Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tai Chi in Shenmue II

Today we present a guest post written by Shenmue Dojo member and Kickstarter super-backer yuc02, with an analysis of Tai Chi moves encountered by Ryo in Shenmue II.

Tai Chi in Shenmue 2

About the Author

"Hello, I'm yuc02! You may know me from the Shenmue Dojo forums, or from the Monaco dinner event as one of the $10k donors. Shenmue really changed my life, so I felt I had to do something in return for what Suzuki-san gave to me.

Since playing Shenmue I've started to learn Tai Chi and have also visited the famous Yokosuka with a guided tour given by Switch. My favourite game of the series is Shenmue 2 (of course), favourite characters are Ren and Xiuying. Also useless but cool trivia: I share the 'Yu' part of my name with Suzuki-san (though it's my surname)!"

One of the main themes in Shenmue is martial arts, and while Yu Suzuki re-used various styles found in the Virtua Fighter series, he also decided to add several others into the mix.

Interestingly, one such style showcased is Tai Chi, or Taijiquan (太极拳), which one may not normally associate with practical combat.  It’s an ancient style developed under the concept of fusion of yin and yang into the supreme (tai) level (ji) fist (quan), and can actually be used to fight in real life. Its application focuses on the user using his/her inner energy (“qi”) into rotational movements, in order to yield, stick and divert an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force.

More information on the style and its origins can be found on the Tai Chi page on Wikipedia.

Grasping the Bird’s Tail

Ryo’s first encounter with a Tai Chi master was with Jianmin Tao in Lotus Park in the South Carmain Quarter.

During the start of the first cutscene, one can see him practising a sequence of Tai Chi movements.

YouTube video: Kung Fu with Jiamin (Bull Palm)

These are actually authentic forms collectively known as “Grasping the Bird’s Tail” (揽雀尾 ), shown below:
YouTube video by 加藤修三

Ryo later replicates the sequence while practising Tai Chi in Guilin (disc 4 of the game):

YouTube video: Shenmue II Guilin: Ryo Practicing Tai Chi (Shenmue Dojo)

Iron Palm

Jianmin taught Ryo the Tai Chi move Iron Palm during his search for the four Wude. Interestingly, the Chinese translation of the move is 小 (Xiao) 擒 (Qin) 打 (Da), which is actually a sequence of moves that exists in real life.

Ryo applies the Iron Palm in Lotus Park
Ryo applies the Iron Palm in Lotus Park
Click play on the following video clip to see the move in action:
YouTube video: Shenmue II: The Movie, created by Mr 357 (Shenmue Dojo)

The Iron Palm possibly refers to the last move in the Xiao Qin Da sequence, although it differs slightly in being a two-handed strike as can be seen here:

You Tube video by Richard Zhao

Given this, Shenmue's Iron Palm is more likely to be derived from something like the “Brush Knee Twist Step” (搂膝拗步).

The Brush Knee Twist Step sequence
The Brush Knee Twist Step sequence.
The Brush Knee Twist Step is demonstrated in this video:
You Tube video by gonnmage

Hind Blow

Ryo also meets Tai Chi master Guixiang Lee at various points of the story, and she teaches Ryo a move called Hind Blow (斜行) which he uses against one of the landsharks.

You Tube video: Shenmue II: Hind Blow (Shenmue Dojo)

Again this is a real move, as demonstrated here:

You Tube video: Strike Techniques (Francio GasGas)

Martial Arts in Shenmue 3

It’s fascinating to see the level of research and accuracy Yu Suzuki puts in to the martial arts styles in the game. One can only be excited by the prospect of Wing Chun (a traditional Chinese martial art specializing in close range combat) and others appearing for the third game!

Many thanks to yuc02 for this insight into the world of Tai Chi and its realistic reflection within Shenmue!

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1 comment:

  1. Great job yuc02! It was interesting to learn more about these moves we see in the games.