a great martial master.
Yet, it was because they were the sons of Master Yao Zongxun that, under the strong wings of their father, they had never thought about the present state and the future of Yiquan. Everyday, they spent hours in diligent practice of Zhan Zhuang, Shi Li, Fa Li and real combat. The training life of Yiquan was as simple as a single line. Though their skills and artistry improved day by day, these twin brothers at that time could be only regarded as excellent boxing players, far away from their father's requirement of “to become a scholar in fist art”. In fact, the story of these twin brothers in real sense, began in the year 1985.
Father's death made Chengguang and Chengrong suddenly realize the heavy task on their shoulder. From that moment, they became mature.
In 1985, due to the diseases resulted from his overwork, with the deep regret of his noble aspirations not fulfilled, Master Yao Zongxun passed away. Father's departure made I
"Either you just don't touch upon Yiquan, otherwise, you must be the top one, since you are the son of Yao Zongxun."
In fact, in his childhood, Yao Chengguang had no special attachment to martial arts. It was only because his weak body was often subject to illness that his father taught him to practice Zhan Zhuang. No one knew at that time this habit would persist till now for more 40 years.
He still has the fresh memory that when he was in primary school, every day after coming back from school, the first words father told him were to put down his schoolbag to practice Zhan Zhuang.
During the Cultural Revolution, father whose life was teaching Yiquan to others was forced to give up his career, and thus the whole family had no income to live on. In the harsh condition of making a living by sweeping streets, sending coal balls and picking cabbage leaves, father still urged Yao Chengguang to practice and no day was spent without Yiquan exercises.
Even in 1969 when the whole family was sent to Cuicun village in Changping to rear livestock and plough fields, political discrimination, hardships in living, depression in the spiritual world could not destroy Master Yao Zongxun's pursuit and attachments to his cause of Yiquan. He taught his son the ancient maxim: "The greater the adversity, the stronger the will. One's lofty aspirations should never be abandoned." Therefore, no matter it was harsh hot or bitter cold, in spite of the busy farming work, every day Yao Chengguang got up at 4 a.m. to practice Yiquan. Every evening after work, though fatigued from a day's hard work, he still persisted in practicing Zhan Zhuang and Shi Li. Every day he passed like this with unremitting efforts, building a solid foundation for his artistry in Yiquan.
Since 1979 when the Cultural Revolution was over, a host of neglected tasks waited to be done for the country, and Yiquan attracted attention from some government organs. Since his noble aspiration was unfulfilled, Master Yao Zongxun once again built up his ambition.
"One day, father asked me to come in the room and said he had wasted much precious time during the past years. As he could bear to see Yiquan come to a halt in his hands, he would begin to reinforce the training of us the next day. He warned me seriously: 'Either you just don't touch upon Yiquan, otherwise, you must be the top one, since you are the son of Yao Zongxun.' So I was asked whether I could bear hardships and whether I was willing to take Yiquan as my lifelong career.
I lay awake all the night…
Yet, early the next morning, in high spirits I told my father that I'd like to."
This is not a simple promise, and Yao Chengguang was fully aware the deep meaning of his answer to his father.
From the autumn of 1979 to the end of 1984, Master Yao Zongxun conducted intensified training to his students Yao Chengguang, Yao Chengrong, Cui Ruibin, Liu Pulei and Wu Xiaonan in Beijing Xiannong Tan Stadium, for the purpose of bringing up a strong young generation for Chinese Yiquan in his lifetime.
