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.
Often in cinema, the Baguazhang presented is elegant and silky- with a larger diameter eight step circle. The popular Baguazhang movements employ the whole body with smooth coiling and uncoiling actions, utilizing palm techniques, dynamic footwork, and close-in wrestling. In feudal era, the larger circle radius is necessary for polearm melee against multiple opponents- characteristic strategy of Qing footsoldiers and militia. In modern times, there are raw lineages which maintain the polearm structures in the empty-hand routines… some more so than others. According to feudal Shaolin Armed Treatise, pure Yin/Cheng artifact of Interlinking Body methods without heavy modification in modern times- should indeed retain the polearm structures with transitions intact. Close-in wrestling integration, with the primary weapon dominant, is standard- and not the other way around. Pre- 1900s, unarmed pugilistic systems as portrayed in popular Baguazhang films would be viewed as an impractical self-defense system for urban applications.
Bajiquan is not included in the three major Internal Martial Arts categories- which was standardized in 1928 by the Chinese government for fitness and cultural-sports promotions. This exclusion of Bajiquan really makes no sense if Chen Taijiquan is considered an Internal style. Beijing Chen Taijiquan of Chen Fake (currently instructed by his grandson in Beijing, Chen Yu), descends from the same Ming era sources as Bajiquan. Bajiquan and Beijing Chen Taijiquan were separated and rebranded in the early 20th century- they were of one system in feudal times… the ROC Special Operations and Liu Yun Qiao (instructor of Chiang Kai-shek’s bodyguards) in the pic- seem harmonious with Bajiquan Qi-flow and mind-intent boxing.
The Lion System of Men Baozhen follows the ancient tradition which combines west with the east, or specifically Napoleonic/ Prussian armed strategy with feudal wrestling- complementary to the Qing era hand to hand tactics utilized by Imperial Guards. This included various bone strikes, disarms, weapon-adapted joint-locks, bayonet-fu, and Qi belly.
The Yin Style Baguazhang Dragon System features “Lifting Strike” as one of eight categories. The strike has a large surface area to disrupt the opponent’s Qi, with impact emphasis using the bones of the palm heel. The characteristic hollowing of the palm allows for latching down with the fingertips after the collision, if necessary. Mr. Fairbairn demonstrates the Lifting Strike, also known as the Chin Jab.
A recent Beijing Interview with He Jinbao discussing Yin Style Baguazhang and his perspective on training. In short, He Jinbao mentioned there is fitness reform kungfu and there is real kungfu. If one prefers kungfu solely for performance, then it is better to remain a performer. If practicality and martial function are preferred, surely the performance will lack in aesthetics. He Jinbao recommends for unarmed combat- the importance of precision and power in feudal drilling methods, with intelligent and adaptive technique.
The Yin Style Baguazhang Phoenix System descends from the armored cavalry days in Ming Dynasty. Phoenix specializes in agile bone strikes, quick neutralization, and dynamic footwork. In feudal times, the Phoenix enhances long-range spear control without sacrificing close-in defense. With both hands grasping the polearm, the edge of the arm/ bone strike generates shocking power if an opponent breaks through one’s spear range. It’s a challenge to imagine that Chinese kungfu is utilized in such an epic fashion- outside of an MMA cage.