Yanqing Men is one of the greatest systems of Northern Chinese Martial Arts. Unfortunately due to its difficulty in training, the bravery of its practitioners (many died in battle as they would join local militia, resistant and military forces) and the development of modern distractions, the methods of Yanqing Men continue to become extinct. Traditional Yanqing Men (also known as Mizongquan amongst other names) is composite system that was propagated in the Cangzhou and Tianjin greater areas of Hebei Province (to learn more about its history please go to our history section here). Amongst the 20 or so methods (consisting of 50 or so empty hand forms) within its repertoire. After the important Yanqing Jiazi foundation there are Mizong Quan, Lianshou Quan and Yanqing Quan which are the great three principal boxing arsenal within Yanqing Men. Many of the other methods are either from other styles absorbed into Yanqing Men or specific synthesis of techniques. Whilst Lianshou Quan focuses on deceptive interlinked hand techniques, Mizongquan of varying changes of angles and directions, it is Yanqing Quan which focuses on the integration of footwork, hands and legs where it seems like the techniques unfold one onto another like a rolling avalanche. Today only one or two sets of Yanqing Quan sets remain in Cangzhou. We have been fortunate enough to inherit the five sets of Yanqing Quan completely and shall introduce some of the interesting features of this boxing style. Each set of Yanqing Quan boxing consists over 50-70 techniques each.
Yanqing Quan is said to take on the spirit of two key animals being the ferocious tiger and the speed of Leopard. In actuality there are five inspirations which include the Tiger, Leopard, Eagle, Swallow and Ape within its methods. Tiger emphasizes power, the Leopard speed, the Eagle precision and accuracy, the swallow lightness and the ape agility. Some of the principles and techniques of the first three sets are introduced below:
The first set of Yanqing Quan emphasizes the principles of : (1) Strike whilst you are moving, (2) The end of one technique is the beginning of another, (3) Strike through decisively, intercept and deflect whilst attacking harmoniously, (4) Near an opponent rapidly, exit danger intelligently. Some of the techniques include White Crane opens its wings which is a very skillful method of displacement so that when the opponent is attempting to initiate certain attacks, they are nullified and entered into by a forceful close body strike. La Gong is a way of guiding an incoming strike leading it into control whilst the other hand is open to attack after disarraying the opponent. Fierce Tiger rolls his strikes is one of the important skills where a straight strike, back fist, hammering and smashing fist are combined into a ferocious series of attacks. It is this specific series of movements that gives the Tiger spirit to this first set of Yanqing Quan. A further feature is known as feign to the right enter to the left, act down attack upwards, move backward attack to the front, displace the guard attack the centre and remove all targets. This is supported by some of the skilled stepping of Yanqing Quan.
The second set of Yanqing Quan suggests principles such as : (1) Turning is a deception of risk, when done with speed it becomes a weapon. (2) When an attack cannot penetrate fold it, change it and commence again seamlessly (3) Destroying a limb is a way to achieve success without being stuck on the torso (4) To deflect ever so slightly is to allow a technique to be faster. Essentially the techniques of this set allow the use of smart and very fast techniques. The element of folding is how when an attack to the opponent is deflected or blocked somewhat the folding creates a new attack with little movement, only a slight adjustment which normally catches the opponent by surprise, this does not occur once but continuously. The destruction of a limb occurs because when folding it catches objects and it is designed to break the limb whilst in motion and continue on striking. Also many of the techniques are a direct limb break.
The third set of Yanqing Quan applies the principles of : (1) The legs are essential to supporting upper body attacks, the hands are essential to supporting lower body attacks including kicks and knees (2) open to the sides and thread through the middle, seek the centre and destroy from behind (3) When striking ensure to follow with a close/lean attack (4) Should your close in tactics fail then conduct the throw and follow up with ongoing strikes. Techniques in the third start to become a little more intricate as they utilize all parts of the body. Here the hands are unleashed whilst legs follow through as the legs create space the body then closes in and then the hands, elbows, shoulders or head strike, should they be intercepted then the body applies its motion into a throw. Most of the techniques are designed in bursts like an eagle capturing its prey, the techniques keep seeking until that opportunity arises and destroys the opponent in one quick swoop. There are a number of specialized stepping methods introduced as well which allow the rolling techniques to thread with more angles and depth of entry options.
