Sometimes known as “long fist” or as “extended arm boxing,” chang quan is one of the oldest kung-fu striking systems. Emphasizing large, extended, and sometimes circular movements, the system relies on strong muscles, tendons, and joints to generate striking power.
Forms also contain joint locks, throws, and a number of high kicks, jumps, and flips. It is an acrobatic style and in modern Wushu competitions the forms are often the most spectacular and memorable to watch. Many of the tumbling and flipping kicks have been allotted exotic names, such as the “whirlwind kick,” “butterfly jump,” and “tornado kick,” and many of them are used by characters in video games.
Although many of the movements predate the system’s foundation (it was founded in the 10th century by Zhao Kuangyin), chang quan’s contemporary form combines elements of cha quan, hong quan, and hua quan.
The name chang quan is also used as a generic term for a number of different Chinese martial arts schools—such as cha quan, Shaolin chuan, fan zi quan, hong quan, hua quan, and others—to denote systems thought of as being of northern origin and which are external as opposed to internal. These arts all employ similar large, extended, circular movements and physical athleticism. They also use offence-driven techniques, where the fighter rarely remains stationary, throwing attacking strikes, before moving position to continue the attack.
Black Crane Kung Fu
Black crane kung fu is a hybrid system incorporating white crane techniques and tui na locks. It places heavy emphasis on strength and stance training. Practitioners will typically use deflection techniques before striking their opponent and using a lock The system also incorporates qi gong breathing meditation techniques and the teaching of weapons, the most popular of which are the baton, sword, spear, staff, and the cane. Elements of xing yi quan and ba gua zhang can also be identified in the system’s footwork routines.
Although the exact origins of this system are unclear, mei huaquan is thought to have originated in the 17th century in northern China. Typically the 18 traditional weapons are taught alongside fist, hand, and foot forms, which are built around five static training positions. The system is noted as much for its health-giving benefits as for its self-defense skills.
A Secretive Fighting Style
A popular variant of the system is “mei hua zhuang,” where zhuang means “trunks” or “pillars.” The name of this branch, it is said, comes from the ancient training method in which all the moves were executed while standing on top of wooden pillars, thus encouraging good balance and quick, light, deft footwork. It was thought that training for long hours on the pillars would improve overall coordination and increase practitioners’ confidence when they came to fight at ground level.
Originally a secret style, the system gradually began to open its doors to outsiders, and in time fixed training regimes were employed to ensure that practitioners had the necessary determination, moral qualities, and skills to study the art as required by their teachers. In the first three years of training students were carefully observed, and those found lacking would no longer receive instruction. Those who made it through the rigorous induction period would spend the next two years adding to the boxing skills they had learned during the first year.
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