The Ba Gua Zhang of Yin Fu

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If one was intent on gaining insights into the teaching of a great martial arts master, the originator of a deeply profound system, say, Dong Hai Chuan (Jc M ^1); it would make sense to start by looking closely at the teaching of his top student, the man who spent the most time with the master, the one who inherited the complete system, the true lineage holder. In the case of Ba Gua Zhang ( ^ih this man is undisputably Yin Fu Yin Fu was Dong Hai Chuan's first Ba Gua Zhang student, he was with Dong the longest, he had the most personal contact with Dong, and he himself was teaching Ba Gua Zhang while most of Dong's other well known students were still getting their feet wet. However, in this case "going straight to the source" is not so easy. Yin Fu did not teach many people his Ba Gua Zhang and of those he did teach, only a few received his complete system.

In contrast with the Cheng Ting Hua Ba Gua school, the Yin school of Ba Gua Zhang has been very "closed." Yin's top students, like Yin, did not have many students and of the students they had, only a few were taught deeply. Yin Fu was very conservative in his teaching and was reluctant to teach everything to all his students. While Yin Fu probably taught a couple of dozen students, it is said that he only accepted 10 students as official disciples. Of those ten, there is probably only one or two who learned everything Yin had to teach. There has been a tradition in the Yin school that only one student of each teacher received the whole system and was designated the official lineage holder. Holding this policy to be true, it is easy to see why the complete Yin style Ba Gua Zhang system has not been spread widely. In this article and in subsequent issues of the Pa Kua Chang Journal, we will present the Ba Gua Zhang system of the Yin school by examining the teaching of a number of Yin's top disciples. This issue will focus on Yin Fu himself and the teaching of one of Yin's closest students, Men Bao Zhen (Hff^), as explained by Men's student Xie Pei Qi

Yin Studies Ba Gua Zhang

Yin Fu, also known as Yin De An (f3*^-^) and Yin Shou Peng was born in Hebei Province, Ji

County, Zhang Huai Village in 1841. His father, Yin Lao Shan (f*^^), was a farmer. When Yin Fu was young a series of natural disasters (drought followed by floods) drove him out of his home village and he moved to Beijing (^t^C When he arrived in Beijing he first learned the scissor-making trade. He began as an apprentice, sharpening knives and scissors for a living. A short time later he gave up the scissor business and began selling pancakes and "fried-dough twists." In his early years in Beijing he picked up the nickname "Fried Dough Twist" Yin. Since he was tall and slim, people also called him "Thin" Yin.

There are several versions of the story concerning Yin Fu's introduction to Dong Hai Chuan. One version

Dong Hai Chuan
Yin Fu (1841 - 1909)

states that Yin Fu had not practiced any martial arts prior to meeting Dong. This story reports that when Yin was selling his pancakes, he would arrive very early at the baker's, pick up the first batch of baked and fried goods and then quickly run out to sell them, thus getting a jump on his competition. It is said that Dong took an early morning walk everyday and frequently witnessed the young man frantically making his morning rounds near Prince Su's palace. On one morning Yin Fu was robbed while making his rounds. Determined that he would not let this happen again, Yin began to practice martial arts on his own in the woods. Dong saw him

Grave Stone

Yin Fu's name appears first (top right) in the list of Dong Hai Chuan's students shown on Dong's original grave stone (1883)

practicing one day and was highly impressed with Yin's determination and drive. He approached Yin and asked if Yin would like to study martial arts. He began Yin's training by teaching him Lohan Shaolin (ft . This story was told by third generation Yin Fu stylist Yang Kun ffitt - see page 8). Yang said that he got this story directly from Yin's family members.

The second version of the story is similar to the first, however, this version reports that Yin was experienced in the arts of Mei Hua Quan and Lian Huan

Tui (iltiUt) before meeting Dong. When he came to Beijing, Yin heard about the great teacher Dong Hai Chuan and was determined to meet him. In an effort to be noticed by Dong, Yin purposely chose his business route near the palace of Prince Su. Yin constantly asked people who worked and lived near the palace about Dong Hai Chuan. Dong received word of this persistent young man and eventually agreed to teach him. This story also states that Dong started Yin's training with Lohan Shaolin. This version is documented in several of the written accounts of Yin Fu's life in various books in China which give brief biographies of famous martial artists.

