BaJiQuan originates from the DongNan town of Cang county, HeiBei province, in the area of Meng village, about seventy to eighty li ( about 40 km ) from the city, traditionally called "The nest of BaJi". Actually, this area is the old home of PiGuaQuan as well, it's even more popular there than in the famous PiGua county LuoZhong.
About seventy, eighty years ago, BaJiQuan was only popular in Cang county and its surrounding areas such as NanPi and NingJin counties. The local name for it was 巴子拳 or 鈀子拳( BaZiQuan: rake fist ), the name came from the fact that when holding the fist, the fingers resembles a rake. At about the end of Ming, and start of Qing dynasty, literary practitioners of the style changed the name to 八極拳 ( BaJiQuan: eight extremes fist ) as we call it today. In the northern dialect, the pronunciation for the characters "BaZi" and "BaJi" are very similar, and the meaning of the new writing form sounds more refined. By the end of the Qing dynasty, almost no one knew that the original name for the style, save for its place of origin -- Cang county. Some also call it "KaiMenBaJiQuan" ( Open gate eight extreme fist ), or KaiMenQuan, that's because BaJiQuan practioners will ram into the opponent as soon as they are in position, forcefully opening the opponents' gates, disrupting the center of mass and destroy the balance.
The identify of BaZiQuan's creator and era in which it was created can no longer be traced. Grandmaster Liu believes that this style should come from the BaZi fist and staff that was recorded in the "JiXiaoXinShu" ("New Book of Effective Techniques"), where it was written: "Among the fist families of old and new...Yang family spear methods and BaZi fist and staff, are the famous families of the day." From its ancient and simplistic favour, as well as the focus on lance and long staff training, we can estimate its date of creation to be around the beginning of Ming dynasty ( 1368 AD ); It also has strong connections to the military arts of the era.
Northerners call martial arts as "把式"(BaShi: skill), "八式" (BaShi: eight forms ). The meaning of 八極 (BaJi: eight extremes ) is to encourage the students to practice their "BaShi" to the highest level. Also, the style requires the usages of the head, shoulder, elbow, hand, rear, waist, knee and feet, all eight parts of the body. Therefore the name BaJi is to remind the students to be alert, and train the usage of the eight body parts to the best of their abilities
The Han dynasty king LiuAn wrote in book HuaiNanZi: "There are eight reverences outside the nine rivers, there are eight expands outside the eight reverences, and outside of those are eight extremes." Here, the eight extremes represent extreme distances. The name BaJiQuan is also to inspire students to training their skills to great heights.
The record of BaJiQuan's people and history can mostly be found in the Cang county's records. These records were told by HanHuaChen in 1933. At the time Grandmaster Liu and his teacher LiShuWen were visiting friends in ShanDong, and weren't able to participate. HanHuaChen was from LuoZhong, his descriptions were mostly based on that of the LuoZhong people. The descriptions for BaJiQuan's place of origin -- Meng village -- were few and had mistakes. The following are based on the Cang county records, combined with what was told by Grandmaster Liu.
Also named TongYin, he was from the Meng village of DongNan town in Cang county. Born around the end of ShunZi rule and the beginning of KanXi ( 1662 AD ), a northern Chinese Muslim. He was outstandingly intelligent at eight years old, and by the time he was eighteen he was much stronger and braver than his peers. As a result he stopped his literary studies to focus on martial studies. One night when he was practicing sword in his courtyard, a daoist suddenly jumped down from the roof. WuZhong asked for his name, the daoist refused to answer. When the two started converse about martial arts, WuZhong found that much of the daoist's skills and knowledges were unknown to him. As of such, he became the daoist's student, and studied BaJiQuan from him. After ten years, one day the old daoist said to WuZhong: "You have studied all my skills, I will now leave you." WuZhong cried, kneeled and bowed to him and said:"I have learnt much in the last ten years, but regrettably the only thing I haven't learnt is teacher's name." The old daoist said: "Anyone who knows the name 'Lai' are all my students." and jumped away from view. After another two years, another daoist by the name of "Pi" visited WuZhong, introduced himself as Lai's student. He taught WuZhong BaJi lance methods, and gave him a book of BaJi secrets. Pi asked WuZhong to go to a temple in HangZhou to compete with a head monk, who was an expert in ShaoLin martial arts. WuZhong defeated the monk many times consecutively, and the monk was very impressed by his skills. When they parted, he gave WuZhong a bag of throwing darts as gifts. Afterwards, WuZhong went to BeiJing to seek employment. At this time he competed in spears methods with the emperor KanXi's eleventh son, King XunQin. WuZhong was able to smear the white dust at the tip of his spear on the king's eyebrows without him noticing. The king thought WuZhong was capable of magic, and changed the white dust to flour, but the result was the same. The king was deeply impressed by his skills, and became his student. At the time people in BeiJing called WuZhong as "Spear king WuZhong".