At that time, 26 years old, Yao Chengguang was working in Beijing Bus Company. In order to attend the training in daytime, he changed his work to night shift. Therefore, he worked in the evening while attended training in daytime, with high-intensity physical exercise everyday. In the morning, he weighed 60 kg. After a day's intensified training, he would only weigh 56 kg in the evening. That is to say, a day's intensified training could cut off 4 kg of his weight. Then, after a night's rest, his weight would go back to 60 kg in the next morning. During that period, he wore sports shoes everyday, for the convenience of training. In winter, though only having a thin jersey on, he would still get soaked with sweat, even his hair was wet. In summer, long time and intensified practice of punching sandbag resulted in thick callus all over the hand, and he was able to punch 880 times in three minutes. Stripped to the waist, they practiced Tui Shou and San Shou in turns, with cuts ripped by fingernails all over the body. During the practice of San Shou, emphasizing cultivating the sense of reality, Master Yao Zongxun demanded that every one should apply all their force into the practice without being lenient. As a result, it was often the case that the fellow apprentices got black eyes and bloody noses and mouths. Besides, they also carried out large amount of constitution training, such as rope skipping and sudden brake while running. After a day's training, because of the cuts on lips, Yao Chengguang could not eat dishes a little bit over salty, which were an irritation to the cuts. Sometimes, he could only have some porridge.
The night shift began at 10 p.m. During before 11 o'clock, Yao Chengguang was mainly teaching some friends who asked to learn Yiquan. After then, when friends left for sleeping one after another, but he could not sleep. Sometimes he was so sleepy that he would put a chair against the wall and fall asleep while leaning on it. When his colleagues saw this, they all exclaimed: "What a martial artist! Yao Chengguang can fall sleep while standing." After he got off from work the next morning, with a little rest and adjustment, he hurried to practice Zhan Zhuang, Shi Li and so on, appearing on the training spot full of vigor and vitality.
Such intensified training lasted five years. With sweat and blood Yao Chengguang passed his memorable youth. Meanwhile, he was more convinced by the belief that in the future, while restraining himself, he should focus on and strive unceasingly for the cause of Yiquan throughout the rest of his life.
Yiquan Speaks Strength
"Yiquan speaks strength." This is the belief that Master Yao Chengguang has been holding for more than 40 years. As early as in 1982, he took part in the 1st National San Shou Contest. In the short moment of 47 seconds, he punched his opponent into shock. As a result, he was suspended from competition for fear that his heavy punch might result in danger. In 1985, he was invited to promote Yiquan in Shanxi, Shandong, Guizhou, Sichuan, Tianjin and Henan successively. During that time, he also had matches with local martial masters and defeated all of them. In 1988, under the invitation of Hong Kong Yiquan Association, he went to Hong Kong to teach Yiquan for half a year. Under his influence, Yiquan became popular all over Hong Kong, which was a great push to the development of Yiquan in Hong Kong. In 1992, invited by Japan Taikiken Association, he set out for Japan to lecture on Yiquan and helped perfect the theoretic and technical system of the Japanese Taikiken. At the same time, at the foot of Fuji Mountain, with genuine competence and artistry of Yiquan, he once again gained triumph over many martial artists. In the autumn of 1993, a four Dan Black Band of Taekwondo from South Korea paid a visit to China, prating that Chinese martial arts are nothing but flashy and superficial things. Recommended by others, Master Yao Chengguang had a match with him and subdued him again with excellent artistry and defended the dignity of our national martial arts with his fists. In May, 1994, in order to materialize the lofty belief of "fist arts should serve the society, people and the whole country", overcoming numerous hardships, he undertook the heavy task of founding Beijing Zongxun Martial Aats Academy. Since then, he set out on the rough way of "Carrying Forward Yiquan, the Quintessence of Chinese Culture".
Since the Martial Aats Academy was founded eight years ago, Master Yao Chengguang has all along put the pedagogic principle of "scientific system and meticulous management" in the first place. In his view, to be scientific is the core of fist arts, and any principle or theory against science will certainly lead people astray. With a solid scientific base, one should also pursue the systematization of the researches on fist arts. Only by the combination of the two, one can learn Yiquan systematically in a clear-cut way. Besides, one should also pay attention to the combination of meticulous theory and normative skills, which is beneficial to both the fixation of correct movements and the building of conditioned reflex.
Under the instruction of Master Yao Zongxun's thinking on fist arts, based on the scientific attitude of "seeking truth from facts", the rules of Dialectical Materialism and his superb skills, by incorporating modern psychology, mechanics, philosophy, anatomy and physiology and by combining theories with practice, Yao Chengguang has formed his own unique pedagogic and training system of Yiquan.