Yet another version of the story states when Yin Fu came to Beijing he was already skilled at "Snake's Tongue" Boxing (She Xin Quan ┬┐tlt^), which he had practiced since childhood. Shortly after he arrived in Beijing he heard of Dong Hai Chuan's reputation and went to the palace to challenge him. When Yin met Tung and initiated the challenge, Tung was holding a tobacco pouch in his left hand. Dong stretched out his right hand with the palm facing up (yang palm) and said, "You start first." Yin squared off with Tung and extended his hand in attack. As soon as Yin's hand met Dong's arm, Dong turned his palm over and pressed on Yin's arm. Yin Fu moved to block up and when he did Dong speared straight in and struck him in the mouth with his finger tips, knocking out his two front teeth. Dong never dropped the tobacco pouch.

Realizing that he had been outclassed, Yin knelt and asked Dong to be his teacher. Dong refused. Yin said, "If you do not take me as your student, I will kneel here and die in front of you." Prince Su was passing by and observed what was happening. He noticed that Yin was very thin and had a "unique look." The prince told Dong to please accept this young man as his disciple. He said, "I will be the one to make the introduction between teacher and student." At this, Dong accepted Yin as his disciple. This version of the story is told by Xie Pei Qi (see article on page 16).

Regardless of how Dong and Yin actually met each other, it is known that Yin Fu was taken as Dong's first disciple from outside the palace walls and remained his only Ba Gua Zhang disciple for a number of years. When Yin first began studying with Dong, he learned Lohan Quan and the other Shaolin based arts that Dong was teaching in the palace to the guards, scholars, and eunuchs. Every afternoon Yin practiced with Dong behind the palace walls.

Shortly after Dong began teaching Yin, Dong's employer, Prince Su, sent Dong north to collect taxes in the Prince's domain in Inner Mongolia. Yin went with Dong so that he could continue studying. Other than making rounds to collect taxes and sending the money back to the Prince, Dong and Yin did nothing but practice martial arts "morning, noon, and night." This job continued for a number of years before the Prince summoned Dong back to the palace. It was during this extended stay in Inner Mongolia that Yin first received instruction in Ba Gua Zhang.

By the time Dong Hai Chuan and Yin Fu returned to Beijing, Yin had become quite skilled in Ba Gua Zhang and Dong helped get him a job teaching martial arts in the palace. It is not known how long Dong required Yin to study Lohan Shaolin before he revealed his Ba Gua Zhang, however, it is known that Yin was the first student to learn Ba Gua Zhang from Dong. Shortly after they returned from Inner Mongolia, Dong accepted his second Ba Gua student, Ma Wei Qi (>% W). Ma died at a young age (28) as a result of an injury sustained in a fight and thus never taught Ba Gua Zhang.

After Dong and Yin returned from Inner Mongolia,

Yin took on his own disciples. One of his disciples, Yang Jun Feng (#1^%), got into a fight with Yin's cousin Shi Ji Dong and beat him badly. Shi came to Yin and asked if he could become one of his students. Since they were cousins Yin said that it wouldn't be right for him to "kow-tow" as a disciple and thus Yin took Shi to meet Dong Hai Chuan. At Yin's request, Dong accepted Shi as his third disciple. Dong Hai Quan's Ba Gua Zhang disciples are listed on the first stone stele which was erected at Dong's original burial site in 1883. Although all of Dong's students are not listed on the stone, all Ba Gua Zhang practitioners and scholars in Beijing agree that the fifty-seven students who are listed on the stone are listed in order of seniority. Yin Fu is listed first, then Ma Wei Qi, and then Shi Ji Dong. The fourth disciple listed is Cheng Ting Hua.

