Thanks for sharing your translation of the Yang Zhenji interview. I found a translation I did a while back of the story I had in mind from Yang Zhenji’s book. This also came from an interview, this one with martial arts journalist Yan Hanxiu, who co-authored Yang’s book, _Yang Chengfu Shi Taijiquan_ (1993). This is from pages 249-250:
THERE ARE NO TRICK MOVES OR SECRET SKILLS.
People learning the form often think that their teacher may be holding back from teaching a unique skill, like the cat teaching a tiger, but withholding the skill of climbing a tree. This is a common mentality. Yang Zhenji has also encountered this type of ‘knowledge seeker.’
On one occasion, a young man came visiting, saying. “Professor Yang, I have no need to learn the whole set -- if you teach me a few trick moves, I won’t practice them openly, but only secretly at night.” When Yang Zhenji heard this he didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Responding to this youth, he explained that he himself had no trick moves; that one must practice boxing (quan) according to the requirements. Once you have some accomplishment, just in putting out your hand or your foot, you attain practical results. However, no matter what Yang Zhenji said, the young man still did not believe him, saying that he was keeping something to himself, and not willing to teach it. Yang could only shake his head with a forced smile. When some students demanded that Yang Zhenji teach them how to use Taijiquan to fight, Yang Zhenji said, “You attend to your practice, that’s all.” Some students said that Professor Yang was unwilling to teach fighting.
Yang Zhenji stated that he indeed has no trick moves. He has been teaching in the city of Handan [Hebei Province] for over ten years, and from the beginning has sincerely taught people this practice method; he considers that if one proceeds according to the training methods, one will successfully train the unique skills. In training quan there are no shortcuts, and if one were to say there were, it would be to painstakingly train according to the requirements.
Yang Zhenji said, “To say that I don’t teach fighting, well in fact, everything I teach can be applied for fighting.” He brought up an example, saying, “The form Raise Hands is for left and right controlling the wrist, controlling the elbow. Hands Play the Pipa, is upper and lower support the elbow, control the wrist – if you encounter opposition [resistance, dui kang], once you extend your hand, then you could cause a broken wrist or a broken elbow. Is this not fighting? Is this not a trick move? But if you want to apply this, if you’re going to be able to prevail and succeed, you must train hard according to the requirements. To always be wanting some secret trick for fighting, is this also not an indication that one’s motive is not pure? So I tell him it’s useless to exert effort if the effort (jin) is not one unified jin (yige jin)*. You’ll be unable to obtain practical results.
Although Yang Zhenji explains patiently, some people still think that he is holding something back. They think certainly he has plenty of things transmitted in the family that he is unwilling to reveal to people.
Yang Zhenji repeatedly emphasizes, bitter practice brings true knowledge; gongfu comes from bitter practice. Without bitter practice, it comes to nothing, but gongfu will come with training. Then, in push hands, you can follow your heart’s desire, handle the situation with ease. Then, you will be able to control the other party, according to the opponent’s actual situation unconsciously (bu zhi bu jue). This is being able to fight, this is having trick moves.
*yige jin (one jin) is a favorite expression of Yang Zhenji’s, meaning that one’s strength (jin) is the result of complete integration of movement and intent.