The fourth and fifth set add greater agility and methods of reacting very quickly. The Yanqingquan sets therefore emphasize continuous power, speed, precision, lightness and agility.
Yanginq Men's Yanqing Quan is one of the essence of the old Yanqing Quan as passed down through Chen Shan. These were closely guarded because they were very effective so that during conservative times when skills were important they became seldom passed on. This resulted in the unfortunate situation today where there are hardly any practitioners of all the methods remaining. When M Chen passed away, he explained that these methods alongside the 8 lianshou quan and 6 mizong quan should never be taught to outsiders completely. We have to kept to his wishes but also concerned about the potential loss these combat skills and wonderful heritage.
The sixth entry in the coverage of Taijiquan styles development. As our Taijiquan history section denotes, Xi'an is the home of our Taijiquan (inclusive of Zhaobao and Chen Style) , in addition to the Beijing (Chen Style). The reasons for this are understood in the context of history and how Taijiquan became almost extinct in its homes of origin. We therefore outline the important return of Taijiquan to Chenjiagou (Chen Family Village).
Tang Hao visits Chen Family Village
In 1932, Tang Hao together with Chen Ziming journeyed to Chenjiagou. Chen Ziming was Chen Xin's nephew and used to teach in Shanghai at the time. Tang Hao (1887-1959) was from humble beginings but worked hard in practising Six Harmonies Boxing (Liuhe Men, 六合门) and becoming a Lawyer. Tang Hao also studied many other martial arts including Chen Taijiquan, and Japanese styles during his time there. He was one of the editors of the publication department of the Nanjing Guoshu Academy.
When they arrived to the Chenjiagou, Chen Chunyuan (the nephew of Chen Xin) had a copy of a set of manuscripts that were written by his uncle over the course of 12 years. This text [Taijiquan Illustrated, 陈鑫陈氏太极拳图说] was published in 1933 and whilst it outlined the practice of Chen Style Taijiquan in the past (today it is known as Small Frame Taijiquan), it became a classic for all Chen Style Practitioners. At the time the practice of Taijiquan in Chenjiagou was still flourishing and the expression that almost everyone in Chenjiagou could practice some martial arts was evident. After just a few years little did people expect chaos an catastrophe to hit Chenjiagou.
The disasters of the 1940's across the western areas of Henan Province
In 1938, Henan province was the centre of an ongoing effort by the Nationalist Government (Guomingdang, KMT) to stop the advance of the Japanese troops. Many local young men were conscripted into the army. The combination of natural and human factors ravaged Henan proivince. In 1941, locusts plagued Wen county and the Guomingdang (KMT) had taken controls over the area. Henan province was divided into the eastern half (under Japanese occupation) and the western half which was supposed to be under the Nationalist Government (based in Chongqing after fleeing Nanjing).
In 1942, the seasonal rains failed, causing severe drought. Combined with the ongoing locust plagues the harvests were destroyed and there was little food supply. The culmination of no local produce and the inability to obtain supplies from elsewhere during the conflict led an unfathomable situation of famine that started to cause great grief to the people during the winter of 1942. The famine caused significant tragedies with rising starvation and ongoing rise in diseases. In such dire situations families would sell their children in the hopes that would have a better chance elsewhere and some starving people had to resort to cannibalism or eating bark of the trees to try to survive. During the time an estimated 2 to 3 million people died from starvation or disease, and over 4 million people fled Henan province. Chenjiagou was in the centre of this drastic situation and of the 4,000 or so residents many suffered and over 800 fled (typically to Xi'an). During those years, many people left Chenjiagou (e.g. to Xi'an), many passed away in the wars, disease and famine.
Chen Family members and their demise through affiliation with KMT
After those years the situation improved ever so slowly in terms of famine and sino-japanese war, but the civil war between the CCP and the KMT continued. Since Chenjiagou was a part of the early movement into the area by the KMT, many of the villagers were associated with the KMT and reprimanded by the CCP. Some examples include Chen Zhaoxu (1912-1959) was the second son of Chen Fa'ke. Since Chen Zhaoxu was connected to the local militia affiliated with the KMT, he was jailed in 1955 and eventually passed away. Chen Zhaohai (1899-1950) was Chen Zhaopei's brother. Chen Zhaohai fought in the nationalist army under Fan Tinglan. Later he relocated to Zhengzhou. In 1949, he was imprisoned and then under the Repression of Anti Revolutionists movement in 1950 was executed.
