Xingyi Quan - Classical Theory & Concepts - The Elbows Do Not Leave the Flanks
Monday, January 31, 2022
Saturday, January 29, 2022
Dao De Jing Chapter 69 - Strategists have a saying...trans by Scott Rodell
Yòngbīng yǒu yán,
wú bù gǎn wéi zhǔ ér wéi kè,
bù gǎn jìn cùn ér tuì chǐ.
Shì wèi xíng wú xíng,
rǎng wú bì,
zhí wú bīng.
Huò mòdà yú qīngdí.
Qīngdí jǐ sàng wú bǎo.
Gù kàng bīng xiāng rú, āi zhě shèng yǐ.
Strategists have a saying:
I don’t dare be the host, but the guest.
Don’t dare advance one inch, but retreat one foot.
This is moving without moving.
Push up your sleeves without revealing your arms,
prevailing as if you have no enemy,
wielding your weapon as is there was none.
The greatest disaster is to under estimate the enemy.
Under estimating the enemy I lose my treasure.
When soliders resist each other, those who lament combat will be victorious.
Commentary and Notes- Daoist thought has had a strong effect on almost every aspect of Chinese life, including combat and strategy. In this chapter, Laozi speaks of being the guest instead of the host, codifying one of the basic approaches to strategy in jianfa. When one is the host, one acts first, arranges things, demonstrating one’s intent by way things have been organized. The host does all the work then invites the guest in. From the swordman’s point of view, this presents a great deal of information about one’s plan of action and skill set. On the other hand, when one is the guest, one follows the action without interjecting one’s own plan. In this way, the swordsman can know his opponent while keeping that duifang in the dark about one’s own strengths and weaknesses. This is action or movement without there being action. This means that instead of expending energy on a plan of action, one waits and listens, allowing the duifang to expose his or her intent. Then, with this clear insight, applies the correct counters to defeat the duifang’s strategy. In this way, without having taken any action of one’s own, one can prevail. This does not mean surrendering control of the action to the duifang. Rather it means controlling the action by allowing the duifang to tell you his or her plan.
“Push up your sleeves without revealing your arms,” is a specific example of what the first line alludes to. Preparing to engage a duifang, one would commonly push the long flowing sleeves of Chinese garments up out of the way as the hands are raised to a useful position. But in doing so, one should not show any aggressive intent, or indeed any intent at all. Sunzi similarly suggests one -
“Be extremely subtle
Even to the point of formlessness
Be extremely mysterious
Even to the point of soundlessness
Thereby you can be the director
Of an opponent’s fate.” (trans. Tomas Clearly*)
While the Taijiquan Lun records, that by hiding one’s intent, “He (the enemy) can not know me, I alone comprehend him. Where ever a hero goes he has no enemies, this is because he has achieved these skills.\.” 人不知我, 我獨知人. 英雄所向無敵, 蓋皆由此而及也.
The notion of emptiness expressed as “wielding your weapon as is there was none,” is a common one found in jianfa. It brings to mind Huang Yuanxiu, (黃元秀),”Song of Empty Mind” from his Fundamentals of the Wudang Sword Method:
The song says
With palm empty, the sword is lively.
With the center of the foot empty, the footwork is nimble.
With the topknot empty, the entire body is one.
The central idea in Huang’s “Song” is that by being free of any predisposition, one’s movements as lively and adaptive, so that one is able to respond exactly as needed.
- Scott M. Rodell
*I usually prefer to translate myself any lines I reference from a Chinese classic, but honestly, I just couldn’t translate make any significant improvement over that already offered by Thomas Clearly when it came to this line.
Thursday, January 27, 2022
CHINESE Swords & Swordsmen in Victorian Times: Period Combat Accounts
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Sunday, January 23, 2022
INTERVIEW WITH ZHAO DAOXIN Recorded by Huang Jitao Translated from Chinese by Andrzej Kalisz FOUND HERE
"This is an excellent interview from one of the 20th century’s great Chinese Internal Martial Artists. Zhao Daoxin was a student of Zhang Zhaodong, one of the most capable Xingyiquan fighters of the early 20th century, and Wang Xiangzhai, the founder of Yiquan, one of the only “Internal” martial arts experts with a verifiable fighting record.
