In the 19th century, armed and unarmed methods are often trained within the Four Point footwork pattern of Yin Style Baguazhang. The same is true for other close fighting systems of that era, such as Savate in the Anglo/French divisions. The YSB Dragon Carrying methods contain not only wrestling and control tactics- the Miao Dao strategy is apparent. Dragon is known for its ‘Long’ internal force and rotations which in turn, complements the long saber. The weapons work pre- 1928 Reform were direct, precise, and advantageous.
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.
[The Warlords Film/ Jet Li, and Xie Peiqi]
The exotic bone strikes of YSB Phoenix System descends from the era of Cotton Armor in feudal dynasties. The composite armor is cotton lined with iron or hardened leather. The cotton-lined steel sheets protect the torso, the arms and back of the hands- which provides a very strong, heavy, and dominant surface to strike with during close-quarters melee. Jet Li demonstrates the bone strike in the Warlords motion picture, a battle scene amidst the Taiping Rebellion.
The YSB Dragon System is underappreciated in today’s kungfu culture, partly because Snake symbolism is often attached to Yin Fu’s personal fighting style. The popularity of the Luohan Penetrating Palms styling in most Yin Style branches is the primary reason for the ‘snake’ characteristics- snakes are a symbol of SPEARS. The Luohan Penetrating Palm sets cater to instruments such as the short spear. It is worth noting William E. Fairbairn’s Baguazhang teacher (Cui Zhendong/disciple of Yin Fu), represented Shaolin Dragon & Tiger methods in the early 20th century. The system at the time was not labeled as ‘Baguazhang’. Dragon and Tiger symbolism in northern Shaolin styles trace back to General Qi Jiguang and Yu Dayou, renown as the Tiger and Dragon of the Ming Dynasty. The most iconic palm in mainstream Baguazhang is represented by the tiger mouth- the Shaolin stick method is represented by the Dragon… Dragons have significance to the Beiyang New Army towards the later part of Yin Fu’s career. The most prominent feature of the new army saber is the enamel ornament on the shank. The saber distinguishes the ranks of the officers and military ranks with the number of dragons/in the knives/on the knives: senior officers are sorghum Dragon pattern, five dragon claws; intermediate officers are Pingyi dragon pattern, three dragon claws; lower-level officers do not have patterns, no dragon claws. The dragon was the symbol of the imperial power of the Qing Dynasty and the symbol of the emperor. It was hoped that this new army at that time would become an important force for the maintenance of the imperial rule of the Qing Dynasty. [Yin Style Bagua Dragon System contains officer saber methods, bayonet, cudgel, and restraint/close quarters strategy of Imperial Guards]
The phoenix system is generally agile and dominant- force is emitted from the shoulders and characterized by its whipping action. Phoenix methods are relatively more dynamic/graceful out of the core four systems. The striking methods are: dodging, extending, chopping, shocking, transforming, removing, curling in, and cutting. The phoenix’s characteristic movement technique is Windmill Force.
Shanqi (善耆; 1866–1922; 10th), held the title Prince Su of the First Rank from 1898 to 1922, posthumously honored as Prince Suzhong of the First Rank (肅忠親王). There are three noticeable Airbenders in the background. Eunuch bodyguards of the good prince would look like the pic. Dong Haichuan is employed by Prince Shanqi in the 19th century.
Yin Fu dedicated many efforts to his bodyguard business in Beijing. He successively worked in the East Tower East Factory Hutong (Dongchang)- the site which was once the most elite Intelligence Agency in Ming Dynasty. During the 19th century, Dongchang became the residence to many top military/chief executives of the region (under Empress Cixi jurisdiction/ primarily Baoding elites). An interesting note, even today at Dongchang, the basic pattern of the Rong Lu mansion is still visible, and the European-style villas are apparent from the Westernization movement. The area is deeply connected with the Beiyang New Army and Yuan Shikai. Yin Fu’s true history reveals the misconceptions of modern Baguazhang promotions- his style, environment, and methods of the time period are not as expected.
Before the late Qing Dynasty, the concept of “big knife/Dadao” in the army mostly refers to the knife of the long pole, similar to the shape of the Guandao. The knife with a short handle and a large blade (in popular contemporary Baguazhang culture) is called a single hand knife, it is not called a “big knife”, historically speaking. Ironically the signature instruments used by both disciples of Dong Haichuan are often misinterpreted in Airbending schools of today.