The New Large Frame of Taijiquan returns to Chenjiagou
Today's what he could call mainstream Chen Style Tajiquan is derived mostly from the teachings of two key teachers that originated at Chenjiagou but resided elsewhere. These were Chen Fa'ke (1887-1957) who brought Chen Style Taijiquan to Beijing in 1928 and Chen Zhaopei (1893-1972) brought Chen Style Taijiquan to Nanjing in 1930 (originally was in Beijing then invited Chen Fa'ke to take over) and taught for over eight years.
In 1958, Chen Zhaopei whom resided in Zhengzhou at the time visited Chenjiagou for Chinese New Year. It was his first time back in decades. Chen Zhaopei whilst advanced in years (65) felt that it was a shame that there were no longer any practitioners in Chenjiagou. He was saddened that there were no successors in the birthplace of Taijiquan and no serious practitioners left in Chenjiagou. It was a difficult decision because at the time both his wife (second wife) and son (whom had a good job and family in Zhengzhou) were against him returning to Chenjiagou. He also had to retire from his work (Flood Control Committee) earlier foresaking an increase in his pension. Chen Zhaopei however against all odds felt a sense of responsibility and returned to the Chenjiagou during his retirement years. Unfortunately this was not going to be an easy quest for there were still a number of CCP initatives that impacted the ability to propagate and teach Taijiquan during those years. The Great Leap forward was distracting and in 1966-1976, The Cultural revolution saw the repression of traditional teachings including martial arts. Facilities were closed down and practitioners were prosecuted. Chen Zhaopei was said to have been persecuted by the red guards and even attempted suicide during those years. His legs were injured for almost two years and had to use a stool/walking assistance during the time. Much of the training had to be conducted in secret and many elements (eg weapons) a challenge to practice in confined space so mostly only the laojia yi lu was taught. After Chen Zhaopei's death, Chen Zhaokui (Chen Fa'ke's youngest son) continued teaching at Chenjiagou. The local secretary of the CCP for Wen County, Zhang Weizhen also invited Feng Zhiqiang to teach. Feng Zhiqiang visited three times for short intensive teaching sessions.
As a result the teachings at Chenjiagou were distinguished into the old (Chen Zhaopei's) and the new (Chen Zhaokui's) frame of practice. The Taijiquan practiced by the older generations would find a new home in Xi'an and become known as Chen Small Frame Taijiquan. Whilst the descendants of Chen Fa'ke would derive a number of different versions of Taijiquan practice (sometimes called Beijing Chen Style Taijiquan) including Li Jingwu, Lei Muni, Tian Xiuchen and Feng Zhiqiang amongst others.
Contrary to the portrayal of martial arts in films and novels, where some how by meditating over a few animals, a terrific martial art was created and passed down. The authentic combative martial arts of China are derived from the practical experiences of its military, rebels and later security logistics bureau's. Often there are stories of individuals escaping the government by disguising themselves as monks or changing identities and hiding in the mountains but in general their skills were developed, proven and tested on the battlefield or in actual altercations. Given that is the case what is it of these martial arts ? what were the most famous or popular at the time ? and under what conditions were they formulated, developed and passed on.
The history of rebellion is a long and persevering one. To those that understand China's history they would know that throughout much of that long time, it was ruled by foreign nations (e.g. Yuan Dynasty by the Mongols) or constantly defending itself from such (e.g. Song Dynasty became the Southern Song by the Jurchens). In addition, there were many minorities in China (today formally 52) that through time instigated there own efforts for independence or conquest of land. Further as a result of some dynastic periods with less than amiable social economic environments it led to a country that would be in constantly rebellion.
