Shaolin boxing styles

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Zui Quan (Drunkard Boxing)

In Zui Quan or the drunkard boxing, boxers falter, waddle, fall and sway just like drunkards. Zui Quan can be used for both fighting and maintaining health. However, the drunkard boxers go out of their way to stress the combative side of their style. They blend a series of movements, actions and skills o f the martial arts and try to confuse their opponents with special skills which often lead them to surprise triumphs.

Execution of the drunkard boxing demands extreme flexibility of the joints as well as suppleness, dexterity, power and coordination all of which can be developed in the course of practice.The main feature of the drunkard boxing is to hide combative hits in drunkard-like, unsteady moveme nts and actions so s to confuse the opponent. The secret of this style of boxing is maintaining a clear mind while giving a drunken appearance.

Drunkard boxers are required to be responsive with good eyesight and fist plays. They move in unconnected steps but with a flexible body combining hardness and suppleness. They have to be fast to get the better of their opponents but their main tactic is to feign defence while trying to attack and aiming in one direction but attacking in another. Various degrees of drunkenness are demonstrated by different ranges of movements and expressions in the eye.

Luohan Quan (Arhat Boxing)

Luohan Quan or the Arhat boxing originated from the Shaolin-style boxing. It has been called the 18-hand tricks of Arhat, which consisted of 18 combating skills and techniques. Along with its 24 movements in advancing and retreating, the Arhat boxing uses six routines of fist plays, two routines of palm plays, one routine of elbow play, four routines of holding and strangle holding, each of which has its own practical value and health-building effect. The original Luohan Quan was called the 18-form Arhat boxing which was improved and developed through years of practice. It later became the 27-form small Arhat boxing, the 54-form big Arhat boxing and the 108-form Arhat boxing. While practising, Arhat boxers can be as soft as willow twigs, as agile as a smart monkey jumping over a mountain gully, as mighty as a lion, and as powerful as a dragon stirring the sea. According to the practice proverbs of the Arhat boxing, the head of the Arhat boxer is like a wave; hands are like meteorites; the body like a willow twig; footwork is like that of a drunkard; blows are triggered by the mind and power is generated throughout the body. It should be difficult to tell whether the hits are substantial or empty. Free application of the Arhat boxing skills can be achieved through years of practice and exercise.

Luohan Quan was created by monks in the Shaolin Temple from watching and imitating the different forms and expression of the different Arhat statues in the temple, and through meditation. They added to these movements the skills of combat. There are quite a few Arhat boxing masters among the generations of Shaolin monks. The best in the contemporary period was Maestro Miao Xing. Maestro Miao Xing had been called "Gold Arhat". He was a native of Dengfeng in Henan Province and knew the combat skills as well as being fond of literal arts, especially Buddhism. He used to work on his farmland, and chanted Buddhist scriptures and practised martial arts after work. Later he travelled throughout the country and met with many Wushu masters. In this way he mastered the martial arts of different styles of boxing. Several years later, Miao Xing shaved his head to become a monk of the Shaolin Temple but he continued to practise his martial art in his spare-time delving into the skills of combat. Once he was seen practising his martial art by the abbot of the temple who praised him and taught him the Shaolin style of boxing and cudgel plays. The abbot also taught Miao Xing the Arhat boxing, acupressure touching, joint dislocating, holding and strangle holding, breathing exercises and other Shaolin-style martial arts.

Whenever challengers of the Shaolin martial arts came, the abbot would appoint Miao Xing to meet them and Miao was always the winner, thus earning the respect from among other monks. Eventually Miao was promoted to be the supervisor of the temple and was asked to teach the martial arts to other monks. After the death of the abbot, Miao Xing succeeded him and also served as the chief of the Shaolin martial arts masters. He had some 5.000 monk disciples and 200 laymen disciples. In 1939, Maestro Miao Xing passed away at he age of 58. The characteristics of the Arhat boxing are plain and simple. It combines simplicity with the beauty of the expressions of the Arhats. It hides its combative skills and blows in the Arhat-like actions. Movements are smoothly comfortable and fully spread out with clear cut rhythms and the cooperation and coordination of attack and defence are rational. After practising for a long time, the Arhat boxing can strengthen the physique, tone up the body, give one self-defence skills and cure diseases.

