Raw feudal weaponry and tactics are often underappreciated in modern kungfu culture- stemming from the rise of unarmed pugilistic sports (borrowed from the West) and Peking Opera interpretation of history (further standardized by the Chinese State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports). Historical weapons melee is hidden in the empty-hand routines of lineages, remaining virtually unexplored in most kungfu schools… Aside from lost of ancient knowledge or a practical concealed carry point of view, ancient weapons benefit the biomechanic framework of an athlete- enhancing empty-hand boxing in the absence of the instrument. As an example, the sledgehammer and tire are popular conditioning tools amongst fighters in modern combat sports. Sledgehammer training will undoubtedly improve an athlete’s ability to maintain explosive power, improve grip strength, develop core control, and enhance alignment. A Chinese Halberd descending from the warring kingdoms will do just fine in the modern era.
[Xu Xiaodong’s coach Mei Huizhi, demonstrates principals of the circle]
In any era, self-defense requires standards and context relevant to its environment. Feudal Baguazhang strategies nowadays are often adapted for combat sports, fitness, or holistic routes in training, to cater to the modern man. For instance, ancient polearms/ instruments are adapted for body alignment/strength conditioning, to benefit the everyday person. Unarmed techniques are now used in conjunction with compact carry weapons of the 21st century. Mei Huizhi is a pioneer of Sanda sport in China, while remaining a dedicated practitioner of old school Baguazhang. He has integrated principals of Bagua footwork and grappling into Chinese Sanda and MMA.
Yin Fu dedicated many efforts to his bodyguard business in Beijing. He successively worked in the East Tower East Factory Hutong (Dongchang)- the site which was once the most elite Intelligence Agency in Ming Dynasty. During the 19th century, Dongchang became the residence to many top military/chief executives of the region (under Empress Cixi jurisdiction/ primarily Baoding elites). An interesting note, even today at Dongchang, the basic pattern of the Rong Lu mansion is still visible, and the European-style villas are apparent from the Westernization movement. The area is deeply connected with the Beiyang New Army and Yuan Shikai. Yin Fu’s true history reveals the misconceptions of modern Baguazhang promotions- his style, environment, and methods of the time period are not as expected.
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.
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.