Answers To Common Inquiries
Do I have to be military or law enforcement to train feudal Baguazhang/ Shaolin/ Bajiquan/ Tai Chi Chuan?
Absolutely not, all levels of practitioners interested in factual martial art research, refined biomechanics, and traditional martial application are welcome. We are by appointment only and have a research-based approach to martial studies. Our organization's emphasis is on historical accuracy, yet applied in a way practical for contemporary life. The practitioners here range anywhere from physicians, PhDs, engineers, to retired Marine corps, Airforce, and film people.
What should I expect from feudal kungfu training? How does the non-reform approach to internal martial arts differ from the industry standard?
One should expect precise historical knowledge of ancient cultures, integrated with sophisticated biomechanics and practical martial strategy- for modern lifestyles. There is no mystery to the original intent, what time period, which technique, what context. It is understood most modern internal martial art training carries elements of mind-body, philosophy, formwork, and one-on-one empty hand application as seen in kung-fu cinemas or MMA. This is the industry standard in today's kungfu culture, whether or not we choose it. As an example, in contemporary times, it is a challenge to wear armor and practice cavalry charges on horseback. Our goal here is not necessarily to travel back in time to mimic generations of which we are not. Cerebrally, however, one must understand the mindset of ancient cultures, with detailed insight into the era of which the martial structures evolved- for which purpose. In biomechanical/ martial practice, one may choose whichever approach is preferred, in a way that makes sense for the individual. Defined military science and research is emphasized to preserve feudal kungfu artifact, which is near extinction in mainstream kungfu instruction. In short, everything you enjoyed about kungfu instruction before will still be available. However, there will be no delusions on the context or exact origins of the martial technique. There is extreme depth on historical biomechanics and body skill as used by feudal masters, with original psychology and strategy for self-defense.
Does this kungfu work against non-compliant MMA fighters in a one-on-one pugilistic context? I thought empty-hand technique was the core of all kungfu systems?
All historical systems can be adapted for a specific goal with the proper training and context of application. Though popular now, one against one dueling is rare in ancient China. This is a modernized approach influenced by combat sports, and in regards to China- post 1928 reform with the sports/calisthenics movements borrowed from the west. In feudal era, and much like the urban environment of today, the opponents are often unpredictable, abundant, with armed tendencies. Unarmed pugilism is a supplement for armed tactics, or as the founders of Northern Shaolin (Ming General Qi Jiguang) stated "empty hand boxing seems to be without the skill of the war, but the activities of the hands and feet are used with the body, for beginners to enter the door... If the boxing is a matter of the city and the small people, there is no use for the military, and the bare hand is used for the poor". Baguazhang, Bajiquan, and Chen Taijiquan are northern Shaolin styles descending from Qi Jiguang and Yu Dayou. For centuries, unarmed tactics serve as the gateway to becoming a more complete fighter- martial instruments/strategy has always been the core of Chinese Kungfu.
Well, this isn't the Dark Ages but the 21st century. The interest now is Internal Martial Arts. The feudal history of Baguazhang/ Bajiquan/ Taijiquan has not much to do with internal focus, dantian development, and qigong, as commonly promoted in lineages dating back to ancient China, correct?
In regards to ancient lineages, one should perhaps examine the roots of "internal development" in the context of accurately documented history, from pioneers in the field of real kungfu. Most if not all Chinese Internal Styles branch from Ming General Qi Jiguang- yes, that mega tactical Chinese God of War. Fortunately, ancient treatise on Neijiaquan remains well preserved... Qi Jiguang's 'The Essentials of Boxing Classics' from Ming Dynasty generally states: to learn Chinese boxing, one needs to be physically active, efficient, and have strong footwork. Traditional martial arts develop eight methods: hand, eye, body, method, step, spirit, energy, strength, and power. Qi Jiguang places the greatest importance on body method first... extreme emphasis on body skill. Body law is the fundamental core of the eight methods in feudal martial systems. The Boxing Classic notes, body methods must be concentrated/ flexible, and the focus prioritizes the center of the waist. To achieve a higher level of waist-centered boxing, a practitioner needs excellent waist strength (qi belly) and adaptability. Sounds like Internal Martial Arts in any interpretation.