Tanlang Quan (Mantis Boxing)

Tanglang Quan or the mantis boxing is also an animal-imitating style of fist play. It copies the form and actions of a mantis adding the attack and defence skills of the martial arts. This unique style of boxing boasts an assortment of routines which generally fall into the northern and southern styles. The northern-style mantis boxing is said to have been created by Wang Lang of Jimo County in Shandong Province at the turn of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Legend has it that Wang was fond of martial arts and went to study Wushu at the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. After the temple was burnt down by the imperial army, Wang Lang returned to Jimo where, because of his shorter stature, he was beaten again and again by his senior fellow apprentice. Wang resolved to practise hard for three years but, much to his dismay he lost the duel again. One day in the forest, he saw a mantis wielding its forelegs while fighting a big cicada in a tree. Before long, the mantis killed the cicada. Wang found that the mantis had a good rhythm in attack and defence and controlled its catch and release well. It fought both from distance and close-up with hard and soft blows characteristic of martial combats. He captured a number of mantis and took them home. Watching them closely while they fought, Wang Lang compiled a mantis boxing by adding the essentials of the Shaolin boxing to the actions of the mantis, even including the expression of the mantis. There are two other propositions about the origin of the mantis boxing. One holds that Wang Lang created it while fighting the long-style boxers of the school created by the first emperor of the Song dynasty; the other believes that between his fights with back-through boxer Han Tong, Wang saw a mantis capture a cicada and fight a snake and so created the mantis boxing.

The mantis boxing has many routines and branches. The major five schools are as follows:
(1) Seven-star mantis boxing, which is also called Arhat mantis, features seven-star steps, hard-hitting, and vigorous movements. It tends more towards hardness than suppleness and its stances are comfortably spread and extended. The basics of this school include waist technique, leg technique, shoulder technique as well as standing skills and hitting skills.
(2) Plum blossom mantis boxing, also called taiji plum blossom mantis boxing, uses small steps and its movements are continuous deft and smart, like blossoming plums. It is almost an exact copy of the mantis. This style of boxing demands clear-cut rhythms in unleashing the tricks and emphasizes a smooth, deft and supple generation of power. It uses more sideway than straightforward force.
(3) Six-combination mantis boxing, also known as monkey mantis boxing, stresses the inner and outer, three combinations which make six combinations. It uses mind to guide the movements of the body and pays equal attention to both the mental and physical. It uses hidden, rather than obvious hardness and resorts more to inner forces.
(4) Hand-wringing mantis boxing is also called plum blossom hand-wringing mantis boxing. It comes from the plum blossom mantis boxing but because it uses hand wringing tricks in its routines, it came to be called hand-wringing mantis boxing. When delivering blows, the hands are in the shape of palm; when retreating, they are in the form of hooks.
(5) Twin mantis boxing. This style of boxing also comes from the plum blossom mantis boxing. Its movements have a delicate symmetry and thus it is called twin mantis boxing.

The mantis boxing features force, power, dexterity, speed, a combination of hardness and suppleness, of substantial and insubstantial tricks end blows and of attack and defence. It necessitates a good command of catch and release and a variation of action. Mantis boxers will attack if provoked; they will not attack if untouched by opponents; they deliver fist blows in quick succession when offended. These characteristics of the mantis boxing are well known among Chinese martial artists. A common featured of various styles of the mantis boxing is that their actions are accurate and performed in earnest. Mantis boxers move lightly, yet powerfully and their attacks are very strong with tricks that are delicately connected. The mantis boxing stresses eyesight, hand play, footwork and body movements as well as speed, agility, steadiness and careful choice of moves. Its power generation is strong but not stiff, supple but not soft, quick but not unconnected nor out of rhythm. The mantis boxing boasts of many skills and techniques and can beat its opponent with unpredictable changes of tricks and combinations of hardness and suppleness

Yingzhao Quan (Eagle Claw Boxing)

Yingzhao Quan or the eagle claw boxing is a traditional animal-imitating style of fist play that incorporates the movements, tricks and methods of the eagle. It is a mixture of the Yue-style boxing and the school of tumbling boxing. It is also called Yingzhao Fanzi Quan ( eagle claw tumbling boxing ). Because boxers form their hands into the shape of an eagle's claw, their style came to be called Yingzhao Quan. The traditional routines of the eagle claw boxing are said to have been created by Song Dynasty General Yue Fei. Li Quan, a monk of the Ming Dynasty, mastered the essentials of the Yue-style boxing before combining the eagle claw and tumble boxing to form eagle claw tumbling boxing. Li taught the style to Monk Fa Cheng who later passed it on to Liu Shijun of Xiongxian County in Hebei Province.

