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The following pictures came from the 1931 book by Yang Chen Fu. The man in the dark clothes is T'ien Chao Ling who is shown as the #1 disciple of Yang Chen Fu in his book. The man in the light clothes is Tung Ying Chieh who is shown as the #3 disciple of Yang Chen Fu in his book.
They are performing the basic routines of the traditional Yang style spear set. They are using staffs instead of spears. There is a story about that . . . (more later).
These sets are the same as was taught to a few of us in Honolulu in the early 1990's by Dong Chen Zeng. My fellow student, Randy Kim, and I became the demonstration team for our school in those years.
We were taught that the staff set was the most advanced weapon set and was the last to be learned. My understanding is the Tung Ying Chieh did not practice all the weapons, only the double edged sword (jian) and the staff (gun).
The first series
In this series the movements are basic. They are done in a kind of step by step fashion, lightly and at a medium speed. This is used to get the players to know the movements in their basic form.
First is a thrust to the throat
Then a thrust to the opponents heart or left shoulder
Then a thrust to the knee
And finally a thrust to the head
The Second Series
In this series the movements are more subtle. They are done in a circular flowing fashion, similar in feeling to push hands, lightly and at a medium speed. You can also do them fairly quickly. This series is used to get the players more adept at sticky energy and the ability to listen through the staff.
The Third Series
In this series the movements are more advanced. They are done in a sharp and powerful manner, at a quick speed. This is used to train the players in how to issue energy through the staff and develops strong martial penetrating energy.
When Randy and I used to practice this set in Honolulu we began by using 8 foot long full round fir poles (like you would find in a clothes closet). Rarely did a pole last the night, however, as they usually broke within a few moves. We eventually ended up using ironwood saplings that we cut from the forest in the hills above Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu. Try as we might, we could not break these ironwood poles. (As a side note, ironwood is so dense that it does not float in water. Those poles were heavy!)
The Fourth Series
At this point in the training, the players have learned the moves and the energy. Now is the time to develop the skill at using all of this training. The moves below depict a basic back and forth exercise that then led to a kind of free form controlled fighting. In this series the movements are done in a variable manner, sometimes hard and fast, sometimes slippery or sticky, etc.
Note that playing at this level is dangerous. You need a lot of trust in your partner, and you need a good deal of skill to keep from hurting each other. The staff seems to amplify the energy.
Randy and I used to have a lot of fun trying to figure out new ways to twist and wind and slip by an incoming move in order to come back with an effective counter.
If you're interested, I've written a bit more about the staff. Click here to see the writings.