[Editor's Notes] The teaching and passing of Chinese martial arts places great emphasis on teacher-student relations. The fact that WuZhong would follow the Daoist Lai to practice BaJiQuan for over ten years without knowing his name, does not agree with our expectations. It's said inside our style that: Lai, Pi, as well as the monk in the HanZou temple were all officials during the Ming dynasty. After the demise of Ming, they all hid themselves amongst monks and daoists, hiding their names to continue their work against the Qing government to attempt to restore the Ming. In the beginning of Qing dynasty, there were many such patriots. Because of the political background of the era, to prevent affecting teachers and peers in case their activies were discovered, many hid the lineage and teachings of their martial systems. As a result, today it's very difficult to rediscover this history. At the same period, Chinese martial arts made the transition from the battlefield art that emphasized on weaponry, to the personal defensive art that emphasized on empty hands. Many martial art systems that developed during this period also have such vague lineage history. It's highly likely that these systems share the same historical background as BaJiQuan!
WuRong is WuZhong's daughter, her date of birth should not be later than the end of KanXi, begining of YongZheng era( 1720 AD ). She inherited her father's martial skills and was able to pass it on to students. Amongst all the students of WuZhong, only WuRong's name was able to be passed on until present day. Perhaps this was because WuZhong started teaching after returning home in his old age, and WuRong taught in place for her father.
According to the surviving Wu family chart: WuZhong had no sons, daughter had married a man into the family, but also had no son. Therefore WuZhong has no decendents.
From Meng village, born in the fiftieth year of QianLong (1785 AD), died 30 years earlier than ZhangKeMing. He died in the first year of GuangXu, lived to be ninty something years old. JinMingQi was from the same village as WuZhong, his martial skills probably came from WuZhong's student, but the name wasn't recorded. Jin's fist, lance methods as well as medical knowledge were famous at the time. His niece JinDianShen inherited his skills, especially lance. DianShen was able to attack the pressure points on the body using the lance without harming the skin; He also lived to above 90 years of age.
ZhangKeMingFrom LuoTong village of DongNan town in Cang county. He was a student of WuRong's lineage, famous for his lance techniques at the time. During the XianFeng years, he was a personal guard for the minister of intelligence ZhangZhiWan when he was stationed around JieQing river to guard the annual imperial food transport. He always let his students be recognized for his achievements and distinctions. From his career, we can calculate his date of birth to be around the twentieth year of JiaQin ( 1815 AD ).
From LuoTong village. The county records recorded him a TongBei practitioner. Actually PiGuaZhang was called TongBei PiGuaZhang as well. His teacher was unclear. In middle age he was the coach of BaQi camp (royal army) in BeiJing. Unarmed, he had single handedly combated hundreds of armed thugs, defeating them in just moments. In the 7th year of TongZhi ( 1868 AD ), militant ZhangZongYu attacked XianShan county. At the time LiYunBiao was teaching martial arts in XianShan. The county people elected Li to be the commander to resist the attack. When one hundred thousand militants attacked the city, Li led five hundred of his students leading the charge and fought the militants to the south of the city with a few thousand civilian soldiers following them. Because the number of militants were too great, Li's force was disparsed. After fighting long and hard, Li managed to make his way out of the siege and returned to the city, only to discover that all his students and civilian solider had been killed. Li said to the people in tears: "Everyone elected me as the leader, but everyone had died in battle, only I returned. How can I face everyone's family?" He immediately saddled up and rode back out of the city to fight. County's people view the battle on the city walls, and saw him charging back and forth into the enemy, kills a few hundred militants before finally being killed due to exhaustion.
