4.My thesis regarding Chen Genpin really rests on one point - there was no other reason why three seasoned warriors, already skilled at grappling, would have much interest in a foreigner. It would be like several Olympic Greco-Roman champions enthralled with the accounts of a bookish Russian talking about a native wrestling style called Sambo, which he'd seen but never done. Everything follows from the point that he had to have something to grab their attention - and shuaijiao, by itself, is not so different from sumo or other belt wrestling to grab the attention so.
Frankly, I suspect this episode with Chen Gempin (Chen Yuan Yun) is probably very much like a number of well-credentialed present-day martial artists getting a good feel/idea of basic parameters of internal strength. In fact, I'd carry the comparison even a bit further, using Aikido as an example. Aikido derives from "ki" skills that are recorded on film as being done by the founder, yet many (the majority, I'd posit) of current practitioners have never acquired these skills as the founder had them and some are now busily trying to install their current interpretations *back* into Aikido. Personally, I suspect that there may be an aspect of this in the 3 experts learning from Chen Gempin may have been in the same position of only learning how to do something that may have been in past Japanese martial arts.
The big problem with writing about Japanese history in relation to internal-strength skills is that we can only write in terms of what we personally know. Since a lot of Japanese history is written for the West by people with little or no internal skills, I suspect that the overall view has been badly degraded by a lot of otherwise well-meaning historians. Like the 'expert' in Aikido who has/had no real knowledge of internal skills, the historian is apt to describe Japanese historical internal skills in a very limited and probably inaccurate way. We've all seen what can come of being an expert who has missed something elemental... it happens to history writing quite often, in all fields.
The discussion of dancing reminds me of the story of Ueshiba awarding a 10th dan to a woman dancer. Of course, the initial reaction is to avoid the story because it could be that of a mentally enfeebled Ueshiba doing something for which he is not totally responsible, but on the other hand, he could also have been recognizing that the woman used qi/jin/ki/kokyu skills just as are used in bona fide Aikido. Think about Abe Seiseki's comments about how kokyu strength are basic to real Shodo. In China these types of body skills are common to calligraphy, dance, tea ceremony, and so on. It seems likely that the Japan that imported so much else Chinese could not have missed the inclusion of internal-strength skills in health-exercises, calligraphy, dance, tea ceremony, and so on. My point is that rather than looking at internal-strength skills as a very narrow field, it's a very broad field. Because so many of our published experts (think of all the experts in hand-to-hand combat at the time of Chen Gempin and then consider those 3 warriors) have little knowledge of internal-strength parameters, we have to consider that it's not the time to dig in our heels but more to move forward.
As an example of what I mean about this knowledge floating around even in Japan, look at this paper found at
The paper is discussing Misogi training and early in the paper is this comment:
It was reportedly during this time that Inoue learned to regulate his breath by concentrating it below his navel
Pooh... that means to me that to whatever degree he progressed later, Inoue learned the essence of ki-building skills that always start with "packing" and pressurizing the 'air pressure' (read "ki") into the abdominal region. Think of Ueshiba's Misogi training in that light.
Cutting short a lot of commentary that is also applicable, let me just note that IMO a lot of these discussions about ki, internal strength, etc., are probably far too narrow and don't recognize the ubiquity and antiquity of these skills/studies. "Kokyu" skills are actually "shakti" in ancient India and "jin" skills in China. Sure, they're kept fairly secret in the how-to's, but even so, they're easily and widely found.
My 2 cents.