The rare art of Zimenquan (Character Gate Boxing, also known as is Tsi Mun or Tzi Mun Chuan in other romanization), is known as an Ruan Men (Soft Gate/internal) martial art and is practiced in the little known Jiangxi province which is tucked away in the south central plains of China. Founded around 300 years ago by Master Yu Kerang, who was a native of Qingjiang (nowadays known as Zhangshu City) in Jiangxi province.

This martial art is known for its neutralizing techniques and the death-touching skills (Dian Xue, Dim Mak) of Wu Bai Qian and consists of various fast and powerful disbalancing combat methods.

The Taiping Institute is one of the very few schools of this rare martial art outside of mainland China.

Legendary Origins

In legend and folklore, the art of Zimenquan is held as the epitome of the Quanzhen (Complete Truth) school of Daoism martial practices. Prior to the formation of the Taiji concept which folklore places from Zhang Sanfeng, the daoist practice relied on deadly point striking skills which combined with internal energy cultivation could maim or kill in an instant. These methods were later hidden and replaced with a more Daoist approach in that of Taijiquan. The two arts both of the internal school and of the secret point striking were combined and taught in the Lushan (Jiangxi province) and Wudangshan (Hubei Province) areas amongst Daoists. Whether the legends are true, the fact is that Zimenquan is considered a very advanced art of the Daoist Quanzhen and Wudang martial arts. 

History and Origins of Zimen Quan

In the Qing dynasty, around 350-400 years ago there was a venerated Master Luo Ming (though to have been of Hakka decent - ex Ming loyalist) who was a wanderer. His skills were said to have originated from the schools of both Shaolin (thought to be Southern Fujian based martial arts of Hequan (Crane Boxing) and Houquan (Monkey Boxing) and of Wudang (from the teachings of Wang Zheng Nan, known as one of the forefathers of the Internal (Neijiaquan) school of boxing). When Luo Ming passed by Qingjiang county (now known to be Zhangshu city in Yichun jurisdiction) he crossed paths with Wu Heming. 

Master Wu Heming was a well known teacher of martial arts in the area and had quite a few students/followers at the time. The art that Wu Heming practiced was that of the Song Dynasty Yue Fei family's Yingmen (also known as Yue Jia Quan (Yue's Family Boxing).

 It is said that Luo Ming had somehow disrespected the local ettiquette at the time when in a hostel, this sparked off a reaction from Wu Heming resulting that the two masters exchanging in a dual. Luo Ming was older in age and a fairly thin man, whilst Wu Heming was younger and bulkier due to the exernal power training of Yingmenquan. During the dual however all of Wu Heming's attacks could not reach Luo Ming, as he easily deflected and avoided the power of the strikes, all were neutralised and then suddenly Luo Ming attacked and with ease broke through Wu Heming. As a result Wu Heming became a disciple of Luo Ming and change his practice and those of his students to ' Zimenquan '. Luo Ming stayed in Qingjiang and together with Wu Heming toook numerous students on to impart their skills. 

Since Luo Ming was said to have obtained part of his skills from Long Hu Shan (Dragon and Tiger Mountain in Jiangxi province) and the Yu Family was renowned for their skills there, thus Zi Men Quan style is also sometimes referred to as Yu Family Boxing. One of the famous Yu family boxers was Master Yu Ke Rang. Master Yu was also said to have studied with Masters Luo Ming and is credited with a purer form of Zimenquan with less Ying Men influence. Additionally based on the pure origins of the arts often it is said as Yue Family Ying Men, Yu Family Zi Men and Zhao Family Fa Men. 

There have been many masters and practitioners since including Feng Cheng County's - Chen Jinji, Chen Yulin, Yang Guizi, Gan Mazi, Yu Laozuo, Yang Kaiyuan and Zhang Degen. Gao An County's Yang Wo, Yang Dai, Luo Yuanlong, Huang Gou, Gao Santing, Liu Hui, Lai Zhuding and Lai Guangming as well as Qingjiang county's - Yu Kerang, Yu Shulian and their families descendants, Wan Ruiju in addition to the three Dragons. 