Liu Shijun, born in a poor family, used to sell flue cured tobacco for a living but he was deeply fond of martial arts. One day, when out selling tobacco till late, he stayed at a small inn. As he practised his martial arts by himself, Monk Fa Cheng who happened to be staying at the same inn, was woken up by the sounds of Liu's movements and actions. After he completed his exercises, the monk told Liu that his routines were good for maintaining health but not for fighting enemies. Liu, annoyed by the monk's remarks, asked Fa Cheng to fight with him. The two fought a practice bout. Eager to win, Liu unleashed three attacks in a row but all were easily warded off by the monk. As he launched his fourth attack Monk Fa Cheng used the eagle claw trick to catch Liu's wrist. Although he tried all he could, Liu could not shake off the monk's hand. Fa Cheng then touched an acupressure point on Liu's back and Liu felt sourness and numbness spread throughout his body and fell to the ground. Realizing the monk was excellent at martial arts, Liu begged the monk to teach him. He followed Fa Cheng and learnt the eagle claw boxing and its secrets.

Three years later Liu left his master to travel alone and spent the rest of his life studying the art of fist plays and teaching youngster. Liu Shijun served as martial arts instructor at the barracks of imperial guards in Bejing during the Qing Dynasty and taught the eagle claw boxing to Liu Dekuan, Ji San, Ji Si and nephew Liu Chengyou. Liu Chengyou passed it on to his sister's grandson Chen Zizheng who went to teach the art in northeast China, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The eagle claw boxing features simple but powerful moves. When moving, the boxer attacks relentless and looks formidable, but when standing still, he looks like an eagle awaiting the chance to pounce on rabbits. The northern-style eagle claw boxing features comfortably spared movements which are aesthetically pleasing while the southern-style features delicate but spectacular acrobatic tricks.

There are many branches of eagle claw fist play which imitates all the movements of an eagle, the eagle boxing which stresses both the claw, and the flapping and fanning of wings, and the rock eagle boxing which imitates the eagle flying up and down a rock cliff. The eagle claw boxing is spectacular with boxers jumping high one minute and walking in a low position like an eagle diving into the woods for prey the next. Sometimes they run as fast as a shooting arrow while at others they stand steadily like an age-old pine tree. They demonstrate to the full, the bravery and flexibility of an eagle.

Tantui (Leg Flicking Boxing)

Tanntui or leg flicking boxing is also called pond legs. It has 10 routines and was therefore called 10-routine pond legs. When Shaolin monks added two more routines, it became the 12-routine pond legs. As many Moslems in China practise the boxing, it is also called religious leg flicking boxing. Tantui concentrates on feet plays with fist plays as support. Its movements are not complicated but complete and executed flawlessly. A symmetry is maintained by placing the feet one by one taking wide steps while keeping the body in a crouched position.

Xingyi Quan (Form and Meaning Boxing)

Xingyi Quan or the form and meaning boxing is also called Xinyi Quan (free-mind boxing), Xinyi Liuhe Quan (free-mind six-combination boxing) or Liuhe quan (six-combination boxing). There are two propositions about the name of this school of boxing. One holds that the body actions and movements should be guided by mind and that this school of boxing is an identity of mind and body; the other proposition states that this school of exercises are mere imitations of animal actions and movements and adopted the form and meaning of animal movements.

According to historical records, the creator of Xingyi Quan was Ji Jike (1602-1683) from Village Zuncun in Yongji County in Shanxi Province. A resident of the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty, Ji Jike was also known as Ji Longfeng. On his trip south to the Shaolin Temple and Luoyang in Henan Province and Qiupu in Anhui Province, Ji Jike passed his art on to Zeng Jiwu. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, Xingyi Quan was spread in Henan, Hebei and Shanxi provinces. Ma Xueli, a Luoyang resident in Henan, Dai Longbang, a resident of Qixian in Shanxi, and Li Luoneng, Dai's disciple from Hebei, all contributed to the dissemination and development of the boxing.

Over centuries, this school of boxing is now practised in different styles. The Shanxi style is compact, delicate and yet forceful while the Henan style is powerful, vigorous and substantial. The Hebei style stresses steadiness, sturdiness and comfort. As regards routines of fist fight, a similarity is seen between the Shanxi style and the Hebei style, both using three postures of the body, five major movements of axing, bursting, penetrating, hurling and traversing and imitations of 12 animal forms (dragon, tiger, monkey, horse, turtle, chicken, hawk, swallow, snake, owl, eagle and bear). The Henan style mainly imitates 10 animal forms (dragon, tiger, chicken, eagle, snake, horse, cat, monkey, hawk and swallow).