Monday, April 26, 2010

A Vague Introduction to the Various Styles of Baguazhang

There are numerous styles of baguazhang existing today, but there are significant differences between them - in fact, often, it seems that there is more different than same. Nevertheless, there are a few similarities that all do share:
  • Philosophical basis on the eight trigrams (八卦)
  • Fundamental practice of walking in a circle
  • Fundamental palm techniques
In addition, a great majority of baguazhang styles also include most of the following:
  • Some kind of luohanquan (羅漢拳) or "arhat style" routines
  • Unique bagua weapons like the seven star rod (七星竿)
  • Lineage originating from Dong Haichuan (董海川), who taught baguazhang in the Forbidden City at the end of the Qing Dynasty
The philosophical basis on the eight trigrams can take on many forms, including but not exclusive to strategy, techniques, and routines. One very prominent feature of some styles is to align routines with animals that correlate with the trigrams. For example, Cheng Tinghua's (程挺華) student Sun Lutang (孫祿堂) wrote about eight animals that related martially to the trigrams, i.e. lion, snake, bear, dragon, phoenix, chicken, qilin, and monkey. While this is the most popular set of animals among the baguazhang lineages, others exist as well, while the majority of baguazhang styles do not specify animals at all.

The fundamental practice of walking in a circle is most important for baguazhang practitioners of all lineages, although many lines have supplemented this practice with standing methods as well (such as the Cheng (程) style of Liu Bin (劉斌) and many Yin (尹) styles). The rare Fan (樊) style of baguazhang places somewhat less importance on the practice of walking than other lineages.

Fundamental palm techniques that are shared by most baguazhang lineages include the famous piercing palm (穿掌), but the methods and applications of this skill differ across the lineages. Another well-known skill is the 72 hidden kicks (七十二暗腿), but the exact contents of these techniques may differ from lineage to lineage.

Baguazhang has also always had a strong association with luohanquan; for example, Sun Lutang mentioned 18 lines of luohanquan in his Study of Bagua Boxing (八卦拳學) book. Also Sun learned Cheng style baguazhang, Yin style is more well-known for its luohanquan sets, although the other styles sometimes have a set or two of luohanquan as well.

Baguazhang is well-known for certain unique weapons in its repertoire, the most famous of which is the seven star rod, and thus many baguazhang lineages have 2-3 sets of this weapon, although the sets often differ significantly. Other weapons typical to baguazhang include the deer antler knives (鹿角刀), the judge pens (判官筆), and others.

The actual material taught in each of the baguazhang lineages can differ greatly; for example:

Yin style: 64 palms, 18 luohanquan, tuituozhang, wuji staff, 18 intercepting saber, etc.
Cheng style: 8 mother palms, 8 x 8 animal palms, 5 phase kicks, deer horn knives, pointing way saber, etc.
Liang style: 8 old palms, 8 linking palms, 64 hands, chicken claw razors, copper maces, iron fan, etc.

The large difference in material may be the result of one or more of the following:
  • Dong Haichuan was said to have taught by word and not example
  • Dong Haichuan may have changed his own material as he aged, thus teaching different material at different times of his life
  • 2nd and 3rd generation practitioners added to and reorganized baguazhang's material, including influence from other styles like xingyiquan, taijiquan, and yingzhaoquan (eagle claw)
Sun Lutang's daughter, Sun Jianyun (孫劍雲) recalled how her father said, "When I learned, my teacher only showed us a technique once, and we had to remember - I teach you students leading you hand and foot, and yet you still cannot remember!"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Zhang Style Chaquan: Chaquan #4

In the summer of 1998, I spent two months in Beijing, China, at the Normal University Foreign Languages Institute (首都師範大學外國語學院). Naturally being very interested in Chinese martial arts (even back then), I managed to learn with a few teachers, including the coach at the Normal University proper, who taught me Chaquan #4 (查拳四路).

Chaquan is a famous style of the "longfist" category - basically, it was one of the main styles that was the basis for the modern wushu changquan style (which is what Jet Li and other movie stars use onscreen). Chaquan is an elegant style with actual combat application, but it can be quite difficult to understand simply by watching. The system is quite large, including 10 forms of chaquan, 3 forms of huaquan (滑拳), 2 forms of tuiquan (腿拳) basic training, and many weapons forms.

Chaquan was once a very widespread style, with many practitioners in Shandong, Henan, and Shanghai. Although I have forgotten most of what I learned, doing some research, it seems that what I learned was from the Zhang style (張式), from Shandong.

The 72 movements of this long set, in 4 sections, are given in their entirety below.

