The First Baguazhang motion picture ‘THE HONOR OF DONGFANG XU’ (1983) became the inspiration for Wang Kar-Wai’s ‘THE GRANDMASTER’ film (2013). Li Junfeng’s character is based on Han Muxia, a Baguazhang expert in the early 20th century. The unarmed pugilism and martial context, against the Hercules character in the film- is a fictional representation of factual history. China after the mid-20th century experienced the second wave of sports modifications by the Chinese government. Han Muxia’s airbending, in reality, is fighting for the war. Muxia trained the Broadsword team (actually called “pistol team”) providing the most practical big knife skills and close-in wrestling. Modern MMA combat sports and the battlefield always have a world of difference. [Master Li Junfeng is an old mentor and family friend of IRFS- a noble individual who stands for accurate documentation of Baguazhang history, regardless of commercial interests in the 21st century. Li has a strong connection with old Cheng Baguazhang masters, especially Sun Zhijun]
The Baguazhang Horse Stance is used for generating torque/ power during sparring, as well as strengthening the lumbar and leg muscles. The feudal stance training enhances tendon strength and an overall understanding of feeling grounded. It is a wide, stable stance with a low center of gravity. Advanced and dedicated stance work develops “Movement in Stillness”- the Baguazhang expert achieves stillness and relaxation, while the horse treks around the tree!!
Kungfu vs MMA is certainly the hot topic in modern martial arts culture. Traditional Kungfu has received quite a beating in recent years- due to inaccurate documentation of history and faulty commercial promotions. Many in the west do not understand the Chinese language and current events in Asia- headlines are often a fraction of the whole story… A less appreciated fact is, feudal Chinese Kungfu mechanics and principals are integrated within the China MMA Combat Promotions… Most are familiar with MMA Xu Xiaodong, however many do not know he is a student of Mr. Mei Huizhi. Mei Huizhi served as the coach of the Beijing wrestling team, the head coach of the Beijing Sanda team, the head coach of the Beijing Armed Police Corps Sanda team, and the head coach of the Central Guards. Mei Huizhi is a practitioner of Baguazhang and a disciple of Wang Rongtang (Cheng Style) in Beijing. Xu’s teacher made important contributions to the creation and popularization of Sanshou Sports and was a pioneer in the integration of traditional martial arts in modern combat. Mei’s teacher, Wang Rongtang emphasized feudal Cheng Baguazhang- an advocate of the perfection of self and actual combat.
The Shaolin Stick Method is the foundation for Cheng Style Baguazhang and certain categories in Yin Style [Silky Pudao or Dragon Capturing, which is cudgel methods- it’s not empty-hand as commonly presented]. The Shaolin Stick descends from the Ming Dynasty- the stick is interchangeable with polearms ranging from pudao to tigerfork. A short polearm (around the height of the person wielding it) is more focused on melee combat for foot soldiers or militia. Cheng Ting Hua would possibly use a cudgel or tigerfork for city security and a pudao/ spear for militia duties if required. The Shaolin long staff is commonly represented by the Dragon in ancient literature. It is said that the stick has the unique skills of being flexible and changeable, with the skills of the vertical and horizontal forces. The use of the force must be soft and silky during the transition of the stick method. The force must be smooth- described in ancient treatise as Moving with the Force. The mysterious secrets of Dong Haichuan’s Single, Double, and Moving with the Force Palms are foundationally FEUDAL SHAOLIN POLEARM [priceless artifact near extinction in modern times].
Historical Baguazhang artifact gradually fades into extinction with the modernization of kungfu- the feudal historical context, nuances, and its appreciation disappear with time. Certain Baguazhang systems are underappreciated regardless of history or any reason. The Yin Style Baguazhang Bear system is indeed one often overlooked- the system requires patience and some gladiator back muscles. [He Jinbao back in the dinosaur days, and Li Junfeng- Bear Representative Posture]
The book, Taiji Yang Luchan’s “Stolen Boxing” by the novelist Gong Baiyu of the Republic of China, is another primary inspiration for modern Baguazhang promotions and instruction. This fantasy novel is the foundation for the renown waiter and teacup story of Dong Haichuan- which contributes to inaccurate documentation of feudal Baguazhang. The story illustrates: Su Wangfu’s banquet on this day are full of wonder and guests -extremely crowded, that the waiter’s [Dong Haichuan] dishes cannot be placed on the table. The Qing officials saw the appearance of marvelous stunts, and the hand-held dishes were twirling between the crowds, flying, and dancing, and entering the unmanned environment- majestically the Waiterbender completed the task!! Everyone in the room was astonished and intrigued, only to realize this person is the top martial arts master Dong Haichuan. When serving teacups, it is the use of superior [Opera-fu] martial arts – the body and footwork of the Eight Trigram Palm.
Baguazhang is renowned for the Circle Walk strategy- however, it is of great irony very few Baguazhang schools today instruct or preserves the feudal application of the circle, in the correct context. Flanking is important in fighting… everyone knows. Circling prowess around an opponent, a tree, for meditation, for equilibrium, are common reasons the circle is instructed in modern schools. In the feudal era, the circle walk is designed specifically for melee combat- a special precaution for a soldier’s defense against multiple armed opponents. A classic example is illustrated in Costantino Calarone, Italian Fencing Treatise of 1714. The treatise dictates a single fighter against multiple armed opponents- should circle walk, so the body’s movements are more agile. The sole fighter should not deliver thrusts, unless in the reach of just one opponent. The fighter should not stay planted, nor withdraw with backward steps. The optimal strategy is to wheel to the right of the first opponent, away from the multiple opponents at his side- aka Melee Stacking [as in the pic].
[Pics from Tong Lin Chuan novel- the Shaolin influence is obvious] The legendary story of Dong Haichuan’s Opera-Fu exploits originated from the martial arts novel “雍正剑侠图” in the early 1920s. This instant classic has the most extensive influence on Baguazhang folk tradition in the Republic of China era. The author Chang Jieyi used Dong Haichuan as a prototype to create the character Tong Lin, which has brought a magical and fantastic context to Dong Haichuan’s life and the origin of the Eight Diagrams Palm. The magical fallacies from this world of FICTION continue to this day in countless Baguazhang schools, including the Deerhorn Knife and an arsenal of Peking Opera weapons… Now back to base reality, Dong Haichuan was originally named Dong Mingkui, a native of Zhujiawu Village, Wen’an County, Hebei Province in the Qing Dynasty. The Factual Dong family lived in Hongdong County in Shanxi Province. The ancestors of Dong Haichuan were the generals of the Yuan Dynasty. They served as the deputy marshal of the general of Long Huwei. Dong’s ancestors moved to the city of Hebei in the early years of the Ming Dynasty. The descendants of their descendants were military commanders for five consecutive generations. According to Wen’an Wenshi data and Xiongxian County records, many people in the Dong Haichuan family are military commanders and FEUDAL SHAOLIN PROFESSIONALS.