I pulled this from my teacher, Tim Cartmell’s website, Shenwu.com. It is an excellent interview that highlights the true reality of early 20th century Chinese martial arts training instead of the revisionist BS we often see from those “purists” out there. Please keep in mind when reading this that the translation was made by a non-native English speaker and thus there mistakes that are not mine. I have tried to correct the English where possible as long as I knew it wouldn’t change the meaning of the text or if I was unsure what the original text said since I don not read Chinese."
Zhao Enqing originally was a disciple of Zhang Zhankui (Zhang Zhaodong). Later he learned from the founder of yiquan – Wang Xiangzhai and became one of his best students, receiving from Wang an honorary name Daoxin.
The original interview was made by Huang Jitao in 4 sessions over 4 days and is quite long. Here is only a translation of small part.
So also traditional wushu is not efficient in fighting?
People from traditional styles say that the modern wushu from national institutes is just “flowery forms”. But it still doesn’t mean that they themselves possess “true gongfu”. The wushu from institutes neglects the fighting side, while traditional wushu is talking about fighting. But it doesn’t mean that it really got it… Contemporary traditional wushu, just like the wushu from institutes is mainly about training forms. Moreover there is a lot of symbolic or ritual gestures, with no relation to fighting. Looking from point of view of training – they still use old methods of low efficiency. In theory they should help to develop practical skills, but in fact are more like kind of praying, method of developing patience, and just a lot of useless effort. I don’t know how many dozens of thousands of people practice traditional wushu in China. But I also don’t know about any of them, who could prove their abilities in fighting on international stage.
But in times when foreign fighting experts and strong men kept coming to China, Chinese masters of that generation defeated them many times…
If there are so many examples of Chinese master defeating foreigners, why do we only hear about it from our side, and they don’t mention this? Maybe they don’t want to talk about being defeated. But on the other side how many Chinese were defeated, but we didn’t talk about it because it would be humiliating. Anyway we don’t know what were the proportions between victories and defeats. And if Wu Song had fought not a tiger, but just a cat, there wouldn’t be reason to praise him for centuries. And what kind of opponents were those foreigners, who were defeated by our masters? My teacher (Zhang Zhankui) met Russian “strong man”, I met Danish “boxer”. Other friends had similar situations. But our opponents were defeated after just one action, there was no real fight. But this was only because traditional Chinese wushu didn’t meet real tigers. In those times you could easily become famous because of “defeating” some foreigner, but it was only because they were not any real experts.
More challenging was fighting with other Chinese at that time. No foreigners signed up for the leitai tournaments in Hangzhou or Shanghai. And the people from traditional styles, no matter if they were some monks or great masters famous in some place, they either became injured in fights or were not brave enough to fight. And the winners, although they signed up as representatives of some traditional systems, instead of forms and other methods of those systems, they were using completely different methods preparing for fighting.
Could you tell us your opinion and views about Chinese martial arts?
There is not much time. So I will only outline some issues. This will not be a very systematic discussion. And because people all the time talk a lot about advantages, I will speak rather about the problems.
First tell us, what you think about the internal and external division, and division based on territory.
If we want Chinese martial arts develop, we must reject such divisions. It doesn’t mean that there is no meaning in them at all. But they only partially describe way of demonstration, and they don’t really say anything about way of fighting. Divisions in martial art should be based on effectiveness in fighting, and not the way of practice, and they should not be effect of swindle. They should express human body and developing technique, and not sect-like customs nourished for hundreds and thousands of years. The division for Shaolin, Wudang, Emei and Zhongnan arts is only expressing fact, that communication was difficult in old times. But it is past. And the internal-external division was made up by literati fascinated by the style which they practiced, so they started calling it internal family art – skillful writers created flowery descriptions. But in fact nobody would talk about himself being representative of external family art. In fact, in real fighting there are no styles.
But the internal-external division is at least representing the real division for soft and hard.
This division is even more muddled. Some just use it to criticize other schools. But when they talk about their own school, they stress that “soft and hard supplement each other”, that “internal and external are trained together”. They maintain that it’s only them who keep right balance between soft and hard, while others tend to much toward softness or hardness.
