The Yin Style Baguazhang Snake System contains binding and grappling applications, many which descend directly from the old style of Manchu wrestling- gradually becoming rarer in modern times. Ancient bodyguards used a short stick for conditioning (throws/grip strength) as well as patrol duties.
[Imperial Guard examination & Chang Dongsheng with a nice chin jab] Most Baguazhang lineages today use large oversized instruments such as the giant saber, for strength conditioning purposes. The foundation for this tradition descends from feudal wrestling battalions. Yin Fu and Cheng Ting Hua were both wrestlers.
The Luohan style of Penetrating Palm sets are suitable for the short Tiger Spear… and though adaptable, are not originally designed for sticking the opponent with the tips of the fingers (according to Shaolin treatise, the penetrating/willow leaf palm is meant to grasp). The short spear is a formidable instrument while patrolling on foot, inner palace. In certain sectors of the inner court, empty-hand skill and ordinance is concentrated on instruments with lower damage such as cudgel- or in close quarters conflict, a short spear. The short spear is largely replaced by the bayonet in the late 19th century for military guards, however, still favored by eunuch bodyguards inner quarters.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Interlinking/ Weaving routines of Baguazhang as popularized in mainstream and films, contain ‘wrestling with weapons integration’ and not pure empty-hand wrestling. Grappling and takedowns with the instrument in hand, are crucial in feudal melee- often against armed opponents. It is worth noting the forms/drilling methods of Qing-era wrestling are often distinct in aesthetics from the silky/ twisting/ turning style of Swimming Baguazhang.
[David Chee-Kai Lin/ Combat Shuai Chiao in the pics]
In modern Baguazhang culture- Cheng Ting Hua is often credited for wrestling and Yin Fu is revered for his penetrating palms. While this may be a half-truth, Imperial Guards (Yin Fu) are skilled in military wrestling as well… the wrestling is the core foundational training of the elite, and the wrestling in Qing-era contained strikes and locks. To note, the Lion System of the Xie Peiqi/ Men Baozhen branch shares ancestry with the combative Baoding Wrestling schools- including all eight striking methods (from left to right, top to bottom: Sweeping, Cutting, Chopping, Hooking, Shocking, Blocking, Seizing, Grasping). Baoding is the southern gate of Beijing. There are many troops stationed there. The military academy of Manchu is also located in Baoding.
Dong Haichuan’s Baguazhang footwork shares ancestry with Ming-era systems in Hebei Province, including Bajiquan. The T-step (also called T Square) is well documented in Ming General Yu Dayou’s ‘Sword Classics’, with emphasis on polearms in origin. The reversing T step describes escaping backward, then taking advantage of an arched position in counterstrike. The T method immediately turns the back and attacks the opponent with a square geometry. Treatise: the t-square step can be used for regression, but also for progression; it may retreat; can be advanced in an arc, it can be rotated forward, or it can enter at a curve; Use every possible way to discover and apply the principal.
The vast majority of Yin Style Baguazhang folk stories are based on Gong Baotian (Yin Fu’s disciple and not Yin Fu himself). A 2019 article documents one incident which Yin Fu encountered during his life. The story presents more realism on how Yin Fu’s Baguazhang is utilized, outside of an MMA cage and away from the tree:
Yin Fu is very loyal. Once he was at the forefront of a friend, the two sides invited dozens of people to start a scuffle in the courtyard (undocumented reason). During the dispute, Yin Fu suddenly realized the conflict was not for loyalty, but for the parties competing interests. Among the enemies, there is a surname of Yang, who was also a well-known martial arts master at that time, but there is still a considerable gap between his kung fu and Yin Fu. Yin Fu became more and more fierce, and the enemy fled. After the event, the number of people was counted. Four people were killed on the spot and more than a dozen were injured. Later, in an attempt for revenge, Yang and his crew retaliated using six-wheeled pistols, and took a shot while Yin Fu was sleeping. Yang went to the room where Yin Fu was asleep (supposedly a hospital) and pulled a revolver from the sleeves. Yin Fu counter ambushed Yang, causing a big shock- resulting in Yang shooting himself. The government intervened in this matter and Yang was arrested and sentenced.