Since over 2,000 years ago, rebellions played a major role in the changes of power, government and the country. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, the Yellow Turban Rebellion (Taiping Rebellion) in the Shandong area and the Five Pecks of Rice Rebellion in Sichuan area were the backdrop to what became the rise of Cao Cao and the 3 Kingdoms period. The Tang Dynasty was substantially affected by the An Lushan Rebellion. The Yuan Dynasty came down from the Red Turban Rebellion (White Lotus) where the to be Emperor of the Ming Dynasty established his position from. The Ming dynasty fell on the back of Li Zicheng's rebellion leading to the formation of the Manchu Qing dynasty. Throughout the Qing dynasty endless rebellions prevailed from the White Lotus Rebellion (1796-1804), the Bagua Uprising (1813), the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864) , the Nian Rebellion (1851-1868), the Boxer Rebellon (1899-1901) and many other minor ones. In fact the Xinhai Revolution which was later to become the fall of the Qing and founding of the republic led by Sun Yat-sen, was founded on the back of rebellious groups (some of those later became the triads).
Throughout all those rebellions, martial arts were continuously evolving and developing, from the ability to create peasant armies by quick direct and effective movements in the some of the Southern areas, to the adoption and recruitment of known martial arts experts into the various groups. Rebellions had a substantial contribution to the authentic martial arts. They were recruitment, training and more importantly well tested battlefields. Although many martial arts are associated with these we will list some of the key ones accordingly.
By no means complete, this is just as examples of the various styles associated (ie. a number of practitioners had joined or were leaders in those rebellions). What also should be understood is that when practitioners fought alongside one another they would mutually exchange skills, test them though combat and enhance their martial arts. It should also be noted that weaponry often prevailed over boxing methods, and thus it is common to find same methods of weapons across multiple styles/systems.
ARMED SECURITY LOGISTICS BUREAUS
The armed security business became an important part of commercial trade in China. Without armed escort's protection, a lot of Merchants could not run their business smoothly to transport value commodities like medicines, precious metals (gold) and valuable articles from one place to another. These businesses rose to prominence during the Qing Dynasty. To be successful in the armed security business (Biao Ju), the companies needed to hire the best Guards (Biao Shi), which were selected typically from the most competent martial arts exponents at the time. Whilst there were many such security logistics bureaus, there were a few outstanding and held in high esteem. Many of the trade routes throughout China had established different centres of excellence, from the housing of valuables in Pingyao, the need to cross through the Cangzhou Canals and the financial institutions in Tianjin or the government centre in Beijing. So what were the top Bureaus and what martial arts did they practice:
Of those, the Cheng Xing Biaoju in Cangzhou became famous for the saying 'Flags should not be raised when crossing Cangzhou'. Li Guanming and his team of Da Liuhequan (大六合门 Greater Six Harmonies Boxing) were renowned and were not to be crossed with. As a result, Li Guanming established one of the most comprehensive martial arts systems that absorbed much from the styles in the area including Liuhe, Tantui, Guangdong, Hong and Chahua boxing. Da Liuhe Men Wang Zibin (better known as Big Sword Wang, Da Dao Wang Wu) was a disciple of Li Guanming and member of the Cheng Xing Biaoju, established his own Security Bureau in Beijing called Yuan Shun Biaoju.
In addition to the establishment of the various bureaus, many of the martial arts experts were just employees of the Bureau.
Yantai is well known for its Mantis Boxing, and as part of the weapons in the system, it is common to find the Six Harmonies Staff (六合棍). This staff method is said to have been brought into the Mantis boxing world from practitioners in Nantushan village in Fushan district. In August, 2010 The Nantushan Liuhe Staff was entered into the official Yantai records and M Cheng Xianming (1937-) from Dongbie Guan Village, Fushan District, Yantai City, Shandong as a representative inheritor.
Cangzhou, the origin of the Liuhe Staff
Cheng Xianming explains that the Liuhe Staff was not from Nantushan but was brought into the village by a man called Yu Qiu (于秋) from Cangzhou in Hebei Province (where many great martial arts were practiced including Liuhequan (六合拳 Six Harmonies Boxing)). In the Chongwen (1628-1644) period of the Ming Dynasty, a resident of Nantushan, Yu Erzhi travelled to Cangzhou and whilst in an Inn helped a man escape from the authorities. This man called Qiu later returned with Yan Erzhi to Nantushan and together that taught the Staff methods to Yu Erzhi's grand son, whom showed great dedication and skills in its practice. As a result Yu Qiu taught the complete staff methods and from then on, the Nantushan Six Harmomies staff legacy commenced.