But the concepts of internal-external, soft-hard, at least led to developing sophisticated theories of internal training – concept “from yi to qi to jin”.
“Yi, qi, li”, “jing, qi, shen” – those concepts related to internal training are hard to express with normal language. We could say that it is about using self-suggestion to induce feeling of comfort and strength. There are new concepts, at least evenly useful, and even more efficient in practical use.
What are the shortcomings of Chinese martial arts if we are talking about way of fighting?
There is a lot of shortcomings and taboos. Apart from those which are common for all Chinese martial arts, there are other, specific for some school. For example everybody fears that his style will resemble some other, so they try hard to make it look different. If you tell some person doing baguazhang, that his movements resemble taijiquan, he will hardly accept such opinion. If you tell some xingyiquan practitioner that you notice some similarities to western boxing he will feel bad about it. But actually the differences between styles are more in ritual gestures than in the way of fighting. But those gestures are useful only for demonstration or meeting, in fighting they are useless and stupid.
There is also the taboo of falling down. In challenges there was an unwritten rule, that touching ground with a part of body different than the feet meant defeat. So in the south they stress “ma”, and in the north “zhuang”. In many styles long, low postures and centered torso are stressed. But what is real value of those stable techniques? The principle “when leg is raised, half body is empty” results in loosing opportunity of efficient kicks and hitting with knee. And the force which can be generated from non-balance is not used consciously yet. Constant talking about “not loosing center” disturbs developing agile body work and fast footwork. What is rejected in Chinese martial arts, is exactly what is most valuable on the international martial arts stage. Traditional Chinese martial arts are old men arts. Old is seen as equal to saint, authority, deep knowledge. But for old man it’s hard to raise leg for kick, and falling down can be dangerous. So this hidden weakness of [an] old master, in teaching process becomes taboo of “not loosing balance”. But fighting is not limited to shuaijiao competitions. In many cases loosing balance or even falling down is not big price for getting opportunity of executing efficient action.
Let’s now talk about training methods.
Our martial arts teachers like to seek for differences in techniques and to hide “secrets” in techniques. But in fact, the real differences, and the secrets are the training methods. Combat efficiency is decided by way of training. And methods of traditional training have low efficacy. You need a lot of time, and even after long time you are not sure if you will be able to use your skills in fighting. Training is a complex science – on border of many disciplines. Just repeating some exercises for dozens of years is not enough. I will not talk much, I will only mention several discrepancies.
First there is discrepancy between training and use. No matter which style, the problem is lack of actual fight training. In which traditional school, is most of the time spent on fight training? Traditional teachers make two funny mistakes. First – they say that fight training can only be the last part of [the] training process, that only when you have gongli, you can start testing it in fight. Second – they think that when you become proficient in tui shou and other exercises with partner which resemble fighting, it means that you developed fighting skill. Of course it is difficult to introduce hard fighting during training. Martial arts hobbyists don’t want to go to work next day with swollen face, and bruised legs. But if you want to achieve high level in martial art, you must make it. From the beginning you should train like you will fight.
Next is discrepancy between fatigue and intensity of training. Traditional teachers talk about practicing many hours a day. This is long time training but with low intensity. Muscles and nervous system are not activated in a way which is necessary for fighting. Those teacher hate using modern training equipment, and will not ask other person to train together. They prefer to hide in dark place, keep repeating some movements and pondering over theory.
Then there is also discrepancy between theory and practice, between technique and physical attributes, between what is practiced in public and behind closed door. These are only some examples.
We were talking about Chinese martial arts in general. Would you care to talk about specific styles?
Let’s start with xingyiquan and baguazhang…
…first xingyiquan. In 1920s and 1930s there were many representatives of xingyiquan among winners of leitai tournaments. But today “power” of xingyiquan decreased. The reason is that apart from problems common for all Chinese martial arts, this one which stresses harmony-unity has many aspects where there is lack of such harmony.
For example, there is lack of harmony between technique and force. In xingyiquan hitting technique is powered by pushing force. Fists or palms mainly push opponent, in small part causing damage. But it also doesn’t allow pushing opponent far away in pushing hands. Actually, it seems as if xingyiquan people have not decided whether their technique is for san shou or for tui shou.
