Fong Ha’s Yiquan is characterized by a focus on the ability to listen. A general guideline in our two-person practice of push hands (tui shou) and free hands (san shou) is don’t collide, don’t separate. This kind of skill is another way that our Yiquan is more than a martial art. It is truly an art of life. Ha Sifu says that Yiquan is a small way that can lead to the Way. The ability to listen is especially difficult for strong people to grasp. We can get away with so much just pushing the world around. We don’t have to listen to get what we want – or so we think. Usually, we end up doing so much damage getting what we want that the end result is misery and suffering for us and those around us. Physical strength is great, but, like steel, it is greater when tempered.

When we listen, we can understand. When we understand, we can take appropriate action. Things go well for us when we take the appropriate action. When we can’t listen, we can’t know what to do. We can’t know what the situation requires of us. How many situations in your life would have gone better if you could have stayed connected without colliding?

Another important aspect of our Yiquan training is the focus on developing a soft power. We do this by not struggling. Struggling implies resistance. Resistance means you are going the wrong way. So, what’s the difference between struggling and just working hard? The difference is in the world’s response to your actions. Struggling is when you continue to act despite a negative response. Hard work is action to which the world responds positively. It might be active and dynamic, but the world responds favorably to it. Appropriate action is pulled out of you by the world around you. If your kid is in danger, though you may sweat and grunt to save them, the action is not forced. You feel as though you have no choice with right action. You just do it. You do, of course, have a choice. You always have a choice. But, when Spirit moves us, we just find ourselves acting. Nearly all artists, athletes, etc. describe a sense of whatever it is that they are good at just flowing through them – that’s it. We call it being “in the zone.” Bruce Lee said once that after years of training his hands and feet would move of their own accord – same thing. We must sense our selves, then the world, process that sensation, and act. That is the sequence. If it gets all jumbled up and we are trying to find ourselves while trying to act…we fail.

The more we stand in stillness, the more comfortable we become with ourselves. The more comfortable we can be in our own skin, the more we can focus on the immediate reality before us. When we have to manage all of our insecurities we are distracted. If we feel confident and sure of ourselves, we can respond to our environment from a position of strength rather than weakness.

With our Yiquan practice we are doing more than just cultivating martial power, we cultivate a sense of self that pervades our entire lives. Fong Ha absolutely embodies these principles. It is inspiring to see the benefits of such a practice in such a wonderful person. I have a real problem with know-it-all guru types hawking magical powers. Fong Ha is the exact opposite of this. He, despite his world-class martial pedigree, is always in the “beginner’s mind.” Ha Sifu begins with listening – with a question. When asked a question, he works from the ground up to as high as you want to go. That is power to me – real power. To create from scratch each and every time is adaptability. That is the power to be.