Yu Family Legacy
This Six Harmonies staff was kept secret within the Yu Family of the Nantushan village for generations. It wasn't until the Qianlong (1711-1799) period of the Qing dynasty, that Yu Yi taught the staff outside the family. Yu Yi at the time also wanted to enhance the family's martial arts and sought to exchange with Boxing masters. It is at that time that Liang Xuexiang, the famed Master of Praying Mantis Boxing exchanged the Beng Bu Mantis Boxing method for the Six Harmony Staff. A local folklore explains that in the past Nan Tu Shan would select the best fighters to protect the village and their recognition so great that it was said "As long as the 36 fighters come down the mountain, all under heaven would be in Peace". Unfortunately after martial expert from Cangzhou came to the village challenging the best fighters with his short stick, defeating every single one of the them. The village became very disheartened. One of the village expert stick fighters, Yu Peisheng was away on business and after hearing the news returned. Yu Peisheng defeated the short stick fighter with ease and the reputation of the Nantushan Yu Family stick was restored and continues until this day.
Six Harmonies Staff Method
The Six Harmonies Staff consists of Six rounds (sequences) with 110 movements in total. Each of the movements or techniques have specific names and essential requirements. The techniques must be practiced clearly without any omissions, it is a complete Staff system. The Method has many features in accord with both the staff and the spear and it is often said that within the Staff the Spear is hidden. The Six harmonies staff clearly divides Yin and Yang, integrates Bagua theories, Clearly separates the full and empty, there are effective methods of entering and retreating. It is very lively and agile, with a large variety in techniques. Those together with the Body methods, Stepping, Bravery and the physical skills allow practitioners to achieve great Staff skills. To ensure effectiveness, the staff used in the method is the White Wax wood eyebrow height staff. There are six staff methods Tiao (pick), Ci (Stab), Pi (Axe), Liao (Lift up), Sao (sweep), Jiao (Cross) and the variations of those with confusing changes and linking methods allows the Six Harmonies staff to come alive. As it is said in Northern circles " The Spear pokes along the straight line, whilst the staff strikes across a large area".
Ensuring the true transmission of the Six Harmonies Staff
Cheng Xianming had studied Praying Mantis boxing with Che E'ting and Su Kebin. He learnt the Six Harmonies staff from Zhang Baolu and Luan Hongcheng. Cheng Xianming told of the story how he loved martial arts from a young age and in those days to become a army cadet he started to train the Six Harmonies staff. Since real combat skills were necessary, he thought the study of Six Harmonies staff would be most useful. But at the time the Stick method was not taught to outsiders. So he followed a young boy from the Nantushan Villiage and became friends and the young boy would take the family's Boxing Manual out. So in this way the methods would be in line with the requirements noted in the boxing manual. This way rather than have variations of the staff methods, it would ensure that the techniques would remain true to their original skilled design. M Cheng was an industrious student and was not satisfied with both the transmission and alignment to the boxing manual. He later followed Fushan's Yang Jingtang's disciple to further his research on the Six Harmonies Staff.
The second entry in the so called other (or ancient) Taijiquan styles is about a highly influential M. Song Shuming, Song Style Taijiquan.
Song Shuming (宋书铭, ~1840-1925) originally from Baoding, Hebei Province. It was proclaimed that he learnt the boxing method from Sun Yuanqiao (宋远桥) whom traced a lineage that goes back to the Tang Dynasty. The legend claims that the founder of the style was Xu Xuanping (許宣平) whom is said to have been a hermit that resided on Chengyang Mountain in the Tang Dynasty. Xu practiced a type of Taiji style called “Sanshiqi, 三世七” or (Tiangong Quan, 天功拳). Xu was described as tall man with long hair and a long beard. There are also stories that suggest Xu Xuanping had studied at Nanyan Gong with Daoist Master Li Daozi on Wudang Mountain. Li Daozi was thought to have practiced a method known as “Xian Tian Quan, Pre-heaven Boxing” and in another lineage of these non rudimentary Taijiquan there is the Yu Family descendants such as Yu Liandan in the Ming Dynasty also claim this line.