In Nanchang the capital of Jiangxi province (previously known as Hongzhou), also a number of Masters have been well renowned such as Tian Guanqing, Tian Haoren, Liu Dianchen, Weng Wenta, Yang Poxian, Liu Kemin, Mao Yimin, Tan Qimin, Mo Guanqing, Hu Xingmao and Li Zhihuai. 

From the Three Dragons and Yu Ke Rang, the style of Zi Men Quan prospered, Zimenquan and Famenquan became famous throughout Jiangxi province in addition to older Ying Men Quan, for generations the number of practitioners kept expanding so much so that up until 1947, annual competitions/gatherings were held in Nanchang, where many interchanges and developments took place. This also commenced some substyles or classifications such as Lao Zimen, Xin Zimen, Fazimen and others. 

Zimenquan is a martial art that emphasises strategy and direct combat applicability, as a result when Yu Kerang formulated the 8 characters, he essentially had a summary of all the key strategies into 8 Zi (Characters), each Zi is also a Taolu (Routine) and each Zi contains an essential approach/strategy.

Development of Zimenquan 

Since Luo Ming was said to have obtained part of his skills from Long Hu Shan (Dragon and Tiger Mountain in Jiangxi province) and the Yu Family was renowned for their skills there, thus Zi Men Quan style is also sometimes referred to as Yu Family Boxing. One of the famous Yu family boxers was Master Yu Ke Rang. Master Yu was also said to have studied with Masters Luo Ming and is credited with a purer form of Zimenquan with less Ying Men influence. Additionally based on the pure origins of the arts often it is said as Yue Family Ying Men, Yu Family Zi Men and Zhao Family Fa Men. 

 There have been many masters and practitioners since including Feng Cheng County's - Chen Jinji, Chen Yulin, Yang Guizi, Gan Mazi, Yu Laozuo, Yang Kaiyuan and Zhang Degen. Gao An County's Yang Wo, Yang Dai, Luo Yuanlong, Huang Gou, Gao Santing, Liu Hui, Lai Zhuding and Lai Guangming as well as Qingjiang county's - Yu Kerang, Yu Shulian and their families descendants, Wan Ruiju in addition to the three Dragons. 

In Nanchang the capital of Jiangxi province (previously known as Hongzhou), also a number of Masters have been well renowned such as Tian Guanqing, Tian Haoren, Liu Dianchen, Weng Wenta, Yang Poxian, Liu Kemin, Mao Yimin, Tan Qimin, Mo Guanqing, Hu Xingmao and Li Zhihuai. 

From the Three Dragons and Yu Ke Rang, the style of Zi Men Quan prospered, Zimenquan and Famenquan became famous throughout Jiangxi province in addition to older Ying Men Quan, for generations the number of practitioners kept expanding so much so that up until 1947, annual competitions/gatherings were held in Nanchang, where many interchanges and developments took place. This also commenced some substyles or classifications such as Lao Zimen, Xin Zimen, Fazimen and others. 

Zimenquan is a martial art that emphasises strategy and direct combat applicability, as a result when Yu Kerang formulated the 8 characters, he essentially had a summary of all the key strategies into 8 Zi (Characters), each Zi is also a Taolu (Routine) and each Zi contains an essential approach/strategy.

Principles and Outline of Taiping Zimenquan

The most fundamental method in Zimenquan is known as “Yuan Shou” and in fact a classical zimenquan couplet reads “mei qu shou bu li yuan shou” [Each time hands are relaeased they do not leave Yuan Shou]. Yuan shou are also known as “Huo Shou” (Living Hands) as the motion is ceaselessly conducted within all others without pause. In Zimenquan, hands pass through all gates of the body, adhering and manipulating all opposing strikes, force, motion or intention. The 5 key power manifestations are : Rou (Soft), Cun (Inch), Nien (Twine), Duo (Shake) and YangYin(Hidden). In combat zimenquan follows a rule “ Bu Ding Bu Ba, Bu Lai Bu Fa” [Neutral stance, no come,no release] followed by“Ruan Nien Ying Kau” [gently adhere aggressively close in]. 

