Bājíquán (Chinese: 八極拳; pinyin: Bājíquán) is a Traditional Chinese martial art that features explosive, short-range power and is famous for its elbow strikes. It originated in the Hebei Province in Northern China, but spread to Taiwan and other places. Its full name is kai men baji quan (開門八極拳), which means "open-gate eight-extremities fist".
Baji quan was originally called bazi quan (巴子拳 or 鈀子拳) or "rake fist" because the fists, held loosely and slightly open, are used to strike downwards in a rake-like fashion. The name was considered to be rather crude in its native tongue, so it was changed to baji quan. The term baji comes from the Chinese classic, the Yijing (I-Ching), and signifies an "extension of all directions". In this case, it means "including everything" or "the universe".
The first recorded baji quan teacher was Wu Zhong (吳鍾) (1712–1802). Other notable teachers included Wu Xiufeng (吳秀峰) and Li Shuwen (李書文) (1864–1934). The latter was from Cangzhou (滄州), Hebei, and acquired the nickname "God of Spear Li". A Beijing opera Wu Shen (martial male character) by training, he was also an expert fighter. His most famous quote is, "I do not know what it's like to hit a man twice." Li Shuwen's students included Huo Dian Ge (霍殿閣) (bodyguard to Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China), Li Chenwu (bodyguard to Mao Zedong), and Liu Yun Qiao (劉雲樵) (secret agent for the nationalist Kuomintang and instructor of the Chiang Kai Shek's bodyguards). Baji quan has since acquired a reputation as the "bodyguard style". Ma Feng Tu (馬鳳圖) and Ma Yin Tu (馬英圖) introduced baji into the Central Guoshu Institute (Nanjing Guoshu Guan 南京國術館) where it is required for all students.
Baji quan shares roots with another Hebei martial art, Piguazhang. It is said that Wu Zhong, the oldest traceable master in the baji lineage, taught both arts together as an integrated fighting system.They eventually split apart, only to be recombined by Li Shuwen in the late 18th to early 19th century. As a testament to the complementary nature of these two styles, a proverb states: "When pigua is added to baji, gods and demons will all be terrified. When baji is added to pigua, heroes will sigh knowing they are no match against it." (八極參劈掛，神鬼都害怕。劈掛參八極，英雄嘆莫及)
Among the Chinese martial artists, baji is known for its fast movements, focuses on infighting, entering from a longer range with a distinctive charging step (zhen jiao).
The essence of baji quan lies in jin, or power-issuing methods, particularly fa jing (explosive power). The style contains six types of jin, eight different ways to hit and several principles of power usage. Most of baji quan's moves utilize a one-hit push-strike method from very close range. The bulk of the damage is dealt through the momentary acceleration that travels up from the waist to the limb and further magnified by the charging step known as zhen jiao.
The mechanics of jin are developed through many years of practice and baji quan is known for its strenuous lower-body training and its emphasis on the horse stance. Its horse stance is higher than that of typical Long Fist styles. Like other styles, there is also "the arrow-bow stance", "the one-leg stance (Du Li Bu)", "the empty stance" (xūbù 虚步), "the drop stance" (pūbù 仆步), etc. There are eight different hand poses, in addition to different types of breathing and zhen jiao.
Stance training Edit
One of the training fundamentals implies immobile training of the “LiangYi Ding (两仪顶)” stance, known as the“Two principles (Yin and Yang) stance”. This position is the trademark of BajiQuan, and is probably inspired by the traditional Chinese character corresponding for the Wu (吳) family name of the MengCun Wu family. This stance allows a perfect equilibrium of the body, and harmony between the sky (Yang) and the earth (Yin) and favours various essential components of the training : rooting, reinforcement of the lower limbs, circulation of internal energy in the principal meridians of the body and its accumulation in the Dan Tian point.
