"You have learnt enough. Practice this diligently, and someday you will be exceptional."
Those were the words of my Master Yong Huafeng, who saw fit to take me in as a disciple at the age of 19. I remain the only disciple he has outside China. And so, after only 3 months of intensive training, I left for Cambridge, unaware that it would be 3 years before I saw him again. And so for 3 years I trained in the four steps of Tongbeiquan. Yes, only four. There are 5 in total, but the fifth step I was instructed not to train in until I had gotten the four. During that time, I gleaned all the information I could from my memories of his movements and the study of the Tai Chi classics.
When I met him next, he proceeded to train me in Tai Chi Chuan, Baguazhang and Xing Yi Quan. One day, he thought to ask me to demonstrate my Tongbeiquan for him. I began to swing my arms slowly. After watching for about a minute, he muttered, "Hai ke yi." (Still acceptable.)
It gave me great pleasure to reply, "I was just loosening up."
By the time I had completed my real demonstration, he had decided that I was definitely a touch better than "hai ke yi".
I'm excited today. As most readers will know, I have been restricted in my martial arts practice due to the back problems I've had earlier this year, which are now satisfactorily in decline. Lately, however, I have allowed myself some elbow room in doing a little practice. Today, I have developed what I believe to be the sixth step of Tongbeiquan. It is the backward punch. The power is generated through the back, in true Tongbei form, but the force is combined with the special strength associated with the last two fingers. Although throwing a punch is nothing new, I believe the generation of force is unusual, as it is not muscular. I will be studying this with great interest and, hopefully, in time, produce a video.
I also have been working on shortening the combat range of Tongbeiquan, so that it may be used not only as a long range fighting skill, but also as a short form. More on that later.
P/S: Tongbeiquan was apparently inspired by our furry friend in the picture.