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The Statue of Master
Chen Tuan in Huasan

 

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Black Hammer Fist

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Application of Black hammer Fist

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Center Punch

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Application of Center Punch

 

 

 

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Quick Hand Black Li -
Li Zhendong

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Iron Arm - Li Shusen

At the beginning of this century, some styles of martial arts became really famous and popular in China. At that time, the six most famous styles, called liu da men (six big gates), in the north of China were Taiji, Bagua, Xingyi, Shaolin, Jiaomen Tantui (Muslin Style Spring Leg), and Tongbei.

The full name of the original Tongbei Quan is Baiyuan Tongbei Quan. Baiyuan means white ape. There is a famous story about the white ape. According to the story, in the Spring and Autumn time (500 BC), there was a famous martial artist named Yuan Gong. He was old with white hair and white beard and always wore white clothes. One day he challenged another master but lost the fight. Then he became a white ape and ran away to the forest. So people also call him Baiyuan Laoren (Laoren means old man). Many people believed he was an immortal ape and always taught his skill in secret. He was respected in Chinese martial arts society. Tong means unobstructed, open, pass through, joined up, or connect something together; bei means arms or back. Tongbei means both arms and back connect together so that the arm can be longer, internal force can be passed through smoothly, and qi can be developed to the hands. One kind of ape in China is called Tongbei Yuan which has very long arms (much longer than normal apes).

In China, there are many of animal imitation martial arts styles like eagle, monkey, tiger etc. Most of them imitate some animal's movements and spirit. Tongbei Quan can be considered animal imitation style sometimes; but it is very different from the others. In Tongbei Quan, people do not imitate ape's movements but rather imitate its mind. It is called "study inside idea but not the outside movements". So for this reason, many people, especially within the Tongbei group, disagree strongly with the idea that Tongbei is an animal imitation style.Nobody really knows who was the founder and when this style was invented. The earliest record of Tongbei in the ancient book was a thousand years ago. In this record, it is mentioned that in the Song Dynasty General Han Tong knew Tongbei Quan. The other record from four hundreds years ago states "Youshen's Tongbei skill is the best". These records only prove that there is a long history of Tongbei. Usually most Tongbei groups just respect a man named Bei Shikou (the other name is Yisan, the Taoist name was Dong Lingzi, and the nickname is Beiyuan (white ape) Laoren (old man)) as the inventor of the style. The story states that he lived about 2500 years ago. There is another version of Tongbei history where the lineage is clear and there is a list of the names of all the famous masters in each generation. It is said the original founder of this style was Chen Tuan (his Taoist name was Fuyaozi). Chen (? - 989) was a Taoist master who lived in the Song Dynasty. He was a famous scholar. He did a great job with his study of Taoism and developed many new concepts. The famous Taiji logo was drawn by him. People believe when he practiced his Taoism in Huashan Mountain, he invented Tongbei and Shuigong Fa, a qigong method.

Although it is said Tongbei Quan was practiced from a thousand years ago, it was not popular nor famous until Master Lu Yunqing, who was also a Taoist master, taught this skill in the early nineteenth century. Master Lu had two famous disciples; one was Qi Xin and the other was Shi Hongsheng. Later these two masters developed their own styles. From them Tongbei became more popular and famous. People call their styles Qi style Tongbei and Shi style Tongbei. Later some branches were developed from them. Today the basic training in Qi style is one hundred and eight individual techniques. Sometimes it is called Chai Quan - take apart skill. The basic training in Shi style is twenty-four postures, sometimes it is called Lian Quan - synthesized form.

Within the Tongbei group, people always follow traditional ideas. Even outside people always criticize this group as too conservative. Tongbei masters usually do not teach in public much. Because of conservatism, it is very difficult to join the group to study this skill. Every master closed the door and taught inside of the room secretly. Even though most disciples learned a long time, their masters never show them really high level skills. The masters always thought that the high level skills can just be passed to really good people who must have a good personality and morals, smart enough to understand principle, and diligent in practice. So all this limited the group from growing widely but developed this skill deeply and kept their good reputation, especially in real fighting. From 1910s, some Qi style masters started to teach Tongbei in public martial arts school. Then very soon Qi style became much more popular than Shi style. Today maybe more than ninety percent Tongbei practitioners are in Qi style or its branches. But even when they taught in public, the masters still withheld some skills. Most masters only taught high level skills to some disciples in their private classes.

As Qi style became more popular some forms were created for teaching purposes. Compared to Qi style, Shi style group still kept the old way. So people usually call it Hei Quan - Black Fist, which means they are too mean in fighting and their skills are too fierce so that they practice in the dark place and other people can not see what they do. Today outside people still do not know this style clearly. Shi style masters even do not like to offer general information, like lineage lists, to martial arts scholars.

Since the basic philosophy idea of Tongbei is Taoism, and a lot of practice methods in Tongbei are similar or close to internal styles some people think it belongs to the internal style, or at least it is a combination of internal and external styles.

In traditional Tongbei training, several parts are included; they are basic gongfu training, basic skills training, two person set training, two person free skills training, weapons training, and qigong training.

Tongbei Quan is one of the most famous martial art styles in north China. The reputation of its fighting skills is really great. Quick, hard, and skillful are its features. In YCGFA-NAH we teach Shi Style White Ape Tongbei Quan. Master Li Shusen was a well-known Tongbei master in Beijing. His nickname was Iron Arm Li. He and our master Master Luo Shuhuan were very close friends. Thus some of Luo's disciples were sent to Li's home to learn Tongbei and later became his disciples. Li was Grandmaster Li Zhendong's disciple. Grandmaster Li taught in the army and won his reputation as Quick Hand Black Li. He was the disciple of the most famous Tongbei master Zhang Wencheng. Zhang was Shi Hongsheng's disciple.

Grand Master Wang Peisheng studied Ruyi Tongbei with Master Liang Zunbo. Ruyi Tongbei is a variation of Shi Style. Besides receiving training from Master Li, we also received training from Grand Master Wang, especially in principles.

The main trainings include:
Six Prime Skills
Eight Older Fists
Twelve Linking Fists
Twenty-four Posture Form
Thirty-six Take Apart Fist
Weapons

 

International Baiyuan Tongbei Quan Association

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