Jet Li’s movie, “Fearless”, is about Huo Yuanjia, the founder of Jing Wu Hue martial arts, also known as Chin Wu. Huo Yuanjia was the first martial artist in the history of Chinese martial arts to combine several styles into one school. Before him, all martial artists focused on only one style in their training. Today, we refer to this combining of several styles, as the Jia Jing Wu Spirit. The major style in Jing Wu Hue is Mi Zhong Quan. In this article I will talk about the basic characteristics, history and principles of Mi Zhong Quan.
I grew up in a martial arts family and learned Mi Zhong Quan in my childhood, as part of my training. Literally translated as “Secret Ancestor”, Mi Zhong Quan is a famous traditional art in the northern style of Shao Lin Kung Fu. It is very popular throughout China, and because of its great influence, even in southern China, many Jing Wu associations and schools have been established. The style itself is divided into different and complex branches, each with its own system, flavor, concept, techniques and methods. From ancient times to the present, traditional masters accepted different parts of the Mi Zhong system. Because it was practiced in different regions of China, Mi Zhong Quan eventually developed into several branches and styles, each with its own unique fighting characteristics. All of the Mi Zhong Quan styles belong to the “Long Fist” category, although their frame and structure is mainly Shao Lin External Fist.
Mi Zhong fist fighting posture is clear, precise, smooth, freely open, firmly rooted and grounded, characterized by strong and heavy punching. Although appearing to be gentle and light overall, it has sudden, rapid attacks and shooting fists. It seems to be in a straight direction, but actually goes to eight different directions. The foot and handwork respond to each other. Retreating and other actions create a series of attacking and defending forms inherent in this style, as this Quan form changes unexpectedly and surprisingly with jumping feet, lightning dodges, with solid and fixed stances.
Mi Zhong is rich in forms, strong in technique, specific in solid footwork, and uses maximum strength in each punch. This is achieved through five ways of linking hands, hopping, piercing through, springing, jumping, leaping, dodging/hiding and galloping, using hard and soft applications all combined, with clear and crisp movements.
Mi Zhong fist is designed for two person fighting drills, group practice, wrestling and throwing. In the hand and foot work, there are many wrestling and controlling moves. The bodies of the two who are sparring contact with fist punching, arm blocking, shoulder striking, foot hooking, and leg sweeping. With waist twisting and shoulder shaking, one conquers and wins over the enemy. In a real fight setting, Mi Zhong Quan often combines wrestling and hitting; but emphasizes the use of less fighting to overcome greater effort.
The Mi Zhong system encompasses close to one hundred different kinds of fists and weapons. Within Mi Zhong there are many different types of schools, each with its own techniques and style, yet all having similar effects and results. As an example, wide stances are used for training, by all schools, for a strong and powerful punching style. Within the Mi Zhong system, traditionally based, there are twenty-four principles for hitting, eight methods and twelve postures. Moving and walking require use of the waist and Kung Fu legs. Practiced externally, Mi Zhong also has internal martial arts characteristics.
History of Mi Zhong
There are many tales about Mi Zhong fist. Sometimes different names were used, such as Mi Zhong fist, Yan Qing fist, Mi Zhong Art, and sometimes with different spelling. During my childhood, I often listened to my masters, as they related stories from the Mi Zhong heritage.
By the end of the Tang dynasty in the year 906 A.D. there was a great grandmaster, named Zou Tong, who taught many historically famous martial arts heroes, such as Lu Jun Yi, Shi Wen Gong, Wang Ling, Wu Song (who killed a tiger with his fists), Yue Fei (a general in the Song Dynasty Army), and Yen Qing. Yen Qing passed down what people called the Yen Qing Fist form. Later when Yen Qing rebelled against the Emperor, he escaped to Liang San Mountain and from that point on, people called this style the Ancestor Fist. While he was escaping to Liang San Mountain, Yen Qing used special techniques and skills, making nine fast marks on the snowy ground that caused the armies to lose him, so he was able to get away. From then on, this form was called the Lost Track Fist.
