Shanqi (善耆; 1866–1922; 10th), held the title Prince Su of the First Rank from 1898 to 1922, posthumously honored as Prince Suzhong of the First Rank (肅忠親王). There are three noticeable Airbenders in the background. Eunuch bodyguards of the good prince would look like the pic. Dong Haichuan is employed by Prince Shanqi in the 19th century.
Dong Haichuan’s Baguazhang footwork shares ancestry with Ming-era systems in Hebei Province, including Bajiquan. The T-step (also called T Square) is well documented in Ming General Yu Dayou’s ‘Sword Classics’, with emphasis on polearms in origin. The reversing T step describes escaping backward, then taking advantage of an arched position in counterstrike. The T method immediately turns the back and attacks the opponent with a square geometry. Treatise: the t-square step can be used for regression, but also for progression; it may retreat; can be advanced in an arc, it can be rotated forward, or it can enter at a curve; Use every possible way to discover and apply the principal.
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 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.
Kungfu movies and folk novels post-1920s have emphasized the mysterious “lightskill” or Qinggong of feudal Baguazhang experts- (often over exaggerated and out of context) with the kungfu man flapping around like a hot potato. Feudal Academia reveals Dong Haichuan and Gong Baotian may indeed utilize such dynamic footwork and agility… it’s called Parkour-fu. Parkour in the modern sense is French influenced and grew out of military obstacle-course training. Yin Style Baguazhang contains elite feudal Chinese martial strategy integrated with the French westernization movement in the mid-19th century. The iconic “Four Faces” footwork of Napoleonic era is adapted into the Manchurian fighting methods of Yin Fu- unparalleled against multiple opponents.
The Baguazhang Horse Stance is used for generating torque/ power during sparring, as well as strengthening the lumbar and leg muscles. The feudal stance training enhances tendon strength and an overall understanding of feeling grounded. It is a wide, stable stance with a low center of gravity. Advanced and dedicated stance work develops “Movement in Stillness”- the Baguazhang expert achieves stillness and relaxation, while the horse treks around the tree!!
The book, Taiji Yang Luchan’s “Stolen Boxing” by the novelist Gong Baiyu of the Republic of China, is another primary inspiration for modern Baguazhang promotions and instruction. This fantasy novel is the foundation for the renown waiter and teacup story of Dong Haichuan- which contributes to inaccurate documentation of feudal Baguazhang. The story illustrates: Su Wangfu’s banquet on this day are full of wonder and guests -extremely crowded, that the waiter’s [Dong Haichuan] dishes cannot be placed on the table. The Qing officials saw the appearance of marvelous stunts, and the hand-held dishes were twirling between the crowds, flying, and dancing, and entering the unmanned environment- majestically the Waiterbender completed the task!! Everyone in the room was astonished and intrigued, only to realize this person is the top martial arts master Dong Haichuan. When serving teacups, it is the use of superior [Opera-fu] martial arts – the body and footwork of the Eight Trigram Palm.
Baguazhang is renowned for the Circle Walk strategy- however, it is of great irony very few Baguazhang schools today instruct or preserves the feudal application of the circle, in the correct context. Flanking is important in fighting… everyone knows. Circling prowess around an opponent, a tree, for meditation, for equilibrium, are common reasons the circle is instructed in modern schools. In the feudal era, the circle walk is designed specifically for melee calisthenics- a special precaution for a soldier’s defense against multiple armed opponents. A classic example is illustrated in Costantino Calarone, Italian Fencing Treatise of 1714. The treatise dictates a single fighter against multiple armed opponents- should circle walk, so the body’s movements are more agile. The sole fighter should not deliver thrusts, unless in the reach of just one opponent. The fighter should not stay planted, nor withdraw with backward steps. The optimal strategy is to wheel to the right of the first opponent, away from the multiple opponents at his side- aka Stacking [as in the pic].