[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.
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.
[David Chee-Kai Lin/ Combat Shuai Chiao in the pics]
In modern Baguazhang culture- Cheng Ting Hua is often credited for wrestling and Yin Fu is revered for his penetrating palms. While this may be a half-truth, Imperial Guards (Yin Fu) are skilled in military wrestling as well… the wrestling is the core foundational training of the elite, and the wrestling in Qing-era contained strikes and locks. To note, the Lion System of the Xie Peiqi/ Men Baozhen branch shares ancestry with the combative Baoding Wrestling schools- including all eight striking methods (from left to right, top to bottom: Sweeping, Cutting, Chopping, Hooking, Shocking, Blocking, Seizing, Grasping). Baoding is the southern gate of Beijing. There are many troops stationed there. The military academy of Manchu is also located in Baoding.
The context of Cheng Ting Hua’s Baguazhang is distorted in modern kungfu culture. Numerous 2019 articles reveal, Cheng was invited by the elites and became a member of the court’s inner guards- likely the Shanpuying (wrestling battalion equivalent to modern special forces). However, Cheng, who had just entered the palace, had not yet settled into the position… and it was during this time, he encountered the news of the invasion of the Eight-Power Allied Forces. The guards, Cheng Tinghua naturally had the obligation to protect the security of the Qing Dynasty royal family.
Scholars reveal Cheng Ting Hua became a qualified candidate in the Court Bodyguards of the Empress Dowager… quite possibly the Qing Wrestling Batallion or, the Good Camp. The inner guards (Yin Fu) and the good-fighting camp are directly under the jurisdiction of the emperor and have the obligation to serve as guards. There are about 2,000 people in the inner guards, and there are only 300 people in the camp. Regardless of Cheng’s official position, he is not a folk martial art master- but a professional with urban strategy.
In contemporary times with kungfu commercialization, historically accurate Baguazhang is a challenge to identify. Every now and again, someone will ponder why the Men Baozhen/ Xie Peiqi branch of Yin Style Baguazhang ‘aesthetically’ varies from mainstream Baguazhang. Some have suggested Yin Style Hard Palm looks more like KARATE then airbending as commonly depicted in the movies. The feudal breakdown by Chinese scholars can finally put this question to rest… Karate stems from “Tang Hand”, a system which was further refined in the 19th century through the efforts of Tangshou Sakugawa. At that time, Sakuhisa Kakuhe traveled across the ocean to study Chinese martial arts in the Qing Dynasty- improving upon the earlier Ming Dynasty “Tang Hand” rooted in Ryukyu. Sakugawa’s Beijing foundation is often credited to Dong Haichuan, the founder of Baguazhang. Sakujiu’s stick method is influenced by his military studies in Beijing City during this era.
Sanda Academies in China are the foundation for the majority of Chinese MMA fighters- the modern debate of “Traditional” vs modern combat sports is often out of context, lacking proper historical knowledge. Modern Sanda development in the late 20th century is primarily feudal Shaolin legwork, Baguazhang wrestling, with western Boxing fusion. Before the ’80s, the leg method in Sanda boxing system does not have a high kick, and is still similar to the low-line leg method inherent during/before the Republic of China. The Sanda wrestling techniques at that time were extracted from Baguazhang- efforts due to Cheng Style Baguazhang practitioner and Sanda pioneer, Mei Huizhi.
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.