By the 20th century, Internal Martial Arts became reimagined by reformers and teachers striving to preserve Chinese culture, or to strengthen the Chinese nation against foreign oppression. The martial arts context of today evolved into a nationalized project that had state backing. The feudal intent of Chinese Martial Arts is urban with biomechanics beneficial to the average professional or person. It is largely impractical for a citizen to train self-defense in preparation against unarmed Combat Sports Champions in real-world situations. The Kungfu vs MMA debate is a symptom of inaccurate historical documentation and modernized goals.
The connection of fighting systems in modern era stems from connections of the past- the Baguazhang/ Bajiquan stick and archery methods were once classified as one. The content of Ming “Sword Classic” is mainly based on the stick method, yet it incorporates the content of the arrow and the array in origin. The tactics of the archers were separated from the sword classics in later editions.
Yin Style Baguazhang and Bajiquan share the Ming Dynasty methods utilized by bowmen, ranging from infantry to imperial guards. Various routines and strike categories contain the biomechanical dynamics necessary for feudal warriors in the medieval era. The art of archery enhances cognitive focus and centering- unified with strength defending eight directions of the body.
Cheng Ting Hua is Cheng Yougong’s uncle- Cheng Yougong trained and worked as a shop assistant in Cheng Tinghua’s eyeglasses shop. Contrary to popular belief, many of the Cheng family served as elite instructors to the military (not qigong practice), including Cheng Youlong and Cheng Yougong. Cheng Yougong was the Baguazhang instructor of Zhang Xueliang (son of Zhang Zhuolin who Gong Baotian defended) and many Bajiquan fighters in the early 20th century. Hou Diange, the chief bodyguard of Emperor Puyi has a strong bond with the Cheng family. Cheng Yougong met Huo Diange during service in the late 1920s and frequently exchanged Baguazhang /Bajiquan knowledge. Cheng Qingxun learned Bajiquan from Huo (Yougong’s nephew) and still called Huo Diange “Huo Shishu” (Hou Uncle), well into the late 20th century.
Liu Yun Qiao and Chen Fake exchanged martial concepts in Beijing during the late 1920s. Both masters at the time- Chen Fake (Beijing Chen Taijiquan) and Liu Yun Qiao (Bajiquan) agreed there was a great similarity between the systems. Both fighting arts utilize segmentation of elbows, short-range power, the similar tempo of footwork etc. In the Ming Dynasty, Bajiquan and Chen Taijiquan were one system- gradually separated through modernization, with the fall of Qing Dynasty. The fusion and historical artifact are preserved in Beijing Gongfu Jia of Chen Yu (Chen Zhaokui’s son).
Wong Kar-wai’s 2013 film, THE GRANDMASTER, features elegant cinematography and artistry of Baguazhang. In the movie, Gong Er’s (Zhang Ziyi) father is Gong Yutian who is an elite Yin Style Baguazhang fighter. Gong Yutian’s character is inspired by Yin Fu’s (right on pic) disciple GONG BAOTIAN (left)- who served as the royal bodyguard of the Dowager Empress Cixi (middle). The style of Baguazhang in the movie is Yin/Cheng Baguazhang Interlinking Body- characterized by smooth coiling and uncoiling actions, dynamic footwork, close-in wrestling, bone strikes, and most importantly Polearm methods of Qing era Bodyguards… An interesting note, Gong Baotian’s LUOHAN Style of Baguazhang is cross-trained by Wutan Bajiquan carrier, Liu Yun Qiao. The Bajiquan fighter (Razor’s character) in The Grandmaster film is based on Liu Yun Qiao’s journeys.
Unarmed pugilism with the “chop socky” styling is often associated with Chinese Kungfu- evolving directly from the Peking Opera tradition and entertainment circles in the early 20th century. One-on-one dueling back and forth in pugilistic sports- is a relatively new concept for ancient Chinese culture. Dueling concept in western cultures contains a history far beyond modern combat sports… the pugilistic style between two willing contestants under unified rules- is a foreign concept to the Chinese. In the feudal era, practical fighting systems are geared primarily for Chinese soldiers or militia. The context of fighting is urban, essential to survival in real-world situations. Unarmed fighting in ancient times is almost always to supplement weapons applications against other armed opponents. The feudal equivalent of modern Sanda differs from the contemporary, largely due to the inherent armed strategy and angles of strikes/ approach. Bajiquan, for instance, is medieval Sanda trained in conjunction with Chen Taijiquan Lao Jia 74 ( which is sword and shield strategy in origin, not empty-hand as popularly instructed). The elbows and fists of Bajiquan generate angles of wielding medieval instruments, distinct from western boxing. However, due to the compactness and refined structures of the battlefield, Bajiquan works extremely well for modern unarmed fighting. Beijing Gongfu Jia Taijiquan 83 shares the Bajiquan elbow segmentation and compact angles, generally more efficient in modern pugilism than Chen Lao Jia Yi Lu. Yin Style Bagua Lion system contains many elements of feudal Sanda in the Cutting, Hooking, and Blocking strike categories- efficient for today’s martial arts interests.