I'm not really into weapons training and prefer empty-hand formwork, as inspired by kungfu cinema. I prefer fitness and meditation, and some occasional sporting duels with friends- but I would like to learn authentic Baguazhang/ Bajiquan, without damaging my body. What then?
This is actually common in today's kungfu culture due to commercialization and civil weapons ban in China- resulting in an overall misunderstanding of the definition of “real” Chinese kungfu or high-level Baguazhang/ Bajiquan in ancient dynasties. Many lineage grandmasters today from Asia have feudal amnesia, in regards to the original weapons intent/ strategy of the unarmed practice as currently instructed in routines. It is a modern myth that feudal kungfu people “dueled” one on one in pugilistic sports at a professional level- this is often inspired by movies. Historically, Chinese Kungfu has a strong weapons foundation in feudal times- this is a primary reason the postures look so exotic. Yin Style Baguazhang/ Bajiquan contains empty-hand and armed strategy- both are rare systems in which the postures and overall mechanics function exceptionally well for empty-hand fighting, with or without the original armed application. However, unarmed techniques are used in conjunction with the instrument in ancient times, or independent when it is unavailable. We strive for historical accuracy, one should know which posture is armed, which unarmed, what weaponry, the context of an application, etc. Then one can practice the armed routine segments, unarmed, but do so while preserving the proper angles and structures as originally intended- for fitness or sports purposes. Almost all kungfu people train feudal weapons posture in unarmed context nowadays for sports. In our perspective, knowledge is primary- the choice is secondary. The setbacks of kungfu schools today is an unawareness of original context/ weapons which the system thrived- exchanging factual methods for a holistic modern practice. Though with merit, most instructors are influenced by the Peking Opera interpretation of martial history, stemming from folk tradition before the internet. The trend of Baguazhang or Taijiquan today, ancient armed techniques are instructed as unarmed- not knowing which was which, due to lack of military science and a modern agenda. Many lineages have been inspired to construct numerous and impractical Peking Opera weapons routines based on literary imaginative novels, neglecting the original armed strategy/ context contained in the now perceived empty-hand routine. Modernized training is entertaining with benefits, however, the interpretation is often lacking in realism. Obvious problems will result from improper historical knowledge aside from the extinction of "real" Chinese Kungfu.
Why are there so much military/ police documentation and intense historical images on this website or your videos?
According to Chinese scholars, ancient kungfu masters were military/ law enforcement etc. who dedicated their efforts in stressful situations for the greater good- this is the primary reason Internal Martial Art lineages branch from military officers. The feudal definition of "Real" Chinese Kungfu is close combat to serve the emperor, often risking life or death. Even Jet Li reveals this fact in numerous interviews. It would be of concern if there were no military or non-sports documentation on this website if the quest is for authentic, high-level Kungfu. Military school for special forces was called Imperial Wushu Examination back in the day, that's not the wushu now. China has a population of over 1.4 billion people- internal kungfu lineages branch from only a few founding fathers. Given the accurate definition of "real" kungfu in medieval China, the founders of Baguazhang, Bajiquan, or Taijiquan better be some ultra tactical Qigong experts. The misunderstanding of real Chinese martial arts nowadays, is a mix of the Peking Opera tradition, Peking Opera-inspired cinema, and of China banning combative context from civilians- including original weapons... so now we are left with Peking Opera Weapons and Peking Opera-inspired weapons routines. Though with certain merit, many schools will present you with a certificate of Peking Opera-fu mastery, disregarding truth. To note, we are a Chinese Martial Studies organization dedicated to the factual documentation of ancient history- presenting fantasy while offering reality, is not the goal. Some examples, the military documentation serves to preserve Dong Haichuan's original methods, as his occupation was in the military police. Bajiquan is the martial art utilized by protectors of Emperor Pu Yi and later Chiang Kai-shek’s bodyguards... At times, it's nice to be reminded of the chivalrous and valiant warriors who dedicated their efforts to high-stress scenarios, so regular people can chill out at home and meditate while playing video games.
What makes this organization different from any other kungfu school? Every lineage declares they are the purest and represent the one true system of Internal Martial Art founders, yet they do not present kungfu in this way?
