Lethwei or Burmese boxing is a full-contact combat sport from Myanmar that utilizes brutal elbow strikes along with various headbutts and clinching techniques. Lethwei is considered to be one of the most aggressive and brutal martial arts in the world- known as the Art of Nine Limbs. The unique close-range striking of Lethwei is reminiscent of those of Bajiquan, both descending from stick/polearm methods of feudal dynasties.
The method of clenching fists in Bajiquan is unlike standard boxing in origin. The four-finger curves and hollows, in a shape similar to a “palladium” or fork-like instrument. The ancients named it “Palladium Fist/Baziquan” during the Ming Dynasty. The system excels in close-in boxing, stick melee/polearm applications and shares technology similar to Yin Style Baguazhang (Phoenix Curling-In) and Escrima (Snapping Strikes). The fist hollows and clenches in intervals, or with a whip-like fashion before impact- designed for speed, rapid succession, and delivery of power with polearms or batons.
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 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.
As early as 90 years ago, a predecessor named Zhang Zhijiang dedicated extreme efforts into “kungfu anti-counterfeiting”, to strengthen feudal systems evolving with contemporary lifestyles. The scope of Zhang’s mission was even greater than that of Xu Xiaodong’s modern anti-counterfeiting incident. Zhang’s incident was the first national examination in the country in 1928. As a military commander, Zhang understood martial arts emphasized truth in the application. Feudal kungfu is crucial in the context of the battlefield- however, a balance is required for modern application and combat sports standards.
Yin Style Baguazhang and Bajiquan share the Ming Dynasty methods utilized by bowmen, ranging from infantry to imperial guards. Various routines and strike categories contain the biomechanical dynamics necessary for feudal warriors in the medieval era. The art of archery enhances cognitive focus and centering- unified with strength defending eight directions of the body.
Cheng Ting Hua is Cheng Yougong’s uncle- Cheng Yougong trained and worked as a shop assistant in Cheng Tinghua’s eyeglasses shop. Contrary to popular belief, many of the Cheng family served as elite instructors to the military (not qigong practice), including Cheng Youlong and Cheng Yougong. Cheng Yougong was the Baguazhang instructor of Zhang Xueliang (son of Zhang Zhuolin who Gong Baotian defended) and many Bajiquan fighters in the early 20th century. Hou Diange, the chief bodyguard of Emperor Puyi has a strong bond with the Cheng family. Cheng Yougong met Huo Diange during service in the late 1920s and frequently exchanged Baguazhang /Bajiquan knowledge. Cheng Qingxun learned Bajiquan from Huo (Yougong’s nephew) and still called Huo Diange “Huo Shishu” (Hou Uncle), well into the late 20th century.