Meeting Xu Yusheng and the Beijing Sports Research Society
In accord with Song Shuming account. Song Yuanqiao was a martial arts master from the Qing periood and had passed a Taijiquan from ancestors back since the Tang dynasty. Song Shuming was working within Yuan Shikai’s (1859-1916) regime and became associated with Xu Yusheng (1878-1945) who was working in the Sports Department. Once Yuan Shikai passed away, Song Shuming returned to his hometown and no one knew much about him afterwards.
Xu Yusheng had studied since 6 years old withi his brother Cha Quan and Tantui since a young age and when he was 20 studied with Liu Dekuan. He also studied Taijiquan with Yang Jianhou. In 1912 along with Wu Jianquan, Zhao Xinzhou, Geng Chengxin, Guo Zhiyun, Ge Qingwu, Ji Zixiu and Heng Shoushan established the “ Beijing Sports Research Society” .
It is said that Xu Yusheng held Song Shuming in high regard because after an exchange of hands, Xu was no match for Song Shuming (at the time Song Shuming was about 72 years old whilst Xu Yusheng was 33). During the short time in Beijing (~1912-1916), Song Shuming is said to have given pointers or guidance to Xu Yusheng and his associates in the Beijing Sports Research Society. Whilst they learnt the Sanshiqi, none were taken as disciples.
An interesting story tells of Wu Tunan (～1884-1989) having in posession a text known as [Song Style Family Heritage Taiji Gong Origin and branches] and then Song Shuming pulling out an almost identical [Song Yuanqiao Taiji Gong Origin and branches]. Coincidence or just a nice story. Another story tells of an exchange with Yang Shaohou (but this also did not likely happen).
Deeper notion of Sanshiqi
In accordance with the Song manual, the San Shi Qi also represents three generations and seven (types), which refer to the theories of the style that state Mankind has 3 generations (Heaven Prior, Earth After and Man today) boxing which is divided into 7 types (Outsider, insider, Ordered, In the Hall, in the Room, Openly, Spiritually transformed).
The 37 postures are thought to have been extractions of the key methods with Yang Style Taijiquan. The practitioner does not need to follow an order of practiced, rather once mastered the postures could be combined in any order or could be made long and short through repetition as considered necessary. However, it had to flow smoothly, thus the Chang Quan (Long fist like a flowing river expression being applied).
Influence of Song Style Taijiquan to Wu Style Taijiquan.
Yang Luchan, the renowned founder of Yang Style Taijiquan taught in the Imperial Palace for the Security Guards Camp. During the time only three indviduals managed to acquire Yang Luchan’s skills. These were Wan Chuan, Ling Shan and Quan You. In order to avoid conflict to Yang’s position in King Duan’s palace, the three Manchurian students were acknowledged as disciples under Yang Banhou (Yang Luchan’s son). Quan You’s son, Ai’shen (i.e. Wu Jianquan) had studied martial arts with his father but since Quan You passed away in 1902, Wu Jianquan had placed much efforts in the research of the Taijiquan skills with fellow practitioners such as Qang Maozhai, Guo Fen, Liu Dekuan, Ji Zixiu, Xia Guixun and Heng Tai whom practiced together and developed the Taijiquan system further.
Wu Jianquan, Liu Enshou and Liu Caichen practiced Taijiquan with Quan You and later became associated with Xu Yusheng and his society. Wu Jianquan especially had sought out Song Shuming and acquired his 37 postures . Later Wu Jianquan developed from his fathers teachings, those exchanged with others and Song’s method influence what would be known as -Wu Style Taijiquan. In 1928 he moved Southwards from the capital to teach and in 1935, Wu established the Jianquan Taijiquan School in Shanghai.
Song Shuming's Yang Style Taijiquan or something else
It is hard to determine whether the 37 postures are because of their name or their practice really just from Yang Style Taijiquan or if because many of those that acquired the 37 postures were from a Yang Style Taijiquan background that today, the 37 postures are simply almost equivalent to the methods within Yang Style Taijiquan. Another account suggested that Song had practiced with Wu Yuxiang (1812-1880) for a short while in 1951 before Wu left to travel to Zhaobao Village for advanced study and because of the short time emphasized the key postures. In fact all the postures in Song Shuming's Sanshiqi are found in the normal Yang Style Taijiquan allbeit with slightly different practice approach and removing all repetitions.