Below we overview the key training process as taught by Master Mao Yimin (Nanchang Zimen/Yingmen Grandmaster) and Master Liu (Current Keeper of the Yichun county Zimenbafa style) to Wu Chanlong (of the Taiping Institute):

  • Dingshi Lianxi (定势练习)
  • Zhanzhuang (站桩)

 The practice of “Wu Ji” in Horse Stance (Note that the stance is not as wide as the typical shaolin method, the knees and hip is turned inwards slightly), noting that the 3 points (head, waist and hip) must be adhered to. The arms are alongside the body naturally directed to the ground however ensuring that a gap exists in the armpit. The chest is slightly concaved as is the back as a result. Once the “Wu Ji” posture is mastered then the “Liang Yi” [Two Poles] posture is learnt. Here the leg and body position remain the same however the arms are place in front of the body at around shoulder level height. The elbows are then dropped and the forearm angled outwards whilst the hands and the wrist turn inwards and the fingers point with poise outwards. The training of these two postures is essential and until the student can perform the postures correctly for at least 25 minutes, nothing else should be taught because the structure will be damaged and the movements would not follow the styles principles. It is important to progressively master each step.Accumulation of movements are just that, without adequate strength, flexibility, posture and balance combined with the power principles it would all be in vain.

Yuanshou (援手)

Yuan shou is also known as the essence of zimenquan. Without training of Yuan shou no one can claim to even know of Zimenquan. The training is conducted in the stationary Horse stance posture and there are various levels of Yuan shou to assist in learning the movement correctly. Firstly emphasise the circular, positioning and timing aspects. A few weeks later introduce the Kau and Gua concepts between Yuan Shou, the movement should be large structured and clear. A few weeks later introduce the fluidity of the motion ensuring previous principles are conserved but that the motion becomes as one. Later it is shown as the intermediate outward blocking motion rather than the continuous absorption of power model introduced earlier. At this stage “Gong Bu” front stance is introduced and Yuan Shou is practiced in this stance. The stance then becomes mobile and training is conducted according to the “San Jiao” [3 angles] principles. Yuan shou is also practiced as a two man set here. 

Other Methods (其他) 

After Yuanshou, other further stationary methods are introduced, these include but are not limited to the key methods such as:

  •  Nei Yuan Wai Yuan
  •  Diao San Guan
  •  Ti Lan Shou
  •  Ban Bi Shou
  •  Tuo Gua Shou
  •  Jin Qiang Shou

This methods are mastered completely individually before going to the next method.

Huobu Lianxi (活步练习, Dynamic Practice) 

Here two other most vital stances are introduced, Ding Ba Bu & Xu Bu. Practice of Ding Ba Bu is crucial as it is the mobile and most frequently used stance. Xu Bu is essentially transitionary and often accompanies Ding Ba Bu. The previously introduced stationary hand methods are now combined with footwork. Also the footwork strategies such as Zou Ma, Liu Ma, ChuiMa, SuenMa and Bi Ma are introduced. Once the footwork is mastered some essential dynamic methods are introduced such as:

  •  Bai Ma
  •  Pao Tuo
  •  Si Dou (Yuan Dou Tui)

Again these form the essential dynamic techniques and must be mastered prior to further study.

ZuheLianxi (组合练习, Routines/Forms Practice)

The combination of key techniques introduced previously is the premise of this stage. This includes the study of moving in 4 and 8 directions. In addition the practice of the fundamental techniques with a partner is introduced using the fundamentals already learnt.

Taolu Lianxi (套路练习, Routines/Forms Practice)

 Zimenquan does not contain many forms and that which it does contain are fairly short in comparison. However the training method follows that of strategy and variation of a single method. It is the ability to master the few methods that all methods can then be derived. All sets are studied in the following manner: 

  1.  Individual motions and techniques are introduced and mastered 
  2.  First Level applications are shown 
  3.  The motions are linked progressively to formulate the set.
  4.  Mastery of the set is achieved. 
  5.  The strategy and combat approach of the set is outlined and induces spirit 
  6.  Further applications are trained. 

