This article featured in
Inside Kung Fu Magazine, December 2004
Around The Back
The Evasive Fu Style BaGua Zhang
by Tommy Kirchhoff and Victor Fu;
translation by Brandon Wong
In old China, small villages distant from the major cities received no police protection. Bandit mobs roamed free to plunder and loot the rural villages one after another. To protect themselves, sometimes villagers pooled their money and hired skilled martial arts sifus to train those residents who were willing to become militia.
In the need to create its own security, the tiny village of Ma Po in the Henan province hired the powerful Chen Tai Chi master, Chen Yen-Hsi (the father of Chen FaKe); after teaching in Ma Po for several years, Chen returned to his home. Ma Po village then hired the famous BaGua master Chia Feng-Ming from Beijing.
Fu Zhensong started training with Master Chen at the age of 16. After a few years with Master Chen and a few more with Master Chia (and endless repetitions of forms practice) Fu Zhensong became the most skilled practitioner in the village. At the age of 28, Fu single-handedly defended Ma Po village against over 100 bandits by killing or overpowering between 20 and 40 of them, killing the leader, and driving off the rest. In his early 30's, Fu began to travel throughout Northern China, exchanging martial knowledge with many high-level masters and amalgamating all useful information into his own practice. There are countless documented stories of Fu defeating well-known martial artists and highly polished challengers. By the time Zhensong was 40 years old, he had become very famous in the North for his fighting prowess.
The First Ultimate Fighting Championship
In his travels, Fu Zhensong befriended General Li Jing-Lin, the famous Wudang sword master. General Li trained Chinese troops and worked closely with the government. In the early 1900's, the central government viewed the Chinese people as weak and unable to protect themselves. Thus, the idea was born to create a government-sponsored Central Martial Arts Academy. The goal was to unify, develop and spread martial arts to make them "common in all walks of life." The Central Academy began in December of 1927 in Nanjing. General Li was one of the main organizers.
In order to screen the best practitioners for teaching positions at the Central Academy and in the provincial schools, General Li, General Zhang Zi Jiang, and General Fung Zu Ziang held the first full contact, national competition in 1928 in Nanjing. Hundreds of the best Chinese martial artists participated in san shou fighting, weapons and wrestling in a lei tai ring format.
At the age of 47, Fu Zhensong went undefeated in the tournament. His toughest fight was against Wong Tak Yuan (nicknamed "Charging Fists") who represented the Szechwan province. Wong could pulverize rocks and mark iron with his bare hands; Wong had beaten more than 20 opponents in the tournament. After ninety rounds of hardened combat, Fu Zhensong finally defeated Wong.
This tournament is historically significant in China, but somewhat wicked to recall. After the first several days, the fighting competitions had to be halted because too many competitors were seriously maimed-two were killed. As some records have it, the Hsing-Yi practitioners were considered the most brutal fighters, displaying little or no conscience when they fought. Many BaGua Zhang practitioners were considered as skilled; however, they displayed more humanity when it came to all out combat. Because the fighting competitions were stopped, 12 high-level artists have been historically remembered as "the champion": Fu Zhen Song; Chu Gui Ting; Gu Ru Zhang (Ku Yu Cheung); Han Huiqing, and several others.
The Great Masters
Fu was asked to be the head BaGua Zhang instructor at the Central Martial Arts Academy in Nanjing. There, he worked closely with some of the greatest martial artists of that era: Yang Cheng Fu, Sun Lu Tang, General Li and his advisor, Li Shu-Wen; and many others.
In 1929, the governor of Guangdong Province invited some of the academy's
masters to come south to teach. General Li was instrumental in hand-picking
the instructors: Fu Zhen Song; Shaolin Iron Palm master, Gu Ru Zhang;
Six Harmony master Wan Lai Shen; Tam T'ui master, Li Shan Wu;
and Cha Chuan master, Wang Shao Zhao. These five men traveled down
across the Yang Tze River to teach the Northern styles in the South. This
historic event became known as "The Five Tigers Going South;" hence the nickname
'The Five Northern Tigers.'
Fu became the director of the Liang Kuang Kuo Shu Kuan (Two Kuang's Martial Arts School) and an instructor at the Canton branch of the famous Jing Wu School. Fu's 16-year old son, Fu Yonghui, assisted him with much of his teaching. Fu Yonghui had followed in his father's footsteps, growing up in a world surrounded by the highest-level masters, and becoming a martial arts phenom at an early age.
Thus, Fu Yonghui was able to learn the Wudang Sword from Li Jing-Lin; Baji Quan from Li Shu-Wen, Yang Style Taiji Quan from Yang Chenfu, Xingyi Quan from Sun Lutang, and other styles from different masters. Fu Yonghui became Fu Zhen Song's top disciple.
Like his father, Fu Yonghui devoted his entire life to martial arts research. After Fu Zhensong passed away in 1953, Fu Yonghui-as the standard barer of the family art-systematized all existing sets and created new sets based on his solid understanding of martial arts theories and principles. He enhanced the Fu Style Internal Arts by incorporating more waist power into the forms and raised the level of practice.