From LuoTong county, was a student of WuRong's lineage. His fingers were like iron rods. Anyone being hit by his fingers always fell manys steps away, no matter how strong they were. In the 7th year of TongZhi ( 1868 AD ), he died in battle because of exhausion while helping LiYunBiao defending XianShan county against militants. The ZhaoZhong temple in XianShan still reverences his name. When he passed away, his son GuiZhao was still young. One day 8 or 9 robbers came. GuiZhao used a lance by himself to defend his home, killing one, and wounded two others, making the robbers run in defeat.
ZhangKeMing's son. He was a coach in the TianJing WuShi society in the 2nd year of XuanTong ( 1910 AD ), he was in his 60s at the time.
From LuoTong, student of ZhangKeMing. Followed his teacher and participated in the battle of Qing river, won distinctions in battle and was awarded sixth level officialhood. If we assume he was in his 30s during the battle of Qing river, then he should be born around the DaoGuang years. ( about 1840 AD )
Also named TongChen, from the ChangSha in Cang county ( Incorrectly recorded as NanLiang in the county records ). Born in the first year of TongZhi ( 1864 AD ), passed away in the 23rd year of MingGuo ( 1934 AD ), he was 70 years old. Studied BaJiQuan and lance methods from JinDianSheng of Meng village. The county records recorded him as the student of HuangSiHai, but it's a mistake by HanHuaChen.
In childhood, LiShuWen was sold to an opera group to study to become a WuSheng because of poverty. His leg was later injured, and was subsequently returned home. Because JinDianSheng was skilled at medicine, maybe that's the reason he started studying BaJiQuan form him. Until the end of his life, he dispised people whistling opera tunes. His students refrained from whistling the tunes in front of him, else they would be punished. However, when he was in a good mood, he would demenstrate WuSheng specialty acrobat skills such as tumbling on a chair. The pains of his childhood determined his personality for the rest of his life, and at the same time molded an outstanding figure of BaJi.
LiShuWen's physical figure was average, but his spirit and apperance was imposing. With the DongBei army general XuLanShou becoming his student, many army commanders at the time also became his students. When LiJingLin was overwatching HeBei province, he invited LiShuWen to instruct in TianJin. At the time LiJingLin also invited two other martial artists to teach at his residence. However LiShuWen considered the two's skills to be insufficient to be instructors, and were not fit to share the same status as him. Many times he challenged them. One day LiJingLin hosted a banquate, and permitted the three to compare skills after dinning. LiShuWen first demenstrated the BaJiQuan's PaiZhang technique, and claimed that he'll only use this one technique to hit. When the fight started, Li immediately managed to hit the opponent's face with his palm, not only did he broke the neck, the eyeball als came out of its socket, killing the opponent instantly. When the second person came up, Li still used PaiZhang. The opponent shifted his head to the side, the palm hit the shoulder instead, taking the arm out of its socket and broke the collarbone. LiJingLin was very unhappy that the teachers he invited was killed and wounded by LiShuWen, and took grudge against him. The two had severe problem getting along, and after a few years, LiShuWen returned to Cang county disappointed.
After LiShuWen returned to Cang county, he always wanted to return to the Yi, Nu area. The Liu family had military and political connections in the north. When grandmaster Liu had finished studies, he and LiShuwen went to ShanDong province to visit friends, and to test skills. Later they lived in ZhangXiangWu general's residence in Huang county. General Zhang was the governor of ShanDon, and was also LiShuWen's student. His vice governor was not only Li's student, but was also grandmaster Liu's niece. The story of LiShuWen eating chicken chewing and swallowing both skin and bones happened around this period. According to grandmaster Liu: When LiShuWen has time, he would pick up rocks along trail tracks, washing them and breaking them with his teeth and then spit them out, amazing all onlookers. Also when grandmaster Liu was studying Six Harmony Mantis with DingZiCheng, LiShuWen would practice hitting and kicking on the big banyan trees in front of the Huang County Public Education Center. The two large banyan trees had quite a history then, and had large canopies and thick trunks, they were the local symbol of Huang county spirit. After a few months however, one of them died from Li's practices. Grandmaster Liu said: Li's skills was too high, nobody dared to practice with him. However everyday he must hit something vigoriously, and get rid of all his energy, else he would feel uncomfortable all over. The amazing feats of him hitting trees, chewing stones were all for the purpose of getting rid of excess energy.