By the end of the Kang Xi Emperor period (1662 – 1722 A.D.), in the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911 A.D.), one of my ancestors, Sun Tong, who lived in the Shandong Province, studied and spread the Lost Track Fist style. From Shandong Province, located east of the Taihang Mountains to the sea, the style was passed to Changzhou, a city famous for Martial Arts in East Central China on the Grand Canal. From Changzhou it passed to a family living in Jing Hai County in He Bei Province, a northern China province. Another branch passed to Yan Tai City, a seaport town on Bohai Bay (part of the Yellow Sea) in Northeast Shandong Province, and from there, over the Yellow Sea it passed to Dang Dong City (where I grew up) on the Yalu River, Liaoning Province. In order to distinguish it from other Mi Zhong forms, we called this branch Dong Bei (Northeast) Mi Zhong Fist.
Basic Requirements of Mi Zhong Quan
1) Posture is upright, firmly rooted, body relaxed and straight, head up, neck straight, relaxed shoulders, elbows sinking, back stretched, waist rising, anus lifted up, hands working, hitting and moving like a tornado wind, with a fixed posture as quiet
as Tai Mountain. Foot and handwork are clear. One step leads to the next.
2) Full powerful energy combines with hard and soft energy. Rush-punch releases
in a sudden explosion of chop, smash, push, lift, cut, stab and spear. Fast footwork uses heel kicks, toe kicks, flip-up kicks, side kicks, round-house kicks, shovel kicks, stomps, poke kicks, and so on. Full energy goes to the foot with a clear point. The use of energy must be natural, harmonious, full-flowing and soft. Attacking must be fully grounded, fiercely speedy, quick and agile, hard and crisp, eventually looking as if the hands are like cotton, but touching the body like iron.
3) Waist and legs move with agility. Body and waist are forward, backward, dodging, and spinning. Footwork is quick, light and agile, forward and back, hopping and dodging, retreating, and coordinated up and down.
4) Spirit and body are one. Chi sinks to the Dan Tian. Eyes follow the direction of the movement. Spirit is energy for the mind, hidden inside. Hands, eyes, body and feet are the outer expression of the form. Essence, spirit, energy, strength, and Kung Fu are the inner Kung method. Eyes are like lightning.
Judge the opponent, then adjust and be in harmony with nature. Conquer the enemy and win the battle. Energy is solid inside. Mind goes down to the Dan Tian and is calm. The heart benefits, as energy flows naturally. Stances are rooted firmly, and powerful strength is exposed at one point.
Basic Characteristics of Mi Zhong Quan
The Quan forms are organized logically. Postures are upright, open, wide, natural and circular, dodging, spinning, jumping, retreating, fast and slow, practical but not flowery. The stress is on real Kung Fu qualities. Each movement is either attacking or defending, although, attacking is the main focus.
Energy and strength are sometimes hard, sometimes soft. Footwork is solid and grounded. Posture, like the Tai Mountain , is straight up. When attacking, the fist moves in one line, fiercely hitting and rushing forward with speed and strength. Important in these attacking techniques is protection. Techniques are clean in order to make an opponent misjudge one’s intention and be unsure as to what defense to use. The Quan's essential techniques are full with the flow of energy. Soft and hard energy
are combined, while empty and solid are intertwined. Heart is the master as chi sinks
to the Dan Tian.
Every part of the body can be used as a weapon - hands holding, sticking, controlling, and grasping; body lifting and rolling, scooping, wrestling, twisting, pushing, squeezing; shoulders striking, elbows hitting and head striking. Footwork is complex, although forward and backward movements are done naturally and freely. Many, many techniques are used. In Mi Zhong, everything is done so that the performer and nature are as one. In general, an opponent is prevented from attacking by the use of fast spinning, the sudden moving from high to low, and by making tracks cross each other so that foot marks are spread across a wide area. Therefore the Quan is called, “Ten Sides of Hidden Fist”.
The Fist Proverb says, “Hands, eyes, body, feet, spirit, energy, and strength are a great road of one-hundred eighty-thousand miles. Where there is a will, there is a way.