And lack of harmony between form and intention. All are talking about form and intention both being important, but actually they go close toward one of the extremes… There is also lack of harmony between fighting methods and exercises.
People like comparing xingyiquan to western boxing. But they also fear this comparing. They think that Chinese “thing” should be pure. So when there is even coincidental similarity, they prefer to get rid of it. But I think, that as for training methods and competition, xingyiquan should learn from boxing.
Was creation of xingyibagua a result of trying to fill shortcomings of xingyiquan by using baguazhang?
Mutual supplementing started from friendly contacts between Dong Haichuan and Guo Yunshen and between their students. Then Zhan Zhankui linked them together into one system. But shortcomings of xingyi cannot be filled by using bagua. Bagua also has a lot of shortcomings, and they cannot be filled by using xingyi. Baguazhang has a thick outside layers through which it is difficult to see anything. If you look from outside, there is only [the] impression of complexity and mystery. Big part of first layer are legends about Dong Haichuan and his students. Second layer is the unnecessary and forced use of the theory of eight trigrams. Baguazhang teachers always talked about “Book of changes”, but nobody could explain at least one necessary link between this martial art and that classic book. Third layer is not distinguishing between basic exercises and fighting. Even teachers think “how to use this change”, “how to move around opponent with tangnibu steps”, “how to move behind opponent and attack his back” – that’s just deluded thoughts. And beyond the third layer – practitioners expand their arms and move around, like people starting to learn skating, and sometimes they make some change into extremely twisted position. So this is mix of legends, old saint books and strange techniques.
Taijiquan is attracting a lot of people, because of theory and health benefits. But many people doubt that such soft and slow method could work against explosive power…
Lay people have not developed prejudice, so their first impression can be quite right. Taijiquan has its own form of comparing skill – tui shou. Why not be happy with just this? Not every martial art must be good for real figthing. I remember as in period of Republic of China taijiquan experts explained that the reason for no taijiquan people being able to prove their fighting skill at leitai tournaments is because taijiquan is too profound and it’s difficult to master it. Was this some kind of excuse or sincere statement? Taijiquan theory looks great and could be a model for other classical theories of martial art. The main idea is relation between yin and yang. You want to be hard? So start from being as soft as possible, because ultimate softness changes into hardness. You want to be fast? Then start from slowness. This philosophy, that after achieving extreme some attribute changes into its opposite is attracting many people. But did anyone test it? No, if you see what those taijiquan masters, who can demonstrate issuing power are practicing in secret, you will understand what I’m talking about.
So you say that those young people who want to develop fighting skills are in some part misled by taijiquan concepts. If so, then maybe Shaolin is more sincere? They stress hard, fast, fierce, using both hands and legs. People think that Shaolin monks are the last kings of real fighting.
Ming dynasty generals went to Shaolin temple, having such opinion, and they left disappointed. Today many young people leave school and go to Shaolin. With the same effect – their faith in Shaolin becomes ashes. They come with thought of developing incredible fighting skill, not available for normal people. But in fact they just learn some acrobatics tricks. Training methods which they learn are outdated and not useful for developing real fighting skills. Breaking stones, standing upside-down on fingers, taking hits, when you make such demonstrations, with addition of some tricks typical for illusionists – public will be delighted. Ma Liang’s new wushu (Ma Liang published book “New Chinese Wushu” in 1918) and modern wushu, despised even by representatives of traditional systems, are based on Shaolin. And I remember as in 1920s and 1930s those “last kings of real fighting” kept loosing at leitai tournaments and were going away like rats, one after another.
And what you think about southern systems.
When we look at southern styles, we can see that they have their own, quite different character. But I cannot say much, as I didn’t study them. But from what I saw at the tournaments at end of 1920s “southern wind is not making you freeze”.
Finally, please tell us about the martial art created by yourself.
My “thing” comes from mistakes and losses. When I was young I liked to fight with famous experts. I had no respect for them, and when I defeated them, I didn’t care about some [of the] good things they had anyway. It not only disturbed [the] exchange of knowledge, but also [caused] hurt feelings. Since I disputed and maintained different views from the main stream of Chinese martial arts, I kept some distance from martial arts circles. Until now people call me eccentric and stubborn.
