Bajiquan is renown for its explosive, short-range power and is iconic for its elbow and shoulder strikes- descending from the heavy armor era in feudal dynasties. Though pugilistic sports are uncommon in ancient China, Bajiquan contains boxing methods of Ming-era knights.
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.
[In the left corner, Imperial Guard/ in the right corner, Eunuch Bodyguards]
During the early 19th century, the Forbidden City Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) utilized resistance forces known as “Technical Courage Eunuchs”, well-known martial artists selected from the eunuch team. A special security bodyguard capable of protecting the safety of the emperor in the innermost quarters of the court- in areas that were difficult for the military/ Imperial Guards to enter. However, the team this close to the family has relatively low combat strength compared to Imperial Guards or military divisions. Empty-hand skill in regards to retraint/ disarms are emphasized. The instruments used are mostly sticks/ spears and waist knives. Though well trained, the Qing eunuch guards were fond of the Peking Opera apparently.
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.
[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.