My martial art training experience began in childhood when I learned tan tui from my father. It took me three months to go through all ten lines.
Later on, when I began my formal martial art training under Sifu Han Ching-Tang, I started tan tui all over again.
I thought tan tui was like the Bible: all movements were standardized. But to my great surprise, I came to realize that many kung fu styles practiced or interpreted tan tui in different ways.
I remembered my father had advised me that the ten-line tan tui is the curriculum for one year's training: roughly about one line per month, excluding the months of harvest and New Year. So when I relearned tan tui under Sifu Han, I always tried to avoid moving to the next line until I felt totally comfortable with the line I was currently practicing. Sometimes a senior classmate or even Sifu Han would encourage me to move on to the next line. Yes, I was a stubborn student, but not lazy or timid!
The next year when I began to practice other empty-hand forms, and several years later when I began weapons, my progress and accuracy were faster and better than others.
My health was very bad in early childhood but I was still able to practice martial arts with different kung fu teachers, learning different types of styles. I make no claims about my martial arts technique but I did get my health back. Tan tui is the main reason.
After I understood the benefits of tan tui, I not only continued to practice what I had learned but also reached out to study tan tui from different kung fu families. I had plans to collect at least ten and write an essay with the title "The Research and Analysis of Tan Tui."
During this time, I learned the 12-line tan tui of the Jin Wu Association from Sifu Lee Dao-Kwai and also the 16-line tan tui of the Six Harmony Family from my kung fu friend, Mr. Wang Wen-Shan. I also looked into other branches of tan tui from Sifu Kuo Lain-Ing, Sifu Shown Young-Ho and Sifu Yi Chang-Ho.
Later on, the Five Continent Publishing Company released a book on tan tui edited by Mr. Chu Kuo-Hu and Mr. Wu Chi-Ching. They also published the tan tui training materials of the Jin Wu Association.
During this long period of time, my only approach to practicing and teaching tan tui was very straightforward: I simply followed what I had learned, the traditional way.
Later on, I began my martial training in baji quan and pigua zhang under Sifu Liu Yun-Chiao. We published the Wu Tang Martial Art Journal but it did not last. Then, we set up the Wu Tang Kung Fu Training Center. Unfortunately, it was also not quite successful. There were so many reasons for this that I can't go into detail here.
Anyway, from the perspective of martial art technique, I was worried because many beginners don't have the patience to practice fundamental skills and therefore are unable to build a solid foundation for their martial arts. Thus Sifu Liu Yun-Chiao gave me the support to create the Islamic Long Fist curriculum: tan tui, leading to pao quan, leading to cha quan--a step-by-step training sequence to enable beginners to build the foundation necessary for their skills to advance.
I trained several coaches and drew a big poster that described all the classes of different kung fu styles that Wu Tang would offer and put this poster on the wall....
Well, my plan didn't fully go through and it was eventually abandoned.
After I came to the U.S. and started up my "Adam Hsu Kung Fu School," I taught different styles of kung fu, including Islamic long fist. And tan tui was the first form my students were required to practice.
During this time frame, I began to deeply review my approach to training and teaching. This led to the development of my own thoughts and new perspectives on kung fu and its training.
My conclusions were based on the following three sources:
a) The Islamic long fist family provides three well organized forms, covering the training from basic technique to advanced level skills. The training path is very clear and reasonable. This rational approach should not be ignored.
b) My ideas and thoughts were inspired by the many basic training materials I accumulated from different styles of kung fu - for example, Seven Star praying mantis, tong bei quan, er lang quan, xing-yi quan - all of which use tan tui or have composed their own tan tui.
c) My own personal experience, observations and conclusions.
So I improved my school's tan tui training program and set a new standard for the practice of tan tui. This requirement is also applied to all branches of the Adam Hsu Kung Fu School internationally.
After I returned to live in Taiwan in 1996, I made a kung fu presentation that included a clear announcement to the younger generation of students: You need to start with tan tui. Not surprisingly, some young men walked away after hearing this. Later on, the tough, boring tan tui training discouraged some of my new students. But some did persist and continued on with me.
That was a very very "hot" summer for the school. The students worked so hard, sweating in the heat of the sun, kicking the "springing leg." (Note: "Springing leg" is the English translation for "tan tui.")
I set the following rules for my school:
a) Tan tui is the prerequisite course for every style of kung fu, which includes, among others, long fist, bagua zhang, baji quan and taiji quan.
b) Students must not only practice the traditional ten lines of tan tui but also continue to practice the many different ways of advanced tan tui training developed for my school.
c) The tan tui training is combined with our rank and level testing.
Moving into the new century, many things have radically changed and we have no choice but to deal with or accept these differences in our students and in society. As a result of these changes, lots of people look for short cuts to get easy money or live life through their daydreams and fantasies.
The only thing that has never changed is the Spirit behind tan tui. Tan tui's hidden treasure is this: as long as you spend sincere effort on it, you will get what you want.