預備勢 - Ready Posture
第一段 - Section 1
對拳 - Fists Together
上步對拳 - Step Forward, Fists Together
跨步引掌 - Rushing Step, Pull Palm
馬步撩推掌 - Horse Step, Uplifting Pushing Palm
彈腿擊掌 - Flicking Leg, Attacking Palm
虛步亮掌 - Empty Step, Flashing Palm
橫襠步亮掌 - Side Step Stance, Flashing Palm
歇步挑掌 - Resting Step, Raising Palm
並步衝拳 - Parallel Step, Rushing Fist
彈腿擊掌 - Flicking Leg, Attacking Palm
弓步插掌 - Bow Step, Inserting Palm
馬步掛掌 - Horse Step, Hooking Palm
虛步按掌 - Empty Step, Pressing Palm
獨立勢 - One-legged Posture
並步雙擺掌 - Parallel Step, Double Swinging Palms
跨步擊掌 - Rushing Step, Attacking Palm
弟二段 - Section 2
仆步 - Crouching Step
歇步擺掌 - Resting Step, Swinging Palms
並步托掌 - Parallel Step, Upholding Palm
仆步穿掌 - Falling Step, Piercing Palm
弓步撩掌 - Bow Step, Uplifting Palm
跳步彈腿 - Leaping Step, Flicking Leg
弓步架打 - Bow Step, Propping Hit
虛步屈肘 - Empty Step, Bending Elbow
轉身馬步架打 - Rotating Body Horse Step, Propping Hit
提膝雙擺掌 - Lift Knee, Double Swinging Palms
趨步劈打 - Hurrying Step, Chop Hit
弓步靠掌 - Bow Step, Leaning Palm
第三段 - Section 3
白鸖亮翅 - White Crane Flashes Wings
虛步亮掌 - Empty Step, Flashing Palm
獨立勢 - One-legged Posture
上步穿掌 - Step Forward, Piercing Palm
轉身騰空飛腳 - Rotate Body, Aerial Flying Kick
虛步亮掌 - Empty Step, Flashing Palm
弓步撩掌 - Bow Step, Uplifting Palm
墊步蹬腳 - Skipping Step, Kicking Leg
弓步劈打 - Bow Step, Chopping Hit
馬步托打 - Horse Step, Upholding Hit
歇步抓肩 - Resting Step, Seize Shoulder
馬步壓肘 - Horse Step, Press Elbow
弓步擊掌 - Bow Step, Attacking Palm
馬步架打 - Horse Step, Propping Hit
提膝挎肘 - Raise Knee, Carry Elbow
弓步抱拳 - Bow Step, Embrace Fists
並步對拳 - Parallel Step, Fists Together
跳弓步頂肘 - Leaping Bow Step, Push Elbow
上步蓋掌 - Step Forward, Covering Palm
馬步架打 - Horse Step, Propping Hit
轉身掛掌 - Rotate Body, Grabbing Palm
弟四段 - Section 4
弓步雙推掌 - Bow Step, Double Pushing Palms
歇步捋手 - Resting Step, Pull Hand
退步擊掌 - Step Backwards, Attacking Palm
虛步按掌 - Empty Step, Press Palm
弓步衝拳 - Bow Step, Rushing Fist
上步拍腳 - Step Forward, Clap Foot
弓步橫掌 - Bot Step, Sideways Palm
歇步十字手 - Resting Step, Cross Hands
側踹腿 - Sideways Kicking Leg
弓步衝拳 - Bow Step, Rushing Fist
彈腿擊掌 - Flicking Leg, Attacking Palm
馬步推掌 - Horse Step, Pushing Palm
虛步按掌 - Empty Step, Pressing Palm
獨立勢 - One-legged Posture
上步穿掌 - Step Forward, Piercing Palm
轉身橫掌 - Rotate Body, Sideways Palm
並步舉掌 - Parallel Step, Raise Palms
踏步上衝拳 - Stamping Step, Upper Rushing Fist
單鞭勢 - Single Whip Posture
弓步按掌 - Bow Step, Pressing Palm
擊三拳 - Attacking Three Fists
並步擺拳 - Parallel Step, Swinging Fists
退步按掌 - Step Backwards, Press Palm
收勢 - Closing Posture

I only remember this set in pieces, but I will try to revive it if I can!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seven Star Praying Mantis: Bengbu

Image courtesy Luc Viatour

Although I now mainly practice baguazhang and xingyiquan, in the past I tried many styles, such as changquan, taijiquan, chaquan, Choy Lee Fut, Hung Gar, zuiquan, and even a smattering of Wing Chun. Unfortunately, I have forgotten nearly all that I learned before... except for a single seven star praying mantis (七星螳螂拳; qixing tanglangquan) set, bengbu (崩步), whose 48 movements are given in their entirety below:

