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, without turning Baguazhang into Peking Opera-Fu!!
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.
Bruce Lee demonstrates the ‘Bronco Kick’, a feudal kungfu technique illustrated in William E. Fairbairn’s 1942 book ALL-IN FIGHTING. The Bronco technique biomechanically strengthens one’s Qi in the Dantian- and inversely weakens the opponent’s Qi. Some consider Bruce Lee to be the Father of Mixed Martial Arts… and most consider William E. Fairbairn to be the Father of Close Quarters Combat.
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.
Unarmed pugilism with the “chop socky” styling is often associated with Chinese Kungfu- evolving directly from the Peking Opera tradition and entertainment circles in the early 20th century. One-on-one dueling back and forth in pugilistic sports- is a relatively new concept for ancient Chinese culture. Dueling concept in western cultures contains a history far beyond modern combat sports… the pugilistic style between two willing contestants under unified rules- is a foreign concept to the Chinese. In the feudal era, practical fighting systems are geared primarily for Chinese soldiers or militia. The context of fighting is urban, essential to survival in real-world situations. Unarmed fighting in ancient times is almost always to supplement weapons applications against other armed opponents. The feudal equivalent of modern Sanda differs from the contemporary, largely due to the inherent armed strategy and angles of strikes/ approach. Bajiquan, for instance, is medieval Sanda trained in conjunction with Chen Taijiquan Lao Jia 74 ( which is sword and shield strategy in origin, not empty-hand as popularly instructed). The elbows and fists of Bajiquan generate angles of wielding medieval instruments, distinct from western boxing. However, due to the compactness and refined structures of the battlefield, Bajiquan works extremely well for modern unarmed fighting. Beijing Gongfu Jia Taijiquan 83 shares the Bajiquan elbow segmentation and compact angles, generally more efficient in modern pugilism than Chen Lao Jia Yi Lu. Yin Style Bagua Lion system contains many elements of feudal Sanda in the Cutting, Hooking, and Blocking strike categories- efficient for today’s martial arts interests.
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.
A stoic pic of Yin Fu in the Forbidden City. The Yin Style Bagua Lion System is stoic as well- a powerful fighting system enduring hardship in the gentle mind-body sports promotions of China fitness/wushu reforms. The Lion represents the Father of all Baguazhang systems, renown as the King of the Beasts… This is the 21st century, however, so rest assured- the main focus of Lion System today is adapted for modern self-defense emphasizing unarmed pugilism, joint locks, with wrestling. Feudal Baguazhang artifact retains elite calisthenics for the fast-paced information age. Distance Monitoring Available, minus the bayonet.
In the 21st century, Baguazhang is practiced for various reasons ranging from fitness, entertainment, to self-defense. When speaking of historical systems by founders of the method, one should acknowledge factual documentation of nuances and the technology/ strategy of the time period. In popular kungfu culture today, YIN STYLE BAGUA is universally credited for escorting the Empress Dowager/ and Guangxu out of Beijing when the city was under siege from foreign troops. The pic above illustrates the facts, 100% clarity revealing the 1900 escape (left) to the 1902 return to Beijing (right). Feudal Baguazhang exists to this modern era, lost in China fitness reforms and Kungfu vs MMA debates. Ancient systems are still practical for all walks of life, whether biomechanical calisthenics or urban self-defense… Real Baguazhang deserves accurate documentation.