Our Arts: Xingyi, Bagua, Qigong
Gongfu: skill developed through dedicated practice over time
Shen Long Xingyiquan
Shen Long Xingyiquan is a unique style of xingyi. While its five elements and 12 animal forms are recognizable when compared to orthodox styles, the Shen Long system is distinguished by its heavy influence from Gao Bagua, emphasis on martial realism and the non-xingyi foundational aspects of its curriculum.
We consider the roots of Shen Long (i.e., when the style diverged from orthodoxy) to start with Li Cunyi (1847–1921), who is considered to be one of the first xingyi boxers to study baguazhang. Li was a renowned martial artist and teacher. He ran a bodyguard service and started the Chinese Boxer’s Association in Tianjin in 1912.
Shortly thereafter, Li taught xingyi to a bagua practitioner named Zhang Junfeng. Zhang had learned bagua from Gao Yisheng, a student of Li’s childhood friend and bagua school brother, Cheng Tinghua. Zhang moved to Taiwan in the 1940s, where he founded the Yizong Martial Arts School, and taught xingyi, bagua and taiji openly and widely. He was often challenged by other martial artists and quickly gained a reputation as a skilled and moral practitioner.
One of Zhang’s first Taiwanese students was Hong Yixiang. Hong studied all three internal arts from Zhang. He was an avid fighter and became a respected teacher. Hong founded the Tang Shou Tao and began teaching the internal arts to foreigners alongside Taiwanese.
Hong decided to incorporate foundational forms from other martial arts styles into his curriculum to develop the strength, flexibility, balance and coordination required by the xingyi forms. At its peak, Hung’s school had around 200 students and one of his top students, Xu Hongji, was the head instructor. Xu eventually split from Hong over a disagreement about whether to teach foreigners with the same detail and expression as the Taiwanese. Xu thought anyone who was willing to diligently and honestly study xingyi should be allowed access to the full curriculum. Hong thought otherwise, so Xu left and started his own school. Xu further supplemented Hong’s foundational forms with exercise sets that gave students the physicality of farmers and laborers from the old days, thus making their study of xingyi more accessible and realistic.
The North American Tang Shou Tao Association’s founder, Vince Black, met Master Xu in 1973 in California, and studied with him until Master Xu’s death in 1984. Vince codified the foundational exercises and miscellaneous forms compiled by Hong and Xu into a progressive curriculum currently taught as the first two levels of the North American Tang Shou Tao’s Shen Long Xingyi system. The third level includes the classical xingyi standards of five elements, 12 animals and mixed forms. Each level also has weapons and two-person forms.
Liang Zhenpu Baguazhang
Liang style Baguazhang is one of the three major schools of bagua that originated from students of Dong Haichuan, the founder of bagua. This style is notable for its brutal and efficient employment of qinna (joint locks), elbow and leg attacks. The North American Tang Shou Tao is fortunate to have studied from multiple branches in the Liang school and teaches a uniquely comprehensive curriculum.
Liang Zhenpu (1863–1932) studied bagua with Dong for five years from the age of 14 until his teacher’s death. Liang then continued his studies with Dong’s senior students. This gave Liang’s style flavors from the other bagua systems.
Of the many students who were instructed by Liang, two close friends, Guo Gumin and Li Ziming, were the most famous. Though their background and trajectory were divergent, their diligent research and collaboration were integral to the development and preservation of the art. Guo was a superb martial artist, who learned and taught widely; he studied with many of Dong’s students, including Liu Dekuan, who is credited with devising the 64 linear sets inherent to all bagua systems. Li maintained his bagua practice and teaching throughout the Cultural Revolution, despite persecution. He later founded the Baguazhang Research Association and promoted the art widely. Guo and Li wrote several books together and were open in teaching each other’s students. Due to infighting and dishonest behavior, the majority of the next generation of bagua students did not cooperate with one another and refused to share and research the system in the spirit of Guo and Li. However, Wang Shitong, a senior student of Guo, and Zhang Huasen, a senior student of Li, were virtuous and wanted the art to flourish. Thanks to them, the North American Tang Shou Tao Association inherited the full and open expression of both their teaching.
The association’s founder, Vince Black, met Li Ziming by chance in China in 1990. Over two extended trips and daily instruction, Li taught Vince the Lao Bazhang form, neigong, qinna applications, a broadsword form and the 64 linear attacks. Li directed Vince to translate and publish his “Liang Zhen Pu Eight Diagrams Palm” book into English, and took Vince as a formal disciple in 1991.
After Li’s death in 1993, Vince met Zhang Huasen. Zhang filled in gaps from Li’s curriculum, including foundational exercises, mixed forms, two-person drills and weapons. After publishing Li’s book, Vince was approached by Wang Shitong in Beijing. Wang was impressed by the book and wanted to share his teacher Guo Gumin’s material with Vince. Wang taught variations on La Bazhang, new mixed forms and weapons, he took Vince as a disciple in 1994.
Current practice: Wang Ji Wu's 16 Longevity Exercises
The reputed Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Wang Ji Wu, created this series of exercises in the 1930s to serve as a front line therapy at his busy clinic in Beijing. Distilled from his system of Xingyi Quan, the Longevity Exercises artfully combine physical movement with intention to stretch and “clean” all the joints of the body while balancing the energetic system. The exercises are easy to learn and easy to practice, and can be done seated if standing is not possible. They can be practiced as a restorative qigong set, like we do at FLX Gongfu, or as a quick warm-up neigong to prepare for xingyi practice.
We are so happy to offer Qigong classes every Saturday morning. It's a wonderful way to start the day.