Yang Kun is a friend and mentor of He Jinbao, extraordinary in Yin Style Baguazhang skill and chivalry. The Baguazhang methods of Yang descend from the Beiyang New Army in the Beijing and Tianjin area. Yang Kun is known for his strength in Yin Style iron bracelet strategy and interlinking body methods. [the pic in the background is from MMA Xu Xiaodong’s tv show in Beijing- Yang Kun’s disciples, left, are often guests of honor. Xu is a supporter of Real Baguazhang- he’s always been respectful towards Yin Style Baguazhang]
100% of historians and Baguazhang enthusiasts agree- Yin Fu is the Senior Disciple of Dong Haichuan with the most elite demands for martial application [Imperial Guard Commander]. What most do not agree on is the context, and how Yin Style Baguazhang should appear aesthetically, as far as feudal routine training. In contemporary times, kungfu enthusiasts often base imagery from mainstream movies. A classic example: the Baguazhang style demonstrated in ‘The Grandmaster’ motion picture is commonly associated with Cheng Style Baguazhang (or polearm methods in Yin). However, the character in the film, Gong Yutian (Zhang Ziyi’s father) in factual history is built on GONG BAOTIAN- Gong’s system in real life is Yin Style Baguazhang, not Cheng Style. The predicament here… so is the Baguazhang fighter Gong Yutian a badass because of Cheng Baguazhang, or because of Yin Baguazhang polearm usage [the prop left out of the film]? Or is the reason simply modern enthusiasts associate high-level Baguazhang inspired by true history/ presented as fantasy in popular media- to be the most efficient method of learning feudal fighting systems in modern times? [Note: China has plenty of Qing Imperial Guard statues and toy figures as illustrated above. The rest is preference and history!!]
Medieval China is full of mystery, wonder- yet harsh with intensity. Feudal Baguazhang masters utilized the arts for real-world applications in an era which was not forgiving. The historical artifact endured to this day carries genetics often clashing with modern interests… for standard Internal Martial Art enthusiasts. Fortunately, there is something called smart, scholarly, and scientific training which is capable of preserving ancient systems while remaining practical for the modern era.
Most Internal Martial Arts in origin, descend or are significantly influenced by Ming General Qi Jiguang, a pioneer of kungfu in medieval China. His ancient proverb states that the “pretty is not practical and the practical is not pretty.” Feudal Scholars believe Qi Jiguang is describing YIN STYLE BAGUAZHANG- a raw historical artifact of terrifying prowess and prestige. Many have yet to realize, feudal Baguazhang does not look like the performance-based demonstrations often represented in modern kungfu cinema. To judge an ancient fighting art using contemporary Peking Opera-fu aesthetics guidelines- is a prime reason why there are Kungfu vs MMA discussions in modern times.
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.
According to Chinese Scholars, the Qing Dynasty retained the cold weapons strategy (polearms, sabers, non-firearms etc.) from the Ming Dynasty armed treatise… which would be the strategy of Feudal Shaolin. The core of all Shaolin systems is the polearm/staff- essential and the first line of defense for most armed escorts and militia without access to Chinese Gun-fu. Close-in wrestling is essential during polearm melee, with a refined/scientific approach which exists in raw lineages today. The methods descend from an era when Kungfu masters still fought in life or death situations with a medieval weapon- contrary to most modern Opera-fu (it’s also pretty and silky without the polearm). Cheng Ting Hua is at the minimum, reserves/ militia in the Qing Dynasty. Being drafted by the Empress Cixi personally during the 1900 escape from Beijing- is no easy task for the average Mcdojo in ancient China. Yin Fu is skilled at the polearms also… it is a pre-requisite for tax collecting in Inner Mongolia with the founder of Baguazhang.
Cheng style Baguazhang specializes in close-in wrestling and joint locks- the whole body generates smooth coiling and uncoiling actions, utilizing palm techniques and dynamic footwork… Sure sounds similar to Yin Fu’s smooth and graceful FEUDAL SHAOLIN polearm strategy for Qing Imperial Guards. According to scholars and this pic, it does appear the Pudao/Horse knife is quite commonly utilized during AIRBENDING!!
Kungfu movies and folk novels post-1920s have emphasized the mysterious “lightskill” or Qinggong of feudal Baguazhang experts- (often over exaggerated and out of context) with the kungfu man flapping around like a hot potato. Feudal Academia reveals Dong Haichuan and Gong Baotian may indeed utilize such dynamic footwork and agility… it’s called Parkour-fu. Parkour in the modern sense is French influenced and grew out of military obstacle-course training. Yin Style Baguazhang contains elite feudal Chinese martial strategy integrated with the French westernization movement in the mid-19th century. The iconic “Four Faces” footwork of Napoleonic era is adapted into the Manchurian fighting methods of Yin Fu- unparalleled against multiple opponents.
The First Baguazhang motion picture ‘THE HONOR OF DONGFANG XU’ (1983) became the inspiration for Wang Kar-Wai’s ‘THE GRANDMASTER’ film (2013). Li Junfeng’s character is based on Han Muxia, a Baguazhang expert in the early 20th century. The unarmed pugilism and martial context, against the Hercules character in the film- is a fictional representation of factual history. China after the mid-20th century experienced the second wave of sports modifications by the Chinese government- pugilism in a sporting context is borrowed from the west. Han Muxia’s Baguazhang context, in reality, is fighting for the war. Muxia trained the Broadsword team (actually called “pistol team”) providing the most practical big knife skills and close-in wrestling. Modern combat sports and the battlefield always have a world of difference. [Master Li Junfeng is an old mentor and family friend of IRFS- a noble individual who stands for accurate documentation of Baguazhang history, regardless of commercial interests in the 21st century. Li has a strong connection with old Cheng Baguazhang masters, especially Sun Zhijun]