The mystery might never unfold clearly but many of the methods in Yang Style Taijiquan and Wu Style Taijiquan today incorporate both influences from Song Shumings Sanshiqi or the theories, and the research of the respective representatives that worked together in research whilst in Beijing.
Later, historians to justify the relationship of Zhang Sanfeng to Taijiquan and Taijiquan to Wudang, further elaborated the lineages between the Tang Dynasty Hermit Xu and the elusive Song Shuming which is the basis of many other Taijiquan including Wudang Taijiquan - but more of that next time.
The 37 Postures of Song Shuming's Sanshiqi
1. Grasp the Sparrow's Tail
2. Single Whip
3. Raise Hands Upper posture
4. White Crane Spreads Wings
5. Brush Knee Twist Step
6. Hand Strums the Pipa (Lute)
7. Deflect, Parry Punch (Banlan Chui)
8. Apparent Close up
9. Cross Hands
10. Embrace Tiger return to mountain
11. Angled Single Whip
12. Observe Fist underelbow
13. Step back and repulse the monkey
14. Slant Flying
15. Needle at bottom of the sea
16. Fan through the back
17. Hammer with fist (Pieshen Chui)
18. Cloud Hands
19. Stand high search for horse
20. Llft Right Split kick
21. Turn body press kic
22. Downwards strike
23. Right Press kick
24. Left right strike tiger
25. Twin strikes to the ear
26. Drape body press kick
27. Part the horse's mane
28. Jade lady Thrusts
29. Lower posture
30. Golden rooster stands on one leg
31. White Snake expels poison
32. Cross outcircle kick
33. Crotch strike
34. Seven Stars
35. Ride Tiger
36. Double swinging lotus
37. Bend bow shoot the tiger
In the villages of Hebei province the art of combat has been entrenched into society for hundreds of years. It is here that most of the renowned fighters throughout Chinese martial arts history evolved. Jingang Quan, also known as Ba Da Jingang Quan (八大金刚拳 Eight Great Warrior Guards Boxing), Jingang Luohan Quan (金刚罗汉拳 Guardian Luohan) and sometimes as Shaolin Quan (少林拳Shaolin Boxing) is one of the older boxing methods of Northern China. Jingang Quan is a powerful, practical fighting system.
Feng Keshan, the founder of Chuojiao (戳脚), was one of the leaders of the Bagua Jiao (八卦教), also known as the Tianli Jiao (天理教). He had studied martial arts since young initially under the tutelage of his household who were imperial officers and then with many masters across Shandong, Henan and Hebei province. Jingang Quan was said to have been one of his earlier studies and the core foundation to his simply awesome abilities.
Jingang Quan consists of many skills including a foundation practice (金刚架子 Jingang Jiazi), also known as Luohan quan) which allows the most fundamental techniques to be exercised, a core practice (金刚捶Jingang Chui) which contains all the essential fighting techniques and a set of combat practice (金刚散手Jingang Sanshou) which starts from the practice of individual techniques, duel set and free combatives. There are also a few additional materials created by descendant masters in the generations after Feng Keshan.
Jingang Chui consists of eight Tang (Sequences) with each having its own specific objectives, techniques and training focuses. As an example the fourth sequence applies the signature Wuhua Pao (Canon Fists) adding mobility across the three angles/gates (Sanjiao or Sanmen). The fifth focuses on large techniques requiring continuity (Lianhuan), speed and a powerful flexible waist. It emphasizes hidden or deceptive techniques. Jingang Chui uses large, extended, circular movements to improve overall body mobility in the muscles, tendons, and joints. It is dynamic and directly powerful, with aggressive attacks and intelligent counter tactics.
The additional boxing methods created by second generation Jingangquan practitioners (students of Feng Keshan and Duan Family) include : Si Da Jingang (4 Great Guards), Ba Bu Jingang (8 Steps Jingang) and Wuzu Jingang (5 Ancestors Jingangquan). Si Da Jingang is also known as Sixing Quan (4 Shapes Boxing) since it emphasizes the techniques associated with four animals (Green Snake, Fierce Tiger, Brave Eagle and Rabbit). Babu Quan (8 Steps Boxing) emphasizes eight main tehcniques. Wuzu Jingang is based on the five sets of straight line fist combinations.
