The majority of the martial arts students studying in Tianjin in the early part of this century were either students of Chang Chao-Tung or Li Tsun-I. They ran a very well known martial arts association in Tianjin and all boxers knew of their efforts to spread the martial arts. In Tianjin Chang taught private students and he taught a public class once a week. Students in the public class could study either Pa Kua Chang or Hsing-I Ch'uan, whichever they preferred. Chang required his private students and "inner door" students to study Hsing-I before they studied Pa Kua. When he first started teaching in Tianjin, he taught mostly Hsing-I. After he had more experience with Pa Kua, Chang taught both Pa Kua and Hsing-I. Later in his life, Chang Chao-Tung and Liang Chen-P'u were the only two people who had studied with Tung Hai-Ch'uan who were still alive. Out of respect for Tung Hai-Ch'uan and Pa Kua, Chang only taught Pa Kua in his later years.
He liked to use very wide, open postures in training and liked to strike down on his smaller opponents when fighting.
Chang Chao-Tung's Pa Kua Chang teaching method consisted of two main components. The first component was a series of exercises and special practice sets which were designed to develop kung li (trained strength) and the ability to fa ching (issue power). He developed these exercises from a combination of both Pa Kua and Hsing-I skills. These exercises and sets were separate from the circle walking forms and were not practiced in any particular sequence once the student learned them. They were simply isolated exercises practiced to develop certain necessary skills such as body alignment, internal strength, and overall body conditioning.
The second component of Chang's practice was the circle walking form. While the isolated exercises were used to develop strength and power, the form movements were used to train fluidity in movement, body control, and coordination while remaining in constant motion. Like all Pa Kua Chang instructors, Chang's Pa Kua had its own unique flavor. It is said that when Tung Hai-Ch'uan taught Pa Kua, the only consistency was in the eight basic circle walking postures and the first three palm changes. Thus most of his students executed the first three palm changes in a similar manner. After the student gained a basic understanding of the first three palm changes, Tung taught each student differently. Looking at the various forms taught by students of Ch'eng T'ing-Hua, it is evident that Ch'eng taught in a similar manner. There is a similarity in the first three changes and then from there the forms differ greatly.
The essence of Pa Kua Chang is revealed in the three palm changes, namely Single Palm Change, Double Palm Change, and Smooth Palm Change. A number of Pa Kua Chang experts in China today say that all of Pa Kua Chang's characteristic movements are simply variations of these three changes. Taking this to be true, it would make sense that Tung would have taught his students these three changes as a basis for Pa Kua Chang study. From there, Tung taught each person differently based on their martial arts background, their size, shape, and other characteristic strengths. Ch'eng T'ing-Hua probably taught in a similar manner.
Since Chang Chao-Tung was a Hsing-I man, his Pa Kua Chang naturally had a Hsing-I flavor. Chang Chao-Tung was also a big man and was very strong. He liked to use very wide, open postures in training and liked to strike down on his smaller opponents when fighting. His Pa Kua Chang form and applications were very direct and relatively simple compared to others. Because Chang was bigger and stronger than most of his opponents, his Pa Kua technique is not as evasive as Yin Fu's and because of his Hsing-I background, he did not utilize as many throwing techniques as someone like Ch'eng T'ing-Hua who had come from a Shuai Chiao background. Due to his size and background, his Pa Kua Chang technique was very direct and powerful.
In the United States today, one can find two primary examples of Chang Chao-Tung Pa Kua Chang. The first
is detailed in Chiang Jung-Ch'iao's book on Pa Kua Chang, however this form is not exactly like the one that Chang taught. Chaing Jung-Ch'iao was a student of Chang Chao-Tung, however, he had an extensive martial arts background and continued to study other arts after he studied with Chang. Chiang took what he learned from his teacher and added his own flavor (see article on page 12). Chiang Jung-Ch'iao himself said that the form in his book was a combination of the Pa Kua Chang he learned from Chang and the other arts he had learned in his long martial arts career.
The other example of Chang's Pa Kua which is prevalent in the United States was that taught by Wang Shu-Chin in Taiwan. Although Wang was not as close to Chang Chao-Tung as Chiang Jung-Ch'iao was, I suspect his approach to Pa Kua is much closer to the original than what is shown in Chiang Jung-Ch'iao's book. Although Wang was not as tall as his teacher, he was big and very strong and thus it makes sense that he would have adapted more to his teacher's way of moving and applying the art. Wang Shu-Chin's only teacher prior to his arrival in Taiwan was Chang Chao-Tung, thus it would make sense that his form and applications would be closer to Chang's.
In attempting to analyze the various branches of Chang Chao-Tung's Pa Kua Chang, one might also consider the Pa Kua Chang that was taught by the man who was said to be Chang's top student, Han Mu-Hsia. However, the Pa Kua Chang that Han taught is somewhat suspect since Han and Chang had a "falling-out" late in Chang's life after which Han modified his Pa Kua and started claiming that much of his Pa Kua came from a Taoist named Ying Wen-T'ien. The story of the falling-out between Chang and Han was told to Professor K'ang Ko-Wu by a man named Cho Chih-He.
Cho's father was a wealthy man who had supported Chang Chao-Tung in Tianjin for a period of time. When Cho Chih-He was a boy, Chang Chao-Tung lived in his home. He told Professor K'ang that after Han Mu-Hsia beat the Russian strongman Kangtaier, he became very arrogant. On one occasion he came to where Chang was teaching and wanted to practice sparring. As they were practicing, Han kept pressing the attack and backed Chang against a wall. When Chang realized that Han's intention was to see if he was now good enough to really beat his teacher, he turned his defense into an attack and knocked Han to the floor. After this incident the two were bitter enemies and Han would not admit that he ever learned much from Chang Chao-Tung. It is said that he fabricated his own Pa Kua and told everyone he learned it from a Taoist named Ying Wen-T'ien. Therefore, the Pa Kua that was taught by Han may appear quite different than that taught by Chang Chao-Tung.
All his life Chang Chao-Tung was strict on martial discipline and martial virtue. He practiced martial arts as if he was following some kind of religious way. He said that one had to be very sincere in their heart in order to practice. Chang had four rules for accepting students. He said that he would not take students who practice the art without respecting the art. The second was that he would not teach people who took advantage of others or had wanton sex habits. Also, if the student was not respectful toward his parents he wouldn't accept them and lastly, he would not accept people who were innately bad (bad nature), because they would use the art in a bad way.
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