During his teaching, based on his professional dedication, that is, "to be responsible for students and for Yiquan", applying the lecturing methods of Confucianism, he teaches students with a spirit of serving people or being the ladder for his students to climb to the peak of the mountain of martial arts. He teaches with skill and patience, step by step. He teaches students in accordance with their aptitude and never gets tired of instructing them. He is a teacher who values students' sentiments and the Delight of Li in his teaching.
In his training, first of all he breaks free from the convention of "practicing Zhan Zhuang for three years as the beginning of learning Yiquan". In his words, Jing (Stillness) in Zhan Zhuang, Huan (Slowness) in Shi Li and Ji (Swiftness) in Fa Li are different ways of searching and mastering Hunyuan Li in different circumstances. Therefore, "Mental Visualization and Mental Induction" should become the core of Yiquan. By threading together the searching of Hunyuan Li, it synchronizes the basic training of Zhan Zhuang, Shi Li and Fa Li. After one has grasped the basic skills, one should combine the basic practice with the training of real combats, letting them supplementing and complementing each other, so as to improve the overall physical constitution. It was only after three years' learning that Master Yao Zongxun was already qualified to represent his teacher Master Wang Xiangzhai to fight matches. And the secret for such miraculous progress just lies in the principle mentioned above.
The fact has proved that Master Yao Chengguang's teaching method is extremely scientific. In Zongxun Martial Aats Academy, after 2 or 3 months' training, students have already managed to be quick and agile in footwork and body movement. The teaching requirements of "touch and go" and "every point throughout the body acts like a spring" have already taken effects. When Master Yao's students have matches with others, they are hardly defeated by others. They have successively won the 1st Yiquan San Shou Contest and the 1st Yiquan Tui Shou Contest. In March, 2003, in the 2nd Yiquan Tui Shou Contest, they overwhelmed their opponents and won the first place of team total grades.
Meanwhile, Master Yao Chengguang does not neglect the theoretical research on Yiquan, and has published articles about Yiquan in magazines like Wu Hun (or Spirit of Martial Arts), Boxing and Fistfight and Boxing. In the autumn of 1994, he finished Afterhour Training Course of Chinese Yiquan with 100,000 words. In 1998, with the collaboration of Kubo Isato, he published both the book and videos of Secret Techniques of Yiquan & Taikiken in Japan. In 2000, he shot VCD of Course on Chinese Yiquan, giving a comprehensive illustration of Yiquan in a systematic way.
Since 1996, under the support of government leaders and friends in the circle of martial arts, Master Yao Chengguang organized "1st Sino-Japan Yiquan and Taikiken Symposium", "Symposium in Commemoration of 115th Anniversary of Master Wang Xiangzhai's Birth" and "Symposium in Commemoration of 85th Anniversary of Master Yao Zongxun's Birth" in succession. With the collaboration of his friends in Yiquan field, he also staged "Regulations for Yiquan Tui Shou and San Shou Contests" (Draft), and successfully organized a series Yiquan Tui Shou and San Shou contests. His action strengthened the academic exchanges of Yiquan and made a positive contribution to the professionalization of Yiquan.
Master Yao Chengguang believes that Yiquan speaks with strength, which comes from a scientific system, from the prudent and normative theoretical guidance, from practice and training and from the understanding power and industrious working of the practitioners. Empty and flourish talk ends in nothing. Practicing all alone without reference to the actual world has little help to cultivate one's power. Yiquan is everything but mystery. Any absurd theory that mystifies Yiquan is a manifestation of ignorance of science as well as anxiety to get quick results and instant profits. Practitioners of Yiquan must guard against conceit and rashness, and at the same time try hard to seek truth from facts. One should insist on an attitude of a dialectical materialist to get knowledge of Yiquan, learn it with scientific and systematic methods, and develop it with tolerance and creativeness. Only by way of this can one make substantial progress and can Yiquan get healthy and balanced development.
"I have chosen an arduous but glorious career for my life.
