More times than not… the stress response is activated during modern Kungfu vs MMA challenges and goes into overdrive anytime popular kungfu interpretation examines its own feudal history (the one that is not reimagined/approved by the Chinese State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports). Elevated levels of stress and anxiety often accompany vestibular dysfunction- overwhelming dizziness and loss of balance are common in kungfu practitioners with panic and other anxiety disorders. A stressed-out vestibular system may induce fear of movement, the feeling of insecurity in a fight, and unbalanced emotions in the context of proper historical documentation. Extensive circle walking and feudal insight harmonize the interaction between stress and vestibular compensation.
The vestibular system is improved through refined biomechanic training of the body, further enhanced by expanding protective reflexes during fight or flight mode. Methodical circle walking with tight diameters provide a foundation for the development of sensory systems such as touch, vision, sound, and proprioception. The simple yet challenging mechanics of Baguazhang sharpen the central nervous system and remain crucial for the development of balance, motor control of the eye, bilateral coordination (the ability to fully use both sides of the body). Military-grade Bagua strengthens our tolerance to motion under stress and develops the trust of movement in elite conditions. Gravitational confidence, in turn, ensures our ability to maintain position, orientation, and balance within the surrounding environment- protecting the body from injury during a fight or when avoiding one.
[Dowager Empress Cixi and YSB Guards returning to Beijing in 1902/ Chang Dong Sheng demonstrating wrestling and weapons engagement in the National Army Combat Class]
Yin Style Bagua Bannermen were distributed among the Beijing-Tianjin area in the northern military port towns during the late Qing Dynasty. Baoding/central Hebei is the seat of important governors of Zhili and Beiyang New Army officials. The Eight Animal Systems of the Men Baozhen/Xie Peiqi branch shares ancestry with Baoding Wrestling branching from Chang Dong Sheng.
The feudal wrestling techniques of Baguazhang practitioners have shifted greatly with the times. Empty-hand wrestling methods in the classical sense serve fractions of the curriculum under jurisdiction of Internal House Affairs. Qing-era wrestling battalions integrate grappling in the context of military close combat- emphasizing disarms, weapons retention/engagement, horseriding, bone strikes, locks, and alternate psychology to modern interpretation. The principles are similar to Japanese ancient jujitsu or medieval European knights in historical battlefields.
The Qing era heavy knife (Big Saber) as a whole symbolizes a dragon, which is divided into a dragon head, a dragon body, and a dragon tail. Several variants exist, ranging from patrol, strength development, to ceremonial applications. The oversized strength training versions of wrestlers are often made completely of cast iron. The iron ring on the back of the knife represents the weight of the Big Saber. The more iron rings, the greater the weight.
Raw feudal weaponry and tactics are often underappreciated in modern kungfu culture- stemming from the rise of unarmed pugilistic sports (borrowed from the West) and Peking Opera interpretation of history (further standardized by the Chinese State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports). Historical weapons melee is hidden in the empty-hand routines of lineages, remaining virtually unexplored in most kungfu schools… Aside from lost of ancient knowledge or a practical concealed carry point of view, ancient weapons benefit the biomechanic framework of an athlete- enhancing empty-hand boxing in the absence of the instrument. As an example, the sledgehammer and tire are popular conditioning tools amongst fighters in modern combat sports. Sledgehammer training will undoubtedly improve an athlete’s ability to maintain explosive power, improve grip strength, develop core control, and enhance alignment. A Chinese Halberd descending from the warring kingdoms will do just fine in the modern era.
The Tiger Fork/Palladium is standard equipment of Imperial Guards during the Ming and Qing Dynasties- the melee cold weapon is often used in tiger hunts, military, and law enforcement applications. The Tiger Fork remains a versatile tool to this day in Asia, still utilized by armed police for control and capture. The modern fork is more humane with only two rounded prongs- the sharp center point is removed entirely. [feudal Tiger Fork technique is contained in Yin Style Bagua, most apparent in the Rooster System]
[Xu Xiaodong’s coach Mei Huizhi, demonstrates principals of the circle]
In any era, self-defense requires standards and context relevant to its environment. Feudal Baguazhang strategies nowadays are often adapted for combat sports, fitness, or holistic routes in training, to cater to the modern man. For instance, ancient polearms/ instruments are adapted for body alignment/strength conditioning, to benefit the everyday person. Unarmed techniques are now used in conjunction with compact carry weapons of the 21st century. Mei Huizhi is a pioneer of Sanda sport in China, while remaining a dedicated practitioner of old school Baguazhang. He has integrated principals of Bagua footwork and grappling into Chinese Sanda and MMA.
Baguazhang, regardless of branch, is known for practicing with extremely large weapons. The Big Broadsword is the most iconic, yet often it is portrayed as the giant Oxtail Saber in modern schools. The famous Big Saber, in truth, is the military Pudao/Halberd of the Qing Dynasty. Yin Fu’s son Yin Yu Zhang represented large saber in his book ‘Practice Methods For Cleaving Saber Techniques’ in 1933. The cleaving saber in feudal times is attached to a wooden staff (true Big Saber) for patrol duties, allowing for versatility and longer reach. The westernization movement in the mid 19th century gave rise to the popularity of bayonets and refined pistols. Modernized/compact carry of the cleaving blade portion separate from the wooden staff became standard. The ‘Swimming Body’ style of Baguazhang caters directly to the Pudao/Halberd in conjunction with close-in wrestling tactics of Qing era bodyguards- it is unfortunate many have forgotten the original context. The Men Baozhen/ Xie Peiqi branch has always viewed the ‘Swimming Body’ method as a subsystem of the Yin Style Bagua Dragon System.