This organization is different because we really do not talk about Internal Martial Arts in a mainstream way. Feudal Tai Chi Chuan, Xingyi, or Baguazhang are technically centuries apart in development, yet now they are instructed similarly and thrown into one basket labeled "internal". That is an indicator something is not historically accurate- military science and research provide the answers when lineage grandmasters cannot. As a feudal martial art researcher, it is understood one cannot possibly represent an ancient art in the purest form- without understanding the exact historical context, date, and technology of the era in which it was used. The truth is, many believe they are the purest, and some are indeed authentic. Certain branches descend generation after generation, with complete trust of their teachers. However, it takes just one generation to forever alter the original system. Most kungfu schools now are using the wrong weapons, modernized application, kungfu pugilistic/ duelistic strategy- inaccurately presenting the methods of elite military officials in a Kungfu vs MMA context. Feudal research is to preserve historical artifact, and there are other lineages worthy of preservation around the world- though most prefer to continue the 2nd Generation interpretation of internal kungfu history, otherwise, their websites and videos should look more like the ones here, raw, intense, medieval. Military science and raw historical data can prove the lineage is exactly what it says it is. Modern kungfu can run, but it cannot hide from its factual history.
The He Jinbao/ Xie Peiqi Baguazhang systems are already presented on the public domain. The material sound philosophical and I- Ching oriented, doesn't look like the raw presentation here? What is different about the IRFS training vs there? Also, feudal history is rather elite, just don't know if I qualify- the material looks massive and intimidating for distance learning, I don't have a very good memory.
We do not present Yin Style Baguazhang in a classical philosophy manner. Yin Fu's system is labeled as "Shaolin" methods in early 20th-century law enforcement and military circles in China. Civilian groups instructed Yin Style Baguazhang in the classical "internal" way, however much of the foundational training consists of elite military drilling for Qing Special Forces- the old masters have forgotten the original weapons and context. We are here to remind them, whether or not they want to be reminded. If one is searching for Yin Fu's Imperial Guard Commander system, realize it contains technique for feudal mounted and foot officers, battalions, eunuch bodyguards etc. The material as presented on He Jinbao/ Xie Peiqi public domain videos does not clarify what system or division, which instrument- or the context of the original empty-hand application in Qing era. Yin Fu would utilize palm strikes, restraint techniques, or wrestling/grappling with an urban approach. The material leaves out, whether a strike category is for mounted cavalry, or for foot soldiers, and everything is displayed in one-on-one dueling manner. Historical military arts are nuanced with different factors, not just calisthenics, pugilism, and Qi development. For example, Capturing Routines in the Dragon system are presented with applications for civilians, against an unarmed, single opponent. Through historical research into the ancient Shaolin treatise, it is obvious the technique is originally armed, not unarmed- as the applications shown currently are not suitable for Qing era melee, requiring at minimum a polearm. Another example, Bear Leaning, history reveals they are primarily bayonet disarms used in conjunction with one's own bayonet, or unarmed against armed opponents, in Qing era. Dragon Chopping, that is military saber in origin for officers. One should know the Chinese prefer not to duel with swords like the Three Musketeers- it becomes obvious with the proper historical context. There are interesting historical relics throughout, including polearm strategy for wrestling battalions, which some label as Cheng Style Baguazhang... Today, many just enjoy the practice of empty-hand routines and work on biomechanics, possibly some scientific martial physics. Feudal weapons work are an excellent approach to strength training/alignment, if not for urban self-defense. Generally, students find the history insightful and chisel away in a standard, but non-watered down Kungfu way. Fortunately, well-preserved feudal systems retain elite biomechanics, honed through battles of ancient dynasties. The sophisticated and scientific body mechanics are still practical for all walks of life. As for memory setbacks, I wouldn't feel too bad about that, as all kungfu today, have amnesia with the Peking Opera uprising. For the documented animal systems, we generally recommend the Dragon as the core if one cannot decide. The public domain training material appears overwhelming and gigantic, partially due to armed strategy lost in context- so now it presents everything as an empty-hand short form. If one were only interested in practical empty-hand fighting in modern times, certain routines should be separated (which reduces the size of the systems considerably). There are eight strike categories and seven major footwork patterns- Yin Style Baguazhang works similar to learning a language. One should initially train into memory the seven footwork patterns- while choosing one strike category of interest. This is the most important step, the arms adapt with ease after the footwork foundation is intact- feudal insight reinforce the rest. For a concise comprehensive approach to Yin Style Baguazhang, the Linking Routines (Eight Animal, Penetrating Palm, Interlinking etc.) is another option. Bajiquan is especially concise and effective- worth checking out.