Explosive power Edit
BajiQuan is a style famous for its powerful strikes, which make use of the “explosive power” (爆发力, BaoFali). This power is obtained from a specific biomechanics of BajiQuan movements which is based on:
- the “6 big openings” (Liu DaKai, 六大开), which are 6 types of fundamental forces (Ding, Bao, Dan, Ti, Kua, Chan: thrusting, gathering, whipping, raising, hips rotation, and twining), and not 6 techniques as it is frequently incorrectly interpreted:
- Ding 頂: using the fist, elbow or shoulder to push forward and upward.
- Bao 抱: putting arms together as if hugging someone. It is usually followed by Pi 劈 (splitting).
- Ti 提: elevating the knee to hit the thigh of the opponent, or elevating the foot to hit the shin of the opponent, etc.
- Dan 單: using a single move.
- Kua 胯: using the hip.
- Chan 纏: entanglement with rotation around the wrist, elbow and shoulder.
- 3 internal forces associated to footwork:
- Zhen Jiao: Sinking/Charging Stepping
- Chuang Bu: Rushing
- Nian Bu: Crushing
- the circulation of Qi, called Xing Qi (行气), its accumulation and release from the DanTian via specific breathing processes (cf below).
When all these elements are perfectly synchronized on the shortest time-lapse, one can generate the Explosive Power which is characteristic for BajiQuan. However, this can only be achieved after a long training based on : the acquisition of basic techniques (i.e. JiBenGong, 基本功), the combination of these techniques in sequences or preset forms (i.e. Taolus, 套路), and finally their applications in free fighting.
Internal training Edit
As indicated above, BajiQuan makes use of various internal exercises in order to improve the control of Qi. These exercises can be used either for martial applications (generation of the Explosive Power) or for therapeutic purposes. BajiQuan uses classical respiratory exercises (natural and contrary abdominal breathing), but it focuses more especially on an explosive technique of Qi circulation (called Xing Qi), which is based on the use of the “Heng” and “Ha” sounds punctuating the power releases.
Fighting techniques Edit
BajiQuan is a style with simple appearance, with uncluttered techniques and where acrobatics are proscribed. The footwork is based on 5 fundamental positions, and it reflects the characteristics of 10 animals (dragon, tiger, bear, etc). One of the style characteristics is to use the 8 extremities of the body for striking : head, shoulders, hands, hips, knees, feet, coccyx and finally elbows which are a characteristic of BajiQuan. The hand techniques are based on the use of 10 traditional agricultural tools (hatchet, hammer, fork, etc) and the kicks are limited to the lower level in order to avoid exposing the crotch.
Fighting tactics Edit
BajiQuan is a close range fighting style, which objective is to enter the opponent’s guard according to the principles “Ai, Bang, Ji, Kao” (挨, 膀, 挤, 靠: getting close, pushing with the shoulder, hustling and leaning on the adversary), and to simultaneously strike the lower, medium, and upper range of the opponent (San Pan Heji, 三盘合击). Concerning defences, movements of small amplitudes and close to the body are used in order to protect the central axis of the body. A simple principle is then followed: “The hands protect the head, the elbows protect the body, the knees protect the crotch, the feet protect the legs”.
The forms of baji are divided into armed and unarmed routines. There are 20 fist forms, which include 12 Baji Small Structure Fists, Baji Black Tiger Fist, Baji Dan Zhai, Baji Dan Da/Dui Da, Baji Luohan Gong, and Baji Si Lang Kuan. There are eight weapons forms, including Liu He Da Qiang (spear), Chun Yang Jian (sword), San Yin Dao (sabre), Xing Zhe Bang (staff), Pudao, and Chun Qiu Da Dao (a long two-handed heavy blade, used by Generals sitting on their horses).
Most schools focus on a much smaller curriculum. Standard across almost all groups are Xiaobaji and Dabaji; two weapons forms, the sabre and the spear; a two man training routine called Baji Duijie or Baji Duida and a series of 8 short attacking methods called the "Ba Shi" (Eight Postures), which are derived from the art of Shaolin Jingang Bashi.