Throughout Jingangquan there is an abundance of throwing and takedown methods. Some of its methods are extremely specialized like the Huanglong Sanquan (Yellow Dragon three coils and turns). The key throwing methods like Gouzi (Hooking), Qiezi (Cutting), Biezi (Outside Sweeping) and so on are found in Jingang's repetoire.
Like many of the central plain martial arts, multiple opponents is a key to their routine practices. Sudden changes of direction, footwork and integrated techniques are all representative of that. Jingangquan has numerous methods like this from the commonly applied Bei Chui (Striking through to the back), to the linked strikes of Riyue Mingzhu (Sun and Moon Bright Pearls).
Deceptive since its methods seem long, within its arsenal Jingangquan includes sophisticated grappling methods and locks. From the cross hands that intercept strikes, to the kao (near body) methods which then apply an number of wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee and whole body trapping, locking and grappling.
Chuojiao is essentially the King of kicking methods and renowned as such throughout China. Jingangquan also has a large array of kicking methods from the usual Yuanyang Jiao (Mandarin Duck Kick), Qianhou Sao (Front/Back sweeps), Cun Tui (Inch Kicks), Deng Tui (Stamping Kicks), Xuan Kong Jiao (Jumping Kicks) and so on.
Hand and Other Techniques
Jingangquan's arsenal includes a large array of strikes: uppercuts, circular strikes, straight punches, groin smashes, bridge smashes, hammer strikes, dragon eye fists and so forth. There are also elbows such as upward elbows, turning elbows, pressing elbows and spinning elbows. Palm strikes include chopping palms, pressing palms, pushing palms, covering palms, toppling palms and more. There are even headbutts.
Jingangquan is not just set/routine of Chuojiao but in fact a system of boxing onto its own. Direct, powerful, tactical and effective. Unfortunately with fewer practitioners today and even less that understand Jingangquan's combatives fully, it is one of those treasures that are slowly fading.
Whilst it is widely acknowledged today that Taijiquan originated in Wen County with the influence of Jiang Fa and/or Chen Wangting (as the founders, inheritors, compilers or developers of the method), there are a few styles recording in folklore that are thought to be older. Whilst typically we tend to prefer separating fact from fiction in this case it is interesting since some of the theories and practitioners of those styles have been known to influence some of the Taijiquan styles known today. Cheng style herein described is considered as the oldest of those. This is the first of many short articles introducing such ancient styles and their influences on modern Taijiquan.
Cheng Style Taijiquan | 程氏太极拳
Han Gongyue (韩拱月) was said to live in the Liang Dynasty (502-557 AD) was considered the founder of some practice known as Taiji Gong (太极功) which was passed to Cheng Lingxi (程灵洗) who was from Huizhou District (徽州府), also known as Shezhou and today known as Huangshan City, Anhui Province. Cheng Lingxi practiced with great diligence and was said to achieve light and agile steps, that supported his impressive power. Cheng helped to protect Shezhou during the rebellion against Liang of the Southern Dynasties (侯景之乱) in 548. He was recognized as a devoted and powerful soldier, thereafter rewarded by an official governance post by the Liang Emperor.
This style remained within the Cheng Family until many generations later when Cheng Bi (程珌, 1164-1242), also a successful official of the Song dynasty was said to practice this Style which became known as Small Nine Heavens (小九天) in 15 postures. Cheng Bi wrote a number of short articles such as “Five notes on applied skill,用功五志” and “Five Natures return to One, 四性归原”
Five Natures return to one
Most people in the world do not know their own nature, How can one discover their nature ? The five natures which also apply to human nature, are also the nature that applies to world (Heaven & Earth). I rely on the world in order to survive and preserve life. Yet the world cannot be grasped and is formless. If I am then first able to comprehend my own nature, then the world will accept my indpendent spirit.
* The five natures are often representatives of the five emotional and physical states or ego-self that should be overcome.
Five notes on applied skill
The Five points on applied skill are interesting since they have also been found in the records by Zhang Songxi (Neijia Quan) and added/re-constructed in some of the Yang Style texts. Further the concepts are still be-fitting to current Taijiquan practice and many of the important focuses of Taijiquan seem to have been captured even back then.