Though the cost is enormous, for the lofty cause of Yiquan, I have nothing to complain…"
"Maybe it is for fulfilling my promise to father; maybe it is for my deep passion for Yiquan." In the past 40 years, Master Yao has never given up his pursuit of Yiquan. It has melted into his blood and cast into his soul. Yiquan is the lifeblood for Master Yao Chengguang.
I still remember in October of 1998, for the first time, I came to his house, 21# Mao'er Hutong, Dongcheng District of Beijing. The cramped space, the simple and crude furniture, the simple habiliments and amiable smiles of Master Yao put it hard to believe that I was in the house of Yao Chengguang, the invincible master of martial arts of the present age.
"In his mind, there's nothing but Yiquan. In my youth, every time when I came to his house, he was always practicing Yiquan all alone. Now, apart from self-practice, he also has to teach students, give lectures, conduct academic researches and attend social activities. He is quite happy to be so busy. Once, I rode his bike out to buy something. Hey, I was quite shocked to see the bike was on the brink of breaking down. Yet he has no time to have it repaired…" Master Yao's friend and student Zhao Guoqing commented.
An auntie in the neighborhood also said: "If it were not for the frequent visits of foreigners, being his neighbor for so many years, I wouldn't have known Yao Chengguang is a world-famous figure."
Indeed, this is Master Yao Chengguang, caring not a bit about fame and personal profit, but only for doing some substantial things in his lifetime.
Nevertheless, a man of true worth attracts admiration. For many years, there have been coverage about Master Yao's unremitting pursuit of Yiquan in newspapers and magazines like China Youth Daily, Science and Technology Daily, China Daily, Worker's Daily, Hong Kong's Shangpao Newspaper, Mingpao Newspaper, and Takungpao Newspaper, Shangxi's Changzhi Daily, Beijing's Spirit of Martial Arts, Shangxi's Culture of Physical Exercise, Boxing, France's Combat, British martial arts magazines, US's martial arts magazines, Japan's Karate and Chinese Kung Fu.
Apart from being the president of Beijing Martial Arts Association Yiquan Research Institute and chief director of Zongxun Martial Aats Academy, Master Yao has been engaged successively as the honorary president and military trainer of Guizhou Province Yiquan Research Institute, honorary president of Henan Kaifeng City Yiquan Research Institute, of Shanxi Changzhi City Yiquan Research Institute, of Liaoning Lvshun City Yiquan Research Institute, technical advisor of Hong Kong Yiquan Research Institute, honorary president of Hong Kong Yao Style Yiquan Research Institute, honorary president of South Korea Yiquan Research Institute, technical advisor of Japan Yokohama, Tokyo and Osaka Taikiken Research Institute, honorary director of the UK Yiquan Association, and honorary president of Poland Yiquan Academy. Every year, overseas Yiquan organizations from Japan,, France, US, Italy, Austria, Canada, South Korea, Poland, UK, Switzerland and Germany send groups to Zongxun Martial Aats Academy to exchange views and learn from each other. Europe Yiquan Association, founded only in 2001, invited Master Yao to be its honorary president. In November of the same year, under the invitation of Italy Yiquan Association, he went to Italy to give lectures on Yiquan and thus open up a land for Yiquan to advance to the world. Under his leadership, with the mutual efforts of his Yiquan friends and colleagues, Beijing Martial Arts Association Yiquan Research Institute was given the honor of "Pace-setting Units of 2002" by Beijing Martial Arts Association. With concrete actions, Master Yao works hard for the grand aspiration of pushing Chinese martial arts to be included into the Olympics and advancing it to the world at large.
"In my limited lifetime, I'll put all my energy into bringing up first-rate Yiquan successors. No matter they are Chinese or overseas students, as long as they take a sincere attitude towards Yiquan, I treat all of them alike with no preference.
"Though enjoying a bright and boundless prospect, Yiquan's development is full of difficulties and obstacles. To popularize Yiquan, my personal power is far from enough. Therefore, it is my sincere wish that people from all walks of life will offer their support and solicitude for the development of the great cause of Yiquan.
I have chosen an arduous but glorious career for my life. Though the cost is enormous, for the lofty cause of Yiquan, I have nothing to complain…"