When one really has Kung Fu, dropping water can go through a thick stone. Fist is practiced over one thousand times, and body method is natural. Si Fu shows the disciple the right direction at the entrance, but the disciple must practice Kung Fu non-stop, then eventually you will find the Way."
Praying Mantis Boxing is one type of animal style Kung Fu. The type of Praying Mantis Kung Fu taught by SMMS originated from the Shan Dong Province of China. It was created by Wang Lang from Ji Mo County of Shan Dong during the late Ming Dynasty. Kung Fu was Wang’s passion since he was young. He had learned martial arts in the Shaolin Temple at Song Shan Mountain . He also traveled to several provinces and studied under the famous martial artists of his time. Once he noticed the skillfulness of a praying mantis catching a cicada. He then picked a straw to tease the praying mantis. Out of his observation of the praying mantis’s arm strike, its head movement and its swerving body against the attack of the straw, he became enlightened to the meaning of using short power to overcome the long power. Incorporated the Monkey Kung Fu’s footwork and offensive and defensive techniques of martial arts he invented Praying Mantis Boxing. On top of that, he blended in some Drunken Style elements and various famous martial artists’ boxing techniques.
The basic Praying Mantis hand techniques simulate the praying mantis’s two arms which are similar to hooks a.k.a. “Praying Mantis Claws”. The various striking techniques include Gou ( horizontal hook) , Lou (grasp), Chai ( grab down), Gua (upward block ), Diao (vertical hook), Chan ( trapping lock), Pi ( Chop), An ( Press), Peng (pounding) , Zha (hammer punch), and others.
Major stances include the empty stance, the 40/60 stance and the Chi Lin (a Chinese mythical animal with the head of a dragon, scaled body, hoofed feet and short tail) stance. Major footwork includes sliding step, follow step, Stomping and so on.
The basic body posture calls for an upright head, sinking shoulder, sinking elbow, lively wrist, supple waist and low quad and hook footing.
The waist, upper body and limbs need to be nimble, flexible and responsive. The hips and lower body need to be stable. Basically, like a tree that has the trunk and branches flexible but the root stable, or like a body that “moves only the waist but keeps the quad steady”. The method of Jing depends more on soft trapping, hard explosion, and a crisp, quick and spring-like strike. Normally it’s trapping and locking together with torque power and springy attack. Unleashing of energy originates from the torque power of the waist and the jerking of the arms, and finally culminates -the attack through the hands. This Kung Fu ameliorates the courage and daring of the praying mantis which confronts its enemy without retreat. (Note: The Chinese legend had it that a praying mantis insect once stopped a cart by using its two long arms without any thought of retreating.) The strikes are short and quick with non-stop interlocking attacks. Praying Mantis Boxing opportunistically adapts to different situations and seizes every possible way of attack or counterattack, exploits the opponent’s weaknesses and opening. It attacks on the offence; it also attacks on the defense. Takes every chop and blow to its enemy.
As the style of Praying Mantis Boxing became popular, it also gradually adopted various other boxing techniques into the system and a few varieties of styles were developed. They are: the “Six Harmony Praying Mantis”, the “Seven Star Praying Mantis”, the “Plum Blossom Praying Mantis”, the “Throwing Hands Praying Mantis”, the “Shiny-board ( or Guang Ban) Praying Mantis” and so on.
There was one other style adopted by the southern China , created during the Qing Dynasty by a Cantonese, Zhou Ya Nan. It is called the “Southern Praying Mantis Boxing”. However, its technique is basically that of the south and it should be classified under the Southern Boxing system.
Seven-Star Praying Mantis Boxing is what we teach in SMMS. It is also called “Hard Praying Mantis” or “Lo Han Praying Mantis”. The founder was Wang Yong Chung (1854—1926) from Fu Shan, Shan Dong Province , China . Wang initially studied Long Fist and Ground Tumbling Boxing. He later became the direct successor of Li, the Lightning Hand, the master of Praying Mantis Boxing. Using the Praying Mantis as its core, Wang combined what he learned previously and developed a new style of Praying Mantis which he called the “Seven-Star (Qi Xing) Praying Mantis”.