Li had challenged many people his whole life, the opponents was always either died or was severly wounded, making himself many enemies. In his later life, Li was very cautious, always afraid of people assasinating him. Everyday he would eat only in the homes of a few trusted students. During any moment, there could not be anybody near him, if anybody got close he would hit them, even in public. According to grandmaster Liu: even when walking Li would decide to change directions suddenly, making the students that followed him unable to predict. When entering houses he would leap inside, or sometimes even enter through the windows. His behaviours would seem mental to most people, but to Li they were necessary precautions against assasination.
Even with all his precautions, when his student LiuYunQiao followed GongBaoTian to YianTai to practice BaGuaZhang, Li returned to Cang county by himself. On the road in an inn in TanFang, he was poisoned by his enemies.
LiShuWen especially excelled with lances, and was able to fight with others while holding the lance with only one hand. When practicing, he would smear honey on to a piece of paper to attract flies, and impaled the flies with his lance with always one fly per thrust, and never damaged the paper. He could spin the large wheels from large carts with the tip of his lance with no effort. Someone once hammered 9 inch iron nails into a wall, even strong men couldn't pull them out. Li would put the tip of his lance under the nails, and pulled them out. The people at the time all thought Li's lancing skills were the reincarnation of WuZHong, and called him Spear God Li.
LiShuWen had many students. The famous ones were: HuoDianGe, HuoDianKui(brother), XuLanZHou, RenGuoDong, LiuHuChen, ZhangXiangWu, NaYuKui, MaFengTu, MaYingYu, MaCangTu, HanHuaChen, ZhaoShuDe, DouShiLong, XuZhiQing, DingZhongJie, LiuYunQiao, LiuChenDong. Amongst them, MaFengYu, MaYingYu, MaCangTu, HanHuaChen and ZhaoShuDe were originally PiGuaZhang practitioners, and became Li's students to study BaJiQuan later.
[Editor's Notes]According to doctor MaMingDa: MaYingTu studied under HuangSiHai, and was the kungfu brother of LiShuWen. This claim is very different from that of grandmaster Liu's. Grandmaster Liu was a very traditional figure, and was very serious regarding lineage claims. He was also very familiar with ZhangXiangWu, XuLanZhou, MaFengTu, MaYingTu, MaCangTu, HanHuaChen and ZhaoShuDe. These people all called grandmaster Liu as "little kungfu brother". But because the people in question have all passed away, we can no longer prove any of the claims. To respect doctor MaMingDa, I especially add this note to the words of my teacher.
From XiaJi of Cang county, he was the first student of LiShuWen. Actually he was only a few years younger than Li, but was very impressed by Li's skills that he insisted being Li's student. HuoDianGe was once the last Qing emperor FuYi's martial art instructor as well as bodyguard. He followed FuYi to DongBei in 1932 along with HuoQinYun and others. There he taught many students.
From LuoTong, also named HuiQing. He was a student of ZhangYuHeng ( The county record mistakenly recorded him as the student of ZhangJingXing ). He once studied BaJiQuan from LiShuWen. When Han, MaYingTu and ZhaoShuDe were instructors at the Centeral National Art Center, they always called each other "brothers" because they were all students of Li. Han himself always told others that he was the inner door student of Li. Early Center National Art Center students such as LiYuanZhi, ChangDongSheng all knew about this. At the time Han, Ma and Zhao created another set of BaJiQuan for teaching purposes. Later when reporting this to LiShuWen, they were scolded by Li.
Also named XiaoChen, from BeiTou of Cang county. The last student of LiShuWen. Please see the other sections on the website for the detail events of Grandmaster Liu's life. In his middle age, he joined the military to resist against the Japanese invasion. He had participated in battles all over mainland, and later followed the army to Taiwan. Only after he had retired did he start to pass his art to others. He was especially strict on his teaching in the few decades before his passing, this was because he worried that his art would be lost. He had many students in Taiwan, and today they have continue to teach all over the world.
BaJiQuan and PiGuaZhang originally belonged in the same family, and were both taught by WuZhong. However even in Cang county there were many different branches. For example in the area surrounding Meng village, the training emphasized more on BaJi and less on PiGua, but in areas surrounding LuoTong more PiGua was practiced and less on BaJi. According to Grandmaster Liu, BaJiQuan in the towns and cities were fancier, BaJiQuan in the villages and rural areas were simpler and more effecient. In his youth, there were many people who reached fame through the practice of BaJiQuan. Aside from LiShuWen, there were also ChuiChangYou, DongYiWen, LiYanTian, HuoDianGe, as well as HuoDianGe's students such as ZhangLianJiu, GaoXiangTian, LiuZiMing, HuoQingYun, BianTingJie, ZhangKuiWen, GuanJunWen, WangMa, HuoLianMing, LiuQingTian, LiuWeiZhen, BianTingBin, LianXiang, LiuJunLi, LiDaLin(GongHuan). After HuoDianGe went to DongBei, LiYanTian became the instructor for Huo's students.
After LiShuWen accepted his last student grandmaster Liu, he didn't fight with other as much, and instead focused his energy on teaching. During this period LiShuWen took the experiences he had gather through fighting and practicing during his life, gradually digested them and recombined them to a new level. In his later years Li had many unique insights and changes to BaJi and PiGua. And grandmaster Liu was the only person who had witnessed these changes in their entirety. When grandmaster Liu was in the Yi, Nu area visiting friends, he had met Li's earlier students. These elder brothers were all amazed at grandmaster Liu's BaJiQuan. Whether it was style, power and technique, his BaJiQuan was more refined than Li's BaJi in the early years.
Nowadays, aside from the local BaJiQuan in Cang county, in the north east there is HuoDianGe's system, in the north west there is system taught by MaFengTu, and in Taiwan there is grandmaster Liu's system of BaJiQuan. Grandmaster Liu's students also are teaching in United States, Canada, Spain, Venezuela, Malaysia, etc. As China mainland have opened to foreign trade, mainland BaJiQuan have also spread east to Korea, Japan and well as United States.
Every BaJiQuan styles have slightly different names for their forms, but the contents are basically JingGang eight sets ( also called Eight large sets ), Small BaJi ( also called BaJi Frame, Dead BaJi, BaJi Small Frame, Old BaJi), Big BaJi ( also called BaJi Large Frame, New BaJi, Live BaJi), Six Large Openings and so on. By comparison, although the names and the organization of the forms in the different branches of BaJi are different, but generally the techniques and methods are mostly similar. In terms of weaponry, BaJiQuan has its very famous large lance methods and ShuaiBa staff methods.
BaJiQuan's movement is precise, fast, simple and direct. Every move has its intended usages, and will not contain anything flowery. However once the hand methods are mastered, then infiniate changes are possible.
Strong emphasis on FaJing. BaJiQuan places great emphasis on the usage of JingDao. The methods of JingDao training are many and complete. Usually the student is introduced with Sinking Jing, and after the training of Long Jing, Short Jing, Cross Jing, Combine (He) Jing and Silk Reeling Jing, emphasis will be on the combination of techniques and JingDao.
In his old age, LiShuWen always confided in grandmaster Liu that he doesn't know what the power of his second punch is like, because he had always managed to kill his opponents with only one punch, and never had the chance to use a second one. From this we can see the emphasis of faJing in BaJiQuan.
BaJiQuan's training is very scientific. Both techniques and power are divided into steps. These training methods flow from one to another, connect closely in a sequence, and does not allow the practitioner to be lazy.
BaJiQuan's train methods all start with the lower body, the training is very strenuous. Without a solid lower body fundation, there would be no way to progress into the other stages of training. Often BaJiQuan enthusiasts are not able to withstand the demands, and quit because they cannot pass this first stage.
BaJiQuan's training involves the usage of Chi. Chi's storage and release are done through the combine usage of "Hen", "Ha" sounds to assist the release of Jing. That's why BaJi often damages the opponents' organs.
Although BaJiQuan's movements are not numerous and are simple, the techniques are very complete. No matter it's the top, middle or the bottom sections of the body, or the inner, outer gates, as well as long range attacks and short range fighting, they all have complete methods. Not one specific method is especially favored.
Because of the above characteristics, combined with our style's method of teaching, BaJiQuan is very applicable. Unfortunately many people are intimidated by the harsh demands of training, and quit half-way. Making the spread of proper BaJiQuan difficult.