It is said that from great teachers come great students. While the Fu Style Internal Arts aren't exceptionally well known in the West, the list of second and third generation students who studied under Fu Zhensong and Fu Yonghui, respectively, is very impressive. Lin Chao Zhen and Liang Qiang-Ya were both students of Fu Zhen Song's; each has been showcased in T'ai Chi Magazine and has transmitted the arts to several award-winning practitioners. Fu Yonghui was awarded "Most Outstanding Martial Arts Instructor" in the Guangdong Province by the Chinese government in the 1980's. For 10 years, Fu Yonghui trained Bow Sim Mark who has since become world-renowned, and in 2000 was named by Inside Kung Fu Magazine as one of "One Hundred Most Influential Martial Artists of the Millenium." Sifu Mark has trained a number of high-profile masters such as her two children, Chi Ching Yen and Donnie Yen; and Shannon "Kawika" Phelps & Nick Gracenin. Phelps and Gracenin have also trained many award-winning students. Fu Yonghui had four sons and four daughters; his third son, Victor Shenglong Fu has been passed the torch of the family's martial legacy. Victor Fu, like his father, also began learning martial arts at age of 4. With Fu Family System fully developed, Victor Fu became phenomenally skilled at a very young age under the tutelage of his father. At the age of 13, Victor won first place in the Guangdong Provincial Tournament. Victor Fu currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia and is one of the few Fu Style grandmasters in North America.
The Circle of Eight Trigrams
The Fu Style Internal Arts are comprised mainly of Tai Chi Chuan, BaGua Zhang, Hsing-Yi Chuan and Liang-Yi Chuan. One has only to lightly research the art of BaGua Zhang before coming across the name Fu Zhen Song or Fu Style BaGua. In the Fu Style Family, BaGua is considered the highest-level of the four. BaGua Zhang derives from the theory of the I-Ching, and translates as "Eight Trigram Palm."
The principle fighting strategy of Bagua Zhang is to attack the enemy from the back. What makes Fu Style unique from other styles of Bagua is the demanding contortions of the body and the explosive power generated from the waist. Fu Style places a great deal of emphasis on waist turning, much like Chubby Checker's "The Twist." Waist turning is used for everything from stepping, to changing direction, guarding, attacking and slipping out of traps. Fu Style Bagua Zhang requires more bending, lifting, and twisting of the upper body, as well as a lot more spinning than other styles. This is why some people refer to Fu Style as "cyclonic" Bagua Zhang.
Fu Style Bagua contains four hand forms (Yang Palm, Yin Palm, and Fu Zhen Song's signature forms: Dragon Palm, and Dragon Palm Push Hands) and several weapon forms (broad sword, straight sword, staff, and spear). Yang Palm is very athletic, and involves a kicking step when walking the circle. Yin Palm is softer in appearance and utilizes an advanced form of the "mud-walking step." Dragon Palm is the highest-level form in the Fu Style system; it contains the most advanced Bagua techniques, circle walking, and linear walking in all directions. When performed properly, the practitioner is said to resemble that of a dragon attacking in all directions. Dragon Palm utilizes many kinds of strikes; and in some sections of the form, the practitioner will spin four full rotations in one direction only to follow them with a dizzying four rotations the other direction. Dragon Palm Push Hands is a two-person form with a sequence of 22 movements (11 on each side), requiring one person to act as the attacker and the other as the defender; then they switch roles and repeat the sequence.
There is a well-known saying in Chinese martial arts: "Ssu liang bor chan jing." This means to change the direction of 1000 pounds of force with four ounces of force. In Fu Style BaGua, the practitioner often creates a relaxed, revolving "gun turret" with one arm long and one arm short; the extended arm is used to enter the inside of the opponent's stance, while the other arm is for covering/guarding. When the BaGua practitioner uses his 'turret' to make contact with the side his opponent's force, he can redirect that force easily by sharply turning his waist. When Victor Fu demonstrates this side-contact swipe, he says "go away," meaning, the opponent temporarily looses the use of his attacking arm.
Once the opponent's attack "goes away," he is vulnerable to any number of strikes such as the pushing palm (strike with the heal of the palm), the slapping palm (much like it sounds, only thumb points down and it hits a lot harder), the piercing palm (like the business end of a spear), and others. Of course, like all complete martial arts systems, kicks, joint locks, chokeholds, throws and takedowns are utilized in Fu Style Bagua Zhang.
The Fourth Generation
Fu Zhen Song, Fu Wing Fay and Victor Vu represent three generations of the highest-level internal arts. Like many family styles, a high priority in these arts is to pass them on to the next generation. Victor Fu says he is currently looking for the fourth generation Fu Style master-someone who he can teach and entrust his family's art with. Because he only has two daughters who are not interested in the martial arts, maybe the next master could be you…
Master Fu forms his 'turret,' and waits for the attack.
When Tommy punches, Master Fu sticks to the left side of it, turns his waist to the right and steps in.