Natural Traditional Chinese Martial Arts articles by Sal Canzonieri
This was my fifteenth column in Han Wei Wushu, it is about Southern Shaolin during the Qing Dynasty (Part 3).
|Han Wei Wushu Newsletter
(April 1997 issues #29)
The story of traditional Chinese martial arts: Southern Style During the Qing Dynasty (3)
By the 1800s very different martial arts were developed in the southern provinces of China than those from the 1600s and 1700s.
In the 1800s, Feng Keshan developed the Mei Hua Quan or Plum Flower Boxing style. This style was strongly based on internal chi circulation and large external circular movements. It was developed out of the Shaolin system. In 1814, Feng recruited members for the Eight Diagrams Sect (Ba Qua Jiao) and participated in an anti-Ching uprising. He was caught by the Ching Court, found guilty, and executed by dismemberment. The Mei Hua style was attributed to Wu Mei (also called Ng Mui), who was a legendary figure - a Shaolin nun, in order to disguise Feng Keshan`s underground activities. The style was essentially a condensing of Shaolin`s best techniques into one system and with its own footwork patterns (five directions) unifying the techniques.
The Choy Li Fut style is another famous southern style derived
from the Southern Shaolin Temple, although arising a lot later than
Hung Gar and the other Five Families Styles. Choy Li Fut is a
mixture of the Choy Gar style, the Li Gar style, and the various
other monk styles practiced at Shaolin (such as Fut Gar, Five
Animals, Lohan, etc.). The Choy Li Fut style is both a long range
and middle range fighting style, composed of fast and balanced
techniques that are hard and soft, with powerful extended
movements. It was developed by Chan Heung, of
Jow / Zhou / Chow Gar - The Zhou Jia Quan Wushu, (Jow Ga Kungfu), was created by the Zhou brothers. The brothers came from the
Ngo Cho / Wu Tzu Five Ancestors Style - Chua Giok Beng was the founder or at least the organizaer of the Ngo Cho, Five Ancester, style. He was born in 1853 in Chuan Chiu, Fukien Province. He was a student of Ho Yang until his death. At that point he returned his teacher's body to Henan Province. While returning home, he undertook the study of additional martial art styles. He enjoyed fame for his skill in iron palm techniques and jumping skills. The five Ancestors / Ngo Cho Kun is a combination of Shaolin White Crane, Tai Zu (aka Tai Cho), Lohan, Monkey Fist, and Damo or Fut Gar; the white crane, for its intricate hand techniques; the monkey fist kung fu, for its mobility, agility, dexterity, and many evasive tactics; the Lohan, for its foot work and internal exercises; the Tai Zu, for its leg techniques (including scissor leg attacks and sweeping); and the Da Mo, for its breathing techniques (the basis of iron-body training and of regulating breathing to enhance both stamina and energy). Many schools adopted the sam chien form to the beginner’s curriculum. Although the sam chien seems simple, with only three steps forward and three steps backward, these steps are the essence of ngo cho kun. The style is popular amongst the Hakka peoples of Fujian province.
It was highly influential upon the development of Okinawan Karate. In its approach to iron body training, its reliance on the sam chien stance, and its special emphasis on hard and soft techniques, this Fukien style of kung-fu is believed to be the root of the Goju-ryu and Uechi-ryu Okinawan karate systems. It can be classified as both external and internal – “external” referring to concentrated striking power (the principle of a one-strike kill), and “internal” referring to the breathing technique used to improve physical health (by stimulating and exercising internal organs). This style utilizes agile body movement to evade the opponent's attacks by using low squatting stances and jumping. The style includes an emphasis on grabbing, clawing, and palm striking as offensive actions. There seems to be a large element of Beggars Style incorporated into the Ngo Cho Style.
The Hard Soft Fist is a tiger, crane and dragon style from Fujian Province called Pan Gai Noon, taught by Shaolin monk Shushiwa (1874-1926). In 1897, Uechi Kanbun traveled to China from Okinawa and studied Pan Gai Noon under Shushiwa. After training for ten years, he was allowed to teach Pan Gai Noon in China. After teaching for three years, he returned to Okinawa. He did not again teach Pan Gai Noon until he moved to Japan for employment. Only at the end of his life did he returned to Okinawa to teach what had become known as Pan Gai Noon Ryu, which his son renamed Uechi Ryu.
Throughout the Qing Dynasty the popularity of Yongchun White Crane system, together with all the other styles and systems of Kung Fu, were fed by the people's antipathy towards the Manchu government. This popular feeling at times overflowed into open resistance and rebellion. Chinese resentment against their Manchu rulers kept growing and between 1843 and 1850, many secret societies were started.
Li Wenmao (李文茂), a historically verifiable opera performer and leader in the 1854–1855 Red Turban Rebellion in Foshan, is said to have been a Wing Chun White Crane practitioner.
Following the defeat of the Qing at the hands of the British (and the ceding of
The Taiping was founded in 1845 by
Lin Jun (also called Wan Qing) was a famous practitioner of Yongchun White Crane Fist of that period, son of master Lin Jieyun from Xia Ning village in Yongchun, who organised thousands of people to demonstrate in support of the Tai Ping rebels in De Hua county. This mass demonstration took place in April 1853, the third year of the reign of Emperor Xianfeng. The demonstration was preceded by gatherings of people in Jing Feng Dian, Wan Chun Zai, Kui Xing Yan and Shan Men Yan areas of the Province for open practice of Kung Fu, in defiance of the Qing prohibition of the study of Martial Arts. For his support of the Rebellion, Lin Jun was granted the title of 'King Nie' by Hong Xiuchuan.
The soldiers of the Tai Ping Rebellion used different martial arts than those of the early Qing dynasty rebels. They were taught the Fan Zi Chuo Jiao style, which originated in the north during the early Song Dynasty era..
Tai Pings fought in 14 provinces. They appointed their own King,
Shi Dakai, who died in 1863. This caused the rapid downfall of
the Tai Pings and the Manchu again took over the south in 1864.
Non-Fujian based Southern Chinese Styles
There are many, many non-Shaolin derived
styles in the south of China, because of its long history of
being culturally and physically separated from the North. At one
time, the south was predominantly Taoist and there are many such
temples and priest-hoods there. All these Taoist styles of
martial arts are internal (Nei Chia) based systems, resembling Tai
Ji in essence of style. (many of these were discussed in previous
Parts 1 to 4).
Lanshou Men, or Blocking-Hand Boxing, was developed by Zheng Tianxing at the turn of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It is a popular style of Kung Fu especially in the areas along both sides of the Yangtze River. Zheng Tianxing was a famous Kung Fu master that is renowned through his skills and was responsible for spreading the style Lanshou Men.
Chang quan (long fist) is a martial art style from the southern coastal province of Zhejiang. It developed from fighting on boats. (Not to be confused with the generic term meaning all of the northern Chinese long range styles.) This style is said to originate from Tai Tzu, the Song Emperor. It is also known as cheng kuen.
(c) 1997 / 2007 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri