Contrary to popular folk documentation, 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. Cheng Baguazhang represented in a Kungfu vs MMA context is inaccurate.
Often in cinema, the Baguazhang presented is elegant and silky- with a larger diameter eight step circle. The popular Baguazhang movements employ the whole body with smooth coiling and uncoiling actions, utilizing palm techniques, dynamic footwork, and close-in wrestling. In feudal era, the larger circle radius is necessary for polearm-fu against multiple opponents- a characteristic strategy of Qing footsoldiers and militia. In modern times, there are raw lineages which maintain the polearm structures in the empty-hand routines… some more so than others. According to feudal Shaolin Armed Treatise, pure Yin/Cheng artifact of Interlinking Body methods without heavy modification in modern times- should indeed retain the polearm structures with transitions intact. Close-in wrestling integration, with the primary weapon dominant, is standard- and not the other way around. Pre- 1900s, unarmed pugilistic systems as portrayed in popular Baguazhang films would be viewed as an impractical self-defense system for urban applications.
A recent Beijing Interview with He Jinbao discussing Yin Style Baguazhang and his perspective on training. In short, He Jinbao mentioned there is fitness reform kungfu and there is real kungfu. If one prefers kungfu solely for performance, then it is better to remain a performer. If practicality and martial function are preferred, surely the performance will lack in aesthetics. He Jinbao recommends for unarmed combat- the importance of precision and power in feudal drilling methods, with intelligent and adaptive technique.
The Yin Style Baguazhang Phoenix System descends from the armored cavalry days in Ming Dynasty. Phoenix specializes in agile bone strikes, quick neutralization, and dynamic footwork. In feudal times, the Phoenix enhances long-range spear control without sacrificing close-in defense. With both hands grasping the polearm, the edge of the arm/ bone strike generates shocking power if an opponent breaks through one’s spear range. It’s a challenge to imagine that Chinese kungfu is utilized in such an epic fashion- outside of an MMA cage.
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 graceful Pudao appeared in the Song Dynasty and which at the time, was the only legal folk weapon of this caliber. However, the legendary Airbending weapon was not widely used until the late Qing Dynasty. The Pudao is underappreciated in modern Baguazhang culture, as historical documentation reveals its strong connection in defending against ferocious tigers in the feudal era. The tiger is a symbol of Imperial Rule and ancient Shaolin champions. Many today regard Cheng Ting Hua’s Baguazhang as the most similar in appearance and strategy to the founder, Dong Haichuan. Scholars have determined this fact is indeed true, though it is a myth Cheng Ting Hua’s method is separate from Yin Fu’s Imperial Guard Commander system. The Pudao in the pic is the “Tai Ping Knife”. A multitude of soldiers from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in the late Qing Dynasty used this style of Pudao extensively. Even with such a simple weapon, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom defeated the well-equipped Qing army- which shows that although the Pudao is extinct in modern Baguazhang culture, the power is not to be underestimated. Dong Haichuan entered Beijing around the Taiping Rebellion timeframe- there is minimal chance the founder would not be skilled with the silky and smooth Pudao prowess.
Yin Style Bagua before the Republic of China era is labeled as Feudal Shaolin methods of Qing Cavalry/ Security forces. The civil weapons ban in China has resulted in a bit of amnesia, with the current Yin Baguazhang masters. Late 18th to the early 19th century “Dismounted Saber” of cavalry officers in the Qing era, is influenced by the Napoleonic saber technique. Yin Style Baguazhang Dragon Chopping- is now instructed as empty-hand striking… however the primary feudal Shaolin application is the officer saber methods of Yin Fu.