Initially, I created xinhuizhang, in order to explain traditional methods of using force, but actually this is just a form, and cannot efficiently improve practitioner’s combat abilities. Only now I’m working on summarizing all those training methods and fighting methods which I benefited from, with thought of supplementing xinhuizhang. But the way of competitive fighting on international scene is constantly changing. So my “things” are constantly being outmatched by others. If [I] will not work on improving it, there will be no progress. Lately I’m worried about xinhuizhang explosive issuing power with legs, so far I have not resolved this problem. And I hope that younger will criticize me
Friday, January 21, 2022
A Brief Discussion of Cheng Style Baguazhang by Liu Jingru Wuhun Magazine, 1999 vol. 1 no. 127 translated by Joseph Crandall
Baguazhang is one of the more famous of the traditional Chinese martial arts. It has distinctive practice skill methods and its palm method changes unfathomably. It has a good balanced reputation in the martial community. From the time of Qing Chengfeng (1851-1862), when Mr. Dong Haichuan introduced it until today, it is daily practiced and enjoyed by martial artists in China and overseas.
Mr. Dong Haichuan had many disciples. Yin Fu, Ma Weiqi, Shi Jidong, Song Changrong, Cheng Tinghua, Liang Zhenpo, Liu Fengchun, Zhang Zhankui, Fan Zhiyong, and Liu Baozhen were very famous. In terms of skill, achievements, dedication, and fame, Mr. Yin Fu and Mr. Cheng Tinghua come to the forefront. Although the principles and methods of their skill in Baguazhang was the same, after many years of training and teaching, each one gradually developed their own special style. These have become known as Yin Style Baguazhang and Cheng Style Baguazhang.
Mr. Cheng Tinghua, also called Yingfang was from Shen County in Hebei. He was born in 1848 and died in 1900. He was 52 years old. In Mr. Cheng’s early years he practiced Shuaijiao and Shaolin. As a result of someone’s recommendation, he asked to join Dong Haichuan’s school. He deeply got the pure essence and spirit of Baguazhang. Mr. Cheng was a large and strong man. He had an eyeglasses shop in Beijing. Therefore people all called him “Spiritual Strength Eyeglasses Cheng”.
In 1900, the Eight Countries Allied Armies invaded Beijing. Mr. Cheng wanted to stop a unit of the German army who were bullying the peaceful populace. He engaged the German army unit and was shot and killed.
Mr. Cheng had many students. The most famous were: Feng Junyi, Zhang Yukui, Kan Lingfeng, Li Wenpiao, Zhou Xiang, Zhang Yongde, Sun Lutang, Yang Mingshan, Guo Tongde, Liu Bin, Cheng Yougong, Cheng Youlong, and Cheng Youxin. They all made outstanding contributions to the development of Cheng Style Baguazhang.
Feng Junyi, was good at using the leg method. Men called him “Flying Legs Feng Junyi.” Zhang Yukui, was from a miller’s family. Men called him “Miller Zhang”. Kan Lingfeng men called “Kan Eight”. Zhang Yongde, sold boots. Hedid not know how to write, and often asked people to write letters for him. He never brushed pictures, only boots. Men called him “Boots Zhang.” Zhou Xiang’s face had pockmarks. Men called him “Pockmarks Zhou”. Guo Tongde sold steamed buns to make a living. Men called him “Steamed Buns Guo.” Yang Mingshan first studied with Mr. Cheng to make eyeglasses. Then he asked his teacher if he could also study Bagua. Liu Bin was Mr. Cheng’s youngest disciple. The above men all had very pure skills and were famous in the martial community.
Li Wenbiao, also called Guangpu, was among Cheng Tinghua’s most outstanding students. He was big and tall. His eyes were bright and his spirit was awesome. He was burly with enormous strength. He deeply got the pure understanding of Baguazhang. Li first followed Supervisor of the Military Xu Shichang and went to the Northeast. In Fengtian he was appointed to seek out foreign spies. At that time, many martial artists, like Warlord Li, Spiritual Wrestler Ji Si, Pigua Li Baorong, and Mr. Cheng’s nephew Cheng Yougong in the troops under his command. Later he held office with President Cao Kun in Beijing. Within his troops there were no less than ten of his Baguazhang classmates and some juniors, like Miller Zhang’s student Cui Yugui, Cheng Youlong’s student He Jun, Zhu WenBao’s student Liu Zhigang, and Cheng Tianhua’s student Liu Zitai. When Feng Yuyang rebelled against President Cao Kun, Li was killed in the confusion and looting. Master Li was famous for his depressing palm (ta zhang). No man dared to lightly test him. At that time, the martial community universally praised him.
