Before the late Qing Dynasty, the concept of “big knife/Dadao” in the army mostly refers to the knife of the long pole, similar to the shape of the Guandao. The knife with a short handle and a large blade (in popular contemporary Baguazhang culture) is called a single hand knife, it is not called a “big knife”, historically speaking. Ironically the signature instruments used by both disciples of Dong Haichuan are often misinterpreted in Airbending schools of today.
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.
Yang Kun is a friend and mentor of He Jinbao, extraordinary in Yin Style Baguazhang skill and chivalry. The Baguazhang methods of Yang descend from the Beiyang New Army in the Beijing and Tianjin area. Yang Kun is known for his strength in Yin Style iron bracelet strategy and interlinking body methods. [the pic in the background is from MMA Xu Xiaodong’s tv show in Beijing- Yang Kun’s disciples, left, are often guests of honor. Xu is a supporter of Real Baguazhang- he’s always been respectful towards Yin Style Baguazhang]
Most Internal Martial Arts in origin, descend or are significantly influenced by Ming General Qi Jiguang, a pioneer of kungfu in medieval China. His ancient proverb states that the “pretty is not practical and the practical is not pretty.” Feudal Scholars believe Qi Jiguang is describing YIN STYLE BAGUAZHANG- a raw historical artifact of terrifying prowess and prestige. Many have yet to realize, feudal Baguazhang does not look like the performance-based demonstrations often represented in modern kungfu cinema. To judge an ancient fighting art using contemporary Peking Opera-fu aesthetics guidelines- is a prime reason why there are Kungfu vs MMA discussions in modern times.
Liu Yun Qiao and Chen Fake exchanged martial concepts in Beijing during the late 1920s. Both masters at the time- Chen Fake (Beijing Chen Taijiquan) and Liu Yun Qiao (Bajiquan) agreed there was a great similarity between the systems. Both fighting arts utilize segmentation of elbows, short-range power, the similar tempo of footwork etc. In the Ming Dynasty, Bajiquan and Chen Taijiquan were one system- gradually separated through modernization, with the fall of Qing Dynasty. The fusion and historical artifact are preserved in Beijing Gongfu Jia of Chen Yu (Chen Zhaokui’s son).
The First Baguazhang motion picture ‘THE HONOR OF DONGFANG XU’ (1983) became the inspiration for Wang Kar-Wai’s ‘THE GRANDMASTER’ film (2013). Li Junfeng’s character is based on Han Muxia, a Baguazhang expert in the early 20th century. The unarmed pugilism and martial context, against the Hercules character in the film- is a fictional representation of factual history. China after the mid-20th century experienced the second wave of sports modifications by the Chinese government- pugilism in a sporting context is borrowed from the west. Han Muxia’s Baguazhang context, in reality, is fighting for the war. Muxia trained the Broadsword team (actually called “pistol team”) providing the most practical big knife skills and close-in wrestling. Modern combat sports and the battlefield always have a world of difference. [Master Li Junfeng is an old mentor and family friend of IRFS- a noble individual who stands for accurate documentation of Baguazhang history, regardless of commercial interests in the 21st century. Li has a strong connection with old Cheng Baguazhang masters, especially Sun Zhijun]
Chinese Kungfu (the sport-fu standardized by the Chinese government which undergone two waves of sports modifications since 1928) has lacked proper representation in modern combat sports, of recent. However Real Kungfu is still practical in the CHINESE QI CULTIVATION aspects apparently, or in short: CQC, Close Quarters Combat.
One of William E. Fairbairn’s students was Ian Fleming who went on to write the James Bond series of books. History is Fun!!
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.
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!!