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.
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.
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.
The most elite wrestlers in Qing era reside within the royal courts, known as the Imperial Guard Wrestling Battalion. The signature strength training/ defense instrument is the Horse Cutter in various weight and shapes [pudao/guandao styling]. Yin Style Baguazhang experts utilized this polearm for royal military examination, and in the 19th century- field duty on foot. According to Ming Dynasty treatise, the horse cutter is reserved for high ranking officers in relation to the cavalry (more common in the infantry). Standard Ming cavalry is generally prohibited from horse cutter usage on horseback… the customs continued through the Qing era of the Manchu equestrian military training.
According to Chinese Scholars, the Qing Dynasty retained the cold weapons strategy (polearms, sabers, non-firearms etc.) from the Ming Dynasty armed treatise… which would be the strategy of Feudal Shaolin. The core of all Shaolin systems is the polearm/staff- essential and the first line of defense for most armed escorts and militia without access to Chinese Gun-fu. Close-in wrestling is essential during polearm melee, with a refined/scientific approach which exists in raw lineages today. The methods descend from an era when Kungfu masters still fought in life or death situations with a medieval weapon- contrary to most modern Opera-fu (it’s also pretty and silky without the polearm). Cheng Ting Hua is at the minimum, reserves/ militia in the Qing Dynasty. Being drafted by the Empress Cixi personally during the 1900 escape from Beijing- is no easy task for the average Mcdojo in ancient China. Yin Fu is skilled at the polearms also… it is a pre-requisite for tax collecting in Inner Mongolia with the founder of Baguazhang.
[Brother Hu with He Jinbao in the pic] Feudal wrestling is essential to Yin Style Bagua professionals in the Qing era. The Manchu wrestling before the 20th century contained obvious strikes and joint locks, complementary to the career path, and the Imperial Guard’s armor- worn during circle walking around the tree. The strikes of the wrestling for mounted officers is contained within various Yin Style systems and dominant within the Lion System- contrary to modern Shui Jiao (or popular folk Dragon classification) which has lost much of the cavalry striking. In the Qing era, military wrestling utilized edge of hand and various bone strikes- crucial for taking down an armored opponent. The Manchu style of vest descended from the leather edged portion of the Mongolian style of armor- the most important area of the armor for grasping and qi uprooting practice.