A unique characteristic of Chinese fighting arts is the integration of feudal instruments, within the empty hand structures. Close-in wrestling and striking are delivered in conjunction with weapons strategy- this is a primary reason kungfu looks so exotic. The Kungfu vs MMA debate fails to acknowledge most urban adversaries in ancient (and modern) era are armed- a primary emphasis on empty hand application is excellent for combat sport pugilism, however, limited for the real world.
By the 20th century, Internal Martial Arts became reimagined by reformers and teachers striving to preserve Chinese culture, or to strengthen the Chinese nation against foreign oppression. The martial arts context of today evolved into a nationalized project that had state backing. The feudal intent of Chinese Martial Arts is urban with biomechanics beneficial to the average professional or person. It is largely impractical for a citizen to train self-defense in preparation against unarmed Combat Sports Champions in real-world situations. The Kungfu vs MMA debate is a symptom of inaccurate historical documentation and modernized goals.
The Shaolin Cudgel is the foundation for much of the strategy in Yin Style Baguazhang today- ranging from unarmed techniques, military saber, spear, polearms, and bayonet. In ancient dynasties centuries before Yin Fu’s time, the dagger is used alongside the cudgel… predating the longsword and saber.
The connection of fighting systems in modern era stems from connections of the past- the Baguazhang/ Bajiquan stick and archery methods were once classified as one. The content of Ming “Sword Classic” is mainly based on the stick method, yet it incorporates the content of the arrow and the array in origin. The tactics of the archers were separated from the sword classics in later editions.
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.
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-fu 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].
“Shaolin Broken Wall”, also known as “the practical scatter of three hundred and sixty hands.” by Yan Dehua (printed in the Tianjin Commercial Daily in 1936) is connected with high-ranking members of Cheng Tinghua’s relatives. Cheng Youlong, the eldest son of Cheng Tinghua, retired and worked in Tianjin during the early 20th century. Sun Xikun (in the pic) is a senior student of Cheng Youlong- transitions of the single and double palm change are rooted in Ming Era polearms ranging from cudgel, pudao, to tigerfork. The “Shaolin Broken Wall” is likely to symbolize the strong defense line for Beijing with context to the Great Wall [Four Towns and Three Guanzhi/ military wushu book of the Ming Dynasty]
Gong Baotian/ disciple of Yin Fu is renown as the prototype for “Master Gong Yutian” in the GRANDMASTER Motion Picture- Gong Baotian may be among the most popular Yin Style Baguazhang icons in the Republic of China era. Modern Baguazhang schools generally make no distinction between Yin Fu’s students or provide a factual explanation of why methods of training, weapons, routines- differ so much between branches which exist today. Feudal Academia reveals the difference is simply divisions/ranks in occupation and time. Gong Baotian achieved the Imperial Guard status and General Manager of the Four Products- which is Second Rank Sword Guard. Yin Fu is First Rank Imperial Guard and Commander, selected from Qing Special Forces. The separate divisions of just one rank are substantial in regards to martial style, weapons, footwork, context. General Managers of the Four Products are often restricted from firearms (such as bayonet) and unarmed in close quarters with the Empress. The Spear is often utilized during inner palace duty, in conjunction with the military saber when appropriate. As a Han Chinese First Rank Guard under Manchu Rule, Yin Fu’s standards and military privileges are on a different level from Gong Baotian- unparalleled in Napoleonic Gutterfighting and the Shaolin Square Dance. Yin Fu is the Three Products Commander, therefore Yin Fu’s Chief System contains Spear/Luohan methods of the second rank, as well as techniques reserved for the most elite.