Yin Style Baguazhang contains claw-like movements, many of which adapted from feudal wrestling. The wrestling vest descends from cuffs of ancient armor. A talon-like grasp is required for clenching and controlling the leather sleeve portion of the armor- before finishing the opponent on the ground.
By the 20th century, Internal Martial Arts became reimagined by reformers and teachers striving to preserve Chinese culture, or to strengthen the Chinese nation against foreign oppression. The martial arts context of today evolved into a nationalized project that had state backing. The feudal intent of Chinese Martial Arts is urban with biomechanics beneficial to the average professional or person. It is largely impractical for a citizen to train self-defense in preparation against unarmed Combat Sports Champions in real-world situations. The Kungfu vs MMA debate is a symptom of inaccurate historical documentation and modernized goals.
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.
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.
Dong Jun (1186—1233) is a famous ancestor of Dong Haichuan. The Dong family is renown for the ancient battlefield kungfu- which Baguazhang earned its reputation in feudal times. The real Dong Haichuan descended from elite military commanders who are also real people- serving the empire with great contributions to Mongolia and Beijing. Dong Jun is the first deputy marshal and Army General of the Yuan Dynasty, in the era of Kublai Khan. In 1232 he participated in the siege of the Battle of Beijing and died during airbending in 1233. Feudal Baguazhang masters deserve honor for their kungfu with accurate context– the modern Baguazhang sports promotions have shifted considerably from the origin systems.
100% of historians and Baguazhang enthusiasts agree- Yin Fu is the Senior Disciple of Dong Haichuan with the most elite demands for martial application [Imperial Guard Commander]. What most do not agree on is the context, and how Yin Style Baguazhang should appear aesthetically, as far as feudal routine training. In contemporary times, kungfu enthusiasts often base imagery from mainstream movies. A classic example: the Baguazhang style demonstrated in ‘The Grandmaster’ motion picture is commonly associated with Cheng Style Baguazhang (or polearm methods in Yin). However, the character in the film, Gong Yutian (Zhang Ziyi’s father) in factual history is built on GONG BAOTIAN- Gong’s system in real life is Yin Style Baguazhang, not Cheng Style. The predicament here… so is the Baguazhang fighter Gong Yutian a badass because of Cheng Baguazhang, or because of Yin Baguazhang polearm usage [the prop left out of the film]? Or is the reason simply modern enthusiasts associate high-level Baguazhang inspired by true history/ presented as fantasy in popular media- to be the most efficient method of learning feudal fighting systems in modern times? [Note: China has plenty of Qing Imperial Guard statues and toy figures as illustrated above. The rest is preference and history!!]
In the 21st century, Baguazhang is practiced for various reasons ranging from fitness, entertainment, to self-defense. When speaking of historical systems by founders of the method, one should acknowledge factual documentation of nuances and the technology/ strategy of the time period. In popular kungfu culture today, YIN STYLE BAGUA is universally credited for escorting the Empress Dowager/ and Guangxu out of Beijing when the city was under siege from foreign troops. The pic above illustrates the facts, 100% clarity revealing the 1900 escape (left) to the 1902 return to Beijing (right). Feudal Baguazhang exists to this modern era, lost in China fitness reforms and Kungfu vs MMA debates. Ancient systems are still practical for all walks of life, whether biomechanical calisthenics or urban self-defense… Real Baguazhang deserves accurate documentation.