How about Tai Chi training? Do I have to wear armor and spar like the HEMA people? How is the Chen Tai Chi program here different from other Chen schools? Any closing thoughts or historical insight?
It is worth noting, a multitude of scholars in China believe General Qi Jiguang to be the Grand Founding Father of Chen Tai Chi Chuan. To be blunt, his philosophy generally states, the practical is not pretty and the pretty is not practical…unarmed fighting is unsuitable for war- it is a supplement only. So there goes the majority of mainstream Tai Chi instruction today, which main focus is modern push hands sport or mind-body development… According to Chinese scholars- most of the Chen Tai Chi Chuan Lao Jia postures are taken directly from Qi Jiguang military treatise. Modern Chen Tai Chi instruction is conflicting with the founders of the system- no matter how entertaining and beneficial modern Tai Chi is today, there is no evidence Qi Jiguang or Chen Wangting earned their reputation by today’s context of training… Granted the reason Tai Chi is popular nowadays, is because there is no armor and battlefield, but instead, gratuitous silk reeling sensitive, and scholarly push-hands, with supplemental Peking Opera swords with tassel training. Ming Dynasty military arts or Tai Chi before it was called Tai Chi, is similar to medieval knights such as King Arthur movies. The system shifted in strategy during the non-armor dynasties, however, currently, there are many inaccuracies. Again, we are research-driven to provide the context of the ancient era- the practitioner chooses which method of training, whether of solo framework developing historical dantian body methods or in a more Ming era fighting sense. For contemporary times with interest towards empty-hand application, Beijing Gongfu Jia of the Chen Zhaokui branch is recommended. The system is fused with feudal Bajiquan and utilizes a "deductive" method of striking- obtaining different techniques from a single movement. The angles of postures and transitions are more compact- ideal for the modern empty-hand approach. The Old Frame Lao Jia Yi Lu is more dominant in sword and shield tactics. Ming strategy is still used by armed police in China, with shield and baton, or cudgel/staff etc. Most civilians would find that tactical training impractical, so usually they appreciate the history but work on empty hand routine/ biomechanics, and train unarmored empty-hand applications- often desired. Modern Tai Chi schools favor the post-Peking Opera/China government "fitness reform version" intended to boost the nation’s “soft power” overseas. IRFS understands this is what people expect from real Tai Chi. Most are unaware the current Internal/ External division of kungfu is standardized by the Chinese government around 1928. However, feudal Chen Tai Chi has a distinct context, with a strong foundation in Shaolin military/ weapons- inherent in the First and Second Routines. To note, there is an interesting fascination with "Fajin"/power release with high-frequency vibrations, in modern Chen culture. Many today are unaware, the start and stop Fajin emphasis descends from weapons training in the ancient military. Feudal Chen Taijiquan's empty-hand training is more agile and fluid- flowing the power similar to pro boxers today. Another observation, much of Chen Tai Chi armed routines in popular instruction are a new creation using weapons which did not exist in the Ming era. There are oddities- such as postures in Cannonfist lost in translation, which many have forgotten are Shaolin staff/spear transitions. The schools now often rotate the hands in a different angle so that the spear is improperly aligned, and there are some unproductive discussions as to which empty-hand application they were in origin, as those are direct from Ming Shaolin armed treatise. Often schools neglect to inform students, that during the Ming era, Shui Chiao is trained for non-armor and push hands is supplemented for armor and polearms control. For ancient armored military units, the hands will often be holding a shield or sword, and the purpose of close distance grappling is primarily for taking the opponent down to disrupt their Qi with the weapon in hand. One does not want to drop the sword while knocking over the opponent in the ancient world. In this context, push hands is beneficial, as it can control without grabbing etc. In modern times without armor and unarmed fighting, Shui Chiao also provides additional options. The distinction of our program vs mainstream- we are a Chinese Martial Studies organization. The researchers here are scholarly, peaceful, and passionate in the effort to restore artifact in ancient Chen Taijiquan. Feudal research can solve ancient mysteries, and restore a more precise empty-hand framework in the 21st century, for those who do not like to train with polearms, or sword with a shield.