Baguazhang, regardless of branch, is known for practicing with extremely large weapons. The Big Broadsword is the most iconic, yet often it is portrayed as the giant Oxtail Saber in modern schools. The famous Big Saber, in truth, is the military Pudao/Halberd of the Qing Dynasty. Yin Fu’s son Yin Yu Zhang represented large saber in his book ‘Practice Methods For Cleaving Saber Techniques’ in 1933. The cleaving saber in feudal times is attached to a wooden staff (true Big Saber) for patrol duties, allowing for versatility and longer reach. The westernization movement in the mid 19th century gave rise to the popularity of bayonets and refined pistols. Modernized/compact carry of the cleaving blade portion separate from the wooden staff became standard. The ‘Swimming Body’ style of Baguazhang caters directly to the Pudao/Halberd in conjunction with close-in wrestling tactics of Qing era bodyguards- it is unfortunate many have forgotten the original context. The Men Baozhen/ Xie Peiqi branch has always viewed the ‘Swimming Body’ method as a subsystem of the Yin Style Bagua Dragon System.
The phoenix system is generally agile and dominant- force is emitted from the shoulders and characterized by its whipping action. Phoenix methods are relatively more dynamic/graceful out of the core four systems. The striking methods are: dodging, extending, chopping, shocking, transforming, removing, curling in, and cutting. The phoenix’s characteristic movement technique is Windmill Force.
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.
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]
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.