Mr. Sun Lutang followed Guo Yunshen’s student Li Kuiyuan and studied Xingyi Quan. Then he asked Mr. Cheng Tinghua to teach him Bagua. Later he met Hao Weijin. Because his knowledge was already comparatively deep, he thereupon studied Taijiquan. Mr. Sun purely studied these three styles of martial art. He deeply got every nuance and fused them together. He authored The Real Meaning of Fighting, The Study of Xingyi Quan, The Study of Baguazhang, The Study of Taijiquan, and The Study of Bagua Sword, to be left for future generations. Mr. Sun held a teaching post at the Nanjing Central Kuoshu Institute. He was famous all over, and was one of the great martial arts teachers of his time.
Cheng Yougong, also known as Xiangting, was Mr. Cheng Tinghua’s nephew. When he first practiced Baguazhang, he would get up when the rooster crowed and practice assiduously. One time, in the Eyeglass shop, the disciples were all walking. Eyeglasses Cheng was in the central room drinking tea. Mr. Yougong was in the courtyard practicing the Turning Palms. Mr. Cheng not speak and Yougong was not allowed to stop or pause. In three years Yougong progressed greatly. When he followed Master Li Wenbiao in Fengtian looking for spies, he would practice the palms with a ten pound iron staff. He was never idle. Daily, by himself, would go out and arrest bandits. At that time, the bandits without a doubt all heard his name and lost their courage. He had a position in Headquarters Indoctrination Hall of the Northeast Army of Zhang Zuolin. He taught Baguazhang to Zhang Xueliang.
Cheng Youlong, also called Haiting, was Mr. Cheng Tinghua’s oldest son. When he was young he received Eyeglasses Cheng’s parental teachings. After he lost his father, he practiced his skills even more diligently. He later studied Taijiquan with Mr. Yang Jianhou and blended the two arts to make “Bagua Taiji Quan.” He was fair-skinned, and his nature was forthright and frank. He had a scholar’s air. He was pure in Baguazhang. He was also an expert in drawing and calligraphy. He extensively researched the principles of fighting. He also researched every nuance of the Paired Baguazhang Method and Bagua Meridian Mandarin Duck Axes. He died because he smoked too much. All of his classmates deeply mourned him.
Cheng Youxin, also called Shouting, was Mr. Cheng Tinghua’s second son. When Cheng Tinghua left this world, Youxin was only nine years old. He really never got his father’s true teachings, but learned from Cheng Tinghua’s students. They all gave him instruction and he reached a very high level. As a result of this, the instruction that he received came from many teachers. He did not receive one formal Bagua transmission. Nevertheless his skill caught up to that of his older brother, though it did not surpass it. Mr. Youxin was short and small. He was expert in lower basin stepping. Men called him ‘Cuo Ye’ (Short Uncle). The sum of his studies was his 64 Palms, only he was closefisted in teaching it. Only Mr. Liu Tanfeng got his teachings.
Principle Characteristics of Cheng Style Baguazhang
When practicing, you must walk the circle. Each circle is made up of eight steps with the idea of the feet stepping on the eight trigrams. Walk using the mud treading steps. The inside step moves straight. The outside foot slightly hooks inwards. Walking is done along the edge of the circle and is divided into upper middle and lower basins.
When the hands go out, you must have one palm reach out to the front and one palm defend in the rear. The fingers of both palms point upwards. The thumbs are open wide. The tiger’s mouths are round and push out. The remaining fingers are slightly curved. The fingers can be slightly spread or you can have the fourth and fifth fingers sticking together. The palms face the front and are naturally concave. The form of the back of the palm is like a tile. The heel of the palm pushes out. The palm strength is vigorous. It is called “Dragon Claw Palm.” The basic palm formation above is from Mr. Dong Haichuan.