To put Yin Fu's seniority in perspective, we can examine a brief timeline of Dong's teaching. Dong came to Beijing and obtained a job as a martial arts instructor in the Su palace around 1864. In the early years he did not teach Ba Gua in the palace, he only taught Shaolin. It is not known exactly when Dong and Yin Fu met and it is not known exactly when Dong and Yin went to, or returned from, Inner Mongolia. Some say that they were gone for as long as eight to ten years. Suffice it to say that Yin Fu probably started studying with Dong during the mid-1860's. We know that Dong accepted his fourth student, Cheng Ting Hua, around 1876 and Dong died in 1882. Therefore, all of Dong's students, other than the first three, studied with him less than 6 years. If we estimate that Dong and Yin returned to Beijing around 1874-75, we can see that Yin was with Dong at least eight to ten years longer than any other student.

Yin Fu's descendents in Beijing say that Dong had originally intended to only teach his Ba Gua to Yin Fu. As long as his art was passed on to one person, he was content. He accepted Ma Wei Qi as a student shortly after he returned from Inner Mongolia simply because he liked the young man. He accepted Shi Ji Dong at Yin Fu's request. A few years after Dong and Yin returned from Inner Mongolia, they had a falling out. Yin Fu's first wife had died and he married another woman. At that time in China it was not considered appropriate for a widower to remarry. Dong was upset with Yin and the two did not speak to each other for years. They finally reconciled their differences shortly before Dong died. It was this falling out with Yin Fu that caused Dong to open up and begin teaching more students. Because Dong was getting older, he did not think he would be able to spend as much time with one student as he had with Yin, so he decided to teach many students and teach each one a separate piece of his system so that the entire system could be shared among them after he was gone.

While some written reports say that Cheng Ting Hua was introduced to Dong by Yin Fu, some of the Yin Fu descendants in Beijing say that this is not true. They say that Cheng met Dong after Yin and Dong had the falling out and Dong decided to start teaching Ba Gua to the public. Their version of the story says that Cheng and Yin did not like each other. They met one time

Shao Yang Gua

Yin Fu's Fourth Son, Yin Yu Zhang after Cheng started studying with Dong and they had a small fight where Yin knocked Cheng into a big pot of tea. Whether or not this story is true is anyone's guess. However, given the vast differences in their styles, it is probably true that Yin and Cheng did not know each other well. Their styles were so different that in the old days in Beijing people distinguished them by calling Yin's Ba Gua "Eastern City Ba Gua" and Cheng's "Southern City Ba Gua."

Yin's Life in Beijing

Yin Fu lived on the first lane of Ji Shi Kou, Chao Yang Men Wai. People referred to his family as "Yin family at Chao Yang Gate" and called the Ba Gua Zhang that he taught "Ba Gua in the Eastern City District." In addition to teaching Ba Gua Zhang in the palace and to private students, Yin also worked as a resident guard and bodyguard protecting the rich people and their homes in Beijing. Yin had a strong reputation in Beijing and it is said that the residents of the homes Yin protected never had any problems with intruders. When the local criminals heard Yin was protecting a particular house, they steered clear. Because of his reputation, a number of the wealthy people in Beijing desired Yin's services. Since he could not be many places at one time, Yin employed his students to stand duty at the homes and he would make rounds to check on them. In addition to employing the students he had already trained, Yin also employed outsiders and taught them Ba Gua Zhang so they could better perform their job.

In addition to his bodyguard business, Yin was also hired by the government as a "tax officer." His job was to locate individuals who were delinquent on their taxes and make them pay. One of Yin's top students, Li Yong Qing assisted Yin in the tax collecting business.

During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Yin Fu was hired as the head bodyguard for the Empress Dowager and the Guang Xu emperor when they were taken out of the Forbidden City. After things settled down in Beijing and they returned, Yin was hired by the imperial court to teach martial arts to the eunuchs. The eunuch Cui Yu Xi (f if), who was second in position only to the head eunuch Li Lian Ying (^di-^), was one of Yin's Ba Gua Zhang students. Two eunuchs who were in charge of the imperial kitchen gave Yin a lot of money to teach them martial arts. Because of his connection with the eunuchs and the imperial court, Yin became quite wealthy in his later years and lost interest in teaching Ba Gua Zhang.