Empty Hand Sets

  •  Zi Men Ba Fa Quan : 8 “Zi” : Can, Tui, Yuan, Duo, Qian, Na, Bi and Xi
  •  Ba Fa Gui Zong
  •  Ba Fa Yin Yang Shou
  •  Ba Fa Chan Si Shou (2 – man set)

Weapons

  •  Liao Ye Dao (Willow Leaf Single Broadsword)
  •  Liao Ye Shuang Dao (Willow Leaf Double Broadsword)
  •  Si Men Da Dao (4 Gates Long Handled Broadsword)
  •  Bu Zhan Pu Dao (Chopping Long Handled Knife/Broadsword)
  •  Gun Fa (Staff Methods)

Duida Lianxi (对打练习, Combat Practices)

The individual sets are progressively taught as combined sets, allowing the practise of the methods and gaining confidence in combat. It is the first step and important step in applications and real combat practise.

Gongli Lianxi (功力练习, Strength and Skill Practice)

There are a few specialised methods to train the natural body weapons required for to effectively apply the methods and techniques of Zimenquan. They are not described here but included yet not limited to the following: Tui Gong (Kicking Skills), Zhang Gong (Palm skills including Iron Palm), Zhi Gong (The specialty of Zimenquan is a long and arduous process), Bi Gong (Hardening the Bridges), Li Liang (Strength for both power and flexible methods) and Pai Da (Conditioning the body to absorb strikes). The above stages satisfy the development of a general student of Zimenquan. For disciples there are also the study of Weaponry and the important “Zi” (Can) and the last two sets, these are very rarely revealed and are considered as secrets passed only to inheritors of the art.

 The Eight Characters of Zimenquan

Representing the principles, strategies, methods and forms are as follows

  •  Can : To seek out the opportunity, feeling for the balance of the opponent 
  •  Tui : To push, shove, deflect and advance to destroy the opponents balance
  •  Yuan : Should Tui miss, then to pull by the hand or grasp taking advantage of the opponents response movement
  •  Duo : To take incoming force and seize. To force the way in through closing is also seizing
  •  Qian : Lead along, pull towards oneself, drag along to bringing the opponent into off balance
  •  Na : To press down and restrain the opponents force or attack, sinking out their attack 
  •  Bi : to close in forcefully, driving the opponent into retreat as presses into them and gaining off balance advantage
  •  Xi : To absorb and attract the power towards oneself giving the opponent confidence and commitment for to take advantage

In ancient times it is said that Can referred to the ability to maim or cripple with a single touch, to attack vital cavities and render an opponent either crippled or straight into death (at advanced stages the feeling hands react instantaneously so Can is the first character but traditionally the last learnt). Tui would push opponents with great force often from a distance. Yuan would neutralize all attacks with ease. Duo signified the ability to attack without being defended against with ease. Qian would tear and rip limbs and organs of opponents. Na would crush and damage joints or the musculo-skeletal system. Bi would crush opponents and destroy their centre. Xi was the ability to absorb the energy as well the opponents into a line of destruction. Nowadays, it is impossible to find the almost magical skills of legend.

Wu Bai Qian (五百钱, The art of Cavity pressing, striking, rubbing and sealing)

Yet one legend does remain, and it is that of Wu Bai Qian, where a whole science of vital point striking unlike all other systems even functioning in accordance to different natural clocks to those found in Chinese medicine. In fact it is this Wu Bai Qian that is the cornerstone of Zimenquan and martial arts of Jiangxi province. The art is the specialty and secret of the style. Grandmaster Liu often displayed his skills with dogs, where after a single light touch the dog would cough blood and die in around 15 minutes after the contact. In Zimen quan the fists can be taught but Wu Bai Qian remains passed only to a select few lineage holders and in Wu Baiqian Dian Xue (点穴, Maiming points) can be taught but only few inherit Jie Xue (解穴, Saving Points)

 

 

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