The steps in Yin Style Baguazhang are small, lively, and tend towards a natural step. In Cheng Style Baguazhang, the steps are slightly larger. They change and transform at many points. Cheng Style Baguazhang is especially good at using large swing and hook steps. This is because Cheng Tinghua practiced Shuaijiao in his early days. The gripping and throwing method was blended into his Baguazhang. The swing step and hook step are truly transformed to cause tripping.
The outgoing hand in Yin Style Baguazhang is direct, with particular attention paid to suddenness, crispness, firmness, quickness, and abundant springy shaking strength. Men call it hard palm. Cheng Style Baguazhang pays attention to the interplay of hard and soft, with a lot of spiraling energy. It often has touching, sticking, continuously following, neutralizing, issuing and releasing, all coordinated together.
Cheng Style Baguazhang mainly uses hidden legs. It is very good at using the tips of the foot. When doing piercing palm, the heart of the palm faces upwards. The five fingers point to the front. The pierce goes out under the front arm. The palm method has cloud, thrust between, pierce, and strike... only it mainly uses push, uphold, pull aside, lead, parry, hook, split and advance.
Cheng Style Baguazhang is very good at holding three forms concurrently: Walking like a dragon. Turning like a monkey. Changing postures like an eagle. Sometimes it is tight and compact. Sometimes it is big and open. It is nimble, circular, and lively. It stretches out everywhere. It is especially good at twisting, wrapping, drilling, and overturning. The turning palms are like twisting rope.
The Palm Method Routines of Cheng Style Baguazhang
Mr. Cheng Tinghua had many students. For the most part they all had skill before they sought instruction from the master. Some of the students only studied a few palms before they left the teacher. They gained considerable fame among their contemporaries. Consequently by the time we get to the fourth generation, the names of the practice methods of the basic eight palms, eight big palms and their routines are no longer the same. Cheng Youlong’s student Sun Xikun wrote Genuine Transmissions of Baguazhang. In it his Eight Big Palms are: Single Change Palm, Double Change Palm, Flowing Posture Palm, Three Piercing Palms, Grinding Body Palm, Overturning Body Palm, and Returning Body Palm. Mr. Cheng Youxin was Cheng Youlong’s little brother. His Eight Big Palms do not have Three Piercing Palms, but instead have Turning Body Palm. My teacher, Luo Xingwu, asked Cheng Yougong about this business. Mr. Cheng Yougong said, “The Eight Big Palms must contain Turning Body Palm, and do not have Three Piercing Palms. Maybe Sun Xikun only had seven palms. Maybe he kept one palm secret and used Three Piercing Palms as a substitute.” Saying this, he immediately demonstrated Turning Body Palm. Therefore my teacher’s Turning Body Palm is from Cheng Yougong’s tradition and not Li Wenbiao’s teachings.
The Palm Method Routines of Cheng Style Baguazhang are:
Basic Eight Palms: Fierce Tiger Leaves the Mountain, Big Peng Spreads it Wings, Lion Opens it Big Mouth, White Ape Offers the Peach, Embrace the Moon to the Center of the Chest, Black Bear Searching Arms, Point to Heaven Insert to Ground, and Green Dragon Searching Claws.
Each palm has its own special energy and strength. Each palm has its own functional method. These are not just sections of Bagua’s palm method, but they are also the foundation of the Eight Big Palms and the 64 Palms. Therefore they are called the Basic Palms.
The Eight Big Palms: Single Change Palm, Double Change Palm, Flowing Posture Palm, Behind the Body Palm, Turning Body Palm, Grinding Body Palm, Overturning Body Palm, and Returning Body Palm.
The Eight Big Palms are not only the core routines for practicing Baguazhang skills, but they each also possess eight distinctive striking methods.
