While it is known, that Dong hai Chuan was the creator of the Martial art Of BaGua Zhang. Cheng Ting hua can be considered the Father of many of the styles of BaGua. Cheng, Considered one of the Big 4 of Dong’s top students. Was the fourth disciple and the most prolific of Dong’s students. He had the most students while most of the students of dong were conservative in their teachings.
Most of the Ba-Gua that most westerners have seen is derived from one of the branches of Cheng Ting Hua. Born in 1848 in the Cheng Family village, his fascination with the martial arts began at a young age. While still young he went to Beijing to apprentice with a gentleman who made eyeglasses. Intent on improving his martial skill, at that time Shuai Chiao Was in vogue, so Cheng began to study. He became an avid wrestler, studying both of the Popular styles (Mongolian and Pao Ting) when he was a young man. He Practiced hard and made a name for himself as a wrestler. A Skill that he also trained which was from outside his wrestling teaching, was increasing his leg strength. It is a fact that your blow is only as strong as your stance, so, Cheng practiced sitting with his legs crossed while working at his desk grinding glass. To the onlooker it appeared that Cheng was merely sitting behind his desk. He trained like this through out the day, alternating legs, as they got tired. He never used a chair.
When Cheng was around 28yrs old (1876), He wanted to improve his skill still more, so he sought out Dong Hai Chuan. When the two first met dong told cheng to use his Shuai Chiao against him. After several attempts, he was never able to lay a hand on dong. Cheng Knelt and asked to become a student. Cheng Ting Hua Was the Fourth Disciple of Dong hai Chuan. Dong was known to only except Bagua students who were already skilled in another style martial art. It is said that after laying a Bagua foundation with the circle walk practice, Single palm Change, Double palm change, and the Smooth Changing Palm, Dong would teach the student Bagua Zhang based on what the student already knew. Taking this info as being true, We can assume that Dong taught Cheng Bagua based on his Background in Shuai Chiao.
In the old days if you wanted to challenge the Master, you would first have to fight his top student. Depending on the out come did you fight the master. The last few years of Dong’s life, Cheng was the representing Disciple. There are stories about Cheng’s prows as a fighter and the level of his skill. Many have been translated so I will not retell the same accounts. It is obvious that he was a great fighter. What concerns me is how he got so good? Not only did he stance train all day he also wore a ten-pound vest every day until the day he died. He practiced His Crushing Palm on a sand bag suspended from the ceiling. He would also practice holding a tub of water while turning the circle with out spilling a drop. It is reported that over the years he was never out of breath, red in the face, or showed any indication of strain or discomfort.
The Nei Chia/WuDong connection began with Cheng ting Hua and His associates. In 1894 Cheng his good friends Liu Wai Hsiang, Liu Te Kuan, and Li Tsun-I came together to form an organization to help improve the level of their arts, increase relations with in martial circles and raise the skill level of their students. This brotherhood consisted of Cheng as the Ba-Gua Rep, Liu Te Kuan as the Tai Chi Rep, and Li Tsun-I and Liu Wai Hsiang Representing the Xing-I School.
Through their cooperation, the four teachers improved instructional techniques and decided that the three arts although different were of the same family. Because Cheng’s group brought the three systems under one roof and called their system the Nei Chia, others assumed that it had to do with A system under the same name a hundred years before said to be created by Cheng San Fang and the Wu Dong Mountain. These incorrect assumptions led to the categorizations of Tai Chi , Xing-I, and Ba Gua under the Title Wu Tang Boxing.
This was further embedded into the public mind when the Central Martial Arts Academy in Nanjing categorized these arts as Wu Tang styles in 1928 to distinguish them from the other styles which were of Shaolin origin. Today we find styles of Tai Chi and baGua referred to as Wu Tang as if they originated there. We also still have propagated the idea that Chang San fang Created Tai Chi Chuan.
In all Likelihood There was nothing remotely resembling tai Chi, Xing-I, or Bagua until the 1920’s or 30’s. Research shows that the styles originating from WuTang are more akin to Northern Shaolin. Research also shows that the Bagua on Mt Wudong originates from Sun Lu Tangs School. In addition, he was third generation. So hopefully this will add to dispelling the stories that there is a creator of Bagua other than Dong hai Chuan. This also leads into the fact that Cheng ting hua was the catalyst for the creation of various offshoots of the system.
Cheng ting hua loved to teach his art and would openly teach anyone who wanted to learn. Cheng had more students than any of Dong’s other disciples, thus most of the Bagua that is seen today is from Cheng’ s lineage. Sun Lu Tang’s Bagua Cheng’s most famous student was Sun Lu tang. Although Sun Only studied with Cheng for three years, he wrote five books on martial arts and made a name for himself. Most practitioners in Beijing feel that Sun’s real skill was inXing-I. In addition, when asked who were Chengs best students?
None of the sources mentioned Sun Lu Tang. In 1916, Sun wrote His bagua book. However, it lacks any real content. When asked, the older generation Bagua community said this book was a bunch of fluff. Even Li Tian Ji, Who studied with Sun Himself, said that the book was for outsiders. He had a reserved private version for his own students.
Cheng Ting Hua styles of Ba Gua Zhang include palm changes which are done in a smooth and flowing manner, with little display of overt power (Cheng Ting Hua’s movement was likened to that of a dragon soaring in the clouds, it is said each time he turned his body, his opponent would fly away.) Popular variations of this style include the Gao Yi Sheng system, Dragon Style Ba Gua Zhang, “Swimming Body” Ba Gua Zhang, the Nine Palace System, JiangRong Qiao’s style (probably the most common form practiced today) and the Sun Lu Tang style.
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