The system Wang developed emphasizes two basic elements: the Seven-Star body and the Seven-Star footwork. Seven-Star body means Head as the main star, with 6 other Stars (i.e. Shoulder, Elbow, Wrist, Arms, Knees, and Ankles) arranged in a crooked form that similar to the arrangement of the Seven Stars in the sky. Seven-Star Footwork means the footwork goes like the path of the Seven Stars i.e. forward, retreat, swerve and stretch.
This Boxing requires low stances. Its movements are unrestricted, its exertion of energy ballistic. Its forms include Downward Punch, Intercept, Double Inserting Flower, the Eighteen Shuttles, Blunt the Steel, Nine Turns and Eighteen Falls , Essences of Seven Star etc…
This style is very popular in Zhao Yuan (my Grandfather’s and father’s home town); almost everyone knows this style. It is even more popular in places like Qing Dao City , too.
In Taiji (Tai Chi), there are five originating families, or styles, from China. My ancestors originally practiced the Chen style of Taiji. However, over 100 years ago, my family developed their own style, with the basis of their style being the Chen style. This new style was called "Sun Taiji", making me a direct blood-line descendant of the founders of Sun Taiji. Sun Taiji has become one of the more popular styles both in China and the United States.
My knowledge of Sun Taiji was passed to me through generations, and I have passed on my knowledge to my school instructors in order to pass on the study of Taiji in a manner as it was originally and traditionally intended.
In addition to the traditions of my family style, Sun Taiji, I have extensively studied the roots of my family style, Chen style, as well as East Mountain Taiji, as developed by Professor/Master Huifeng Men.
The gentle movements of Taiji improves flexibility, agility and mobility. Taiji greatly improves joint stiffness, balance, back problems, relives arthritis, and helps to avoid falls. Regardless of your age, Taiji is a means to better health.
If you are an adult, or senior citizen looking to improve your physical condition, we offer beginning to advanced levels of Taiji classes, as well as individual instruction sessions at our school.
Baguazhang, in my experience, is one of the best and most effective practical martial arts among all the Chinese Martial arts. Baguazhang is one of three main internal martial arts, the other two being Xing Yi and Taijiquan. Baguazhang is very good for one’s health; and, I feel it is even better than Taiji from my personal understanding of this art and based on my experience with several Taiji and Baguazhang masters (See Lineage section to view the masters I trained under.). Baguazhang incorporates the practice of qigong in its forms practice, so one should not look at the forms as just fighting applications.
Every style of Chinese Martial arts is good. It is based on how one practices the style and one’s purpose for training in that particular style. For example, if you train and learn Baguazhang for street fighting/self-defense, practicing forms is not enough. Learning and practicing forms are just the first of three parts of training. The second part of training is to practice “gongfu” (“skilled achieved through hard work”) of Baguazhang in the fingers, palms, arms and legs for physical strength and power. You also need to practice flexibility of one’s shoulders, knees, hips and body. The third part of training is drilling and applying the skills one learns for each application until one really grasps the principles and feels skilled and confident.
Baguazhang is known for its circle walking, but there is some misconception of the purpose of circle walking. In actual fighting, one does not need to walk the circle all the time. Circle walking practice is used to avoid oncoming attacks and/or apply techniques where the attacker is vulnerable or off balance. Daily practice of circle walking makes one move fast while applying techniques. Baguazhang footwork is very important! “Kou” and “bai” are techniques in itself.
In my experience, I had to use the various martial arts skills I learned from training Xing Yi to the Chinese Army in the city of Da Ling to an actual real-life/self-defense situation. Baguazhang works better for me and is more practical. Having said that, I have also learned Taiji, Xing Yi and other external styles, too. Therefore, my fighting skills are a combination of all that I learned with Baguazhang complementing it due to its use of footwork, angles and constant motion/change. It is easier to have learned another fighting style and then combine Baguazhang practice to enhance one’s fighting capabilities.