As with most famous martial arts masters, there are many anecdotes about Yin Fu winning fights against challengers. One such story talks of Yin's confrontation with a cobbler in Beijing who was especially good at leg skills. Everyday he would practice his kicking against a large tree. Eventually he kicked a hole all the way through the tree. His feet were very hard and tough.

Men Bao Zhen was one of Yin Fu's top three students along with Ma Gui and Li Yong Qing

There was a story about the cobbler kicking a very thick wooden door stop and breaking it in half.

When the cobbler heard that Yin was also known for his great leg skill, he wanted to have a challenge match. Yin accepted and the two tested each other's skills. Yin stood calmly in front of the cobbler without moving. The cobbler launched a powerful kick towards the shin of Yin's forward leg. Yin remained stationery until the cobbler's foot came within an inch of his leg and then he quickly drew his leg back slightly out of reach of the cobbler's kick. At the instant the cobbler started to pull back his leg, Yin hooked the leg and provided a momentary resistance to the cobbler's motion. When the cobbler increased the strength of his pull in order to free himself, Yin released the leg and the cobbler fell over. It is said that Yin had tremendous skill and sensitivity with his legs. He was known for his ability to lock, trap, sweep, stick, follow, guide and off-balance the opponent's legs with great ease.

In Beijing there was a strong and ferocious wrestler named Hei Hu Rui Zi He loved to bully people and thus those that knew Yin Fu wanted Yin to punish him. When Yin and the wrestler met, the wrestler was shocked to see that such a thin man had a big reputation as a martial artist. Thinking that he would have an easy time with Yin, he immediately walked up and grabbed Yin's arm to throw him. Yin was well known for his "Iron Bracelet" skill. Those skilled in the "iron bracelet" could concentrate all of their strength into the index finger and thumb and hold an opponent as if they were locked in an iron bracelet. Yin was known to be able to apply bone crushing force when grabbing an opponent with these two fingers. He utilized this skill in defeating the wrestler. When the wrestler grabbed Yin, Yin in-turn grabbed the wrestler with his thumb and index finger and applied such force that the wrestler screamed in pain. The wrestler immediately knelt down and asked to become Yin's student.

Yin took Hei Hu Rui Zi as a follower, however, the wrestler was still very arrogant in front of Yin's other students as he thought himself much stronger than any of them. The other students told Yin that they did not think Hei Hu Rui Zi was fully convinced in the methods of Ba Gua Zhang. Shortly thereafter Yin was teaching a group of students at his home and called on Hei Hu Rui Zi to assist him in a demonstration. He requested that Hei Hu Rui Zi attack. When the student launched a powerful attack at Yin, Yin sidestepped him while simultaneously grabbing his arm and applying force in the direction of Hei Hu Rui Zi's attack. Yin's strength was so powerful that his attacker was thrown through the closed shutters of a nearby window. Hei Hu Rui Zi lay on the ground outside the window in a pile of broken sticks that used to be the window shutters. Yin walked outside an helped him up. Hei Hu Rui Zi said, "The skill my teacher is going to use is very hard to anticipate." After this incident Hei Hu Rui Zi became modest.

On another occasion a monk came to compare skills with Yin Fu. He came to where Yin was teaching and jumped up onto a stool announcing that he was going to demonstrate his skill. So saying, he bent over and stuck one finger on the ground. He then lifted his legs off of the stool and into the air, thus demonstrating the "one finger holding the whole body" skill. After the demonstration, the monk said to Yin, "What do you think of my gong fu?" Yin replied, "This is good, but sticking your finger into a man is much harder than sticking it on the ground. The ground does not move." This statement angered the monk and he grabbed a three section staff which he had brought with him. Before he could attack, Yin grabbed a stick off of the ground. Every time the monk moved to attack, Yin evaded and whacked the monk's hand with his stick. After several such whacks, the monk admitted defeat. One of Yin Fu's specialties was his evasiveness and use of fast footwork.

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  • bildad
    Why do bagua masters carry walking sticks?
    7 years ago

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