Single Change Palm is the outgoing hand already striking. All of a sudden it appears and it is over. Double Change Palm is a continuation of Single Change Palm, doing two or three strikes in a row. Flowing Posture Palm goes in the same direction as the opponent’s incoming hand. The energy and strength flow with the posture and yet strike. Behind the Body Palm goes contrary to the opponent’s incoming hand’s direction, contrary to energy and strength and yet strike. Turning Body Palm is turning to the left and right in front of the enemy. It has the left rotating and right turning striking methods. Grinding Body Palm uses toeing in and toeing out stepping in place in front of the enemy. It uses close-in striking. Overturning Body Palm uses suddenly turning over the body to strike in adverse circumstances. Returning Body Palm uses striking and then immediately walking away. Suddenly you turn back and strike again. Thereby defeating your opponent by a surprise move. Thus, the saying: “If you have Single , then you must have Double. If you have Flowing then you must have Behind. Turning Body Palm rotates left and turns right. Grinding Body Palm is not far from the enemy’s body. Overturning Body Palm is like the overturning body of a python, it defeats ones opponent by a surprise move. Returning Body Palm strikes and then walks away, walks and also returns. It is like a sparrowhawk turning back its head to grips its body.”
64 Palms: Though not included in the Eight Big Palms, each palm again adds seven palms. Together they are called Single Change Eight Palms. These are eight kinds strikes having the outgoing hand striking suddenly and being suddenly done. Double Change Eight Palms continues from Single Change Palm. It has eight types of strikes done two or three times in succession. Flowing Posture Eight Palms has eight types of strikes moving in the same direction as the opponent’s incoming hand’s direction. Behind the Body Eight Palms has eight types of strikes that go contrary to the opponent’s incoming hand’s direction, energy, and strength. Turning Body Eight Palms has eight types of strikes done now to the left and now to the right in front of the enemy. Grinding Body Eight Palms has eight types of strikes toeing in and toeing out in place close to the body in front of the enemy. Overturning Body Eight Palms has eight types of suddenly overturning the body to strike in adverse circumstances to defeat the opponent by a surprise move. Returning Body Eight Palms has eight types of striking and walking away, walking and also returning to strike.
The 64 Palms is a complete summation of the practice methods that Master Cheng Youxin learned from Master Cheng Tinghua and all of his classmates. truly is second generation, third generation and master Cheng Youxin’s 50 years painstaking training. By practicing the 64 Palms, not only can you strengthen your skill, but you can enrich the palm methods, and it can even help you to grasp the skills and essentials of Baguazhang.
Swimming Body Connected Palms: Swimming Body Connected Palms consists of the Basic Palms, Eight Big Palms, and the 64 Palms reorganized into connected routines. It can be used for participating in competitions and performances. It provides the practitioner with aesthetic grace. By practicing it you will strengthen your awareness of attack and defense. It will add many more changes to the palm method. The body method will become more agile. The stepping method will become still more ingenious. The skill will become richer. By going through with the training, the whole body, each muscle, joint, and organ, all parts of each physiological system get trained. It dispels disease, strengthens the body, and is a means of prolonging life.
Cheng Style Baguazhang Weapons Routines
Master Dong Haichuan was very good at the saber method. Master Dong’s epitaph says: “Dong’s hands went inches past his knees, therefore fists and palms many leave the man unexpected, all difficult defend against.” The length of the body of the Bagua saber is 4 feet 2 inches. Add this to the fact that Master Dong’s hands reached past his knees, we are approaching seven feet of length and beyond. We can infer that Master Dong, when he had a saber in his hand, was an impressive and extraordinary sight to behold. Therefore all of Master Dong’s students were good at the Bagua saber method. Cheng Style Baguazhang has in it Rolling Hand Saber, Point the Road Saber, Crowd Blocking Saber, and using the principles of walking and turning is Turning Saber.
Cheng Style Baguazhang has the sword method in it. Sun Lutang wrote a book A Study of Bagua Sword. Master Sun Xikun also has a sword method in his True Transmission of Baguazhang. The sword’s style and functional method are similar to the Bagua Saber. The Bagua sword has two edges, and besides the saber-like methods, there are the many uses of the sword’s point.
There are spear methods in Cheng Style Baguazhang, many of which are from the teachings of Big Spear Liu Dekuan. After Master Cheng Tinghua died, Big Spear Liu was the acting teacher and controlled the junior apprentices. He did his best to teach them, and give guidance and support to the less advanced. His transmission has Fighting Body Spear, Eight Spear, Black and White Sparrowhawk, Small Sparrowhawk, the method of the halberd, qinna methods and the straight line practice of 64 Hands.
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