中平雙蓄勢 - Stable Preparatory Posture
跨虎斜補捶 - Straddle the Tiger Stance, Diagonal Capturing Fist
跨虎捕蟬式 - Straddle the Tiger Stance, Capture Cicada Posture
登山左插掌 - Dengshan Stance, Left Inserting Palm
登山右補捶 - Dengshan Stance, Right Capturing Fist
縱跳封統捶 - Leaping, Sealing Fist
入環右疊肘 - Ruhuan Stance, Elbow
入環右崩捶 - Ruhuan Stance, Backfist
背踢雙撥掌 - Back Kick, Double Releasing Palms
馬式雙封手 - Horse Stance, Double Sealing Hands
登山刁劈捶 - Dengshan Stance, Hammerfist
右勾摟采手 - Right Gou, Lou, Cai
跨虎番車式 - Straddle the Tiger Stance, Fanche
登山左插掌 - Dengshan Stance, Left Inserting Palm
登山右補捶 - Dengshan Stance, Right Capturing Fist
馬式雙封手 - Horse Stance, Double Sealing Hands
登山右腰斬 - Dengshan Stance, Right Waist Chop
馬式左崩捶 - Horse Stance, Left Backfist
提腿左刁手 - Raise Leg, Left Hook Hand
提腿反刁手 - Raise Leg, Reverse Hook Hand
馬式右劈軋 - Horse Stance, Right Chop and Crush
扭步左黏肘 - Wringing Step, Left Sticky Elbow
登山左拐肘 - Dengshan Stance, Left Capturing Elbow
登山右斜掌 - Dengshan Stance, Right Diagonal Palm
馬式正補捶 - Horse Stance, Forward Capturing Fist
雙刁左揪腿 - Double Hooks, Left Jiutui
雙刁右揪腿 - Double Hooks, Right Jiutui
跨虎反捆手 - Straddle the Tiger Stance, Reverse Capturing Hands
踢腿刁取眼 - Kicking Legs, Hooks to the Eyes
提腿雙擊掌 - Raise Leg, Double Attacking Palms
刁手反沖爪 - Hook Hands, Reverse Rushing Claws
拼腿上圈捶 - Parallel Legs, Upper Hook Fist
提腿下截捶 - Raise Leg, Lower Intercepting Fist
提腿上截捶 - Raise Leg, Upper Intercepting Fist
登山封齊掌 - Dengshan Stance, Sealing Together Palms
反封左措捶 - Reverse Sealing, Left Placing Fist
迎風右措捶 - Welcome the Wind, Right Placing Fist
挂手頂臍捶 - Sealing Hands, Top Navel Fist
吞塌右扇風 - Tunta Stance, Right Fan Wind
吞塌左扇風 - Tunta Stance, Left Fan Wind
吞塌右扇風 - Tunta Stance, Right Fan Wind
引針右腰斬 - Pull Needle, Right Waist Chop
登山左圈捶 - Dengshan Stance, Left Hook Fist
登山左崩捶 - Dengshan Stance, Left Backfist
七星左刁手 - Seven Star Left Hook Hand
七星右補捶 - Seven Star Right Capturing Fist
跨虎捕蟬式 - Straddle the Tiger Stance, Capture Cicada Posture
中平作收式 - Stable Ending Posture

The legendary founder of praying mantis, Wang Lang (王朗), was said to have created two sets - bengbu and bazhou (八肘), as well as a set of secret techniques called mishou (秘手). This version of bengbu comes down from the Hong Kong lineage of Luo Guangyu (羅光玉), and is a fun set that is a great introduction to the techniques of praying mantis:

The trademark mantis hands posture (捕蟬)
The trademark "rolling" punch with both arms (番車)
The trademark gou, lou, cai trapping hands (勾摟采)
The trademark mantis low kick to the Achilles tendon (揪腿)
A very strange and surprising kick that goes around from the back (背踢)

The set also contains most of the major seven star praying mantis stances, i.e.:
Horse stance (馬式)
Dengshan stance, i.e. bow stance (登山)
Tunta stance, i.e. low stance (吞塌)
One-legged stance (提腿)
Tiger straddling stance, i.e. empty stance (跨虎)
Ruhuan stance, i.e. entering ring stance (入環)
Seven star stance (七星)

The last two are peculiar to the seven star branch of praying mantis.

In general, praying mantis seems easier to understand "as-is" than some other northern Chinese martial arts, like chaquan. I do admit that I don't completely understand the form's applications, though - perhaps one day I will be able to follow up and learn some more of this very interesting style! It would also be interesting to compare with seven star praying mantis practitioners from mainland China as well.