Six Harmonies, Eight Methods

by Dan Inosanto

Master Wai Lun Choi has studies martial arts for many years and benefited from many teacher.

Master Choi developed a great interest in the martial arts as a young man. When he was 18 (1957), he began studying a number of styles including lama, northern Shaolin, Thai boxing and judo. But after eight years of learning and training, he was quite dissatisfied.

At private sparring sessions, he often found his legs did not move with his punches. Furthermore, even when his feet and hands moved together, he often missed the target. He did not understand the source of his problem. He often sought out friends studying other styles, but the could not help him either.

Master Choi's eagerness to advance his knowledge of the martial arts was complicated by the confusion over which teacher or style would best suit his needs. After much searching, he was fortunate to be introduced to the grand master of the six harmonies and eight methods (shem), Yik Yen Chan, and began learning shem, as well as hsing-I and paqua.

Grandmaster Yik Yen Chan explained the lack of bodily coordination comes from an imbalance in three external combinations, while an absence of harmony in the three internal combinations causes a lack of accuracy. these external and internal combinations form the six harmonies in the six harmonies and eight methods teaching. Master Choi realized that harmony between body and mind is vitally important.

Still, Master Choi had numerous doubts when he began studying shem in 1964. Shem's training methods are quite different than those of the other styles he'd been learning, and this added to his uncertainty.

For example, how can practicing slow movements increase speed? And how can relaxation augment power? During this period, master Choi had to unlearn his old habits. At the same time frustration grew because he had not yet accomplished anything. Often he lost confidence in sparring, and since he could not immediately grasp everything that was taught to him, he started to find the training boring and difficult.

When he complained to his teacher, he said, "You are of course free to leave or stay with the training. But not matter what kind of art you are learning, you must first have patience and endurance. Because as soon as you have the idea in your mind that the training is difficult, you get tensed up. Moreover, you lose concentration during practice, and naturally you'll lose interest. For kung-fu consists in mind, feeling, intuition and the use of natural power. It is not a matter of a few punches."

After much thought, Wai Lun Choi continued his training with grand master Chan. In 1968 Wai Lun Choi became an assistant instructor, and he set up his own school the following year. In 1971, he became champion at the Pan Southeast Asian hand-to-hand Martial Arts Tournament. later, he was ordained the grand master of the style by his teacher. In 1972, master Choi emigrated to American and now teaches his style in Chicago.

Few people have heard of the six harmonies and eight methods style because it is only in recent times that the style has been taught to the general public. Shem is a method for practicing the martial arts with an emphasis on the combination of mind, chi, reflexes and power. Without such coordination, a movement would not be whole and complete. "Harmonies" refers to the coordination of arms and legs, shoulders and the crotch, elbows and knees, mind and reflexes, chi and power, and the internal and external. These aspect must be in harmony.

The eight methods are the way to practice the basic mediation stance. Its goal is development of chi, so that the soft embodies the hard and the hard embodies the soft to generate a circular, spring like power.

Internal practice strengthens the mind, regulates breathing, helps circulation and relaxes the body. It is a discipline for health, hygiene, intelligence, and longevity. Although one stands motionless in the basic stance, the cells and tissues of the body organs become active in their regenerative functions. The goal of internal training is to achieve balanced development and functioning of the internal organs, and to remedy the ill effects of the enlargement of the heart.

In internal training, a large movement is less effective than a small movement, and a small movement is not as effective as no movement; stillness is the movement of the perpetual. the uninitiated cannot understand how a simple, motionless stance can generate power of benefit health. In fact, internal practice is also an effective therapeutic method for numerous diseases, and is a valuable tool for both preventive and curative medicine.

Genealogy of the six harmonies and eight methods

About 800 years have elapsed since Hay Yee Chan created the forms of shem in the Sung dynasty. the knowledge has been passed down to a relatively small group of pupils. The prominent teachers and pupils of shem over these centuries are listed in the accompanying table. Arrows denote teacher-pupil relationships. Multiple arrows mean a pupil learned the art from more than one teacher.